Is the CIA Taking Cues from Hollywood?
This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.
Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.
Think of it as the CIA's plunge into Hollywood—or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency's moves couldn't be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world's most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail.
The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called "the Pledge."
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The Gates Foundation's Hypocritical Investments
With an endowment larger than all but four of the world's largest hedge funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is easily one of the most powerful charities in the world. According to its website, the organization "works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives." So how do the investments of the foundation's $36 billion investing arm, the Gates Foundation Trust, match up to its mission? We dug into the group's recently released 2012 tax returns to find out.
The Gates Foundation did not respond to requests for comment; however, its investment policy says the the trust's managers "consider other issues beyond corporate profits, including the values that drive the foundation's work."
In its most recent annual report to investors, private prison company GEO group listed some risks to its bottom line, including "reductions in crime rates" that "could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences," along with immigration reform and the decriminalization of drugs. Military contractor DynCorp, meanwhile, has faced allegations of fraud, mismanagement, and even slavery from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.
8 Scary Facts About Antibiotic Resistance
It's flu season. And we're all about to crisscross the country to exchange hugs, kisses, and germs. We're going to get sick. And when we do, many of us will run to our doctors and, hoping to get better, demand antibiotics.
And that's the problem: Antibiotics don't cure the flu (which is viral, not bacterial), but the overprescription of antibiotics imperils us all by driving antibiotic resistance. This threat is growing, so much so that in a recent widely read Medium article, Wired science blogger and self-described "scary disease girl" Maryn McKenna painted a disturbingly plausible picture of a world in which antibiotics have become markedly less effective. That future is the focus of McKenna's interview this week on the Inquiring Minds podcast:
"For 85 years," McKenna explains on the show, antibiotics "have been solving the problem of infectious disease in a way that's really unique in human history. And people assume those antibiotics are always going to be there. And unfortunately, they're wrong."
Here are some disturbing facts about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance:
1. In the United States alone, 2 million people each year contract serious antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from them.
These figures come from a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on antibiotic resistance that, for the first time, uses a blunt classification scheme to identify "urgent," "serious," and "concerning" threats from drug-resistant bacteria. The CDC currently lists three "urgent threats": drug-resistant gonorrhea, drug-resistant "enterobacteriaceae" such as E. coli, and Clostridium difficile, which causes life-threatening diarrhea and is often acquired in hospitals. Clostridium difficile kills at least 14,000 people each year.
2. We've been warned about antibiotic resistance since at least 1945. We just haven't been listening.
From the very first discovery of antibiotics, scientists have known that resistance is a danger. Alexander Fleming himself, credited with the discovery of penicillin, warned us as early as 1945 that antibiotics could lose their effectiveness. His eerily prescient Nobel Prize speech cautions that "there may be a danger, though, in underdosage [of penicillin]. It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant."
3. Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are on the rise.
Clearly, antibiotic resistance is not a new phenomenon. Nonetheless, the frequency of these "antibiotic resistance events" is increasing. For example, from 1980 to 1987, cases of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae (the bacteria that causes pneumonia) remained steady at about 5 percent of all strains. By 1997, 44 percent of strains were showing resistance. Similarly, Enterococci bacteria can cause urinary tract infections and meningitis (among other diseases), and in 1989, fewer than 0.5 percent of strains found in hospitals were resistant to antibiotics. Four years later, though, that number was at 7.9 percent, and by 1998, some hospitals reported levels as high as 30 to 50 percent. "The more antibiotics are used, the more quickly bacteria develop resistance," says the CDC.
