To begin, a quiz:
Bob and Jane Smith have two vehicles: One is a 15 MPG (miles per gallon) pickup truck that Bob uses for his construction job. The other is a 28 MPG sedan that his wife Jane uses for her work commute. The couple wants to upgrade to something more fuel efficient, but only has the cash to replace one of their vehicles. Assuming each drives the average American distance of about 13,500 miles per year, which of the following options would save the most gas?
a. Replacing the 28 MPG sedan with a 38 MPG compact
b. Replacing the 15 MPG truck with a 20 MPG truck Continue reading
Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.
Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.
Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading
Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier
For the record 47 million people who rely on food stamps — about 1 in 7 Americans — paying the cost of a full Thanksgiving meal tomorrow may be a bit tougher than it was last year.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
On Nov. 1, monthly benefits for most families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were reduced by about 5 percent. That amounts to roughly $36 in cuts per month for a family of four — from $668 to $632 — based on maximum benefit levels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing the program. The reductions stem from Congress’ refusal to renew about $5 billion in additional benefits that were provided as part of the 2009 stimulus bill.
So how does that translate in Thanksgiving dollars?
In its annual survey, the Farm Bureau Federation — a conservative group — calculated the average cost (nationwide) of all the standard fixings in a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people at about $49 – or $4.90 per person. Even assuming the cheapest ingredients and small portion sizes, it’s a very conservative and somewhat dubious estimate and obviously varies significantly by region. But for the sake of argument, let’s use it. (See the last Lowdown post for the breakdown of costs.)
In case you’ve been hiding out in a cave this week (one without a dependable wireless connection, that is), you’ve probably heard that Twitter has gone public.
The microblogging platform that took the world by storm less than eight years ago, now has more than 100 million daily active users worldwide and is valued at close to $13 billion. In September, the company filed for its Initial Public Offering (IPO). And on Thursday, amid much fanfare, Twitter’s stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol TWTR, with shares initially priced at $26 a pop. Continue reading
Includes Cartoon Infographic
Following up on his last cartoon infographic exploring “the poverty threshold” in the United States, graphic journalist Andy Warner digs into the concept behind “the poverty line,” the origins of that measurement and why it’s considered so outdated today. View it below in full, or in segments as a slideshow. Continue reading
Includes images, video and charts
This is what U.S. federal debt looks like in physical dollars (and bear in mind that today’s debt has grown to more than $17 tirllion). Image by demonocracy.info
And here I was just starting to get my government shutdown groove on.
I mean, without the thrill of waking up every morning to the debt default doomsday machine ticking down to the brink of economic catastrophe, life honestly seems a bit mundane. At least Congress didn’t go too nuts and actually resolve the issue; they just went ahead and did what any rational group of people do when confronted with a difficult situation: they put it off for another day — you know, kicked the can down the road. Anyone smell a sequel? (And yes, I’ve already reserved front row tickets for Round 2 in January. I hear it’s gonna be awesome. My sources tell me that before the final death match, John Boehner reveals himself as President Obama’s real father).
But seriously … With the stroke of a pen, the government sputtered back to life last Thursday morning after Obama and Congress ended a 16-day political standoff that had left large swaths of the federal government shuttered and put the U.S. at risk of losing it’s ability to borrow money. The compromise allows federal agencies to resume operations, reopen public facilities and abruptly end the unpaid staycations of hundreds of thousands of furloughed employees. Continue reading
Includes interactive maps/charts
As Bay Area commuters once again brace for the possibility of a prolonged BART strike and look to alternative transportation means, it seems apropos to feature this innovative multimedia piece: a collection of some of the region’s major public transit lines and the dramatic income disparities that exist among the communities living along those routes. Continue reading
Includes cartoon infographic
By Andy Warner
Earlier this month — back in the good ole’ days when our government was actually functioning (sort of) — the U.S. Census Bureau released a series of 2012 income data for American households (and no, I can’t provide the link, because the Census site is still closed for business). The figures shows that despite the nation’s supposed economic recovery, average American household incomes didn’t really budge from where they were the year before. Meanwhile, the poverty rate remained at roughly the same level as it was in 2011 as well. The data underscore a growing gap in wealth inequality in America, with the incomes of lower and middle class households stagnating, while those among the wealthiest continue to rise at a rapid clip. In this comic infographic, graphic journalist Andy Warner breaks down these figures and what they mean for the millions of average American families still just scraping by. To view it as a slideshow in individual segments, click the thumbnail below.
Includes animations and map
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to create California’s first set of regulations on hydraulic fracturing. The controversial extraction technique, commonly known as fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations in order to create fractures that release reserves of oil or natural gas.
While fracking operations in the Northeast generally extract natural gas, in California, oil is the big prize. Continue reading