Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media
|June 10, 2010||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media
Earmarks, Campaign Contributions, and Lobbying Expenditures
It should come as no surprise that financing politicians pays back hugely and the wealth gap between the political class and the apolitical class is correspondingly huge — at least until society finally geonomizes. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) Center for Responsive Politics and Taxpayers for Common Sense on their annual report, June 3, by Dave Levinthal and Steve Ellis; and (2) TruthOut, June 4 on the wealth gap by Julie Hollar.
by Dave Levinthal & Steve Ellis and by Julie Hollar
- Earmarks, Campaign Contributions, and Lobbying Expenditures
Two of Washington DC’s most reliable and respected nonpartisan watchdogs have once again joined forces, updating their one-of-a-kind, comprehensive database that links campaign contributions with earmarks of members of Congress.
“This unique database helps people investigate whether their elected officials might be doing special favors for special interests,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
“This tool shines a light on the current system where millions of dollars in campaign contributions can turn into billions of earmarked tax dollars,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Members of Congress use “earmarks” to provide federal funding to companies, projects, groups and organizations, often in their district. The practice has come under intense criticism this year, with congressional Democrats banning earmark requests benefiting for-profit entities for fiscal year 2011 and congressional Republicans pushing their caucus to abstain from requesting earmarks across-the-board.
Last fiscal year, members of Congress obtained nearly 9,500 spending provisions — worth over $15.9 billion — for organizations that spent $269 million on lobbying, the Center for Responsive Politics and Taxpayers for Common Sense found.
These members of Congress also accepted more than $2.3 million from the political action committees and employees of the intended earmark beneficiaries — of the $22.4 million these organizations donated to all federal candidates and parties, the Center for Responsive Politics and Taxpayers for Common Sense found.
User-friendly databases showcase the data in a manner that is sortable in a variety of ways, including by House and Senate members, by recipients that lobby, by recipients with political action committees, by state and by legislation.
Some members of Congress don’t request earmarks, including (fiscal year 2010): Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Walter Minnick (D-Idaho). On balance, Republicans were more likely to forgo earmark requests than Democrats last fiscal year.
The addition of fiscal year 2010 information augments data from fiscal years 2008 and 2009, which the watchdog groups released last year.
JJS: If you cant afford to donate, watch out!
- Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media
The Insight Center for Community Economic Development released a report about the wealth gap for women of color: Single black women have a median wealth of $100 and Hispanic women of $120 — dramatically lower than white men ($43,800), white women ($41,500) or black men ($7,900).
The median wealth for single white women in their prime working years, age 3649, is 61% of the wealth of their male counterparts, who own $70,030. The corresponding ratio between women and men of color is nearly off the charts, at just 0.05% — $5 versus $11,000. Almost half of single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth. (Data was unavailable for Asian-American and Native American women.)
A racial wealth gap had been well established, as had a gender wealth gap. But the intersection of the two had never been measured. The numbers in Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and Americas Future demonstrate the compounding effects on women of color.
While income is the most common measurement for inequality, wealth — an individuals assets minus their debts — reveals even greater disparities in the United States. While the top 1% received 21% of the income in 2006, it held over 34% of the wealth. And racial disparities are drastically greater in terms of wealth than in terms of income.
Not only does wealth have a lot to do with the ability to retire or support yourself in old age, people of all ages are much more likely to lose their homes or otherwise find themselves unable to support themselves or their families without savings or assets to fall back on during economic hardship. And, indeed, women of color have had the highest foreclosure rates of any group during the current recession — both as a result of their lack of wealth and their being targeted for subprime mortgages, regardless of their income level.
Research has found that family wealth is the biggest predictor of the future economic status of a child, giving lie to the old American bootstraps mythology.
Syndicated columnist Bonnie Erbe (Scripps Howard, 3/17/10) wrote, The best thing women can do to build wealth is to start businesses, as opposed to getting caught in time-consuming and income-limiting salaried positions.
Erbe added that the report fails to take note of how women got themselves into the predicament where they currently find themselves, pointing a finger at women who bear children out of wedlock before they have completed their own education and thereby consign those children to a cycle of poverty.
Framing the issue as something that poor women have brought upon themselves masks the structural barriers and discrimination that need to be addressed in order to bring about real change.
JJS: Let us do address structural barriers and at the root level. Tinkering with surface issues wont do the job. Let us gather up the commonwealth and share it. Lets not tax jobs or investment or sales or buildings then turn around and fund corporate welfare, the return from campaign contributions. Not only would this geonomic policy close the wealth gap straight away, itd also generate more jobs and create a climate in which poor women could indeed launch new enterprises.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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