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Robert Reich (Why Wages Won't Rise) Imprisoning a staggering number of our people is wrong. The way our nation does it is even worse. We must end mass incarceration, now. If I’m walking down the street with a Black or Latino friend, my friend is way more likely to be stopped by the police, questioned, and even arrested. Even if we’re doing the exact same thing—he or she is more likely to be convicted and sent to jail. Unless we recognize the racism and abuse of our criminal justice system and tackle the dehumanizing stereotypes that underlie it, our nation – and our economy – will never be as strong as it could be.

Please take a moment to watch the accompanying video, and please share it so others can understand what’s at stake for so many Americans. Here are the facts: Today, the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but has 25 percent of its prisoners, and we spend more than $80 billion each year on prisons. The major culprit is the so-called War on Drugs. So what do we do?

Politics

Newt’s Faulty Food-Stamp Claim. Newt Gingrich claims that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” He’s wrong. More were added under Bush than under Obama, according to the most recent figures. The former speaker made that claim Jan. 16 in a Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and his campaign organization quickly inserted the snippet in a new 30-second TV ad that began running Jan. 18 in South Carolina. Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. It’s possible that when the figures for January 2012 are available they will show that the gain under Obama has matched or exceeded the gain under Bush.

Obama’s Responsibility But Gingrich strains the facts when he accuses Obama of being responsible. The economic downturn began in December 2007. Who Gets Food Stamps? Richard Wolff on Raising the U.S. Minimum Wage. Economist Richard Wolff explains how the current minimum wage offers less advantage for workers than it did decades ago, and how an increase would benefit not only low-wage employees, but the overall American economy. “You’ve taken the folks at the bottom — the people who work hard, full-time jobs — and you’ve made their economic condition worse over a 50-year period, while wealth has accumulated at the top,” Wolff tells Bill.

“What kind of a society does this?” A professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and currently visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School, Wolff has written many books on the effects of rampant capitalism, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. Watch the full conversation between Wolff and Bill Moyers on this weekend’s Moyers & Company.

Class struggles

Egos and Immorality. Why Does America Have Money For War, Wall Street, And The Wealthy? Robert Reich Puts An Offer On The Table For President Obama. Keep Wall Street Occupied (Part 1) Occupy what else? Six new culprits for economic inequality in America. But the movement needs some new destinations. It’s getting cold in Zuccotti Park, and the authorities in other Occupy cities are starting to run out of patience. Besides, if you’re really serious about addressing income inequality and economic injustice in America, there are other institutions and figures worth challenging.

Their roles in creating the gaping divides in our economy — in which the top 1 percent of taxpayers take home a quarter of the nation’s income — prove that inequality is not just a result of abstract trends of globalization and technology. No, wide inequality in this country has been driven in large part by specific actions, or failures to act, by people and organizations in positions of authority. Protesters need no introduction to Wall Street, let alone the Capitol or the White House.

But here, in no particular order, are other culprits in need of occupation. Occupy Bill Clinton Hold on, you might say. Is it fair to target someone for deeds long past? Occupy Harvard. We Are the 53%. Or not. Oh man this “We Are the 53%” movement. It is actually very sad! Basically, conservative pundit Erick Erickson has started a campaign called “We Are the 53%,” to counter the “We Are the 99%” and Occupy Wall Street movements. According to Erickson’s (very simplistic) math, 53% of Americans pay more in federal income taxes than they receive back in deductions or credits, and so 53% of people are subsidizing everyone else.

Which is… where to even start? Even people who don’t pay federal income tax still often pay property taxes and payroll taxes; everyone pays sale taxes. And part of the OWS argument is that corporations and many of the highest-earning Americans are paying very little in taxes, due to a series of loopholes and tax breaks. That aside, Erickson’s site is very very sad. But they’re latching onto Erickson because I suppose it feels better to self-identify as a winner. This air of the nobility of the underclass is so sad and, cornily enough, eye-opening for me. Open Letter to that 53% Guy. In the picture, you’re holding up a sheet of paper that says: I am a former Marine. I work two jobs. I don’t have health insurance. I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.

I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years. But I don’t blame Wall Street. I wanted to respond to you as a liberal. First, let me say that I think it’s great that you have such a strong work ethic and I agree with you that you have much to be proud of. I have a nephew in the Marine Corps, so I have some idea of how tough that can be. So, if you think being a liberal means that I don’t value hard work or a strong work ethic, you’re wrong. I understand your pride in what you’ve accomplished, but I want to ask you something. Do you really want the bar set this high? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week? And what happens if you get sick? Do you plan to get married, have kids? Look, you’re a tough kid.