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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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This Week in OtherWords: October 9, 2013

October 9, 2013 ·

This week in OtherWords, Ryan Alexander points out that Congress could have averted the government shutdown had it done "its constitutionally mandated job" while Marc Morial warns that unless lawmakers raise the debt ceiling, an economic disaster could ensue. Donald Kaul blames the shutdown and the debt-ceiling perils on "zombie lawmakers," and John Cavanagh and I highlight the Institute for Policy Studies' remarkable history. IPS, which runs OtherWords, is celebrating our 50th anniversary this weekend. If you can make it to Washington, D.C., I hope you can join us.

Do you want to make sure you don't miss the latest from OtherWords? Then subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. Do you value our sharp analysis and bold ideas? Please make a tax-deductible donation today to keep this valuable service running. We can't do it without your support.

  1. Forging Ahead at 50 / Emily Schwartz Greco and John Cavanagh
    Not every think tank could weather FBI infiltration, scapegoating by right-wing extremists, and even a car-bomb assassination.
  2. Shut Up and Work / Ryan Alexander
    We wouldn't be at this point if Congress had done its job over the last several months.
  3. This Political Game Jeopardizes the Economy / Marc Morial
    This Political Game Jeopardizes the Economy.
  4. Cleaning Up Campaign Finance to Save the Environment / Michael Brune
    The assault on our democracy is a bigger problem than the temporary closure of national parks.
  5. Attack of the Zombie Lawmakers / Donald Kaul
    The tea-partying faction's influence wouldn't be so out of proportion to its numbers without the cowardice of more moderate Republicans.
  6. Subsidizing Economic Inequality / Sam Pizzigati
    The push to privatize the public sector through contracting out is expanding our economic divide.
  7. More Food Doesn’t Guarantee Less Hunger / Jill Richardson
    Increasing the world's food supply won't end hunger unless we address inequality and injustice.
  8. McDonald’s Takes Its Time Cooking Up a New Menu / Jim Hightower
    The fast-food chain swears it will offer plenty of healthy choices at all its restaurants but not until seven years from now.
  9. The New Operating System / William A. Collins
    If you can't make a bundle in the digital world, you can join the gold rush of speculation in the financial industry.
  10. The Slow Road to Better Fast Food / Khalil Bendib Cartoon

    Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org 

     The Slow Road to Better Fast Food, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
The IRS at 100: How Income Taxation Built the Middle Class

October 2, 2013 ·

Cross-posted from Reuters.com

Exactly a century ago, on October 3, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson signed the first modern federal income tax into law. The sky did not fall.

That may have surprised the eminences of the American plutocracy. For years they had predicted the most dire of consequences should the federal government begin taxing the incomes of America’s most comfortable.

Those warnings took a shriller turn in 1909. A flurry of cynical congressional maneuvers sent the states a constitutional amendment, ostensibly designed to allow a federal income tax. Conservatives in Congress felt confident that the amendment had no chance of gaining enough state support to be ratified. To clinch the amendment’s defeat, they unleashed a fierce rhetorical fusillade.

401(K) 2013/Flickr

Read the rest of this commentary at Reuters.com.

This Week in OtherWords: October 2, 2013

October 2, 2013 ·

This week in OtherWords, Richard Kirsch explores the values divide contributing to the government's shutdown while Donald Kaul blames the impasse on the Republican Party.

We also have several food-focused commentaries: Jim Hightower skewers the government's practice of handing city slickers millions in farm subsidies, Jill Richardson and Shireen Karimi explain why genetically engineered foods should be labeled, and Martha Burk highlights what's wrong with the chicken most Americans eat.

Do you want to make sure you don't miss the latest from OtherWords? Then subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. Do you value our sharp analysis and bold ideas? Please make a tax-deductible donation today to keep this valuable service running. We can't do it without your support.

  1. Challenging Big Chicken / Martha Burk
    From dangerous new rules at slaughterhouses to the rock-bottom wages fast-food workers get paid, there are many reasons to lay off this kind of poultry.
  2. Engineering More Information for Consumers / Shireen Karimi
    In 64 other countries, you can already find out whether what you're eating contains genetically modified ingredients.
  3. The Values Divide / Richard Kirsch
    The showdown in Washington isn't just about political posturing.
  4. Too High a Price for Courage / Beverly Bell
    The Honduran government should stop repressing indigenous leaders like Berta Cáceres.
  5. It’s All Their Fault / Donald Kaul
    The shutdown as well as the looming debt ceiling crisis is entirely a Republican Party production.
  6. When Citizens Shocked Plutocrats / Sam Pizzigati
    America's super-rich once felt sure their incomes would never be taxed.
  7. Why Are We Eating in the Dark? / Jill Richardson
    Big Food has made darn sure that the government doesn't make companies mention genetically engineered foods on their labels.
  8. The Farm Bill’s Wasteful Welfare Program / Jim Hightower
    As Congress edges toward axing the absurd direct payments program, it's considering an even more bizarre replacement.
  9. The Fine Art of Milking Government / William A. Collins
    Taxpayers pay through the nose for a wasteful zero-sum game that subsidizes big business.
  10. Shutting the Whole Thing Down / Khalil Bendib cartoon 

    Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org 

    Shutting the Whole Thing Down, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
     
Fibs and Falsehoods: Darden Corporation Claims 'No One Makes $2.13 An Hour'

September 26, 2013 ·

An op-ed I published on September 12 has provoked an unfounded attack by the world’s largest full service restaurant chain.

