Posts tagged ‘Poverty’

Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options


Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options

report

march 10, 2011

read complete document  (pdf, 2478 kb)

CBO regularly issues a compendium of budget options to help inform federal lawmakers about the implications of possible policy choices. This volume—one of several reports that CBO produces regularly for the House and Senate Committees on the Budget—presents more than 100 options for altering federal spending and revenues. Nearly all of the options would reduce federal budget deficits. The report begins with an introductory chapter that describes the current budgetary picture and the uses and limitations of this volume. Chapters 2 and 3 present options that would reduce mandatory and discretionary spending, respectively. Chapter 4 contains options that would increase revenues from various kinds of taxes and fees.

Federal budget deficits will total $7 trillion over the next decade if current laws remain unchanged, CBO projects. If certain policies that are scheduled to expire under current law are extended instead, deficits may be much larger. Beyond the coming decade, the aging of the U.S. population and rising health care costs will put increasing pressure on the budget. If federal debt continues to expand faster than the economy—as it has since 2007—the growth of people’s income will slow, the share of federal spending devoted to paying interest on the debt will rise, and the risk of a fiscal crisis will increase.

This report presents 105 illustrative options that would reduce projected budget deficits. As in past reports, the options cover an array of policy areas—from defense to energy to entitlement programs to provisions of the tax code. The budgetary effects shown for most options span the 10 years from 2012 to 2021 (the period covered by CBO’s January 2011 baseline budget projections), although many options would have longer-term effects as well. The options are grouped into three major budget categories: mandatory spending, discretionary spending, and revenues. In most cases, the table accompanying an option shows the option’s estimated budgetary effects in each of the next 10 years, as well as 5- and 10-year totals.

The options in this volume come from legislative proposals, various Administrations’ budget proposals, Congressional staff, other government entities, and private groups, among others. Because the spending options in this volume are intended to help lawmakers review individual programs, they do not include large-scale budget initiatives, such as eliminating entire departments or agencies. The options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities, not a ranking of priorities, and the report does not provide an exhaustive list of policy alternatives. The inclusion or exclusion of a particular policy change does not represent an endorsement or rejection by CBO. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, this report makes no recommendations.

Budget Decisions: The Current Context

Over the past 40 years, federal debt held by the public has averaged 35 percent of the country’s annual economic output (gross domestic product, or GDP). Because of massive deficits during the past few years, that ratio climbed to 62 percent by the end of last year, the highest level since shortly after World War II.

In CBO’s current-law baseline, the deficit is projected to equal 9.8 percent of GDP in 2011, shrink to 4.3 percent of GDP by 2013 (after certain tax provisions are scheduled to expire and the economy has recovered further from the recession), and then range between 2.9 percent and 3.4 percent of GDP through 2021—close to the average of 2.8 percent seen over the past 40 years. Those deficits would push total debt held by the public to 77 percent of GDP by 2021.

Moreover, CBO’s baseline projections are predicated on the assumption that many policies now in place are allowed to expire over the next decade, as scheduled under current law. Those expiring policies include the major reductions in individual income taxes originally enacted in 2001 and 2003 and recently extended through 2012, as well as the higher exemption amounts for the alternative minimum tax. If those policies and others were extended, budget deficits would be much larger than in that baseline.

Over the longer term, the continued aging of the population and growth in health care costs will almost certainly push up federal spending significantly relative to GDP under current law. Without changes in law, spending on Social Security and the government’s major mandatory health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and health insurance subsidies to be provided through insurance exchanges) will increase from roughly 10 percent of GDP today to about 16 percent over the next 25 years. If revenues stay close to their average share of GDP for the past 40 years, that rise in spending will lead to rapidly growing budget deficits and surging federal debt.

To prevent federal debt from becoming unsupportable, lawmakers will have to restrain the growth of spending substantially, raise revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of those two approaches.

Options for Reducing Mandatory Spending

Mandatory spending includes spending for entitlement programs and certain other payments to people, businesses, nonprofit institutions, and state and local governments. For mandatory spending programs, funding levels are generally determined not by annual appropriations but by eligibility rules, benefit formulas, and other parameters set by Congress in authorizing legislation.

The largest programs in this category are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which together accounted for 74 percent of mandatory spending in 2010 and are projected to account for 81 percent by 2021, under current law.

The options in this section encompass a broad range of mandatory spending programs. Although the options are grouped by program, some of the options for different programs are conceptually similar. For instance, two options address the effects of applying different inflation factors to the benefit formulas for certain programs. Other options would alter the balance of spending between the government and program participants or between the federal government and the states.

Of the 32 options in the mandatory spending chapter:

  • Fifteen deal with spending for health care programs.
  • Seven would make changes to Social Security or other retirement programs.
  • Ten focus on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and programs that deal with education, energy, or agriculture.

Options for Reducing Discretionary Spending

Spending governed by the Congress’s annual appropriation acts—which is labeled discretionary spending—accounts for nearly 40 percent of federal outlays. In 2010, roughly half of discretionary spending went for defense. The other half paid for a wide range of federal activities, including law enforcement, homeland security, transportation, national parks, disaster relief, scientific research, and foreign aid. CBO’s baseline projections reflect the assumption that discretionary spending will grow at the rate of inflation and will thus decline to 28 percent of total spending by 2021.

Of the 38 options in the discretionary spending chapter:

  • Two options, one for defense spending and one for nondefense spending, present broad alternatives for freezing or reducing discretionary spending.
  • Twelve other options deal with defense spending.
  • The other 24 options cover a broad array of nondefense programs.

