The Nightmare Facing the Poor and Working Class

 

Jeff Schuhrke

In These Times

With time running out and Republicans balking at more Covid relief, U.S. workers are facing a future of financial misery.

As mil­lions of U.S. work­ers face unem­ploy­ment, food inse­cu­ri­ty and evic­tion amid the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the lim­it­ed aid pro­vid­ed by the fed­er­al government’s flawed CARES Act from March has long since dried up. 

Last week, fol­low­ing more than six months of stalled nego­ti­a­tions with con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats over a new eco­nom­ic relief pack­age, Pres­i­dent Trump abrupt­ly announced he was halt­ing talks until after the Novem­ber election.

While the pres­i­dent quick­ly back­tracked and is now report­ed­ly con­tin­u­ing to nego­ti­ate, the fed­er­al government’s ongo­ing fail­ure to pass a new relief pack­age spells cat­a­stro­phe for a U.S. work­ing class already pushed to the brink by an eco­nom­ic cri­sis seem­ing­ly on par with the Great Depression. 

Here’s a break­down of what the con­tin­ued lack of fed­er­al help means for workers:

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced unem­ploy­ment checks

Per­haps the most ben­e­fi­cial part of the CARES Act was the extra $600 a week it pro­vid­ed to work­ers on unem­ploy­ment — a tem­po­rary life­line that the GOP-led Sen­ate allowed to expire on July 31

Week­ly unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits vary wide­ly by state, rang­ing from $44 in Okla­homa to $497 in Wash­ing­ton. The $600 week­ly sup­ple­ment was an across-the-board ben­e­fit that ensured unem­ployed work­ers in any state main­tained a decent income despite los­ing their jobs due to the pandemic.

The Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute found that the con­sumer spend­ing gen­er­at­ed by that extra $600 per week sup­port­ed over 5 mil­lion jobs, and that con­tin­u­ing the sup­ple­ment through the mid­dle of next year would have raised U.S. gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP) by a quar­ter­ly aver­age of 3.7 percent.

After this ben­e­fit expired, rather than agree to Democ­rats’ demands to extend it, Pres­i­dent Trump signed an exec­u­tive order slash­ing it by 50 per­cent — allow­ing states to use fed­er­al funds to pro­vide only a $300 week­ly unem­ploy­ment sup­ple­ment. At least sev­en states have already exhaust­ed these funds. 

Mean­while, by los­ing the week­ly $600 boost, unem­ployed work­ers saw their incomes drop by two-thirds, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to pay the bills and afford gro­ceries. There are cur­rent­ly 25.5 mil­lion work­ers receiv­ing unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits. With at least 14 mil­lion more job­less work­ers than job open­ings, mil­lions will be forced to rely on unem­ploy­ment insur­ance for the fore­see­able future — but now with a great­ly reduced check […]

https://inthesetimes.com/article/stimulus-covid-pandemic-gop-checks-relief

 

Energy Watchdog Wins Court Battle for Safety Buffer Zones

Sarah Roberts, of Taranaki Energy Watch, has been fighting for years to have buffer zones around oil and gas sites. (file photo)

 

This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

By Robin Martin

After a four-year fight an energy sector watchdog has won a precedent-setting battle which could see safety buffer zones imposed around hundreds of oil and gas wells and dozens of petrochemical installations in Taranaki.

The Environment Court has decided that setbacks of 250 metres for well heads and 650 metres for production stations must be included in the South Taranaki District Plan to minimise the risk of injury or death to members of the public in a fire or explosion.

The New Plymouth District Council and Stratford District Council are also parties to the decision. As is Federated Farmers which says its members have been left scratching their heads wondering what it means for them.

In 2016, Taranaki Energy Watch found it had an unlikely ally when the oil and gas sector joined it in calling for buffers zones to be included in South Taranaki’s District Plan.

But the alliance didn’t last long after farmers labelled the move a land grab, and the zones were quietly removed.

Energy Watch appealed the plan to the Environment Court.

And now in its fourth and final decision, the court has ruled safety setbacks are required.

[…]

Via https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/300133334/energy-watchdog-wins-court-battle-for-safety-buffer-zones

P&G Investors Challenge CEO Over Forest Destruction

At the Company’s Annual Meeting

 

In win for advocacy groups, 67% of shareholders split from company’s recommendation and vote yes on key proposal to protect boreal forest of Canada, tropical forests in Southeast Asia.

