Tag Archives: class

Badass Little Girl Confronts Climate-Denying Congressman With Brilliant Question

Mother Jones

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Voters aren’t letting their representatives get away with climate change denial, especially at their town halls this week. Even those too young to vote are getting in on the action, like at a Wednesday town hall in Colorado Springs, where one girl confronted her congressman.

“You don’t want to pursue renewable energy, but please reconsider,” the girl, who identified herself as Haven, said. Haven made her thorough case for solar and wind, noting that these fast-growing jobs were a retraining opportunity for veterans, while reliance on coal, which has the downside of making people sick, is declining. She concluded with an invitation to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) to join her science class next Friday, receiving cheers and applause from the 110 people in attendance. The class will include a presentation on climate change, she added.

In the past, Lamborn has rejected the scientific consensus on climate change and opposed legislation to address the problem. In 2013, according to The Mountain Mail, Lamborn said there are “a lot of contentious facts and claims about global warming and whether it is man made,” adding there is “not much unanimity.” He’s pledged to the Koch-funded conservative political advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity to oppose any climate legislation that leads to more government revenue and, in 2014, argued that the federal government should not issue regulations for the domestic energy industry “designed to curb the possibility of climate change hundreds of years in the future.”

The House Natural Resources Committee member only addressed the first part of Haven’s comment, which focused on supporting renewable-energy jobs for veterans. He told Haven he supported all kinds of jobs and believed “in an all-the-above energy policy,” including hydrocarbons, nuclear, hydropower, and solar. His answer prompted another woman to shout, “How can you sit here and lie to us? You’re lying to us.”

Watch the encounter below:

In response to Mother Jones, Lamborn’s spokesperson, Jarred Rego, declined Haven’s offer. “Congressman Lamborn will be out of town next week and unable to attend,” he wrote in an email. “However, he really appreciated Haven’s question and her involvement in our civic process.”

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Badass Little Girl Confronts Climate-Denying Congressman With Brilliant Question

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The Supreme Court Just Shot Down a Big Challenge to Affirmative Action. Read the Decision Here.

Mother Jones

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The Supreme Court delivered a major victory for affirmative action on Thursday, rejecting a challenge to a University of Texas admissions system that uses race as a factor to ensure diversity for a portion of its student body. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, concerns the school’s use of a “holistic” system for 25 percent of its class—the rest of the class as admitted purely on the basis of high school grades—that includes race among other factors. A white applicant who was rejected by the school challenged the system.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the university in a 4-3 decision. Read the full ruling here:

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Read more about the man who brought this case to the Supreme Court and statements by the late Justice Antonin Scalia earlier in the case suggesting that black students belong at “slower” colleges.

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The Supreme Court Just Shot Down a Big Challenge to Affirmative Action. Read the Decision Here.

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Here’s How Uber Is Trying to Get Out of a Huge Lawsuit

Mother Jones

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For the past two years, car-hailing app Uber has tried several legal maneuvers to quash an ongoing class action lawsuit filed by a number of its drivers in California. They contend that they’ve been wrongly classified as contractors, instead of full employees, and that Uber has withheld some of their tips. On Friday, the $50 billion company deployed its latest tactic: An updated driver agreement began popping up on Uber apps nationwide that drivers were required to sign before being able to accept any new rides over the weekend, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. But many see this agreement as the company’s most recent attempt to knee-cap the class action lawsuit.

In 2014, Uber rewrote its driver agreements to include an arbitration clause that stripped drivers of their right to sue the company in regular court. On Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out that agreement, making it possible for the ongoing class action to include all of the 160,000 drivers who have worked for Uber in California since 2009.

Two days later, Uber added language about arbitration to its driver agreements that could skirt that ruling, preventing new drivers from signing on to the class action lawsuit. Binding arbitration clauses require workers to resolve disputes in private, confidential sessions with paid arbitrators rather than in court. They also usually prohibit workers both from appealing the initial arbitration decision and, as is the case in Uber’s new driver agreement, participating in class actions.

“We believe this is an illegal attempt by Uber to usurp the court’s role now in overseeing the process of who is included in the class,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston-based attorney who is leading the lawsuit against Uber, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Liss-Riordan is filing an emergency motion that will be heard by Judge Chen on Thursday, asking the court to prevent Uber from enforcing this new agreement.

