Erika Eichelberger

Erika Eichelberger

Reporter

Erika Eichelberger is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She has also written for The NationThe Brooklyn Rail, and TomDispatch. Email her at eeichelberger [at] motherjones [dot] com. 

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"Inequality for All": A Must-See Movie For the 99 Percent

| Fri Sep. 27, 2013 12:00 PM PDT

Jacob Kornbluth's new documentary Inequality for All, which stars economist and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich, is being hyped as a "game changer in our national discussion of income inequality." It probably won't be that, since it's preaching to the choir, but the film is a welcome addition to that discussion.

Inequality for All, which opens Friday, weaves between scenes of Reich lecturing clear-eyed Cal coeds in his Wealth and Inequality class, 1950s-style graphs and charts illustrating growing income disparity, and archival clips of happy white people in the post-World War II age of prosperity. There are also interviews with working-class people left behind by the American Dream, such as a worker at a California power plant that has hired anti-union consultants, and a mom who works at Costco and has $25 in her bank account.

Kornbluth also chats with the odd member of the 1 percent. "The pillow business is quite tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products that we make," pillow-making millionaire Nick Hanauer explains. "The problem with rising inequality is that a person like me who earns a thousand times as much as the typical worker doesn't buy a thousand times as many pillows every year. Even the richest people only sleep on one or two pillows."

In a comprehensive and digestible way, Reich lays out the stark facts of income inequality (for example, the 400 Americans richest currently earn more than half the country's population combined) and how we got here. He blames the decline of unionization, globalization, and technology for suppressing pay, and enriching the few, who then use their increasing political clout to protect their status. "When the middle class doesn't share the gains, you get into a downward vicious cycle," Reich explains as the film cuts to an Wheel of Fortune-type animation illustrating that cycle: Wages stagnate, consumption drops, companies downsize, tax revenues decrease, government cuts programs, workers become less educated, unemployment rises—and so on.

As Reich notes, he's been "saying the same thing for 30 years" about growing income inequality. He worked to combat it during his stints in the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton, and now he's fighting it from the outside, writing books, recording commentaries, and trying to instill his righteous fire in others. On the last day of class, he gives an inspirational sendoff, telling his students to go out and "change the world."

The ending of Inequality for All is predictable, but that's okay, because Reich is so likable—and he's right.

8 Reasons Defunding Obamacare Would Be More Dangerous Than You Think

| Thu Sep. 26, 2013 9:10 AM PDT

Despite all the bluster, brinksmanship, and fauxlibustering, Obamacare is not going to be defunded. But if it were, that would do a lot more damage than you'd imagine. As health care law scholar Timothy Jost pointed out in The Hill Wednesday, the massive law "contains provisions affecting nearly every aspect of our health care system." That means defunding it would not only block implementation of the individual and employer mandates, and insurance subsidies for low-income Americans; it would also cut off money for things like Medicare, preventive medicine, and programs for low-income kids.

Here are 8 additional ways that "defunding Obamacare" would hurt Americans (all via Jost):

1. It would slash funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 70 percent. CHIP provides health coverage to nearly 8 million children in families with incomes slightly higher than the Medicaid cut off line.

2. Funds would be eliminated for the Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which sends health workers into low-income homes to help prevent child abuse and neglect, improve newborn health, and boost school readiness.

3. Defunding Obamacare would cut back preventive services under Medicare, impacting millions.

4. It could also end payments for certain private plans offered through Medicare.

5. Funding for community health centers in medically underserved areas would be cut by nearly 60 percent.

6. The ACA helps close the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole," the dollar limit on the drug costs the plan will cover each year (right now the limit is $2,970). Defunding Obamacare would leave that coverage limit in place.

7. Funds would be eliminated for scholarships and loan repayment programs for doctors who chose to practice in communities with limited access to health care.

8. Money would be slashed from the Department of Health and Human Services' anti-fraud efforts, increasing the costs of state and federal health care programs.  

AIG CEO Says People Angry Over Wall Street Bonuses Are Like a Lynch Mob

| Tue Sep. 24, 2013 6:30 AM PDT

Is a public upset about big bonuses at bailed-out Wall Street firms akin to a lynch mob? The CEO of the insurance giant AIG thinks so. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Benmosche talks about the outrage that erupted in March 2009, when AIG—which had just received a $170 billion bailout—announced it would pay up to $450 million to employees in the financial products unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse.

Here's what Benmosche said:

"That was ignorance…of the public at large, the government, and other constituencies. I’ll tell you why. [Critics referred] to bonuses as above and beyond [basic compensation]. In financial markets that's not the case… It is core compensation.

"Now you have these bright young people who had nothing to do with [the bad bets that hurt the company]…They understand the derivatives very well; they understand the complexity…They’re all scared. They probably lived beyond their means…They aren’t going to stay there for nothing.

The uproar over bonuses "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that–sort of like what we did in the Deep South. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.

"We wouldn’t be here today had they not stayed and accepted…dramatically reduced pay…They really contributed an enormous amount [to AIG’s survival] and proved to the world they are good people. It is a shame we put them through that."

Interestingly, the main interview with Benmosche ran in the Journal Friday, but as the Columbia Journalism Review notes, this particular clip only showed up on the website's MoneyBeat blog two days later.

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