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In a brilliant New Yorker article, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor lays out the steps by which the abandonment of middle and poor Americans by both US political parties led to society’s present collapse. Although the coronavirus was the immediate trigger, the erosion of society’s wellbeing began way back in 1969. Collapse was an occurrence primed to happen at some point, and now just happened to be the time.
For 50 years, since 1979, national leaders increasingly backed away from their obligation to care for vulnerable and working class Americans. As they did, financial instability increased and the chance to acquire wealth became much more limited. Those were the perfect conditions for the meltdown known as American life in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Millions were driven into a state of deprivation that made happy lives impossible. And over time, the country destabilized economically. Students were still paying back college loans into their golden years. Aspiring homeowners could not afford mortgages. Urban residents live with air quality so poor that one in four has asthma and health concerns affect all areas of family’s lives. Poor health affects the’ ability to earn adequate incomes and keep up with the demands of digital life.
For years, the United States has gotten away with persistently chipping away at its weak welfare state by hiding or demonizing the populations most dependent on it. The poor are relegated as socially dysfunctional and inept, unable to cash in on the riches of American society ... The debate over the role of government in addressing income inequality, housing insecurity, debt accumulation, and health care continues, now against the grim backdrop of the raging coronavirus. It is difficult to articulate the speed with which the U.S. and, indeed, the world, has descended into an existential crisis.
Resources for ALICE home buyers and renters #p2
New Jersey Assemblyman Dr. Tim Eustace wants New Jersey voters to know that voting YES on Ballot Question #2 will enable extremely important protections of taxpayer dollars. Election Day this year falls on Tuesday, November 8.
Here are short and long versions of the reasons it’s important to vote YES to Q2. You already know how important it is that you go vote in the first place – right?
The short version of why YES on Q2
On the gas tax issue, Assm. Eustace comments:
The New Jersey gas tax increase of 23¢ is law – and it’s a mistake to think it will go away if people vote NO on Ballot Question #2 at the polls next Tuesday. Gov. Christie’s second-in-command discussed the ballot question in a 101.5 Radio interview, revealing that either she does not understand this law, or maybe Ms. Guadagno is hoping to draw out Republican voters who believe that the gas tax will go away if they vote no. But, this is not true.
It’s essential that gas tax money be used only for transportation and that this money not become accessible to the governor for use in the general budget. Gov. Christie used over $1.2 billion from the State’s Clean Energy Fund to plug general budget holes. In order to ensure that gas tax money can only be used for transportation expenditures, vote YES to Ballot Question #2 on Election Day.”
Dr. Eustace is the NJ Assembly Environment Committee Chair.
An NJ.com editorial echoes the assemblyman’s message:
…experts attest that if all that if annual gas tax revenue were dedicated exclusively to transportation projects, we could have filled a few more potholes by now … if (taxpayers) are tired of seeing large sums ($35 million last year, higher in previous years) scraped from the gas tax for purposes other than transportation, they can do something about it on Election Day.
Now that the gas tax increase is something we’ve all got to live with, we support Ballot Question 2, a constitutional amendment that dedicates every penny of that revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund.
That means the government can no longer raid the TTF to plug other budget holes – a lockbox provision that 30 other states already have.
Road to Repair offers a short but complete statement on why a YES vote to Q2 is so important:
The long version of why YES on Q2
On Facebook, Aaron Hyndman addressed this issue with a thorough analysis of the New Jersey gas tax ballot issue, “TO ANYONE STILL ON THE FENCE ABOUT NJ BALLOT QUESTION #2.” Hyndman is Communications Coordinator at the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and the following is his statement:
I finally have a spare moment to contribute some thoughts regarding Ballot Question 2, so here are some things that I hope everyone will take into consideration:
First of all, there is a great deal of misinformation being spread by the Lt. Gov. and other interests that are opposed to the ballot question for reasons that are more self-serving and not purely altruistic. Too much is being said ABOUT the ballot question instead of discussing what is ACTUALLY in the ballot question, which reads as follows:
Do you approve amending the Constitution to dedicate all revenue from the State motor fuels tax and petroleum products gross receipts tax to the Transportation Trust Fund?
