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Study Guide – Escalating Economic Inequality Study Action Sessions

Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Church, 14724 First Avenue NE, Shoreline, WA 98155


Study Resources:
Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality, ed. David Cay Johnston. (About $20 new, or $15 for good used or remaindered copies or e-book.)
The Wealth Inequality Reader, 3rd ed. by the Editors of Dollars and Sense. (From $4 to $20 for good used or remaindered copies, e.g., from Amazon Marketplace vendors.)
• Free on-line papers, videos, and interactive animated web sites to be announced in the sessions.


Session 1: Introduction
• Meeting opening.
• Quick round robin introductions: name, church (or “none”), one thing you want to get out of this series.


• Review of this syllabus:
o Readings from books and on-line papers, to be discussed in each session
o On-going assignment for everybody to prepare for the 6th and last session by gathering notes / clippings / links about ideas for actions we can take now.
• Distribute copies of readings for this session to participants who don’t have them.


• In-Session Reading: Adam Smith, “Necessaries,” pp. 30-31 in Divided. Discuss relative vs. absolute poverty and the relativity of inequality.


• In-Session Reading: Thomas Hungerford, “Arguments For and Against Income Inequality,” 1st 5 paragraphs, pp. 260-261 in Divided. Discuss some common arguments for and against inequality.


• In-Session Reading: Thomas Hungerford, “Arguments For and Against Income Inequality,” Last 8 paragraphs, pp. 261-263 in Divided. Discuss distinction between income and wealth inequality.


• Exercise: How do you think wealth is actually distributed in America -- by pentile (segments of 20%)? How do you think wealth should be ideally distributed in America – by pentile? (Turn in a copy for group averaging and keep a copy for your own answer.)


• Distribute copies of readings for next session that are not on-line or in required book.

• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.


Session 2: What Are the Facts? Economic Inequality by the (Shocking) Numbers.
• Meeting opening.
• Distribute readings for this session that are not on-line or in required book to participants who need.them.


• Discuss the main (or most surprising) ideas of the following:

o “Income Inequality” statistics and graphs on-line at http://inequality.org/income-inequality/ .

o Coe Booth, “Introduction: Wealth Inequality by the Numbers,” pp. 2-13 in The Wealth Inequality Reader.

o Paul Krugman, “Graduates v. Oligarchs,” pp. 115-19 in Divided.


• Discuss the main ideas in James Cypher, “Slicing Up at the Long Barbecue: Who Gorges, Who Serves, and Who Gets Roasted,” pp. 142-152, in Wealth Inequality Reader


• Review our guesses from the previous session about how wealth distribution in America (by pentile) and how our idea of ideal distribution. Then watch a 6-minute video, “Wealth Inequallity in America,” followed by a brief discussion of our ideas of actuality and ideal vs. what is really actual.


• Discuss the main ideas or the most helpful reading of the following:
o Joseph Stiglitz, “Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery,” pp. 44-49, in Divided.
o Chris Tilly, “Geese, Golden Eggs, and Traps,” pp. 153-158, in The Wealth Inequality Reader
o John Miller, “What’s In a Name? (Recession, Depression, Repression),” pp. 16-24, in The Wealth Inequality Reader


• Distribute copies of readings for next session that are not on-line or in required book.
• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.


• For further study, if desired: “A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality” by Chad Stone, Danilo Trisi, Arloc Sherman, and Brandon DeBot for the Center on Budget and Policy Studies, on that organization’s web site ( http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3629 ).


Session 3: Why Should We Care? The Consequences of Economic Inequality.
• Meeting opening.
• Distribute readings for this session that are not on-line or in required book to participants who need them.


• Discuss the main (or most surprising) ideas of the following:
o Robert H. Frank, “How Gains at the Top Injure the Middle Class,” pp. 35-43, in Divided.
o Elizabeth Warren, “The Vanishing Middle Class,” pp. 17-29, in Divided.


• Discuss the main (or most surprising) ideas of the following:
o Gary Rivlin, “America’s Poverty Tax,” pp. 211-214, in Divided.
o Kayty Himmelstein, “Ill and Insolvent,” pp. 137-139, in Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Chris Serres and Glenn Howatt, “Jailed for Being in Debt,” pp. 203-210, in Divided.


• Discuss the main (or most surprising) ideas of the following:
o Stephen Bezruchka, “Inequality Kills,” pp. 190-199, in Divided.
o Ichiro Kawachi, “Inequality: Bad for Your Health,” pp. 159-167, in Divided.
o 17 min. video: “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies,” a TED Talk by Richard Wilkinson, co-author with Kate Pickett of The Spirit Level: How Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. (http://inequality.org/richard-wilkinson-economic-inequality-harms-societies/ or
https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422579428&x-ytcl=85114404&v=cZ7LzE3u7Bw#t=14 )


• Discuss the main (or most surprising) ideas of the following:
o Sean F. Reardon, “No Rich Child Left Behind,” pp. 123-129, in Divided.
o Michael Engel, “School Finance: Inequality Persists,” pp. 118-125, in The Wealth Inequality Reader
o Jared Bernstein, “Inequality Across Generations,” pp. 97-99, in Divided.


