Tag Archives: wages

Record Homelessness in Billionaire-Heavy NYC

the uss inequality sinking-ship-inequality-cartoon

the uss inequality sinking-ship-inequality-cartoon

In terms of extreme poverty and wealth, New York City is having a banner year.

Hyperbole has become reality in the city that is now the sixth most economically unequal metropolitan area out of America's 50 biggest cities (and the most unequal of any city with more than one million residents).

Every day in The Big Apple, billionaires and the millions of lives they impoverished intermingle on the city's overpoliced sidewalks -- and the chasm between their economic worlds is only growing wider.

In the wake of the Great Recession and nearly two decades of Bloomberg-Giuliani-Pataki policies (that decimated the local "real" economy in favor of the FIRE industries), most New Yorkers' wages are either stagnating or dropping.

Whatever "economic recovery" has happened has mostly benefited the already-wealthy, leaving average New Yorkers further behind (EPI study-pdf) than ever.

But the news is even worse. According to a recent report, New York City now houses 56,000 people in its homeless shelters, the highest number in the city's history.

At the same time, the UBS billionaire survey found 108 billionaires living in New York City -- more than any other city in the world.

Meanwhile, in the city's wealthiest borough, Manhattan, homeless rate spiked 14% in the last year alone as cost of living increased steadily while wages continue stagnating or declining in real value.

Earlier this week, on WNYC, Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services Gilbert Taylor discussed some of the challenges homeless individuals face and the services the city is trying to provide them.

According to the National Employment Law Project, the average family needs to earn more than $68,000 year to be economically self-sufficient in NYC.

New York State as a whole has seen an uneven recovery rewarding the already-wealthy with even more wealth.

This follows a national pattern of uneven economic recovery, which itself comes on top of a lost generation of stagnant or, worse, declining value in real wages.

According to IRS records, 90% of Americans haven't seen real growth in their wages in more than 30 years.

At the same time, whether anti-worker policies were shaped as Reagonomics, Triangulation, Neo-Conservatism or Neo-Liberalism, the "new" economy that arose as the real economy was gutted, ultimately lined the pockets of the nation's uber-wealthy overclass, giving 1% of the nation's population around a 50% share of its economy.

VIDEO: Warren and Krugman talk economics at CUNY


The following description via the CUNY TV Youtube channel

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for The New York Times and Distinguished Scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center, at the Graduate Center, CUNY, engage in a discussion of public policy, economics and the middle class. Moderator: Janet Gornick, Director of the Luxembourg Income Study Center, CUNY. Taped at CUNY Graduate Center, Sept. 4, 2014. (90 min.)

Check out other great CUNY shows here.


Minimum Wage Inadequate for Steep Housing Costs in the U.S.

Reality Check: Minimum Hourly Wages Needed to Afford a One-Bedroom Apartment in the U.S. (via Americans Against The Tea Party)

How much does it really cost to pay for a one bedroom apartment? The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a report that officially shows how much a worker would have to earn according to “fair market rent,” to afford a one bedroom rental…

3 Stats that Prove the “Recovery” is Just a Shift to Low Wage Jobs

Wages broken down by jobs lost during the Great Recession vs. jobs gained during the Economic "Recovery." (Data via NELP. Chart MJalonschi/BQBrew)

The National Employment Law Project recently released a report(.pdf) on the state of the economic recovery. What it found was an economy where good-paying jobs are being replaced with low-wage jobs.

Wages broken down by jobs lost during the Great Recession vs. jobs gained during the Economic "Recovery." (Data via NELP. Chart MJalonschi/BQBrew)

Wages broken down by jobs lost during the Great Recession vs. jobs gained during the Economic "Recovery." (Data via NELP. Chart MJalonschi/BQBrew)

As workers around the country organize for higher wages, the report sheds new light on the new realities of the American economy.

The heart of the report can be summarized in these three statistics:

  1. Higher-wage occupations constituted 41 percent of recession losses, but only 30 percent of recovery growth.
  2. Mid-wage occupations constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
  3. Lower-wage occupations constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth. Out of every 9 jobs created during the economic "recovery," four were lower-wage occupations.

