Texas House Votes To Stop Jailing Those Too Poor To Pay Fines

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By Johnathan Silver for Mint Press News – Legislation that would make it easier for poor people to satisfy traffic tickets with alternatives to payment cleared the Texas House on Tuesday on a vote of 75-70. The bill needs to be approved by the Senate again before moving to Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk. Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for traffic tickets; fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses; or court costs. After making that determination, courts would be allowed to reduce or waive fines and costs and offer community service as an alternative. “They’re not getting off scot-free. We’re getting something for something,” the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told members Monday. “We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there.” For fine-only offenses, jail time only comes into the picture when someone doesn’t pay their fine — a risk borne by thousands of Texans, according to a recently released report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project. Those who can’t afford to pay often find themselves hit with additional fines or other restrictions, such as being blocked from renewing their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. Critics call it debtors’ prison.

Trump To Pitch Deep Cuts To Anti-Poverty Programs, Medicaid

Trump speaking in front of a picture of his own face at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Photograph Carolyn Kaster-AP

By Erik Wasson and Steven T. Dennis for Bloomberg – President Donald Trump plans to propose $1.7 trillion in cuts to a category of spending that includes major social and entitlement programs for lower-income Americans, as part of an effort to balance the budget within a decade. The White House will issue a formal budget request Tuesday that includes $274 billion in cuts over 10 years to means-tested anti-poverty programs, including food stamps, according to a Republican congressional aide and a White House document obtained by Bloomberg News. The administration has prepared talking points for Republicans on Capitol Hill touting that the “budget strives to replace dependency with the dignity of work through welfare reform efforts.” The upcoming budget request for fiscal 2018, which include dropping the top individual tax rate to 35 percent, is already attracting criticism from Democrats. Trump’s proposal will also call for $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the health program for the poor, the Washington Post reported. “This budget continues to reveal President Trump’s true colors: His populist campaign rhetoric was just a Trojan horse to execute long-held, hard-right policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Sunday.

Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies Or Worst Enemies?

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By Baher Kamal for IPS – In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.” The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach: “On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices. “On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Trump’s Plan To Gut HUD Threatens Very Survival Of America’s Poor

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By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet – Rosemary Holmes has lived in Newark’s Terrell Holmes for the better part of six decades. She, like many others in the building, has raised children in its courtyards and hallways, and forged a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors. At the age of 68, she has been forced to band with other tenants to fight local efforts to shutter the facility. Now, as the Trump administration weighs plans to gut the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she has a new battle on her hands. “Any time they move a person to someplace they don’t want to live, it’s imprisonment,” she told AlterNet over the phone. “I am a human being, and I deserve to live where I want to live. Us, the ones who really want to be here…

Opioid Crisis: Public Health Crisis Rooted In Poverty

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By Sarah Jaffe for In These Times. It is hard, because all of us have lost people, I will say that. I have lost people that I love to this and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. When we are talking about it, it is deeply personal for people because we are literally watching our communities die and that is really rough. To be in a moment where people are dying from using drugs and we are also shrinking whatever public safety net has been left, to me it is so ridiculous to live in a place where people don’t see that this is a public health crisis that has its roots in poverty. Also, I would say, in the white denial. People not wanting to believe that this could be such a big problem with white people. I would say that it is not just the Republican folks who have been pushing law enforcement over increasing access to care. Here in Portland, we have an all-Democratic City Council that chose to shut down one of the premier, in the country, clinics that had a needle exchange, that had an HIV positive program and did STD testing and counselling, that was serving folks on the street, really low income people, had incredible relationships to their providers.

From Bad To Worse For Puerto Rico

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By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Martin Guzman for Project Syndicate. SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s deep and prolonged recession has led to a severe debt crisis. And the combination of economic contraction and massive liabilities is having dire consequences for the island. Everywhere in the United States commonwealth, private-sector jobs are being lost. Total employment in Puerto Rico has fallen from 1.25 million in the last quarter of the 2007 fiscal year workers to less than a million almost a decade later. Without employment, large numbers of Puerto Ricans (who are US citizens) have emigrated. But, despite this flight, the unemployment rate is now 12.4%. Without job prospects, the labor participation rate has plummeted to 40%, two-thirds of the level on the US mainland. About 60% of Puerto Rico’s children live in poverty.

Standing Rocks Is Burning – Our Resistance Isn’t Over

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By Julian Brave NoiseCat for The Guardian. North Dakota – Just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, water protectors set their makeshift and traditional structures ablaze in a final act of prayer and defiance against Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, sending columns of black smoke billowing into the winter sky above the Oceti Sakowin protest camp. The majority of the few hundred remaining protesters marched out, arm in arm ahead of the North Dakota authorities’ Wednesday eviction deadline. An estimated one hundred others refused the state’s order, choosing to remain in camp and face certain arrest in order to defend land and water promised to the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, in the long-broken Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

Poor People Could Get Even Hungrier Under Trump 

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By Marissa Higgins for The Establishment – Recognizing this potential, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced trial programs in seven states that will allow recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs to order their groceries from participating vendors online, including FreshDirect, Amazon, and smaller local vendors. The delivery program is being piloted in Maryland, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington this summer. If implemented nationwide, it could benefit the one in seven Americans who receive SNAP, including those who are disabled, elderly, and living in food deserts where access to brick-and-mortar shops is limited.

