Making Utility Bills Rise Again

Lightbulb

(Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

It’s summer and the mercury is soaring.

Temperatures are higher than ever, it turns out. Last year was the hottest year since humanity started recording temperatures, and it’s going to get much worse in the years to come, as a recent University of Hawaii study shows.

The relentlessly hot conditions in many parts of the country this summer mean that our air conditioners and refrigerators are working harder — and burning through more energy — to maintain a comfortable temperature for our families and a safe temperature for our food. And we pay for this increased energy use in our utility bills every month.

For me, it’s comforting to know that both my air conditioner and my refrigerator come with a little blue Energy Star label. Those labels indicate that they use less energy than comparable models without it.

If you’re like me, you like to save money on your bills, and you probably look for that blue label when you buy household appliances.

Energy Star is a government program that costs about $ 50 million a year to operate. It saves consumers about $ 34 billion (with a “b”) in energy costs annually.

Put another way, every dollar in government spending on Energy Star produces $ 680 in broadly shared public benefits. That’s quite a return on investment!

Why, then, is the Trump administration proposing the complete elimination of the Energy Star program? That’s right: The proposed White House budget allocates precisely $ 0 for the popular label.

From the standpoint of serving people’s actual needs, this should be a non-starter. It would almost literally take $ 34 billion every year out of the pockets of regular people and businesses — and hand that windfall revenue to the utility companies who sell them electricity.

It also means those utilities will burn more coal and natural gas, propping up the dirty energy industries this administration apparently loves.

We’ll all be the ones paying for this love-fest between the administration and coal, oil, gas, and utility companies — in the form of higher energy bills, higher medical bills for asthma and other illnesses, and damages from heat waves, flooding, droughts, wildfires, and other impacts of releasing more climate-altering greenhouse gases.

The administration routinely cites “jobs” as the justification for its attack on sensible energy and environmental policy. But energy efficiency employment totaled 2.2 million jobs last year, compared to 522,000 for coal and natural gas combined. That’s a difference of more than 4 to 1.

So the administration wants to undermine energy efficiency, a proven job creator that saves consumers money, to prop up polluting industries with far weaker job creation potential. The excuse of “jobs” is just that — a flimsy excuse.

The excuse of saving public money isn’t tenable either. The $ 50 million cost of the program is chump change for the federal government, given that overall federal discretionary spending is more than $ 1 trillion, and pays for itself 680 times over.

Apparently, the Trump administration’s real intent behind eliminating Energy Star is to Make Utility Bills Rise Again, without regard to the very real harm it does to your household budget and to the environment.

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? Inequality Gave Rise to Donald Trump’s Presidency

inequality-trump-election

(Photo: jorome / Shutterstock.com)

Inequality created the presidency of Donald Trump. Will that presidency now create more inequality? That remains to be seen. Precious few of the 60 million Americans who cast their votes for Trump want to see a more top-heavy America. Most Trump voters—and most Clinton voters, too—see an American economy rigged to advantage the nation’s wealthiest.

Voters want that rigging ended. On Election Day, a resounding 75 percent of Americans told Reuters that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Donald Trump has no plan for shrinking the wealth and power that rests so heavily upon the rest of us. But his voters, the balloting Tuesday shows, do stand ready to support concrete initiatives that directly challenge privilege.

In red-state South Dakota, where Donald Trump won 62 percent of the vote, a bipartisan coalition to rein in predatory lending crushed industry opposition to ending business as usual, despite being outspent by a ratio of 16-to-1. Short-term payday-loan interest rates in South Dakota currently average 574 percent. The measure that passed on Tuesday—with astounding 76 percent support—sets a 36 percent cap.

The key to building that support? Reynold Nesiba, an economist at Augustana University in Sioux Falls and an activist with the state’s Cap the Rates Coalition, told us that patiently working across party lines made all the difference.

Read the full article on the Nation’s website.

The post ? Inequality Gave Rise to Donald Trump’s Presidency appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson is the director of the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Josh Hoxie is the director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Explaining the Rise in Median Wages

wages-fight-15

(Photo; Marie Kanger Born / Shutterstock.com)

Good news can be elusive when reporting on the steady rise of inequality. So its heartening to see that median household incomes in the past year jumped more than 5 percent in the past year, now up to $ 56,500 according to a just released Census report.

The income boosts were felt across economic spectrum, a sharing of gains rarely seen since the shared prosperity decades between 1947 and 1977.