You can read the full report here:

National Employment Law Project | Low Wage Recovery.

How The Labor Department Has Let Companies Off The Hook For Unpaid Internships

photo by Steve/cc/flickr
[repostus]How The Labor Department Has Let Companies Off The Hook For Unpaid Internships (via http://crooksandliars.com)

by Kara Brandeisky and Jeremy B. Merrill ProPublica, April 9, 2014, 3 p.m. Two years after the U.S. Department of Labor announced its intent to crack down on unpaid internships, a federal investigator called a final meeting with the biggest offender…

Read more

Wall Street Bonuses vs the Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage would give our economy much more bang for the buck than we get from the financial industry's yearly windfalls.


Purveyors of Ferraris and high-end Swiss watches keep their fingers crossed toward the end of each calendar year, hoping that the big Wall Street banks will be generous with their annual cash bonuses.

New figures show that the bonus bonanza of 2013 didn’t disappoint. According to the New York State Comptroller’s office, Wall Street firms handed out $26.7 billion in bonuses to their 165,200 employees last year, up 15 percent over the previous year. That’s their third-largest haul on record.

Wall Street Charges Ahead, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Wall Street Charges Ahead, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

That money will no doubt boost sales of luxury goods. Just imagine how much greater the economic benefit would be if that same amount of money had gone into the pockets of minimum-wage workers.

The $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pocketed in bonuses would cover the cost of more than doubling the paychecks for all of the 1,085,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

And boosting their pay in that way would give our economy much more bang for the buck. That’s because low-wage workers tend to spend nearly every dollar they make to meet their basic needs. The wealthy can afford to squirrel away a much greater share of their earnings.

When low-wage workers spend their money at the grocery store or on utility bills, this cash ripples through the economy. According to my new report, every extra dollar going into the pockets of low-wage workers adds about $1.21 to the national economy. Every extra dollar a high-income American makes, by contrast, only adds about 39 cents to the gross domestic product (GDP).

And these pennies add up.

If the $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pulled in on their bonuses last year had instead gone to minimum wage workers, our economy would be expected to grow by about $32.3 billion — more than triple the $10.4 billion boost expected from the Wall Street bonuses.

This immense GDP differential only speaks to one price we pay for Wall Street’s bonus reward culture. Huge bonuses, the 2008 financial industry meltdown made clear, create an incentive for high-risk behaviors that endanger the entire economy.

And yet, nearly four years after passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform, regulators still haven’t implemented the modest provisions in that law to prohibit financial industry pay that encourages “inappropriate risk.” Time will tell whether last year’s Wall Street bonuses werebased on high-risk gambles that will eventually blow up in our faces.

Low-wage jobs, on the other hand, endanger nothing. The people who harvest, prepare, and serve our food, the folks who keep our hotels clean, and the workers who care for our elderly all provide crucial services. They deserve much higher rewards.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the author of the new report Wall Street Bonuses and the Minimum Wage. This article was originally published by Otherwords.

Independent Funkmetal Subversives — FUSE’s The Impossible Dream: Shared Realities and Dreams as Revolt

FUSE at one of the high-energy performances the group is so wellknown for. (Photo: Mike Shanahan)
FUSE: The Band Called Fuse. (Photo via bandcalledfuse.com/)

Local DIY heroes FUSE release their most smooth-sounding and innovative album to date, The Impossible Dream, an uplifting community-funded project oozing with reality-driven inter-cultural inspiration and creativity. Shown above, members of he band, left to right, X - Guitar; Mr. Pokkett - Drums; Silent Knight - Mic; K-Dez - Vocals; Soul Qloc - MPC, mic; Toast - Bass; Ith - Keys.


On the 11-track Impossible Dream LP, the third offering from The Band Called Fuse (FUSE), the group has elevated its funkmetal-soulrock game to yet another level. The ever-grinding independent group, which has performed over 200 shows in the last 4 years, has ever-so-smoothly hit its stride both musically and conceptually.

The soulful, dance-able, headbanging effort has a polished feel and a "tightness" that fans ("fam") familiar with the band will recognize as a signature of their live performances. While some of the credit for the crispness of this album goes to Nicholas Howard (who mixed it) and KON (who mastered the album), the band's well-known dedication to the grind shows in the cohesiveness of the effort.

