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According to the Century Foundation’s analysis of the latest Occupational Employment Statistics report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about a quarter of U.S. workers are working full-time, year-round in occupations where they cannot expect to earn enough to keep a family of four above poverty.

The chart above shows median wages for the 30 lowest-paying occupations with over 250,000 employees, which collectively employ 31 million people nationally. All the occupations on the list have annual median wages that fall at or below the poverty level for a family of four ($24,250). At the very bottom are America’s 3.1 million food preparation workers, who earn just $18,410 annually. That’s $8.85 an hour.

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The occupations with the largest employment in May 2014 were retail salespersons and cashiers. These two occupations combined made up nearly 6 percent of total U.S. employment, with employment levels of 4.6 million and 3.4 million, respectively. Of the 10 largest occupations (which accounted for 21 percent of total employment in May 2014), only registered nurses, with an annual median wage of $66,640, had an average wage above the U.S. all-occupations median of $34,540.

As the Century Foundation reminds us,

Many of these jobs are simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. Many are commonplace, but that doesn’t make them dispensable. Rather, in our haste to dismiss basic as beneath us, we lose sight of the fact that what is basic is also fundamental, what is mundane is also essential. These jobs matter—they are the substance of simple pleasures, the foundation of daily joys—and they mean more to our interpersonal well-being than any amount of high-flying CEOs ever will. But by labeling its practitioners as “low skill,” we rationalize relegating them to near-poverty wages.

The stark facts collected by the BLS also remind us that, when large numbers of people are forced to have the freedom to sell their ability to work, the wages many U.S. workers receive force them and their families to live in or within striking distance of destitution.

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Protest of the day

Posted: 28 March 2015 in Uncategorized
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On Friday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined over forty South Bend small business owners to speak out against Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We don’t care where you’re from, we don’t care how you worship, we don’t care what you look like and we don’t care who you love. We care about you feeling welcome in this city and South Bend is open for business,” says Mayor Buttigieg.

The measure, signed by Republican Governor Mike Pence on Thursday, has drawn fierce denunciations from a wide variety of individuals, companies, and organizations around the country (including the NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis and will hold its men’s basketball Final Four games there beginning next weekend).

Here is a link to the text of the new law.

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I’ve made the case before that student-athletes are performing unpaid labor. That is, U.S. colleges and universities produce and sell athletic performances—especially, but not only, football and basketball games—that are produced by student-athletes who are not paid anything for their labor.

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The question then is, who’s benefiting from that unpaid labor? It’s certainly not the professors who teach at those schools (nor, for that matter, the staff who keep the academic programs and infrastructure running). Faculty members are not making anywhere near what the athletic coaches do, and their salary increases have lagged far behind the amount of money being paid to coaches in recent years.

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And much more money is being spent on athletic programs—although clearly not in the form of pay to the players—than on academic programs.

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So, where are all those revenues from the athletic program going? As it turns out, the single biggest outlay—more than a third—is for coaches’ salaries.

Apparently, according to a recent article on the Huffington Post [ht: ja], that’s the reason so many coaches are opposed to paying college athletes for their labor.

“Schools quite often move around or spend money to basically get rid of excess revenue — what would be called profit in a profit-making corporation,” said Michael Leeds, a professor of economics at Temple University. “‘[That’s why] you have several coaches [in the NCAA] getting paid NFL money, despite working for an enterprise that really does not match what the New England Patriots and the New York Giants take in.”

That would explain why some universities end up with state-of-the-art sports facilities. Or why Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski makes nearly $10 million per year, much more than the typical NBA coach. Or why in so many states, the best-paid public employee is a basketball or football coach. . .

“The coaches very likely are very upset over [the prospect of] players being paid because, for one thing, that means a pay cut for them,” Leeds said.

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The high times aren’t going away in New York.

The city of just six years from now will be dramatically taller, with a series of luxury high-rises towering above Central Park, a new West Side development and downtown spires.

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That’s because, as Martin Fuller [ht: ja] explains, there’s a lot of money to be made building and spent on purchasing new luxury condominium buildings in New York City. He refers to these new buildings—like One57 and 432 Park Avenue (buildings 25 and 9 in the rendering above)—as three-dimensional balance sheets.

They’re not so much new architectural masterpieces and engineering marvels as conspicuous ways for the world’s super-rich to consume the growing portion of the surplus they’re managing to capture. In fact, a duplex penthouse atop the French architect Christian de Portzamparc’s One57 condominium sold for an unprecedented $100,471,452.77! (In 2014, seven more apartments at that address, built by the Extell Development Company, changed hands for between $32 million and $56 million each.)

As we know, in general New York City housing is increasingly beyond the reach of pretty much anyone outside the top 10 percent. As for the conspicuous construction associated with the world’s super-rich,

the smokestack­-like protuberances that now disrupt the skyline of midtown Manhattan signify the steadily widening worldwide gap between the unimaginably rich and the unconscionably poor. Those of us who believe that architecture invariably (and often unintentionally) embodies the values of the society that creates it will look upon these etiolated oddities less with wonder over their cunning mechanics than with revulsion over the larger, darker machinations they more accurately represent.