Why will New Jersey have a ballot referendum next year (aka constitutional amendment) that will allow state voters to decide whether to approve SCR1500 and increase the state’s minimum wage – but only by 62¢ in 2018 to $9 per hour and $1.00 a year after that to finally reach $15 an hour eight years from now, in 2024?
I got a slightly confusing reply from State Senator Bob Gordon to my email regarding this issue and have been checking into what his reply could mean. Here are the facts I’ve learned:
New Jersey Democrats were able to pass Bill A-15 on 23 June 2016 to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in January 2017 and continue raising it in yearly $1.25 increments until it hit $15 an hour in 2021. But Christie vetoed that bill.
State legislators could then have put this same proposal on the ballot as a referendum, letting voters decide how quickly low wage workers could be lifted out of extreme poverty. They went the ballot referendum route, but opted for a much less robust hourly pay raise proposal: and that’s how SCR1500 came into being.
Perhaps the watered down bill is the brainchild of State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), whose (now derailed?) plans for a gubernatorial bid next year undoubtedly included courting the vote of the small business community. This community has essentially been convinced to vote against their own interests by Big Money supporters of low worker wages who have promoted a fear campaign to discourage their support for the $15/hour minimum wage.
Although small businesses are one group that stands to majorly benefit from the increased buying power that residents will be able to spend if they earn more, Big Money folk are making them believe that an alternate – and false – reality exists. That’s because the profits of Big Money-backed businesses like Walmart and the Fast Food industry will be seriously curtailed if they need to pay employees fair wages instead of setting them up to receive welfare and foodstamps to supplement starvation pay.
When worker wages are low enough to force families onto social welfare programs, taxpayers at all levels of the spectrum end up subsidizing workers’ food, shelter and medical care. Forbes reports on Walmart employees vast use of the welfare system and Bloomberg points out:
According to one study, American fast food workers receive more than $7 billion dollars in public assistance. As it turns out, McDonald’s has a “McResource” line that helps employees and their families enroll in various state and local assistance programs. It exploded into the public when a recording of the McResource line advocated that full-time employees sign up for food stamps and welfare.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private sector employer, is also the biggest consumer of taxpayer supported aid. According to Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in many states, Wal-Mart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients.
Fred Toledo shared this article on Facebook. He commented, “This is the sad, sorry and corrupt state of a party that once stood as the champion of the working class, the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalized,” and shared excerpts from Bill Moyer and Michael Winship’s article on Wasserman Schultz:
Yet when the CFPB was drawing up new rules to make it harder for payday predators to feast on the poor, Rep. Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored a bill to delay those new rules by two years. How, you ask, could the head of the party’s national committee embrace such an appalling exploitation of working people?
Just follow the money. Last year, the payday loan industry spent $3.5 million lobbying; and as we wrote two weeks ago, in Wasserman Schultz’s home state, since 2009, payday lenders have bought protection from Democrats and Republicans alike by contributing $2.5 million or so to candidates from both parties, including her. That’s how “Representative” Wasserman Schultz, among others, wound up representing the predators instead of the poor.
…The lust for loot, which now defines the Democratic establishment, became pronounced in the Bill Clinton years, when the Clinton-friendly Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) abandoned its liberal roots and embraced “market-based solutions” that led to deregulation, tax breaks, and subsidies for the 1 percent. Seeking to fill coffers emptied by the loss of support from a declining labor movement, Democrats rushed into the arms of big business and crony capitalists.”
In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and his wife and co-author Sheryl WuDunn told the stories of women oppressed by prostitution slavery – or just oppressive sentiment concerning women – in Asian and African countries. Now they are focusing on the disparities and injustice in American society that have been created by gender and wealth disparities and that favor people with certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, a project (and book) they call A Path Appears.
In a 2014 article, WaPo’s Emily Badger interviews Kristof on the topic of systemic racism: how it affects its victims and why it’s so difficult for white Americans to see that their advantages cause other people to be disadvantaged.
I grew up in rural Oregon, in a blue-collar area that has been very hard hit by meth, by family breakdown, by unemployment. And a lot of my friends and classmates have been struggling with all these issues. There is a real issue of personal responsibility and self-destructive behaviors — this is real. But it also arises from a context of hopelessness, a context in which people feel that there’s no escape, and then they self-medicate. And then that hopelessness becomes self-fulfilling. And that’s true of whites, and that’s true of blacks…
Emily Badger: You’ve cited a lot of data in these columns that seems pretty powerful and hard to argue with.
People were very taken aback by the figure in particular that the wealth gap between whites and blacks today in America is greater than the black-white wealth gap was in Apartheid South Africa. That was a factoid that clearly shocked a lot of people. But then the lesson that a lot of people drew from it was “well, boy, that just underscores how irresponsible so many African-Americans are,” which is precisely the opposite of the point I was trying to make.
…I think that there’s no doubt that successful people have this narrative that “I succeeded because I worked hard, studied hard, obeyed the law, and that just shows that anybody in this country can succeed if they will just behave themselves.” I think about my friends growing up, who were in many cases, just as smart and hard-working as anybody else, but didn’t have a family that pushed them. So if they made the decision to drop out of school, that was a decisions that really haunted them. I think it’s really hard for people who were born on third base, and whose friends were born on third base, and who assume kind of a third-base context, it’s really hard to understand the enormous obstacles that face those who in early life encountered a much less rosy environment. It’s so easy to hit a home run from third base and say “boy, this is pretty easy, why can’t everyone else do this?”
Rep. Excerpt from the 24 March 2016 article by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on TPM.com on the united intentionality of Wasserman Schultz, Rahm Emanuel and both Clintons to both shift the Dem Party away from representing working folk and also persecute the working poor:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz … embodies the tactics that have eroded the ability of Democrats to once again be the party of the working class. As Democratic National Committee chair she has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.
She has played games with the party’s voter database, been accused of restricting the number of Democratic candidate debates and scheduling them at odd days and times to favor Hillary Clinton, and recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that super delegates — strongly establishment and pro-Clinton — are necessary at the party’s convention so deserving incumbent officials and party leaders don’t have to run for delegate slots “against grassroots activists.” Let that sink in, but hold your nose against the aroma of entitlement.
But here’s just about the worst of it. Rep. Wasserman Schultz — the people’s representative, right? — has aligned herself with corporate interests out to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s effort to create national standards for the payday-lending industry, a business that in particular targets the poor. Payday loans, as Yuka Hayashi writes at The Wall Street Journal, “are quick credits of a few hundred dollars, with effective annual interest rates ranging between 300% and 500%. Loans are due in a lump sum on the borrower’s next payday, a structure that often sends people into cycles of debt by forcing them to take out new loans to repay the old ones.”
According to the nonpartisan Americans for Financial Reform, this tail-chasing cycle of “turned” loans to pay off previous loans makes up about 76 percent of the payday loan business. The Pew Charitable Trust found that in Wasserman Schultz’s home state, the average payday loan customer takes out nine such loans a year, which usually has them mired in debt for about half a year.
The Young Turks report on Hillary’s comeback to the New Hampshire debate question: will she share the transcripts of all of her speeches, even the ones she made to Goldman-Sachs? In a nutshell, Hillary’s answer was no, not really. We’ve learned that Hillary’s speaking contract stipulates that they be recorded both digitally and by a hired stenographer; and that she retains full copyright protection for all of her words.
A CNN analysis found that, since 2001, Hillary and Bill Clinton have received $153 million in speaking fees, with at least eight speeches given by Ms. Clinton to big banks for $1.8 million. The media has repeatedly asked Ms. Clinton to release the transcripts, to which she sarcastically responded on ABC’s This Week, “Yeah, you know, here’s another thing I want to say. Let everybody who has ever given a speech to any private group under any circumstances release them all—we’ll all release them at the same time.”
Ms. Clinton’s only opponent in the Democratic Presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, earned a total of $1,867.42 in speaking fees in 2014, which he donated entirely to charity. In the same year, Ms. Clinton netted millions…
The enormous speaking fees and donations racked up by the Clintons from the financial services industry represent much more than the “artful smear” Ms. Clinton attempted to dismiss during the 5th Democratic Debate. Ms. Clinton’s record of getting paid substantially by large financial firms suggests her allegiance is aligned with their interests, rather than the American public. Nothing in her record or rebuttals suggests otherwise.
Vice-Dean Dr. Vincent Ogutu of the Strathmore Business School, chats about the importance of meaningful work and a society built around honesty and integrity – rather then instant gratification and cheating to “make it”. Well worth the 5 minute watch time. Enjoy!
Chase has paid billions in settlements to prevent former employee Alayne Fleischmann, Esq. from being summoned to the witness stand where she can reveal under oath the intentional theft of mortgage investors’ money through bad mortgage loans Chase made and sold without violating the gag clauses in her employment contract. With help from Attorney General Eric Holder, Chase enriched itself by millions of dollars and when it was caught with pants down, a small fine was imposed which was substantially funded by the American public via a tax write-off made available to the bank.
Iceland took serious objection to similar banker duplicity and jailed over 20 banking executives for their role in acts of fraud and the impact on its economy. We should be doing the same in the United States too – but are extremely far off from even contemplating such a move. But Fleischmann is a threat to the cover-up: she knows exactly how the Chase fraud was carried out and wants desperately to spill the beans and tell the whole story. Although doing this will probably destroy her future career and may cost her every penny she has, she’s still more than willing.
Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.
She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.
As foundations and wealthy individuals funnel money into global development, what “solutions” are they pursuing?
From Warren Buffett to Bill Gates, it is no secret that the ultra-rich philanthropist class has an over-sized influence in shaping global politics and policies.
And a study (pdf) just out from the Global Policy Forum, an international watchdog group, makes the case that powerful philanthropic foundations—under the control of wealthy individuals—are actively undermining governments and inappropriately setting the agenda for international bodies like the United Nations.
I’m a little ashamed of myself. I’ve done to Cosby exactly what I caution people to never do, unless an accused person’s actions have been substantively witnessed and recorded – like the police who killed Eric Garner. Without the benefit of legal discovery or a trial, I had already convicted Cosby in my mind.
Although only a handful of his accusers claim to have been actually raped by Cosby, I had decided in my mind that he is guilty of serially raping almost 50 women. I didn’t bother to learn what these women have actually accused Dr. Cosby of doing to them. And I didn’t question my right or ability to judge him either, until I watched this video last night … and realized that I am a hypocrite, as well as a victim of the fine art of misdirection, which Wikipedia defines as:
Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.
And perhaps many of us are.
As one of the wealthiest and most admired black men in the world until recently, Cosby’s career and personal power could have seemed like potential challenges to control held by the less than 1% – the few families that currently dominate the world’s wealth and resources. Could they have decided it would be wise to tear Cosby down and then gone about engineering the sexual accusations and the light-speed destruction of an iconic figure’s career, reputation and public influence?
Well, I don’t know. What I do know is, that a presidential election is coming later this year and that concurrently, America and democracy are facing some of the most serious challenges that could possibly exist.
A prominent Republican candidate wants to mark or deport millions of people of color; the American middle class and the public education system are under attack and crumbling. Families like the Bushes have shamelessly benefited from war profiteering; the multi-billionaire Waltons underpay their Walmart workers and teach them how to supplement meager incomes with foodstamps; the ALEC consortium writes legislation for Republican politicians that is being used to erase rights and access for millions of constituents.
The most important democratic tool the world has ever known – the internet – is under constant assault by the super-wealthy who see it as the extreme threat to concentrated wealth, power and mass public ignorance, that it truly is.