"A deepened consciousness of their situation
leads people to apprehend that
situation as an historical reality
susceptible of transformation."
--Paulo Freire
Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
(1968, English trans. 1970)

Both musically and in content, the band smoothly covers a world of terrain: from the light-hearted ("Are we there yet?." "NOLA") and the consequential ("soul rock anthem?," "Can I?", "Black Canyon City Blues", "Lost Steps") to personal moments ( "Take it slow", "Last Call") and modern meta-alienation("Ellipsis").

Left to Right: Silent Knight, Soul Qloc and KDez of the NY-NJ soul rock supergroup FUSE (The Band Called Fuse). Photo via facebook.com/FusePlanet)

Left to Right: Silent Knight, Soul Qloc and KDez of the NY-NJ soul rock supergroup FUSE (The Band Called Fuse). Photo via facebook.com/FusePlanet)

The Impossible Dream is the band's smoothest-yet blend of hip hop, soul, grunge, metal and rebellious DIY alt-scene influences into what will probably end up being one of the most thoughtful, creative and subversively inspiring albums of 2014. With KDEz on vocals, Soul Qloc on the mic/MPC and Sunset Park-raised Silent Knight emceeing, the group's strength in diversity is displayed in a uniquely rugged and creative sound.

Over the past few years, the band has gained recognition from the college charts (where they made the top 40 several times last year) to the local scene, not only sharing bills with bigger names like Pharoah Monch and Talib Kweli but also becoming one of the most recognized mainstays in the independent music scene.

While the band has indeed achieved a new level of recognition, it's in this third album's funky, mosh-able fusion of musical styles, lived experience and shared creativity that they've entered an explosive new artistic domain.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?" -- David Foster Wallace

"Soul Rock Anthem", the first track on the album, is a politically-aware peer-to-peer (zero-supremacism) hype song, which excels at not only encouraging and uplifting the "fam," but, like the rest of the album, also does so without the predictable pop-mainstream idiocy of wealth-flaunting, poor-shaming, sexism, imperious violence and, quite importantly,--without alienating the audience from either themselves, their own experience or the music that is itself a re-imagination of lived experience, hope and the uncertain terrain in between.

Moreover, the song, like many on the album, repeatedly hints at the notion of an individual's growth being strengthened and supported by the growth of other individuals within the community, as well as the growth of the community itself.

X of The Band Called Fuse (FUSE) takes off during a performance. (Photo: Mike Shanahan)

X of The Band Called Fuse (FUSE) takes off during a performance. (Photo: Mike Shanahan)

Repeatedly again, as if in insistent confirmation, "Soul Rock Anthem" also accentuates that failure is not a dead-end point on "the journey" ("building together, we're gonna rise.... when we get knocked down, we get back up, and then we take another shot") as much as it's just another opportunity to re-organize, a rare message within a rare message.

The pattern carries on throughout the album, even on distinctly non-political tracks. For example, the album's three love-related tracks (Last Call, Take it Slow, Nola) explore three very different stages of romantic relationships, and does so in different styles. In all of these songs, both the object and subject of the song are treated with either overt or implicit respect--something so humane it sticks out in its rarity.

"Last Call," for example, is the goodbye of a drifting couple that probably started out as friends. Mature, insightful, and painfully well-balanced, the song is an admission that despite even best efforts, a couple that loves and respects each other may still end up apart.

In one of those many subversive subtleties peppered throughout the album, the song's realization doesn't denigrate the ex-partner nor does it belittle what the couple had once shared. In fact, the dissolution of the relationship marks what was valuable in a respectful goodbye.

CD100_outThis is a world away from top 40 break up songs that condemn, dehumanize or, inversely, canonize and sanctify former partners in either an attempt to denigrate shared experiences as meaningless or hype them into too important to give up. (Both of the latter, corporate "love song" styles are intimately related to an often-used model of oligopoly-industry music that focuses on market-ready emotional self-centeredness as opposed to artistic merit, historic relevance or intellectual edification of one's self or others.)

