November 27, 2007
Student editorial on inequality
I came across a student article that may be of interest when I was reading advice by Luz Herrera (a visiting faculty member at Chapman Law) to Harvard Law students considering public interest, available here. In the Nov. 15 Harvard Law Record (I worked for it while in law school and I apologize that I haven't removed it from my list of bookmarked websites), Andrew Kalloch has an Op-Ed on "Toward an Interdisciplinary Understanding of Inequality." In it Kalloch calls attention, albeit somewhat unscientifically, to the connection between psychological development and egalitarianism and implicitly to the costs imposed by today's problematic inequality.
November 24, 2007
Urban Law Journal (Fordham): Poverty Law Issue
WORTH CHECKING OUT
The Fordham Urban Law Journal's most recent issue is dedicate to poverty law, with a particular focus on the teaching of poverty law and the place of poverty law in law schools. The issue includes the following articles (I was unable to view the PDFs in my web browser but could download the articles and then view them):
Poverty Law and Civil Procedure: Rethinking the First Year Course
A Home of Its Own: The Role of Poverty Law in Furthering Law Schools' Missions
Marie A. Fallinger
Race and Wealth Disparity: The Role of Law and the Legal System
Beverly Moran and Stephanie M. Wildman
Poverty, Inequality, and Class in the Structural Constitutional Law Course
Community Development Clinics: What Does Poverty Have to Do with Them?
Restorative Justice: How Law Schools Can Help Heal Their Communities
Re-Conceptualizing Poverty Law Clinical Curriculum and Legal Services Practice: The Need for Generalists
Creeping Impoverization: Material Conditions, Income Inequality, and ERISA Pedagogy Early in the 21st Century
Maria O'Brien Hylton
Musical Chairs and Tall Buildings: Teaching Poverty Law in the 21st Century
Amy L. Wax
The Pendulum Swings Back: Poverty Law in the Old and New Curriculum
Martha F. Davis
I am planning on discussing this issue in more detail once I have a chance to read it, but this issue does look to be highly interesting to anyone teaching in the area and the Fordham Urban Law Journal and those professors involved are to be commended.
November 20, 2007
Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Wealth Gap within African-American community
Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s op-ed, "Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth," was published by the N.Y. Times Nov. 18, 2007. In the op-ed, Gates describes the importance of inherited wealth for 20 leading successful black leaders and proposes a whole host of steps that need to be taken, from increasing voter turnout to encouraging childhood literacy.
Gates is the author of among other things: The Future of the Race (with Cornell West; a great book for seeing and contrasting the approaches of West and/versus Gates) and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man.
November 17, 2007
Two N.Y. Times articles worthy of note
Leslie Eaton's article, "In Mississippi, Poor Lag in Hurricane Aid," Nov. 14, N.Y. Times, reports that Mississippi "has spent $1.7 billion in federal money on programs that have mostly benefited relatively affluent residents and big businesses," and that "just $167 million, or about 10 percent of the federal money, has been spent on programs dedicated to helping the poor."
Julia Preston's "Immigration Quandary: A Mother Torn from Her Baby," Nov. 17, N.Y. Times reports on a Honduran mother who was detained, leaving her child who was still breast feeding and who is a U.S. citizen, in the care of social workers.
November 12, 2007
New Amy Wax article
Amy Wax is presenting her paper, Engines of Inequality: Class, Race, and Family Structure (link is to a draft version not to be cited without permission), at Minnesota today. Wax is also the author of a number of influential and challenging articles:
- Something for Nothing: Liberal Justice and Welfare Work Requirements, 52 EMORY L.J. 1 (2003).
- Social Welfare, Human Dignity, and the Puzzle of What We Owe Each Other, 27 HARV. J. L. & PUB. POL'Y 121 (2003).
- Rethinking Welfare Rights: Reciprocity Norms, Reactive Attitudes and the Political Economy of Welfare Reform, 63 L. & CONTEMP. PROBS. 257 (Winter/Spring 2000). [I assign this in my Poverty law class and it provokes good class discussion]
November 11, 2007
Empirical Paper on Tax Withholding by Low and Moderate Income Taxpayers
Courtesy of the Legal Scholarship Blog, Michael S. Barr & Jane K. Dakko presented their paper, Paying to Save: Tax Withholding and Asset Allocation Among Low- and Moderate-Income Taxpayers (available from SSRN), at the 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies at NYU on Saturday. Though not a typical "poverty law" paper (hard to define as typical may be), the paper's abstract is:
We analyze the phenomenon that low- and moderate-income (LMI) tax ¯lers over-
whelmingly exhibit a \preference for over-withholding" their taxes, a measure we derive
from a unique set of questions administered in a proprietary dataset of 1,003 households,
which we collected through the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.
We argue that the relationship between their withholding preference and portfolio al-
location across liquid and illiquid assets is more consistent with a model of dynamic
inconsistency, and that individuals exhibit self-control problems when making their con-
sumption and saving decisions. Our results support a model in which individuals use
commitment devices to constrain their consumption. Using data on other tax-¯ling
behaviors, we also reject mental accounting and loss aversion explanations for tax ¯lers'
\preference for over-withholding." Dynamic inconsistency among LMI tax ¯lers has
important implications for pro-saving and asset-building policies, and for tax adminis-
tration at large.
