All Articles Tagged "Republicans"

In Spending Bill, Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Protections

December 15th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Congress has passed a historic medical marijuana protections in the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that was pushed through Congress late last week. The bill contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

“If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law,” reports The Huffington Post.

“When the House first passed this measure back in May, we made headlines; today we made history,” Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

“The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws,” Farr added. “This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

Under the bill, medical marijuana programs in the 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes will be protected. This protection also extends to 11 additional states that have legalized CBD oils.

This could change the war on drugs drastically. According to a 2013 report by advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent nearly $80 million annually cracking down on medical marijuana, which amounts to more than $200,000 per day. This is because despite the legalization of medical marijuana in some states under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance with “no currently accepted medical use,” alongside heroin and LSD.

“This isn’t finely written policy yet,” Farr said in June after the amendment first passed in the House, Forbes‘ Jacob Sullum reported. “This is a statement of congressional intent that [the] DEA [should] back off on these issues. We will have to continue to reconcile federal policy with state policy.”

The new spending bill also gives some protections to industrial hemp from DEA intervention. The farm bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February, legalized industrial hemp production in states that permit it. In all, 18 states have legalized industrial hemp production, and more than a dozen others have introduced legislation that would permit research into the plant, set up a regulatory framework or legalize growing it.

After the spending bill was passed, Sen. Ted Cruz tried to take a stand against President Obama’s executive action on immigration and ended up opening the door on a number of other things that Democrats want to get done in the days before turning over the majority to Republicans. Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to move forward on 24 nominations, including Vivek Murthy for Surgeon General who is opposed by Republicans because he’s young (39 years old) and made the National Rifle Association angry by saying guns were a public health issue.

For more on the controversial move and the blow back against Sen. Cruz among fellow members of his party, check out Politico here and here. Interesting stuff.

Additional contribution by Tonya Garcia.

Both Political Conservatives & Liberals Oppose The Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

December 8th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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With #EricGarner and #ICantBreathe still trending and protests taking place five days in a row, the outrage over the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo over the choking death of Eric Garner is not going away anytime soon. And just as important, the anger over this decision is being shared by people on both ends of the political spectrum.

Following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, there were many on the conservative side who thought there was justification for Darren Wilson’s violent response. In this case, with the chokehold caught on tape, and executed over the minor accusation that Garner was selling loose cigarettes, the uproar is universal.

“From looking at the video, the grand jury’s decision here is totally incomprehensible,” said Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News correspondent.

That video is one of the big reasons that conservatives are angry. Another, they blame the government for having laws that would make the selling of loose cigarettes an offense. Not only did another conservative pundit, Dana Loesch, call it the byproduct of the #NannyStateEnforcement, Sen. Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky and probable 2016 presidential candidate, says the cigarette tax is the problem. Let’s save the tax talk for another time Sen. Paul. But his opposition is well-placed.

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground so as not to make them so expensive,” he told CNN.

The New York Police Department has launched a pilot body-camera project in three precincts. Fast Company has a summary of how it will work, noting that the files are downloaded at the end of an officer’s shift and are encrypted, meaning no one can view or tamper with the video unless they have permission to do so from the NYPD.

Who Would’ve Thought? Republicans Actually Like Obamacare

July 16th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Come hell or high water, Republicans wanted to see Obamacare drown. The GOP and other Affordable Care Act detractors have had scathing criticisms for the new health care reform. “It’s the worst thing since slavery,” one said. “It’s a train wreck,” another expressed. But my my, how the tables have turned: Republicans, according to Business Insider, are actually satisfied with Obamacare.

The GOP just might be running out of ammo to knock down Obamacare. What can Republicans say when the Commonwealth Fund Survey reveals that there are 9.5 million fewer uninsured Americans? On top of that, the survey found that a whopping 74 percent of Republicans — yes, Republicans — admitted that they actually liked Obamacare.

In addition, the uninsured rate dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent. And Latinos, who are more likely to not have health insurance out of any racial group, had the biggest gains in medical coverage, 13 percent. Young Americans had the second highest gains with 10 percent.

“This is yet another datapoint showing that the Affordable Care Act is basically doing what it’s supposed to do,” said Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt. “That doesn’t mean everyone is benefiting from it or is happy about it. But, it’s on track to working as intended.”

It gets better — there’s been a sudden, mysterious decline in Obamacare’s price tag: “The government is expected to spend about $50 billion less paying for the Medicare program this year than it had expected to just four years ago,” Vox wrote.