Most of the options show savings calculated relative to CBO’s baseline projections—that is, the 2011 appropriation annualized, adjusted for projected inflation in later years. The budgetary effects of several options that involve spending for defense procurement were estimated on a different basis—they were measured relative to the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) 2011 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). CBO determined that it would be more informative to estimate the effects of procurement options relative to DoD’s published plan because CBO’s baseline for defense procurement is not based on detailed plans for weapon systems. Because the 2011 FYDP extends for only five years, however, CBO’s estimates for procurement options are presented with tables that show just five years of costs or savings. The text of each procurement option discusses the effect of the option on DoD’s long-term acquisition plans.

Options for Increasing Revenues

Federal revenues come from taxes on individual and corporate income, payroll taxes for social insurance programs (such as Social Security and unemployment compensation), excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, remittances from the Federal Reserve System, customs duties, and miscellaneous fees and fines. The two largest sources are individual income taxes and social insurance taxes, which together produce more than 80 percent of the government’s revenues.

The revenue chapter presents 35 options to increase revenues. The options are grouped in a number of broad categories according to the part of the tax system they would target:

  • Individual income tax rates
  • The individual income tax base
  • Individual income tax credits
  • The Social Security tax base
  • Corporate income tax rates
  • Taxation of income from businesses and other entities
  • Taxation of income from worldwide business activity
  • Consumption and excise taxes
  • Health care provisions
  • Other taxes and fees

Nearly all the estimates for the revenue options were prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). If combined, the options might interact with one another in ways that could alter their revenue effects as well as their impact on households and the economy. For simplicity in presentation, some of the changes in revenues shown in the tables represent the net effects of an option on both revenues and outlays combined.

Caveats About This Report

The estimates shown in this volume could differ from any later cost estimates by CBO or revenue estimates by JCT for legislative proposals that resemble these options. One reason is that the policy proposals on which those later estimates would be based might not precisely match the options presented here. Another reason is that the baseline budget projections against which such proposals would ultimately be measured might have been updated and thus would differ from the projections used for this report.

The estimated budgetary effects of options do not reflect the extent to which a policy change would affect interest payments on federal debt.

CBO’s analyses do not attempt to quantify the impact of options on state spending. Some options that would affect other levels of governments or the private sector might involve federal mandates. The discussions of the options in this volume do not address the costs of potential mandates.

Federal Budget A Bad Deal Benefiting Only Millionaires And Billionaires


Federal Budget A Bad Deal Benefiting Only Millionaires And Billionaires

 

A bipartisan budget deal to avert another government shutdown comes before the Senate this week. The vast majority of House members from both parties approved the two-year budget agreement last week in a 332-to-94 vote. It is being hailed as a breakthrough compromise for Democrats and Republicans. The bill eases across-the-board spending cuts, replacing them with new airline fees and cuts to federal pensions. In a concession by Democrats, it does not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, which are set to expire this month. To discuss the deal, we are joined by David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times. He is currently a columnist for Tax Analysts and Al Jazeera, as well as a contributing editor at Newsweek.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A bipartisan budget deal to avert another government shutdown comes before the Senate this week. The House approved the two-year budget agreement last week in a 332-to-94 vote. The bill eases across-the-board spending cuts, replacing them with new airline fees and cuts to federal pensions. In a concession by Democrats, it does not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, which is set to expire this month. Republican Congressmember Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray called the deal a win for both sides.

REP. PAUL RYAN: I think this agreement is a clear improvement on the status quo. This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government shutdown scenario in January. It makes sure that we don’t have another government shutdown scenario in October. It makes sure that we don’t lurch from crisis to crisis.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Our deal puts jobs and economic growth first by rolling back sequestration’s harmful cuts to education and medical research and infrastructure investments and defense jobs for the next two years.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Congressmember Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

The budget deal is being hailed as a breakthrough compromise for Democrats and Republicans, but not everyone supports it. Democratic Congressmember Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said in a statement, quote, “At the end of the day, the bill abandons 1.3 million Americans who desperately need unemployment insurance, and does nothing to promote economic growth or job creation. Furthermore, the legislation is paid for on the backs of the middle class and military families, while not touching the wealthiest amongst us and allowing corporations to continue to benefit from tax loopholes,” he said.

Poverty In The Land Of Plently


Poverty In The Land Of Plently

The holiday season is upon us. Sadly, the big retailers are Scrooges when it comes to paying their staffs. Undergirding the sale prices is an army of workers earning the minimum wage or a fraction above it, living check to check on their meager pay and benefits. The dark secret that the retail giants like Wal-Mart don’t want you to know is that many of these workers subsist below the poverty line, and rely on programs like food stamps and Medicaid just to get by. This holiday season, though, low-wage workers from Wal-Mart to fast-food restaurants are standing up and fighting back.

“Wal-Mart was put in an uncomfortable spotlight on what should be the happiest day of the year for the retailer,” Josh Eidelson told me, reporting on the coordinated Black Friday protests. “These were the largest protests we’ve seen against Wal-Mart … you had 1,500 stores involved; you had over a hundred people arrested.” Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, with 2.2 million employees, 1.3 million of whom are in the U.S. It reported close to $120 billion in gross profit for 2012. Just six members of the Walton family, whose patriarch, Sam Walton, founded the retail giant, have amassed an estimated combined fortune of between $115 billion-$144 billion. These six individuals have more wealth than the combined financial assets of the poorest 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Wal-Mart workers have been organizing under the banner of OUR Walmart, a worker initiative supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Workers have taken courageous stands, protesting their employer and engaging in short-term strikes. Wal-Mart has retaliated, firing many who participated. One of those fired was Barbara Collins, who worked for eight years at the Wal-Mart in Placerville, Calif.

