Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

The IRS only audits working people, because it’s cheaper

October 7, 2019

The IRS only audits working people, because it's cheaper.
Leona Helmsley said “Only the little people pay taxes.”  That’s who the IRS audits, any way.

“On the one hand, the IRS said, auditing poor taxpayers is a lot easier: The agency uses relatively low-level employees to audit returns for low-income taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit. The audits — of which there were about 380,000 last year, accounting for 39% of the total the IRS conducted — are done by mail and don’t take too much staff time, either.”

“On the other hand, auditing the rich is hard. It takes senior auditors hours upon hours to complete an exam. What’s more … ‘the rate of attrition is significantly higher among these more experienced examiners.’ As a result, the budget cuts have hit this part of the IRS particularly hard.”

“For now, the IRS says, while it agrees auditing more wealthy taxpayers would be a good idea, without adequate funding there’s nothing it can do.”

“Since 2011, Republicans in Congress have driven cuts to the IRS enforcement budget; it’s more than a quarter lower than its 2010 level, adjusting for inflation.”

— “IRS: Sorry, but It’s Just Easier and Cheaper to Audit the Poor,” Paul Kiel, ProPublica

Related:

“The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You,” David Leonhardt, New York Times

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Uber’s Employment Model: Sharecropping.

May 15, 2019

Uber's Employment Model: Sharecropping.

After the Civil War, when plantation owners were deprived of a chattel slave workforce, they implemented a form of peonage euphemistically called “sharecropping.” The landowners contracted poor black and white laborers to work their fields as tenants. These independent contractors did the backbreaking work in return for a small share of cotton harvest proceeds, often absorbing the costs of farming and bad harvests. That’s the employment model of rideshare companies like Uber.

Think of Uber’s digital platform as the plantation’s cotton fields. Uber lets the drivers plow use it if they turn over most of their cotton fare money to the plantation platform owner. Drivers absorb the costs of fuel, cellphone, car loans, permits, insurance, and maintenence. And if their mule car dies, the platform owner lets them buy a new one at subprime rates. Healthcare and retirement benefits? Nope.

Drivers are catching on, and so is the public. No wonder rideshare companies are pushing so hard for autonomous vehicles. After all, they automated the cotton fields, didn’t they?

 

More:

“Uber and the labor market,” Lawrence Mishel, The Economic Policy Institute

“Strike All You Want. Uber Won’t Pay a Living Wage.” Sarah Jeong, New York Times

“‘It’s a Laughable Fiction’: How Uber’s $82 Billion Valuation Was Built on a Lie to Its Workers.” Brianna Provenzano. Pacific Standard

“How Corporate Delusions of Automation Fuel the Cruelty of Uber and Lyft,” Brian Merchant, Gizmodo

Related:

“Research: Ride Share Has Increased San Francisco Traffic,” Rachen Swan, SF Chronicle, via Government Technology

“Uber Is a Scam,” Doug Henwood, Jacobin

Updates:

“Uber’s Path of Destruction,” Hubert Horan, American Affairs Journal

“Hundreds of Uber Drivers in Toronto Are Joining a Union,” Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo

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Image derived from “In a Cotton Field” by Horace Bradley, from Harper’s Weekly, August 1887 (Library of Congress).

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W. E. B. Du Bois: Strivings

February 15, 2019

“Strivings of the Negro People” by W. E. B. Du Bois, from The Atlantic, August 1897, animated by Tynesha Foreman. Read the full essay here.

“It dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like … in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.”

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Wilbur Ross Explains It All To You

January 25, 2019

Wilbur Ross Explains It All To You

Commerce Secretary and grifter Wilbur Ross (net worth: $440 million — or maybe $2.9 billion) expressed puzzlement over why unpaid federal workers need to go to food banks during the Trump government shutdown when they could get loans. Perhaps they can use their art collections as collateral. It’s true that the Commerce Department Credit Union offers loans to unpaid federal employees — at nearly 9 percent interest. What GS-4 wouldn’t jump at that?