Of course, there are some aspects of the Affordable Care Act that need some sprucing up. The insurance coverage gains among African Americans, for example, was disproportionately low at only one percent. Plus, there are still millions without coverage, but MSNBC points to stubborn red states’ refusal to expand Medicaid as the culprit.

At one point, the right stopped at nothing to thwart Obamacare, the so-called “jobs killer.” But of course, the GOP has a new angle for their Obama faultfinding campaign: The President isn’t implementing the Affordable Care Act fast enough. House Republicans intend to sue the POTUS for delaying the employers’ responsibility portion of the law.

“Each provision you delay continues to demonstrate that the entire law is unworkable,” Speaker of the House John Boehner wrote to the President.

Watch it Boehner, 73 percent of those who purchased a plan are satisfied with Obamacare — even three-quarters of your own. Happily insured Americans just might be the right’s worst nightmare.

Stacey Dash Reportedly In Talks To Join Fox News Network As Regular Contributor

May 15th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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It’s been a while since we’ve seen Stacey Dash on a TV screen, but according to new reports, she might be on your TV again very soon. She won’t be playing a fashionista looking for a man like she was on Single Ladies, but rather, she’ll be giving her two cents on politics and the news. No, seriously.

According to the New York Post’s Page Six, Dash is in talks to close on a deal with Fox News that would make her a regular contributor for the conservative news network. This all comes after Dash told the world that she was a Mitt Romney supporter in the 2012 election via Twitter, posing in a swimsuit in front of the American flag. She received a great deal of criticism (admittedly from us too) online and used that to gain sympathy to get on the couches of popular talk shows and to take pictures with Paul Ryan and to pen open letters.

When speaking on the backlash, she said, “Perhaps I publicly endorsed Romney from a slightly naive place, thinking that I could speak my voice without being criticized in such racially charged and hateful tones.”

Since then, Dash hasn’t held back on her political views on Twitter, and has appeared on Fox News more than once. She was trying her hand at creating a satirical comedy called “Stacey Dash is Normal” about her life (and her Republican views), and some episodes can be found via YouTube.

Hey, if you’re going to spout your political views, you might as well get paid for it, right? But since I avoid Fox News like the plague, I can’t say I’ll be tuning in. Congratulations to her nonetheless!

Cliven Bundy Remarks Re-Open Conversation About Republicans & Race

April 25th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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The GOP has been trying mightily (and mostly failing) to broaden its base by appealing to black voters. Then party members rally around someone like Cliven Bundy, who makes downright racist remarks and any baby steps that they may have been made disintegrate faster than you can say “negro.”

As Mo Elleithee, the DNC’s communications director, said about the issue, “If you ever want to be taken seriously for your outreach efforts, you might want to start by not defending racists.” Very good advice. While there are many on the right who have tried to separate themselves from these comments, there are others who still defend Bundy with excuses and “adding context,” going back to the initial issue that the government went too far when it tried to collect on what Bundy owes for use of federal land to graze his cattle. (Note the comments at that link from The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait on this issue, which are interesting.)

Some experts say that, at the heart of the issue, are “complicated” tensions that some parts of the population are trying to deal with. America is changing. Minorities are growing in population numbers, political power and visibility of every kind. And it’s bringing out this sort of offensive and prejudiced behavior. Writes CNN:

“We are looking at some of the ‘last white men standing,’ ” Mark Anthony Neal, an African-American studies professor at Duke University, said of demographic shifts that show minorities now represent more than half of the nation’s population born in 2010 and 2011, according to the most recent census data.

“His comments represent that, and people rally around him because of this idea that white men are under siege. They are calling out the political establishment to stand by them,” he said.

That article notes that it’s not just about race either. Steps to make same-sex marriage legal in more places have been met with ugliness. And efforts to make things more equal for women, who have made strides in society, the home and the workplace, have been met with sexism.

“The articulation of their views is somewhat fringe, but the underlying attitude is not. They are a minority viewpoint, but they are a large minority,” adds Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University.

Josh Barro, writing for The New York Times, goes a little further with Bundy’s comments, noting that Bundy also “wondered” where his Mexican and Chinese “brothers” are in this fight against the Bureau of Land Management. “They’re just as American as we are, but they’re not with us. If they’re not with us, they’re going to be against us,” Bundy said.

From Barro’s point of view, “Mr. Bundy is weirdly on to something here. The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging. And nonwhites are not interested, because at gut-level an aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.” He follows that with stats from the Pew Research Center showing that, in 2011, Asians, African Americans and Hispanics were in favor of a larger government. And that cut across all economic groups, from those with money to those who depend on government programs to make ends meet.

