Cartoon of the Week


To Be Equal

Guest Editorial

Cesar Chavez Day Calls Us To Unite To End Poverty And Honor The Dignity Of Work

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” —Cesar Chavez

While it is commonly thought that the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was by, of, and exclusively for the benefit of African Americans, the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez remind us of how much it touched the lives of our Hispanic brothers and sisters and oppressed people everywhere. A Mexican-American who was born March 31, 1927 on a farm near Yuma, Arizona, Chavez and his family moved to California in 1938 to eke out a living like thousands of other overworked and underpaid migrant farm workers in his community. But rather than tolerate the daily injustices heaped upon them, which also included forced child labor, sexual harassment of women workers and the use of pesticides harmful to both workers and consumers, Chavez devoted his life to organizing and improving the lives of migrant workers.

In 1962, he and Delores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers Union. Inspired by the non-violent examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chavez embraced the philosophy of non-violent protest and employed such tactics as marches, boycotts and hunger strikes to garner mainstream support for the rights of migrant workers. In 1968, he fasted for 25 days for better wages and working conditions in the fields of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Upon ending that strike by breaking bread with Senator Robert Kennedy, Chavez addressed his supporters, saying, “We are gathered here today, not so much to observe the end of the Fast, but because we are a family bound together in a common struggle for justice. We are a Union family celebrating our unity and the non-violent nature of our movement.”

Chavez’s work and sacrifice inspired millions of people around the world, including Dr. King and National Urban League President Whitney M. Young, Jr. In 1969, towards the end of a five-year strike and boycott for the rights of Mexican and Filipino grape workers, Young met with Chavez and his supporters in Delano, California. Young was moved to write a To Be Equal column in which he said, “I was inspired by their spirit and their faith in the face of the odds against them.” He added, “Labor, by organizing the poor and the friendless, can help end poverty by protecting low-wage workers, and it can give the lie to those who happily proclaim the selfishness and prejudice of some unions.”

Cesar Chavez died on April 23, 1993. Following Whitney Young’s example, subsequent National Urban League leaders, me included, have continued to work in solidarity with the goals of the United Farm Workers and numerous other Latino civil rights organizations. I spoke at the National Council of La Raza conference last summer and attended part of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference last month. We are all united in many of our struggles, especially the fight to end income inequality and poverty. As an iconic labor leader and anti-poverty activist, Cesar Chavez would have likely also been an enthusiastic supporter of the National Urban League’s current petition to raise the minimum wage and all of our work for jobs with living wages and fair benefits.

President Obama has proclaimed Chavez’s birthday, March 31, as Cesar Chavez Day “to remember a man who made justice his life calling.” We believe that the best way to honor Chavez’s legacy is through service and a renewed commitment to end income inequality and poverty. Congress can do its part by raising the minimum wage now.

To sign the National Urban League’s Raise the Minimum Wage petition, visit nul.org—and do your part to help put millions of Americans on a path to a better life.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.


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Inequality Is Now Mainstream

BY WILLIAM SPRIGGS

Last month in New York, the Ford Foundation hosted a conference with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on "Changing the Conversation on Growth: Going Inclusive." Both are mainstream organizations, grounded in the elite consensus. So, their public engagement challenging the orthodoxy that inequality is the price we pay for economic growth is important.

Writing in 1955, economist Simon Kuznets argued that at first, rapid economic growth would make inequality grow, but over time inequality would decline. It appeared to fit what happened in the United States with rapid growth at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. That era created vast wealth for a few, like Henry Ford, but poverty for many. Then came the Great Depression. But, then income inequality moderated and the United States had economic growth while growing more equal. The sense was that inequality wasn't really a problem; economies would eventually revert to a more equal path.

But, in 1975, economist Arthur Okun suggested that measures by the government to bring about equality also made the economy less efficient; meaning there was a trade-off between growth and equality. By the mid-1970s, the U.S. economy had become much more equal, so Okun's argument fueled a sense more equality would hurt growth.

That belief has helped shape policy thought since. A growing economy has more resources to invest in advances in science and medicine, it can support a strong defense to provide national security, and new technologies can improve life for everyone. So, whether trade deals enrich corporations, or tax cuts help the wealthy or corporate subsidies made the rich richer, as long as it could be argued that the policies helped growth, the resulting inequality was simply the cost society should pay.

