Blog Archive

Sunday, December 1, 2013

rjs: Obscenely rich get richer, poor should not be coddled

 6 of the Top 10 U.S. Billionaires Are Kochs and Waltons - For the first time ever, according to Forbes magazine, the  400 richest Americans have more than $2 trillion in combined wealth. And, a fifth of that amount is held by just 10 individuals. Of those top 10 richest Americans, six hail from two families—the Kochs and the Waltons—who are destroying our economy and corrupting our politics. Arguably, the two most urgent tasks in this country are to transform our economy and to clean up our politics, and these two families stand in the way of both. Our economy is addicted to fossil fuels and Charles and David Koch’s company, Koch Industries, is a key driver with investments in pipelines and refineries across the United States. These two Koch brothers rank four and five on the billionaire list.  In addition, our economy is marked by stagnating wages, which have sunk to  poverty levels for millions of workers. The key driver of our low-wage economy is  Walmart, with its 11,000 stores worldwide that pay so little that many of its workers get by on  food stamps. The four main heirs to Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, rank numbers six, seven, eight, and nine on the billionaires list. Three sit on the Walmart board, including Rob Walton, the board chair.   The problem is, of course, not just economics. It’s the way that economics interacts with politics. The Koch brothers have poured some of their combined $72 billion in wealth into conservative and tea party politicians at the governor and state legislature levels. The Waltons—experts at  tax avoidance—exercise a subtler, but equally corrosive, influence of our politics through their continued role in the world’s largest global corporation, Walmart. 
 Afternoon Must-Read: Francis: Evangelium ad Unum Per Centum - Delong via Izabella Kaminska: Evangelii One PercentiumWhile the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation… reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion…. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule…
Rush Limbaugh blasts ‘pure Marxism’ coming from Pope Francis’ critique of capitalism 
Food stamp cuts, holidays stress food banks - Food banks across the country are bracing for what has become an annual occurrence during this season: a spike in demand as millions of Americans struggle to put holiday meals on their tables. For those who help the hungry, 2013 is looking a lot like the years since the recession began—with the added challenge of a $5 billion cut in food stamp benefits, which took effect Nov. 1. About 48 million Americans will be hit by the reduction in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which will subtract $36 per month for a family of four. Total benefit amounts vary by state. "Nobody's been able to catch their breath," said Ross Fraser of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks that supplies 63,000 agencies around the country. "Everyone's scared to death about these SNAP cuts." Bad timing As advocates for the hungry tell it, the reduction in food stamp benefits — the result of an expiration of a temporary boost enacted in 2009 — couldn't have come at worse time. The Great Recession has already stretched food banks' ability to help the 15% of all Americans who are considered "food insecure," according to an Agriculture Department report. Many of those people do not use food stamps. Many food banks are holding extra food drives, or asking companies to make special seasonal donations – turkeys, for example. Others food banks just buy more food; one reported buying 50% more this month compared to October. 

Breadlines Return - The Great Recession was the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  And yet, throughout the recent decline and today’s sluggish recovery, conditions have never seemed as bad as they were in the 1930s. Breadlines, for example, have not been commonplace. That may be about to change. In an article published on Monday, The Times’s Patrick McGeehan described a line snaking down Fulton Street in Brooklyn last week, with people waiting to enter a food pantry run by the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. The line was not an anomaly. Demand at all of New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens has spiked since federal food stamps were cut on Nov. 1. The cut — which affects nearly all of the nation’s 48 million food stamp recipients — amounts to a loss of $29 a month for a New York City family of three. On the shoestring meal budgets of food stamp recipients, that’s enough for some 20 individual meals, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The food stamp cuts are occurring even though need is still high and opportunity low. In a report released today, the Coalition estimates that one-sixth of the city’s residents and one-fifth of its children live in homes without enough to eat. Those numbers have not improved over the past three years. And there are more food-stamp cuts to come. House Republicans have proposed to cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years in the pending farm bill; the Senate has proposed a $4 billion reduction. With Congress framing its task not as whether to cut the program, but how much, is there any doubt that food lines will soon be getting longer — and children hungrier?

