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    Poor Getting Poorer As Wealth Gap Grows
    Sunday. 9.3.06 11:47 pm




    By Renee D. Turner, BET.com Staff Writer


    Posted Aug. 31, 2006 – You’d think that with all the talk about how the economy is booming you’d be bringing home more bacon than when the economy tanked four years ago. But this is not your parents’ recovery, economists say.

    Working families have lost ground during this economic recovery, while the big money makers continued to make big gains, a new U.S. Census report shows. In other words, during the economic recovery, the rich really did get richer, while the poor got poorer.

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    Some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line (meaning they earned an annual salary of $19,971 or less for a family of four) in 2005 — that's 4 million people more than at the height of the last recession, in 2001, according to the Census findings released Tuesday.

    “For the first time on record, poverty is higher in the fourth year of a recovery than when the recession hit bottom, and median income was no better,” said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “You have a number of families who are worse off than during the last peak in the economy.”

    Tuesday’s Census Report shows that as the economy began to rebound from the bust of 2001:

    The poverty rate rose by .9 percent, to 12.7.

    The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003.

    Median income of $46,326 for households headed by someone under 65 was $2,000 (or 3.7 percent) lower in 2005 than in 2001.

    The top 1 percent of earners got 11.2 percent of all wage income in 2004, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago.

    From 1980 to 2004, manufacturing salaries fell 1 percent, while the salaries of the richest 1 percent – people earning more than $277,000 in 2004 – climbed by 135 percent.
    In industrial cities, such as Detroit, workers fared even worse.


    According to the new U.S. Census, the percentage of poor Blacks (earning less than $20,000 for a family of four) was three times that of Whites in Michigan in 2005 and in many metro Detroit communities.

    "Amid this country's strong economic expansion, many Americans simply aren't feeling the benefits," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admitted during his first major speech as Treasury secretary, at Columbia University in New York earlier this month.

    But another disturbing aspect of Tuesday’s Census report is a record number of workers have lost their health coverage in the last five years, as well as a record number of children.

    "It is sobering that 5.4 million more people lacked health insurance in 2005 than in the recession year of 2001, primarily because of the erosion of employer-based insurance," Greenstein said.

    What makes the numbers so troubling is that they come four years into an economic recovery that by all other accounts has been booming. From 2001 to 2005, the gross output of the economy increased by about 12 percent above the rate of inflation, worker productivity surged and corporate profits doubled.

    “The mantra of economists is that rising productivity creates growth all around. Today’s findings clearly contradict that mantra,” says Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

    And the sad reality, economists note, is that with the economy beginning to slow, there is little chance for improvement. That’s because the two things that pumped up the economy – the brisk housing and spending markets – are also sinking, and jobs creation has gone flat, depleting the middle-class worker’s bargaining power.

    While the news is disheartening for most workers, it’s particularly bad for Republicans going into an already tough election season.

    “While we still face challenges in addressing poverty in America, the fact that the poverty rate did not increase is a positive indicator when you consider all the areas of economic growth under this administration,” said Tara Wall, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.



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    Minorities Lose Out On Recovery
    Sunday. 9.3.06 11:36 pm
    By Renee D. Turner, BET.com Staff Writer


    Posted Sept. 2, 2006 - If you work for a living, there's not much to celebrate this Labor Day. While jobs are being created and the economy is churning along, the average worker is not sharing equally in the boom, according to a new report.

    In fact, the average worker is struggling to hold his head above water while the corporate heavy-hitters are reaping record profits, according to The State of Working America, an annual assessment of where workers stand published by the Economic Policy Institute.

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    "The five-year-old economic expansion that began in late 2001 has posted some impressive
    results, most notably faster productivity growth," the report released Saturday says, adding that productivity grew at a rapid 16.6 percent from 2000 to 2005.

    "Productivity growth has been seen as the tide that lifts all economic boats," explains EPI
    President Lawrence Mishel, and co author of The State of Working America. "But today we're seeing more and more Americans rowing harder and harder but not moving forward, while the big boats zoom farther ahead."

    The report uses as a backdrop numbers it published earlier this week on how workers have fared during the economic recovery over the past five years. It's findings show:

    There has been basically no wage improvement for typical workers since 2001, even though half the productivity growth from 1995 to 2005 occurred since then.
    The median income of working-age households-those headed by someone less than 65-fell 0.5 percent last year, as has been the case consistently since 2000.
    Between 2000 and 2005, the real median income of working-age households (with bread-earners under age 65) is down 5.4 percent, twice that of the overall household median, which is down 2.7 percent over the past five years.
    Profitability was the highest in 2005 than in 36 years.
    Over the 1992 to 2005 period the median CEO saw pay rise by 186.2 percent, while the median worker saw wages rise by just 7.2 percent.
    On the surface, Friday's employment numbers show promise: The economy churned out an expected 128,000 jobs in July. Unemployment ticked down 1.1 percent to 4.11 percent. But wages increased an anemic 0.9 percent wage.

    The White House touts these figures as evidence that "the economy remains strong, and the outlook is favorable," adding that the economy has created more than 1.7 million jobs over the past 12 months - and more than 5.7 million jobs since August 2003.

    In its press release Friday, the White House pointed out that worker productivity has grown 2.4 percent over the last four quarters, which is better than the average productivity growth of the last three decades, and total wage and salary income grew at an annual 3.3 percent in the second quarter of 2006.

    But, some economists say that's the issue: : for the first time during a recovery productivity has not pushed up wages for the average worker and has not led to greater employment for minorities, single women and others at the bottom of the economic scale.

    "One of the main problems with the economy today is we have one side where people are looking at the economy from 40,000 feet and saying 'hey, things look great. The economy expanded... Yet, people on the ground have had growing dissatisfaction," says Sylvia Allegretto, EPI economist and co-author of report. "Part of that disconnect is that on [the] ground we know that wages have been stagnating. The basic growth has been flowing to the top and leaving the typical worker behind."

    For African American workers, the numbers stack up even more starkly:

    Blacks were the only race/ethnic group to see a growth in poverty-level wage earners over the 2000-05 period, despite the progress from 1996 to 2002.
    The median White household's wealth was $118,300, but the median Black family had only one-tenth as much, or $11,800.
    For every dollar Whites earn, minorities receive only 56 cents.
    In 2005, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 10 percent, more than twice that of Whites (4.4 percent). For the first quarter of 2006 (seasonally adjusted) it was 9.2 percent, still almost twice that of the rate for Whites (4.7 percent).
    From 2001-06 (first quarter for each year), unemployment increased for African Americans by 1.1 percentage points - the highest for any racial group.

    "During the recession, people dropped out of the labor force. They did in droves," Allegretto says. "All this points to we do not truly have tight labor markets as we did in late 1990s, which helped minorities and single moms. Now that things aren't that tight those groups are not bouncing back."

    What would it take to turn things around for workers? EPI economists recommend:

    Raise the minimum wage, which, as of Labor Day has not been increased in nine years.
    Level the playing field for union organizing.
    Universalize access to health care coverage.
    Achieve truly full employment like in the 1990s when employers had to bid up wages to get and keep the workers they need.


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    VMAs go "Crazy" and Panic!
    Sunday. 9.3.06 11:18 pm
    09/03/2006 9:27 PM, E! Online


    Blood was shed, people were electrocuted, lobsters ran amok--and that was just when the Jackass crew was on camera, reminding people to cast their votes for the Viewer's Choice award.

    But when Johnny Knoxville and company weren't practicing self-immolation Thursday night, Panic! At the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" took home the biggest Moon Man at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, beating out Shakira, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Christina Aguilera and Madonna for Video of the Year. Fall Out Boy won hearts and votes, taking home the Viewer's Choice award for "Dance, Dance."

    While host Jack Black, who first hit the stage dressed in silver Moon Man regalia, promised there were going to be "a lot of surprises," we're not sure he meant of the musical variety. But, as it turned out, the most-nominated videos of the evening, the Chili Peppers' "Dani California" and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" captured a mere one Moon Man apiece in technical categories.

    Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" were the only multiple winners of the evening, with two apiece.

