Tags: poverty*

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  1. we should be moving in the exact opposite direction. When you die, your wealth reverts to the public. It can be used to pay for roads and bridges and disaster relief and Social Security and Medicaid and education and childhood food programs and all of the other things that we as a society all need. Hell, if you really want to make it politically palatable, earmark estate tax revenues for only the most popular government programs. That’s fine. Make the subways work! Make the subways free! Free school lunches! Free state college! Free homeless shelters! Etcetera. Make the benefits of transferring private wealth to the public easy for everyone to see. We’re not monsters here. We’re trying to help the maximum number of people. From the perspective of the public good, there is no reasonable argument against this. It promotes equality of opportunity and helps to prevent the very sort of overaccumulation of power that undermines our democratic ideals. And just to cater to our nation’s collective fantasy that we each harbor of one day becoming rich, keep a little exemption. You can give a million bucks to your kids. That’s fine. No kid needs, or deserves, more than that anyhow.

    The Republican cries of dismay on this topic seem somewhat inconsistent. We tell poor people to work their way up with pure grit, but we tell rich people that their right to produce a century’s worth of wastrel heirs who never have to work a day in their lives is a sacrosanct matter of freedom. Hmmm. In reality, a 100% estate tax would be a great motivator for rich people to donate all of their wealth to charity before they die. At least then they would get to bask in the narcissism of it all. This would be infinitely preferable to our current system in which rich people donate all of their wealth to offshore tax shelters.

    You worked hard? You made good investments? You got real lucky, and you got real rich? Great. Enjoy it while you can, and then rest secure in the knowledge that when you’re gone, all of the proceeds of your luck or labor—justified and unjustified alike—will go towards the public good. That’s something for you to feel good about as you pass away, even if you were a real bastard most of the time.
    https://splinternews.com/the-estate-t...plinter_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow
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  2. what happened to cause such a profound shift in the human psyche away from egalitarianism? The balance of archaeological, anthropological and genomic data suggests the answer lies in the agricultural revolution, which began roughly 10,000 years ago.

    The extraordinary productivity of modern farming techniques belies just how precarious life was for most farmers from the earliest days of the Neolithic revolution right up until this century (in the case of subsistence farmers in the world’s poorer countries). Both hunter-gatherers and early farmers were susceptible to short-term food shortages and occasional famines – but it was the farming communities who were much more likely to suffer severe, recurrent and catastrophic famines.

    Hunting and gathering was a low-risk way of making a living. Ju/’hoansi hunter-gatherers in Namibia traditionally made use of 125 different edible plant species, each of which had a slightly different seasonal cycle, varied in its response to different weather conditions, and occupied a specific environmental niche. When the weather proved unsuitable for one set of species it was likely to benefit another, vastly reducing the risk of famine.

    As a result, hunter-gatherers considered their environments to be eternally provident, and only ever worked to meet their immediate needs. They never sought to create surpluses nor over-exploited any key resources. Confidence in the sustainability of their environments was unyielding.
    The Ju/’hoansi people have lived in southern Africa for hundreds of thousands of years.
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    The Ju/’hoansi people have lived in southern Africa for hundreds of thousands of years. Photograph: James Suzman

    In contrast, Neolithic farmers assumed full responsibility for “making” their environments provident. They depended on a handful of highly sensitive crops or livestock species, which meant any seasonal anomaly such as drought or livestock disease could cause chaos.
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    And indeed, the expansion of agriculture across the globe was punctuated by catastrophic societal collapses. Genomic research on the history of European populations points to a series of sharp declines that coincided first with the Neolithic expansion through central Europe around 7,500 years ago, then with their spread into north-western Europe about 6,000 years ago.

    However, when the stars were in alignment – weather favourable, pests subdued, soils still packed with nutrients – agriculture was very much more productive than hunting and gathering. This enabled farming populations to grow far more rapidly than hunter-gatherers, and sustain these growing populations over much less land.

    But successful Neolithic farmers were still tormented by fears of drought, blight, pests, frost and famine. In time, this profound shift in the way societies regarded scarcity also induced fears about raids, wars, strangers – and eventually, taxes and tyrants.
    Fruits and tubers gathered by the Ju/’hoansi.
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    The Ju/’hoansi traditionally made use of 125 different edible plant species. Photograph: James Suzman

    Not that early farmers considered themselves helpless. If they did things right, they could minimise the risks that fed their fears. This meant pleasing capricious gods in the conduct of their day-to-day lives – but above all, it placed a premium on working hard and creating surpluses.

    Where hunter-gatherers saw themselves simply as part of an inherently productive environment, farmers regarded their environment as something to manipulate, tame and control. But as any farmer will tell you, bending an environment to your will requires a lot of work. The productivity of a patch of land is directly proportional to the amount of energy you put into it.

