New Article: “Exploding Wealth Inequalities: Does Tax Policy Promote Social Justice or Social Injustice?”

New Article: Phyllis C. Taite, Exploding Wealth Inequalities: Does Tax Policy Promote Social Justice or Social Injustice?, 36 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 201 (2014).  Abstract below:

This essay discusses how tax policies work in concert to contribute to the wealth and income inequality that disadvantage the poor and middle class in favor of the wealthy. While there is current and past discourse on wealth and income inequality, and impact of the same, as well as discussions of multiple causes of wealth and income inequality, there is little discussion on how various tax policies work together as a common force to perpetuate income and economic inequality. This Essay briefly discussed how certain tax policies work in concert to systematically shift wealth to the wealthiest taxpayers. This social arrangement is counter to what many would perceive as social justice. Social justice requires that those who are of greater means and receive greater benefits of tax policy should be responsible for a greater weight of the tax burdens. This Essay furthered discussed proposed limitations that should be placed on certain tax subsidies and defined benefits and burdens that should attach for the benefits received from these tax subsidies.

New Book: “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America”

MeritocracyNew Book: Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (2015).  From the publisher’s website:

Standing on the foundations of America’s promise of equal opportunity, our universities purport to serve as engines of social mobility and practitioners of democracy. But as acclaimed scholar and pioneering civil rights advocate Lani Guinier argues, the merit systems that dictate the admissions practices of these institutions are functioning to select and privilege elite individuals rather than create learning communities geared to advance democratic societies. Having studied and taught at schools such as Harvard University, Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier has spent years examining the experiences of ethnic minorities and of women at the nation’s top institutions of higher education, and here she lays bare the practices that impede the stated missions of these schools.

Goaded on by a contemporary culture that establishes value through ranking and sorting, universities assess applicants using the vocabulary of private, highly individualized merit. As a result of private merit standards and ever-increasing tuitions, our colleges and universities increasingly are failing in their mission to provide educational opportunity and to prepare students for productive and engaged citizenship.

To reclaim higher education as a cornerstone of democracy, Guinier argues that institutions of higher learning must focus on admitting and educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens, and publicly spirited leaders. Guinier presents a plan for considering “democratic merit,” a system that measures the success of higher education not by the personal qualities of the students who enter but by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave.

Guinier goes on to offer vivid examples of communities that have developed effective learning strategies based not on an individual’s “merit” but on the collaborative strength of a group, learning and working together, supporting members, and evolving into powerful collectives. Examples are taken from across the country and include a wide range of approaches, each innovative and effective. Guinier argues for reformation, not only of the very premises of admissions practices but of the shape of higher education itself.

Op-Ed: The Republican Discovery of the Poor – NYTimes.com

The Republican Discovery of the Poor – NYTimes.com [with lots of links to related positions by conservative politicians].

New Report: “California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State”

Berkley ReportNew Report: Marina Fisher, Nathaniel Miller, Lindsay Walter &Jeffrey Selbin, California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State (2015).  Abstract below:

Vagrancy laws conjure up a distant past when authorities punished people without a home or permanent residence. Whether the objects of pity or scorn, vagrants could be cited or jailed under laws selectively enforced against anyone deemed undesirable. Although such laws have generally been struck down by courts as unconstitutionally vague, today’s “vagrants” are homeless people, who face growing harassment and punishment for their presence in public.

More than one in five homeless people in the country lives in California, and two-thirds are unsheltered. The state legislature has done little to respond to this widespread problem, forcing municipal governments to address homelessness with local laws and resources. Cities have responded by enacting and enforcing new vagrancy laws — a wide range of municipal codes that target or disproportionately impact homeless people.

Through extensive archival research and case studies of several cities, the report presents detailed evidence of the growing enactment and enforcement of municipal anti-homeless laws in recent decades as cities engage in a race to the bottom to push out homeless people. It concludes with a call for a state-level solution to end the expensive and inhumane treatment of some of California’s most vulnerable residents.

