TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 29

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The homeownership safety net may be unraveling for the next generation of seniors.

By Taz George and Ellen Seidman in MetroTrends

2. As we try to understand what draws Americans to ISIS, one judge hopes we can slow radicalization by putting recruits in halfway houses instead of jail.

By Dina Temple-Raston at National Public Radio

3. Phones for farmers: With a mobile phone, a developing world farmer can learn best practices, get weather data, follow crop prices and even access financial services.

By Gates Notes

4. A new food studies program at a Bronx community college will look at healthy eating and obesity in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

By Winnie Hu in the New York Times

5. A new initiative is pushing to get more women into the debate on global issues. Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted.

By Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME global health

What the Gates Foundation Has Achieved, 15 Years On

Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived
Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived Scott Olson; Getty Images

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Much has been done over the foundation's first decade and a half — with more still to do

There are a whole lot of things you may or may not get to do in the next 15 years, but a few of them you can take for granted: eating, for one. Having access to a bank, for another. And then there’s the simple business of not dying of a preventable or treatable disease. Good for you—and good for most of us in the developed world. But the developed world isn’t the whole story.

The bad—and familiar—news is that developing nations lag far behind in income, public health, food production, education and more. The much, much better news is that all of that is changing—and fast. The just-released Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a good case for hoping there is still more to come.

The 2015 letter represents something of a threshold moment for the Foundation. It was in 2000 that the Gateses began their work and set themselves a very public 15-year deadline: show meaningful progress in narrowing the health, income and resource gap between the world’s privileged and underprivileged people, or be prepared to explain why not. So far, nobody—neither the Gates Foundation nor the numerous other global health groups like the World Health Organization and UNICEF—have much explaining to do.

The number of children under five who die each year worldwide has been nearly cut in half, from a high of nearly 13 million to 6.5 million today. Polio has been chased to the very brink of extinction, and elephantiasis, river blindness and Guinea worm are close behind. Drought-tolerant seeds are dramatically increasing agricultural yields; economies in the once-desperate countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now matching the developed world in rate of annual growth. Up to 70% of people across the developing world now have access to wireless service, making mobile banking possible—a luxury in the West but a necessity in places there is no other banking infrastructure.

The trick of course is that progress isn’t the same as success. The 13 million babies who were dying a year in the years before the Foundation began, for example, factored out to a horrific 35,000 every single day. Slashing that in half leaves you with 17,500—still an intolerable figure. For that reason and others, the Gateses are turning the 15-year chronometer back to zero, setting targets—and framing ways to achieve them—for 2030.

The most pressing concern involves those 17,500 kids. The overwhelming share of the recent reduction in mortality is due to better delivery of vaccines and treatments for diseases that are vastly less common or even nonexistent in much of the developed world—measles, pneumonia, malaria, cholera and other diarrheal ills. Those are still the cause of 60% of the remaining deaths. But the other 40%—or 2.6 million children—involve neonates, babies who die in the first 30 days of life and often on the very first day. The interventions in these cases can be remarkably simple.

“The baby must be kept warm immediately after birth, which too often doesn’t happen,” Melinda Gates told TIME. “This is basic skin-to-skin contact. Breast-feeding exclusively is the next big thing, as is basic cord care. The umbilical cord must be cut cleanly and kept clean to prevent infections.”

HIV may similarly be brought to heel, if not as easily as neonate mortality. A vaccine or a complete cure—one that would simply eliminate the virus from the body the way an antibiotic can eliminate a bacterium—remain the gold standards. But in much of the world, anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have served as what is known as a functional cure, allowing an infected person to live healthily and indefinitely while always carrying a bit of the pathogen. Gates looks forward to making ARVs more widely available, as well as to the development of other treatment protocols that we may not even be considering now.

“We’re already moving toward an HIV tipping point,” she says, “when the number of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa who are in treatment will exceed the number of people becoming newly infected.”