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Dr. King on the Roots of Economic Inequality

January 21, 2019

Dr. King on the Roots of Economic Inequality

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) planned a Poor People’s Campaign for May 1968 to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, affordable housing, and education for poor adults and children, an Economic Bill of Rights. The effort was to involve poor people of all races from all parts of the country, urban and rural, but the historical roots of racial economic disparity could not be ignored:

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DC Shut Down? The GOP Does Davos.

January 15, 2019

DC Shut Down? The GOP Does Davos.

The president has shut down the U.S. government by refusing to authorize federal spending, but presidential aides and cabinet officials are spending $3-4 million and change to go to the World Economic Forum at Davos, kind of a Coachella for billionaires and financial heavies at a resort in the Swiss Alps.  Administration figures scheduled to attend include: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

U.S. officials at Davos will have a significant weight lifted from their shoulders at this year’s WEF. Unlike last year, President Donald Trump will not attend. Swiss protesters must be crestfallen.

More:

“Trump’s team is still running up bills for Davos during the government shutdown,” Justin Rohrlich and Heather Timmons, Quartz

“Davos, other Swiss ski resorts warned of high avalanche danger,” Xinhua

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Teaching in America

October 24, 2018

“I’ve had hungry students who couldn’t concentrate; I’ve filed tax returns for kids’ parents. You’re the only adult they trust – the only adult that talks to them like they’re a person.”

A Guardian video.

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The Tipped Wage: Depending on ‘The Kindness of Strangers’

October 17, 2018

If you’re uncomfortable leaving a tip at a restaurant, there’s a good reason. The nominally-egalitarian United States adopted the custom of tipping during Reconstruction, when African Americans, newly-freed from bondage, filled many low-paying personal-service jobs. Tipping allowed employers to rationalize paying a pittance to servers, and allowed restaurant patrons to feel like the European aristocrats who initiated the custom. Even today, in the Nation’s Capital, while most workers get $13.25 an hour, restaurant owners can pay servers $3.89 an hour.

Americans calculate a restaurant tip as a percentage of the total meal bill, so the more expensive the menu, the greater the gratuities to servers. That’s why Washington DC’s high-end restaurant owners had no trouble finding employees to testify against a District of Columbia law mandating equal hourly wages for servers, despite the fact that DC voters had approved the measure in a referendum. The District Council voted 8 to 5 to overturn the will of the voters.

If DC voters want to ratify their referendum vote and end vulnerable restaurant workers’ dependence on “the kindness of strangers,” they’ll have a chance soon. Four of the council members who voted to repeal the fair wage law are up for re-election on November 6th.

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Amazon’s Low-Paid Employees Need Food Stamps

August 30, 2018

Amazon's Low-Paid Employees Need Food Stamps

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will soon introduce legislation that would require large employers such as Amazon, Walmart and McDonald’s to fully cover the cost of food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their employees. The goal, he says, is to force corporations to pay a living wage and curb about $150 billion in taxpayer dollars that go to funding federal assistance programs for low-wage workers each year.”

— “Thousands of Amazon workers receive food stamps. Now Bernie Sanders wants the company to pay up.” Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post

Think about that on Labor Day Weekend.

More:

“Amazon urges employees to tell Bernie Sanders how much they love working there,” Summer Meza, The Week

“Amazon gets huge subsidies to provide good jobs—but it’s a top employer of SNAP recipients in at least five states,”  H. Claire Brown, New Food Economy

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Equal Pay Day 2018

April 10, 2018

Equal Pay Day 2018

It’s Pay Equality Day, last of the 99 extra days into 2018 that American women worked to finally make the same amount of wages that men made by Dec. 31, 2017. The concept originated with the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996 as a way to point out the economic injustice of  American women earning 82 cents when men are earning a dollar. Want to change that inequity? Look here.

In a timely decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that employers can’t use workers’ salary histories to justify paying women less.

More:

“When Is Equal Pay Day? 2018 Is The Year Women Can Help Close It Once & For All,” Sarah Friedmann, Bustle

 

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Top image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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