• Distribute copies of readings for next session that are not on-line or in required book.
• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.


• For further study, if desired: The book, The Spirit Level: How Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.


Session 4:  How Did We Get Here? Causes of Rising Inequality in Recent American History.
• Meeting opening.
• Distribute readings for this session that are not on-line or in required book to participants who need.


• Discuss at least two major ideas of the following readings:
o John Miller, “One-Quarter of Large U.S. Corporations Don’t Pay Profit Taxes – Why Should the Rest?” pp. 85-89, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o John Miller, “Mind-Boggling Inequality” pp. 126-130, in Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Ramaan Vasudevan, “Financialization: A Primer,” pp. 118-125 in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Richard Wolff, “Capitalism Hits the Fan,” pp. 43-46, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.


• Discussion two major ideas of the following readings:
o Kim Bobo, “Wage Theft” pp. 50-64, in Divided.
o Christopher Jencks, “Why Do So Many Jobs Pay So Badly?” pp. 67-74, in Divided.


• Discuss the main ideas or the most helpful reading of the following:
o Chuck Collins, “The Visible Hand: Seven Government Actions That Have Worsened Inequality,” pp. 78-84, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Robert Kuttner, “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid,” pp. 246-249, in Divided.
o Arthur MacEwan, “Inequality, Power, and Ideology,” pp. 29-40, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.


• 36 min. video: “Engineered Inequality,” a Bill Moyers TV show segment with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. ( http://billmoyers.com/segment/jacob-hacker-paul-pierson-on-engineeredinequality/)


• Distribute copies of readings for next session that are not on-line or in required book.
• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.


• For further study, if desired: The book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson.


• For further study, if desired: Interactive animated web site ”Inequality is real, personal, expensive, created, and fixable” at inequality.is .


Session 5 - How Do We Fix the Problem? Policies To Reduce Economic Inequality.
• Meeting opening.
• Distribute readings for this session that are not on-line or in required book to participants who need them.


• Discuss the main ideas of the following:
o 19 min. video: “Taxing the Wealthy,” Hampshire TEDx Talk by Chuck Collins. (http://inequality.org/chuck-collins-taxing-wealthy/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-ytcl=85114404&x-yt-ts=1422579428&v=1sgaDbg2RLE )
o Chuck Collins and Dedrick Muhammad, “Tax Wealth To Broaden Wealth,” pp. 182-188, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Chuck Collins, “I Didn’t Do It Alone,” pp. 100-107, in Divided.


• Discuss the main ideas of the following four short essays:
o Meizhu Lui, “Closing the Racial Wealth Gap for the Next Generation,” pp. 189-194, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Randy Albelda, “Bail Out the Safety Net,” pp. 75-76, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, “Social Security Reduces Inequality – Efficiently, Effectively, and Fairly,” pp. 250-259, in Divided.
o Lisa Dodson, “Employed Parents Who Can’t Make a Living,” pp. 305-311, in Divided.


• Discuss the main ideas of the following four short essays:
o Thad Williamson, “Community Economic Development,” pp. 195-198, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Adria Scharf, “Labor’s Capital: Putting Pension Wealth to Work for Workers,” pp. 205-209, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Michelle Sheehan, “The Land Trust Solution,” pp. 225-229, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.
o Daniel Fireside, “Housing Land Trusts Keep Prices Affordable – For Now and Forever,” pp. 230-233, in The Wealth Inequality Reader.


• Distribute copies of readings for next session that are not on-line or in required book.
• Reminder of assignment to bring ideas for actions we can take now to next session.
• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.


• For further study, if desired: On-line Paper by Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewenthal, "Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All" on-line at http://www.prosperityforamerica.org/wpcontent/uploads/2012/09/prosperity-for-all.pdf .


• For further study, if desired: Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism – Reclaiming our Wealth, our Liberty, and our Democracy. (Alperovitz marshals years of research into emerging "new economy" strategies to present a comprehensive picture of practical bottom-up efforts currently underway in thousands of communities across the United States. All democratize wealth and empower communities, not big business corporations: worker-ownership, cooperatives, community land trusts, social enterprises, along with many supporting municipal, state and longer term federal strategies.)


Session 6- Can We Move the Needle? Actions We Decide To Take Now.
• Meeting opening.
• Distribute copies of on-line readings for this session to participants who don’t have access to them.


• Précis and discussion of Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, “The 10 Most Regressive State and Local Tax Systems,” and “Low Taxes or Just Regressive Taxes,” about pp. 4-5 and 13 in on-line paper, "Who Pays? A 50 State Report" (http://www.itep.org/whopays/full_report.php).


• Discussion of ideas on the web site of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center (http://budgetandpolicy.org) and especially that organization’s policy areas (http://budgetandpolicy.org/policy-areas).


• Discussion of participant ideas for our action. Next steps for us?
• Close meeting. Help with equipment and furniture put-away as needed.



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