Food security is another achievable goal. Even as Africa remains heavily agrarian—70% of people in the sub-Saharan region are farmers compared to 2% in the U.S.—yields remain low. An acre of farmland here in America may produce 150 bushels of corn; in Africa it’s just 30. The problem is largely rooted in our increasingly unstable climate, with severe droughts burning out harvests or heavy rainstorms destroying them.

“Millions of people eat rice in Africa,” says Gates, “and rice has to be kept much wetter than other crops. At the equator it’s staying drier longer, but when the rains do come, they hit harder.”

In the case of rice and corn and all other crops, the answer is seeds engineered for the conditions in which they will have to grow, not for the more forgiving farmlands of the West. In Tanzania, site-specific seed corn has been made available and is already changing lives. “That seed,” one farmer told Gates when she visited in 2012, “made the difference between hunger and prosperity.”

Finally comes banking. Across Africa, only 37% of people are part of the formal banking system, but up to 90%, depending on the area, are part of the M-Pesa network—a mobile banking link accessible via cellphone. The Pesa part of the name is Swahili for money and the M is simply for mobile.

“Today too many people put their money in a cow or in jewelry,” Gates says. “But it’s impossible to take just a little of that money out. If someone gets sick or you have another emergency, you simply sell the cow.” Mobile banking changes all of that, making it much easier to save—and in a part of the world where even $1 set aside a day can mean economic security, that’s a very big deal.

Nothing about the past 15 years guarantees that the next 15 will see as much progress. The doctrine of low-hanging fruit means that in almost all enterprises, the early successes come easier. But 15 years is a smart timeframe. It’s far enough away that it creates room for different strategies to be tried and fail before one succeeds, but it’s close enough that you still can’t afford to waste the time you have. Wasting time, clearly, is not something the folks at the Gates Foundation have been doing so far, and they likely won’t in the 15 years to come either.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China’s Economy Registers Weakest Economic Growth in 24 Years

CHINA-STOCKS
A stock investor gestures as he checks share prices at a securities firm in Fuyang, China, on Jan. 19, 2015 AFP/Getty Images

Beijing said the country’s economic performance in 2014 was the “new normal”

China’s economy expanded by just 7.4% in 2014, undercutting earlier official forecasts and registering the Asian superpower’s weakest economic growth in 24 years, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.

Late last year, authorities released official forecasts putting growth in 2014 at 7.5%. Tuesday’s revelation marked the first time in 16 years that the country’s economic performance missed the government’s annual target. However, authorities have largely tried to paper over the misstep.

“China has entered a new normal of economic growth,” Li Baodong, a Vice Foreign Minister, told reporters on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. “That is to say we are going through structural adjustment and the structural adjustment is progressing steadily.”

Yet experts were not so quick to downplay China’s soaring debt, weak and volatile real estate market and plummeting domestic demand.

“Among all the problems, the biggest one is low domestic demand and the other is overcapacity. And when the global economy is not great, exporting is affected,” Chenggang Xu, a professor in economic development at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “In the near future, we’ll see it slowdown further.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted additional cooling of the world’s most populous nation’s economy in 2015, and suggested that growth would drop well below 7%, reverberating in markets across the region.

Despite efforts by Beijing to reduce vulnerabilities from recent rapid credit and investment growth, this looming slump “is affecting the rest of Asia,” said the IMF report on Tuesday.

The release of China’s economic data for 2014 coincided with revised predictions on global economic growth from the IMF. On Tuesday, the institution ratcheted down expectations for the world’s economy in 2015, forecasting that growth this year would hover around 3.5%, down from their initial estimate of 3.8%.

TIME Economics

Richest 1% to Boast More Wealth Than Rest of World by 2016

In 2014, the bottom 80% controlled only 5.5% of the world's wealth

Global income inequality is headed for a new milestone with the world’s richest 1% on track to control more wealth than everyone else on the planet by 2016, according to an Oxfam International report released Monday.

The charity also warns that spiraling inequality hampers the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people does not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 per day.

“Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable,” said Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima.

