Monthly Archives: October 2013

Can You Guess the 10 Best Countries For Women? Hint: the U.S. Isn’t One of Them

by Julie Gammow, AlterNet, 10/25/13

United States ranked 23rd in newly released Gender Gap Report – a step worse than last year!

The World Economic Forum released its annual Global Gender Gap Reportfor 2013 measuring gender disparity between men and women around the world…and disappointingly the United States didn’t even make it in the top 20!

The report, which ranks 136 countries, determines its findings across four primary areas including economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival, ranking the United States 23 rd on the list for 2013, HuffPost reported.

Each country out of the 136 is assigned a score between 1 representing total gender equality and 0 depicting inequality, the total score representing the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men. This year, the United States received a score of 0.7392, which is actually worse than the score it received the year before when it was ranked 22 nd.

According to the report, despite having a near-perfect gender gap in terms of education, we have a serious gender disparity when it comes to politics, with women constituting only 18.3 per cent of the 113 th Congress.

So which countries ranked above the United States? …

continue reading and follow links at AlterNet

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The Triumph of the Right

Robert Reich, October 22, 2013

Conservative Republicans have lost their fight over the shutdown and debt ceiling, and they probably won’t get major spending cuts in upcoming negotiations over the budget.

But they’re winning the big one: How the nation understands our biggest domestic problem.

They say the biggest problem is the size of government and the budget deficit.

In fact our biggest problem is the decline of the middle class and increasing ranks of the poor, while almost all the economic gains go to the top.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that only 148,000 jobs were created in September — way down from the average of 207,000 new jobs a month in the first quarter of the year.

Many Americans have stopped looking for work. The official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent reflects only those who are still looking. If the same percentage of Americans were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, today’s unemployment rate would be 10.8 percent.

Meanwhile, 95 percent of the economic gains since the recovery began in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. [see chart below] The real median household income continues to drop, and the number of Americans in poverty continues to rise.

So what’s Washington doing about this? Nothing. Instead, it’s back to debating how to cut the federal budget deficit.

The deficit shouldn’t even be an issue because it’s now almost down to the same share of the economy as it’s averaged over the last thirty years.

The triumph of right-wing Republicanism extends further. Failure to reach a budget agreement will restart the so-called “sequester” — automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that were passed in 2011 as a result of Congress’s last failure to agree on a budget.

These automatic cuts get tighter and tighter, year by year — squeezing almost everything the federal government does except for Social Security and Medicare. While about half the cuts come out of the defense budget, much of the rest come out of programs designed to help Americans in need: extended unemployment benefits; supplemental nutrition for women, infants and children; educational funding for schools in poor communities; Head Start; special education for students with learning disabilities; child-care subsidies for working families; heating assistance for poor families. The list goes on.

The biggest debate in Washington over the next few months will be whether to whack the federal budget deficit by cutting future entitlement spending and closing some tax loopholes, or go back to the sequester. Some choice.

The real triumph of the right has come in shaping the national conversation around the size of government and the budget deficit – thereby diverting attention from what’s really going on: the increasing concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top, while most Americans fall further and further behind.

Continuing cuts in the budget deficit – through the sequester or a deficit agreement — will only worsen this by reducing total demand for goods and services and by eliminating programs that hard-pressed Americans depend on.

The President and Democrats should re-frame the national conversation around widening inequality….

continue reading at Robert Reich

chart from Annie Lowrey, “The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery,” Economix blog, New York Times, 9/10/13:

10economix-sub-wealth-blog480

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Horrible New Bill Will Somehow Make PA Charter School Policy Even Worse

Posted on October 24, 2013 by Jon Geeting, at Keystone Politics

(This guest post comes to us from friend of the blog Susan Spicka)

Cash-strapped school districts and tapped out home and business owners have been begging the PA legislature to reform its broken charter school funding law. Under current law, charter and cyber charter school tuition payments are not based on charter schools’ actual costs of educating children. In many cases, tuition rates to charter schools are so bloated that charter school operators are able to pocket millions of taxpayer dollars at the same time that our local school districts are raising taxes and slashing programs to pay their charter school tuition bills.

Senate Bill 1085 will bitterly disappoint school districts and home and business owners.

SB 1085 would close to so-called “pension double-dip” loophole in the current law by eliminating the state reimbursement to charter schools for their pension costs. Local school districts would continue to provide the funds that are used to pay the pension costs of charter school teachers.

SB 1085 is a rotten deal for school districts and for home and business owners, who pay property taxes to support our local public schools. If SB 1085 becomes law, the legislature will continue to mandate that home and business owners pay the pension costs of teachers who are not even employed by their school districts. School districts would find little relief from the burdensome charter school tuition payments, which range from around $8,000 to more than $30,000 per student per year.

SB 1085 is a truly sweet deal for the PA legislature. Eliminating the state reimbursement to charter schools for its share of pension costs would return $65 million to the PA General Fund. PA politicians would be free to spend this extra revenue as they please. Without a funding formula in place to allocate tax dollars to school districts, powerful legislators can cut deals behind closed doors, just like they did this year, and use the $65 million windfall to provide additional funding to a few of their favorite districts and make some voters happy in 2014, which happens to be an election year.

Adding insult to injury, SB 1085 would strip the power of our locally-elected school boards to approve or deny the opening of charter schools in our communities….

continue reading at Keystone Politics

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