November 7, 2007
Competing Ideas on the Future of EITC
I stumbled upon a paper from earlier this year that warns that the EITC is in political danger and such a position surprised me, both because of anecdotal experiences I have had teaching about EITC in my poverty class, where even fairly conservative students tend to like the EITC though they oppose "welfare," and because a colleague at my school had written about how the EITC was not in political danger. The debate from earlier this year can be seen in the contrast between:
- Dorothy A. Brown, Race and Class Matters in Tax Policy, 107 Columbia L. Rev. 790 (2007).
- ABSTRACT: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is available only to low income workers, is headed for extinction or at least the “end of the EITC as we know it.” Recently we were informed that 1.6 million low-income taxpayers had their tax refunds frozen over the last five years, although the vast majority did nothing wrong. Low-income taxpayers are far more likely to be audited than their high-income counterparts. In fact, since 1998 over $1 billion has been spent auditing low-income taxpayers. This Essay shows that the EITC is headed for extinction because the EITC has a “welfare” taint. The EITC first received a welfare taint during the Clinton Administration, and it has continued during the Bush Administration. In order to reverse the trend, EITC taxpayers will have to be painted in a more sympathetic or “deserving” light. This Essay suggests that the truth actually will help here, given that the racial analysis of the EITC shows that the vast majority of EITC taxpayers are white. Because scholars have ignored the race and class effects of the EITC, they offer no solution to improve the plight of low-income taxpayers. Building upon Professor Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence thesis, I predict that if the race and class information can be properly “packaged,” the EITC’s elimination can be prevented.
- Dennis J. Ventry, Jr., Welfare by Any Other Name: Tax Transfers and the EITC, 56 Am. U. L. Rev. 1261 (2007).
- ABSTRACT Tax credits, particularly refundable tax credits, are viewed increasingly as a social policymaking magic bullet. Indeed, the tax instrument can be a particularly effective and efficient mechanism for delivering social welfare benefits. However, deploying uniform refundable credits or universal tax subsidies will not solve all anti-poverty woes. In particular, over-reliance on the tax instrument blinds policymakers to a more fundamental conundrum that has plagued government transfers for over thirty years: What exactly is the government trying to accomplish by delivering social welfare benefits through the tax system? The Article explores this systemic question, and poses two further questions. First, what and who are policymakers targeting when they advocate tax-transfer programs like the EITC? And second, are current tax-transfer efforts effectively assisting the targeted beneficiaries? In addition, the Article examines the current political and administrative state of the EITC, and recommends several ways the program can further expand its reach and efficacy. In the process, it offers a sharp rebuttal to recent scholarship suggesting that the EITC is in political danger.
Two other related articles worth checking out on this topic are:
- Leslie Book, Preventing the Hybrid from Backfiring: Delivery of Benefits to the Working Poor through the Tax System, 2006 Wis. L. Rev. 1103.
Lawrence Zelenak, Tax or Welfare? The Administration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, 52 UCLA L. Rev. 1867 (2005). Abstract here. Full Text through Hein or Lexis or Westlaw.
November 5, 2007
Interesting Paper: "Global Justice and Trade: A Puzzling Omission"
Fernando R. Teson & Jonathan Klick have posted a paper to SSRN that, based on the abstract, I thought might be of interest to readers of this blog. The SSRN link to the paper is here: "Global Justice and Trade: A Puzzling Omission," and the abstract is below:
Economists generally agree that free trade leads to economic growth. This proposition is supported both by theoretical models and empirical data. Further, while the empirical evidence is more limited on this question, the general consensus among economists holds that trade restrictions are likely to hurt the poor. Even if the latter consensus turns out to be wrong, if free trade leads to superior growth, governments would have more resources to redistribute to the poor. It is surprising then that philosophers and human rights scholars do not advocate liberalizing trade as a way to improve the welfare of the poor as a class. While many scholars in these fields are silent with respect to the effect of free trade on the poor, some actually argue that liberalized trade is harmful for the poor, contrary to the claims of economists. In this article, we argue that any serious scholar concerned with the plight of the poor needs to address the theory and evidence regarding the effects of trade liberalization on economic growth, suggesting that the standard policy prescriptions of the philosophers and human rights scholars are, at best, of second order concern and, at worst, likely to be counterproductive in terms of improving the welfare of the poor.
Upcoming: Low-Income Immigrants' Rights Conference, Dec. 6-8, 2007 Arlington VA
The National Immigration Law Center is sponsoring its 6th annual national conference, Low-Income Immigrant Rights Conference: Bridging Communities Renewed Strength and Promise, on Dec. 6-8, 2007 in Arlington, VA. Registration costs increase after Nov. 30, 2007, and you can register here. The list of speakers is available here. The conference is supported by a huge list of non-profits from MALDEF to La Raza to NLG to the ACLU.
Call for Presenters: BROWN UNDONE? THE FUTURE OF INTEGRATED PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION POST-PICS
Seattle University School of Law is sponsoring a symposium, Feb. 8-9, 2008, on the Court's recent Seattle and Louisville School Districts cases. There are already a number of interesting speakers, but interested speakers have until Dec. 15th to submit a presentation proposal. Details about the symposium and info for those possibly interested in presenting is available here:
November 2, 2007
Symposium Announcement: Transnational Public Interest Law: Lawyering for Social Justice
(Courtesy of Legal Scholarship Blog)