4. There has been a steady decline in FDA approvals for new antibiotics.
And even as more bacteria are becoming resistant and our treatments are becoming less effective, we're also producing fewer new drugs to combat infections. One figure says it all—a clear downtrend in FDA approvals for antibiotics began in the 1980s:
Decline in FDA antibiotic approvals CDC
; data from FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Why has this happened? "There's a kind of curve to antibiotic development," says McKenna, noting that there was a boom in the 1950s, when Eli Lilly collected samples of biological materials from all over the world in order to capture antibiotic properties in natural substances. By the 1980s, though, much of the low-hanging antibiotic fruit had been harvested. Now, the development of new treatments is becoming increasingly difficult and costly, even as pharmaceutical companies are cutting R&D budgets and outsourcing drug discovery more and more. "The faucet from which [antibiotics] come has been turned down and down and down and now it's just a drip," McKenna says.
5. As many as half of all antibiotic prescriptions either aren't needed or are "not optimally effective."
A huge part of our problem is that we're misusing and abusing antibiotics. "Resistance is a natural process," says McKenna, but "we made resistance worse by the cavalier way that we used antibiotics, and still use them." Sick patients pressure their doctors for drugs, and doctors too often yield and dash off a script. Indeed, a recent study found that doctors prescribed antibiotics 73 percent of the time for acute bronchitis, even though, as Mother Jones' Kiera Butler reports, "antibiotics are not recommended at all" for this condition.
Adding to the evidence of misuse is another statistic: According to the CDC, almost 1 in 5 ER visits resulting from adverse drug events are caused by antibiotics. Children are the most likely victims. Despite the fact that antibiotics are generally safe, they can cause allergic reactions and can also interact with other drugs, harming patients who are vulnerable because they already suffer from other medical conditions. So if we stopped overprescribing antibiotics we'd not only head off resistance, we'd also lessen adverse drug effects.
6. And it's not just human medical misuse—a large volume of antibiotics is inappropriately used in livestock.
Antibiotics are also often used in the agricultural industry; in fact, there is reason to think that more antibiotics are used to treat animals than to treat people. And these livestock drugs are not just used to fight off infections, but are often fed to animals in smaller doses to encourage weight gain and growth—a practice, the CDC says, that is "not necessary" and "should be phased out." A recent draft document from the FDA similarly states that "in light of the risk that antimicrobial resistance poses to public health, the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals for production purposes does not represent a judicious use of these drugs." For now, though, the FDA's approach to curbing this threat has been limited to issuing voluntary guidelines.
7. Before antibiotics, death rates were much higher from very common occurrences like skin infections, pneumonia, and giving birth.
In her Medium article, McKenna gives some disturbing stats. Just giving birth could be deadly: Five out of every thousand women who had a baby died. Pneumonia killed 30 percent of its victims. And "one out of nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or an insect bite." If we run out of antibiotics, our future looks rather bleak.
8. The next major global pandemic may involve an antibiotic-resistant superbug.
For millennia, infectious diseases have reshaped civilization, culled our species, and spread fear, superstition, and death. But over the last century, we haven't seen anything as devastating as the 1918 global flu pandemic, which killed some 50 million people around the world.
But with drug-resistant bacteria, the threat rises. "Plagues still really have power and almost a hundred years later, we shouldn't think that we're immune to them because we're not," warns McKenna. For instance, tuberculosis kills over a million people a year, and it is becoming increasingly drug resistant, according to the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, although the 1918 flu was of course caused by a virus rather than a bacterium, recent research suggests that most victims actually died from bacterial pneumonia. Viruses can weaken our immune systems just enough to allow bacteria to take hold and, often, death results from secondary bacterial infections that, at least until recently, were largely curbed by effective antibiotics.
So are we doomed to recede back into a time when infections were the most significant health threat that our species faced?
According to McKenna, it is not clear that we can fully curb antibiotic overuse. So the better approach is to get the drug industry research engine firing again. "There's a really active discourse around what's the best way to get pharmaceutical companies back into manufacturing antibiotics," she says.
Our future, then, once again lies in the hands of scientists, whose quest to find new treatments for drug-resistant bacteria is now of the utmost importance.
