Surge-taxing Uber as a way relieve urban congestion

Every city where Uber and Lyft have found a foothold has also faced impossible congestion in the city center; Felix Salmon says this is because drivers are incentivized to come to the city-center despite the traffic (because that's where the fares are) and riders are incentivized to skip public transit when there are a lot of cars around to hail with their apps. Read the rest

Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Automating Inequality: using algorithms to create a modern "digital poor-house"

Weeks before the publication of Virginia Eubanks's new book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, knowledgeable friends were already urging me to read it, which was a no-brainer, having followed Eubanks's work for years.

The world's richest 2000 billionaires could wipe out extreme poverty with one seventh of what they gained last year

Oxfam's released its annual report on inequality, timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum, and unlike previous reports (which focused on attractive but misleading stats about the relative wealth of poor and rich people), the new one focuses on the growth in the fortunes of the world's richest people, a stat that is a much more reliable indicator of growing inequality. Read the rest

Apple, Google add 45 minutes to commuter-bus run to avoid 280 highway, where the buses' windows keep getting smashed

No one's sure how the windows on commuter buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley keep getting smashed on a stretch of the 280 -- maybe it's a pellet gun, maybe it's thrown rocks -- but Apple and Google have informed employees who use the service that their commute is about to get 45 minutes longer as they take alternate routes to avoid that highway. Read the rest

Leaseholders in building sheathed in flammable Grenfell cladding sent a £2m bill for repairs

In the UK, many people who live in multiunit buildings -- the sort of thing that would be a condo or co-op in the US -- live under the leaseholder/freeholder system, a relic of feudalism that has been updated for the age of inequality thanks to hedge funds and other socially useless financial engineers. Read the rest

UK tax authority, gutted by austerity and buried by Brexit, can't deal with the crime revealed by the Paradise Papers

HMRC, the British tax authority, is 'struggling to deal with fallout of Paradise Papers leak,' according to Parliament's public accounts committee, whose new report describes an already understaffed agency whose workload has been increased by the preparations for Brexit. Read the rest

If the UK's minimum wage had risen with its executive pay, the lowest paid jobs in the country would be worth £26K/year

Britain is one of the most unequal countries in the world, thanks to the Tory-in-sheep's-clothing policies of Tony Blair, and the naked banker-coddling and brutal austerity of the real Tories who followed on from Blair. Read the rest

California's record poverty and real-estate bubble are creating a "wheel-estate" boom of people with good jobs living in their cars

Extreme housing prices in California -- driven by a combination of speculation, favorable legal/tax positions for landlords, foreclosures after the 2008 crisis, and an unwillingness to build public housing -- has created vast homeless encampments, but there's a less visible side to the crisis: working people in "good jobs" who have to live in their cars. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions encourages courts to continue practice of fining poor people for being too poor to pay their fines

In 2016, the Obama DoJ issued guidance to US courts telling them to cease the practice of levying fines on poor people that exceeded their means to pay, especially fines for failure to pay earlier fines. This week, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed that order. Read the rest

Virginia is the most unequal state in the union, and is more unequal than at any time in (post-Reconstruction) history

20% of the Virginia workforce is earning $10.33/hour or less, while wages for the top 20% of earners have soared to $50/hour or more -- the top two deciles are earning, on average, 280% more than the bottom two deciles. Read the rest

Wells Fargo CEO promises to spend not one cent of the GOP tax gift on investment or wages

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan -- who inherited the most scandal-haunted bank of them all this year -- reassured his investors in a CNN Money interview that not one dime of the tax savings the GOP will deliver to his company will be reinvested or used to increase wages: instead, it will all go to buy-backs and dividends. Read the rest

Piketty and 100 researchers: inequality is getting worse, and will continue to worsen

The World Inequality Lab -- led by Thomas "Capital in the 21st Century" Piketty -- has published its 2018 World Inequality Report, summarizing the research of 100 academics around the world who investigate and document capital flows from 1980 onward. Read the rest

Share of national wealth held by America's 1% hits 50-year high

In Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962 to 2016: Has Middle Class Wealth Recovered?, an NBER working paper by NYU economics professor Edward N. Wolff, we get an analysis of the annual US governmental Survey of Consumer Finances, revealing that the share of national wealth owned by the richest one percent of Americans has risen by three points since 2013, to more than 90%, the highest level in half a century. Read the rest

A free sf anthology about space travel, inequality, equity and public policy: Kim Stanley Robinson, Madeline Ashby, Eileen Gun, Ramez Naam, Steven Barnes, Karl Schroeder and more!

Joey from ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination sez, "Today, we published Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities, a free digital collection of fiction and nonfiction about the near future of space exploration, with special attention to issues of public policy, equity, and economics/financing. The book was supported by a grant from NASA, and it features stories from Madeline Ashby, Steven Barnes, Eileen Gunn, Ramez Naam, Carter Scholz, Karl Schroeder, and Vandana Singh, plus an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson." Read the rest

States suspend your driver's license over inability to pay court fines, costing you your job and any ability to repay

Massive income inequality, combined with Republican attacks on the taxation of the wealthiest, has produced a situation in which the state increasingly depends on extracting fines, interest and debt service from people who grow steadily poorer and less able to pay, and thus the state must turn to ever-more-extreme measures to extract the money it needs to survive. Read the rest

Record-breaking number of billionaires signals a second "Gilded Age" with inequality hitting 1905 levels

The total wealth controlled by the world's billionaires has reached $6,000,000,000,000, up nearly 20% from last year. There are now 1,542 dollar-denominated billionaires on earth. Read the rest

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