“I was terminated for speaking out,” Collins told us on “Democracy Now!” On Nov. 18, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the strikes were protected worker actions. Collins, who was speaking to us from Bentonville, Ark., where she was protesting Wal-Mart at its world headquarters, told us: “The NLRB ruling is just overwhelming. We are really excited that they found that we’re telling the truth, that they broke the law, and we want to be reinstated.”

The public-policy think tank Demos issued a report, “A Higher Wage is Possible: How Walmart Can Invest in Its Workforce Without Costing Customers a Dime.” Demos analyzed a growing demand from the Wal-Mart worker movement for a guaranteed base salary for full-time workers of $25,000 per year. “We found talking to Wal-Mart workers over and over again that their wages give them just enough to meet their basic needs, and at the end of every month, they’re making critical trade-off decisions,” Catherine Ruetschlin, one of the report’s co-authors, told us. “Determining whether they’re going to get medicine or pay their school fees or put food on the table or keep their electricity on.” The report explains that “if Walmart redirected the $7.6 billion it spends annually on repurchases of its own company stock, these funds could be used to give Walmart’s low-paid workers a raise of $5.83 an hour,” meeting the salary goal of the workers.

Parallel to the Wal-Mart campaign is a drive for higher wages in the fast-food industry. In more than 100 cities, workers are organizing protests and strikes … and winning. In SeaTac, the Washington state municipality where the Seattle-Tacoma Airport is located, voters approved a local minimum wage of $15 an hour. As with Wal-Mart workers, fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Yum Brands (which owns KFC and Taco Bell) all feast from the public trough: Their workers, earning poverty wages, depend on public-assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, while their enormous CEObenefit packages qualify for corporate tax deductions, as reported by the Institute for Policy Studies this week.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, equivalent to an annual income of $15,080 for a full-time worker. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be $10.74, enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line. If the wage had grown at the same pace as worker productivity (since each worker per hour produces much more now than in decades past), it would be $18.72 per hour. And if the minimum wage had skyrocketed at the same pace as wages for the top 1 percent, it would be $28.34. These figures from the Economic Policy Institute explain why President Barack Obama is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.

Progress on the minimum wage, and on workers’ rights at Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and the other multinational corporations that depend on public subsidies for their workers, will come not from a stroke of the president’s pen, but from the concerted efforts of workers and their allies, from the streets to the voting booths.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.

© 2013 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

How to Sweep Dark Money Out of Politics | Mother Jones


 

Justice John Paul Stevens had seen a lot of precedent overturned by the time the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in January 2010. Appointed to the court by Gerald Ford after a career as a distinguished Republican jurist, he’d been there for contentious cases on abortion, the death penalty, Gitmo, you name it. But none had prepared him for the way the court’s new conservative majority, led by John Roberts, seized on an obscure campaign finance case expected to produce a narrow ruling and used it to shred nearly four decades of federal law.

The majority opinion in Citizens United takes up 57 pages, but it’s pretty efficiently boiled down as follows: (1) Money is speech; (2) corporations are people; (3) therefore, under the First Amendment, the government can’t stop corporations from spending money on politics pretty much however they choose.

Stevens penned an impassioned 90-page dissent lambasting the "glittering generality" of this construction. "Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it," he wrote. "Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races."

Stevens wasn’t the only one appalled. Citizens United set off a torrent of outrage, culminating in the high drama of the president (a constitutional law professor, lest we forget) condemning the court in the State of the Union for opening "the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections." Anger spanned the political spectrum (80 percent were opposed shortly after the ruling, 65 percent "strongly") and helped spark the Occupy movement.

The right "recognizes something that few on the left recognize: that campaign finance law underlies all other substantive law."

But Americans’ disgust didn’t stop the bagmen, on both sides of the aisle, from seizing the opportunity. Just ask Dan Maffei, a Democrat in upstate New York’s 25th District who led Ann Marie Buerkle, a pro-life activist with scant political experience, by 12 points two weeks before the election. Then Karl Rove’s American Crossroads buried him with $400,000 worth of attack ads—and Buerkle won by a mere 648 votes.

So how to put elections back in the hands of voters? Here are the four options:

Constitutional amendment: Okay, it takes two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Nevertheless, we did just that to bring about Prohibition in 1919 and then to overturn it in 1933, and to lower the voting age to 18 in 1971. That last one wrapped in a mere five months; then again, the 27th Amendment, which regulated congressional raises, was in the works for 203 years. And recall the Equal Rights Amendment: "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States." No-brainer, right? The ERA passed Congress in a landslide in ’72 (354 to 24 in the House, 84 to 8 in the Senate). It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, included in the Republican Party platform, and ratified by 30 state legislatures within another year. And then Phyllis "Stop Unisex Bathrooms!" Schlafly whipped up a major froth, got enough culture war firebrands elected to state legislatures, and stopped it cold.

So yes, it’s technically possible to pass an amendment clarifying that corporations are not quite the same as people and money is not quite the same as speech. (Several organizations, including People for the American Way and a new outfit called Move to Amend, are pushing for this.) But there’s also a lot of dark-money groups waiting to underwrite a Schlafly-like play.