For the full interview with Maryn McKenna, you can listen here:
This episode of Inquiring Minds, a podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion of the surprising reasons that US students are so bad at math (just 26th in the world, in a recent study). Plus, Indre takes apart a highly controversial new study purporting to show that male-female gender stereotypes are rooted in different wiring of our brains.
To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes or RSS. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook.
You Can Also Blame Newt Gingrich for the Obamacare Website Screwup
As the Obama administration continues to unsuck its health care website, one questions lingers: How did this important government project get so screwed up? If you ask technologist Clay Johnson, the insurance exchange's problems began, in a way, in 1995, when "Congress decided to lobotomize itself."
Johnson was referring to a specific action lawmakers took then: They killed a tiny federal agency called the Office of Technology Assessment. Established in 1972 as Congress' nonpartisan in-house think tank, the OTA studied new technologies and offered recommendations on how Washington could adapt to them. But then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) turned off its lights.
Today, members of Congress have legislative counsels to help draft laws. They have the Congressional Budget Office to analyze how much laws will cost. But they don't have the OTA's experts to tell them how those laws will work.
"An OTA review might have prevented some heartburn and embarrassment" associated with the Healthcare.gov rollout, argues Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), an astrophysicist who has previously introduced legislation that would resurrect the agency.
Warning Congress about problems with Healthcare.gov—and explaining them—would have been right in OTA's wheelhouse. The office, Rep. George Brown (D-Calif.) dryly remarked in 1995, was a "defense against the dumb." During its 24-year existence, the agency developed a reputation for sharp, foresighted analysis on the problems of the new information age: It called for a new, reinforced tanker design a decade before the Exxon-Valdez spill; emphasized the danger of fertilizer bombs 15 years before Oklahoma City; predicted in 1982 that email would render the postal service obsolete; and warned that President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (better known as "Star Wars") would likely result in a "catastrophic failure" if it were ever used.
Analyzing health care spending was one of OTA's specialties. One of its final reports, "Bringing Health Care Online," published in 1995, focused on the potential (and potential for mishaps) in electronic data interchanges. "Changes in the health care delivery system, including the emergence of managed health care and integrated delivery systems, are breaking down the organizational barriers that have stood between care providers, insurers, medical researchers, and public health professionals," the report warned.
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How Those Fast-Food Strikes Got Started
Lisa Reid is a cashier at a KFC in Brooklyn. She's 27, with three kids. She works 16 to 26 hours a week at the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That's not enough to live on, so sometimes she takes a second or third gig at McDonald's or Burger King. But right now, she just has the one job. She lives with her mom to make ends meet.
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ALEC's Campaign Against Renewable Energy
This story first appeared on the Guardian website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilizing to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels—casting them as "freeriders"—in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned.
Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners and weakening state clean-energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action.
Details of ALEC's strategy to block clean-energy development at every stage—from the individual rooftop to the White House—are revealed as the group gathers for its policy summit in Washington this week.
About 800 state legislators and business leaders are due to attend the three-day event, which begins on Wednesday with appearances by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and the Republican budget guru and fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan.
Other ALEC speakers will include a leading figure behind the recent government shutdown, US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and the governors of Indiana and Wyoming, Mike Pence and Matt Mead.
For 2014, ALEC plans to promote a suite of model bills and resolutions aimed at blocking Barack Obama from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and state governments from promoting the expansion of wind and solar power through regulations known as Renewable Portfolio Standards.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show the core elements of its strategy began to take shape at the previous board meeting in Chicago in August, with meetings of its energy, environment, and agriculture subcommittees.
Further details of ALEC's strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC's energy, environment, and agriculture program.
Eick told the Guardian the group would be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.
"This is an issue we are going to be exploring," Eick said. He said ALEC wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation—and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.
"As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other nondirect generation customers are being penalized," he said.
Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. "How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else's house?" he said. "They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity."
In November, Arizona became the first state to charge customers for installing solar panels. The fee, which works out to about $5 a month for the average homeowner, was far lower than that sought by the main electricity company, which was seeking to add up to $100 a month to customers' bills.
