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…
Tag Archives: wages
The heart of the report can be summarized in these three statistics:
- Higher-wage occupations constituted 41 percent of recession losses, but only 30 percent of recovery growth.
- Mid-wage occupations constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
- 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:
Earlier this month, leaders from the New York Senate and the Assembly joined fast food workers outside a McDonald’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan to demand that the $8 minimum wage being paid to workers in the state be raised. New York State recently…
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…
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
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.
Independent Funkmetal Subversives — FUSE’s The Impossible Dream: Shared Realities and Dreams as Revolt
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."
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").
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.
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.
This 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 themthe other half is what they write to usI'm callin em fam bettersoul rockas and rebelsgetting ready for the best but preparing for bad weatherthat's what fam doeswe on this path togethernot moving backwardsbut what's a human who can't remember? --SK "Lost Steps"Out with the Old, In with the NewNeh Forget Classic Tunes'Riginal Rock, Pave the WayOpen doors Lead the WayRhythm Blues Gospel JazzCountry Soul Frame that Past -- Soul Qloc "Lost Steps"Out with the oldIn with the newBack to the oldCause 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.
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
Damn...I just want some clarityCan 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 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.
Budget Cuts and Rent-Free Charter Schools: The Ugly Education Legacy of Ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
On December 16, 2013, two letters were sent to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. One was a letter signed by 140 principals from across the city. The other, a letter signed by 19 of the 32 Community Education Councils in addition to the Citywide Council on English Language Learners, the Citywide Council on Special Education, the Citywide District 75 Council, and individuals from the Citywide Council on High Schools and Community Education Council 23.
The common thread to these letters was clear, the NYC school system needs to purge itself of the toxic "reforms" instituted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
the Board of Education
and community school boards:
In 1969, then mayor John Lindsay relinquished control of NYC schools after a series of protests and demands from the public for community control of community schools. This led to the creation of 32 elected community school boards and a central Board of Education(BOE) made up of 7 members appointed by the mayor and borough presidents.
In 2002, Mayor Bloomberg took control of NYC schools and abolished the BOE and the community school boards, essentially shutting down parental democratic access to their children's education.
The BOE was replaced by the Panel for Educational Policy(PEP). The PEP consists of 13 appointed members, 8 appointed by the mayor and one each appointed by the borough presidents. Community boards were replaced with Community Education Councils(CECs).
Not only do the CECs have very little power when it comes to affecting change in community schools, they are poorly advertised and sparsely attended. These changes have left parents feeling locked out and voiceless in their children's schools.
Changes in funding:
The introduction of "Fair Student Funding"(pdf) had 3 main goals; to increase equity in funding schools while preserving stability, to improve student achievement, and to make school budgets more transparent.
The Independent Budget Office(IBO) has found that the funding formula actually underfunds 94% of schools and is not easily understood or transparent, according to a report released April 10 of this year.
Increase in the
number of charter schools:
Ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a champion of for-profit charter schools. Under his management, 175 charter schools have opened in NYC since 2002.
These schools are often opened in place of larger community schools that have been closed by the Mayor-controlled PEP. Or, they force their way in to already existing school buildings rent-free, using space and resources that were originally meant for public schools.
While the majority of public schools are seeing their budgets cut, spending for charter schools is expected to exceed $1billion in the next school year.
The fast food industry is notorious for handing out lean paychecks to their burger flippers and fat ones to their CEOs. What’s less well-known is that taxpayers are actually subsidizing fast food incomes at both the bottom — and top — of the industry.
Take, for example, Yum Brands, which operates the Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut chains. Wages for the corporation’s nearly 380,000 U.S. workers are so low that many of them have to turn to taxpayer-funded anti-poverty programs just to get by. The National Employment Law Project estimates that Yum Brands’ workers draw nearly $650 million in Medicaid and other public assistance annually.
Meanwhile, at the top end of the company’s pay ladder, CEO David Novak pocketed $94 million over the years 2011 and 2012 in stock options gains, bonuses and other so-called “performance pay.” That was a nice windfall for him, but a big burden for the rest of us taxpayers.
Under the current tax code, corporations can deduct unlimited amounts of such “performance pay” from their federal income taxes. In other words, the more corporations pay their CEO, the lower their tax burden. Novak’s $94 million payout, for example, lowered Yum’s IRS bill by $33 million. Guess who makes up the difference?
My new Institute for Policy Studies reportcalculates the cost to taxpayers of this “performance pay” loophole at all of the top six publicly held fast food chains — McDonald’s, Yum, Wendy’s, Burger King, Domino’s, and Dunkin’ Brands.
Combined, these firms’ CEOs pocketed more than $183 million in fully deductible “performance pay” in 2011 and 2012 , lowering their companies’ IRS bills by an estimated $64 million. To put that figure in perspective, it would be enough to cover the average cost of food stamps for 40,000 American families for a year.
After Yum, McDonald’s received the second-largest government handout for their executive pay. James Skinner, as CEO in 2011 and the first half of 2012, pocketed $31 million in exercised stock options and other fully deductible “performance pay.” Incoming CEO Donald Thompson took in $10 million in performance pay in his first six months on the job. Skinner and Thompson’s combined performance pay translates into a $14 million taxpayer subsidy for McDonald’s.
What makes all this even more galling is that these fast food giants are pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies for their CEO pay while fighting to keep their workers’ wages at rock bottom . All of the big fast food corporations are members of the National Restaurant Association, which is aggressively working to block a raise in the federal minimum wage to a level that would let millions of fast food workers make ends meet without public support.
There’s an easy solution to the perverse “performance pay” loophole. A bill introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) would simply set a firm $1 million cap for executive pay deductions — with no exceptions. Corporations could still pay their CEOs whatever they choose, but at least taxpayers wouldn’t be subsidizing anything above $1 million. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this legislation would generate more than $50 billion over 10 years.
It makes no sense for employees of highly profitable giant corporations to have to rely on government assistance for basic needs. It makes even less sense for ordinary taxpayers to subsidize the CEOs who are benefiting most from the fast food industry’s low-road business model.
With Congress again mulling deficit-reduction strategies, it’s high time that Washington stopped letting fast food giants gorge on both of these absurd subsidies.
Poverty and hunger are on the rise in New York City. As former public advocate Bill De Blasio prepares to become the Big Apple's next mayor, his campaign
promises of challenging the gross economic inequalities of the city will be put to the test.
An Increase in Poverty in NYC 2013
Recent census numbers indicate that poverty and income inequality have kept increasing in the city. While NY remains a center of international capital, trade and media, the wealth of the city all too rarely trickles down beyond six-figure earners. As one of the country's most unequal cities, that means that even as developers and bankers are expanding on their investments (and profits) throughout the city, many working class New Yorkers City now find themselves wrestling with poverty and hunger. As explained by the New York Coalition Against Hunger:
While the poverty rate in the U.S. stayed essentially flat in the U.S over 2011 and 2012, poverty increased by 5 percent in New York City. One in five New Yorkers now live below the federal poverty line – $19,090 for a family a three – equaling 1.7 million impoverished residents, a number greater than the entire population of the city of Philadelphia.
The following report by Orie Givens and Jonathan Moffie of the NYC News Service examines how groups like Food Bank of New York and the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger are dealing with not only an increase in local demand, as hunger increases throughout New York City, but also a cut to the federal SNAP program of around $5 billion. As Voices of NY explains, "cuts in food stamps started at the beginning of November forcing nearly 2 million New Yorkers who rely on them to rethink their monthly budgets."