SCOTUS deathwatch: How about waiting for a conservative justice or two to die while Democrats hold the White House and the Senate? Yeeaah. Absent the plot devices of a John Grisham thriller, don’t hold your breath. Then again, know who’s been the master of this kind of waiting game? The folks who brought you Citizens United. When he started flooding the docket with anti-campaign-finance-regulation cases in the 1980s, conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr. was facing a hostile court. But he kept at it until the majority shifted—and slammed the ball he’d teed up.

Let the sun shine in: In the nearer term, there’s the option the Roberts court expressly invited in Citizens United—full-monty disclosure. Not long after the ruling, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the DISCLOSE Act with 114 cosponsors, just two of them Republicans. It would have banned most secret donations, forced companies to report their giving to shareholders, and shut foreign corporations out of electioneering. The bill’s life was brief and full of ironies (among the clauses tacked on in the House was one exempting the NRA); it passed the House in an anemic 219-206 vote—36 Dems voted nay—and died, as all good legislation must, when the Senate fell one vote short (RIP Ted Kennedy) of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Van Hollen has reintroduced the legislation, and with Sen. John McCain back in the reform business, it might just stand a chance.

But Congress is not the only game in town. Court after court has come down squarely on the side of disclosure, and in May, the DC court of appeals ruled that nonprofits like Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce must reveal their donors’ names. In another promising step, the IRS has made noises about revoking the tax exemption of dark-money groups.

Taxpayer-financed campaigns: No one likes big money in politics—least of all, perhaps, members of Congress who toil in the Hill’s drab call centers, dialing donors to beg for cash. That’s why public financing was key to the post-Watergate reforms, and until billionaire Steve Forbes opted out in 1996, every major presidential candidate took it. But the system failed to keep up with the cost of elections; this year, candidates could hope to get about $90 million in public financing, whereas Obama expects to raise up to $1 billion. Nevertheless, public financing can still make a big difference in down-ballot races, from the statehouse all the way to obscure but critical judicial elections. And keep in mind, today’s state legislator is tomorrow’s US senator.

As the rich get richer, throwing six-figure sums at presidential campaigns is just like tipping for good service.

In the end, all these avenues need to be pursued, and here’s why: As Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center told MoJo‘s Andy Kroll, the right "recognizes something that few on the left recognize: that campaign finance law underlies all other substantive law." In other words, no matter what you care about—climate change, abortion, taxes, net neutrality—it all comes back to who pays for our elections. Need a more selfish reason? Because the 1 percent have bent the system to their advantage, America’s median household income—your income—is $40,000 lower than it would have been had incomes continued to keep pace with economic growth. Conversely, as the rich get richer, throwing six-figure sums at presidential campaigns is just like tipping for good service. Snake, meet tail.

So yes, we might agree with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), no stranger to campaign rainmaking, that Citizens United is the court’s worst decision since it upheld segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson. But bad law is not without redress—if voters shame reluctant representatives into getting off the dark-money teat. "At bottom," wrote Justice Stevens, the court’s opinion is "a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding…While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Ready to explore for yourself? Here’s choose-your-own adventure guide to the options, with plenty of links to more resources.

<p>Sadly, in order to play, you must have javascript enabled.</p>

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Monika Bauerlein

Editor in Chief

Monika Bauerlein is co-editor of Mother Jones. For more of her stories, click here. You can also follow her on Twitter. RSS | Twitter

Clara Jeffery

Editor in Chief

Clara Jeffery is co-editor of Mother Jones. For more of her stories, click here. You can also follow her on Twitter. RSS | Twitter

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  • Jacqueline D. Reyes06/17/2012 09:28 AM

    This comment was flagged for review.

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  • RudyTwoShoes06/17/2012 09:55 AMin reply to Jacqueline D. Reyes

    This is a scam/spam link and has been flagged.

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  • RudyTwoShoes06/17/2012 09:58 AM

    "Corporations are people and money is speech" yet corporations can commit fraud, slander and treason without prosecution.  We the People need the same freedom and access (and most certainly the same level of freedom from taxation, the ability to purchase a Toyota directly from Japan without import tax and the ability to purchase drugs, food and anything from Canada or anyplace we want).

    Free trade and free "speech" for everyone.

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  • Ronnie Waters06/17/2012 06:37 PMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    This is the only intelligent point made here.  Thanks Rudy

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:23 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    One upon a time, corporations received the death penalty for egregious acts. 200 years ago, corporate charters could be–and were–revoked by the state. When was the last time that happened?

    Two+ perfect candidates: BP for their flagrant disregard for personnel and environmental safety, and JP Morgan/Bank of America/Wells Fargo for their engineered destruction of the economy.

    Revoke their charters, see off their assets to pay for cleaning their messes, and prosecute their officers. Done and done.

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  • melinda_jobsYesterday 10:56 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    corporation are about "protection their bottom line" with all causes or by any mean.   

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 12:08 PMin reply to melinda_jobs

    And you’re not about protecting your bottom line?

    "all causes or by any  mean" – wow, that’s amazing – i didn’t realize that all corporations and all people whom they consist of use any and all means necessary to protect what is rightfully theirs (money or right to associate).

    If this is true, then why am i not tripping on dead bodies in the streets daily, or receiving a visit from Guido of ABC Corporation, and being told i have to buy their products, or else? Seems like, you demagogue just a little.

    Ironically, i have been visited on occasion from Guido of the State apparatus, telling me how much soda i can drink, how much salt i can put on my steak, what type of bicycle helmet to wear, and how much of my own money is rigthfully some else’s who makes less than me, or that i must pay for programs which encourage ILLEGAL immigration (or straight out amnesty), so that Democrats can increase their voter rolls.

