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. 

Get my RSS |

Advertise on MotherJones.com

5 Things You Wouldn't Know From Listening to Obama's Financial Crisis Speech

| Mon Sep. 16, 2013 1:37 PM EDT

On Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama delivered a speech from the Rose Garden to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2008 financial meltdown. Much of it was a warning to the House Republicans who are threatening to throw the country into default if Democrats don't agree to delay Obamacare. But the president, who shared the stage with a dozen or so Americans who had lost homes and jobs and have since recovered, also took the occasion to run through a highlight reel of the measures the administration took to pull the US out of the financial crisis. And the White House released an accompanying report Sunday touting the progress his administration and Congress had made in reining in risky gambling by Wall Street and helping struggling homeowners. The president glossed over a few important facts, though.

The administration and Congress have indeed made significant advances in protecting Americans from another crisis. The administration's report lists some of the most important advances so far. Some $245 billion was injected into floundering banks through the politically unpopular TARP bailout program, and yet more than 100 percent of that has been paid back. The administration forced major banks to raise $80 billion in emergency capital to fall back on in the case of another meltdown. Home prices are on the rise. The big three automakers, which received a controversial taxpayer bailout in 2009, have been profitable since 2011 and are gaining market share for the first time in over 20 years.

At the same time, the president admitted that we still have a long way to go to full recovery, and vowed to "spend every moment of every day I have left fighting to restore security and opportunity for the middle class." Here are five aspects of the still shaky economic recovery that the administration still has to work on—and that were absent from Obama's speech:

Louisiana Senator Wants to Shut Down Nation's Oil Supply Until Congress Funds Levee Project

| Thu Sep. 12, 2013 11:44 AM EDT
This is a map of the levee project.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Wednesday that Louisiana ought to shut down all of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico until the House of Representatives agrees to fund a much-needed levee project in her state designed to protect against Katrina-type storms.

"If I could, I’d shut down every rig in the Gulf of Mexico until this United States Congress gives the people of Louisiana the money we need to keep ourselves from drowning, from flooding, and I’d turn the lights off in Washington, and in New York and in Maine," Landrieu said on the Senate floor after Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced a water infrastructure bill stripped of funding for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee project.

The Morganza levee system is a planned state-federal project designed to shield 98 miles of Louisiana coast from furious storms and rising sea levels. But when the committee introduced its version of the Water Resource Development Act on Wednesday, it didn't include the $10.3 billion Morganza program that the Senate approved in May.

The extra dollars that House Republicans don't want to spend could end up saving taxpayers money in the long-run. As climate change drastically increases the risk of coastal flooding, the cost of damage will be severe.  A recent FEMA report found that Hurricane Katrina put the $16 billion in the hole; Sandy cost us $25 billion. The Morganza project would cost an average $716 million a year to build and maintain but would prevent an estimated $1 billion a year in flood-related damage, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Louisiana produces a huge portion of America's domestic oil supply, but Landrieu's proposal to cut Americans off at the gas pump is not going to work. She acknowledged that she personally does not have the power to "shut down every rig in the Gulf of Mexico until Washington [gives] us what we're asking for." Her suggestion came out of exasperation: "I am tired of begging for nickels and dimes," she said. "The people in our state cannot survive without levees."

Landrieu faces a tough reelection fight in 2014.

The bill is expected to get a vote on the House floor in October. But there's still hope. After the Senate and House iron out the differences between their dueling versions of the legislation, Morganza funding could be forced into a final bill.

Report: The Rich Are Now Richer Than Ever

| Wed Sep. 11, 2013 12:12 PM EDT

Rich people in America are richer than ever, according to a new Paris School of Economics study.

The report found that the top ten percent of earners took in more than half of the country's total income in 2012, the highest level since the government began keeping records a hundred years ago, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The study, by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, also found that the top one percent alone took in more than one-fifth of all income earned by Americans, the most since 1913.

Here is what that looks like, via the Times:

The data is just the latest in a string of reports over the past couple years illustrating how gains from the economic recovery have gone to the upper crust.

Meanwhile, the share of people with a job or looking for a job is at its lowest level since 1978, middle class wages are flat, and working-poor wages have dipped. More depressing details from the Times:

Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez show that the incomes of [the 99 percent] stagnated between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, they started growing again—if only by about 1 percent. But the total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent that year. The incomes of the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.

The new data shows that the top 1 percent of earners experienced a sharp drop in income during the recession, of about 36 percent, and a nearly equal rebound during the recovery of roughly 31 percent. The incomes of the other 99 percent plunged nearly 12 percent in the recession and have barely grown—a 0.4 percent uptick—since then. Thus, the 1 percent has captured about 95 percent of the income gains since the recession ended.

Why? Mostly because of rising home values, stock prices, and corporate profits—all of which disproportionately benefit the already rich.

As Annie Lowry noted at the Times, "[E]ven after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so."

Fri Jul. 18, 2014 12:32 PM EDT
Thu Jul. 3, 2014 11:18 AM EDT
Thu May. 15, 2014 10:58 AM EDT
Fri May. 9, 2014 12:59 PM EDT
Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:04 PM EDT
Fri Feb. 7, 2014 1:05 PM EST
Thu Feb. 6, 2014 7:00 AM EST
Thu Jan. 9, 2014 9:05 AM EST
Thu Dec. 19, 2013 10:31 AM EST