    Meanwhile, the soap opera that could have been the VMAs this year pretty much went off without a hitch.

    Nick and Jessica--same room, no problem. Paris and Nicole--same room, no problem. (Not that either of those pairs actually shared stage time.) Environmentalist and Rock the Vote beneficiary Al Gore presented part of his Inconvenient Truth lecture. Snoop Dogg told the crowd he really felt like smokin' something.

    Pretty standard, really.

    Justin Timberlake kicked off the evening at New York's Radio City Music Hall with a calculatedly smooth performance of his new single "SexyBack," featuring Timbaland, which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.

    To present the first award of the evening, Lil' Kim came out dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, flanked by two beefy guards. She thanked the crowd "for keeping your lighters up for me for the whole last year" while she served a prison term, and then handed out Best Male Video to British soft rocker Blunt for "You're Beautiful."

    A no-show Kelly Clarkson captured the female counterpart of that award for "Because of You."

    Performers included Shakira and Wyclef Jean, Pharrell and Ludacris, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, The All-American Rejects, T.I. and the Chicago-based quartet OK Go, who reproduced their YouTube-favorite video for "Here It Goes Again," treadmill for treadmill. The Raconteurs, led by Jack White (who wasn't too thrilled by Black's suggestion that the two were opposite sides of the same coin and should start a band), provided musical interludes throughout.

    Being the only two people Pink didn't make fun of in her "Stupid Girls" video, Nick Lachey and Nicole Richie were called upon to present the M!sundastood singer with the Best Pop Video award for her ode to Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Mary-Kate Olsen and Lindsay Lohan.

    This year marked the first time MTV simulcast the live show on its Website and to get into the spirit, the network had backstage cams, red carpet cams and any other type of cam you could possibly want capturing the action.

    Sarah Silverman's backstage bit, in which she talked about Lance Bass hitting on her--only to be shocked to find out that the former boy bander is gay--was way more entertaining than her time onstage, in which all she did was give a stiff shout-out to Hilton, warning the "Stars Are Blind" singer that "you seriously need to lose weight."

    Chamillionaire's "Ridin' " scored Best Rap Video honors, Beyonce's "Check on It" won for Best R&B Video, Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" proved their worth by winning Best Hip-Hop Video and the Pussycat Dolls snapped up a Best Dance Video win for "Buttons."

    Though 20/20 canceling his scheduled appearance ruined his week, Chamillionaire reassured the crowd that "this award just made my year."

    "Nobody can cancel this," the Houston-born rapper said.

    The All-American Rejects were not so much (rejects, that is), winning Best Group Video for "Move Along," and A.F.I.'s "Miss Murder" killed the competition, winning for Best Rock Video.

    "I am getting so trashed tonight," All-American Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter announced during the band's acceptance speech.

    Pretty standard.

    Here's a complete rundown of the winners of the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards:


    Video of the Year: Panic! At the Disco, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
    Best Male Video: James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"
    Best Female Video: Kelly Clarkson, "Because of You"
    Best Group Video: The All-American Rejects, "Move Along"
    Best Rap Video: Chamillionaire, "Ridin' "
    Best R&B Video: Beyonce featuring Slim Thug, "Check on It"
    Best Hip-Hop Video: Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps"
    Best Dance Video: Pussycat Dolls featuring Snoop Dogg, "Buttons"
    Best Rock Video: A.F.I., "Miss Murder"
    Best Pop Video: Pink, "Stupid Girls"
    Best New Artist in a Video: Avenged Sevenfold, "Bat Country"
    Viewer's Choice: Fall Out Boy, "Dance, Dance"
    Best Direction in a Video: Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
    Best Choreography in a Video: Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean, "Hips Don't Lie"
    Best Special Effects in a Video: Missy Elliott, "We Run This"
    Best Art Direction in a Video: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Dani California"
    Best Editing in a Video: Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
    Best Cinematography in a Video: James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"
    Ringtone of the Year: Fort Minor, "Where'd You Go"
    Best Videogame Soundtrack: Marc Ecko's Getting Up
    Best Videogame Score: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
    Video Vanguard Award: Hype Williams

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