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John Oliver’s take on inequality (x).

In fact, I think what he is saying here goes beyond the specific issue being discussed above. Because no matter what kind of inequality, intolerance or injustice we’re talking about - THE SIZE OF THE DUMP IS !NEVER! THE ISSUE.

Clerks sat on stools behind Plexiglas. At a window, a man pleaded with an agent, “I have to pick up my kids in less than an hour. What am I supposed to do?” At the next window, another man railed loudly and furiously, yelling, “How the hell am I supposed to get my goddam money if I can’t get to goddam work?” The clerk said, “If you can’t get cash, you can pay by credit card or cashier’s check.” The man shouted, “And if I had a goddam limousine, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

A man waiting in line with me told me that he owned a landscaping business that depended on his truck, which had been towed three days earlier. “I can’t work,” he said. “The crew don’t work. Everything I need is in the truck.” It had been towed when he parked in a red zone in front of an auto-parts store. He’d been late to a job and ran into the store to buy a spark plug for a broken lawn mower. He didn’t have money enough that day to pay the $472 towing fee. After the first four hours, charges began accumulating—about $65.00 a day. (They didn’t include the $72 cost of the parking ticket.) He had borrowed $700, which he held near his chest in an envelope. He said it would take “I hope no more than a year” to repay the loan, for which he was being charged 50% of the loan amount. “I had no choice,” he said. He had already lost four days’ income and didn’t know how he was going to pay his bills, including rent, due that week.

When I reached the front of the line, I handed the clerk my credit card, on which she charged $472. I retrieved my car and drove home. I left behind the roomful of my fellow citizens, a disparate group bound together by the fact that they didn’t have the cash or credit required to free their impounded cars, a fact that threatened livelihoods, stressed families and broke budgets, forcing some people to choose between essentials and paying fees that would continue to accumulate and leave them without another essential, transportation, which in turn could lead to other calamities. If they didn’t find a way to pay the fees, they would ultimately lose their cars (the city auctions them), a loss that for some would be a devastating setback. For me, a towed car was an inconvenience. For them, it was a catastrophe.

Some cases of injustice in America are reported far and wide, such as the horrific shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed man in Ferguson, Missouri, targeted by police in what many view as an egregious case of racial profiling. However, we don’t often hear about the countless quieter injustices suffered by tens of millions of Americans on a daily basis. They experience inequities of access to opportunities, quality medical and dental care, quality education, healthful food, affordable and safe housing, childcare, credit, psychological counseling, legal representation, insurance and more. For them, events that others weather unhappily but routinely—a towed car, for example—can lead to a crippling spiral of stress, debt, joblessness, illness and, in many cases, incarceration.

(via slacktivist)

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.

That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.

But, of course, it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child’s formative early years. That’s why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, “rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students,” and they’re staying that way.

It’s an educational arms race that’s leaving many kids far, far behind.

It’s depressing, but not nearly so much as this:

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.

But even if they didn’t, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That’s, in part, because they’re targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they’re more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

It’s not quite a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose game where rich kids get better educations, yet still get ahead even if they don’t—but it’s close enough. And if it keeps up, the American Dream will be just that.

The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality

 by Thomas M. Shapiro

Over the past three decades, racial prejudice in America has declined significantly and many African American families have seen a steady rise in employment and annual income. But alongside these encouraging signs, Thomas Shapiro argues in The Hidden Cost of Being African American, fundamental levels of racial inequality persist, particularly in the area of asset accumulation—inheritance, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, home equity, and other investments.

Shapiro reveals how the lack of these family assets along with continuing racial discrimination in crucial areas like homeownership dramatically impact the everyday lives of many black families, reversing gains earned in schools and on jobs, and perpetuating the cycle of poverty in which far too many find themselves trapped.

[book link

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No matter the type of occupation, obese men seem to do just as well as average-size men. They make just as much as non-obese men and make just as much money in both personal interaction occupations and physical occupations.

But we see the opposite pattern for women. A morbidly obese woman working in an occupation with an emphasis on personal interaction will earn almost 5% less than a normal weight woman working in an occupation with exactly the same emphasis.
— 

Jennifer Shinall, Vanderbilt assistant professor

Study finds overweight women face even more economic inequality than previously thought 

It’s no secret the United States is pretty screwed up when it comes to racism, police brutality, street harassment, gender equality, homophobia etc. But it really rubs me the wrong way when people respond to these conversations with, “Thank goodness I live in X and not America. Racism/sexism/homophobia doesn’t happen here”. Um. No. Sadly, injustice happens EVERYWHERE. Sure, some places are worse than others, but just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it personally doesn’t mean where you call home is perfect. Let’s be real, it can be tough to be a women, person with a disability, LGBT or person of color all over the world, not just in the states. And then when it comes to intersectionality? Forget about it. 

And please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a “rah rah go Amurricah!” post. We have A LOT of work to do. Heck, everyone does! But I realize that because I’m American I present a very narrow view on these issues, because I can’t really speak to what it’s like living in other countries. A few people have suggested I should be more mindful of this, and as a result I’m making an effort to better educate myself so I can share more global stories. But when it comes to talking about inequality, let’s try to avoid invalidating the experiences of the people in our home country by turning our nose up at the oppression of others abroad.  Cause “I’m so glad I don’t live in X” is kind of a crappy stance to take on inequality, no matter where you live. 

A good topic to research, if possible, would be “why people don’t vote.” Nonvoting is very high, roughly 50 percent, even in presidential elections—much higher in others. The attitudes of people who don’t vote are studied. First of all, they mostly identify themselves as Democrats. And if you look at their attitudes, they are mostly Social Democratic. They want jobs, they want benefits, they want the government to be involved in social services and so on, but they don’t vote, partly, I suppose, because of the impediments to voting. It’s not a big secret. Republicans try really hard to prevent people from voting, because the more that people vote, the more trouble they are in. There are other reasons why people don’t vote. I suspect, but don’t know how to prove, that part of the reason people don’t vote is they just know their votes don’t make any difference, so why make the effort? So you end up with a kind of plutocracy in which the public opinion doesn’t matter much. It is not unlike other countries in this respect, but more extreme. All along, it’s more extreme. So yes, there is a constant class war going on.
What does peace mean in a world in which the combined wealth of the world’s 587 billionaires exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world’s 135 poorest countries? Or when rich countries that pay farm subsidies of a billion dollars a day, try and force poor countries to drop their subsidies? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Ogoni of Nigeria? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India?What does peace mean to non-muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources and for whom everyday life is a grim battle for water, shelter, survival and, above all, some semblance of dignity? For them, peace is war.
—  Arundhati Roy

Inequality in America hasn’t been this bad since the Great Depression

 Since the early 1980s and the tax-slashing Reagan administration, the share of wealth held by the richest Americans has once again reached levels not seen since before the Great Depression. Real incomes for the 1% have grown at a rate of 3.4% a year from 1986 to 2012, compared to just 0.7% for the bottom 90%. Increasing levels of debt, particularly in the housing sector, have contributed to the decline of most Americans.

And the ultra rich are doing even better than the rich 

Chart of the week: White high school dropouts do better than college grads of color

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Here’s a doozy in the theme of the racial wealth gap: households headed by white people who dropped out of high school have greater assets than those headed by blacks and Latinos with college degrees.

At Demos, where Matt Bruenig posted this graph, he writes:

The median white family with an education level below high school has a net worth of $51.3k, while the median black and hispanic family with a college degree has a net worth of $25.9k and $41k respectively.

You’re better off being a white high school dropout than a black or Latino college grad. Ouch.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.