If drivers manage to get to the final paragraphs of the complex 21-page agreement, they’ll discover that they don’t have to sign off on the new arbitration clause at all. By emailing Uber directly with their decision to opt out of being forced to resolve their disputes with binding arbitration, they would be able to continue to drive. The new agreement also won’t affect those drivers who are already participating in the lawsuit.

The ongoing lawsuit challenges two aspects of how the $50 billion company treats workers: first, it claims that Uber has misclassified its workers as contractors, depriving them of crucial employee benefits such as vehicle maintenance expenses. It also alleges that the company has been manipulating ride prices by incorrectly assuring riders that a full tip is included in the fare when, in fact, Uber has kept a portion of those tips rather than remitting them fully to drivers. The suit asks Uber to reimburse drivers for lost tips and expenses, plus interest. If the group of plaintiffs grows by 160,000 drivers, the civil penalties requested in this suit could get very expensive for Uber.

Liss-Riordan explains that Uber is trying to thwart the class action because the alternative—lots of individual lawsuits—would be much simpler and cheaper for the company to handle. The time and money involved in hiring a lawyer would deter many drivers from ever pursuing an individual lawsuit. “And of course, Uber does not want to be sued 160,000 times,” Liss-Riordan told Mother Jones in October. “What it wants is for most of these drivers just to go away.”

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Here’s How Uber Is Trying to Get Out of a Huge Lawsuit

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Ben Carson’s Psychology Test Story Gets Even Weirder

Mother Jones

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More Ben Carson news today! You remember Doc Carson’s story about the psychology test hoax that proved he was the most honest man at Yale? Well, Carson says it really happened, and the proof is on the right. It’s a piece from the Yale Daily News about a parody issue of the News published by the Yale Record. Apparently the parody issue announced that some psychology exams had been destroyed and a retest would be held in the evening. Hilarious!

This makes the whole story even more fascinating. It’s clear that Carson’s account is substantially different from the parody. He says the class was Perceptions 301. He says 150 students showed up. He says everyone eventually walked out. He says the professor showed up at the beginning, and then again at the end. He says the professor gave him ten dollars. None of that seems to have happened.

And yet—it certainly seems likely that this is where Carson got the idea for his story. He remembered the hoax, and then embellished it considerably to turn it into a testimony to the power of God. This even makes sense. It seemed like a strange story for Carson to invent, and it turns out he didn’t. He took a story he recalled from his Yale days and then added a bunch of bells and whistles to make it into a proper testimonial.

I have a feeling that posting this news clip won’t do Carson any favors. Before, he could just insist that it happened and call the media a bunch of liars. Now, he has to defend the obvious differences between the actual hoax and what he wrote in his book. That’s not likely to turn out well. His supporters will believe him utterly (just take a look at the comments to his Facebook post), but no one else will.

Then again, maybe all this stuff did happen. Maybe the hoaxsters got the professor to cooperate. Maybe 150 students showed up, not just “several.” Maybe a fake photographer really took his picture. Maybe the professor gave him ten dollars. The kids who printed the parody issue are probably all still alive and should be able to clear this up. Let’s go ask them.

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Ben Carson’s Psychology Test Story Gets Even Weirder

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Good News, Bad News: Your Almond Milk May Not Contain Many Almonds

Mother Jones

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Still chugging almond milk, despite everything we’ve told you this past year? There’s some good news: you may not be destroying the environment as much as you’ve continued to not care about. Why? Because of the bad news: you are likely getting duped.

According to a new lawsuit, Almond Breeze products only contain 2 percent of almonds and mostly consist of water, sugar, sunflower lecithin, and carrageenan, the blog Food Navigator reports. Almond Breeze is among the top five milk substitute brands in the country.

The class action lawsuit, filed by two unhappy almond milk drinkers in the US District Court in New York earlier this month, seeks $5 million in damages from the products’ distributor, Blue Diamond Growers.

While Blue Diamond Growers doesn’t label how much of a percentage of its milk is made from almonds, plaintiffs Tracy Albert and Dimitrios Malaxianis say the company is misleading consumers by its claim on the front of the package that it is “made from real almonds.”

