On Thursday the Trump administration dumped their budget on the table and then sent out Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to tell poor Americans why they are going to be hungrier and colder in Trump’s new America. It was jaw dropping to listen to some of the things Mick actually said in public, on the record …
Mar 17 2017
Aug 27 2015
It is 10 years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast causing $108 billion in damages, killing over 1300 people and completely changing the city of New Orleans and the coastline.
Today New Orleans has changed in many ways, it is whiter, richer and the poor are poorer:
Ten years later, it is not exactly right to say that New Orleans is back. The city did not return, not as it was.
It is, first of all, without the more than 1,400 people who died here, and the thousands who are now making their lives someplace else. As of 2013, there were nearly 100,000 fewer black residents than in 2000, their absences falling equally across income levels. The white population decreased by about 11,000, but it is wealthier.
The city that exists in 2015 has been altered, by both a decade of institutional re-engineering and the artless rearrangement that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves.
Empowered by billions of federal dollars and the big ideas of eager policy planners, the school system underwent an extensive overhaul; the old Art Deco Charity Hospital was supplanted by a state-of-the-art medical complex; and big public housing projects, at once beloved and notorious, were razed and replaced by mixed-income communities with housing vouchers.
In a city long marinated in fatalism, optimists are now in ascendance. They promise that an influx of bright newcomers, a burst of entrepreneurial verve and a new spirit of civic engagement have primed the city for an era of greatness, or, at least, reversed a long-running civic-disaster narrative.
“Nobody can refute the fact that we have completely turned this story around,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, talking of streamlined government and year-over-year economic growth. “For the first time in 50 years, the city is on a trajectory that it has not been on, organizationally, functionally, economically, almost in every way.”
The word “trajectory” is no accident. It is the mayor’s case that the city is in a position to address the many problems that years of government failures had allowed to fester. He did not argue that those problems had been solved.
Jun 24 2015
A couple of weeks ago HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.
Lo and behold, his genius satirical take down had an effect:
Comedian influences Ag Bill, members of Congress say
By Jonathan A. Capriel, Scripts Howard
The Department of Agriculture may be able to protect chicken farmers from industry retaliations in 2016, and satirical news anchor John Oliver may be part of the reason.
A draft of the 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill was unanimously approved by a House subcommittee Thursday.
It passed without any amendments that might prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from punishing meatpacking companies if they use deceptive practices against contract livestock and poultry farmers.
Part of the credit goes to the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” some members of Congress said.
On his show last month, the comedian criticized contracts that poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue, have their chicken farmers sign. [..]
These contract farms take out loans to build facilities, buy equipment and chicken feed – usually from the meat processing companies. The farmers are paid to raise the chickens, but they don’t get to sell them. The company owns the animals. Some farmers say they don’t make enough money in this system, but are usually in so much debt they can’t leave it.
The companies also force farmers to compete with each other. Lower-performing farms get less money. [..]
But Oliver also took a jab at members of Congress, who he said, have “fought efforts to protect chicken farmers” by adding riders to appropriations bills.
He told viewers that anyone on the House Appropriations Committee who votes against an amendment giving USDA power to protect farmers was a “chicken f–.” Oliver said this while flashing images of each of the committee members with their states and party affiliations.
The clip has gotten nearly 3 million views on You Tube. [..]
It’s still a long way from passage. The bill still has to pass the full House Committee on Appropriations, where it could be amended. It then must pass the full House and go through the same process in the Senate. If it weren’t fro John Oliver, the bill would never have been written. It’s good to know that someone in Congress watches these left wing programs.
Jun 01 2015
Happy first day of Hurricane Season everyone! I have 3 articles for your perusal this morning!
First, boy we’ve come along way from FDR:
These days, prominent experts and politicians seem determined to keep the American people in a perpetual state of trembling fear. Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations thinks “the question is not whether the world will continue to unravel but how fast and how far.” The outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, told Congress last year that “[the world is] more dangerous than it has ever been.” (Someone really ought to tell the general about the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, and a little episode known as World War II.) Not to be outdone, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger believes the United States “has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.” And then there’s CNN and Fox News, which seem to think that most news stories should be a variation on Fear Factor.
One could multiply alarming forecasts such as these almost endlessly. As investigative journalist David Sirota tweeted in response to a recent speech by New Jersey governor and erstwhile presidential aspirant Chris Christie, where FDR told Americans the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” today’s politicians and pundits mostly tell us to “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.”
May 21 2015
On HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.
As they satiate America’s vast, gnawing chicken hunger, the four big poultry companies use a system of contract farmers that leaves many of those actually raising the chickens taking on debt and living below the poverty line. With a business model that sees farmers taking on all the expenses of equipment and infrastructure – subject to frequent demands for upgrades – while the corporations own the actual chickens, “That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money,” Oliver notes. To make matters worse, he reports that the big poultry companies are known to retaliate against any farmers speaking out against the practices.