U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year - (video)  Yves Smith: On Bill Moyers last week, Henry Giroux talked about how our political system is willing to throw young people on the trash heap:…. you have a whole generation of young people who are now seen as disposable. They’re in debt, they’re unemployed. My friend calls them the zero generation: zero jobs, zero hope, zero possibilities, zero employment. And it seems to me when a country turns its back on its young people because they figure in investments not long term investments, they can’t be treated as simply commodities that are going to in some way provide an instant payback and extend the bottom line, they represent something more noble than that. They represent an indication of how the future is not going to mimic the present and what obligations people might have, social, political, moral and otherwise to allow that to happen, and we’ve defaulted on that possibility.Another symptom is the general lack of concern about high and rising levels of homelessness among students. Of course, we’re supposed to be in a recovery, so we can’t acknowledge that American has rising levels of desperation for the lower orders. But the reality, as many here know altogether too well, is that only group that has shown meaningful gains over the last few years is the top 1%.

Why U.S. Cities Have Been Making it Harder to Feed the Homeless - Every night around 6:15 p.m., the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition parks its truck on the same street corner in Los Angeles – because, of course, people need to know where to go – and begins serving meals to the homeless. Often 200 of them in a night. The scene has increasingly frustrated the neighbors, as Adam Nagourney describes in the New York Times. They're upset that the homeless then linger in the neighborhood with nowhere to go. They're upset by the noise. As a result, two Democratic city councilmen have introduced an ordinance that would ban the public feeding of the homeless in Los Angeles, in a bid to push such efforts indoors. What's most surprising about the story, though, is that Los Angeles is hardly an outlier. In thelast few years, cities across the U.S. have been adopting new laws limiting what and how charitable groups can feed the homeless (New York City's take has been typically Bloombergian: Last year, the city outlawed food donations to shelters out of concern for its fat and salt content). As Nagourney writes: Should Los Angeles enact such an ordinance, it would join a roster of more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., Seattle and Orlando, Fla., that have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless, according to the National Coalition of the Homeless. “It’s a common but misguided tactic to drive homeless people out of downtown areas.” “This is an attempt to make difficult problems disappear,” he said, adding, “It’s both callous and ineffective.”

Fox News Chastises People for Giving to the Homeless: ‘You’re an Enabler’ - It takes a special kind of person to look at a homeless man on the street — with no home to stay warm in, little access to a shower or clean clothes, and few possessions — and decide that he’s got it too good. But Fox Business host John Stossel bravely took up that mantle Thursday morning during a guest appearance on Fox & Friends, warning viewers about the perniciousness of giving money to the poor. Donning a fake beard, Stossel sat on a New York City sidewalk with a cardboard sign asking people for help. “I just begged for an hour but I did well,” he said. “If I did this for an eight-hour day I would’ve made 90 bucks. Twenty-three thou for a year. Tax-free.” Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who recently purchased a $4 million home in Greenwich, gasped in horror at the prospect of poor people earning $23,000 a year. Some people asking for money “are actually scammers,” Hasselbeck warned, seemingly unaware of the irony that the only panhandling “scammer” Fox News identified was Stossel. Because he was able to successfully convince good-hearted pedestrians that he was poor, Stossel went on to chastise people who gave the homeless money because, in his view, “most are not…for real.” He implored viewers to stop giving money to poor people because if you do, “you’re an enabler.” Watch the segment:

Yakuza forcing homeless people to work on the Fukushima nuclear plant clear-up - Japan's notorious Yakuza gangsters are forcing homeless people to join the desperate clear-up effort at the Fukushima nuclear plant before simply firing them when they suffer high doses of radiation, it has been claimed. Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) which operates the plant have been struggling to recruit workers who are desperately needed to join the hazardous operation dismantling the plant. As a result Tepco subcontractors reportedly reached out out to the Yakuza for help. The gangsters are said to often provide workers at short notice for large scale construction projects. The workers say they were not made aware of the risks and say they have been treated like 'disposable people'.  Russian news network RT reports one former worker as saying: 'We were given no insurance for health risks, no radiation meters even.  'We were treated like nothing, like disposable people – they promised things and then kicked us out when we received a large radiation doze. 'They promised a lot of money, even signed a long-term contract, but then suddenly terminated it, not even paying me a third of the promised sum.'

No comments: