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The Equity Project

 Why Are We Doing This?

The Equity Project grew out of two basic arguments: one about poverty, and one about democracy.

The poverty argument rests on an unresolved question: What is a fair exchange for forty hours of hard work? Most people can agree on the basics - food, clothing, shelter, child-care, and a trip to the doctor when you are sick. However, a full-time job often won’t buy these basics, since it would take about $13/hour. And despite the “new economy”, welfare policy, welfare reform and countless laudable job-training and economic development programs, there aren’t enough $13/hour jobs to go around.

Faced with this problem, The Equity Project sought a practical way to create family-sustaining jobs that would allow the working poor to escape poverty. One answer is to allocate compensation more equitably, through modest increases in minimum wages (we call for a living wage at a minimum, which is $7.90/hour in Greater Philadelphia) along with profit sharing and a share of company ownership.

The democracy argument is underscored by two widely-publicized trends: a growing wealth gap and startling corporate scandals. Contrary to all the hype about the booming 90s, ordinary people have not benefited from the economy’s growth. The average American household is no better off in terms of real wages or financial wealth than its counterpart in the 70s .

While the average Joe isn’t doing any better, corporate scandals have reminded us that the wealthy are gaining, and at an alarming rate. Over the past thirty years, average CEO income has increased 280%, while average household income has increased only 10%. Past history shows that as wealth and power concentrate in fewer hands, as they are now, checks on corporate behavior erode and government increasingly responds to fewer voices. The Equity Project seeks to broaden ownership as a way for ordinary people to have a stake in the financial mainstream, and, by extension, balance out the influence of powerful insiders in the democracy.