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 11:54 AMin reply to RudyTwoShoes

    So, is it really as simple as lefists make it out – that corporations deserve no protections which are afforded to the individuals whom they consist of?

    Should a corporation not be afforded protections against illegal search and seizure? Or taxation without representation? Or freedom of political speech?

    On the flip-side – if corporations (a collection of individuals) are  not to be held to the same laws as the individuals, what laws are they accountable to? In other words – what legal parameters are their actions judged against?

    Me thinks, that the ONLY reason leftists get their panties in a bunch on this issue, is because they don’t like the resulting effectiveness that occurs by having many people pooling their resources to speak out against the left’s beloved statists.

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  • Phoenix WomanYesterday 01:24 PMin reply to slave2liberty

    "Many people"?  Nah, just a handful of very rich people who have used the brainwashing techniques of Fred Bernays, coupled with skillful and amoral "Southern Strategy" manipulation of race hatreds cloaked in the mantle of deficit hawkery ( http://my.firedoglake.com/phoe….

    In the meantime, the left is outgunned and outfinanced by these new high-tech feudal overlords whose butts you love kissing for the tiny crumbs they give you.

    Why not skip the parasitical overlords and go for economic democracy instead? You know, where the people who do the work — not commissars, not boards of directors, not third-generation trustafarians whose cosseted lives are so different from ours that they think Ayn Rand’s flatterings of them as the master race are sober truth — actually get the proceeds therefrom.

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  • FromtheGreatWhiteNorth06/17/2012 10:57 AM

    The cynicism embodied by Citizens United defies belief. The notion that corporations are citizens is so offensive. Once again, we privitize profits (bought politicians) and social risk (prosecution for illegal actives = fine. Just add it to the price). We might be able to have a conversation about things when a ‘corporation’ is jailed for malfeasance (e.g., suspended from doing ANY business for the length of the sentence). Those of us older feel helpless. Those of us younger feel nothing – they’re excluded forever.

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  • talktoo06/17/2012 04:12 PMin reply to FromtheGreatWhiteNorth

    ..or buried in Arlington

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:28 AMin reply to talktoo

    As a former servicemember, I council young people to avoid military service like the plague. Patton had it right: let "the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

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  • Steven DeeringYesterday 07:05 AMin reply to FromtheGreatWhiteNorth

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Lately, I seem to be getting into more arguments with friends/family/coworkers about immigrants and minorities being the problem ("They get free health care, food stamps!") as if they have any political clout. Meanwhile, corporations are handed subsidies after posting historic revenues. Why? Because, job creators. Or something. It is really confusing… But then I look at Florida and see a voter purge to combat nonexistent fraud and it becomes slightly clearer.

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  • slave2libertyYesterday 12:39 PMin reply to Steven Deering

    Those are some great ethics you live by – if they don’t have political "clout", then just let them do as they want, taking resources from LEGAL citizens, making the rule of law arbitrary, ignoring US sovereignty, and giving politicians fiat power to ignore immigration policy.

    Regardless of your accomodations and lack of principle, the truth is, ILLEGAL aliens have plenty of political clout which is aimed at undermining US Sovereignty. You never heard of MALDEF, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, The National Council of La Raza (THE race!), or MECHA?

    As for the specious attacks on Florida and every municpality for attempting to ensure the integrity of our election system, it seems that you would prefer to look the other way as long as those illegal votes sway in your favor.

    Do you honestly believe that there should be no auditing or oversight of the voter records? That people should be able to vote in multiple districts (as is sometimes the case with college students, by accident), or that widowers should be able to mail in their deceased partner’s ballot? Or that ILLEGAL aliens should be able to vote?

    Besides, if there is no fraud (or…

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  • Phoenix WomanYesterday 01:31 PMin reply to slave2liberty

    If "illegal aliens" had clout, they wouldn’t be working starvation wages. 

    Which is of course why, contrary to your protestations, Republicans love the current situation:  You use undocumented workers as a club with which to force documented workers to accept starvation wages, too.

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    3 people liked this.LikeReplyReply

  • dustime806/17/2012 12:45 PM

    The (misnomer) dark money makes me almost laugh at those who chose the word to cover the correct term "corruption" in the money used by corporate America they launder into political donations. I guess this falls under the term political correctness which is another corruption to cover up unfettered mis-use of power by elected officials voted into office. We are allowing our country to be pilfered and destroyed by powers within and think nothing of it. People seem more interested in their next stash of marijuana or legalization of this crap than the direction America is headed. What do you think? Mother Jones, am I wrong here?

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:31 AMin reply to dustime8

    People seem more interested in their next stash of marijuana or legalization of this crap whatever entertainment garbage is on TeeVee than the direction America is headed.

    Fixed it for you.

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  • Steven DeeringYesterday 07:07 AMin reply to dustime8

    I think Orwell would have really enjoyed the pizza = vegetable idea.

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  • Marc Grober06/17/2012 01:37 PM

    No mention of Montana’s perspective?  For shame…..