    This principle that hard work is a virtue, and its corollary that individual wealth is a reflection of merit, is perhaps the most obvious of the agricultural revolution’s many social, economic and cultural legacies.
    From farming to war

    The acceptance of the link between hard work and prosperity played a profound role in reshaping human destiny. In particular, the ability to both generate and control the distribution of surpluses became a path to power and influence. This laid the foundations for all the key elements of our contemporary economies, and cemented our preoccupation with growth, productivity and trade.

    Regular surpluses enabled a much greater degree of role differentiation within farming societies, creating space for less immediately productive roles. Initially these would have been agriculture-related (toolmakers, builders and butchers), but over time new roles emerged: priests to pray for good rains; fighters to protect farmers from wild animals and rivals; politicians to transform economic power into social capital.
    https://www.theguardian.com/inequalit...lity-10000-years-ago?CMP=share_btn_tw
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  3. Why do Nomads live like this?

    We live in a culture where if your number didn’t come up, you’re a bad person, you’re lazy, you should be ashamed of yourself. It eats away at people. It makes them more exploitable.

    What are the challenges they face?

    I talked to one couple, Barb and Chuck. He had been head of product development at McDonald’s MCD, -0.84% before he retired. He lost his nest egg in the 2008 crash and Barb did, too. One time, Barb and Chuck were standing at the gas station to get $175 worth of gas and the horror hit them that their account had $6 in it. The gas station gentleman said ‘Give me your name and driver’s license and if you write a check, I will wait to cash it.’ He waited two whole weeks before he deposited it.

    These jobs can be rough physically, right?

    I know someone in his 70s who walked 15 miles on a concrete floor, sometimes for 10 hours. Your feet can get messed up, you can get repetitive stress injury and a tendon condition. The Nomads talked to me about soaking their feet in salt baths at night and being too tired to go out. When I went to the sugar beet harvest, it was 12 hours a day in the cold, shoveling. Oh my God, my body hurt! And I was 37!

    Tell me about Amazon’s CamperForce program, which hires thousands of Nomads.

    It began in 2008, within months after the housing collapse. Amazon contracts with an RV park and pays the CamperForce to do warehouse work loading and packing and order fulfillment. From the outside looking in, you’d say: ‘Why would you want older people doing this? The jobs seem suited to younger bodies.’ But so many times, the recruiters in the published materials talk about the older people’s work ethic and the maturity of the workforce and their ‘life experience,’ which is a code word for ‘Hey, you’re old.’

    You write that sometimes the Nomads are exploited. How?

    I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Forest Service and learned that some of their workers aren’t getting paid for all their hours. They weren’t allowed to invoice.

    Some of the Nomads had to work alongside robots, such as in the Amazon warehouses. How was that?

    The robots were making them bonkers. This is isolating work and there’s one scene in the book where a robot kept bringing a woman in her 70s the same thing to count.

    What needs to change to prevent people from having to become Nomads or to help them live better if they are?

    For one thing, Amazon should pay its workers more and give them better working conditions. It’s laughable that the workers get a 15-minute break when they have to spend it walking to the break room. It’s completely insane.

    Nomads need a voice, but at the same time, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll organize for better working conditions because they’re vulnerable and always on the move.
    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/man...g-a-desperate-nomadic-life-2017-11-06
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  4. the new World Bank poverty figures may tell a very different story from what has been suggested elsewhere: The numbers in poverty outside China rose during the heyday of neoliberal policies, and began to fall as the grip of those policies was loosened after 2005.
    https://www.commondreams.org/views/20...ank-poverty-statistics-really-tell-us
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  5. According to Peter Edwards of Newcastle University, if people are to achieve normal life expectancy, they need roughly double the current IPL, or a minimum of $2.50 per day. But adopting this higher standard would seriously undermine the poverty reduction narrative. An IPL of $2.50 shows a poverty headcount of around 3.1 billion, almost triple what the World Bank and the Millennium Campaign would have us believe. It also shows that poverty is getting worse, not better, with nearly 353 million more people impoverished today than in 1981. With China taken out of the equation, that number shoots up to 852 million.

    Some economists go further and advocate for an IPL of $5 or even $10 - the upper boundary suggested by the World Bank. At this standard, we see that some 5.1 billion people - nearly 80 percent of the world's population - are living in poverty today. And the number is rising.

