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The Rise and Fall of America’s Labor Unions

Includes interactive charts
SEIU Janitors Protest Firing by JPMorgan Chase

SEIU union janitors protest in Los Angeles (Flickr/Slobodan Dimitrov)

The Supreme Court this week dealt a blow to the nation’s struggling labor unions. In a 5-4 decision along  ideological lines, the court ruled that some government workers who decline membership in the unions that represent them can’t be forced to pay collective bargaining fees.

Just over 11 percent of the U.S. workforce belongs to a union today, the lowest rate in more than 70 years.  Continue reading

Why All the Hype about Thomas Piketty’s “Capital”?

Includes videos

It’s nearly 700 pages. It covers dense economic theory. And it’s written by a French guy you’ve probably never heard of.

So why is “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Thomas Piketty’s far-reaching economic analysis of global inequality, flying off the shelves faster than a new Beyoncé album?

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Income Inequality in America, An Illustrated Guide

Includes illustrated infographic

IncomeInequality_slice2A few years ago, Occupy Wall Street protests spread like wildfire in cities across the country, forcing a focus on America’s gaping income gaps. The issue took center stage for a time, making headlines, grabbing the attention of elected leaders and sparking some hope that real change was within reach. But when the protest camps were dismantled and the media crews packed up their equipment, the nation’s attention quickly shifted elsewhere. In the end not much had changed. Today the income divide remains as steep as it was the day the protests began. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains just how deep America’s economic divide really is. (Sources listed below graphic)

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What Do Your Taxes Actually Pay For?

Includes visualizations

2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). Continue reading

How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Explaining the Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Spending Limits

SCOTUS DecisionThe Supreme Court on Wednesday removed a 40-year-old cap on the total amount of cash  individuals can contribute to political candidates and party committees. The latest in a string of rulings chipping away at longstanding campaign finance limits, the court’s 5-to-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission is expected to let new flood of money pour into America’s already cash-saturated political process.

What the decision actually does

It removes the cap on the combined amount of cash that any one person can directly give to candidates running for federal office, or to political party committees. Continue reading

Time for A Raise? What You Need to Know About the Minimum Wage

Includes interactive explainer


Do America’s lowest wage earners deserve a raise?

As Congress again delves into the hotly contested perennial debate over raising the federal minimum wage, a growing number of states and cities throughout the country are forging their own paths on the issue, DoNowWagesImage resulting in an uneven national patchwork of wage laws. We dig into the debate over dollars and cents in this interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound. Scroll through the whole presentation at once, or choose specific chapters by selecting the table of contents button on the bottom left of the screen. Sources for each slide are also included at the bottom.

Common Core Connections

Relevant ELA and Social Studies CCSS Anchor Standards

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Social Studies Integration

Integrate this topic into the following high school social studies units:

US History
(based on:The American Vision, CA Edition (McGraw Hill/Glencoe, 2006)
• Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1939
• The New Frontier and the Great Society, 1961-1968
• The Politics of Protest, 1960-1980
• Politics and Economics, 1971-1980
• Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980-1992
US Government
(based on: American Government, Prentice Hall, 2006, CA Edition)
• Unit 2 – Political Behavior: Government by the People
• Unit 3 – The Legislative Branch
• Unit 4 – The Executive Branch
• Unit 6 – Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Economics
(based on: Econ Alive! TCI, 2010)
• Unit 4 – Economics of the Public Sector
• Unit 5 – Measuring and Managing the Economy

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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Map: San Francisco’s Affordable Rent Gap Is Enough to Make You Sick … Literally

Includes interactive map
housing map

San Francisco Department of Public Health

Looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco?

Brace yourself.

Last year, the City by the Bay earned the dubious distinction of having America’s most expensive rental market, beating out longtime heavyweight New York. Due in part to the surge in the region’s tech-fueled jobs market (some “friend” indeed, Zuckerberg!) and the city’s longstanding shortage of affordable housing units, the spike has led to jaw-dropping rents, with the median monthly rate of a mere studio at more than $2,200 a month, according to apartmentlist.com. Continue reading

For Minimum Wage Earners in California, the Promise of a Pay Raise

Includes interactive charts
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

California’s lowest-paid workers received some much welcomed news this week when state lawmakers approved a hotly contested bill to gradually bump up the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The legislation, which Governor Jerry Brown has already promised to sign, will hike the state’s minimum wage to $9 by next July and $10 by January 2016, an increase of 25 percent. It’s the first statewide increase in six years, and will give California the highest minimum wage in the nation. Currently, Washington State leads the way, with a minimum wage of $9.19 an hour. California also trails Vermont and Oregon. Continue reading