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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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IPS Blog

Entries since July 2011

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White House Cornered by Its Own Immigration Enforcement Record

July 29, 2011 ·

In the middle of a debt-ceiling debate that's highlighting so much of what's wrong with U.S. institutions of governance, President Barack Obama is clumsily defending his immigration enforcement actions and calling the system flawed at the same time. Somebody in the White House needs to realize that his call to ensure that such enforcement is humane is irrelevant. Obama's Republican opposition — lawmakers and presidential hopefuls — won't give one inch in their pursuit for an enforcement-only immigration strategy.

During Obama's latest address on immigration he repeated the same talking points about the history of the United States as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. In doing so, he seems eagerly trying to position himself at the political center of a non-existent debate. This is part of what he told the National Council of La Raza last Monday:

I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way.

Obama followed that by saying he couldn't change the law on his own, but a group of undocumented young people in the crowd responded with a loud "Yes you can!" that echoed the 2008 campaign slogan. Advocates have urged Obama to change his interpretation of current law and issue an executive order that would stop the deportation of young people and parents of U.S. citizens.

Felipe Matos of Presente.org talks to reporters after leading Dreamers in chanting during Obama's speech.

Obama's passive acceptance of solutions prescribed by the Department of Homeland Security — particularly Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton — has led to an increase in deportations. The deportation rate is rising in part thanks to programs like Secure Communities, which enables law enforcement authorities to share a fingerprint database with immigration authorities, and Operation Streamline, which makes it easier to convict and deport people apprehended at the border.

Obama's critics have taken a direct and succinct tone. From Frank Sharry at America's Voice:

You are the president; you can steer your administration's policies and practices so that they line up with your values and priorities, yet your administration is deporting more immigrants than ever. With Republican hardliners controlling the House, chances for a much-needed legislative breakthrough are slim, but you have plenty of authority, Mr. President. You have the authority to protect young people eligible for the DREAM Act, you have the authority to overhaul rather than expand deeply flawed enforcement programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g), and you have the authority to make it easier for families to stay together rather than get ripped apart. In other words, Mr. President, "Yes you can!"

The immigrant rights movement, and the hundreds of individuals and organizations seeking to increase the political power of Latinos and other U.S. ethnic groups have had to balance the short- and long- term prospects of criticizing Obama. In this case, advocating against Obama is a double-edged sword. Call off the pressure, and become irrelevant during the 2012 debate. Endanger his re-election, and we'll wind up with someone worse on immigration in the White House.

I believe Obama is tone-deaf to a moral message. He's offering a political one in return. In doing so, he's out of touch with the impact his own policies have. 

Maceo Protests at Deficit Talks in Washington

July 29, 2011 ·

Rallies and demonstrations on the debt ceiling crisis are expected to roll through Washington throughout the weekend, as long as Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, and President Barack Obama fail to resolve the deficit crisis that threatens to take the U.S. and global economy down a notch. Tea partiers, flag-waving labor unions, peace activists, gun-loving libertarians, and everyday Americans have all been showing up at the Capitol steps to have their say in the budget debacle.

If Obama, Boehner, and Congress listened to the wisdom of 10-year-olds, and made the wealthy pay their fair share for this budget, kids like Maceo wouldn’t inherit such a large debt burden for them to pay back through their taxes. Photo by Karen Dolan.

Yesterday, 10-year-old Maceo Dolan-Sandrino was among the demonstrators. Maceo is from Maryland, just on the outskirts of Washington, the son of IPS Fellow Karen Dolan. He attended yesterday’s rally at the Capitol to oppose the cuts to our social safety net, services like healthcare and income assistance that many Americans rely upon through hard times. I thought it might be interesting to get a 10-year-old’s perspective on the day’s events. I asked Maceo what he thought about the protest.

At first, Maceo reported that he hadn’t really listened to anything, and that his feet had hurt. But when I asked him again, I got a different answer.

“The protest was about how John Boehner was going to take away social security and how he was going to – um, it was something about the taxes,” said Maceo. “Planned Parenthood was there and they had signs that said, ‘Don’t take away our birth control.’”

I asked Maceo if he realized that the United States was in debt, and that Obama, Boehner, and Congress were trying to decide whether to borrow more money. In return, Maceo offered a surprisingly searing analysis.

“It’s because the rich and wealthy people aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, and all of the big corporations are finding loopholes not to pay taxes, and then we don’t have enough money to pay our debts,” he said.

I found this comment to be incredibly astute. As IPS Fellow Chuck Collins wrote in an article for OtherWords, “Overseas tax havens enable companies to pretend their profits are earned in other countries like the Cayman Islands. Simply making that ruse illegal would bring home an estimated $100 billion a year.”

Making sure our government doesn’t tax the highest income brackets is another way the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Since 1970, “the top marginal tax rate on our richest has been halved, from 70 to 35 percent, and our rich have become phenomenally richer,” wrote Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez in an article this month on toomuchonline.org. And you can bet that this tax rate plunge had a lot to do with campaign contributions to friendly elected officials. Money talks, Congress listens.

Unlike Obama, Boehner, or most members of Congress, Maceo intends to stick around for quite a while in order to help pay back the debt now being discussed in Washington. I asked Maceo about how he felt about our politicians leaving future generations to pick up the tab after the government has had its spending frenzy.

“I don’t feel good at all. No, I don’t think I’m going to have that money, because I know I’m going to have a family to take care of. So, I don’t feel good about that at all.”

