The Terrorism Targeting Our Grandchildren

Paul Buchheit | November 21 2016 | Common Dreams

‘Our grandchildren will face the economic terror trickling down from the greedy top.’ (Illustration by Daniel Pudles)

Four decades of American narcissism and greed and exceptionalism have allowed the super-rich to dictate the future path of our nation. We’re paying the price now, with environmental disasters, nonexistent savings for half of our families, Americans dying because of expensive health care, and a growing fear of blowback from desperate victims of our foreign wars.

Environment Be Damned

Almost all reputable sources agree that human-caused climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths “due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries,” and up to 7 million deaths—over a half-million of them children under the age of five—caused by air pollution.

The richest people in the world create most of the pollution, yet are the least likely to feel guilty about the effects of their behavior, and the least likely to suffer from the impending environmental damage. This could lead to terror-filled years for the generations to follow us. Even the CHANCE of such misery for their grandchildren should motivate the super-rich to address the root causes of global warming. Instead, they have plans to retreat to impregnable “safe rooms” with food and water, oxygen, medical supplies, and all the amenities for a year or more of underground living.

Disdain for the Taxes that Support Society

Charles Koch said, “I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.”

Beneficial to society? Where is the incentive for Charles Koch, or any other billionaire beneficiary of decades of tax subsidies, to support the needs of average people?

The breakdown in taxes began in the 1970s, when University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer convinced Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue. Conservatives have contorted this economic theory into the belief that all tax reductions are beneficial. It was proved wrong from the start. Several economic studies have concluded that the revenue-maximizing top income tax rate is anywhere from 50% to 75%. Yet our next president wants to cut taxes on the rich.

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What the Robots Are Doing to the Middle Class

Paul Buchheit | December 05 2016 | Common Dreams

A technician makes an adjustment on Hiro, a “humanoid robot for automotive assembly tasks in collaboration with people.” (Photo: Tecnalia/cc/flickr)

The simplistic response to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on employment is that we’ve experienced this before, during the Industrial Revolution and beyond, and that the “market” will eventually provide plenty of jobs. The reality is that tens of millions of Americans will have to accept food service and retail and personal care jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

The Deniers: The Middle Class Has Nothing to Worry About

Optimism is the feeling derived from sources like The Economist, which assures us that “AI will not cause mass unemployment…The 19th-century experience of industrialisation suggests that jobs will be redefined, rather than destroyed..” The Atlantic concurs: “The job market defied doomsayers in those earlier times, and according to the most frequently reported jobs numbers, it has so far done the same in our own time.” And even economistDean Baker scoffs at the tech takeover of jobs: “Large numbers of elite thinkers are running around terrified that we will have millions of people who have no work because the robots have eliminated the need for their labor…The remarkable aspect to the robot story is that it is actually a very old story. We have been seeing workers displaced by technology for centuries, this is what productivity growth is.”

Perhaps most significantly for the optimists, the New York Federal Reserve found that since 2013 over two million jobs have been added in transportation, construction, administration, social services, education, protective services and other middle-wage areas.

The Doomsayers: The Middle Class Is Disappearing

According to a comprehensive study by Citi and Oxford University, nearly half of American jobs are susceptible to automation. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls “some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years,” a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates an annual $9 trillion in employment costs within ten years due to the impact of AI and robots. The McKinsey Global Instituteconcludes that technology and related factors are having “roughly 3,000 times the impact” of the Industrial Revolution.

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How Capitalism Kills… And May Be Getting Deadlier

Paul Buchheit | December 12 2016 | Common Dreams

We’ve seen what capitalism can do, but it’s possible we ain’t seen nothing yet. (Photo: Jörg Kantel/flickr/cc)

In each of the following areas of our lives, capitalism has been a deadly force in the past, and prospects for the future seem even worse with Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.

1. Medications

In 1996 Purdue Pharma began marketing its painkiller Oxycontin with a promotionalcampaign unlike any other seen before. As noted in the American Journal of Public Health, “The high availability of OxyContin correlated with increased abuse, diversion, and addiction, and by 2004 OxyContin had become a leading drug of abuse in the United States.”

About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have more than tripled since 2010, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred among children. Opioid use is also triggering a rise in hepatitis C, which kills19,000 people every year, most of whom can’t get treatment because the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences charges $84,000 for pills that cost less than $300 to produce. In Kentucky in 2016, for every 100 people with hepatitis C only THREE were able to receive treatment.

Donald Trump’s rumored candidate for the FDA is staunch libertarian Jim O’Neill, who said about drugs: “Let’s prove efficacy after they’ve been legalized.”

2. Jobs

Numerous studies show that the suicide rate is linked to unemployment and deterioratingwork conditions and declining wealth. The rate has accelerated since the 2008 recession. Too many black people, especially, can’t find living-wage jobs, and a lot of it is due to racism. A recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had “white” names. A hiring analysis study found that white job applicants with criminal records were called back more often than blacks without criminal records.