In 2014, the ultra-rich first percentile held 48% of the world’s income. By contrast, the poorest 80% of the world’s population only controlled a paltry 5.5% of its wealth, according to the report.

The study was published a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce a significant middle-class tax cut at his State of the Union address.

TIME Economics

The World Bank Reduces Global Growth Forecasts for 2015 and 2016

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Getty Images

The bank’s chief economist says the U.S. is unable to drive global recovery alone

The World Bank adjusted previous forecasts for economic growth globally in a bi-annual report published this week, saying tougher times likely lie ahead.

The institution now believes the international economy will expand by just 3 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 2016, after predicting in June that growth would hover around 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

While the U.S. economy appears to performing strongly, the bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu warned that this alone would not be enough to float markets around the globe.

“The global economy is running on a single engine,” Basu told reporters. “This does not make for a rosy outlook.”

See the report highlights here.

TIME Opinion

History Shows How 2 Million Workers Lost Rights

US-LABOR-PROTEST-WAGE
Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters march to demand an increase of the minimum wage, in Los Angeles on Dec. 4, 2014 Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Home attendants and aides have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights

Over the last year, the nation has seen a tumultuous wave of low-wage workers contesting terms of employment that perpetually leave them impoverished and economically insecure. It’s a fight in which home-care workers—one of the fastest growing labor forces—have long participated, as home attendants and aides have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. Their work is becoming ever more important in our economy, with over 40 million elderly Americans today and baby boomers aging into their 70s and 80s; the demand for such workers is projected to nearly double over the next seven years. And yet, this week a federal judge is likely to put up just the latest obstacle to their receiving the minimum wage and overtime compensation granted to other workers through the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The story of how home-care workers ended up without rights begins in the Great Depression. Home care first originated as a distinct occupation during the New Deal, and evolved after World War II as part of welfare and health policy aimed at developing alternatives to institutionalization of the elderly and people with disabilities. Prior to the mid-1970s, public agencies provided or coordinated homemaker and home-attendant services. Fiscal constraints subsequently led state and local governments to contract home care first to non-profit and later to for-profit agencies. In 1974, Congress extended FLSA wage and hour standards to long-excluded private household workers. A year later, however, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) interpreted the new amendment to exempt home-care workers, even employees of for-profit entities, by misclassifying them as elder companions, akin to babysitters. It provided no explicit reasoning for introducing this new terminology, beyond the need for uniform definitions of domestic service and employer. This exclusion became known as the “companionship rule.”

The rule was a boon for employers. Amid nursing-home scandals and an emergent disability-rights movement, demand for home-based care burgeoned, but the women actually performing the labor were invisible. A distinct home-health industry began to grow following the 1975 exemption, as the rule freed staffing and home-health agencies from paying minimum wages and overtime. Opening Medicaid and other programs to for-profit providers after 1980 led to a tenfold increase in for-profit agencies during the next half decade. By 2000, for-profit groups employed over 60 per cent of all workers. Today, the home franchise industry is worth $90 billion.

Care workers, however, were never just casual friendly neighbors; even before this expansion, home-care workers were middle-aged, disproportionately African American, female wage earners—neither nurse nor maid, but a combination of both. Despite changes in their title since the 1930s, these workers always performed a combination of bodily care work (bathing, dressing, feeding) and housekeeping necessary to maintain someone at home. They increasingly have become a trained workforce.

With the expansion of the industry, service sector unions and domestic worker associations lobbied to change the “companionship rule.” Recently, they seemed to have won: After extensive public comment, the DOL issued a new rule in September of 2013, which would have finally included home-care workers under FLSA coverage. The Obama Administration also updated the definition of domestic service to match the job as performed by nearly 2 million workers who belong to one of the fastest growing, but lowest paid, occupations, with median hourly wages under $10. It recognized aid with activities of daily living as care, and care as a form of domestic labor. Whereas companionship services had previously included even those who spent more than 20 hours engaged in care, the new rule narrowed the meaning of companionship to mere “fellowship and protection” in order to close the loophole that for-profit agencies were deploying to profit by underpaying live-in home attendants. It was to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, though enforcement was delayed until June.