Worth Checking Out: North Carolina Republicans Battle UNC’s Gene Nichol, Poverty Center | The New Republic

North Carolina Republicans Battle UNC’s Gene Nichol, Poverty Center | The New Republic.

New Report: “When Discretion Means Denial: A National Perspective on Criminal Records Barriers to Federally Subsidized Housing”

New Report: Marie Claire Tran-Leung, When Discretion Means Denial: A National Perspective on Criminal Records Barriers to Federally Subsidized Housing (Shriver Center 2015).

News Article: Inequality Has Actually Not Risen Since the Financial Crisis – NYTimes.com

Inequality Has Actually Not Risen Since the Financial Crisis – NYTimes.com.

New Article: “For Goodness’ Sake: A Two-Part Proposal for Remedying the U.S. Charity/Justice Imbalance”

New Article: Fran Quigley, For Goodness’ Sake: A Two-Part Proposal for Remedying the U.S. Charity/Justice Imbalance, SSRN 2015.  Abstract below:

The U.S. approach to addressing economic and social needs strongly favors individual and corporate charity over the establishment and enforcement of economic and social rights. This charity/justice imbalance has a severely negative impact on the nation’s poor, who despite the overall U.S. wealth struggle with inadequate access to healthcare, housing, and nutrition. This article suggests a two-part approach for remedying the charity/justice imbalance in the U.S.: First, the U.S. should eliminate the charitable tax deduction, a policy creation that does not effectively address economic and social needs, forces an inequitable poverty relief and tax burden on the middle class, and lulls the nation into a false sense of complacency about its poverty crisis. Second, the U.S. should replace the deduction with ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This two-part process would reverse the U.S. legacy of avoiding enforceable commitments to economic and social rights. Charity would take a step back; justice a step forward.

Call-for-Proposals UPDATE: “Poverty Law: Academic Activism” Conference, Feb. 19-20, 2016

It appears I shared this too soon.  Due to a conflict with the 2015 ClassCrits (which I should have realized) conference, the date on the poverty law conference is now changed to Feb. 19-20, 2016.

Call-for-Proposals: Poverty Law: Academic Activism Conference — Seattle University School of Law — Feb. 19-20, 2016 .  The Call can be found as a PDF here, Poverty Law Conference 2016 Call-for-Proposals, and is also below:

Card CatalogueCall for Proposals:

We invite proposals for presentations at a Spring 2016 conference, “Poverty Law: Academic Activism” to be held on Feb. 19-20, 2016, hosted by Seattle University School of Law.  The conference will focus on the connection between academics and activism, broadly understood.  Just as “poverty law” is a broad category that includes everything from welfare and education programs to immigration and tax policy, so too, “academic activism” includes a wide range of activities.  This conference will explore how members of the legal community directly engage with activists to effect social, legal, and policy changes; how scholarship can help improve the lives of the poor; and how to educate the next generation of poverty warriors.

The conference is organized around these three tracks – direct engagement, scholarship, and teaching – and the hope that the conference will be a large gathering of those whose work (including direct involvement as well as scholarship) focuses on or relates to poverty law.  The deadline for proposals is Friday, April 24, 2015.  Please submit the title of your presentation with an abstract or overview of no more than 300 words to erosser@wcl.american.  To submit a full panel presentation, include the above information for all panelists.

Additionally, for those who are interested (though this is not a requirement for participation in the conference), conference participants may have publication opportunities with both the Seattle Journal for Social Justice and the Seattle Law Review.  Conference attendees will be responsible for their own travel expenses. We look forward to seeing you in Seattle in Feb. 2016!

If you have any questions, please contact the conference organizers: Sara Rankin (Seattle University School of Law) and Ezra Rosser (American University Washington College of Law)

News Article: Jails Have Become Warehouses for the Poor, Ill and Addicted, a Report Says – NYTimes.com

Jails Have Become Warehouses for the Poor, Ill and Addicted, a Report Says – NYTimes.com.