Facing America's Vast Income Gap
By Neal Peirce
September 6, 2001; Baltimore Sun
WASHINGTON -- Labor Day and a nine-year peak in
worker layoffs helped focus attention on a report
that compensation for America's top corporate brass
is running out of control -- now 531 times the pay
of the average worker. Not only did CEO pay rise a
stratospheric 571 percent from 1990 to 2000, the
liberally oriented Institute for Policy Studies and
United for a Fair Economy said in its report,
"Executive Excess 2001," chief executive
compensation continued to soar last year even while
many of the same executives were firing workers by
the thousands and corporate stocks lost 10 percent
of their value.
Business Week's recent survey of the top 365 firms
show average CEO pay is now $13.1 million.
Are the execs worth it? Apologists say the huge CEO
salaries are justified by the big run-up in U.S.
corporate profits during the 1990s, combined with a
global market for top executives. But who seriously
believes equally smart executive talent couldn't be
recruited for many less millions a year?
And there is a profound fairness issue. If the pay
of production workers had risen proportionately to
that of CEOs in the '90s, their average income would
now be $120,491 instead of $24,688. The minimum wage
would have risen to $25.20 an hour, not its current
$5.15 (well below the poverty level).
There's an available antidote to stratospheric
corporate pay. It's incorporated in the Income
Equity Act proposed by Rep. Martin Sabo. The
Minnesota Democrat would let corporations pay
executives any amount they like. But CEO
compensation that exceeds 25 times the pay of the
firm's lowest-paid worker would no longer be
deductible from the company's federal income taxes.
To avoid sharply increased tax liability, firms
would have two choices -- reduce the CEO's pay, or
raise the lowest worker's pay. How delicious!
Mr. Sabo has been introducing his bill for several
years, to no avail. But polls suggest the public
would love it.
In the long run, excessive CEO pay is just a symbol
of a thornier problem -- the deep income divisions,
the alarming split between educated or skilled
workers and those less prepared and mired close to
or in poverty.
The point is made eloquently in a new book -- Place
Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century
(University Press of Kansas). The authors are three
skilled academic urbanists -- Peter Dreier of
Occidental College, John Mollenkopf of the City
University of New York, and Todd Swanstrom of St.
The deep polarization of American society gets
played out most vividly, they assert, in our metro
regions, where government policies have promoted
economic and racial segregation, encouraged
businesses and the affluent to move to outer
suburbs, and effectively limited the poor and
minorities to central cities or troubled inner-ring
Despite some improving city conditions, write Mr.
Dreier & Co., "We accept as 'normal' levels of
poverty, crime and homelessness that would cause
national alarm in Canada, Western Europe or
Meanwhile, more affluent families, seeking escape,
end up in increasingly congested outer suburban
rings. The federal government has aided and abetted
this split for 70 years -- from extraordinarily
generous aid for sprawl highways to housing
subsidies pushing development ever outward (and for
years excluding virtually all racial minorities).
As for state governments, they've allowed a beggar-
thy-neighbor scramble of sister municipalities
fighting each other for tax-producing properties.
They've rarely insisted on regional tax-base sharing
or metrowide land-use policy to give less wealthy
cities and towns a break.
It's imperative, argue the Place Matters authors, to
level the metropolitan playing field so that older
cities and inner-ring suburbs -- and their
disadvantaged populations -- can share in the
Washington could start, they suggest, with such
steps as limiting bidding wars among localities,
insisting all federal programs from housing to job
training to transportation be implemented
regionally, and diverting a big chunk of the home
mortgage deduction to low-income families who now
benefit barely at all (while many of the wealthiest
house owners make out like bandits).
A central goal: to deconcentrate the urban poor by
helping many move to suburbs, even while more
middle-class people are enticed back into cities,
bringing investment and political clout with them.
Why bother? Because metropolitan polarization splits
us up, removes critical rungs from the opportunity
ladder. Like grossly out-of-scale executive pay, it
violates fundamental American values. Environmental
leader Henry Richmond calls it "the most important
community building challenge to face America since
the adoption of the Constitution."
Forget these causes, conventional politics says. The
vested interests, from self-satisfied suburban towns
to America's most powerful corporate chieftains,
will kill them all.
The authors of Place Matters, like most liberals,
want strong federal action for equity. But they have
a new message for progressives: organize locally --
minorities, working mothers, church groups, blue-
collar suburbanites, unions, regionally minded
corporations. Without a new metropolitics, they
contend, the game can't be engaged at all.
Neal Peirce is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail
address is email@example.com.
© 2001 by The Baltimore Sun
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Thousands of Hindus convert to Buddhism in
India racism protest
By RUPAN BHATTACHARYA, Associated Press
LUCKNOW, India (September 9, 2001 10:28 a.m.
EDT) - Protesting India's failure to address
caste issues at the World Conference Against
Racism, thousands of Dalits - often segregated
as "untouchables" in the Hindu caste hierarchy
- converted to Buddhism in a northern Indian
Leaders of the late-Saturday ritual by some
6,000 Dalits said they were protesting
discrimination by upper caste people and their
government's failure to raise caste issues at
the racism conference in Durban, South Africa
that concluded over the weekend.