Then, in late December, at the urging of for-profit home care franchise operators, led by the Home Care Association of America, Judge Richard J. Leon (a George W. Bush appointee) of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a key element of the revision. The decision vacated the responsibility of third-party employers (such as home-care businesses) to pay minimum wage and overtime for so-called companionship services. In his opinion, the judge charged the DOL with “arrogance,” “unprecedented authority” and “a wholesale abrogation of Congress’s authority in this area.”

A historical perspective suggests otherwise. In the 1970s, Congress never intended to enhance corporate profits by narrowing wage and hour protections; to the contrary, it expanded them. Granted, the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare refused “to include within the terms ‘domestic service’ such activities as babysitting and acting as a companion”—but it distinguished teenage sitters and friendly visitors from domestic workers by adding “casual” to those exempted from labor standards. It explicitly did not refer to “regular breadwinners,” those “responsible for their families.” Moreover, the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the supposition that where Congressional intent is ambiguous, executive agencies—including the DOL—have leeway. In the 2007 case Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, a unanimous Supreme Court commended the expertise of the agency to determine the meaning of undefined phrases like “domestic service employment” and “companionship services.”

During oral argument in Coke, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg suggested that the proper way to amend the exemption was either a new rule through the DOL, which is what ended up happening, or legislation. Judge Leon reads back Congressional intent from the fact that legislative fixes have stalled in committee in the years following Coke. But there are many reasons why bills go nowhere in our gridlocked government.

The temporary restraining order from Judge Leon effectively blocked implementation of the new DOL rule in totality, setting off a ripple effect against this primarily female workforce. California, for example, instantly suspended implementation for some 80,000 workers. Then on Jan. 9, he heard oral arguments on whether to strike down the redefinition of the companionship classification. Given his prior decisions, the bet is that his next ruling on Jan. 14 will do so. Continuous litigation is in the offering, as the DOL is likely to appeal his decisions all the way to the Supreme Court.

For over 40 years, we’ve relied on cheap labor for care. The structure of home-care has exemplified a broader trend of reconfiguring work throughout the economy as casualized and low-waged, outside of labor standards and immune from unionization. But stopping the correction of this injustice means distorting history—and devaluing the care that someday most of us will need.

Eileen Boris is Hull Professor of Feminist Studies and Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Jennifer Klein is Professor of History at Yale and a Public Voices Fellow. They are the authors of Caring For America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State.

TIME energy

Gas Is Cheaper Than It’s Been in 5 Years

Gas prices in the United States have hit their lowest level since April of 2009, part of the plunge in global oil prices that’s been underway since June.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. has fallen 27 cents in the past three weeks, down to $2.20 a gallon as of Jan. 9, Reuters reports. The data comes from a Lundberg study released on Sunday, which also says that prices in the U.S. are down more than $1.14 a gallon from the same period a year ago.

Some experts speculate that oil prices will rise again in 2015, but a Saudi prince said in a new interview out Sunday that the days of $100-a-barrel oil aren’t coming back.

Read next: A Plane from New York to London Almost Went Supersonic

TIME Opinion

Despite the Statistics, We Haven’t Lost the War on Poverty

Though it may not look like it, a stable poverty rate is consistent with anti-poverty programs that work

It’s been more than a half-century since President Johnson officially launched the War on Poverty, in his State of the Union address delivered on this day in 1964, and declared that the U.S. had “the power to eliminate poverty from an entire continental nation.” In the decades that followed his decision to invest in jobs, training and aid, the U.S. has experienced, by some measures, tremendous prosperity. GDP per capita—a measure of the value of goods and services produced in the U.S., a commonly used indicator of living standards–has nearly doubled, from less than $25,000 per person to nearly $50,000. At the same time, our key measure of economic hardship, the official poverty rate, has barely budged from 15 percent in the past 50 years.