Toward the end of the segment, Oliver gets into the legislative meat of the issue: although protective rules for poultry farmers have been written, they are not enforced, thanks to a rider inserted into the agriculture appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing the rules. Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur introduced a measure forbidding such retaliation, which failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee the first time around. But since the committee is meeting again next month and Kaptur might propose her provision once again, Oliver has a solution.
Introducing the 51 voting members of the committee, Oliver suggests citizens engage in a particularly delectable form of rumor-mongering for those who don’t vote in favor of Kaptur’s provision: “Because chickenfucker accusations do not come off a Wikipedia page easily.”
Nov 10 2014
I have 3 for you this Monday morning.
First, on the culprits of Climate Change:
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.
Jun 25 2014
Most Americans take water for granted. We get up in the morning shower, brush teeth, flush the toilet, run water to drink, clean and on and on. What would you do if you couldn’t do those things? How would it effect you daily life? You ability to work? Support yourself and your family? How would it effect you health?
Those questions are all being faces right now by hundreds of thousands men, women and children, not in some third world country, but Detroit, Michigan.
In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is resuming efforts to shut off water service to thousands of delinquent customers.
Crews will be targeting those who have received a shutoff notice and whose bills are more than two months late. Customers with late bills can avoid a shutoff by entering into a payment plan. Typically, it takes a payment of 30% to 50% of the amount owed to start such a plan. [..]
There are 323,900 DWSD accounts in Detroit. Of those, 150,806 are delinquent. Some of those delinquencies are low-income customers who are struggling to keep their utilities on, said some who work in providing assistance to those in need.
But agencies aiding the mostly low income families currently without water are short on cash
“The need is huge,” said Mia Cupp, director of development and communications for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. “There are families that have gone months and months without water.”
The group is among a handful of local agencies that provide assistance to those who need help with their water bills. The Water Access Volunteer Effort, a Detroit-based nonprofit, is another. [..]
The organization has very limited resources. Cupp said the group raised about $148,000 during a charity walk; that money could go to helping people pay water bills. [..]
Mayor Mike Duggan’s spokesman John Roach referred to the Water and Sewerage Department questions about how the city handles community outreach to inform residents about programs to help with water bills. Detroit’s Human Services Department used to perform outreach but no longer does, Latimer said. So the water department is finalizing an agreement with The Heat And Warmth Fund, or THAW, to do so, he said. THAW provides low-income Michigan residents with emergency energy assistance.
Jill Brunett, vice president for marketing and communication for THAW, confirmed that the group is in talks with the water department. She said the extreme weather this winter increased heating bills, putting a strain on finances.
Al Jazeera reported that the average Detroit water bill is nearly double the national average of $40 per month (pdf). Tho add insult to injury, DWSD said it would again raise rates, this time by 8.7 percent.
A coalition of groups including the Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch, Blue Planet Project and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have appealed to the United Nations for assistance (pdf)
“We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water,” said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. “If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review,” she said, “when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated.”
Two of those activists, Maureen Taylor, state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Meera Karunananthan, international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about Detroit’s water crisis.
Trancript can be read here
The US may be the wealthiest country in the world but it is rapidly turning it’s cities into third world slums, endangering thousands of lives.
Jun 15 2014
It’s been one of those weeks where so many things have come to light that I simply do not know where to begin writing first. I sit there and think, which of the various things that I have been listening to or reading about have actually annoyed me to the point of actually writing about. I have realised that I am just generally annoyed.
When I thought about it more, I concluded that the underlying theme of these various stories is a complete and utter contempt by bourgeois governments (that lay claim to being utterly democratic) of the vast majority of people that they govern. Whether they govern competently or not, whether there is anything resembling a democratic mandate or not; it is the utter contempt in which they hold the majority of the population that has really gotten my goat.
I also realised that this is not only confined to governments, it is a view shared by the leadership of religious authorities, by arms of the state (police, armies, etc.) and even by the heads of sporting associations. This contempt is a reflection of the fact that those in power think/know that when push comes to shove, they know who they serve and it is not the vast majority of people; it is a tiny elite hiding behind the word “democracy” while actually not even slightly being accountable to that majority. It is the abuse of power by those that have it wielded against those that view themselves as powerless. Having just spoken to my postman about my frustration, he agreed and said “this is a long term problem, what can you and I do about it”?