Gabe Elsner, director of the Energy and Policy Institute, said the attack on small-scale solar was part of the larger ALEC project to block clean energy. "They are trying to eliminate pro-solar policies in the states to protect utility industry profits," he said.
The group sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year. The measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project, and barring oversight on fracking, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.
Until now, the biggest target in ALEC's sights were state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require electricity companies to source a share of their power from wind, solar, biomass, or other clean energy. Such measures are seen as critical to reducing America's use of coal and oil, and to the fight against climate change. RPS are now in force in 30 states.
In 2012, ALEC drafted a model bill pushing for the outright repeal of RPS.
In the confidential materials, prepared for the August board meeting, ALEC claimed to have made significant inroads against such clean energy policies in 2013.
"Approximately 15 states across the country introduced legislation to reform, freeze, or repeal their state's renewable mandate," the task force reported.
That compares to model bills in just seven states in support of the hot-button issue of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to figures in the documents.
"This legislative year has seen the most action on renewable mandates to date," the documents said.
Three of those states—North Carolina, Ohio, and Kansas—saw strong pushes by conservative groups to reverse clean energy regulations this year.
None of those efforts passed, however, with signs of strong local support for wind farms and other clean energy projects that were seen as good for the economy—from Republicans as well as Democrats.
By August, ALEC evidently decided its hopes of winning outright repeal of RPS standards was overly ambitious.
At its meeting in August, ALEC put forward an initiative that would allow utility companies to import clean energy from other states—rather than invest in new, greener generation.
An "explanatory note" prepared for the meeting admitted: "One model policy may be the right fit for one state but not work for another".
Elsner argued that after its bruising state battles in 2013, ALEC was now focused on weakening—rather than seeking outright repeal—of the clean-energy standards.
"What we saw in 2013 was an attempt to repeal RPS laws, and when that failed…what we are seeing now is a strategy that appears to be pro-clean-energy but would actually weaken those pro-clean-energy laws by retreating to the lowest common denominator," he said.
The other key agenda item for ALEC's meeting this week is the EPA. The group is looking at two proposals to curb the agency's powers—one to shut the EPA out of any meaningful oversight of fracking, and the other to block action on climate change.
A model bill endorsed by the ALEC board of directors last August would strip the EPA of power to shut down a frack site or oil industry facility.
That would leave oversight of an industry that has to date fracked two-meter wells in 20 states to a patchwork of local authorities that have vastly different standards of environmental protection.
The model bill would explicitly bar the EPA from shutting down any oil or gas well or facility in any of them, limiting the agency's capacity to enforce the clean water and clean air acts.
"The legislature declares that the United States Environmental Protection Agency…lacks the authority to deny permits of operation to these oil and gas wells and facilities," the bill reads.
Eick said the bill was in keeping with the group's broader philosophy of expanding power to the states.
"A national regulatory agency might impose a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all regulation on states in many instances," he said.
The meeting will also focus on Obama's plan, announced last June, to use the EPA to limit greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing power plants.
"The EPA's forthcoming regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and specifically carbon emissions from power plants will be of incredible interest to states and membership so we are going to be focusing on that. Absolutely," Eick said.
Power plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 40 percent last year. The EPA last September proposed new standards for future power plants, and will tighten limits for existing power plants next June.
"It just shows that ALEC uses lawmakers as lobbyists to block climate legislation at every turn," said Connor Gibson, a researcher for Greenpeace. "They try to undermine the authority of agencies that have the power potentially to control carbon pollution, so whenever there is a new EPA rule that pops up, they retool their arsenal of model bills to make sure they are blocking the new rule."
The resolution on the EPA for ALEC members' consideration this week argues that requiring tougher standards from the next generation of power plants lead to spikes in electricity prices and would damage the economy.
"ALEC is very concerned about the potential economic impact of greenhouse gas regulation on electricity prices and the harm EPA regulations may have on the economic recovery," the resolution reads.
