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Entries tagged "politics"Page 1 • 2 Next
June 26, 2012 · By Melissa Neal
“People are just not reaching us where we are at. We want to be reached.” – Washington, D.C. focus group youth participant.
The mental well-being of our youth is crucial to achieving progress and prosperity in our communities. In Washington, DC, youth face particular challenges as disparities in resources and risks vary drastically in just a matter of miles. I wrote JPI’s report, Mindful of the Consequences: Improving the Mental Health for DC’s Youth Benefits the District, to show that current prevention and treatment services do not match the level of need and many youth are at risk for contact with the justice system due to untreated mental problems. To illustrate this, I mapped where arrested youth are coming from: predominately areas of low income and high rates of risk factors that impact mental well-being.
Some D.C. leaders will criticize this report citing the millions of dollars being spent already on mental health – as if that should be enough. My challenge to D.C. leaders is to admit that what is being done is not enough. Too many children are suffering from poor mental health while not receiving the attention needed. Too many youth are being misunderstood when their cry for help looks like aggression. Far too many are being penalized and channeled into a lifetime of involvement with the justice system just because it was too expensive to…invest in psychologists.
Melissa Neal, DrPH, is Senior Research Associate for the Justice Policy Institute. A longer version of this post appears on their Just Policy Blog.
November 18, 2011 · By Karen Dolan
The deal passed this summer in order to get Republican support for the necessary raising of our national debt ceiling was a bad deal. The creation of the 12-member bi-partisan “Super-Committee” charged with enacting that deal’s mandate of removing $1.2 trillion from our national debt over the next ten years was a bad idea. And, any agreement which might emerge from this bad idea born of a bad deal is destined to be a bad agreement. The cuts resulting from the trigger to be pulled in the absence of a Super-Committee agreement is the best of bad options for the American people.
Called a “sequestration,” this process would protect earned benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, thus protecting the vast majority of Americans who rely on them. Further, the Pentagon budget, which has doubled in the past ten years, would see a small reduction which would bring it back to 2007 funding level. Draconian and painful cuts in the order of a devastating $600 Billion to already slashed and strained social programs would begin to be enacted, but not until 2013. All of the sequestration-required cuts could potentially be refigured and re-legislated, and at a later time when the economy may have rebounded enough to better stand the ravage.
Both the Democratic and Republican proposals to the Super-Committee contain not only drastic cuts to crucial anti-poverty entitlement programs, they also lower taxes on the super-rich, or raise too little to matter much. These cuts would begin to go into effect immediately upon passage at a time when our economy is far too weak to do anything but spiral downward in the face of such austerity measures.
It is increasingly looking as though there will, mercifully, be no Super-Committee deal. This is not failure. This is hope for the American people, for our suffering and shrinking middle class, for our unemployed suffering the ravages of poverty, for 99% of us. The failure of the Super-Committee is a victory for the American people.
Lawmakers, and the public, need to understand this. Democrats on the Super-Committee need to understand this. Super-Committee Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts needs to see the error and danger of his alarmist proclamation that the markets will react badly to the absence of a deal from the SuperCommittee. As John Irons of The Economic Policy Institute explains:
Does the market believe that Democrats and Republicans will come together in a Kumbaya moment to pass $3 trillion in tax increases and/or cuts to spending? I wouldn’t bet on it. Goldman Sachs noted in a recent Q&A on the supercommittee that, “a ‘grand bargain’ to resolve this imbalance appears to be a low probability this year. Instead, the politically realistic outcomes range from no agreement to a deal reaching $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.” They also note that just “32% of economists polled in the November Blue Chip financial survey expected a super committee agreement to become law.” Thus a failure would merely confirm market expectations, and there should be little reaction in the markets.
We will see backpedaling on both sides. We will see the Republicans trying to “lockbox” defense spending. We will hear cries that the sky is falling for all kinds of reasons. Don’t listen. Stand firm.
Undertand: No Deal is better than a Bad Deal; and a Bad Deal is all we would get from the Super-Committee.
May 10, 2011 · By Matias Ramos
President Barack Obama will debut his 2012 stump speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas today. I expect he'll say the usual about how the current system hurts all U.S. workers and threatens national security. He'll urge Congress to work on a bipartisan manner.