We didn’t need Cliven Bundy to remind us that there are strides we have to make in the area of race relations. And it’s important that we have rational conversations about how to move things in a positive direction. But no matter how you feel about land rights or the government, Bundy’s words were clearly awful. It’s also important that we call out how wrong that language is.

“Marriage Is Something I Want To Do, Eventually” Vanessa Simmons Talks Motherhood, Marriage, And New Webseries

April 21st, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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We watched Vanessa Simmons grow up on her family’s MTV reality show Run’s House and branch out as a business woman along with her sister Angela as they launched their own fashion line. Carefully modeling their father and uncle, Russel Simmons’, models of success, the two became household names with their Pastry sneaker brand.

While pushing forward with her career as a fashion designer, Vanessa is also building her acting resume. Growing up as Hip-Hop royalty prepared Simmons for her new role as Samantha Hoffman, the protagonist of an upcoming webseries, Mixed, who is an uptight, biracial conservative woman who grew up with extremely liberal parents.  Sounds like a recipe for a hot mess right? We thought so too, which is why we reached out to Simmons to see what this new show is all about. We also asked her how new motherhood is treating her and if we’ll be hearing wedding bells anytime soon. Check out the Q&A:

What
is Mixed about?

“Mixed is a comedy series based on a conservative girl who grows up in a liberal world. Its main character, Samantha Hoffman (who is played by moi), is a biracial conservative who moves back home after graduating  to live with very liberal parents. They get involved in her life at ever angle — especially her sex life (or lack thereof), and her career. Basically, her parents are like children and she is the parent. Also, the spin on the title takes heed from her being biracial but also focuses on the mixed ideologies and personalities in the show.”

Has the show changed the way you view or debate politics?

“It hasn’t but it has made me look at things with a more well rounded perspective when it comes to my political stance. Mixed makes fun of everyone’s political views, though. Participating in the show allowed the actors and actresses to let go of a topic that is taken so seriously.”

Is it different filming for a webseries as opposed to a television show?

“I think it is the same when you film for both webseries and television shows. The only difference is the episodes are more condense for a webseries because they are seven minutes long.  Our ultimate goal is for the show to become a half-hour series on a network cable channel. While filming the webseries,  I treated it as though I was filming for a television show.  I tried not to over compensate too much but I wanted it to be as relatable as possible.”

Was it a challenge filming while pregnant?

“I found out I was pregnant the night before the first day of production. I thought it was the flu and didn’t know what was up with me. And da di da da, I’m pregnant [laughs]! I had to go through the whole production while I had morning sickness. I would take ginger tea to settle my stomach and wanted special food on the site; it was a challenge but a challenge in a good way, for myself.”

What similarities do you have with your character, Samantha?

“I would say I am similar to Samantha based on the way I grew up and people judging who I am — especially in college. I lived on campus and when I would walk to class people would not approach me but automatically think I had an attitude. When people actually got a chance to meet me, they would tell me “Wow, you are really cool!” I would respond saying, “Thanks for prejudging me! [laughs]”

Would you be Samantha’s friend in real life?

“I think Samantha is cool, I would maybe try to get her to loosen up just a little bit. I feel like she is too much in her head but I had so much fun playing her as a character.”

What is it like being a working mother?

“Being a working mom has inspired me a lot more than before when I was just working because I was just supporting myself. After I gave birth, I felt like I was Super Woman. I said to myself if I could get through pregnancy and labor, I can get through anything. It really boosted my confidence. I want my daughter to ultimately grow up and be proud of her mother. I want my daughter to know: if she puts in the work, has faith, and pursues her dreams, she can make anything happen.”

Why do you take the “less is more” approach towards posting photos of your daughter, Ava Marie, on social media?

“I understand mothers who take photos all the time! When you look at your child, you say to yourself ‘Oh my god, you were in my stomach and you have my eyes!’ For me, I want to take the time to bond with my daughter. So many people were inquiring  (which my family and I were so grateful for their love and support). But I wanted to take time before I put her picture out there. No judgement to mothers who post photos all the time because my phone right now is at the capacity of pictures!”

How is Angela as an aunt?

“She’s been fantastic! Angela spends as much time with her as possible and she always tells Ava,’you’re gonna be a little fashionista! And we are going to go shopping!’So Angela is waiting for the time when she and Ava can have Aunty-Niece outings. All my siblings have been very welcoming to Ava. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Is marriage in the future for you?