Water-wasting and now potentially deceptive, if you needed one more reason to lay off the almond milk, here it is.

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Good News, Bad News: Your Almond Milk May Not Contain Many Almonds

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Cell Phone or Porsche? Cable TV or First Class Travel? Quien Es Mas Macho?

Mother Jones

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Via Brad DeLong, I see that Matt Bruenig has finally taken on a question that’s bugged me for years. The question, in a nutshell, is this: Adjusted for inflation, would you rather live today with an income of $30,000 or back in the 1980s with an income of $60,000?1 Would the extra income be enticing enough to persuade you to give up 300 channels of high-def TV, cell phones, and universal access to the internet?

Now, the reason for asking this question usually has something to do with how we measure inflation. If you answer no—that is, you’d prefer today’s world even with a lower income—it suggests that our inflation measures are inadequate. I mean, you’re saying that $30,000 today buys more satisfaction than $60,000 in 1980 even though these are real, inflation-adjusted numbers. In other words, people today are quite a bit better off than official figures suggest. Officially, if your income had dropped in half over the past three decades, you’d be in dire shape. But in fact, this thought experiment suggests you’re actually happier. So maybe income hasn’t dropped in half in any practical sense.

This becomes meta-meta-economic very fast, so it’s best not to get wound up in it right now. Because the thing that’s always bugged me about this question is not so much its philosophical implications, but that it asks someone today what they’d think of living in the past. But that’s rigged. I grew up in the world of today. I’m accustomed to all the gadgets at hand. The idea of giving them up naturally sounds horrible.

But that’s not the only way to think of it. How about if we asked someone in 1980 about their preference. Would you rather have twice your current income, or would you rather have better TVs, portable phones, and instant access to all the information in the world? Well, these folks aren’t accustomed to all that stuff. Sure, it sounds cool, but jeez, would I really use it much? Hmmm. I think I’ll go with the extra income.

In other words, it’s all a matter of what you’re accustomed to. If you’ve been sleeping on the ground all your life, you have no trouble sleeping on the ground. Who needs a bed? If, like me, you’ve been sleeping on a bed all your life, you’d become a wreck trying to sleep on the ground. You’d pay a considerable sum of money just for an air mattress and a blanket.

Now, if you’re still reading this, you may be nodding along a bit but nonetheless thinking that it’s all just dorm room BS. We can’t go back in time and ask people about the internet and cell phones, so what’s the point of bringing it up? There are two reasons. First, I just wish more people realized that asking this question of current consumers stacks the deck and therefore doesn’t tell us nearly as much as we think it does. Second, Matt Bruenig has come up with a clever way that kinda sorta does allow us to go back in time and ask people this question.

As he points out, we have a group of people who did indeed lead adult lives in the 80s and are still with us: senior citizens. And they can decide which technologies they want to use. So what do they choose?

Using smartphone adoption as a proxy for these people’s technological preferences, it’s clear that the people who actually lived as adults through both technological periods overwhelmingly prefer older technologies:

Judging from these people’s preferences, you’d have to conclude that, in fact, older technologies are preferable to newer technologies. You don’t need a hypothetical to determine whether living in the past was better: these are people who lived in the past and the present and clearly prefer the way they lived in the past, at least when it comes to the technologies that are supposed to have made life dramatically better (as incomes stagnated).

Now, this is obviously not a bulletproof comparison. Maybe old people just get stubborn, and that’s all there is to it. Or maybe cell phones are a bad comparison. Even (or especially) senior citizens would probably be unwilling to go back to the medical technology of 1980. Plainly this is not the final answer to the tech vs. money question.

Still, it’s an interesting approach, and it would be interesting to try to extend it. Behavioral economics tells us that people respond to losses much more strongly than gains, so asking people to give up something they like really is stacking the deck—especially if they have little conception of what the extra income in 1980 would gain them. People will always react far more intensely to a sure loss than to an offer of something new.

Anyway, more like this, please. For example, how about turning this around. Which would you prefer: (a) a doubling of your income right now, or (b) a world with driverless cars, internet chips implanted in your brain, and vacation flights to the moon? For a lot of people, this would not be an obvious choice at all.

