MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/107316%20at%20http%3A/motherjones.com http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Boxing Day Cat Blogging - 26 December 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/boxing-day-cat-blogging-26-december-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Traditionally, Boxing Day is when the upper classes present the help with Christmas boxes full of money or gifts. As you might guess, this tradition has been corrupted a bit on its way to California. Here, it's the day that the <em>help</em> presents the <em>upper classes</em> with a box. Empty is preferred, actually. This one is big enough for two cats, but Hopper isn't interesting in lounging inside the box. She leaves that to Hilbert. She prefers to sit on the outside and gnaw on the box instead. Her motto: If it's cellulose-based, it's meant to be ripped to shreds.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2014_12_26_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Dec 2014 20:00:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 267316 at http://www.motherjones.com Does America Need More Startups? Fine. How Do We Get Them? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/does-america-need-more-startups-fine-how-do-we-get-them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142498/robert-litan/start-up-slowdown" target="_blank">Over at <em>Foreign Affairs</em>,</a> Robert Litan has a piece lamenting the decline in entrepreneurship in America. I'm not entirely persuaded that this is a major problem&mdash;a fair amount of it is just the result of big national retailers replacing local diners and small shops, which are <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_litan_startups.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">hardly big engines of economic growth&mdash;but I'm still willing to accept that some of it is probably real and deserves attention. The problem is what to do about it. James Pethokoukis, addressing skeptics like me, <a href="http://www.aei.org/publication/america-needs-startups-heres-ignite-explosion-us-entrepreneurship/" target="_blank">summarizes Litan's suggestions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Of course one can quibble with these numbers and what they mean....But here is the thing: Pretty much all the policy steps you might take to respond to this startup wind-down &mdash; and the decline in innovation and good jobs it implies &mdash; are pretty smart ideas in their own right. Among Litan&rsquo;s suggestions:</p> <blockquote> <ol><li>Attract more immigrant entrepreneurs and keep more foreign students who earn graduate degrees in the STEM fields.</li> <li>Make it easier to attract investment capital through crowdfunding platforms.</li> <li>Constantly evaluate regulations to see if they raise entry barriers to new firms or give an edge to incumbents.</li> <li>Don&rsquo;t let future changes to Obamacare create a disincentive for workers to leave their firms.</li> <li>Reform k-12 education to better teach technological literacy &mdash; but also don&rsquo;t skip humanities and the arts.</li> </ol></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Well....OK. But how far would this get us? #1 is something we already do better than anyone in the world. I suppose we could improve even further, and I'd be in favor of immigration legislation that does just that. Still, I guess I'm dubious that lack of smart immigrants is really a huge headwind in the US. Ditto for #2. Is lack of access to venture capital really a serious problem in this country? #3 is fine. I don't know for sure just how hard it really is to start a business in America, but the World Bank <a href="http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings" target="_blank">ranks us 46th in the world,</a> and I imagine we could do better. #4 is odd: Litan himself says the news here is "mostly good." Obamacare makes it <em>easier</em> to change your job or start up a new business, and that's inherent in its very nature. It will stay that way unless it's completely repealed. Finally, #5 suggests that we do a better job teaching science, humanities, and the arts. Since that's pretty much everything K-12 education does, this is just a way of saying we should keep trying to improve primary education. I don't think anyone argues with that.</p> <p>I don't mean to come off too cynical here. There are two good ideas here that we could plausibly do something about: Being friendlier to highly-educated immigrants and making it easier to start a business. (A third idea&mdash;improving our schools&mdash;is also good, but it's basically like endorsing motherhood and apple pie.) And a good idea is a good idea. But if entrepreneurship really is in decline in America&mdash;and if it's truly a far-reaching problem&mdash;I'd be interested in hearing more about root causes and what we might be able to do about them. It seems like it will take a lot more than this list to seriously address it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 26 Dec 2014 19:31:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 267311 at http://www.motherjones.com The Best Corrections of 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/12/best-corrections-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In 2014, journalists produced a number of solid blunders and fails. That's bad news for industry esteem, but great news for lovers of hilarious corrections. Here are some of our favorites from the past year:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>The Economist</em>, Drug Legalization: </strong>The magazine's collective memory gets hazy when attempting to recall the finer details of their push for drug legalization.