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African-American Unemployment Rate Was ‘Virtually Unchanged’ In 2011

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Tanya SomanaderAs 2011 progressed, Americans overall saw a slowly decreasing unemployment rate, ticking down from 9.1 percent in January to 8.5 percent in December. However, a new report from UC Berkeley reveals that the unemployment rate for African Americans stayed almost exactly the same. In January of 2011, the unemployment rate for African Americans stood at 15.7 percent. In December, it stood at 15.8 percent.

Even as the underlying factors affecting the overall unemployment rate (employment level, unemployment level, and number of people not in the labor force) changed, African-Americans saw “virtually no movement” in their official rate. The report compares the unemployment rate change by race:

Many factors are contributing to the stubbornly high unemployment rate of African-Americans. Since the recession began, at least 600,000 public sector jobs have been sacrificed for budget cuts. These layoffs fall heaviest on African-Americans, as “about one in five black workers have public sector jobs, and African-American workers are one-third more likely than white ones to be employed in the public sector.” Economists also note that the younger age of the African-American workforce, the lower number of college graduates, and the larger number living in low-income areas that were harder hit by the recession are all keeping the rate as high as it is.

Whatever the reasons, the trend is certainly disturbing. As the report notes, “Black male unemployment rates have fallen slightly and Black female unemployment rates have risen. In contrast, unemployment rates for white men and white women have fallen over the same time period.”

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on January 19, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.


Teachers Decide To Work For Free After Budget Cuts Leave Pennsylvania School District Without Funds For Salaries

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Tanya SomanaderThe Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania suffered a serious setback when Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in education funds from the state budget. The cuts landed hardest on poorer districts, and Chester Upland, which predominantly serves African-American children and relies on state aid for nearly 70 percent of its funding, expects to fall short this school year by $19 million.

Faced with such a shortage of funds, the school district informed its staff that it will not be able to pay their salaries come Wednesday. So the teachers decided to work for free. As one teacher put it, students “need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job”:

At a union meeting at Chester High School on Tuesday night, the employees passed a resolution saying they would stay on “as long as we are individually able.”

Columbus Elementary School math and literacy teacher Sara Ferguson, who has taught in Chester Upland for 21 years, said after the meeting, “It’s alarming. It’s disturbing. But we are adults; we will make a way. The students don’t have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job.”

The school board and the unions separately begged Corbett to provide financial aid for the district, but Corbett turned each request down. Pennsylvania’s Education Secretary Ron Tomalis told the board that it “had failed to properly manage its finances and would not get any additional funds.” Chester Upland was forced to lay off “40 percent of its professional staff and about half of its unionized support staff before school began last fall.” That leaves 200 professionals and 65 support staff to manage a school with class sizes of over 40 students.

Chester Upland is not the only district desperately trying to stay afloat. Corbett’s cuts forced one school district to enforce wage freezes and cut extracurricular activities and another turned to actually using sheep instead of lawnmowers to cut grass at two of its schools. As ThinkProgress’s Travis Waldron pointed out, Corbett could relieve school districts if he let special interest groups like tobacco and the oil and gas industry go without their tax breaks. But he seems to prefer allowing teachers to go without pay.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on January 6, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.

Report: The Billions Corporations Avoided Paying In Taxes Would Have Created Over 100,000 Jobs In Education

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Tanya SomanaderWith income inequality in the U.S. at its highest level since the Great Depression, Americans from every end of the income spectrum are clamoring for corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes. But because of the numerous tax loopholes and credits worked into the tax code, corporate taxes are at historical lows.

Bank of America paid nothing in federal taxes in 2009. While earning billions in profit, companies like BoeingExxon-Mobil, and Wells Fargo also paid nothing in recent years. Other corporations, like Google and Pfizer,dramatically lower their tax rates by deferring profits they make overseas. After making more than $14 billion in profits last year, General Electric not only got a pass on paying any corporate income taxes, but actually received a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

Thanks to this propitious tax code, corporations kept $222.7 billion in federal revenue from 2008 to 2010. But the loss of that revenue comes at a cost, a cost being paid by middle class and low-income Americans who are already reeling from a sluggish economy — most notably, students. According to a new report from the National Education Association, $9.8 billion of the lost revenue from corporation would have gone to public schools and colleges over the same period. Those funds would have added over 100,000 jobs in public education and ensured that an extra 400,000 kids living in poverty could enroll in preschool. NEA breaks down that $9.8 billion by the numbers:

– $1,092: The average amount in extra academic support to help 9 million students in poverty catch up to their peers.

