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Entries since September 2012Page Previous 1 • 2 • 3 Next
September 17, 2012 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
This week, OtherWords is running Katie Halper's second guest column. Her latest commentary unpacks Rep. Joe Walsh's "greatest hits." We're also featuring an op-ed by Peter Hart about how the important issue of poverty just isn't getting enough campaign coverage.
- Baseball Escapism / Saul Landau
It's a big business, like all professional sports, that uses good old American values to lure customers.
- The Latest Battle in the War on Voting / Marge Baker
The kind of big government the Right likes is the kind that keeps certain people from voting.
- Poor Visibility / Peter Hart
The mainstream media needs to step up its reporting on poverty as a campaign issue.
- Disabled on the Job, Fired without Severance or Benefits / Jess Hunter-Bowman
A GM subsidiary is providing an unlikely test for the U.S.-Colombia trade deal's labor provisions.
- Chicago and the Psychology of Teacher Bashing / Sam Pizzigati
In a deeply unequal society, the affluent will always sneer at public services and the men and women who provide them.
- Joe Walsh's Greatest Hits / Katie Halper
It's not easy to disrespect the disabled and the military in the same breath.
- Ryan Runs Into the Truth / Jim Hightower
Whether you run a marathon or run for office, facts and integrity matter.
- Cigarettes: The Killer that Won't Die / William A. Collins
Taxes trump cancer every time.
- Second-Hand Smoke / Khalil Bendib cartoon
September 14, 2012 · By Matias Ramos
IPS New Internationalism Director Phyllis Bennis has been traveling South Africa for the last couple of weeks. She returns to the U.S. as chaos engulfs much of the Middle East.
Phyllis Bennis joined the panel on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes” last Saturday morning. The all-foreign-policy show focused on the current crises in the Middle East, including the killing of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, as well as the protests against the insulting Islamophobic film made in California that has sparked anger around the world. There was also discussion of the U.S. and Israeli (and Obama and Romney) “red lines” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. military aid to Israel and how the discourse on U.S. support for Israel is changing so dramatically.
The MSNBC link shows the various segments of the show listed on the left side of the page.
As new anti-U.S. protests take place in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia and beyond, the election cycle will be intertwined with foreign policy news, in what was supposed to be an election dominated by debates over how to bring the U.S. economy back from its current recession.
Bennis was on Chris Hayes' show last New Years' Eve morning, analyzing the consequences of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq.
September 13, 2012 · By Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdés
Some friends look nostalgically at U.S. history, as if our current situation means that a once-great and deeply principled America has eroded and collapsed.
Is this the America founded on slavery? The Constitution, which tried to mute every aspect of direct democracy?
The Tea Party rhetoric claims to represent the values of the Founding Fathers, who did not believe in democracy, religion, or free market nonsense. Democracy, to the wealthy elite then and now, meant that the property-less masses (the poor) would some day rule – if they learned to use the vote. To the oligarchs, the majority are inferior people unfit to make decisions for the educated and financially well endowed. For the 1%, billionaires, and their families, the idea of poorer people making decisions impacting on their wealth resonates sourly, or as they call it "class war."
The oligarchs decided, long ago, that they were to permanently rule. The most recent development gained the Supreme Court's help (Citizens United) so that the super-rich could "own" the 2012 election. The reactionary high court opened the door for super corporate donations to political campaigns. Compare gambling casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's pledge of $100 million to the modest amount a working person could afford to contribute.
Republicans have also tried to limit participation in voting by numerous means, including pushing so-called Voter ID laws that would demand photo identification of all voters. The less the masses vote, the better for the oligarchs. In Ohio, the GOP controls both houses of the Legislature, the governorship, the secretary of state's office, and the state Supreme Court. Soon after the 2008 election, it imposed a draconian photo ID law designed to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of suspected Democrats, as is being done in other states around the U.S. Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has purged roughly a million citizens from the state's voter rolls. This accounts for some 15% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focuses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic. In addition, electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state, which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained – and will be tallied – by Republican-connected firms.