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  • William06/17/2012 01:59 PM

    Speaking as a 10th and 12th generation Yankee gun-owner, and 6th generation college grad who was born a Republican, I think it will take a class war to return our legislative system to some semblance of moral equity.  Our Supreme Court is dominated by people who simply don’t have any skin in our national game, except to make themselves and their cronies rich and powerful.  We need term limits on Supreme Court seats, perhaps 14 years, so that no president could appoint more than one, under normal circumstances, and we need a list of qualifying prerequisites, including having at least either a graduate degree not only in law, but also in American History with several juried publications, and service in uniform in combat whenever other Americans are deployed in combat, otherwise demanding public service in uniform at low pay for at least 4 years.  Scalia is a cowbird whose loyalties are to wealth and the Vatican, and Alito is right in there with him.  Thomas’s qualifications are so minimal they could be stenciled on the head of a pin, and Roberts is most qualified to be a billionaire’s chauffeur.

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  • B E Pratt06/17/2012 08:30 PMin reply to William

    While term limits is an intriguing idea, the whole idea behind appointment for life was to keep politics out of the Supreme Court. It worked very well up until recently. It used to be that when a Justice was appointed, one never really knew what they would do until some decisions came down. You could guess fairly well, but you could never be sure.

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:37 AMin reply to William

    How about setting congressional, presidential and SCOTUS salaries to minimum wage, with no benefits, such as healthcare and pensions, just like the majority of Americans? Any raise they vote themselves must be matched by an equivallent dollar increase in minimum wage.

    Yeah, I know. Happy fantasy.

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  • DebbieSmith195606/17/2012 03:58 PM

    American election laws set very specific limits to the size of donations that individuals and Political Action Committees may make to Presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, as shown here, it is very difficult to track the trail of a donation as funds are moved from one PAC to another to ensure that the limits are being followed:

    http://viableopposition.blogsp…

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  • tiredoftea06/17/2012 04:15 PM

    Another victory for the right, activist judges, of the right temperament, at the SCOTUS level. Wake up Dems! You have lost most of the battles and the war. Will your convictions and backbone ever show up?

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:38 AMin reply to tiredoftea

    Dems have no spine, and Repubs have no heart.

    Such is the way of the world.

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  • DTaggert06/17/2012 04:36 PM

    I’m still wondering what makes the 1st amendment so difficult to understand:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

    No law, means exactly nothing. Congress can’t do anything at all regulating what we talk about or how we choose to say. We can talk individually, anonymously, using any media, including those not known at the time.

    We can choose to talk as a member of a group – a neighborhood association, a professional organization, as a Tea Partier, as a stockholder in a corporation.

    Even the states have a very limited ability to control speech due to the incorporation doctrine that started with the 14th amendment.

    This freedom of speech allowed the Tea Party movement to spring up spontaneously and conclusively stop the slide of this country toward collectivism, so now, free speech is being viscously attacked

    Citizens United merely affirmed the first amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that “Congress shall make no law” meant exactly what it says. It doesn’t matter if you speak anonymousl­y, it doesn’t matter if you choose to speak as a member of…

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  • middleclassman106/17/2012 05:28 PMin reply to DTaggert

    the tea party did not spring up spontaniously, it was created by the likes of the koch brothers who deceived some gullible citizens that their lives would somehow be better by taking our country back for the rich and greedy.

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  • mcsandbergYesterday 04:17 AMin reply to middleclassman1

    I have personal experience with the Tea Party. I was at the very first one that we had in Denver and I can assure you – the Tea Party movement is real, and it happened long before we got any professional help! You had to be there to appreciate the incredible enthusiasm and determination to get this country back on track. Check out http://www.lloydmarcus.com/ to see just how genuine the Tea Party is!

    The Tea Party is the result of lots of people reading the classics of liberty – Atlas Shrugged, The Road to Serfdom and others are always among Amazon.com best sellers. The people I meet at the Tea Parties are far from ignorant. Some have even read Von Mises "Human Action"!

    You can ONLY pick up 63 house seats, 6 house seats and most incredibly 695 state house seats with a true grass roots movement.

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  • Won WordYesterday 05:41 AMin reply to mcsandberg

    Ayn Rand’s work is as much a "classic of liberty" as "Grapes of Wrath" is about the benefits of unregulated Agriculture, "The Jungle" is about the benefits of unregulated meat packing, and "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" a classic of liberty of plantation owners.

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  • mcsandbergYesterday 06:04 AMin reply to Won Word

    Atlas Shrugged is a description of a country moving from liberty to collectivism. The reason its so compelling, is that its based on what Ms. Rand observed as Russia turned into the USSR. So, its very much a classic of liberty. Its the novel that introduces people to the library of liberty. Most of the Tea Partiers I’ve talked to mention it as the book that explained what’s happening to this country.

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How to Sweep Dark Money Out of Politics | Mother Jones

Eva M. Clayton: A 2012 Farm Bill That Support Small Farmers and Nutritional Assistance Programs: Good for Our Nation’s Health and Economy


 

In Friday’s Los Angeles Times, there was an opinion editorial titled “America Needs a Farm Bill That Works” — this title is precisely why I think members of Congress need to be committed to pushing forward a bipartisan piece of legislation.

