Tuesday, November 17, 2015

CFED: A National Grassroots Campaign to Mobilize Americans against Wealth Inequality

For years, CFED has recognized the role that the tax code plays in exacerbating wealth inequality. We’ve documented again and again how “upside-down” tax programs help those at the top grow their wealth while doing little for everyone else, and we have pushed for specific policy reforms to change the equation. Unfortunately, just analyzing the tax code isn’t enough to change it. Over the last several decades, these inequitable tax programs have only increased in size, widening the divide between those at the top and the rest, between men and women and between white households and households of color. To change these tax programs, advocating on our own is not enough—we must engage the majority of people in America who are currently getting the short end of the stick.

But here’s our challenge: how do we get people to engage on an issue as boring as tax policy? Our solution? This week, we launched a new national campaign: Turn It Right-Side Up.

The Turn It Right-Side Up campaign kicked off on Monday with a new website—TurnItRightSideUp.org—and a new animated video that simplifies the tax issues we face. The video is just the first step; as the campaign grows and evolves, we’ll continue producing new materials and engaging new audiences to promote the importance of equitable tax reform. One central way we’ll do this is by working with those who matter most: taxpayers themselves. Turn It Right-Side Up will amplify the voices of the low-wage workers and advocates who, by sharing their powerful stories, can effect meaningful change.

There are three ways you can participate in the Campaign right now:
  • Watch the video to learn about how the upside-down tax code impacts families in your community.
  • Sign up to stay informed about opportunities to take action.
  • Share this Campaign with friends and colleagues.

  • By joining the Turn It Right-Side Up campaign, you will advance equitable tax programs that help all families in America have the opportunity to get—and stay—ahead.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Resources from around the Coalition: Hunger and Poverty, Child Care, Housing Recovery and More

    Resources from around the Coalition: Hunger and Poverty, Child Care, Housing Recovery and More

    By - November 12, 2015

    Hunger and Poverty. Child Care. Housing Recovery. This week we continue our series, Resources from around the Coalition, where we highlight great work that CHN’s member organizations are putting out.
      • Bread for the World recently issued individual state fact sheets highlighting hunger and poverty across the nation. Their fact sheets provide important state data on the number of households struggling to put food on the table and the number of people in poverty, and make several policy recommendations to Congress. They also ranked states on hunger and poverty, finding Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana highest in hunger and Mississippi, New Mexico, and Louisiana highest in poverty. You can read more about your state here.
      • On a related note, TalkPoverty, a project of the Center for American Progress, has a very useful graphic that allows you to look up poverty data by state and by Congressional district. The site allows you to see the poverty and child poverty rate compared to other states and districts and breaks down the data by race and ethnicity. To find out the statistics for your state and Congressional district, visit their site here.
      • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently released an interactive map that shows state imprisonment rates and spending over the past few decades. Click on the map below to see the rates and figures for your state and other states across the country.
      • A new report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) highlights the importance of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for children in poverty. They explore different policy options to support parents and children during pregnancy and infancy. The paper also focuses on ways to improve benefits and services for families. You can learn more and read the full report here.
      • The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a report showing that high quality child care is unaffordable for many working families. EPI finds that child care costs among families with two children exceed the cost of rent in 500 out of 618 US communities. They also find that infant care costs exceed the average cost of public in-state college tuition in 33 states and the District of Columbia. To learn about this growing problem in your state and to find more interactive graphics, click here.
      • Recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment level falling in October to 5%, its lowest level in 7.5 years. However, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) points out that many minority groups are still being left behind in the economic recovery. They show that while overall unemployment fell in October, unemployment for adult Black women increased to 8.1%, while that number increased to 9.2% for adult Black men. You can see more on the recent data here.
      • CAP housing mapThe Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report bringing attention to the uneven housing recovery in the United States following the Great Recession. While overall home values are on the rise in the past few years, the report highlights that there is still much work to be done in some parts of the country. They show that nearly 1,000 counties across the nation have seen either stagnant of increased percentages of underwater homes – where the owners’ homes are worth less than homeowners owe on them – since 2011. To find statistics on your county, visit CAP’s interactive map.