“Marriage is something I want to do, eventually. Everything in its due time. I understand people had a lot of things to say about me becoming pregnant before I got married. It was not my plan but it did happen and I don’t regret anything. I want things to take its natural course and happen as it should. You should allow things to evolve, beautifully.”

Check out the first episode of Mixed, below! What do you think?

Can The Inequality Gap Be A Color-Blind Issue? Politicans Act Like It Is

March 20th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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One of the latest political/social issues to grab a lot of attention is the inequality gap. But the discussions often dance around the notion of how race affects the gap. In 1967, in throes of the Civil Rights movement the median household income was 43 percent higher for white, non-Hispanic households than for black households. Things have changed, but for the worse! In 2011, median white household income was 72 percent higher than median black household income, according to a Census report from that year.

The gap is even more glaring when you look at the median household wealth instead of yearly income, reports MSN. The Pew Research Center found that in 1984, the white-to-black wealth ratio was 12-to-1. It narrowed by 1995 when the median white income was 5-to-1 to black income. But incredibly, by 2009 the ratio shot up to a whopping 19-to-1.

Despite this, politicians are avoiding discussing race and the inequality gap. A new 204-page analysis of the federal War on Poverty, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), barely mentions racial disparity. And remember Ryan recently said poverty is due in part to the fact that “inner cities” have a culture of “men not working,” a comment he ultimately called “inarticulate.”

While President Obama did note that “the painful legacy of discrimination means that African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity—higher unemployment, higher poverty rates” during a December 2013 address, it was just one line.

So why the deliberate avoidance of race? “I think it doesn’t make for good politics,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson says. “It’s messy and requires us to be deep and think about much bigger and more long-term solutions than Washington’s oftentimes willing to deal with.” But when taking about employment and home ownership it is hard to keep out the issue of race.

A recently study from Brandeis University found that the disparities in homeownership are a major driver of the racial wealth gap especially due to “redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices and lack of access to credit.

And for those black families who finally owned homes, the Great Recession reversed the advancements, many losing their homes in foreclosure.

And when it comes to employment, black unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment—a ratio that has been solid since the mid-1950s.

“The underlying narrative that many people share is that whatever inequities still exist, they’re due to the misbehavior or dysfunctional behavior of black folks themselves,” said William Darity Jr., the director of Duke University’s Consortium on Social Equity. “So there’s no reason to pay attention to racial disparities because one doesn’t believe they’re still significant, or there’s no need for public policy action by the government because it’s just a question of black folks changing their own behaviors.”

Even Obama often likes to stress personal responsibility when addressing the black community. His new “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative emphasizes it in its effort to help young men of color.

Darity argues that self-perpetuating inequality will only be broken through wealth transfers.

“People’s behaviors are largely shaped by the resources they possess, and if their resources altered, than they might change their behaviors,” he said.

Huckabee: Dems Make Women Think They’re Helpless Without “Uncle Sugar” & His Birth Control Prescriptions

January 23rd, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate, got on the dais at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting and went on a rant about what he says are the insults being hurled at women from the Democratic party.

According to him, the Republican “war on women” doesn’t exist. “Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women,” he said.

“And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” he continued. I never want to hear or read Mike Huckabee say “Uncle Sugar” ever again in all my life. Sadly, it’s still trending on Twitter.

One Twitter user's rendering of what Uncle Sugar looks like.

The comment was in reference to the Affordable Care Act (of course) and is a continuation of the conversation about Republican opposition to it. More specifically, GOP critics of the law say employers and other providers shouldn’t be required to cover contraception.

“Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication,” Huckabee said in his remarks. Kind of a weird take on women’s perspective on the health care issue, but he was clearly fired up.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in turn, told reporters today that he hadn’t heard the remarks but “whoever said it, it sounds offensive to me, and to women.”

MSNBC has footage of Huckabee’s speech, noting that he’s dead serious when he drops this disturbing turn of phrase on us. We, on the other hand, have included the Twitter rendering of Uncle Sugar at right.

Economic Researcher Debunks Right-Wing Claims That Welfare is Too Generous

August 22nd, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Craig Harrington, an economic researcher, slammed the researchers behind “The Work Versus Welfare” report, which claims that welfare recipients make more than entry-level workers. “Unfortunately…Tanner [the study’s lead author] nor his counterparts in the right-wing media seem to have any clue how anti-poverty programs function,” Media Matters reports.