    These more accurate parameters suggest that the story of global poverty is much worse than the spin doctored versions we are accustomed to hearing. The $1.25 threshold is absurdly low, but it remains in favour because it is the only baseline that shows any progress in the fight against poverty, and therefore justifies the present economic order. Every other line tells the opposite story. In fact, even the $1.25 line shows that, without factoring China, the poverty headcount is worsening, with 108 million people added to the ranks of the poor since 1981. All of this calls the triumphalist narrative into question
    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opin...erty-reductio-201481211590729809.html
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  6. Before now, there hadn’t been any attempts to address the measurement of global tax evasion systematically. The reason is simple: the lack of comprehensive information about who skirts taxes. The key data source used in rich countries to study tax evasion is random tax audits – but these audits do not capture tax evasion by the very wealthy, because few of them are audited, and because random audits fail to detect sophisticated forms of evasion involving shell companies and hidden accounts.

    The higher one moves up the wealth distribution, the higher the probability ​​of hiding​ assets

    In our recent study, however, we exploited a massive trove of data leaked from HSBC Switzerland, the so-called HSBC files, to fill this gap. In 2007 a systems engineer, Hervé Falciani, extracted the internal records of HSBC Private Bank, the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC. In 2008, Falciani turned the data over to the French government, who shared it with foreign tax administrations. The documents leaked by Falciani included the complete internal records of more than 30,000 clients of this Swiss bank in 2006-07.
    https://www.theguardian.com/inequalit...-rich-are-even-richer-than-we-thought
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  7. Politicians and policy wonks worry about the persistence of poverty across generations, but affluence is inherited more strongly. Most disturbing, we now know how firmly class positions are being transmitted across generations. Most of the children born into households in the top 20 percent will stay there or drop only as far as the next quintile. As Gary Solon, one of the leading scholars of social mobility, put it recently, “Rather than a poverty trap, there seems instead to be more stickiness at the other end: a ‘wealth trap,’ if you will.”

    There’s a kind of class double-think going on here. On the one hand, upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. To the extent that there is any ethical deliberation, it usually results in a justification along the lines of “Well, maybe it’s wrong, but everyone’s doing it.”

    The United States is the only nation in the world, for example, where it is easier to get into college if one of your parents happened to go there. Oxford and Cambridge ditched legacy preferences in the middle of the last century. The existence of such an unfair hereditary practice in 21st-century America is startling in itself. But I have been more shocked by the way that even supposedly liberal members of the upper middle class seem to have no qualms about benefiting from it.

    The upper middle class is also doing lots right, not least when it comes to creating a stable family environment and being engaged parents. These are behaviors we want to spread, not stop. Nobody should feel bad for working hard to raise their kids well.

    Things turn ugly, however, when the upper middle class starts to rig markets in its own favor, to the detriment of others. Take housing, perhaps the most significant example. Exclusionary zoning practices allow the upper middle class to live in enclaves. Gated communities, in effect, even if the gates are not visible. Since schools typically draw from their surrounding area, the physical separation of upper-middle-class neighborhoods is replicated in the classroom. Good schools make the area more desirable, further inflating the value of our houses. The federal tax system gives us a handout, through the mortgage-interest deduction, to help us purchase these pricey homes. For the upper middle classes, regardless of their professed political preferences, zoning, wealth, tax deductions and educational opportunity reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/op...y/stop-pretending-youre-not-rich.html
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  8. this time around, Walmart’s renewed focus on its “Everyday Low Price” promise coincides with Amazon’s increased aggressiveness in its own pricing of the packaged goods that are found on supermarket shelves and are core to Walmart’s success, industry executives and consultants say.

    The result in recent months has been a high-stakes race to the bottom between Walmart and Amazon that seems great for shoppers, but has consumer packaged goods brands feeling the pressure.

    The pricing crackdown also comes in the wake of Walmart’s $3 billion acquisition of Jet.com and its CEO Marc Lore. Lore now runs Walmart.com and has said one of his mandates is to create new ways for the retailer to beat everyone else on price, including Amazon.

    The pricing pressure has ignited intense wargaming inside the largest CPG companies, according to people familiar with discussions at Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez and Kimberly-Clark. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    “It’s dominating the conversation every week,” said an executive at one of these companies.

    Representatives for these companies either declined to comment or failed to respond to requests for comment. Executives inside these companies would only speak on a condition of anonymity because negotiations with retailers are confidential.

    An Amazon spokesperson said in an email: “At Amazon we protect low prices for our customers, every single day — nothing has changed in terms of our focus or how we operate.”

    Walmart did not provide a comment.


    One piece of the battle, executives say, is an Amazon algorithm that works to match or beat prices from other websites and stores. Former Amazon employees say it finds the lowest price per unit or per ounce for a given product — even if it’s in a huge bulk-size pack at Costco — and applies it across the same type of good on Amazon, even when the pack size is much smaller.