Environmental lawyers said the resolution amounted to a "new manifesto" against the EPA regulating carbon pollution. "They don't want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," said Ann Weeks, legal director for the Clean Air Task Force.
She disputed a number of claims within the ALEC resolution—including the assertion that reducing carbon pollution would lead to an 80 percent rise in electricity prices. Economic analyses by the EPA and others have suggested those rises would be fairly limited.
"They will probably tell you they don't want the EPA to regulate anything, so it is in their interest to turn what the EPA has proposed into something that is grotesque and unreasonable, which I don't think is true," Weeks said.
WATCH: Imagine a World in Which Drones D0 Everything [Fiore Cartoon]
Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.
Nelson Mandela's Epitaph, in His Own Words
"My Lord, I am the First Accused." Those were Nelson Mandela's opening words as he stood in the dock in the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, South Africa, on the morning of April 20, 1964—nearly half a century before his death December 5 at the age of 95. Mandela and eight other defendants had been charged with violating the Sabotage Act and the Suppression of Communism Act, accused of plotting violence against the apartheid government with the aim of overthrowing it. By fomenting "chaos, turmoil, and disorder," the prosecutor explained, the accused hoped to achieve "liberation from the so-called yoke of the white man's domination." Mandela, who was already serving a five-year sentence for organizing a strike and leaving the country without a passport, assumed that they would be sent to the gallows.
With the verdict all but certain, Mandela and his codefendants decided to turn their trial into an indictment of the apartheid state. When he had been asked for his plea, Mandela replied, "The government should be in the dock, not me. I plead not guilty." Yet the lengthy statement he prepared to open his defense was not an attempt to prove his innocence—in fact, he readily admitted to many of the charges made against him. He instead took the opportunity to forcefully promote his cause. But he also knew that he was offering a doomed man's final words, in essence, a self-written epitaph.
Mandela took two weeks to write the speech. A white lawyer who reviewed a draft exclaimed, "If Mandela reads this in court they will take him straight out to the back of the courthouse and string him up." Mandela's own lawyer urged him to cut out the final paragraph, but Mandela held firm. "I felt we were likely to hang no matter what we said, so we might as well say what we truly believed," Mandela recalled in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The final lines of Mandela's 60-page, 176-minute statement have since become its most famous:
During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
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Meet the House Republicans Who Don't Hate Gay Rights
LGBT rights advocates celebrated last month when the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would ban employers from taking their workers' sexual orientation and identity into account. The bill even garnered votes from 10 Republican senators, a sign of a possible emerging bipartisan accord. But that triumph was short lived. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) opposes ENDA and says he has no intention of letting it receive a vote.
Not all of Boehner's Republican colleagues agree with his take. A coalition of five Republicans and five Democrats from the House penned a letter to Boehner this week urging him to at least allow a vote on ENDA. "As cosponsors of H.R. 1755 – the House's companion legislation, we respectfully encourage you to bring this timely and commonsense legislation to a vote before the House of Representatives before the end of the 113th Congress," the letter reads. "An innate sense of fairness compels our country to rise above all forms of workplace discrimination."
The list of Republican signees isn't too surprising. Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) all hail from purple or blue states and are among the most moderate members of the House Republican caucus. But they have their party's best interest at heart. A poll from last month found that a majority of voters want Congress to pass ENDA—not just voters countrywide, but in every single congressional district. "It seems to me that this legislation is fair, it's reasonable, and it is broadly supported by the American public," Dent, one of the bill's Republican cosponsors, tells Mother Jones. Dent says that supporters of the bill might try to introduce the measure at some point as an amendment, possibly to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Dent is confident that, should Boehner relent, enough Republicans would side with Democrats to pass ENDA in the House. "I haven't done a formal nose count or whip count, but I believe the votes are there," he says. He pointed out that in 2007, when ENDA last received a vote in the House, 35 Republicans approved the bill. But despite the overwhelming increase of public support for LGBT rights over the last six years, Dent isn't confident a vote on ENDA could match that level of support today. Too many of his colleagues are in safe districts now, where they don't worry about general elections but are terrified of offending the party's conservative base and facing a primary challenge. "That might help explain why not as many have been willing to cosponsor the bill," Dent says. The prospect of fewer Republicans voting for ENDA in 2013 than in 2007 is especially depressing for the bill's proponents when you account for the fact that there are 231 Republicans in the House today, compared to just 200 Republicans for that 2007 vote. "The Republican Party has to be about addition, not subtraction, [and] inclusion, not exclusion," Dent says. "This legislation would help the party broaden the base. It's that simple."