    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Fact of the Week: 100 CEOs Have As Much in Retirement Assets As 41 Percent of American Families

    A new report from the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies found that the 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion – an amount equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American families. A Tale of Two Retirements provides detailed statistics on the staggering gap between the retirement assets of Fortune 500 CEOs and the rest of America (including those who work for said CEOs).
    Among the other shocking findings highlighted in the report:
      • Nearly half of all working age Americans have no access to any retirement plan at work. The median balance in a 401(k) plan at the end of 2013 was $18,433, enough to generate a monthly retirement check of $104.
      • 29 percent of Americans nearing retirement (aged 50-65) have no retirement savings at all.
      • Fortune 500 CEOs saved $78 million on their 2014 tax bills by putting $197 million more in special tax-deferred accounts than they could have if they were subject to the same rules as other workers. These special accounts grow tax-free until the executives retire and begin to withdraw the funds.
      • Nearly 50 percent of the retirement assets held by Fortune 500 executives are in tax-deferred compensation plans that are not available to most of their employees.
    With these and other findings, the report shows how the rising inequity in retirement security is the result of rules that are intentionally tipped to reward those on the highest rungs of the ladder. Thankfully, the report also discusses what we can do about it. Several recommendations are included to rebalance the scales and ensure a secure retirement for all workers, not just those at the top. These policy changes include ending tax-deferred compensation for corporate executives, eliminating tax breaks for companies that increase worker retirement insecurity, expanding Social Security by requiring CEOs to pay their fair share, strengthening the ability of workers to unionize, and supporting universal retirement funds, among others.

    The Center for American Progress and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School recently held an event focusing on how tax reform could address the coming retirement crisis. At it, they noted that the top 20 percent of earners reap 60 percent of the benefits of retirement tax expenditures, while the bottom 40 percent of earners see only 3 percent. Some of the recommendations from the conference included refundable tax credits for retirement savings, reforms at the state level, and guaranteed retirement accounts, a sort of hybrid between a pension and a 401(k)-type contribution plan.

    According to all of these sources, if current trends continue, an increasing number of workers, including middle-class workers, will face downward mobility in retirement. More than half of all working-age households are in danger of having to make severe and painful cuts to their standard of living as they age. Policymakers should be looking at the recommendations from these organizations and acting to ensure that a safe and secure retirement can be available to all Americans, not just CEOs.

    The post Fact of the Week: 100 CEOs Have As Much in Retirement Assets As 41 Percent of American Families appeared first on Coalition on Human Needs.

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    NDESPA Testimony to Interim Health Services on the Cliff Effect

    North Dakota Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance (NDESPA) 
    Testimony to the Interim Health Services Committee

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Good afternoon Chair Lee and members of the Interim Health Services Committee.  Thank you for examining the cliff effect related to employment and public assistance programs through Study 3049.
    I am Karen Ehrens and am here today as a private citizen, public health professional and partner in the North Dakota Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance, or NDESPA.  NDESPA is a coalition of organizations around the state working to build and sustain a system of economic security for all through poverty awareness and education, grassroots and community capacity building, research and data development and promotion of policies and practices to eliminate disparities and obstacles for achieving economic security.  I have provided a list of the coalition’s member organizations.
    The cliff effect is loss of benefits as the result of a minor increase in gross wages, like a raise in pay or an extra work shift, that can push a family off program eligibility, losing some benefits or all benefits, like falling off a cliff. Often, the increase in hours or pay is not enough to make up the difference in an individual’s or a family’s lost benefits. Falling off the cliff can keep a family in poverty and inhibit their economic self-sufficiency.
    Because of the complexity within and between public assistance programs, there will not be one single solution to helping end the cliff effect.  Each program has different income qualifying levels and other specific eligibility requirements. And because program requirements are set at the federal level, changing federal requirements may be out of the states’ hands. 
    But, there are solutions being tried in other states to enrich these state run federal programs. NDESPA is beginning to gather information about ways North Dakota could mitigate the cliff effect and truly move people out of poverty.  NDESPA would be willing to provide an overview of the findings at a future meeting for the committee's consideration.  NDESPA also suggests continuing to coordinate poverty relief programs, saving and asset building, education and training, and childcare.