Ironically, Mexico's wealthy elite may have begun to copy us. Or did our billionaires take lessons from their Mexican counterparts? A transnational army of election entrepreneurs has emerged that hires itself to the highest bidder on both sides of the border.
Before this year’s July election, the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party (PRI) that governed Mexico for half a century until 2000 bought pre-paid gift cards and phone money cards for shoppers at a Mexican grocery store chain in return for their votes for PRI candidate Peña Nieto. A Congressional Research Service report issued on September 4, 2012, acknowledged that some independent domestic observation groups "found that vote-buying, intimidation, and other irregularities marred the electoral process." (Clare Ribando Seelke, Mexico’s 2012 Elections, Congressional Research Service, September 4, 2012, p. 9)
Associated Press and British Guardian reporters interviewed shoppers who crowded one Soriana grocery store two days after the elections to redeem the cards. The shoppers told the journalists that PRI officials had given them the food or telephone money-cards, in return for their votes for PRI’s candidate.
On July 4th, the Guardian reported that at least 28% of the voters interviewed acknowledged that they encountered vote buying as well as coercive tactics on behalf of PRI candidates. President Obama nevertheless immediately called the PRI presidential candidate to congratulate him and praise the democratic process of the country and its institutions.
PRI, like the U.S. Republican Party, bought the cooperation of the TV giants, Televisa and Tv Azteca, and launched a massive propaganda campaign. On the print stage, PRI backers invested heavily in Excelsior, El Universal, and El Sol de Mexico newspapers and got favorable stories. In Laredo, for example, the program "Buen Dia Laredo" reported positively on PRI and/or PAN and always negatively on the PRD candidate, or simply did not mention him or his campaign.
This barrage included stories of bogus opinion polls declaring PRI the clear favorite by just making the numbers up. Several PRI governors even used the budget from their respective state governments to finance the PRI campaign, not exactly a legal procedure. That was the case of the state of Mexico whose governor was also the PRI presidential candidate.
Mexico's so-called independent Instituto Federal Electoral and Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial set up to monitor elections and ensure fairness did nothing to stop the electoral fraud, or show that votes for PRD did not get counted, or that PAN and PRI votes got over counted. Instead of recognizing obvious illegalities, these institutions neither looked at the evidence nor sought it, and refused to even consider any of the charges. The Tribunal was even mandated to study, analyze and investigate the charges submitted, but the judges certified the election as legal and proper.
The Mexican Tribunal Electoral denied the petition filed by PRD candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador who demanded a reversal of the election results and called for a new election. But the presiding electoral judge announced that "there is no proof of vote-buying." The judges did not interview any card recipients and ignored video evidence lending credibility to these claims.
The Mexican high court asserted there was no proof of electoral crime. Yet, the PRD and a citizens’ movement had delivered to the judges a 638-page document with thousands of examples of illegal activities affecting the election. The judges didn’t open the document but nevertheless declared: "It has not been demonstrated that they (the cards) were given to citizens, or if that occurred, that it was done on condition they vote for a given candidate." The presiding judge later modified the remarks, saying that the people who received the free food cards were already committed PRI voters and workers anyway.
Eduardo Huchim of Alianza Civica, a UN funded organization, described the 2012 election as "neither clean nor fair." This was not Mexico's first election theft. The great Mexican revolution in 1910 began under the banner of "effective suffrage, no reelections." Yet, electoral thefts continued in 1939, 1987 and 2006. Viva la democracia.
Mexico's elite still attempts to hide its political hands because their Supreme Court has not yet informed their people that corporate wealth is a form of freedom of expression as Citizens United did for the American public.
So there is plenty of proof that U.S. and Mexican super elites have modernized election theft. The old days of stuffed ballot boxes and dead people voting now appear as primitive larceny techniques.
The piety of both elites about how they cherish democracy has become downright offensive.
Saul Landau's WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens in Portland Oregon’s Clinton Theater, Sept. 13. Nelson Valdes is professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.
September 12, 2012 · By Salvatore Babones
According to Census Bureau figures released today, 15 percent of the US population lives in poverty. In 2011, more than 46 million Americans lived below a poverty line that was set more than four decades ago, in 1969.