On the face of it, then, the War on Poverty seems to have accomplished nothing. Critics of Johnson’s programs may also add that the War on Poverty resulted in billions of dollars spent on the poor. Why has there been no return on that investment?

The simple answer is that there have been improvements—but the way we measure poverty hasn’t, until recently, accounted for them. Many direct transfers to the poor do not count in an official poverty measure based on only pre-tax, cash income.

Many key programs established during the Great Society Era, such as Medicaid, Food Stamps (now known as SNAP) and the WIC nutrition program are “in kind” programs that provide non-cash help. In more recent decades, benefits through the tax system, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or child tax credits, have grown in importance but are ignored in official statistics.

Fortunately, the Census Bureau has developed their Supplemental Poverty Measure, which includes non-cash benefits and post-tax income, accounts for differences in regional costs of living and makes several other sensible adjustments to poverty measures. These adjustments can be incredibly important to understanding poverty. For example, the Census Bureau estimates that refundable tax credits, such as the EITC, lower the poverty rate by up to three percentage points (around 9 million people). SNAP benefits lower it by nearly two percentage points (approximately 6 million people).

Another critical failure of measurement, one that falls more on the community of poverty researchers, is the failure, until recently, to convincingly measure the full benefits of safety net spending. We now have credible, peer-reviewed research that measures the real benefits on health, educational attainment and quality of life from a variety of safety-net programs. These studies show over and over that many safety net programs improve the lives of the poor. For example, studies have shown that infants born to families who are at high risk of poverty are healthier because of Medicaid, SNAP and WIC. These benefits may not show up as lower poverty rates, but they lay the groundwork for a healthier, more productive populace.

 

Marianne Page and Ann Huff Stevens / UC Davis Center for Poverty Research

 

It is actually remarkable that poverty rates have not substantially grown, considering economic and social trends over the past three decades. Since the 1980s, rising demand for skilled workers and falling demand for their less-skilled counterparts have meant that real wages have increased substantially for workers earning above the median, but not for most of those who earn below it. This fact is at the heart of growing inequality. It explains how strong GDP growth can co-exist with no improvement for low-wage workers. Our own research suggests that the wider gap in earnings between workers at the median and those earning in the lowest 20 percent during the 1980s should alone have increased poverty rates by roughly 2.5 percentage points.

The last 50 years have also brought massive changes in the structure of U.S. families. Since the 1960s, the fraction of the non-elderly population living in single-parent families has more than doubled. Single-parent families are more likely to be poor because, by definition, there is only one parent to earn enough to push family income over the poverty line. The cost and difficulty of child care in single-parent families pose additional barriers.

Our calculations show that if poverty rates between two-parent and single-parent families had remained constant, and only the frequency of single-parenthood had changed, U.S. poverty rates among the non-elderly since the 1960s would have increased on the order of 4 percentage points. Again, there was actually no significant change in poverty rates over this period.

A major trend identified in the graph above is the downward trend in poverty among the elderly. Unlike the overall poverty rate, poverty among the elderly has declined substantially since the 1960s. Why is this the case? First, the elderly benefit from a stable cash-based benefit from Social Security. Second, the elderly and their probability of being poor are largely unaffected by changes in labor markets. Finally, Social Security benefits are indexed to average wage growth in the economy, and so do not lose their value to inflation—in contrast with many welfare programs aimed at younger individuals.

The lesson here is that an income-support program with benefits linked to overall economic growth, aimed at a population unaffected by the deterioration of the low-wage labor market, has led to a significant, lasting decline in poverty since the War on Poverty was launched.

The War on Poverty has clearly not been won. No amount of explaining, interpreting or squinting at the plot of U.S. poverty rates can get us to a declaration of victory. Declarations of defeat are just as misguided, however. The War on Poverty has been fought against a shifting landscape that has made the effort more difficult with each passing decade. Renewed efforts that recognize demographic and labor market realities and the enormous challenges they place on anti-poverty efforts, and measures of that progress, should be the hallmarks of the next phase in this war.

