UFE's E-News May/June 2009

In this Issue:

 

Article One

It's Juneteenth — Time to Celebrate!

In the carefree spirit of summer, let's kick off our shoes, run barefoot through the grass, shout, jump, sing and celebrate — it's Juneteenth and, for today at least, we are free at last!

June 19, 1865 marks the first celebration of Juneteenth — it's the day General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas to announce that the war was over and slavery had ended. Granted, this came over two years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, but let's focus instead on what it must have felt like for men and women across the states to feel freedom in that moment.

In true Texas fashion, barbeque is the order of the day when celebrating Juneteenth, so fire up the grill, pop open some soda and hang out with your neighbors until the moon rises high. Use the day to honor the men and women who have fought against racism and for civil rights issues throughout the ages, and to invigorate yourself and your community to continue to break down racial barriers in your own heart and in society at large.

To learn more about the history of Juneteenth, take a look at the official website.

If you're in New York, be sure to stop by some of the events being hosted by s6k media.

Looking for a way to celebrate Juneteenth in your community? Check out this list of celebrations around the US.

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Article Two

Financial Regulation: Is President Obama on the Right Track?

According to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, our President's got it wrong when it comes to regulating the financial sector – well, part of it, anyway.

  • Give regulators more power to oversee non-bank financial institutions: check.
    But what about similar measures for insurers?

  • Hedge funds and private equity firms to register with the SEC: check.
    But will the public have access to the information?

  • Derivatives to be traded through clearing houses: check.
    But we could go further, says Baker.

  • Stipulations for executive compensation levels: check.
    But will they be effectively enforced?

Baker observes that the Obama plan does not address the conflict of interest present when firms hire (and pay) agencies to assign their credit ratings. But, the biggest red flag Baker sees is an issue of accountability. He believes the Obama plan supports the view that this economic crisis is primarily the result of inadequate regulation, rather than failure of the regulators, and that those who failed us seem to be getting away scot-free.

Read Dean Baker's article:
Obama Plan Improves Regulatory Structure but Doesn't Address Accountability

Listen to a podcast of the Diane Rehm's Show analyzing the Obama Plan.

More on the plan at the U.S. News blog:
Obama's Financial Regulation Reform: 7 Things You Need to Know, by Luke Mullins

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Article Three

States Taxing the Few to Serve the Many

State fiscal years are fast approaching their end, and 47 states face massive budget deficits. Likely targets for funding cuts? Oh, the usual suspects – public services like education, healthcare, and transportation. But, who needs those, anyway – except, maybe the millions of individuals who depend on those services to get through their days, and the growing number of folks who now rely on them just to stay afloat during this recession.

A few states are trying something different. Rather than taking services away from those with less, they're paying for services by taxing those with more. Hawaii increased income tax rates on its highest bracket and New York just created two new income tax rates; similar measures are now being proposed in Connecticut, and New Hampshire will vote this month on implementing a state-level estate tax.

Historically, we've seen that during a recession, budget cuts do more harm than good, and that strategic tax increases – particularly, on the wealthy – can actually promote economic growth. Those states just might be onto something...

Read more:

Raising State Income Taxes on High–Income Taxpayers, Elizabeth McNichol, Andrew Nicholas and Jon Shure, CBPP

Estate Tax Would Be A Fair Way To Raise Revenue, Marshall Marsh for The Concord Monitor

New York State 2009–2010 Enacted Budget Report

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Article Four

Kenneth Feinberg, the Compensation Cowboy

Back in December, word around the water cooler was that Kenneth Feinberg would be asked to take on the role of "car czar," overseeing payouts to the "Big Three" in Detroit. While 'Auto King' didn't make it onto Kenneth's resume, he has recently been appointed the compensation overseer to regulate executive pay at the seven largest companies receiving bailout money.

UFE and RW have been addressing excessive CEO pay for years, through shareholder resolutions, Executive Excess reports and popular education workshops. This year, with the help of RW members, we've filed 5 "Say on Pay" shareholder resolutions and have had preliminary success at Prudential, with an overwhelming 61.5% vote in favor of the resolution.

