Yes, Half Of Americans Are In Or Near Poverty: Here's More Evidence

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By Paul Buchheit for Common Dreams – The poverty threshold is still based on a formula from the 1960s, when food expenses were a much greater part of the family budget. It hasn’t kept up with other major expenses. Since 1980, food costs have gone up by 100%, housing 250%, health care 500%, and college tuition 1,000%. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) says, “If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds.” Three times higher! The median household income in the U.S. in 2016 was $59,039. The Economic Policy Institute’s 2015 Family Budget Calculator determined that the median budget for a two-parent, two-child family is $63,741. As CRS concluded, that’s about three times higher than the current poverty threshold. In 2014, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, median household expenses were $36,800, against income of about $54,000. But that includes very little for wealth-building investments, such as short- and long-term savings, college education, and life insurance. After accounting for annual outlays for these essential and/or typical family expenses, the median household in the lower third was $2,300 in debt.

Elites “Have No Credibility Left:” An Interview With Journalist Chris Hedges

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By David North for WSWS – On Monday, WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North interviewed Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, lecturer and former New York Times correspondent. Among Hedges’ best-known books are War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, The Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion: the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which he co-wrote with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, and Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt. In an article published in TruthdigSeptember 17, titled “The Silencing of Dissent,” Hedges referenced the WSWS coverage of Google’s censorship of left-wing sites and warned about the growth of “blacklisting, censorship and slandering dissidents as foreign agents for Russia and purveyors of ‘fake news.’” Hedges wrote that “the Department of Justice called on RT America and its ‘associates’—which may mean people like me—to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. No doubt, the corporate state knows that most of us will not register as foreign agents, meaning we will be banished from the airwaves. This, I expect, is the intent.” North’s interview with Hedges began with a discussion of the significance of the anti-Russia campaign in the media.

Bosses Shouldn’t Get To Have ‘Religious’ Objections To Your Health Care

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By Martha Burk for Other Words – Expanding “corporate citizen” rights into health care could ultimately affect everybody, not just women. When Obamacare — aka, the Affordable Care Act — became law in 2010, it mandated coverage of birth control without co-payments. Some employers didn’t like the rule, and Hobby Lobby hated it so much that the company filed a lawsuit to stop it. Company owners said they didn’t believe in contraception and claimed that covering it for female employees violated their religious freedom. Understand, the Obama administration went to great lengths to exempt churches and church-related institutions from the rule, while still guaranteeing their female employees the right to birth control if they wanted it. Then the Supreme Court stepped in, siding with Hobby Lobby and ruling that “closely held” corporations with religious objections could join religious employers in excluding birth control from their insurance plans. Now the Trump administration has gone a giant step further. They’re now allowing any and all businesses, including publicly traded ones, to also cite “religious or moral objections” in denying their employees contraception coverage.

Faces Of Pain, Faces Of Hope

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – ANDERSON, Ind.—It was close to midnight, and I was sitting at a small campfire with Sybilla and Josh Medlin in back of an old warehouse in an impoverished section of the city. The Medlins paid $20,000 for the warehouse. It came with three lots. They use the lots for gardens. The produce they grow is shared with neighbors and the local homeless shelter. There are three people living in the warehouse, which the Medlins converted into living quarters. That number has been as high as 10. “It was a house of hospitality,” said Josh, 33, who like his wife came out of the Catholic Worker Movement. “We were welcoming people who needed a place to stay, to help them get back on their feet. Or perhaps longer. That kind of didn’t work out as well as we had hoped. We weren’t really prepared to deal with some of the needs that people had. And perhaps not the skills. We were taken advantage of. We weren’t really helping them. We didn’t have the resources to help them.” “For the Catholic Workers, the ratio of community members to people they’re helping is a lot different than what we had here,” Sybilla, 27, said. “We were in for a shock. At the time there were just three community members. Sometimes we had four or five homeless guests here. It got kind of chaotic. Mostly mental illness. A lot of addiction, of course. We don’t know how to deal with hard drugs in our home. It got pretty crazy.”

TransCanada Terminates Energy East Pipeline Project

TransCanada terminates Energy East pipeline project

By Mike De Souza for National Observer – TransCanada Corp. has terminated its Energy East pipeline, triggering a $1 billion loss and bringing an end to an epic battle between politicians, big oil, Indigenous leaders and environmental groups. In a statement released on Thursday morning, the Calgary-based company’s president and chief executive officer, Russ Girling, said it was notifying the federal regulator, the National Energy Board, and Quebec’s Environment Department of its decision, after reviewing “changed circumstances.” Girling said the decision would cost his company $1 billion due to the investments it has already made in the project. The company said it wasn’t expecting to recover any of its losses from any third parties since it failed to get a regulatory decision on the project. “We appreciate and are thankful for the support of labour, business and manufacturing organizations, industry, our customers, Irving Oil, various governments, and the approximately 200 municipalities who passed resolutions in favour of the projects,” Girling said in the statement. “Most of all, we thank Canadians across the country who contributed towards the development of these initiatives.”