On "Take it Slow" a new couple has become enamored of each other, drawing together physically, emotionally and intellectually. But as the song title indicates, the theme doesn't focus on the new partner as a sexual product to be consumed and/or bribed, but instead hints at a sustainable coming together in the romantic partnership as the K-Dez-belted hook ends with the punchline "let's get carried away.... almost."

On "NOLA" Qloc and SK play the dueling emcee role, this time in the context of a late-night bar scene. As they rap their purposely-cheesy lines ("I know you got a lot shakers and movers, but I can take you to Hooters" and "Not to be rude but, those jeans fit so smooth just like a new glove"), the band's mastery of a Motown-ish funkrock sound is on full display.

In response to the rapping duelers, whose insults on each other go from occasional to hilariously punchy, blaring soulful horns accompany K-Dez's ever-so-clear response, "Hey now baby, that's not gonna do. If you want me, to lose control, you've got to rock me, way deep down in my soul." The cheesy fedora-wearing bar-hounds eventually decide "hey man, I don't think she's feeling either of us, let's head over to the bar and just grab a beer and such."

"I wanna feel........like something is real"
-- KDez, on "Can I"


And so even in the fun songs, FUSE has found a way to talk about life, real life (sometimes full of win, sometimes full of fail), even the awkwardness of finding a romantic partner, with humor, candor, depth and a ton of rhythm.

In honestly addressing reality (sometimes silly, sometimes tense, sometimes inspiring, sometimes dull) as experienced by the community they emerged from, a community that in reciprocation directly-funded a great deal of FUSE's efforts, they not only bolster the self-confidence of those inter-cultural grassroots communities, but also lend validity to their struggles, history, social environment and even "dreams."

That detonative power of "the Real" re-imagined and reconsidered in the hands of a community's honest representative is exactly what we should expect from art. (It is also precisely what corporate media cannot, and will never, provide us.)

Another one of the album's funnest songs "Fat Laces" gives us insight into the musical family history of the band. One of the funkier songs on the album, the song is a shout-out to the band's roots, both in their personal journeys and in their musical influences. It also hints at the structural framework that bolsters the group (which, in a process of increasing reinforcement, the group bolsters and evolves back in return).

The band, in both musical self-reflection and lyrical composition, has now decidedly placed itself in a live history of intercultural, revolutionary experimentation. The populist musical, community traditions of yesteryear are re-applied with a far more comprehensive, global perspective in an effort that's remarkably accessible, unforced and roots deep in the gritty world it originates from and into.

"In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation."-- Paulo Freire,
Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
(1968, English trans. 1970)


Those roots are hinted at again, and even more clearly, on "Lost Steps," which often seems to be stressing the connection between past, present and future--and also the deep, abiding relationship between the band and its community.

The fan letters are piling up, half of them are what we write to them
the other half is what they write to us
I'm callin em fam better
soul rockas and rebels
getting ready for the best but preparing for bad weather
that's what fam does
we on this path together
not moving backwards
but what's a human who can't remember? --SK "Lost Steps"
Out with the Old, In with the New
Neh Forget Classic Tunes
'Riginal Rock,  Pave the Way
Open doors Lead the Way
Rhythm Blues Gospel Jazz
Country Soul Frame that Past -- Soul Qloc "Lost Steps"
Out with the old
In with the new
Back to the old
Cause you missed a thing or two --KDez "Lost Steps"

This vision of diversity-based shared experience, shared learning, shared creativity  and shared aspirations is one that regularly serves as an engine, subject and starting point for the various, inter-connected explorations of daily life that FUSE engages.

Yet it's in the last two songs that the tonality that is hinted at throughout the album, the individual struggling with both alienation and hopelessness finding both a meditative forum and a wealth of power in shared struggle, reaches its clearest statement.

Ellipsis, the next to last song, is more of a landscape than a song for the first half of the track. A grungy, post-industrial, post-urban sound slowly fills out as several haunting harmonies of "there is no one here.... far away from here.... " creep in from multiple vocalists.

