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What's Got MDC Buzzing?

What's Got MDC Buzzing?

In the Atlantic this week, Derek Thompson declared that ‘the middle class crisis -- and its resulting income inequality -- is the most important economic story of our time.” It’s been an important story for a long time, in fact. Thompson features an annotated slide show from the Economic Policy Institute--a “giant statistical round-up in 16 charts”—that shows where we are and how we got there. We’re still looking for the chart that shows us where we need to go and how to get there, but we’re fairly certain it has something to do with this.

A new brief from the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute details the rise in tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Authors Beth Mattingly and Elizabeth Kneebone found that in 2010, one in five federal income tax filers claimed the EITC, a four percentage point increase from 2007. The size of the average credit and the number of filers benefitting from the Child Tax Credit (ACTC) also increased. The brief also notes that, using the comprehensive supplemental poverty rate, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the increased claims lowered the poverty rate by 2.8 percentage points and kept millions of children and families out of poverty. The authors warn that “should these expansions be allowed to expire at the end of 2012, eligibility and benefit levels will decline for these families, diminishing the impact of these credits, even as many continue to struggle with the aftereffects of the recession.”

Newark mayor Cory Booker been in the news again; he’s not rescuing people from fires this time, though. He took the SNAP challenge: living on the equivalent of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food budget for one week. (That’s $33 to cover all of your meals for seven days.)  Over at Good this week, Liz Dwyer commends Booker for his efforts to raise awareness about this important program, but also reminds us of the caveats that exist in this sort of week-long challenge. Quoting Gene Denby. she says: "You can't neatly partition off hunger from stuff like inadequate housing or electricity or health care or safety or education….All those things are happening in concert and informing each other; their effects are cumulative." While maintaining support for these safety net programs is essential, Dwyer gives us another challenge: ending poverty by making our economic and educational systems more equitable to begin with.

Some of our staff braved the elements last week to decorate an MDC Christmas tree as part of the Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge. Locals, be sure to stop by the American Tobacco Campus in Durham and check out the creativity of our local nonprofits (50 trees in all!). And be sure to vote for your favorite (MDC, of course) by visiting www.triangletreechallenge.com and clicking Tree Entries to the left (we’re #50), or by texting "Tree50" to 46988.