A 2012 Farm Bill will help provide infrastructure, investment and economic certainty for American agriculture — things that are both important and critical for an industry that impacts all Americans, whether they live in big cities or small rural communities. But in order for the bill to be effective in providing these things, it must support small farmers and nutritional programs that are key components to the viability and health of an Agriculture economy.
Small farmers are often made the loving poster child of our rural landscape. They are a struggling, declining and aging population. According to the Economic Research Services in United States Department of Agriculture, during the last census there were over 2.1 million farms in the U.S., of which 75% earned less than $50,000 annually and had about 5% production while the very large farms, representing just 2% of all farms, made over $1 million dollars and had 47% production.
This is a problem when you consider small farmers generally produce more fruits, vegetables, nuts and sustainable food products, all of which are essential for proper nutritional sustenance. As our country continues to focus on the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet, Congress should focus on ensuring competitive opportunities for small farmers that will enable them to continue to grow the healthy food that we need. Hopefully, obesity and other health issues can be addressed through healthy food choices. Local farmers are key to producing healthy foods and it will also increase their income.
Similar to the focus that is put on educating students in science and math to fill voids in those growing fields, Congress should support programs to recruit future farmers and ensure a growing and diverse industry in the future. The average U.S. farmer is 57 years old and just 5% of all farmers are 35 years or younger. Not to mention, just 4.6% of all U.S. farms are minority-owned and run. To say that there is room for improvement would be a gross understatement — we need to find creative ways attract new entrepreneurial and innovative farmers from all demographics. Congress and the present Administration recently addressed the lingering discrimination cases initiated by black farmers. However, constant vigilance is required to overcome the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) history of discrimination and to ensure equity for all farmers.
Additionally, upon examination of the payments to large farmers as compared to small farmers, the difference is vast. The commodity payments are tied to the production of specific commodities. These payments go primarily to large commercial producers. As a result, few of the smallest farms receive commodity payments.
In the 2008 farm bill, Congress did institute a number of new initiatives and expand other initiatives that encouraged local farmers to grow and sell food to various local vendors, including local school systems. For instance, in North Carolina, citizens are encouraged to buy locally and various grocery store chains, military bases and local schools are encouraged to purchase from local farmers. As a result, the local farm economy is benefiting and healthy foods are more accessible. We need to identify and expand smart and effective programs like this.
We also need to look for areas where we can improve. For example, the nutritional assistance programs under the farm bill are large and expensive and given the economic recovery, needed now more than ever. In September 2011, the USDA’s Economic Research Service reported that about one in every four Americans participates in at least one of the 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs of the USDA. These programs provide a nutritional safety net for millions of children and low-income adults. These programs also represent a significant federal investment, accounting for over two-thirds of USDA’s budget. A Moody’s study on the president’s stimulus impact noted that for every Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollar spent, it generated a $1.73 ripple effect in the economy.
The House Budget Committee, in an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, proposed to cut SNAP significantly, possibly to its pre-2008 status — this is pennywise and pound foolish. This is not to suggest that there could not or should not be some reduction given to efficiency monitoring and other infrastructure upgrades. In addition to required financial resources, there needs to be greater use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at farmers’ and fish markets where healthy foods are sold. Nutrition education is essential and should be integrated into each of the 15 food assistance programs.
Food security is generally recognized as an important goal for our country. Supporting good nutrition for our needy citizens is the right and moral action for our government to take, but it is also the economically and healthy action to take where small farmers will make a significant impact.

Follow Eva M. Clayton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evamclayton

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Eva M. Clayton: A 2012 Farm Bill That Support Small Farmers and Nutritional Assistance Programs: Good for Our Nation’s Health and Economy

Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress


CUSHING, Okla. – U.S. President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project.

Deep in Republican oil country, Obama said lawmakers refused to give his administration enough time review Calgary-based TransCanada’s controversial 2,700-kilometre Keystone XL pipeline in order to ensure that it wouldn’t compromise the health and safety of people living in surrounding areas.

“Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline,” Obama said. “Not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.”

Facing fresh criticism from Republicans who blame him for gas prices near US$4 a gallon, Obama announced Thursday that he was directing federal agencies to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone line. The 780-kilometre line will run from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast that would remove a critical bottleneck in the country’s oil transportation system. The directive would also apply to other pipelines that alleviate choke points.

“Anyone who says that we’re somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn’t paying attention,” Obama said, speaking at the site of the new Oklahoma project.

Republicans said the moves were little more than a publicity stunt, arguing that it wouldn’t help TransCanada (TSX:TRP) build the pipeline any sooner. Construction is expected to begin in June with completion next year.

“The American people can’t afford more half-measures on energy from the president. No matter what he says, the reality is he killed the Keystone pipeline and the energy production and 20,000 jobs that went with it,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.

Environmentalists were also critical. Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council said Obama’s move was “downright foolhardy to cut corners on safety reviews for permitting” the Texas-to-Oklahoma line, “especially when the industry has a history of oil spills.”

Obama’s order urges speedy review of the Cushing project and directs federal agencies to incorporate previous environmental studies of the Keystone proposal that included the southern route.

The use of previous studies should help move the project forward more quickly than if a review of the project started from scratch, although it’s unclear exactly how much time the expedited review will save.

Republicans call the president’s actions a belated attempt to take credit for a project over which he has relatively little control. While federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department play a role in the approval process for the domestic portion of the pipeline, states have a more direct say in approving the route.

The full Keystone pipeline became a political flashpoint late last year when congressional Republicans wrote a provision forcing Obama to make a decision, and environmental groups waged a campaign to kill the project. Obama delayed the project in January.

Obama has been highlighting his energy agenda this week in Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and later Thursday in battleground Ohio, a trip that reflects the degree to which high gas prices have begun hitting consumers in their pocketbooks.

For Obama’s advisers, rising gas prices pose a threat to his re-election bid because they could undermine the benefits of a payroll tax cut that he made the centerpiece of his jobs agenda last fall — Congress approved the tax cut extension in February — and throttle the economic recovery.