In Kanpur, 240 miles southeast of India's
capital, New Delhi, hundreds of monks in
flowing robes arrived from Nepal, Japan and
other countries to witness the ceremony, which
was presided by a Japanese Buddhist priest.
Participants were distributed posters
condemning Hinduism, the religion of India's
Several Dalit groups had met in the South
African city to press for inclusion of caste-
based discrimination in the U.N. World
Conference on Racism. They said caste-based
discrimination in India was as bad as racial
discrimination in other parts of the world.
But Indian officials lobbied, and succeeded, in
keeping it off the conference declaration. The
New Delhi government said equating the caste
system with racism would make India a racist
country - a categorization it denies.
"The Government of India misguided all at the
Durban meet," Dalit leader Ram Prasad Rashik
told The Associated Press after the conversion
ceremony in Kanpur.
Dalits occupy the lowest rank in India's 3,000-
year-old caste system that discriminates
against nearly a fourth of the country's
Though India's Constitution, adopted in 1950,
bars discrimination based on caste, the
practice still pervades society.
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After Much Wrangling, an Accord at U.N.Race Meeting
By RACHEL L. SWARNS
September 9, 2001; The New York Times
DURBAN, South Africa, Sept. 8 After nine days of
tumultuous negotiations, nations from around the world
agreed today to condemn the slave trade that wrenched
millions of Africans from this continent to the Americas and
to voice concern for the "plight of the Palestinians under
The declaration was almost undone at the last minute by the
renewed insistence of Arab states and their supporters to
single out Israel by name as a racist state. But the final
document did not do so, and it was toned down considerably
from language that had prompted the United States and Israel
to walk out earlier this week.
The meeting, the United Nations conference on racism, was
intended to celebrate tolerance and diversity, but by week's
end it risked becoming an international symbol of
divisiveness and intolerance as Arabs and Western nations
clashed repeatedly over whether to criticize Israel's
treatment of the Palestinians.
Even today, as delegates labored to complete the conference
documents, renewed mudslinging threatened to further derail
a meeting that was already a day behind schedule.
Negotiators had worked all through the night to come up with
the document that also condemns discrimination against
ethnic minorities, refugees, women, Gypsies and others. The
final language was brokered by European diplomats, many of
them from former slaving nations, who shouldered the guilt
of their grandfathers to find language that might restore
dignity to the descendants of the enslaved.
The declaration says that slavery and the slave trade "are a
crime against humanity and should always have been so." It
says states now have a moral obligation to halt and reverse
the lasting consequences of slavery, apartheid and genocide
and notes that some government have "taken the initiative to
apologize and have paid reparation where appropriate."
The wording fell far short of what had been sought by some
Africans, who had demanded an explicit apology and specific
promises of compensation from Europe.
The European delegation refused to apologize explicitly,
fearing that they might open themselves up to lawsuits. They
refused to endorse unconditional debt cancellation and
Still, diplomats from Europe, Africa, Latin America and
black Americans attending the meeting here described the
document as an important, if imperfect, atonement for an
ugly and neglected chapter of history.
"It is not important to know if we are expressing regret,
remorse or apology," said Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign
minister and leader of the European delegation. "What is
important is the recognition of an injustice that we cannot
Amina Mohamed, Kenya's ambassador to the United Nations in
Geneva, said she and other African diplomats welcomed the
declaration, while acknowledging its limitations.
She said it was necessary to acknowledge the trade in human
beings that extended from the 1500's to the mid-1800's, when
Europeans shipped about 12 million black slaves from Africa
to the New World.
"We have an agreement on a document that is far from
satisfactory, that is terribly imperfect, but provides a
basis to build on," said Ms. Mohamed, who helped negotiate
the agreement. "I think that we owe it to the memory of all
those who perished to have the international community
declare slavery and the slave trade a crime against
But even after the declaration and the plan of action were
adopted this afternoon, many delegates left the convention
center in this port city as divided as when they arrived.
In the middle of today's meeting, Arab delegates and their
supporters renewed their insistence on condemning Israel as
a racist state. And European and Canadian officials warned
that they too might abandon the process if such language was
ultimately included in the conference declaration.
>From Jerusalem, Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres,
called the final document a "bitter failure" for the Arab
League. "The language that was approved in Durban in our
absence," the foreign minister said, "is not the best and we
opposed it, but it is completely different from the venomous
decisions the extremist countries wanted passed."
Earlier in the day, Arab and Muslim officials had agreed to
abandon their criticisms of Israel and to accept a
declaration that recognized "the plight of the Palestinians
under foreign occupation" as well as "the right to security
for all states in the region, including Israel." The
agreement also recognized "the rights of refugees to return
voluntarily to their homes in dignity and safety."
But in the middle of the meeting this morning, delegates
from Pakistan and Syria unexpectedly insisted on adding new
language that would assail Israel as a racist, foreign
The move stunned officials from across the world, who not
long before had burst into applause when South Africa's
foreign minister, Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, announced that all the
contentious issues that had roiled the meeting this week had
The delegates then huddled and conferred and shook their
heads in disbelief, as Dr. Zuma pleaded with Arab and Muslim
delegates to find a way to accept their original agreement.