The op-ed calls attention to the struggles of restaurant workers who are paid a subminimum “tipped worker wage” by their employers. Starting in 1966, when the tipped minimum wage was first established, it was pegged to 50 percent of the prevailing minimum wage. In 1996 the linkage was undone, and the tipped minimum wage has remained $2.13 an hour in, except in the 32 states that have adopted higher wage standards.

Red Lobster, owned by Darden Corporation. (Calgary Reviews/Flickr)Darden Corporation, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and several other chains, has been a leader in the National Restaurant Association’s efforts to defeat national legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and require that tipped workers be paid at least 70 percent of this amount.

The op-ed, which was distributed through the McClatchy-Tribune syndicated service and appeared in a dozen major newspapers, has drawn considerable attention from those who are tirelessly working to see that the amount they pay their tipped workers does not rise.

Samir Gupte, the Senior Vice President for Culture at Darden, responded with an open letter that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, saying the op-ed was full of errors and denying that any workers at Darden make $2.13 an hour.

This letter was pure obfuscation. Gupte focused on restaurant servers’ total earnings, including tips. The op-ed focused on what Darden actually pays these servers directly. In a September 25 article in Nation’s Restaurant News, Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers contradicts Gupte’s claim that “No one makes $2.13 an hour,” when he admits that 20 percent of Darden’s hourly workers receive $2.13 an hour from Darden, before tips, affirming the claim which we made in our op-ed.

More than 40 percent of Darden’s restaurants are located in states where the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour.

In another rebuttal, Melissa Autilio Fleischut, CEO and President of the New York State Restaurant Association, called our op-ed a “disservice” to hard-working restaurant workers, noting that New York recently adopted an increase to the state’s minimum wage. Ms. Fleischut failed to point out that her organization led the fight to oppose New York’s minimum wage increase.

In a recent editorial “Tips and PovertyThe New York Times concluded: “In effect, a tip for a waitress is a wage subsidy for her employer.” Most restaurant patrons assume their tip augments the wages paid by the restaurant owners, not that they replace the basic wages that restaurant owners can legally avoid paying in many states.

Having a tipped minimum wage is not only unfair to workers, it creates an unlevel playing field within the restaurant industry. The law requires McDonald’s and other fast food chains to pay all their workers at least $7.25 an hour, while allowing full service restaurants to pay large segments of their staff two-thirds less, just $2.13 an hour.

Controversies concerning Darden’s policies toward tipped workers are not new. In 2011, the company announced that it would force servers to share their tips more broadly with other restaurant employees. Now considered tipped employees, Darden cut hourly pay for bartenders and busboys by several dollars an hour in some cases. Some employees have complained that tips have not made up for their cut in basic wages provided by Darden.

Darden’s disinformation campaign will likely backfire, leading more consumers to seek the facts about the tipped minimum wage. Once more people know more about how our nation’s most profitable restaurants are working to keep workers living near the poverty line, it will leave a very bad taste in their mouths. 

This Week in OtherWords: September 25, 2013

September 25, 2013 ·

This week in OtherWords, Marge Baker sizes up the next big campaign-finance case before the Supreme Court, Chuck Collins explains why you should see Inequality for All, and Jason Salzman predicts that Colorado isn't going to be split into two states. On our blog, Jim Hightower surprises himself by saluting Nixon and Kathryn Cassibry laments the collective shoulder shrugs that followed last week's mass shootings at Washington's Navy Yard and a Chicago park.

Do you want to make sure you don't miss the latest from OtherWords? Then subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. Do you value our sharp analysis and bold ideas? Please make a tax-deductible donation today to keep this valuable service running. We can't do it without your support.

  1. Citizens United, the Sequel / Marge Baker
    With its ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court could deepen the damage it has already done to our campaign finance laws.
  2. Faster Chicken Processing, More Injured Workers / Tom Fritzsche
    The USDA proposal for poultry plants would make a bad situation worse.
  3. Our Road to Elysium / Chuck Collins
    Robert Reich's new film Inequality for All exposes America's growing wealth disparities.
  4. No North Colorado on the Horizon / Jason Salzman
    The state's alleged secession movement is a right-wing media stunt.
  5. Taking Stock of Factory Farm Pollution / Wenonah Hauter
    The EPA has to stop standing by while factory farming pollutes our airways and watersheds and poisons our communities.
  6. Bursts of Light and Fresh Air / Donald Kaul
    Peace and tolerance are starting to break out.
  7. A Golden Rule that Might Chip Away at Inequality / Sam Pizzigati
    By making it mandatory for corporations to disclose the gap between what they pay their chief executives and most typical workers, the government will empower investors and consumers to compare individual corporations by their level of CEO greed.
  8. Junking Food Is Bad for Everyone / Jill Richardson
    The food Americans waste could help end hunger in this nation.
  9. Colorado’s Fracking Disaster / Jim Hightower
    In Colorado's flood-struck areas, a tsunami of floodwater and destructive debris swamped fracking infrastructure.
  10. The Latest Trend in Trade Secrets / William A. Collins
    The Obama administration is quietly forging two deals that are being written by and for the benefit of corporations, to the detriment of workers and consumers.
  11. USS Inequality / Khalil Bendib cartoon

    Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org

     USS Inequality, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
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