The Racial Wealth Gap Is Leading To An Almost-Nonexistent Middle Class

Top photo | Deborah Goldring stands inside her Baltimore home. From growing up black in the segregated 1960s, Goldring pulled herself out of poverty and earned a middle-class life – until the Great Recession. First, her husband fell ill, and they drained savings to pay for nursing homes before he died. Then Goldring lost her executive assistant job of 17 years. Then came a letter from the bank, intending to foreclose on her home of almost three decades. For Goldring and many others in the black community, where unemployment is still rising, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. Some even see a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

By Julia Conley for Mint Press News – With people of color projected to make up the majority of Americans by 2043, a new study warns against policies that keep many black and Latino households out of the middle class. A new study finds that if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, the median wealth for black Americans will fall to $0 by 2053, with Latino Americans reaching the same median wealth two decades later. According to the report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now, the wealth gap between people of color and their white counterparts is showing no sign of narrowing in the coming years—even as racial demographics in the U.S. are rapidly shifting, with people of color projected to make up the majority of the population by 2043. In the next three years, black households are projected to lose 18 percent of their median net worth, while white families are expected to gain about three percent more wealth. The report, “The Road to Zero-Wealth,” defines middle-class wealth as a household net worth of $68,000 to $204,000, and notes the disconnect between income and wealth: a median income for one’s racial background does not guarantee entry into the middle-class. “White households in the middle-income quintile—those earning $37,201-61,328 annually—own nearly eight times as much wealth ($86,100) as Black middle-income earners ($11,000) and ten times that of their Latino counterparts ($8,600),” write the authors.

It Is Not Social Mobility, It Is Abolishing Class Divisions

Protesters march at the G20 Summit in London, 2009.

By Staff of Stumbling and Mumbling – To which Tim Worstall replies that this requires serious infringements of freedom. I agree with Tim. Social mobility is the enemy of freedom. Enforcing it would require governments to prevent parents from doing their best for their children to stop them falling below the glass floor, and it would prevent firms from hiring whom they wanted. It seems, then, that we have a conflict of values. Except we don’t, because there’s nothing valuable about social mobility. A simple thought experiment tells us this. Imagine a dictatorial society split into three classes – slave labour, guards, and rich and powerful oligarchs – in which children of the slaves have good chances of entering the higher classes either through education or perhaps lottery. We’d then have social mobility. But the society would nevertheless be unfree and unjust. Social mobility, then, is no sign of a good society. In fact, there’s something downright dishonest about it. Social mobility pretends that if people from poor homes do well at school and work hard then they can escape their class. But they can’t. Four facts tell us this. One is that people from poor homes are more likely to die early, even if they get a decent job later in life.

Domestic Workers Movement Is Growing

A domestic workers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Solidarity Center/Jemal Countess/Flickr. Creative Commons.

By Myrtle Witbooi for Open Democracy – So the question is, how did I come from my humble beginnings to where I am now? My life in this field started in 1966, when I became a domestic worker. I was working for a family, in 1967, and I remember I was pregnant and had a baby that same year. I also remember that, during the apartheid times, there was an article in the newspaper about how some employers didn’t allow the friends of domestic workers to visit the property. The question that a came to my mind was what are we? And why are there no rights for us? So I questioned the situation. I wrote a letter and I sent it to the newspaper without thinking. I just wrote my frustration: why are we different? Why are there no laws to protect us? Why are we not seen as people? And then, three days later, a reporter from the newspaper came to the door and was looking for the maid, the servant. This reporter decided that I educated and asked me why I kept my ideas to myself, instead of speaking out. I became a spokesperson for both sides, and that is where I discovered a certain talent I have: I have the ability to speak. So we called a meeting in 1968, here in Salt River (Capetown, South Africa), in a big hall for garment workers.

Reviving The Strike

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By Jane McAlevey for The Bullet – Barb Tiller is a mother of four boys, a wife, and a highly skilled operating-room nurse who has been working at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for 27 years. On July 12, for the first time in her life, she walked off the job along with 1,200 other nurses – almost all women – in the largest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’s history, and the first in Boston for 31 years. “Nurses don’t stand up for ourselves,” says Tiller. “We stand up for our patients; we stand up for our families when we go home. We stand up for everyone else. But we can’t work under these conditions anymore – like being locked in the operating room with no water, no bathroom break, no meal break, for 12 hours at a time.” Alyssa Gold, a cardiology nurse whose 16 months at Tufts mirrors the duration of the contract negotiations between the nurses and hospital management, says, “I was excited to start working at Tufts because the best learning for nurses happens in Boston hospitals.” Five years into nursing, which she refers to as her calling, Gold agrees with Tiller about the dire need for change. In the days leading up to the strike, Gold faced some of the fears and self-doubt that hospital managers count on.

Latest Trends In The Capitalist Crisis

Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization. (Image: Pixabay; Edited: JR / TO)

By C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout – Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their “business as usual” approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment. This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself. Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization. Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality.

