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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since May 2010

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The First Cut is the Deepest

May 26, 2010 ·

Cantor speaking on YouCutHouse Republicans, led by Eric Cantor (VA), are channeling American Idol. They've started a program called "YouCut," an election-year gimmick where people can vote online for services they'd like to see cut from the budget. The winners would be pushed by the GOP for elimination.

Current issues on the virtual cutting block, for example, include the Byrd Honors Scholarships, a proposed federal employee pay raise, federal land purchases, and UNESCO.

But the first "winner"? Welfare.

In a blog post for CSRWire, I write:

House Republicans have chosen to make our tattered Social Safety Net into a game. Chock full of ideological misrepresentations, the site “You Cut” asks its followers to vote on which federal programs should get the ax in the federal budgetary funding process. Flaunted as the “First Winning Cut,” is $2.5 billion in proposed TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Emergency Fund money. Says the site:  “This program was recently created to incentivize states to increase their welfare caseloads without requiring able-bodied adults to work, get job training, or otherwise prepare to move off of taxpayer assistance…

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities affirms that the TANF Emergency Fund does not in anyway incentivize an increase in caseloads nor undercut welfare reform, as the “You Cut” propaganda asserts. It explains, in a recent publication, that TANF recipients remain fully subject to all the stringent work requirements of the TANF program. One could argue that these requirements make no sense whatsoever during this time of high unemployment, but the TANF Emergency Fund does not alter this unfortunate reality. 

Let’s work together with sensible policymakers to create, rather than further tatter, an effective safety net so that we may all weather the current economic storm and those to come. We can start by recognizing the need for continued funding of the TANF Emergency Fund.

The Low-Key Weekend Faceoff

May 25, 2010 ·

If we know that some of the biggest and most important demonstrations in Washington DC only get a smidgen of news coverage, then it’s no surprise that things deserving at least that much get no coverage at all. Last Saturday, May 22nd was one of those demonstrations brought to you by an IPS exclusive.  

Because the Cuban Interest Section (CIS) is located here, DC has seen this one before and it's usually a fairly interesting spectacle. 

Three (3) anti-Castro Cubans protested across the street from the Interest Section to “honor” the birthday of Jose Marti and to protest the Cuban government.  In response two or three dozen people opposed to US policy toward Cuba and in solidarity with the Cuban people counter demonstrated on the other side, in front of the CIS.  Apparently the petition that had circulated toward the end of last year, “Acting on Our Conscience: A Declaration of African American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba” didn’t affect the support from the significantly African participation of the counter-demonstrators.  The whole group, in fact, was reasonably multi-ethnic. 

The anti-Castro Cubans say that Cuba is a tyrannical dictatorship, claiming that hundreds of political prisoners languish in prison there. They cited the example of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died in prison recently due to a hunger strike. The counter demonstrators expressed gratitude for Cuba’s humanitarian assistance around the world and condemned the US for harboring Cuban terrorists and jailing of Cuban fighters of terrorism.  

Take a listen to this to get a flavor for the counter demonstration.  And we would be remiss if we didn’t provide you with something from the other side (MP3).

Our Latest: Calderon, Thailand, and the Myth of Overtaxation

May 25, 2010 ·

Nuclear test in Marshall Is., 1954Obama doesn't appear to be altering his predecessor's policy toward Mexico, Manuel Perez-Rocha says, after Calderon's visit last week.

"We in Haiti are committed to staying a county where organic, biological agriculture dominates. We know that Clinton and the multinationals, the IMF and the WTO, have another plan for us - one based on the import of GM seeds and food aid, one based on making us grow for export, including growing for agro-diesel. But we're putting on pressure to say: no, that's not what Haiti needs, here is what popular Haitian organizations want, here is our agenda." Part of an interview by associate fellow Bev Bell.

People in the Marshall Islands have sacrificed their health and their homeland for U.S. national security interests, writes Bob Alvarez. The Obama administration should correct this injustice.

FPIF columnist Walden Bello explains how and why the riots in Thailand occurred.

Is overtaxation our phoniest problem? Associate fellow Sam Pizzigati explores the myth in his Too Much Online blog.

IPS friend and ally Antonia Juhasz asks, "How far should we let Big Oil go?"

Nicholas Kristof: Moonshine or the Kids?

May 24, 2010 ·

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof is almost always a pleasure to read. He's thoughtful and balanced while at the same time bold in calling for meaningful change, particularly for women and children around the world.  

Kristof rarely spares details or truths from his trips, and his Sunday column, "Moonshine or the Kids?" is no different. But his thesis is an uncomfortable one: "If the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed."  

He's quick to qualify the observation – even admits it sounds "sanctimonious" – but his interviews with locals (in Congo, this time) open up another facet of the already-tangled development debate, involving cultural and societal mores vs objective long-term well-being. The Malaria Policy Center has a post on this as well.  

What do you think?

From the Frontlines: May 24th, 2010

May 24, 2010 ·

Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal (full disclosure: also an IPS board member) on the proposed DC budget cuts: "Sure, raising taxes for this reason is in my self-interest. I'm a business owner in this city, and I want more customers to have money to spend at my restaurants. Having a city with a widening gulf of haves and have-nots simply doesn't bode well for my long-term business plans."  

Are fines in the millions enough to deter reckless and damaging behavior from oil giants like BP? (Hint: Probably not.)  

Activists in London stage some creative protests against Tate Modern, which has ties to BP.  

The DISCLOSE Act, which would "ensuring that new disclosure reports detailing electioneering and independent expenditures will be electronically filed and disclosed on the FEC’s website within 24 hours," passed out of committee a few days ago. Would be a great win for transparency if it went any farther.  

ProPublica has new details on the Times Square bomber investigation.  

And while we're on the topic of investigations, CPI's latest blog post has an entry on some of the other investigations going on around the world – particularly the Balkans, Mexico, and U.S. for-profit colleges.  

Where's taxpayer money in the defense budget going? Not to health care for vets, under our current system.  But Alan Grayson's "War Makes You Poor" Act, just introduced, would "make the DoD work within its means, and the money would instead be used for an across-the-board tax cut that would make the first $35,000 each American earns tax-free."

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