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Great Economist correction: <a href="http://t.co/VBtrxkdafq">pic.twitter.com/VBtrxkdafq</a></p> &mdash; Emily Babay (@emilybabay) <a href="https://twitter.com/emilybabay/status/432316804426645504">February 9, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>New York Times</em>, Dick Cheney: </strong>An amazing error that speaks volumes about the Bush years.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/timescheney.png"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong><em>New York Times</em>, Kimye Butts: </strong>In a story titled "Fear of Kim Kardashian's Derriere," the Grey Lady cites a fake interview where Kanye West compares his butt to the infamous butt of his wife.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/kardashian.png"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong><em>Mumbai Mirror</em>, Narendra Modi: </strong>Sarcasm!</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Hahaha, well played, Mumbai Mirror. <a href="http://t.co/nmsfPpOIki">pic.twitter.com/nmsfPpOIki</a></p> &mdash; Ashish Shakya (@stupidusmaximus) <a href="https://twitter.com/stupidusmaximus/status/451286071234408448">April 2, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>NPR, Cow Farts: </strong>In a story about gassy cows and climate change, NPR "ended up on the wrong end of cows."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nprcows.png"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong><em>New York Times</em>, "Good Burger": </strong>In which the <em>Times</em> made it embarrassingly obvious their newsroom is unfamiliar with the 1997 film classic, "Good Burger." (Plus, a bonus <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_from_Target">#teen</a> error!)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/goodburger.png"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong>Vox, Barry Manilow:&nbsp; </strong>While cataloging the slew of celebrities who appeared on Stephen Colbert's final show, Vox confuses old white man Barry Manilow for old white man Rod Stewart.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/voxmannilow.png" width="591"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong><em>New York Times</em>, Gershwin grammar gaffe: </strong>Gershwin 101.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/voicecharter_0.png"><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p><strong><em>Courier-Mail</em>, Birth Announcement "Retraction": </strong>Let's end on a heartwarmer. Well done, Bogert clan!</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Best Birth Announcement ever. Today's CM. What a wonderful family. <a href="http://t.co/Zz4NkssKHD">pic.twitter.com/Zz4NkssKHD</a></p> &mdash; Lisa Dart (@frostyagnes) <a href="https://twitter.com/frostyagnes/status/539624406843006977">December 2, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Mixed Media Media Top Stories Fri, 26 Dec 2014 18:22:10 +0000 Inae Oh 267126 at http://www.motherjones.com In Police-Civilian Encounters, Your Eyes May Be Your Worst Enemy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/police-civilian-encounters-your-eyes-may-be-your-worst-enemy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Dan Kahan flags a <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/143/6/2196/" target="_blank">recent bit of research</a> about cognitive biases as a "run-away winner" in the contest for coolest study of the year. That might be a stretch, but it <em>is</em> pretty interesting.</p> <p>Basically, it's about whether police&nbsp;bodycams will help resolve disputes about what really happened in encounters between cops and civilians. There are reasons to think their effectiveness will be limited because even with video evidence, we tend to interpret ambiguous events to fit our preconceived biases. This is similar to the way sports fans interpret instant replays of penalties in ways that favor their home team, and it goes under the generic name of "motivated reasoning."</p> <p>So far, so boring. But conventional wisdom and common sense tells us that the way motivated reasoning works is simple: we view the events, and <em>then</em> we interpret them in light of our biases. That turns out not to be the case. The researchers performed a couple of studies based on video clips, one a citizen-police encounter and the other a brawl between two private citizens who wore different colored-shirts. In each case, the test subjects sympathized with one actor vs the other (police officer or suspect in <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_police_bodycam.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">study 1, green-shirt or blue-shirt in study 2). And it turns that motivated reasoning happens way earlier and is <a href="http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/12/25/what-bodycams-can-and-cant-be-expected-to-do-plus-coolest-st.html" target="_blank">even more unconscious than we thought:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The super cool part of the study was that the researchers used an <em>eye-tracking</em> instrument to assess the predicted influence of motivated reasoning on the perceptions of the subjects. Collected without the subjects&rsquo; awareness, <strong>the eye-tracking data showed that subjects fixed their attention disproportionately on the actor they were motivated to see as the wrongdoer</strong>&mdash;e.g., the police officer in the case of subjects predisposed to distrust the police in study 1, or the citizen identified as an &ldquo;out-group&rdquo; member in study 2.</p> <p>Wow!</p> <p>Before reading this study, I would have assumed the effect of cultural cognition was generated in the process of recollection....But GBST's findings suggest the dynamic that generates opposing perceptions in these cases commences much earlier, <em>before</em> the subjects even take in the visual images.</p> <p>The identity-protective impressions people form originate in a kind of biased sampling: <strong>by training their attention on the actor who they have the greatest stake in identifying as the wrongdoer, people are&mdash;without giving it a conscious thought, of course&mdash;prospecting in that portion of the visual landscape most likely to contain veins of data that fit their preconceptions.