Trickle Downers

The Prospect's ongoing exposé of the folly, dysfunctions, and sheer idiocy of feed-the-rich economic policies.

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

Trickle Downers

Tipped Workers Do Better When They’re Paid the Same as Everyone Else

A new study shows that laws like D.C.’s Initiative 77 boost employees’ incomes and don’t cripple the restaurant industry. 

Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock trickle-downers_35.jpg T he debate over increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers in Washington, D.C., is set to resume next week, as the D.C. City Council returns from its summer recess to decide the future of the voter-approved ballot measure known as Initiative 77. Initiative 77, which passed with 55 percent of vote in the low-turnout June primary election, would gradually increase the tipped minimum wage over the next eight years until it reaches parity with the city’s regular minimum wage of $15 in 2026. Currently, tipped workers in the District must be paid at least $3.89 an hour. If their earnings fall short of the city’s $13.25 minimum wage after counting tips, employers are then required to make up the difference. Gratuities paid by the customer that cover $9.36 difference between the two wages is known as the “tip credit.” Eight states, including California and Washington, have eliminated or begun to phase out the tip credit, bringing the...

Incarcerated Workers Demand Better Conditions in Nationwide Strike

After three weeks, prisoners will have ended their work and hunger strikes, but their demands are no less powerful.

(Sipa USA via AP)
(Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images) Protesters demonstrate against prison slavery on September 9, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. trickle-downers.jpg T his past Labor Day gave us ample opportunity to consider workers’ rights and what policies can be implemented to bridge the inequality between workers and their bosses and make working life better. Yet, there’s a group of workers who are generally left out of this conversation: prisoners across the country, and they’ve been on strike the past three weeks to make their demands heard. Prisoners in more than a dozen states have participated in the strike, which began August 21 and is set to end September 9. The most obvious way of striking—a work stoppage—has not always been possible for prisoners, so some have gone on hunger strikes , raised banners in solidarity, or boycotted the prison store. The strike has been organized by workers both inside and outside of prisons—the coordinating organizations are Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS), a...

Donald Trump, Fiscal Conservative

On Thursday, President Trump sent a letter to Congress making clear he wants to freeze federal employees’ pay for 2019. Here’s what his letter said:

Under current law, locality pay increases averaging 25.70 percent, costing $25 billion, would go into effect in January 2019, in addition to a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase for the base General Schedule. We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases. 

How prudent that our president wants to maintain a fiscally sustainable course. Imagine, a budget increase costing $25 billion! Of course, that pales somewhat when compared with the $1.8 trillion tax cut Trump and the Republicans enacted late last year, but then that was largely directed to the wealthiest Americans, many of whom are now recycling those funds productively by donating a share of them to Republicans’ election campaigns, and since Republicans are fiscally prudent, the tax cut, though at first glance blowing a hole in the budget 72 times larger than the amount of the raise to federal employees that Trump cites in his letter, was actually an exercise in fiscal prudence. 

No?

The Coming Progressive Agenda for Workers’ Rights

Fixing the National Labor Relations Act is a must—but only a start.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky Marleine Bastien marches in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Miami trickle-downers_35.jpg W ith Democrats looking primed to retake the House, there could be a new—and rare—opportunity to rethink labor laws in the next session of Congress. Numerous policy proposals are already making the rounds, but as progressive Democrats shop around for new labor reforms, where will they turn? Last week, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a 15-point policy agenda to reverse the decades-long erosion of workers’ rights in the U.S. Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at EPI and one of the coauthors of the agenda, says that instead of the “magic bullet” reform that lawmakers might be searching for, there is no quick-fix solution. Getting decent wages back into the pockets of workers and giving workers more power at the bargaining table will take a comprehensive reform package, she says. Workers, she explains, suffer from a “systemic...

The Big Business of Exploiting Au Pairs

A State Department program that oversees the nation’s au pair programs isn’t doing much overseeing at all.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock) trickle-downers.jpg A lack of federal oversight has led to flagrant abuses of international students who come to the United States to care for children for low pay, according to “Shortchanged,” a report released this week. Now, immigrant advocacy groups are pressuring for change. Au pairs, most of whom are women, are each charged as much as $2,500 to participate in what placement agencies and the State Department describe as a “cultural exchange” program for young people looking to practice their English and learn about American culture. Under the J-1 visa program, au pairs are placed in a home by a sponsor company and are tasked with caring for the host family's children, much like a live-in nanny. Unlike live-in nannies, however, au pairs have no guaranteed sick days or federal holidays. They earn a flat wage of $4.35 an hour after sponsor agencies deduct room and board from their pay, which lands them at $195.75 a week for 45 hours of work. The au pair program has...

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