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from The Great Debate:

Why not a war on child poverty?

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President Barack Obama’s recent speeches at the LBJ Presidential Library and National Action Network marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act had a serious omission. While acknowledging “our work is unfinished,” Obama failed to mention this nation’s worst social trend: the stunning increase of children and youth living in poverty.

Since 1969, the proportion of children and youth in poverty rose by 56 percent, even as the economic fortunes of the elderly improved under programs like Medicare and Social Security. Today, 32 million American children and youth are confronting poverty -- including 7 million suffering utter destitution, another 9 million living in serious poverty and 16 million more in low-income households struggling just above poverty lines.

Even as Obama has launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to help poorer young men, his administration continues to largely ignore this larger issue. In fact, Obama said, addressing youth poverty “doesn’t take all that much.” No federal money has been budgeted for the initiative.

Instead, My Brother’s Keeper is initially to raise $7.5 million from 10 major foundations for “consultants,” and then perhaps attract $200 million in “private investments” over the next five years -- largely aimed at mentoring, church and related programs. One key component, for example, is an effort to make sure impoverished young people “make better decisions.”

from The Great Debate:

The lost promise of progressive taxes

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By midnight on April 15, roughly 140 million Americans will have filed their federal income tax returns and breathed a sigh of relief. Politicians from both parties, however, will spend most of the day criticizing our current tax system.

Conservatives bemoan that not enough people are paying taxes. They insist that a minority of “job creators” and “makers” are underwriting the social benefits that go to the “takers.” Liberals cite the growing concentration of wealth and lament that the rich don’t pay their fair share. In this new Gilded Age, they say, the 1 percent should be paying far more of their annual earnings.

from The Great Debate:

Self Help is no help for inequality

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For all the howls of rage from plutocrats like Tom Perkins and Ken Langone over possible tax rate increases, there has been relatively little public anger about the increasing wealth disparity in the United States -- especially compared to the past.

During the Progressive era in the early 20th century and the Great Depression, we saw violent strikes and marches on Washington. These days, we have an army of sometimes-intemperate bloggers and a labor movement so bereft the United Auto Workers union recently failed to mobilize workers in a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Occupy Wall Street, meanwhile, is now a distant memory, even as more than half of all Americans say they believe the nation remains in an economic recession.

from Breakingviews:

Review: An unreliable guide to inequality

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Thomas Piketty is set to become a star. “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – the new book from the founder of the Paris School of Economics – has received gushing praise from the New York Times and the Economist, even before the official publication of the English translation next month. The massive production, 577 pages of text plus voluminous supporting material, posits that economic inequality is a major social problem which is likely to get worse. Piketty’s arguments, however, fail to persuade.

from Lawrence Summers:

On inequality

Inequality has emerged as a major economic issue in the United States and beyond.

Sharp increases in the share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners, a rising share of income going to profits, stagnant real wages, and a rising gap between productivity growth and growth in median family income are all valid causes for concern. A generation ago, it could have been plausibly asserted that the economy’s overall growth rate was the dominant determinant of growth in middle-class incomes and progress in reducing poverty. This is no longer plausible. The United States may well be on the way to becoming a Downton Abbey economy.

from The Great Debate:

The minimum wage fight: From San Francisco to de Blasio’s New York

In his State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama urged cities and states to bypass Congress and enact their own minimum wage increases. "You don't have to wait for Congress,” he stated.

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the president's advice. De Blasio announced, in his State of the City address, that he plans to ask Albany next week to give the city the power to raise the minimum wage.

from The Great Debate:

The other inequality is structural

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For the second year in a row, the issue of economic inequality was featured in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Even some Republican lawmakers have now dared to speak the “i-word.”

Though Obama predictably avoided comparisons between the earnings held by the top 1 percent and the 99 percent of Occupy Wall Street fame, the message was familiar: The widening income gap between the very rich and everyone else is a stain on the social compact and a serious problem for future economic growth.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s small steps won’t fix inequality

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President Barack Obama is taking on the challenge of increasing the United States’ all but stagnant economic mobility.

He wants, he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, to both “strengthen the middle class” and “build new ladders of opportunity” into it. His modest plan -- modest so that it does not need the congressional approval he’s unlikely to receive -- includes raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers and offering workers a new workplace retirement savings account option.

from David Rohde:

Signing off

For the past two and a half years, I’ve had the privilege of writing a weekly opinion column for Reuters. Some of those columns made me proud. Others I wish I could do over.

As of today, I am changing jobs and becoming an investigative reporter at Reuters. I will also write regular analysis columns, but they will be edited by the Reuters news desk and not contain opinion.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s address: Borrowing from Bubba and the Gipper

Many presidents don’t have the problem of salvaging their second terms because the voters threw them out of office. Among those who win reelection, the successful communicators, such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, used many of the techniques that President Barack Obama deployed in his State of the Union Address last night. He is likely to repeat them often this year, which is one that will determine whether his administration is remembered as transformational or transitional.

Giving Americans credit: While most recent presidents began their State of the Union addresses by rattling off positive economic statistics, Obama did it differently. Using archetypal anecdotes -- a dedicated teacher, a high-tech entrepreneur, a night-shift worker – Obama gave regular Americans credit for reducing unemployment, adding manufacturing jobs and increasing high school graduation rates. In so doing, Obama emulated Reagan, who declared in his second State of the Union address of his second term: “Today, the American people deserve our thanks.”

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