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Kahan suggests that this study "comes at the cost of intensified despair over the prospects for resolving societal conflicts over the appropriateness of the use of violent force by the police." Perhaps so. Certainly facts and evidence have a poor track record of changing minds, especially when it comes to emotionally charged events that affect our essential worldview. Still, I suspect that if bodycams become widespread, they'll change minds slowly but steadily. In the same way that years of exposure to TV and movies have turned us into more sophisticated consumers of narrative video, years of regular exposure to bodycam footage may turn us into more sophisticated viewers of police-civilian encounters. We'll probably know sometime around 2030 or so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Science Fri, 26 Dec 2014 17:14:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 267306 at http://www.motherjones.com Jeb Bush Has an Obamacare Problem http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/jeb-bush-has-obamacare-problem <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/reports-jeb-bush-leaving-health-care-company-113813.html" target="_blank">From <em>Politico</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jeb Bush is stepping down from the board of a health care company that has reportedly profited from Obamacare, a move that comes as the Republican explores a run for the presidency.</p> <p>According to various media reports, Tenet backed President Barack Obama&rsquo;s health reform act and has seen its revenues rise from it. <strong>Bush&rsquo;s involvement with Tenet could give ammunition to conservatives in <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_jeb_bush_george_small.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the GOP who view him as too moderate &mdash; particularly those who despise the Affordable Care Act.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I can't help but get a chuckle out of this. In normal times, Bush would have left Tenet because it's a big, soulless corporation that's paid fines for Medicare fraud and been criticized for dodgy tax practices at the same time it was beefing up executive pay. A man of the people who aspires to the Oval Office can't afford to be associated with this kind of dirty money.</p> <p>But no. At least if <em>Politico</em> is to be believed, this isn't really an issue in the GOP primary. What <em>is</em> an issue is that Tenet might have profited from Obamacare, which in turn means that Jeb may have profited from Obamacare. Even if it's a double bank shot, <em>that's</em> dirty money in tea party land.</p> <p>Of course, Jeb also has some of the more conventional <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/features/2014-12-11/jeb-bush-has-a-mitt-romney-problem" target="_blank">plutocratic image problems:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Soon after his tenure as governor ended, <strong>Bush became an adviser to Lehman Brothers and, later, Barclays</strong>....In May 2013, Bush set up Britton Hill Holdings and dove into the private equity business....Bush&rsquo;s first fund invested in Inflection Energy....<strong>His next one, BH Logistics, raised $26 million this spring from investors including China&rsquo;s HNA Group</strong>....Bush&rsquo;s newest fund, [U.K.-based] BH Global &shy;Aviation, is his largest and most complicated. <strong>It deepens his financial ties to China and Hainan</strong>....&ldquo;In many deals, the U.K. &shy;effectively serves the same function as the Cayman Islands or Bermuda,&rdquo; Needham says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a tax haven, except it&rsquo;s the U.K.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Plus there's the fact that Jeb stayed on as an advisor to Barclays for years after it was fined for illegally trading with various blacklisted countries, notably including Cuba and Iran. If being on the board of a company that profited from Obamacare is a problem, surely this is at least equally bad. The attack ads write themselves, don't they?</p> <p>Anyway, apparently Jeb is <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-jeb-bush-money-20141225-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">now in cleanup mode:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;These are all growth investments that the governor has worked on,&rdquo; said Bush&rsquo;s spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell....Campbell said the 61-year-old former governor is &ldquo;reviewing all his engagements and his business commitments&rdquo; now that he&rsquo;s begun to focus on a potential race. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a natural next step,&rdquo; she said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed it is. On the other hand, Mitt Romney severed most of his ties with Bain Capital a full decade before he ran for president, and just look at how much good that did him. Jeb probably isn't out of the woods yet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Bush Fri, 26 Dec 2014 15:52:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 267301 at http://www.motherjones.com The NSA Is Surprisingly Open-Minded About Analysts Spying on Their Spouses http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/nsa-surprisingly-open-minded-analysts-spying-their-spouses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-24/spy-agency-to-release-reports-documenting-surveillance-errors.html" target="_blank">Via Bloomberg,</a> we learn that the NSA chose Christmas Eve to release its latest set of reports on violations of surveillance rules by its analysts. Nice work, NSA! For the most part, the reports don't appear to contain anything especially new, but I was struck by <a href="https://www.nsa.gov/public_info/_files/IOB/FY2012_1Q_IOB_Report.pdf" target="_blank">this particular violation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The OIG's Office of Investigation initiated an investigation of an allegation than an NSA analyst had conducted an unauthorized intelligence activity. In an interview conducted by the NSA/CSS Office of Security and Counterintelligence, the analyst reported that, <strong>during the past two or three years, she had searched her spouse's personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting</strong>....Although the investigation is ongoing, <strong>the analyst has been advised to cease her activities.