There’s No Good Reason For Your Boss To Make 347 Times What You Do

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By Steven Clifford for Other Words – CEO pay at America’s 500 largest companies averaged $13.1 million in 2016. That’s 347 times what the average employee makes. So CEOs make a lot of money. But, some say, so do athletes and movie stars. Why pick on corporate bosses, then? First, because the market sets compensation for athletes and movie stars, but not for CEOs. Teams and movie studios bid for athletes and movie stars. CEO pay is set by a rigged system that has nothing to do with supply and demand. NBA teams bid for LeBron James because his skills are portable: He’d be a superstar on any team. CEOs’ skills are much more closely tied to their knowledge of a single company — its finances, products, personnel, culture, competitors, etc. Such knowledge and skills are best gained working within the company, and not worth much outside. In fact, a CEO jumping between large companies happens less than once a year. And when they jump, they usually fail. Lacking a market, CEO pay is set by a series of complex administrative pay practices. Usually a board, often dominated by other sitting or retired CEOs, sets their CEO’s pay based on the compensation of other highly paid CEOs. The CEO can then double or triple this target by surpassing negotiated bonus goals.

Urban Shield: A Federal Protection Racket

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By Ann Garrison for Black Agenda Report – In 2015, Berkeley, California City Councilor Max Anderson voiced this eloquent opposition to militarization of the police during the annual Bay Area Urban Shield war games and weapons expo: “The culture that’s cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourselves . . . “When I was in the Marines in the early ‘60s, all our pop-up targets that we practiced on were Asians. You know now they’re Middle Easterners, so it kinda shifts, and so the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it. “And when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know we have a problem. You know it’s a problem of association because when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival, and you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. And when you inculcate that into our environment here, and we start thinking about the citizenry as either being friendly or enemies, and react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track.” What could better describe the prevailing mindset of U.S. police? And we all know who’s on the enemies list that they feel compelled to kill to survive: Black and Brown people, Muslims, and poor people.

Beware The Politics Of Fear And ‘Non-Ideological’ Saviors

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By Slavoj Zizek for Independent – Recall how, in the last elections in France, every leftist scepticism about Macron was immediately denounced as a support for Marine le Pen. And look at the empty universality of successful statements like Macron’s ‘La Republique En Marche!’ – the designation of a victorious movement forward without any obvious or specific goal. An old Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times!” – interesting times are the times of troubles, confusion and suffering. And it seems that in some “democratic” countries, we are lately witnessing a weird phenomenon which proves that we live in interesting times: a candidate emerges and wins elections as it were from nowhere, in a moment of confusion building a movement around his name – both Berlusconi and Macron exploded like this. What is this process a sign of? Definitely not of any kind of direct popular engagement beyond party politics – on the contrary, we should never forget that such figures explode with the full support of social and economic establishment. Their function is to obfuscate actual social antagonisms – people are magically united against some demonised “fascist” threat.

The Class War Should Unite Us

Nijmie Dzurinko (bottom, middle) with the Mother Jones Leadership Program participants and mentors, 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Nijmie Dzurinko)

By Sarah Jaffe for Truthout – Nijmie Dzurinko: I think the first thing to know about the piece is that, although it does chronicle the story of one of our members, Danelle Morrow, and her husband Kevin, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a place where Trump campaigned heavily in the election, the purpose of the story is not to say that our intention was to turn him from being a Trump voter. That was an outgrowth of the strategy, which is to really build an intersectional working class movement across the state of Pennsylvania that meets people where they are at, sees them for who they are, engages them around where they are hurting, then, moves us all toward a vision of human rights that is inclusive of all people. Including them. Danelle wrote this piece about her husband. She found Put People First online. She saw us on Facebook. The first contact she ever made with us was jumping in a car with her two daughters and driving about two and a half hours to come to a meeting with a bunch of people she had never met before because she just liked the sound of what we were doing. She then found a place in the organization and has since has become a leader of an organizing committee in Johnstown…

A Class-Only Approach Will Fail Women Of Color

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By Andrea Flynn and Angelique Roche for Roosevelt Institute – Last week President Trump released a budget that would gut public programs that lift up millions of American women and families. Contrary to its title, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget is a roadmap to a place where women and their families would be less safe, less healthy, and less economically secure. As we argue in a new report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Ms. Foundation for Women, women, and particularly women of color, are at greatest risk from the President’s latest proposal. Among all social groups in the United States, women of color experience some of the starkest disparities and inequities across nearly every social and economic indicator: Compared to white women, they have higher levels of unemployment and poverty; they have significantly less wealth; they are more likely to be targeted by and come in contact with the criminal justice system; they are at a much higher risk, regardless of their income or education, of dying as a result of pregnancy and of losing their children in infancy; they are less likely to own a home and more likely to have high-risk mortgages when they do own a home; and they are less likely to attend college and, when they do, tend to carry heavier student debt burdens. They are caught in a web of injustices.