They ultimately agreed, but they were clearly not satisfied
with the final document.
"It fails to condemn the discriminatory policies and
practices of Israel, the occupying power," officials from
the Organization of Islamic Countries said.
Meanwhile, many Jewish groups left feeling that the meeting
had been irrevocably tainted in a week when Yasir Arafat,
the Palestinian leader, had assailed the "supremacist-
mentality" of Israel and some Arab groups had distributed
offensive literature, including posters of Jews with big
noses and bloody fangs.
"Sadly, hate — the hatred of Jews — was all too evident at
this global conference in the new South Africa in which so
many placed their hopes," said Felice D. Gaer, director of
the Jacob Blaustein Center for the Advancement of Human
Rights in New York. "I came hoping to strategize about
ending discrimination and intolerance. I leave wondering if
those strategies will ever be heard."
It was concern about such criticisms of Israel that
persuaded the Bush administration not to send Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell to the conference. The United States
also objected to an apology for slavery and any mention of
reparations, fearful of lawsuits from black Americans.
But African-Americans here said the agreement would inspire
pride among blacks and lend momentum to efforts for
reparations in the form of scholarship funds and individual
compensation for the descendants of slaves.
Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, said: "For African
descendants, I think the agreement offers a genuine
breakthrough. By recognizing slavery as a crime against
humanity, the document sets the stage for legislative and
legal action to address historic inequities."
September 9, 2001
THE DECLARATION Excerpts From U.N. Declaration
After Much Wrangling, an Accord at U.N. Race Meeting
(September 9, 2001)
News Analysis: Was the U.S. Walkout Repudiated or Justified
by the Conference's Accord? (September 9, 2001)
The Objections: Crossfire Over Middle East and Slavery
(September 9, 2001)
ollowing are excerpts from the Middle East declaration
approved yesterday by the United Nations conference in
Durban, South Africa, and from the Program of Action.
1. We are conscious of the fact that the history of humanity
is replete with major atrocities as a result of the gross
violation of human rights and believe that lessons can be
learned through remembering history to avert future
2. We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten.
3. We recognize with deep concern religious intolerance
against certain religious communities, as well as the
emergence of hostile acts and violence against such
communities because of their religious beliefs and their
racial or ethnic origin in various parts of the world which
in particular limit their right to freely practice their
4. We also recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-
Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as
well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based
on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim
and Arab communities.
5. We are conscious that humanity's history is replete with
terrible wrongs inflicted through lack of respect for the
equality of human beings and note with alarm the increase of
such practices in various parts of the world, and we urge
people, particularly in conflict situations, to desist from
racist incitement, derogatory language and negative
We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people
under foreign occupation.
We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people
to self-determination and to the establishment of an
independent state, and we recognize the right to security
for all states in the region, including Israel, and call
upon all states to support the peace process and bring it to
an early conclusion.
6. We call for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in
the region in which all peoples shall coexist and enjoy
equality, justice and internationally recognized human
rights, and security.
7. We recognize the right of refugees to return voluntarily
to their homes and properties in dignity and safety, and
urge all states to facilitate such return.
Program of Action
1. We believe that all conflicts and disputes should be
resolved through peaceful means and political dialogue. We
call on all parties involved in such conflicts to exercise
restraint and to respect human rights and international
2. We call upon states, in opposing all forms of racism, to
recognize the need to counter anti- Semitism, anti-Arabism
and Islamophobia worldwide and urge all states to take
effective measures to prevent the emergence of movements
based on racism and discriminatory ideas concerning these
3. As for the situation in the Middle East, we call for the
end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations,
respect for international human rights and humanitarian law,
respect for the principle of self-determination and the end
of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians
to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in
security and freedom.
We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including
the trans-Atlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in
the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent
barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized
nature and especially their negation of the essence of the
victims and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave
trade are a crime against humanity and should always have
been so, especially the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and are
among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that
Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of
Asian descent and indigenous peoples were victims of these
acts and continue to be victims of their consequences.
Remedies and Other Measures
The world conference acknowledges and profoundly regrets the
massive human sufferings and the tragic plight of millions
of men, women and children caused by slavery, slave trade,
trans- Atlantic slave trade, apartheid, colonialism and
genocide and calls upon states concerned to honor the memory
of the victims of past tragedies and affirms that wherever
and whenever these occurred they must be condemned and their
The world conference regrets that these practices and
structures, political, socioeconomic and cultural, have led
to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
The world conference recognized that these historical
injustices have undeniably contributed to poverty,
underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion,
economic disparities, instability and insecurity that affect
many people in different parts of the world, in particular
in developing countries.
The world conference recognizes the need to develop programs
for the social and economic development of these societies
and the diaspora within the framework of a new partnership
based on the spirit of solidarity and mutual respect in the
following areas: debt relief, poverty eradication, building
or strengthening democratic institutions, promotion of
foreign direct investment, market access.
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
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