1Note that this question is normally asked with bigger numbers: say, $50,000 vs. $100,000. I lowered it because I think it makes a difference. $30,000 really starts to make you think, doesn’t it?

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Cell Phone or Porsche? Cable TV or First Class Travel? Quien Es Mas Macho?

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Educated Liberal Journalist With Friends Pays Money to Join Bike Cult

Mother Jones

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Last year, a SoulCycle opened up in our office building. There were dozens upon dozens of bright young things lined up around the block for days. I don’t mind admitting that I thought they were lunatics. They looked like lunatics—albeit attractive lunatics. In the months since, the lines have faded away, but every day I have walked past a robust collection of SoulCyclists constantly milling about on our sidewalk.

I have had a gym membership in one form or another since I was a #teen. For most of that time I was paying $120 a month to “go to” Equinox. Occasionally when I’d be overcome with guilt about wasting money on a membership that I always found an excuse to avoid, I would go to the website, hover my cursor over the CANCEL MEMBERSHIP button…but then stop. This will be the month I get serious about going. That was a fantasy. (Let the record show that I have finally let it expire. This is progress.) Anyway, gyms and personal fitness are a constant thing in my mind if only because I am acutely aware how ridiculous it is that I spent many thousands of dollars to go to a gym all together like 50 times. This guilt and shame keeps me up at night.

Last week, Alex Abad-Santos published a post at Vox called “I used to make fun of SoulCycle. Now I’m an addict.” I immediately mocked it.

Then something terrible and predictable happened.

Then came the inevitable.

A friend agreed to go with me at 7:30 pm last Monday. This is perhaps a good time to point out that SoulCycle is ridiculously expensive. Your first class is $20. After that it goes up to $30+. Twenty dollars poorer, I prepared to feel like an idiot and huff and puff and hate it, but I figured I would then write about how dumb it was. “Local Man Proclaims Vox Wrong” would be the headline.

So Monday comes and my friend flakes because friendship is just a construct. Going alone seemed far more daunting than going with her, and by 5 pm I was convinced I’m not going to go. My ankle hurts! I’m tired. Work work work. But I had paid that $20! I wasn’t going to let this be like Equinox. Not again. So I drag my lazy, crazy ass down to the first floor of our building.

I walk in and am immediately embarrassed. There are lots of women there waiting for the class to begin, and at first I see not a single other man. I approach the lady at the counter.

“Hi, I’m here for my first class and I’m very embarrassed and scared and please don’t laugh at me but if that’s a part of the ritual of the first time I understand.”

“OK, don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

She directs me into a unisex locker room which immediately makes me wonder if I am the first straight man ever to do SoulCycle. (I am not.) I get into gym attire and put on cycle shoes. Cycle shoes are weird. There are like stupid clips on the bottom and you can’t walk properly with them. You walk like an idiot. I walked like an idiot, is what I’m trying to say.

We—maybe six men and 60 women—wait to go into the spin room. I do not make eye contact with anyone. The doors open and out comes the previous class. They are drenched in sweat. We enter—I apprehensive, they eager—and find our preassigned bikes. A second nice lady comes and asks if it’s my first time and helps me click my dumb shoes into the dumb bike. The room is very dark. She tells me that there are hand-weights under my seat. I do not know why I will need hand-weights. I babble on about how a friend was supposed to come with me but bailed. She does not believe my friend exists.

The music starts and the instructor, Kelly, arrives.

“Is it anyone’s first time?” Kelly shouts. I am too shy to acknowledge that it is my first time. “Great! So we all know what we’re doing.” I’m going to die. For the next 45 minutes we pedal to EDM while Kelly shouted inspiring buzzwords at us.

Some inspiring new age bullshit. Soulcycle

But it isn’t just pedaling. Remember the hand-weights? You do moves with them. You also do moves without hand-weights. A lot of it has a rhythmical dancing quality.

Here’s how the more seasoned Abad-Santos describes the experience:

The moves vary from crunches (while riding, you drop your elbows and support yourself through your abs) to tap-backs (you thrust your hips backward while riding out of the saddle), and many of them hit weird muscles you didn’t know existed. You’re also told to position yourself in a certain way (hips back, arms tucked close to your body, shoulders locked down, etc.) that ensures you’re getting a good workout.