    So let’s imagine Costco is selling a pack of 10 bags of Doritos for $10 — or $1 per bag. Amazon’s algorithm notes that one bag is $1 at Costco and, in turn, lowers the price on Amazon of a single bag of Doritos to $1.

    That is a great deal for customers — something that is likely driving the decision at Amazon, where an obsession with customer value dominates its strategy.

    But now, Amazon is selling individual items at Costco prices while not getting the same wholesale price that Costco enjoys. In short, it’s going to be really hard for Amazon to turn a profit on those goods.

    When Walmart sees this, it freaks out on the supplier, industry executives say. And it doesn’t matter to Walmart that Amazon may not be getting the same wholesale price that retailers like Costco or other membership clubs receive. In other words, even if Amazon isn’t profiting from its extremely low prices, Walmart is still demanding the same bulk-rate discount applied to individual items.

    “Walmart has had it explained to them by myself and others,” said one industry insider who asked for anonymity talking about private discussions. “My conclusion has been that they beat all suppliers up regardless because they need it to be a problem at the senior levels of these companies.”
    https://www.recode.net/2017/3/30/1483.../amazon-walmart-cpg-grocery-price-war
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  9. while of course it’s cheaper and healthier to eat every meal at home, what if you’ve just worked 12 hours scrubbing hotel bathrooms, and the nearest grocery store is a bus ride away? Or what if it’s little Bobby’s birthday, and a Happy Meal is the only treat you can afford?

    “What I had not understood until I found myself in true poverty is that it means living in a world of ‘no,’” writes Alex Andreou in the Guardian. “Ninety-percent of what you need is answered no. Ninety-nine percent of what your kids ask for is answered no. Cinema? No. Night out? No. New shoes? No. Birthday? No.

    “So if the only indulgence that is viable, that is within reach, that will not mean you have to walk to work, is a styrofoam container of cheesy chips, the answer is a thunderous ‘YES.’”

    Obviously none of this is cause to eat fast food every night or buy the fanciest cable package on the market — and conversations about these expenses are worth having, respectfully, with struggling families. But sometimes choices that seem foolish from the outside make a lot more sense from within.
    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-poli...derstand-about-poverty-i-didnt-either
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  10. They can figure out when you leave town and see where you parked your car. They can see how many times you went to the grocery store or the health clinic.

    Auto loans to Americans with poor credit have been booming, and many finance companies, credit unions and auto dealers are using technologies to track the location of borrowers’ vehicles in case they need to repossess them.

    Such surveillance, lenders say, allows them to extend loans to more low- income Americans, knowing that they can easily locate the car. Lenders are also installing devices that enable them to remotely disable a car’s ignition after a borrower misses a payment.

    Now, federal regulators are investigating whether these devices unfairly violate a borrower’s’ privacy.

    The auto lender Credit Acceptance Corporation said this month in a securities filing that it had received a civil investigative demand from the Federal Trade Commission asking for its “policies, practices and procedures” related to so-called GPS starter interrupter devices, which are used to disable an ignition.

    Industry lawyers say the action is part of a broader inquiry by the agency into tracking technologies used in the subprime auto lending market.

    An agency spokesman declined to comment on the investigative demand.

    “Finding out where people are located can reveal a lot about what people are doing in their lives,” said Lauren Smith, policy counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank focused on privacy issues. “Location data is very sensitive.”

    Some find it unsettling that the technology gives lenders so much control over borrowers — particularly poor borrowers, who typically have no choice but to accept the device if they want a loan to buy a car.

    “They don’t need to know what we are doing — when we go out to eat, when we go on vacation,” said Elias Sanchez, a forklift operator in Austin, Tex. “We want our privacy.” His auto dealer didn’t tell him that a GPS tracking device had been installed in his 2005 Ford S.U.V., he said.

    A 2014 investigation by The New York Times highlighted the tracking technology. In a front-page article, the head of collections at a Louisiana credit union said he could monitor a vehicle’s whereabouts on his smartphone and once disabled a borrower’s ignition while shopping at a Walmart.

    A mother in Las Vegas described in the article how she had been unable to get her feverish child to a hospital because her car had been shut off for a missed payment. Other borrowers have complained in interviews of being stranded, marooned in dangerous neighborhoods and cut off from their cars when they needed it the most. In Nevada, one woman testified to the Legislature that her car had been shut down on a freeway.

    Some state lawmakers have taken note. The New Jersey Legislature is working to revise a bill, vetoed this month by Gov. Chris Christie, that would strengthen the disclosure requirements and add consumer protections to the devices. Under the bill, consumers would get written disclosures that a device had been installed in their car and at least 72 hours’ notice before the ignition was disabled.
    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/02/19...s/dealbook/gps-devices-car-loans.html
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