His lackluster message is doomed to fall on deaf ears in Congress. As for voters concerned about immigrant rights, they're going to pay more attention to his actions. Obama has overseen a record-breaking rise in the number of deportations, and pushed the controversial immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, which is phasing in forced local police participation in a national fingerprinting database.
Facing pressure from state legislatures, constituency groups and Spanish-language media outlets, Obama wants to stay ahead of the debate. He's making the speech at a key moment when the military operation that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the release of positive job numbers are bolstering his popularity. Like national security and the economy, immigration is a very complex issue that could affect his re-election chances.
"I strongly believe we have to fix this broken system so it meets the 21st century needs for the American economy and security, he told a group of supporters gathered at the White House's Cinco de Mayo reception last week. "This is not going to be easy, and it will require bipartisan support."
Bipartisan cooperation will prove difficult, though. Across the nation, highly partisan state legislation is attacking the Obama administration's immigration policies from both sides of the political spectrum. Last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pointed to federal inaction on immigration enforcement as a pretext for the "Papers Please" SB1070 law. Now, democratic-controlled state legislatures in Illinois and California seek to challenge Obama over the Secure Communities program.
One by one, states are taking sides on immigration. Indiana, Alabama, and Louisiana are moving closer to adopting tough rules that will, in practice, deny undocumented youth access to higher education. On the other hand, Maryland, Oregon, and Connecticut are close to giving undocumented youth access to in-state tuition fees at state colleges and universities.
As state legislatures take immigration policy in their own hands, Congress seems determined to avoid the subject at all costs. Obama will be judged by his actions on immigration policy, not his stump speeches.
February 3, 2011 · By Robert Alvarez
The dramatic rise in food prices is fueling a great deal of discontent in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. It's a deep undercurrent propelling many of the poor, who face prospects of starvation to resort to the streets and to violence. According to the United Nation's Food Agency (Food and Agriculture Organization -- FAO) world food prices are up for the 7th month in a row and are likely to surpass the record high reached in December 2010.
No end is in sight for this destabilizing battle with food price inflation in places like Egypt, where more than half of an average income goes for food. According to the State Department, more than 60 food riots occurred worldwide over the past two years.
In March 2008, a dramatic spike in food prices led thousands of people on the brink of starvation in Egypt to violently riot -- sending a seismic shock wave through the Mubarak regime. After the Egyptian military was able to distribute enough wheat to dispel the rioting, efforts to stockpile wheat by the Mubarak government have failed, as food prices continue to hover at record highs.
The media is reporting many reasons for this problem ranging from soaring demand, cuts in food subsidies, droughts, and government mandates to use more grain-based biofuel. But, another significant factor is at play: unfettered speculation by investment banks. As noted in USA Today, in 2008, “the bulls may not be running on Wall Street, but they're charging in the commodities pits.”
At issue are the still deregulated commodity markets ushered in by the Clinton administration and the U.S. Congress with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Before this law, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) served as a cop on the beat, enforcing rules that prevent the distortion or manipulation of prices beyond normal supply and demand. But Wall Street banks and companies such as ENRON and British Petroleum were determined to make a lot more money from speculation by exempting energy-derivative contracts and related swaps from government oversight.
For this reason, the 2000 law allows entities that have no stake in whether adequate amounts of food and fuel are available for ordinary people and commodity-dependent businesses to make huge sums of money by gambling with other people’s money.
Soon after passage of the 2000 law, “dark” unregulated futures trading markets emerged, most notably the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in London -- created by Wall Street and European investment banks and several oil companies. A key practice involves “over the counter index trading" in which hundreds of billions of dollars of pension, sovereign wealth, and other institutional funds are used to flood “dark” commodity markets to buy and hold futures contracts without an expiration date or oversight. When it's time to make money on a losing bet, these funds are withdrawn, causing commodity price crashes and economic instability.
These transactions don't involve customary “bona fide” commodity traders, such as an airline company hedging on the price of jet fuel by purchasing futures contracts. As prominent hedge fund manager Michael McMasters noted before a U.S. Senate panel in 2008, this amounts to “a form of electronic hoarding and greatly increases the inflationary effect of the market. It literally means starvation for millions of the world's poor.”