FUSE at one of the high-energy performances the group is so wellknown for. (Photo: Mike Shanahan)

FUSE at one of the high-energy performances the group is so wellknown for. (Photo: Mike Shanahan)

When the lyrics do start in, they basically give up on getting out the first time around, bringing the eerie, chilling effort to a more distant, alienating plea, "I wanna live forever.... can you grant my wish?...."

When they start in again, an image of a world abandoned emerges, "the planet exists... amongst the slumber... cannibalism, hunger, abandonment.. dreams can't exist here, or so it seems.... it's just an impossible dream... that's what they tell me.... it's an impossible dream... that's what they tell me... it's an impossible dream... that's what I tell myself, that's what I tell myself, that's what I tell myself...."

The confused, near feverish loneliness of the song gets tenser as the lyrics wind around and eventually stop along with an intently hopeless musical half-ending.

"People will be truly critical... if their action
encompasses a critical reflection which increasingly
organizes their thinking and thus leads them to
move from a purely naive knowledge of
reality to a higher level, one which
enables them to perceive the causes of reality."
-- Paulo Freire
Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
(1968, English trans. 1970)

The next sound is the blaring of a morning alarm--a distinct reference to The Impossible Dream referenced throughout the album but especially throughout "ellipsis"--and follows with these words,

Can I get one more hour of sleep?

Can I get a couple more days in a week?
Can I get a raise if I ask for it?
Can I get some napkins with that?
More stamps in my passport?
Can I get a landlord that respects me?
Better yet, Can I own my home eventually?
Until then, can I get some cheap rent?
Can I vent?
Can I get a screenshot for that snapchat?
Can I get a retweet Or a followback?
Can I hit the lotto jackpot, what's the chance?
Can I get some piece of mind on top of that?
Can We get the troops back home in tact?
Can the collections dude cut me some slack?
.....I know my high school diploma's not a factor
When I hear some folks sayin they only got a masters
Some of the members of FUSE at their "compound."

Some of the members of FUSE at their "compound."

Damn...I just want some clarity
Can i get that?
That  sound fair at least?
And Can I get a decent wage
or am I going to college just to receive a piece of paper?
Can I get it straight?
Cuz that's a lot to pay In this economic state
Can i get explanation? Oh, not today?
I guess i'll grab another box of
Ramen n be on my way
And when i'm walking can i get to where i'm going?
Without randomly chosen,
Patdowns on my scrotum?!
Bag searched n  thrown is that foul? dunno,
U wanna sprinkle some crack or put [crack] viles in my coat?
If i act wild-i'm ghost i don't pack man,
I'm broke,
I'm a law abiding citizen tryna be left alone....
Can i get my own drone?
They tapping MY phone
Can i see what the goverments doing up in THEY homes?
Can I kick it?
Yes you can!
I think they need to step up they entrance exams
I think we need to revup the rest of the plan
If you think we need a better chance....
Can I get an Amennnn?!

Much like the rest of the album, the lyrics bring the concrete into the abstract, the immediate into the historic, the mundane into the global, and plays with the connections that exist between those planes. The questions of "ellipsis" are in fact resolved, as an almost-challenge to the audience, on "Can I?". It's on this final track that it becomes obvious the band is not just generating out of the experiences of their community, but also drilling down into the forces affecting that community.

Can I get a what what
For the pretentious stuck up
People who gave up their dreams, n now they judge us
N don't think much of our generation
lazy n complacent
And other generalizations
Basically ADD and Apathetic,
well the young people, they're like me....they asking questions
Like Who fought 3 wars in the past decade?
And hit the booths heavy in the blue AND red states
Who inherited this debt n this climate?
How u measure success?
and not internalize it?
I'm not a fan of the blame game of finger pointing
There's a gap there that's mad real, I think its poignant
Can we get to the root n not avoid it?
Cuz when's it's after the fact it can't be voided
But we got choices
Red pill or the blue
accept it or improve
Deception or the truth

The hook, "I wanna feel, like something is real," gives the song a stirring, demanding overtone--one that asks something of reality--something more. And that may in fact be the message that drives the album. The Impossible Dream, it seems, would ask us to challenge which dreams are ours, study the dreams we share and question which dreams are in fact not that impossible after all.


You can check out the EP, a 5 song version of the album, over at DJBooth.

fuse on the street

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