But now we are back at levels of inequality in the United States that have not been seen since the Great Depression. So many economists are re-evaluating the notion of a trade-off between growth and equality. And some argue that high inequality actually contributed to the instability that caused the Great Recession.

The Ford Foundation and the OECD have embraced the view that we should reject there is a trade-off between growth and equality. First, on ethical and moral grounds, a society that shares gains and losses more equally is superior. It is also easier to get societies to trust in government and to get social cohesion when the gains of policies are shared and the losses don't always fall on the same people. But now Ford and the OECD are prepared to argue that there is a positive economic case to be made, that equality and growth are both possible.

Oddly, this week, a group not known for being a friend to equality-the International Monetary Fund (IMF)- issued a staff paper reviewing the new economic research and that also did new work. The IMF is better known for being cold-hearted bankers who command countries to pay back loans regardless of the effect on government programs to help the poor. The IMF distinguishes between inequalities that result from market activity-differences in wages and earnings before taxes-and "net inequality" after transfers, from taxes, and social insurance payments. There conclusion is that: "lower net inequality seems to drive faster and more durable growth for a given level of redistribution." In short, trickle down is not the way to grow the economy, watering from the roots is.

It means that in the recent farm bill, those arguing to preserve full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were the ones making the stronger pro-growth argument. It means that in the continued fight to extend unemployment insurance benefits, while more than 10 million Americans struggle to find jobs, is a pro-growth argument. These are not programs that are simply morally right; they are programs that, based on the best economic evidence, help provide for faster and more sustainable growth of the economy.

At the conference in New York, the OECD released a report showing the extreme income inequality of the United States. Among the OECD countries-the advanced industrial democracies of the world-the United States has the highest inequality, but for Turkey, Mexico and Chile; and since 1985, inequality in America has grown much faster than the OECD average.

So the "smart" answers on the economy are changing. Those responsible for shaping the debate of the past 30 years have come around to view things in a new light.


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The Sky Is Your Child’s Limit With The Right College Savings Plan

BY MITCH SEABAUGH

It’s tax time, and that means most of us are thinking about tax deductions—everything from work expenses to charitable donations. As you are working on your financial planning for this year, keep the future in mind. There is one deduction that will keep on giving—contributions made to Georgia’s official college savings plan, Path2College 529 Plan.

Every day children, dream of what they want to become when they grow up. When they dream of becoming a teacher, a doctor or the President of the United States, they don’t imagine anything holding them back from their aspirations.

One thing children don’t dream about is financing the most important part of their future—their college education. They are unaware of the hard work, determination and significant investments needed to help them achieve their dreams. They don’t think about student loans, debt and interest rates that skyrocket if left unpaid. Or worse, that they won’t ever achieve their dreams because they simply cannot afford it or they are unable to get a loan.

This is why, as parents and grandparents, it is up to us to think about the realities that our children and grandchildren will face on the path toward their future. We encourage them, we teach them values, we help them build a strong academic foundation, and hopefully we are establishing the financial foundation they will need to pursue their dreams.

However, that’s often easier said than done. Saving can be challenging, but by saving small amounts over time, you can help your loved one achieve his or her goals. I work everyday with families to educate them about their options, and it is never too early or too late to start saving.

With more than 116,000 children as beneficiaries, the state of Georgia’s college savings plan, the Path2College 529 Plan, is helping thousands of Georgia’s children achieve a brighter future. In fact, nearly 20,000 families have already used $275 million of their saved assets for college tuition and expenses.

These families are giving their children and grandchildren a head start today on their future. According to the College Savings Plan Network (CSPN), college graduates earn nearly twice as much as those who only have a high school diploma.

So this tax season, I encourage you to take a few minutes to look into your options for saving for your child’s education. Every penny saved today will help offset debt tomorrow, and it will help your loved one realize their dreams.

That is important for our children, and it’s important for our future.

Mitch Seabaugh is the executive director of Georgia’s Path2College 529 Plan, which was established to provide Georgia families with an easy-to-use and understand, tax-advantaged way to save for their children’s college education. For more information about the Path2College 529 Plan and to start your child’s college savings today, please visit www.Path2College529.com.