How Americans Became Poor

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By Chris Kanthan for Nation of Change. If we want to create a vibrant middle class, we have to abandon slogans and simplistic solutions and understand the bigger picture. There is no doubt that majority of Americans have gotten poorer over the last few decades even while the top 10% or so have done extremely well. In a world of slogans and minuscule attention span, the media and the pundits either completely deny this fact or justify it by focusing on advancements in technology or turn it into a partisan blame game. The reality is that multiple developments contributed to this decline of prosperity, much of it due to deliberate but gradual social and financial engineering. Without assigning ranking or weight, here is a look at twelve major reasons why Americans became poor.

Debtors Prison Not A Tale Of Charles Dickens

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By Paul Kirk Haeder for Dissident Voice. Constitutional checks and balances were put in place to prevent citizens from succumbing to undue and unfair prosecution, and the courts have upheld many times the right of individuals who have served their time in prison to move on, move ahead. However, times have changed, and there has been a huge push to privatize prisons, and to place filing fees, court costs and even the daily maintenance, upkeep and staffing of these halls of justice on the financial backs of the accused. It’s sometimes called a punishment society, and on top of that, when we start looking at African-Americans and Latinos in this snapshot of Mass Incarceration, we have the respective stats – black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and Latinos 2.5 times more. The cost of their crimes also increases with the color of their skin.

Olders Pushed Into Poverty As Feds Garnish Social Security For Student Debt

"We could have hundreds of thousands of American seniors living in poverty due to garnished Social Security benefits if this trend continues," said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Montana. (Photo: Kate Gardiner/flickr/cc)

By Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams – ‘Hard-earned Social Security checks should not be siphoned off to pay interest and fees on student loan debt,’ says Elizabeth Warren. The federal government is garnishing Social Security checks to recoup unpaid student debt, leaving thousands of retired or disabled Americans below the poverty line and setting the stage for an even bigger problem, according to a new report. The data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), compiled at the behest of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), showed that people over the age of 50 are the fastest-growing group with student debt, outpacing younger generations…

PTSD In Poor Neighborhoods Could Be Worse Than We Think

The Yoga Garden teaches mindfulness techniques to young people, one popular technique for combating trauma.   PHOTO: CHRIS WALKER/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

By Whet Moser for Chicago Magazine – Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern’s medical school, went to a community-based health clinic on the South Side as part of a study to bring mental-health treatments grounded in mindfulness to the patients there: simple meditation and yoga, body visualizations, and talking about stress and how it manifests in the body. “It’s really getting people to understand the connection between mind and body, empowering people with the tools that they need in order to, as I describe, respond versus react to stressful situations,” Burnett-Zeigler says. It’s something a lot of people are trying right now in communities with lots of stressors…

How To Turn Anti-Poverty Work Into Anti-Poverty Movement

Low-wage workers and ministers rally together in Tennessee as part of the Moral Mondays movement. (AP photo/ Travis Loller)

By Greg Kaufmann for Talk Poverty – About a month ago, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at Harvard with a group of about 20 scholars and reporters. Many of them have worked for decades examining poverty-related issues—from hiring discrimination to segregation in housing and education, criminal justice reform to immigration, deep poverty to homelessness. I was nervous about the trip.

Guide To Philadelphia DNC Media Won’t Show You

A man walks through a blighted neighborhood, July 11, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Credit: AP/Matt Rourke)

By Bob Hennelly for Salon – Just like their Republican counterparts in Cleveland, the delegates to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia will be sequestered far away from the daily misery and despair that’s the experience of their host city’s extreme poor. This growing cohort of folks are overwhelmingly people of color and include tens of thousands of children who find themselves living in neighborhoods in the “City of Brotherly Love” pock marked with 40,000 vacant lots and zombie homes.

Marching On The DNC: Interview With Cheri Honkala

Cheri Honkola attempts citizens arrest of governor of Pennsylvania over budget cuts to Philadelphia schools. Photo Credit: Harvey Finkle.

By Ann Garrison for Counterpunch. It was a struggle but we were adamant and told the ACLU over and over again for 48 hours that we would not change our permit request, and we have won the right to march on the south side of city hall at 3:00 o’clock, going all the way up Broad Street to the front door of the Democratic National Convention. And so we’re hoping that anybody that was afraid before will turn out in droves and join us. Our march has turned into a real symbol of the fight for political independence from the two corporate controlled parties. And I think we’re gonna look back and see this as an important historical marker. It’s really important that people understand that our march begins at 3:00 on the south side of city hall, because the Democratic Party is going to stop at absolutely nothing to make sure that the voices of poor and other front line communities are not heard in the Democratic National Convention.