– $1,474: The average savings for school districts for each disabled student as a result of greater federal cost sharing.

– $1,276: The average amount in additional financial aid to ensure 7.7 million students in need continue or complete their post-secondary studies.

– 446,655: The number of additional children in poverty enrolled in preschool.

– 126,568: The number of jobs created in the field of education.

With that $9.8 billion, Ohio would have gained 4,363 jobs, Virginia would get 2,794 jobs, Kentucky would have 2,175 jobs, and Arizona would see more 4,094 jobs. Incidentally, these states are also home to Republican leaders in Congress who are singularly dedicated to maintaining this corporate welfare.

As TP Economy editor Pat Garofalo reported, Republican lawmakers continue to aid and abet corporate tax avoidance by protecting offshore profit deferral, which allows corporations to claim domestic tax credits for profits they earn overseas; by proposing to gut the Internal Revenue Service, whose every dollar used to audit tax cheats brings in more than $10 in revenue; by pushing for tax havens in free trade agreements; by enacting repatriation holidays that allow corporations to bring money earned overseas back into the country at a drastically lower rate, even with its negligible effect on job creation; by endorsing taxpayer giveaways like big oil subsidies; and by publicly defending corporate tax dodgers.

Working on behalf of corporations at the expense of American students and families is quickly becoming part of the Republican orthodoxy. This, however, should not be surprising because after all, for Republicans, “corporations are people too.”

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on November 17, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tanya Somanader is  a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.

Business Owners, Investors Say Tax Changes Make ‘Zero Difference’ In Hiring: ‘I’m Not Sure What The Connection Is’

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Tanya SomanaderWrapping the wealthy in the term “job creator,” Republican lawmakers are hammering President Obama over the “Buffett rule,” a tax reform policy based on the simple and popular notion that millionaires should pay their fair share in taxes. To the GOP, this is a surefire way to ensure millionaires or “job creators” do not invest in the economy. “The reason we tax cigarettes in this country is to get people to stop smoking,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). “If you tax capital more, you get less capital. If you tax job creators more, you get fewer jobs.”

But a surprising group of people find that to be entirely untrue: the “job creators” themselves. As the billionaire behind the Buffett Rule, Warren Buffett, explained, “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.”

Indeed, 200 millionaires created a group known as the Patriotic Millionaires to make this exact case. In a direct rebuttal of the GOP, members of the group like Ask.com founder Garrett Gruener noted that a higher tax rate makes “zero difference” in how he invests:

Ask.com founder and Oakland venture capitalist Garrett Gruener said that changes in the marginal tax rates make “zero difference” about where he is going to invest.

“The kind of investing I’ve done for the last 25 years isn’t based on how a few points of the income tax rates change,” said Gruener, a Democrat and member of the Patriotic Millionaires. But “somehow, the Republicans have managed to convince 98 percent of the people that they are affected by how 2 percent of the population is taxed.”[…]

Business owners also dismantled the other Republican talking point that higher tax rates will harm small businesses. “I’m not sure what the connection is” between raising tax rates and hiring, said Anchor Brewing CEO Keith Greggor. Anchor has added 26 full-time and 10 part-time employees since last year. Not a lot of “small-business owners I know are millionaires,” Greggor added. SF Made, an organization that represents 230 San Francisco manufacturers with 100 or fewer employees, said if there is a connection between raising taxes and inhibiting small-business investment, “we haven’t seen it.”

Patriotic Millionaires launched a video last month challenging Republican millionaires in Congress for their opposition to the Buffett Rule, stating that millionaire lawmakers’ “continued support of policies that advance their own economic self-interests is un-American.” But if Republican lawmakers are unwilling to listen to the “job creators” they say they speak for, then perhaps they will heed the advice of their figurehead President Ronald Reagan. After all, the Buffett rule is practically his idea.

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions of this post are the author’s alone and do not represent those of Workplace Fairness.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on October 3, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.

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