Republicans often distance themselves from accusations of bigotry by explaining their opposition to ENDA as an issue of protecting business interests. Dent doesn't buy that rationale. "American industry has moved beyond this already," he says. "What's being proposed here is something that many companies have already adopted. I don't see this bill as in any way controversial or one that would make life difficult for employers."
It truly isn't controversial for most of the country, just a small segment of the population that tends to be vocal in Republican primaries. But with the public increasingly tolerant of LGBT rights, a ban on workplace discrimination is inevitable. It's just up to Boehner whether that achievement will come under his watch.
"Clearly this is a generational issue," Dent said. "There's no question about that. I suspect that within a fairly short period of time, many people will question why we're even having a debate about this particular piece of legislation."
Read the full letter:
On 7 November 2013, the United States Senate passed S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA) by a bipartisan vote of 64 to 32. As cosponsors of H.R. 1755 – the House’s companion legislation, we respectfully encourage you to bring this timely and commonsense legislation to a vote before the House of Representatives before the end of the 113th Congress.
An innate sense of fairness compels our country to rise above all forms of workplace discrimination. ENDA would help us move towards this goal in a manner that balances worker protections with respect for religious employers. Keeping with the notion that employees should be judged on their merits alone, the bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment or hiring quotas. We are not seeking special privileges – just equal protections.
Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency. What matters most is not that we share the exact same beliefs as our coworkers or employees, but that we take pride in our work, respect our coworkers and customers, and get the job done.
It is our hope that this legislation will be brought to the House Floor – to allow the members to vote as they see fit – and demonstrate to the American people that Congress can work in a bipartisan manner on an important issue of fairness.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15)
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9)
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY-22)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO-2)
Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5)
Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY-19)
Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3)
What If Your Income Grew As Fast As the 1 Percent's? Try Our Calculator
The richest 1 percent of Americans have seen their average income jump more than 270 percent over the past five decades. Meanwhile, the average income of the least wealthy 90 percent of Americans grew an anemic 22 percent during that time. (Those figures are based on inflation-adjusted real dollars.)
So how much would you be earning today if the phenomenal income growth at the very top of the income scale had trickled down to most Americans? Use this calculator to find out.
In other words, if you're in the bottom 90 percent of earners, your current income would be an estimated 205 percent higher if the vast majority of incomes had kept up with the gains experienced by the superwealthy.
At the lowest end of the bottom 90 percent, the difference is even more extreme: If the minimum wage had kept up with the 1 percent, it would be nearly 250 percent higher than it is today.
Back in the real world, most Americans' incomes have stagnated over the past few decades. Meanwhile, top incomes have skyrocketed, leaving middle- and low-income Americans behind and accelerating the growth of the income gap that began opening in the 1980s.
Methodology: The data used to the make this calculator is from the World Top Incomes Database. All income figures used to make the calculator are in 2012 dollars and do not include capital gains. Your hypothetical income is an estimate based on applying the overall change in the average income of the top 1 percent between 1960 and 2012 to the average incomes in 2012 for the bottom 90th, the top 10th to 5th, and top 5th to 1st income percentiles.
Money Bag designed by Roman Trilo-Denysyuk from The Noun Project. Calculator image by DVARG/Shutterstock.