There was a sharp decline in the poverty rate and an expansion of the number of households with health insurance coverage, an undeniably positive development.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, wages for most workers have been stagnant leaving most families out of the promised benefits of continued economic growth. Even as unemployment rates fell, wages have been slow to recover.

Meanwhile the share of income and wealth flowing to the top 1 percent of households has accelerated. In fact, the top 1 percent took more than 90 percent of all new income in the five years following the 2008 financial crisis.

Before we break out the champagne, its worth noting that we have a long way to go to get onto a sustainable path to shared prosperity. Real incomes for most Americans are still smaller than the late 1990s. The median income has still not returned to its 2007 pre-recession level and is still 2.4 percent lower than 1999. And whole regions of the U.S. are not sharing in the advances, including rural America.

The stars have aligned for rising wages — with extremely low energy costs and low unemployment. But a huge amount of these wage gains are going to pay for increased health insurance and college costs, keeping most earners in a budgetary vice.

It was amusing to see The Wall Street Journal trumpet on page one, “Family Incomes Rise After Lull.” For decades, the Journal’s editorial page denied the data, and later when it was undeniable, dismissed the relevance of inequality.

The reality is, however, income and wealth inequality is more extreme in the U.S. than in almost any other advanced industrial economy. And these inequalities are now deeply entrenched and not easily reversed. Since 2008, the homeownership rate –one real indicator of economic security and well-being–has been on a downward trend.

To shift our national trajectory from its current direction — leading to an economic apartheid society governed by a hereditary aristocracy of wealth — we need a solid decade of rising incomes and declining concentrations of wealth.

The work to raise wages must continue. Over 40 percent of the country earns less than $ 15 per hour despite the Fight for 15 movement’s efforts at the municipal level to raise wages. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington will vote on whether to increase their living wages this November. But we need a national increase in the minimum wage to reach into communities and states that have not shared equally in the most recent income boost.

And we must make deep investments in expanding opportunity and wealth for those excluded. Restoring progressive income tax rates and closing estate tax loopholes would generate revenue that could be invested in public infrastructure and accessible higher education. These are the kinds of investments the U.S. made after World War Two that set us a path of prolonged shared prosperity.

The post Explaining the Rise in Median Wages appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Tensions Mount Between Austria and Italy as Migrant Numbers Rise – Wall Street Journal


Wall Street Journal
Tensions Mount Between Austria and Italy as Migrant Numbers Rise
Wall Street Journal
A surge in migrants arriving in Italy via Libya, just weeks after the European Union sealed a deal with Turkey aimed at halting the influx landing in Greece, is raising concerns that a previous front in Europe's migration crisis is reopening. Austria
The Latest: Renzi: There is no migrant 'invasion' of ItalyU.S. News & World Report
Italy Insists 'No Invasion' After Spike in Migrant ArrivalsThe New Indian Express
Migrant influx into Italy from Libya resurging: IOMReuters
BBC News -RTE.ie
all 67 news articles »

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How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining – Insightcrime.org


Insightcrime.org
How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining
Insightcrime.org
In addition, the report describes both the environmental and the human toll exacted by this criminalization of informal mining, which has led to widespread deforestation and mercury poisoning and been linked to displacement, forced labor and sex

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Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

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Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHHYAEyvYTajbLFwD_uP8Vjr7AjQw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779023475904&ei=0aqaVpj6KIj7wQGFyIWoBw&url=http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/04/461952980/food-culture-gives-rise-to-new-eatymology

Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHHYAEyvYTajbLFwD_uP8Vjr7AjQw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779023475904&ei=Z3KRVsCfNMGewgGVgoSYCw&url=http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/04/461952980/food-culture-gives-rise-to-new-eatymology

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – KCUR

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
KCUR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted for drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it borrows

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNFxf_sZrI7ur7D-URxZT3m6mCID5Q&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779001569814&ei=jpFsVpCwCs60hAGai5nwAw&url=http://kcur.org/post/internet-food-culture-gives-rise-new-eatymology

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – KOSU

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
KOSU
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted for drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it borrows

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNE3PdyHx5y6EjVqfqD0z3_gjkkhFA&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779001569814&ei=ylhjVrDGDYmChQGZ8LzQBQ&url=http://kosu.org/post/internet-food-culture-gives-rise-new-eatymology