May 04 2014
Most probably people have heard of the bizarre investigative journalism by The Mail on Sunday in an article which appeared on Easter Sunday (of all days in the year). The Mail on Sunday sent in a reporter, a wannabe Jimmy Olsen, to investigate provision of food by food-banks in Britain and that reporter literally took food out of the mouths of the hungry in order to prove some point. This provoked a backlash on social media that demonstrated that the neoliberal agenda seems to not have sunk too deeply in the hearts and minds of the British people. That is a relief and quite honestly more than I expected, given the constant barrage in the newspapers and on the news on telly that has never questioned the logic (forget the morality) of welfare caps and cuts to welfare benefits.
ht: my sister Mia for comments and editing on this piece
Apr 06 2014
This year, I was invited to speak at an international women’s day event by the sisters of the Cardiff Feminist Network as part of a series of actions which included a Take Back the Night march, a pro-choice rally and then an event in a park in which there was poetry and various speakers addressing a number of topics including feminism, violence against women, the oppression of Palestinian women, and my talk on the impact of austerity on women in Britain. There was food, a wonderful audience of committed feminists taking place in a public park where in effect since there was no license or permission, the group had taken use of public land to have a celebration of International Women’s Day. My talk was kindly taped by a friend and comrade, Nick Hughes, who then posted it on facebook and on then youtube.
The talk was long, not because it was planned that way; but one person who was supposed to speak was late and the food was not ready to be served. So, since I carry around so much information with me when I am planning to speak, I was able to talk for almost a half hour.
So today’s anti-capitalist meetup will actually be like a meetup. That is, we will have a speaker (me), my talk (minus the spontaneous bad jokes and righteous anger) will be here to read. Then we can actually have a discussion on the topic, since the speaker is right here. This was supposed to go up on the 16th of March, but was preempted by the deaths of Bob Crow and Tony Benn which needed to be commemorated. The issues addressed in my piece, unfortunately, are still extremely relevant.
Jan 25 2014
The alleged recovery from the recession that began in 2008 has done wonders for the wealthiest of the world.
The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery
By Annie Lowry, The New York Times
The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.
The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax.
The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.
High stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits have buoyed the recovery-era incomes of the most affluent Americans, with the incomes of the rest still weighed down by high unemployment and stagnant wages for many blue- and white-collar workers. [..]
More generally, richer households have disproportionately benefited from the boom in the stock market during the recovery, with the Dow Jones industrial average more than doubling in value since it bottomed out early in 2009. About half of households hold stock, directly or through vehicles like pension accounts. But the richest 10 percent of households own about 90 percent of the stock, expanding both their net worth and their incomes when they cash out or receive dividends.
The economy remains depressed for most wage-earning families. With sustained, relatively high rates of unemployment, businesses are under no pressure to raise their employees’ incomes because both workers and employers know that many people without jobs would be willing to work for less. The share of Americans working or looking for work is at its lowest in 35 years.
Three years ago during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report based on information from the IRS and US Census Bureau that over the last forty years the top 1% has nearly quadrupled:
– The top 1 percent made $165,000 or more in 1979; that jumped to $347,000 or more in 2007, the study said. [..]
– The top 20 percent of the population earned 53 percent of after-tax income in 2007, as opposed to 43 percent in 1979.
– The top 1 percent reaped a 17 percent share of all income, up from 8 percent in 1979.
– The bottom 20 percent reaped just 5 percent of after-tax income, versus 7 percent in 1979.
This is exacerbated by the fact that hourly wages have stagnated while the biggest banks are even bigger than they were before the collapse thanks to policies of the government and the Federal Reserve.
The wealth gap is not an isolated problem, according to a report by the NGO, Oxfam, it’s global with just 85 people possessing owning half the world’s wealth
Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.
This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.
Eighty of the those billionaires are meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, where the wealth disparity has finally become a concern:
As billionaires bet on accelerating growth and rising asset prices, income inequality is emerging as a key theme for this week’s annual meeting. A study released last week by the forum identified the income gap as the most probable menace to the global economy during the next decade. Wealth disparity — driven by globalization and the recent financial crisis — threatens to breed poverty and social disorder, it said.
Next Tuesday, President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union Address where he will outline the ideas he has for closing this gap that has gotten bigger since he was elected. Perhaps, as Huffungton Post’s Howard Fineman suggests, that the president find governing role models other than Ronald Reagan whose policies have brought the US economy into its New Gilded Age.
Jan 14 2014
It was 50 years ago this week that President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the beginning of the “War on Povery” in his first State of the Union address that was given just two months after the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy. That was continues today.
Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his “war on poverty,” which led to many of the federal and state initiatives low-income Americans rely on today – Medicaid, Medicare, subsidized housing, Head Start, legal services, nutrition assistance, raising the minimum wage, and later, food stamps and Pell grants. Five decades later, many say another war on poverty is needed. We are joined by Peter Edelman, author of “So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America.” A faculty director at the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University, Edelman was a top adviser to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a member of President Bill Clinton’s administration until he resigned in protest after Clinton signed the 1996 welfare reform law that threw millions of people off the rolls.