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from The Great Debate:

Here’s what it will take for Americans to start getting pay raises

Demonstrators rally to raise the hourly minimum wage for fast-food workers at City Hall in Seattle

What will it really take to give America a raise?

A lot of well-credentialed policy experts have been writing nonsense about why Americans can’t be paid more.

One bogus story is that young people and working moms (whatever happened to working dads?) love the new “flexible” economy of Task-Rabbits working odd jobs. Or they’re Uber drivers or Starbucks clerks, marking time until their economic adulthood begins.

American University students walk among recruiting booths during a career job fair at American University in WashingtonSome of these people imagine themselves to be high-tech entrepreneurs-in-waiting. Recent college grads who hope that they are just one killer-app away from financial success are the well-educated equivalent of inner-city kids hoping for a tryout in the National Basketball Association. For every one who makes it, there are hundreds who don’t.

I have a British friend with a son in his 30s. The lad is having a hard time gaining economic traction. When I saw my friend recently, I inquired: “How’s William doing?”

from The Great Debate:

It’s harder to reach the American dream if you’re reaching all alone

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“Hours of chaos” is how the New York Times described the work reality of more and more Americans. It highlighted Jannette Navarra, a Starbucks barrista, who is regularly forced to work part-time with fluctuating hours. She usually gets her work schedule three days ahead of the workweek, so she is always scrambling to arrange childcare for her son. Any hope Navarra has of advancing by pursuing a degree is shattered by her inability to schedule classes.

These sorts of lousy jobs are the increasing reality for many American workers. They are labeled “contingent” workers -- part-time, temporary, on contract, on call. They generally earn lower wages than fulltime employees, with little or no benefits, and constant insecurity. They now represent one-third, perhaps as much as 40 percent of the workforce.

from The Great Debate:

How Uber can help the GOP gain control of the cities

Taxi drivers protest against transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft along with Assembly Bill 2293 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California

Republicans occupy the governor’s mansion in a majority of states and control both chambers of state legislatures where a majority of Americans live. In a country that is becoming more urban, however, Democrats have a major advantage: Their party runs most big U.S. cities. Of the 15 largest U.S. cities, only two -- San Diego and Indianapolis -- have Republican mayors, and 13 of the 15 have Democratic-controlled city councils.

Yet despite the Democrats’ urban dominance, cities may soon be up for grabs. For the party’s refusal to embrace the innovative technology and disruptive businesses that have greatly improved city life presents a challenge to Democrats -- and an opportunity for Republicans.

from The Great Debate:

Today’s South is boldly moving backward

mahurin for bishop

We used to call it the “New South.” That was the era after Reconstruction and before the Civil Rights laws -- when the states of the old Confederacy seemed most determined to preserve a social and economic order that encouraged low-wage industrialization as they fought to maintain Jim Crow.

What was then distinctive about the South had almost as much to do with economic inequality as racial segregation. Between roughly 1877 and 1965, the region was marked by low-wages, little government, short lives and lousy health -- not just for African-Americans but for white workers and farmers.

from The Great Debate UK:

The Consumer Student

--Priyamvada Gopal is a University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The opinions expressed are her own.--

The once highly-regarded British public university is not quite dead but it is in terminal care. After half a century of global success on public funding that amounted to less than 1.5% of Britain’s GDP, in the space of two years we’ve seen the partial withdrawal of the state from the sector, and it is expected that this is a precursor to full withdrawal followed by extensive privatisation.

from The Great Debate:

The college football assembly line

Here’s a tale of two factories and the way the public feels about those who labor there. Nothing could be more iconic than an automobile factory where workers put in eight or more hours a day on the assembly line. The work is boring, the pace unrelenting and injuries are not uncommon, but the pay is better than working in fast food or at Wal-Mart. Volkswagen’s modern, efficient Chattanooga factory is such a place.

Then there are the “football factories.” A good one is at Northwestern University, where players are formally enrolled as students, but they spend the bulk of their time in practice for several months of the year. Their tuition and living expenses are paid through an athletic scholarship, the value of which is often more than an autoworker earns in a year. At Northwestern, 97 percent of these players are said to graduate.

from The Great Debate:

FDR set the terms for labor executive orders

Many critics have called President Barack Obama’s executive order raising the minimum wage for federally contracted workers an unprecedented bold action. The president bypassed a gridlocked Congress to increase pay to $10.10 an hour -- and raise labor standards for the only federal workers directly within his authority.

This move is a significant step in combating income inequality. The federal government is the largest low-wage job creator -- with more than 2 million low-wage workers. That’s more than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s combined.

from The Great Debate:

Pennsylvania as the new Wisconsin in union fights

The Wisconsin state capitol was the site of massive protests in 2011 during the fight to pass Republican Governor Scott Walker’s labor reforms. The following year Big Labor staged demonstrations in Michigan against Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s right-to-work bill, which ultimately passed. Now Pennsylvania’s state capitol is set to reach fever pitch, as unions plan to bus in hundreds of protestors this week to fight legislation that, if bad for union bosses, could be a boon to rank-and-file workers.

Pennsylvania is a longtime labor stronghold. Consider that a plaque directly across from the state capitol commemorates the unionization of government workers. But Pennsylvania lawmakers are now poised to pass a law to end automatic deduction of union dues from government employee paychecks.

from The Great Debate:

Why U.S. angst over Chinese buyouts is warranted

For some people, Jim Beam may be more American than apple pie. Yet the U.S. public took it in stride earlier this month when Suntory, a Japanese conglomerate, bought the bourbon distillery for $13.6 billion.

This was a sharp contrast to U.S. reaction when a Chinese meat producer sought to buy the ham producer Smithfield Foods last year. The deal came under heavy attack. Shuanghui International Holdings faced formidable opposition on Capitol Hill last summer. Union workers and consumer advocates voiced well-publicized concerns about food safety and security.

from The Great Debate:

Democrats: It’s the states, stupid (Part 2)

ILLUSTRATION: Matt Mahurin

Since the government shutdown, public opinion of the Republican Party has hit a new low. Yet the Democrats might not be able to gain from it. Despite the GOP’s fall from grace -- and even if they suffer a lower vote count in the 2014 midterm elections -- the Republicans might still control the House of Representatives and many state legislatures after the polls close.

Our Constitution is unique in that it gives state legislatures virtually complete control over how we elect the president and Congress. In other democracies, the national government runs elections, usually through an impartial commission. Our system, however, lets the party that controls the state legislatures manipulate election rules to help itself and harm its opponents in both the state and House races.

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