As MN has reported before, the study insinuates that federal assistance is much too attractive. Welfare pays its recipients more than the minimum wage in more than 30 states. According to the report, government assistance pays more than a $15 per hour job — Hawaii dishes out $29.13 an hour to welfare-dependent Americans, it said.

Harrington is questioning the credibility of the study. Tanner’s research falsely assumes “that recipients take full advantage of every single benefit program that is potentially available to them,” he added.

“Right-wing media are promoting a flawed study that claims it is more lucrative for low-income Americans to accept government benefits than take low-paying jobs,” Harrington said. “[A] notion that reveals the conservative sphere’s ignorance on how anti-poverty programs work.”

While Republican rhetoric has worked to convince constituents that welfare checks are too appealing and therefore discourage job search, previous studies have debunked this argument. More than 90 percent of federal and state benefits have gone to the elderly, disabled, or working households, “not able-bodied working-age Americans who choose not to work.” Those who are not aged, handicapped, or employed only received nine percent of distributed benefits.

Among that nine percent, recipients are using government assistance for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits, which only supports individuals with significant work history, and Social Security benefits.

“If you’re making, in California, $44,000 a year and your boss offers you a raise to $50,000, you would probably say, ‘No thanks. Cause I don’t want to lose out on things like food stamp benefits…’” Charles Payne, a Fox Business News commentator said.

Well that’s funny, because a California family that earns $44,000 would “almost never qualify for food stamps,” Media Matters adds. Secondly, studies have shown that government safety nets aren’t keeping Americans poor, they’re actually keeping them out of poverty. “[T]he poverty rate in 2010 would have been twice as high without a social safety net,” Media Matters said. Welfare recipients are more, not less, likely to experience income mobility and escape poverty.

Tanner, the lead researcher, points to welfare as the culprit behind unemployment in poor households, but he neglects to take the poor economic climate into account. “Bad” positions are plaguing the job market. About 47 percent of workers didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2010 while 53 percent of employees had jobs that paid less than $37,000 a year.

Tanner believes that raising wages for workers would only increase unemployment. “This conclusion, of course, flies in the face of all evidence to the contrary and simply futhers conservative attacks against living wages,” Harrington said.

While Tanner’s flawed study is spreading like wildfire, this proves just how the malleable public is easily fed fallacious information — and believes it.

“We Are The 99 Percent!”: America Has The Worst Wealth Inequality Of All Developed Nations

August 18th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Over the past few decades, wealth inequality has become a bigger and bigger issue in this country. In the 1970s, the top one percent held only 10 percent of U.S. wealth. Now, their share has doubled to 20 percent! This leaves America with the highest disproportion of wealth distribution among all developed nations, The Huffington Post reports.

Economists Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez examined how much of the income pie the wealthiest have eaten over the past 50 years in 18 developed nations. Since 1960, America’s top earners’ share has increased the most because their taxes have been slashed by more than 40 percent. With central and local taxes combined, America’s wealthiest earners make nearly 10 percent more than wealthy Japanese, Swedes, and Danes.

Some blame Wall Street and Washington, who they say have been collaborating to enact laws that favor American banks, which in turn also favors the top one percent.

“[T]ypically, the bigger the tax cuts given to the one percent, the bigger the income inequality,” HuffPo said. Washington’s policies that slash taxes for the rich in order to stimulate economic growth, which should “trickle down” to the poor has not played out that way. HuffPo states, “contrary to what you will hear from conservatives, lower tax rates on the wealthy offer no obvious benefits to growth, or the poor.”

However, there’s more to the story besides taxes, the study finds. The economists also found that the United Kingdom has offered tax breaks for the wealthy just as much as the U.S., but data shows that their income inequality isn’t nearly as troubling as ours. Here, the same politicians who have fought for tax breaks for the wealthy have also supported less government intervention on the banking system. “The top 1 percent leveraged itself to the market, and haven’t looked back,” Matthew O’Brien of The Atlantic said.

“The poor and middle class, meanwhile, just get ever more discouraged about the political system and stop bothering to fight it, increasingly turning the whole process over to the wealthy and the politicians they own,” HuffPo adds. Americans did try Occupy Wall Street—but you know—that didn’t work out very well. Or at least it hasn’t so far. One could argue that recent labor protests are the early signs that the 99 percent are ready to rise up.

The study titled, “The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective,” puts U.S. income inequality as the worst versus 17 developed nations. In order from largest inequality to smallest, the other nations are: UK, Ireland, Norway, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, France, Germany, Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.