The poverty rate for children remains more than 20 percent for the third year in a row. More than one-third of black children and Hispanic children live in poverty.
In the words of Rep. Mike Honda (D-California), co-chair of the Congressional Out-of-Poverty Caucus, these figures are "a stark reminder that, although we are the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, far too many children are going to bed hungry."
In fact, the USDA reports that more than 16 million American children are "food insecure."
Today's census report also contained bad news on incomes.
Median household income (adjusted for inflation) was down an additional 1.5 percent from the already-low levels of 2010. Median income is now 8.9 percent lower than it was in 1999.
Income inequality, as measured by the Gini index - the degree of income inequality, with 0 representing total equality and 100 representing total inequality - reached a new record high of 47.7 percent. A Gini index of 50 would be equivalent to half of the population receiving all of the country's income, while the other half got nothing.
All this bad news comes against a backdrop of extraordinarily low employment rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 58 percent of the adult population has any kind of job at all (full or part time), the lowest figure in 30 years.
Only 64 percent of adult men have a job of any kind, the lowest figure ever.
Today's official poverty rate of 15 percent is among the highest of the past 40 years. When the poverty line was first adopted in 1969, the poverty rate was just 12.1 percent.
The poverty line we use today was officially set on August 29, 1969. It represented a 1969 consensus of the basic minimum standard of living for American families in 1969. Other than adjusting for inflation, it has not been updated since.
In the technical discussions that preceded the official determination of the poverty line, experts considered a methodology that "would have resulted in poverty thresholds that were 25 percent to 30 percent higher than the existing thresholds," according to research published in the Social Security Bulletin.
In essence, 15 percent of Americans today live in what would have been considered poverty in 1969, more than 40 years ago. Had our standards gone up over the past 43 years, even more Americans would now be identified as poor.
In many ways, poor Americans are even worse off than they have been in the past. For example, a record low 69.3 percent of Americans are now covered by private health insurance. Nearly 10 percent of children have no health insurance coverage at all.
And state anti-poverty programs around the country are facing severe budget cuts.
According to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, America's total economic output per person is now more than twice as high as it was in 1969 (adjusted for inflation).
With twice the resources, today's America is much better placed to end poverty than was the America of 43 years ago.
Today's Census Bureau report offers little cause for hope. After 43 years with no progress, poverty is now endemic in America. But we do have the financial means to reverse it, should we ever garner the political will.
September 12, 2012 · By Karen Dolan
We can’t seem to stop having record numbers of people living in poverty in the United States. The richest continue to get richer and the rest of us continue to see our incomes get lower and lower.
New Census Bureau figures released today, show that 15 percent of the U.S. population lived in poverty in 2011. Over 46 million Americans lived at or below the poverty threshold of a household income of $23,201 per year for a family of four. One in five of our children live in poverty and over one-third of black and Latino children are struggling through impoverishment.
In 2011, we saw the first one-year increase in income inequality since 1993. The top 5 percent gained 5.3 percent in income in 2011 over 2010. The lowest quintile saw little change, but the second-lowest, middle, and fourth-lowest quintiles all experienced a decline in income over the year. Sadly, those who “occupied” Wall Street and city squares across the country in 2011, were right: All of the income gains have concentrated at the top, while the rest of us saw a deterioration or stagnation in our wages and income.
This data also confirms that safety programs work. According to the Census Bureau, unemployment benefits kept 2.3 million of us out of poverty in 2011, Social Security benefits kept over 21 million people out of poverty and, if we count the nutrition aid of the Food Stamps program as income, it would show that 3.9 million people were lifted above the poverty line in 2011.
Increasingly, all of the boost in wealth is concentrated at the top and record numbers of poverty persist, while the middle and lower-economic classes are losing ground. Now is not the time to lower taxes on the wealthiest by cutting proven, effective anti-poverty measures such as Unemployment Insurance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Social Security, and new coverage benefits gained from the health care reform law.
The rich shouldn't be rewarded while the rest of struggle.