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Wait a second. She was caught using NSA surveillance facilities to spy on her husband and was merely told to cease her activities? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to, say, fire her instantly and bar her from possessing any kind of security clearance ever again in her life? What am I missing here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Fri, 26 Dec 2014 14:35:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 267291 at http://www.motherjones.com Book Review: The Man Who Couldn't Stop http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/12/book-review-man-who-couldnt-stop <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/the-man-who-couldnt-stop-250x300.jpg"></div> <p><strong>The Man Who Couldn't Stop</strong></p> <p>By David Adam</p> <p>FSG</p> <p>After years of battling the irrational terror of catching a disease every time he touched a door handle, drank from a water bottle, or scraped his knee playing soccer, <em>Nature</em> editor David Adam earned the right to be annoyed when people called themselves "a little bit OCD." The greatest strength of his book&mdash;part memoir, part scientific treatise on obsessive-compulsive disorder&mdash;is that it meets those dilettantes on their level: "Imagine you can never turn it off." Adam's personal insights, and case studies from the famous (Winston Churchill, Nikola Tesla) to the obscure (an Ethiopian schoolgirl who ate a wall of mud bricks), make that feat of imagination both possible and painful.</p></body></html> Media Books Fri, 26 Dec 2014 12:00:06 +0000 Rebecca Cohen 265896 at http://www.motherjones.com Book Review: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/12/book-review-dogs-are-eating-them-now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/dogs-are-eating-them-now-250x300.jpg"></div> <p><strong>The Dogs Are Eating Them Now</strong></p> <p>By Graeme Smith</p> <p>COUNTERPOINT</p> <p>With Iraq and Syria hogging the headlines, it's remarkable how quickly we've forgotten our longest war. Graeme Smith's memoir is a cutting account of how the Afghanistan conflict unraveled. His recollections&mdash;of embedding with a coalition offensive and covering a Taliban jailbreak, for example&mdash;underscore the emotions (revenge, hate, distrust) that made the fight unwinnable. Michael Herr's <em>Dispatches</em> it's not, but Smith's illuminating postmortem is worth reading and remembering the next time we're tempted to repeat our mistakes.</p></body></html> Media Books Fri, 26 Dec 2014 11:30:14 +0000 Sam Brodey 265891 at http://www.motherjones.com The Gap Between the Rich and the Rest of Us Is The Widest It's Been In 30 Years. Here's One Reason Why. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/inequality-bank-access-charts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The wealth gap between the richest 20 percent of Americans and everyone else is the widest it's been in three decades, according to a <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/17/wealth-gap-upper-middle-income/" target="_blank">report</a> released last week by the Pew Research Center. Many factors contribute to this great divide: tax rates on the rich have been <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph" target="_blank">falling</a> for decades; the Great Recession <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/business/economy/us-wealth-gap-widest-in-at-least-30-years-pew-study-says.html?_r=1" target="_blank">decimated</a> the assets of a lot of low- and middle-income folks; and technology is replacing workers. One often-overlooked&nbsp; factor, though, is that <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013report.pdf" target="_blank">16.7 million</a> poor Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-11/u-s-lags-g-7-in-bank-accounts-as-poor-can-t-build-assets.html" target="_blank">don't have a bank account</a>. Lack of access to this basic financial tool cramps poor Americans' ability to prove credit-worthiness and build assets, and forces them to rely on expensive alternative financial services, trapping them in a cycle of debt and instability.</p> <p>Here's a look at banking access in the US and how it affects Americans' ability to grab onto the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder.</p> <p>Many more people in the US lack bank accounts than in other wealthy developed nations, <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/" target="_blank">according to the latest World Bank data</a>, which is from 2011.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/ysSQ9/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The percentage of Americans without bank access has fluctuated since the Great Recession. In 2009, 7.6 percent of Americans lacked a bank account. In 2011, that number was 8.2 percent, and in 2013, 7.7 percent&mdash;or approximately 16.7 million adults&mdash;had no banking access, <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013report.pdf" target="_blank">according</a> to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).