Some world leaders are willing to speak out against the pernicious role of “dark” commodity markets. Recently, French President Sarkozy warned of further unrest and even war at the Davos forum, unless commodity speculation is reined in -- something that Wall Street and Republican lawmakers are bitterly fighting. The Dodd/Frank Financial Reform Law places some restrictions on this practice by the CFTC. In particular, the CFTC is beginning the process of weeding out “non bona fide” investment bank speculators.
True to form, House Republicans are demanding that the CFTC slam on the brakes. They're planning hearings and legislation to hamstring these efforts.
The spontaneous mass uprising of ordinary people in Egypt and the Middle East against their authoritarian regimes has many root causes. One that deserves much greater attention is unfettered speculation by powerful private financial institutions that don't care about world-wide starvation and its impacts. It's distorting global food supplies.
November 17, 2010 · By Karen Dolan
Glenn Beck recently baffled reasonable people by playing with creepy "socialist" puppets on his Fox News program while blabbering about how beneficiaries of billionaire George Soros' philanthropy are supposedly Conspiring to Take Over America. The venom-spewing talk show host's attack on Soros, a Holocaust survivor, had an anti-Semitic tone, outraging the Jewish community.
His buffoon-ish, puppet-playing, fear-mongering exploits the tea partiers' anxiety, scaring them into hiding their last tea biscuits from black people, puppets, immigrants, and liberals working for a more just society.
Beck sounds alarmed by what he sees as a radical strategy of working both "inside" and "outside" of power circles to affect change. He gets his undergarments and puppets all in a bunch over my organization, the Institute for Policy Studies. Why? Because our annual report cleverly sports a photo of grassroots movements marching on the outside cover and pictures the Capitol on the inside cover as we describe our work.
Actually, many groups deploy an inside/outside strategies, regardless of their political orientation. Conveying street heat into lawmakers' suites can turn citizen-driven ideas into sound policies that move our nation forward. With Washington so dominated by corporate and military special interests, the Institute fights mightily to amplify the voices of dynamic social movements on the outside to help create the space for innovative policy ideas on the inside.
But, boy, if Beck is scared of organizations like the Institute for Policy Studies (we're nimble and smart but we operate on less than 5 percent of the Heritage Foundation's $70 million annual expense budget) and sophisticated liberal strategists like Van Jones, I bet he's SUPER scared of more heavily funded and aggressively ideological groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party Patriots. Man, talk about working a subversive agenda from "outside" of Congress while lawmakers like Senator Jim DeMint, Senator-elect Rand Paul, Representatives Michelle Bachmann, Mike Pence, and dozens of Hill newcomers work the same agenda "inside" Congress.
And these "outside" groups were even able to leverage untold, undisclosed amounts of secret money into congressional campaigns to get their insiders elected. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports that the new crop of Republican insiders must take a litmus test by filling out a questionnaire on the ultra-right Heritage Foundation's website, and Fox News reports they must declare their loyalty to the Tea Party agenda.
This radical takeover strategy takes an "outside" message of decreasing government spending and surreptitiously transforms it into the immediate “inside” addition of $700 billion onto the deficit to give the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens an additional tax break. It preys on the fears of senior citizens to support them on the outside as they work furiously, on the inside, to cut their Social Security.
Hey, wait a minute...this really IS scary stuff!
Beck can scapegoat us all he wants, but IPS and other independent organizations will continue to fight the good fight, bringing grassroots voices to bear against Wall Street bailouts and multi-million dollar bonuses rewarding CEOs for their ruthless layoff policies. We'll keep trying to get those in power to focus on bringing war dollars home to our struggling communities and finding a way to keep our nation's hungry children fed, our workers employed with decent pay, and our climate sustainable for future generations. In our pursuit of an economy that works for all of us, we continue to hope that great progressive ideas from the "outside" can influence policy-makers on the "inside," even without the fortune-backed lobbyists that work against our efforts.
But, Glenn, that sure is scary stuff about those well-funded "freedom" groups getting their emissaries elected with secret money and requiring loyalty and litmus tests. And what about all those red-blooded men and women campaigning as outsiders, then ruling as insiders on behalf of the wealthiest 2 percent of our nation's population? Maybe there IS a plot to take over America. Thanks, man, for the warning.
Beware, my fellow Americans. Beware.
Karen Dolan is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karendolan