Marianne Page is a professor of Economics and Deputy Director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Ann Huff Stevens is a professor of Economics, Director of the Center for Poverty Research, and Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

The UC Davis Center for Poverty Research was founded in 2011 with core funding from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is one of three federally designated Poverty Research Centers whose mission is to facilitate non-partisan academic research in the United States.

TIME politics

Elizabeth Warren and the AFL-CIO: A Match Made in History

Mar. 21, 1955, cover of TIME
The Mar. 21, 1955, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN

Senator Warren will address an American labor movement seeking a renaissance

When Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts delivers a keynote address on Wednesday at the AFL-CIO’s National Summit on Wages, she will speak to an organization whose vision has long outgrown its influence. Membership in the AFL-CIO, the United States’ largest federation of labor unions, has waned over the years. And as collective bargaining has lost much of its clout, so has the biggest coalition that represents workers.

But when the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations joined its 15 million members into a super union coalition 60 years ago, they became one of the most powerful organizations in the United States. TIME dedicated its Mar. 21, 1955 cover to George Meany, the man minted president of the AFL-CIO that year. He was a cigar-smoking plumber who rose to prominence within the unions, carrying a $35,000 annual paycheck (over $300,000 today) and a taste for French wines. In the 1950s, a long history of union victories—the eight-hour workday, and old-age and illness protections—gave the AFL-CIO a prominence in American society that has mostly dissipated today.

Meany told TIME about a gathering of supporters of his father’s union, the plumbers’ local:

“I can remember little groups of people coming to our home on a Sunday afternoon,” George recalls. “There were no movies in those days and not many automobiles around, and people visited one another on Sunday, and practically all of the visitors who came to my home were officers and members of the union.

“I can remember these men talking about something known as ‘the organization,’ and I may say to you that they did not pronounce it that way, they called it the ‘organ-eye-zation.’ But I can remember the reverence in which they used the term, and inculcated into my mind at that time was the thought that whatever the organization was, it was something with these men almost on a par with religion. I grew up with faith in the trade-union movement.”

Labors’ political successes in the U.S. distinguished the movement in the western world. TIME recounted an exchange between Meany and a British counterpart:

George Meany summed up the American success a few years ago in Britain, when a British trade-unionist who was also a member of the Labor Party asked him: “When are you Yanks going to wake up and form a political party?” Meany floored him with a proud reply: “When collective bargaining yields as little for us as it does for you, we may have to form a political party.”

Despite the unions’ challenges today—and Meany’s forecast—the U.S. doesn’t have a labor party. But labor does have allies.

Enter Senator Warren. This week’s summit will focus on raising wages rather than collective bargaining, as a growing movement of fast-food workers have called for a minimum living wage of $15 per hour; 29 states, from Washington to Connecticut, have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum. Senator Warren has been one of the loudest voices in favor. “Things are getting better, yes, but only for some,” Warren told TIME’s Rana Faroohar in an interview. “Families are working harder, but not doing better. And they feel the game is rigged against them–and guess what–it is!”

Though American labor doesn’t have a party in 2015, it does have growing political support—something George Meany would probably have approved of.

TIME France

Economist Thomas Piketty Declines Prestigious French Award

Economist Thomas Piketty in Frankfurt, Germany, in Oct. 2014.
Economist Thomas Piketty in Frankfurt, Germany, in Oct. 2014. Michael Gottschalk—Photothek via Getty Images

"I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honorable"

Economist Thomas Piketty, whose mammoth work Capital in the 21st Century has sold 1.5 million copies and sparked debate worldwide about growing inequalities, declined a nomination for France’s Legion of Honor award Thursday.

“I have just learned that I was nominated for the Legion of Honor. I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable,” Piketty told Agence-France Presse. “They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe.”

Once an ally of France’s socialist president Francois Hollande, Piketty has parted ways with the current administration over a disagreement about the government’s tax policies.

Also on the list of nominees for the award are Nobel economics laureate Jean Tirole and Nobel literature winner Patrick Modiano.

[AFP]

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