</p> <p>Eighteen percent of people in the bottom 40 percent of the income spectrum lacked an account at a formal financial institution in 2011, <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/country/united-states" target="_blank">according</a> to the World Bank. Non-whites are less likely to have a bank account:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/w72Hl/5/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The main reason people don't open bank accounts is that they lack sufficient funds to open one or can't afford the fees associated with the account. But some people simply don't trust financial institutions. &nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/XVExz/3/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Bank fees associated with checking accounts have <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/09/26/dodd-franks-costs-will-be-paid-for-by-low-income-bank-customers/" target="_blank">skyrocketed</a> over the past few years, with the percentage of truly free checking accounts falling from <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/want-free-checking-check-out-credit-unions-1.aspx" target="_blank">76 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2013,</a> <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/want-free-checking-check-out-credit-unions-1.aspx" target="_blank">according</a> to the most recent data from Bankrate, a consumer financial services company. The average minimum balance required to open a checking account <a href="http://thefinancialbrand.com/42628/atm-overdraft-bank-checking-account-fees/" target="_blank">rose nine percent</a> over the past year to $66, and the average overdraft fee reached $32.74, a record high. ATM fees are at <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/atm-overdraft-fees-hit-record-highs-survey-shows/story?id=25843615" target="_blank">all-time highs</a>, too.</p> <p>"Even plain vanilla checking accounts have gotten more expensive," Abby McCloskey, a program director at the American Enterprise Institute, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/09/26/dodd-franks-costs-will-be-paid-for-by-low-income-bank-customers/" target="_blank">wrote at <em>Forbes</em></a> last year.&nbsp;"Free checking was long championed by the FDIC to bring the unbanked into mainstream banking, and it has all but disappeared as banks cut costs." (The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Congress created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect average Americans from banks' predatory practices, is <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-07-31/banks-face-hit-on-30-billion-in-overdraft-fees-from-cfpb-rules#p1" target="_blank">weighing</a> new regulations on overdraft fees.)</p> <p>When low-income customers close their accounts to avoid minimum balances and fees, they're forced to rely on alternative financial services including payday lending, money orders, check cashing, and pawn shops&mdash;which often charge even more exorbitant fees and penalties. The average household that uses these alternative financial services spends $2,412 per year on interest and related fees, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-11/u-s-lags-g-7-in-bank-accounts-as-poor-can-t-build-assets.html" target="_blank">according to a report</a> released this year by the Postal Service's inspector general. A <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/reports/safe_banking_opportunities_project/Slipping20Behindpdf.pdf" target="_blank">2011 Pew survey</a> of 2,000 low-income families in Los Angeles found that using alternative financial services consumed 6 percent of an average household's income, whereas buying the same services at a bank ate up just half a percent of an average family's income.</p> <p>Americans without bank accounts also tend to miss out on tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit&mdash;mostly because people without bank accounts are less likely to file tax returns. More than <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/reports/safe_banking_opportunities_project/Slipping20Behindpdf.pdf" target="_blank">two-thirds of families with bank accounts</a> in Pew's LA study filed their tax returns. Just 38 percent of the families without bank accounts filed. Three quarters of the families that filed got a tax refund.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, low-income people with access to bank accounts are <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2014/04/09/checks-and-balances-2014-update" target="_blank">more likely to save money</a> and have better overall economic health. Check it out.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/37NSu/4/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Charts Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 26 Dec 2014 11:15:13 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267236 at http://www.motherjones.com Book Review: How to Grow Up http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/12/book-review-how-grow <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/how-to-grow-up-250x300.jpg"></div> <p><strong>How to Grow Up</strong></p> <p>By Michelle Tea</p> <p>PLUME BOOKS</p> <p>Michelle Tea skipped college and spent her 20s and 30s in grimy houses, drinking herself unconscious and getting herself fired from every entry-level job she took. She eventually sobered up, landed a teaching gig, published several books, and won over the love of her life&mdash;a polished businesswoman named Dashiell. Her "meandering and counterintuitive" path may not inspire imitators. But Tea's candid and colorful writing, chronicling her emotional wedding, stabs at Buddhism, devotion to eccentric fashion, and attempts to get knocked up with "sperm shooters," speaks to her ability to function as an adult without losing sight of her wackier self.</p></body></html> Media Books Fri, 26 Dec 2014 11:15:12 +0000 Maddie Oatman 265901 at http://www.motherjones.com