There are “hills” — intervals where you crank up the resistance and pedal against it — where it feels like you’re moving your legs through thick mud. There are fast sprints that will make you gulp oxygen and feel like your lungs are leaking. There’s even an arms section where you curl and press your biceps and triceps until they fail, all while pedaling. You never stop pedaling; if you stop pedaling, a cannon sounds and you’re airlifted out of the arena. By the end of every class, I’ve left a small puddle of glistening sweat beneath my bike and my shirt is soaked through.

For some reason, I find all of this thrilling.

Here is the thing about SoulCycle: It totally is new age weirdness. It totally is a therapy session. It totally is a cult. It totally is really hard. But I get it! I get the allure! It’s fun. It’s releasing. It’s cathartic. It pushes you more than I’ve ever been able to push myself. Even those dumb cycle shoes shoes proved pretty cool! (They make it really hard to fall off the seat!)

Ivylise Simones

SoulCycle is like working out in a nightclub while someone tells you “it’s not your fault.”

And after you feel pretty great!

It’s probably not for everybody. But I like it. I’m going back. I bought the five class pack. I’m a cultist.

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Educated Liberal Journalist With Friends Pays Money to Join Bike Cult

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Columbia Student Who Turned Her Alleged Sexual Assault Into Performance Art Graduates

Mother Jones

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Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who protested her alleged sexual assault by carrying a mattress everyday to campus last year, graduated today. The mattress, the defining symbol of her assault and her senior arts thesis titled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), was also present at Tuesday’s ceremony, despite the school administration urging students not to bring large items that could potentially “create discomfort to others.”

Sulkowicz was seen hauling her mattress to the ceremony with the help of friends and fellow graduating students. According to Columbia Spectator editor Teo Armus, when Sulkowicz went on stage to collect her diploma, she pointedly did not shake university president Lee Bollinger’s hand.

In September, Sulkowicz became a national figure and an unofficial spokesperson for sexual assault activists after she went public with her rape. She vowed to carry the mattress to class for as long as the student who she says assaulted her was not prosecuted or expelled. In April, her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, filed a lawsuit against the university claiming administrators exhibited bias and failed to protect him from the accusations. He says their alleged failure “destroyed” his college experience and reputation.

Nungesser also graduated and was present at Tuesday’s ceremony.

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Columbia Student Who Turned Her Alleged Sexual Assault Into Performance Art Graduates

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Why Is My Bank Teller Trying to Sell Me a Credit Card I Don’t Want?

Mother Jones

Until recently, your typical banker was someone whose main job was to accept deposits, cash checks, and dispense basic financial advice. But now that job hardly exists anymore—at least not as we once knew it. Today’s front-line bank workers—tellers, loan interviewers, and customer-service reps—earn far too little money to be considered “bankers” in the traditional sense of the word. And though they still collect and dispense money, their main job involves hawking credit cards and loans you probably don’t need.

Rank-and-file bank workers are both causes and symptoms of America’s widening economic divide, says Aditi Sen, the author of Big Banks and the Dismantling of the Middle Class, a report released today by the Center for Popular Democracy. Based on union organizer interviews with hundreds of workers in the industry, Sen found that front-line bank workers often face quotas for hawking potentially exploitive financial products, often to low-income customers, even though the workers themselves barely qualify as middle class. “We can definitely see bank workers as part of the same continuum of issues facing all low-wage workers,” she says.

Banks are, of course, notorious for squeezing profits from their employees and customers. In 2011, the Federal Reserve Board fined Wells Fargo $85 million for forcing workers to sell expensive subprime mortgages to prime borrowers. And in late 2013, a judge slapped Bank of America with a $1.27 billion penalty for its “Hustle Program,” which rewarded employees for producing more loans and eliminating controls on the loans’ quality.

Yet, by some accounts, these sorts of practices are getting worse. In a 2013 study by the union-backed Committee for Better Banks, 35 percent of low-level bank workers surveyed reported increased sales pressure since 2008, and nearly 38 percent stated that there was no real avenue in the workplace to oppose such practices. One HSBC bank employee, according to the study, reported that workers who failed to meet their sales goals had the difference taken out of their paychecks.