Washington – In a shocking move by Procter & Gamble’s shareholders that defied the company’s own recommendations, two-thirds of Procter & Gamble (P&G) shareholders voted “yes” at the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday, October 13, to pass a proposal on forest sourcing and impacts. The vote is a clear indication that despite repeated insistence from company executives, the world’s largest consumer goods company is not doing enough to deal with the financial threats of deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.

67% of shareholders voted yes on Green Century Equity Fund’s shareholder proposal #5 (page 78), which reads “Shareholders request P&G issue a report assessing if and how it could increase the scale, pace, and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of intact forests in its supply chains.” (See the full text of the resolution below.)

[…]

Via https://popularresistance.org/pg-investors-challenge-ceo-over-forest-destruction-concerns/

 

Postal service crisis — California ready to pilot a postal banking solution

By Thomas M Henna and Jeff Olson

Postal service crisis — California is ready to pilot a postal banking solution

© Greg Nash

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is under attack and at grave risk. But with that many Americans are awakening to both the value of the USPS and the manifest dangers of privatization. The crisis has also sparked renewed interest in postal banking, a win-win approach that could both make the USPS more financially resilient and provide badly needed financial services to tens of millions of Americans.

Over the past several months, this constitutionally enshrined and highly-regarded public institution has been sabotaged from both within and without. On the one hand, it has largely been left to fend for itself amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis. Specifically, while corporations and private sector businesses have received hundreds of billions in public support, USPS’s request for support has thus far largely fallen on deaf ears in Congress. On the other, new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (who is a major donor to President Trump) has overseen a raft of policy and operational changes (such as removing, dismantling and selling off mail sorting machines) that has contributed to deteriorating service quality and widespread accusations of politically-motivated meddling in the upcoming presidential election.

Moreover, these threats are not only linked to each other, they are also connected to a much longer effort to undermine the USPS, and public support for it, as a precursor to privatization and the wholesale transfer of valuable assets (especially real estate) to private hands. Most egregiously, in 2006 (during the Bush administration) Congress passed a law that required the USPS to pre-fund 75 years of its future retiree health care costs. As Sarah Anderson, Scott Klinger and Brian Wakam write, “this burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation” and “if the costs of this retiree health care mandate were removed from the USPS financial statements, the Post Office would have reported operating profits in each of the last six years.”

Fortunately, across the country, people have been putting up signs in support of the USPS in their yards, buying stamps en masse, holding rallies and calling their representatives. Inside the USPS, postal workers have heroically resisted management’s efforts to dismantle their equipment and gut hallowed principles (such as not leaving mail behind), while legislators are holding hearings and ratcheting up their oversight of the agency.

It is in this context that more people are seriously examining postal banking as an option that strengthens the economic sustainability of the USPS and would be especially beneficial to lower-income people and those who live in banking deserts or are forced to rely on predatory payday lenders.

Earlier this year Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Postal Banking Act, which would restore financial and banking services to post offices throughout the country for the first time since the 1960s. “Postal banking will help us bring the same equality of service the USPS has for mail delivery to the financial system,” Gillibrand and Sanders contend. “Putting a public, nonprofit bank in each of the Postal Service’s 30,000 locations will bring low-cost banking services to people of every income level everywhere from rural communities to inner cities.”

While Congress should pass the Postal Banking Act with haste, it seems unlikely to do so, especially in an election year. In the meantime, the USPS should press ahead with postal banking, which is likely within its current authority, starting with a pilot program (or programs). The House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would provide $2 million in funding for such a pilot project, and the USPS’s 2016 contract with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) required at least one postal banking pilot project to be launched within a year. The APWU has suggested three potential locations (Baltimore, Cleveland and New York City), but as of yet no such program has been initiated.

[…]

In addition to the cities suggested by the APWU, California stands out as a logical place to potentially test and refine the postal banking concept. In recent years, the state has become an epicenter of the burgeoning public banking movement in the United States and is home to a large and powerful grassroots public banking coalition, the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA), for which one of us, Jeff Olson, is an organizer.

[…]

Via https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/520359-postal-service-crisis-california-is-ready-to-pilot-a-postal-banking-solution

Hidden History: The 2014 Revolution in Burkina Faso

Burkinabé Rising: The Art of Resistance in Bukina Faso

Directed by Lara Lee (2017)

Film Review

Burkinabé Rising is about the 2014 revolution in Burkina Faso which overthrew dictator Blaise Compaoré after 27 years in power. To the best of my knowledge the event received no coverage whatsoever in the Western media. The vast majority of Americans have never even heard of Burkina Faso. I confess I first discovered the west African country when I  heard their music performed at Womad* in 2000.