A similar vote will take place next week at Yahoo!, and Obama's new plan calls on Congress to pass legislation requiring companies to let shareholders have a say in how much top executives are paid in the future.

Mr. Feinberg's new job title may not be as catchy as "car czar," but here's hoping that the CEO compensation excess we've seen skyrocket over the past two decades finally gets reigned in.

To learn more check out:

White House Takes Step To Reign In Executive Pay, by John Ydstie on npr.org

Treasury to Set Executives' Pay at 7 Firms, by Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times

A Talk With The Pay "Overseer": What's Fair?, with John Hockenberry on thetakeaway.org

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Article Five

rt@america'syouth: Mr. President, We're Broke!

Politicians looking for the youth vote tap in to what's trendy: MTV and Clinton's saxophone rocked the vote in the 90s; this year, Obama was on every 'it' networking website out there. But, long after all the ballots have been cast, we now need follow-through on campaign promises aimed at benefitting young America.

Higher education is increasingly inaccessible as tuition costs rise and financial aid drops. Entry-level salaries are lower, and fewer jobs offer comprehensive benefits packages. Social support networks have crumbled, forcing young people to more frequently rely on credit cards to cover basic living expenses. These trends are disproportionately seen in poor communities and communities of color, where social support networks are not as strong to begin with.

FDR may not have had Twitter or Facebook, but he did enact policies supporting education and wealth generation within youthful populations that played a part in increasing economic stability and growth. While these policies were not perfect, they set an important precedent that we have since ignored. Obama's budget scratches the surface of these issues, but more needs to be done.

The youth are the future of this country and, if their economic situation is any indication of our nation's future, well, the outlook seems pretty bleak.

Learn more and take action:

The Economic State of Young America by Tamara Draut for Demos .

Young Activist Handbook, 20 Ways to Fight for the Future: A Better Deal.

Obama Budget Cuts Some Youth Programs, Grows Others by Patrick Boyle in Youth Today .

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Article Six

Support UFE by Surfing the Web

Have you ever asked yourself, "How can I support United for a Fair Economy every day – at no extra cost or effort?" Well, we've got two answers for you: GoodSearch and GoodShop.

GoodSearch is a search engine, powered by Yahoo!, that allows you to direct 1¢ (disbursed from their advertising revenue) for every web search you conduct to the charity of your choice. It might not seem like much, but if we can rally hundreds, or better yet, thousands of you to support UFE using GoodSearch for your basic, daily web-browsing, it could add up to a huge difference.

GoodShop offers online shoppers a way to support their favorite charities by, well, shopping. By shopping at any of the 1,000 stores in GoodShop, you can direct anywhere from 3% – 30% of your purchase to the charity of your choice.

Just remember to type in the name of the charity you want to support (e.g., United for a Fair Economy) and click "Verify." The last step is simple: do what you'd normally do – search and shop away!

Follow these links to get started:

GoodSearch: http://www.goodsearch.com/
GoodShop: http://www.goodsearch.com/goodshop.aspx

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UFE'S MISSION:
UFE raises awareness that
concentrated wealth and power
undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide,
and tear communities apart.
We support and help build social movements for greater equality.



UFE'S VISION:
Our vision is of a global society where prosperity is better shared, where
there is genuine equality of opportunity, where the power of concentrated
money and corporations neither dominates the economy nor dictates
the content of mass culture. We
envision communities and nations without disparities of income, wages, wealth, health, safety, respect, and opportunities for recreation
and personal growth.

We aspire to build communities that
are socially and environmentally sustainable, where children are cherished and nurtured, and cultural
and racial differences among people
are valued and celebrated. We
envision an economy where everyone contributes to society with their
labor and everyone benefits from society's financial growth. We envision
a society in which values, not profits alone, guide economic decisions.



UFE'S GOALS:
Our goals are to close the growing wealth divide, to change the rules
that tilt tax benefits increasingly toward the wealthy, to spotlight the role of race
in economic inequality, and to serve
as a forum where different races,
different cultures, and people with varying degrees of wealth can come together to work for economic justice.