The increasing sales pressure comes at a time when the fortunes of the banks and their low-level workers have diverged widely. Bank profits and CEO pay have rebounded to near record levels while wages for front-line workers are stuck in the gutter.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

And that’s not all. Nearly a quarter of bank workers surveyed in 2013 reported that their benefits had been cut since 2008, and 44 percent reported that their medical and life insurance was inadequate. A recent University of California-Berkeley study found that 31 percent of bank tellers’ families rely on public assistance at an annual cost of $900 million to taxpayers.

There are several factors in all of these woes. Mergers and consolidation have led some retail banks to shutter branches and lay people off. Many banks have outsourced customer-service jobs to overseas call centers, and the rise of internet and smartphone banking has further slashed demand for flesh-and-blood tellers. In other words, it’s basically the same mix of foreign and technological competition that has concentrated wealth and depressed middle-class wages throughout the economy. And it means that banks can get away with paying people less, and demanding more in return.

But now the Committee for Better Banks is trying to cultivate common cause between low-level bank workers and the customers they’re forced to target. The interviews featured in the new report show that many bank workers strongly oppose the sales quotas as unfair and exploitive. For instance:

A teller at a top-five bank reports that she is subject to stringent individual goals on a daily basis: If she does not make three sales-points (selling someone a new checking, savings, or debit card account) each day in a month, she gets written up.

Customer service representatives at a call center for another major bank report that each individual has to make 40 percent of the sales of the top seller to avoid being written up. Selling credit cards counts more towards sales goals than helping someone open up a checking account or savings account, thereby crafting skewed incentives based on the profitability of a product sold, not on how well it matched the needs of a customer.

“A lot of time people would call and already have one, two, or three credit cards with us,” says Liz, a member of the Committee for Better Banks who worked in a Bank of America call center for five years and did not want to give her last name. “They might have a situation where they are low on funds and we end up pushing another credit card on them. There was one guy who had three credit cards and I ended up pushing a fourth on him, even though I knew that was not good for him; he would just be in more debt. But if didn’t, I would end up being put in a reprimand.”

On Monday, members of the Committee for Better Banks will converge in Minnesota’s Twin Cities to deliver a petition to bank offices demanding better pay and more stable work hours for rank-and-file workers, and an end to sales goals that “push unnecessary products on our customers.”

Source – 

Why Is My Bank Teller Trying to Sell Me a Credit Card I Don’t Want?

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Chart of the Day: Even the Rich Think the Middle Class Is Getting Screwed

Mother Jones

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A couple of weeks ago Pew did a poll about government policies during the recession, but I’ve been too sick to blog about it. However, it’s stayed safely in my Saved Stuff folder awaiting my recovery, so here it is today. It’s really two charts. Here’s the first one:

Nothing too surprising about this. Generally speaking, people think the government did a lot to help out banks (bingo!), large corporations, and the wealthy. The poor and the middle class pretty much got nada. Since any poll like this is going to be dominated by the sheer number of poor and middle class respondents compared to wealthy respondents, this is about what you’d expect.

But now take a look at this table:

That’s amazing. Even those with high incomes agree that wealthy people benefited the most from government policies and that the poor and middle class got bupkis. Even Republicans largely agree that this has been the case.

This is Stockholm Syndrome writ large. Everyone—rich, poor, Republican, Democrat—agrees that in the wake of the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression, the government mostly turned its largesse on banks, big corporations and the wealthy. Nonetheless, Republicans—the longtime party of banks, big corporations and the wealthy—have done increasingly well over the past six years. For an explanation, take your pick:

Most voters don’t understand Republican economic priorities.
Most voters don’t think Democrats would do any better.
Most voters think this is just the way the world works and there’s no point voting based on economic promises in the first place.

Whatever the reason, only about 20 percent of middle-class voters think government policies benefit the middle class. The first party to figure this out and embrace it wholeheartedly has a huge electoral opportunity ahead of it. But first, they’re going to have to ditch the rich. Can either of them ever do that?


Chart of the Day: Even the Rich Think the Middle Class Is Getting Screwed

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