Burkina Faso is bordered by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. It has a population of 20 million (four times the size of New Zealand). They received their independence from France in 1960.

The primary focus of the film is the historical use of art (music, modern dance, hip hop, visual arts, slam poetry, drama, and traditional masks and mud hut architecture) to raise revolutionary consciousness among young Bukinabé.

Music and dance have been especially successful in evading censorship while  preserving the memory of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara and investigative journalist Norbert Zonga. Both were assassinated by Compaoré  and his family (Sankara in 1987 and Zonga in 1998).

The use of art in preparing the Bukinabé for full self-government has continued since Compaoré’s ouster in 2014. The role of women, the breadwinners of two-thirds of the country’s households, is of prime importance. At present several grassroots campaigns focus on women’s literacy and the education of girls, as well as the participation of women in civic organization.

There’s also a major emphasis on reviving indigenous languages and reducing food imports by banning GMOs and returning to traditional organic agriculture.


*Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is an international arts festival celebrating the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance. My local city New Plymouth hosts Womad every March.

White Vigilantes Have Always Had A Friend In Police

A report published this week by former FBI agent Mike German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, documented how police ties to “white supremacist groups or far-right militant activities” have been uncovered in over a dozen states since 2000.

The BIG ISMS

“Wipe ’em off the fucking map,” the same officer said. “That’ll put ’em back about four or five generations.”

A report published this week by former FBI agent Mike German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, documented how police ties to “white supremacist groups or far-right militant activities” have been uncovered in over a dozen states since 2000.

YES: White Vigilantes Have Always Had A Friend In Police | HuffPost

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Culture War or Class War: What’s Behind Liberals’ Contempt for Poor “White Trash?”

In his recent essay titled “Why Liberals Hate Poor White Trash,” River Page writes the following:

“The term ‘liberal,’ in the popular imagination, has become synonymous with upper-middle-class white urbanites, a stereotype borne out by statistics. They are a well-educated cohort—widely-read enough to understand the problems with society and capitalism but too insecure in their position to do anything that might challenge the system that has brought them relative benefit—and therefore enjoy programs which give the surface-level appearance of progress and equality. . .Liberals support gay marriage or the right for trans people to use a particular bathroom in public precisely because it does not cost them anything. They can support open borders because it makes their juice cleanse cheaper, and comes with the added benefit of being baptized in the sweat of a Mexican immigrant to cleanse them of their original sin of whiteness. Through charity and means-testing, they can help the poor think they are moral enough to deserve it. They hate the white trash because of the insecurity of their class position. At any time they can look into the eyes of some poor honkey in the trailer park and see themselves looking back. It frightens them, and that fear turns to anger. But they can still pity the poor black person because they know they will never be one.

The article laments the liberal class’ lack of empathy for poor whites, and suggests that what’s behind their contempt is as much a matter of class as it is culture. Liberals often express their frustration with these “white trash” for voting against a more tolerant and inclusive future, often branding them as bigots who deserve to toil in the kind of America they usher in by voting in large numbers for austerity and deregulation. Even when liberals attempt anything resembling a class analysis of these voters, it’s often laced with similar scorn and disdain.

For example, the article sites Frank Rich’s piece in New York Magazine entitled “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” in which Rich writes, in reference to those poor white conservatives in Louisiana’s infamous ‘cancer alley,’ “They’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.”

Again, their plight is of their own making, and they deserve the misery they’ve wrought upon themselves because they refuse to vote Blue.

Setting aside that the Democratic Party is void of serious policy proposals to alleviate poverty and reverse environmental destruction, there’s a more fundamental explanation of liberals’ contempt for poor whites, and that is their belief in meritocracy. Liberals ultimately believe in market capitalism, and believe that government’s role in the economy is to simply “level the playing field” so that everyone is competing under fair and equal circumstances. Of course, this means that race and gender discrimination in the workplace must be confronted, certain abuses of corporate power must be punished, and access to education must be broadened, but these are all seen as corrective measures to ensure that the capitalist system can function more or less as it’s supposed to, with winners and losers whose claims to a dignified life are based upon the marketability of their skills and knowledge. Joe Biden himself often articulates this very sentiment, tweeting out statements like “Americans should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.”