Republicans view rising gas prices as emblematic of Obama’s energy record and hope to tag him with the blame even though no president has much control over prices at the pump. Gas prices have risen more than 50 cents a gallon since January in response to a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program that has threatened to disrupt Middle East oil supplies.

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, campaigning at a Harvey, La., company that services oil rigs, said Obama’s administration should open more federal lands for leases to boost U.S. oil production and revenue for the federal government.

“Here’s an opportunity for us in this country to do something about it: increasing jobs, lowering energy prices, decreasing the deficit, all of the things you would think the president of the United States would be for,” Santorum said.

Mitt Romney, Santorum’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, has labeled Obama’s top energy advisers as the “gas hike trio,” urging the president to fire three Cabinet secretaries because of the high prices.

Obama was ending the day with a stop in battleground Ohio, talking about automobile research and development at Ohio State University in Columbus. The president has cited his decision to raise fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2025 as an important step in conserving oil and saving consumers at the gas pump.

Obama has repeatedly invoked his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from collapse with billions in federal aid, a move that saved hundreds of thousands of auto assembly and supplier jobs in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere. Romney opposed the bailout, and Obama’s team intends to make it a stark contrast between the two candidates if the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination.

 

Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress.

Only In America Could This Happen The RICH Will Let A Poor Person Die From Hunger


Extreme Poverty Has Double In The USA Since 1990


By Pat Garofalo  on Mar 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm

According to the latest Census Bureau data, nearly 50 percent of Americans are either low-income or living in poverty in the wake of the Great Recession. And a new study from the National Poverty Center shows just how deep in poverty some of those people are, finding that the number of households living on less than $2 per day (before government benefits) has more than doubled in the last 15 years:

The number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person per day — which the study terms “extreme poverty” — more than doubled between 1996 and 2011, from 636,000 to 1.46 million, the study finds. The number of children in extremely poor households also doubled, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million.

 

While extreme poverty doubled overall, it tripled amongst female headed households. Of course, there’s always the tact taken North Carolina Republican State Representative George Cleveland last week, who simply denied that anyone in his state lives in extreme poverty. As we noted at the time, “the 728,842 North Carolinians who are classified as living in deep poverty might take issue with that assessment.”

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The New Economy Poverty rate: Are Americans really poorer than in 1960?


Poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent in 2009, but government figures don’t capture very well the long-term rise in living standards.

By Laurent Belsie, Business editor / September 19, 2010


A woman stocks up on bread at Sacred Heart Community Center in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 16. The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since 1959 as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year. The poverty rate jumped to 14.3 percent.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

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Poverty shot up last year in the United States with one in seven Americans falling below the poverty line. And it’s likely to get worse, because unemployment remains stubbornly high.


Laurent Belsie

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But the poverty rate, as calculated by the US Census Bureau, only tells part of the story.

It makes it easy to figure out that a shocking number of Americans – nearly 44 million – couldn’t afford a minimal basket of goods. That’s the highest total since 1959.

What these numbers don’t capture very well is the long-term improvement in living standards. And that has big political implications.

“There are so many people out there who have used for political arguments [the idea] that we’ve lost the war on poverty,” says James Sullivan, a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. “Maybe we haven’t won the war on poverty, but in terms of long-term changes in deprivation, there is considerable evidence that we have made long-term progress there. And that evidence is just missed in the official numbers.”

A major problem is that by strictly looking at income, as the Census Bureau does, the poverty measure doesn’t capture the changes in consumption patterns.

Consider, for example, all the things that people, even poor people, have come to take for granted that didn’t even exist in 1959: countertop microwave ovens, touch-tone phones, cellphones, personal computers, the Internet, e-mail, GPS systems, air-cushioned running shoes, CDs, DVDs, videogames, and modern ATMs. [Editor’s note: This sentence was changed to reflect the fact that bulkier, under-the-counter microwave ovens did exist in 1959.]

Some of these items may not necessarily qualify as progress. But by focusing on consumption patterns, Dr. Sullivan says, researchers can at least get a more realistic handle on what’s happening with people’s living standards. And there are signs of progress since 1959 (or 1960, when the census came out), he adds.

For examples, back in 1960:

  • A 21-inch black-and-white Philco tabletop TV cost about $1,800 in today’s dollars and could receive only a handful of channels;
  • A refrigerator with freezer cost the equivalent of $1,510 in today’s dollars;
  • A two-speed automatic washing machine, primitive by today’s standards, cost the equivalent of $1,100;
  • Only 12 percent of homes had air-conditioning (versus 84 percent last year);
  • Only 8 percent of the population had completed four years of college (versus 27 percent today).

Not everything was more expensive back then. People didn’t have to pay for television or ring tones. By 1960’s standards, it would cost 30 cents to mail a letter today, not 44 cents.

Even there, however, strict comparisons don’t offer a complete picture, Dr. Sullivan says. Many people have replaced hand-written letters with e-mails or text messages because they’re cheaper and faster.

Modern Americans may pay for cable television, but they have 30 to 60 times the channels that were available in 1960. They have a cellphone bill but can call from anywhere without extra charges for long-distance calls.

The challenge now is that those 50 years of progress have come crashing to a halt, analysts say.

“The great recession is a significant setback,” Sullivan says. “At least as I see it right now, there’s no evidence of us coming out [of it] in the short term. There’s a lot that needs to get back on track before we continue to make strides in fighting poverty.”

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The Great Society Program


In 1963 poverty was at 22.6 percent by 1970 it dropped to 12.3 percent this according to US Senator Tom Harkin.