Maceo is a sharp kid. If Obama, Boehner, and Congress listened to the wisdom of 10-year-olds, and made the wealthy pay their fair share for this budget, kids like Maceo wouldn’t inherit such a large debt burden for them to pay back through their taxes.

Tax the rich. For kids like Maceo.

Unconventional Wisdom: Scorching the Budget

July 28, 2011 ·

Washington, like much of the East Coast, was hit last week with brutally hot temperatures that topped 100 for several days straight. Usually I'm a believer in the science of climate change. My colleague Janet Redman's article, "Connecting Extreme Weather Dots Across the Map" reinforces that belief. But after watching lawmakers in Washington, I'm beginning to think that it’s the hot air emanating from Congress that is behind this recent heat wave.

The rhetoric around the budget and the debt ceiling simply can't get any hotter without melting down the country.

But we continue to be in an era in which Wall Street, instead of Main Street, reigns supreme. IPS expert Sarah Anderson blogged this week about the efforts of Wall Street lobbyists to repeal a simple requirement for companies to report incentive-based pay. Wall Street continues to oppose efforts to shut down overseas tax havens that could restore $1 trillion dollars to U.S. taxpayers, notes IPS expert Chuck Collins. A task force led by IPS expert Miriam Pemberton found that trimming just nine military programs could save $77 billion. And IPS's World Beat editor John Feffer described the devastating effects of President Obama's efforts to push for trade deals that could lead to further job losses and further enrich Wall Street.

Empowering Main Street, as David Korten suggests in his recent New Economy Working Group report, "How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule," would get us on a better track. So would the commonsense measures that Chuck Collins outlined on the eve of the narrowly averted government shutdown a few months ago.

I tend to agree with the majority of Americans who don't think turning up the rhetorical heat is going to win the day. We need to drop this destructive debate. Our shared economic and physical security depends on all of us working together, bound by shared values of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

Meanwhile, we stand in solidarity with the Norwegian people, who suffered a devastating act of violence this week. And we're reminded by Saul Landau's film, Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up, which was released nationwide this week, that terrorism is often defined by whose side you are on.

The Lineup: Week of July 25-31, 2011

July 25, 2011 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Marge Baker sums up the Supreme Court's tendency to rule in favor of corporations in an op-ed accompanied by a Khalil Bendib cartoon. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.


  1. America Doesn't Need a Tax-Dodging Industry / Chuck Collins
  2. Getting Main Street to Call the Shots / David Korten
  3. Too Many Rulings are Supremely Courteous to Corporations / Marge Baker
  4. Our Non-Nuclear Future / Norman Solomon
  5. Injustice Department / Donald Kaul
  6. Budgeting for Ignorance / Jim Hightower
  7. Power Plays / William A. Collins
  8. Supreme Corp. / Khalil Bendib
From Oslo to Oklahoma

July 23, 2011 ·

So far more than 90 people are known to be dead in Friday's horrific Oslo attacks. For Norway's population of less than 5 million, that is equivalent to more than twice the number of people killed here in the U.S. on 9/11 - linking the human solidarity of loss we so palpably remember.

For a truly powerful, anguished, voice-breaking response, take a look at the speech of norway's prime minister.

But as if those horrific attacks were not enough, we are already seeing a repeat of the aftermath of the 1993 Oklahoma City attacks in which 168 people were killed by right-wing white American Christians.

In that case, as now, "experts on Islam & terror" immediately announced that "jihadi elements" and "extremist Muslims" were to blame. The repellent Steven Emerson, for instance, was ubiquitous in the U.S. media ranting about "Islamic terror."  He lied.  And he NEVER apologized for lying, for being wrong -- to the contrary he went on to a lucrative career as a Muslim-bashing and Arab-bashing pundit.

Now it's the Wall Street Journal, with their scurrilous editorializing about the inevitability of Islamist responsibility because "in jihadist eyes Norway will forever remain guilty." Their editorial remains on their website through Saturday, almost a full day since police arrested the right-wing "ethnic Norwegian" suspect.

The Washington Post has eagerly joined the fray, giving their favorite right-wing editorial pundit Jennifer Rubin, known for her anti-Palestinian (as well as anti-Obama) rants, free rein for speculation. Here's the summary of what she wrote, via James Fallows in The Atlantic:  

Read it and weep. On the Post's site Jennifer Rubin first quotes the Weekly Standard, in a rushed item about the Norway horror:

"We don't know if al Qaeda was directly responsible for today's events, but in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra. Prominent jihadists have already claimed online that the attack is payback for Norway's involvement in the war in Afghanistan."

Then she goes on to argue on her own:  "Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here: "Just nine days ago, Norwegian authorities filed charges against Mullah Krekar, an infamous al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist who, with help from Osama bin Laden, founded Ansar al Islam - a branch of al Qaeda in northern Iraq - in late 2001."

In Norway, as one Oslo teenager described it, “Everyone thought that he was a Muslim, a Pakistani, or someone with dark skin.”

It will be interesting to watch how the case against the accused murderer develops. Norway, one of the more civilized countries in the world, does not allow the death penalty; in fact it doesn’t even allow sentences of life imprisonment.

If Anders Behring Breivik was instead named “Ali Mohammad” would we be hearing calls for the death penalty?  Would the possibility that he was a “lone wolf,” an “outcast” even be considered? 

That Oslo teenager could have been talking about the United States as well.  I asked the same question at the time of the mass murder in Tucson, “What if Jared Loughner Were a Muslim Arab Immigrant?”

We still don’t know the answer.

We have a lot of work to do - not only to mourn, but to organize against the wars that depend on this kind of hatred.

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