But what is to become of those without big dreams and/or low “God-given ability?” According to Joe Biden and his liberal supporters, who cares? It’s not their problem. As long as everyone is “given the opportunity” to compete economically, whether they sink or swim is ultimately up to them, and the society as a whole can take satisfaction in having at least adequately refereed this ongoing brutal and unforgiving death match called the “market economy.”

Under liberals’ assumptions about the nature of societal injustices and their prescriptions for how to correct them, they can empathize with poor black and brown people, because they ascribe their class status to the very real problems of systemic racism. Poor whites, on the other hand, have no such excuse, and thus, are often deemed “trash”

Via Culture War or Class War: What’s Behind Liberals’ Contempt for Poor “White Trash?” — Due Dissidence

IMF Seizes on Pandemic to Pave Way for Privatization in 81 Countries

Ecuador is a perfect example of the consequences of IMF actions. Previously ruled by the radical administration of Rafael Correa, who made poverty reduction a priority, condemned the IMF and its sister organization the World Bank, and gave asylum to Western dissidents like Julian Assange, the country has been ruled by Lenin Moreno since 2017. Moreno immediately began unpicking Correa’s legacy, even attempting to prosecute him. In 2019, on orders from the IMF, Moreno slashed the country’s health budget by 36 percent in exchange for a $4.2 billion loan from the IMF.

Journal of People

IMF BLUEPRINT

IMF Seizes on Pandemic to Pave Way for Privatization in 81 Countries

Alan Macleod

MintPress News | October 12, 2020

IMF Protest Feature photoThe enormous economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to fundamentally alter the structure of society, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if using the crisis to implement near-permanent austerity measures across the world.

76 of the 91 loans it has negotiated with 81 nations since the beginning of the worldwide pandemic in March have come attached with demands that countries adopt measures such as deep cuts to public services and pensions — measures that will undoubtedly entail privatization, wage freezes or cuts, or the firing of public sector workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and firefighters.

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Congress Reports on Dangers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook Monopoly Power

Report highlights the fact that the tech monopolies are collectively killing innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy, contrary to the image they paint of themselves being constantly on the cutting edge. With nearly total market domination, the four monopolies now control what Congressional staffers called “the infrastructure of the digital age,” which they use to squeeze out competitors and become even more dominant. Antitrust regulators, meanwhile, were criticized for failing to properly vet mergers and acquisitions as required under U.S. anti-monopoly law.

Journal of People

MONOPOLIES IN CAPITALISM

Empire of High Technology: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook Achieve ‘Monopoly Power’

C. J. Atkins

People’s World | October 07, 2020

Empire of High Technology: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook achieve ‘monopoly power’
A new report from the House Judiciary Committee says that the four digital giants Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google have achieved ‘monopoly power’ in their industries and should be broken up. Here, people participate in a giant game of Monopoly at an event in 2013. | Rick Rycroft / AP

In the middle of the last century, Marxist economist Victor Perlo described the U.S. economy as an “empire of high finance.” If he were writing today, he’d probably update his assessment to say U.S. capitalism has also become an “empire of high technology.”

The U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust essentially dances around that conclusion in a new 450-page report released Oct. 6 which declares that the digital giants Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Alphabet (Google)…

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IMF: China Only Major Economy to Grow in 2020

 

Telesur

Output in both advanced economies and developing economies is projected to remain below 2019 levels even next year.

China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow by 1.9 percent in 2020 and 8.2 percent in 2021, according to the World Economic Outlook (WEO), a periodic report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We continue to project a deep recession in 2020. Global growth is projected to be -4.4 percent… In 2021 growth is projected to rebound to 5.2 percent, -0.2 percent below our June projection,” the WEO states.

“Except for China, where output is expected to exceed 2019 levels this year, output in both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies is projected to remain below 2019 levels even next year. Countries that rely more on contact-intensive services and oil exporters face weaker recoveries compared to manufacturing-led economies.”

The IMF study shows that China’s growth prospects are “much stronger” than those of the rest of the emerging economies, despite the impacts that the pandemic has generated in international markets.

“Activity returned to normal faster than expected after nearly the entire country reopened in April. In the second quarter, there was a positive surprise thanks to strong policy support and export resilience […]

Via https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/China-to-Be-the-Only-Major-Economy-to-Grow-in-2020-IMF-Says-20201013-0011.html