Donald Trump’s reported choice for Labor Secretary is Andrew Pudzer, who opposes a minimum wage increase and favors robots over workers: “They’re always polite…they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never…an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

3. Environment

The World Health Organization, the United Nations, cooperating governments, andindependent research groups all agree that human-induced climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths “due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries,” and up to 7 million deaths caused by air pollution, over a half-million of them children under the age of five.

Continue reading How Capitalism Kills… And May Be Getting Deadlier

Baby Boomers not to Blame for lack of Jobs

by Bud Meyers | December 16 2016

Baby Boomers are not to blame for the dramatic rise in the number of people “not in the labor force”. Retirees and those on disability are making for a smaller and smaller share (on a monthly basis) as to the number of people “dropping out” of the labor force.

A little over half (56.8%) of those in the U.S. who are not employed and “not in the labor force” receive some form of Social Security. To date (12/16/2016) 54 million working-age American adults are receiving Social Security benefits (retired, disabled, widowed, etc.) out of a total of 95 million working-age American adults who are not in the labor force.

Only 18% of the additional people who the Bureau of Labor Statistics added to the category of “not in the labor force” since last month had retired on Social Security (as the number of those receiving disability DECREASED); the other 82% of those who were added to the category of “not in the labor force” are just without jobs, but are not counted in the 7.4 million who are “unemployed”. From November 2016 to December 2016 (over the past month alone) the U.S. had an additional 366,275 people NOT IN THE LABOR FORCE that did NOT retire or go on disability.

41,174,259 Nov.
41,082,060 Oct.
92,199 MORE people retired

8,833,909 Oct.
8,821,435 Nov.
12,474 LESS people on disability

A difference of 79,725 who are now on Social Security since last month and are no longer in the labor force — from a total of 446,000 additional people who are now “not in the labor force” from Nov to Dec. Over time, more and more people “not in the labor force” have been exceeding the number going on Social Security because there has not been enough job creation to keep up with those graduating from school (not comparing to population growth or the employment-to-population ratio because of foreign-born workers: Foreign-Born New Hires Outpace Native-Born)

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By the numbers: Barack Obama’s contribution to the decline of US democracy

John Weeks | November 26 2016 | openDemocracy

How neoliberal doctrine undermined the Obama administration and ushered in the age of Trump
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Obama meets Trump. Press Association/Pablo Martinez Monsivais. All rights reserved.

Yes, we can!

The iconic slogan “Yes, we can!” inspired the wave of enthusiasm that swept up millions of Americans during the presidential election of 2008 and carried Barack Obama to the White House. If that slogan epitomized the beginning of the Obama presidency, he had an equally iconic ending: the first African-American president shaking hands with the first president-elect in at least 100 years endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

In November 2008 Barack Obama won the presidency with almost 53% on a voter turnout of 58%. The winning percentage was the highest since 1988 and the turnout the largest for 50 years. The first non-white president took office on a surge of enthusiasm exceeding any since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 (by comparison John Kennedy went to the presidency with less than half of total votes and a winning margin of 0.2 percentage points).

The enthusiasm for Obama arose from fervent hope for specific changes: 1) a universal, affordable health system; 2) the end of two disastrous wars (Afghanistan and Iraq); 3) economic recovery from the worst collapse in 80 years; and 4) action against banks and bankers to prevent a recurrence of the collapse.

To fulfil these hopes, Obama had majorities in both houses of Congress, 58 of 100 Senators (largest majority of any party in 30 years) and 257 seats in the House (most since 1992). By any measure the new president enjoyed an overwhelming majority.  Under some circumstances the Republican minority in the Senate could prevent voting, but a determined and bold president could force votes within the arcane Senate rules.

No he didn’t!

It quickly became obvious that Obama would be anything but determined and bold; on the contrary, avoiding conflict through compromise would guide his presidency. In face of a solidly right wing Republican opposition, attempting to compromise was recipe for failure, a disaster foretold and fulfilled.

Despite the large House and Senate majorities a litany of failure dogged the first two Obama years, some partial and others presented as success. Extension of the popular Medicare programme offered the obvious method of achieving a national health system (confusingly dubbed “single payer” by its adherents). Obama yielded before opposition from private “health care” corporations and drug companies.

Continue reading By the numbers: Barack Obama’s contribution to the decline of US democracy

How a Disappearing and Deluded Middle Class Awaits the New President

Paul Buchheit | November 07 2016 | Common Dreams

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Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making a pitch for the votes of an activist middle class. (Hollywata/Flickr cc 2.0)

Disturbing truths about the wealth gap in America have surfaced in recent months. Our nation is breaking in two. Yet downtrodden Americans are hoping for a fairy-tale ending to their misery, instead of demanding the progressive measures that would empower them.

Collapse of the Middle Class

For every $100 owned by a middle-class household in 2001, that household had just $72 in 2013.

Half of us are barely surviving, and it may be more than half. A J.P. Morgan study concluded that “the bottom 80% of households by income lack sufficient savings to cover the type of volatility observed in income and spending.”

More Rich, More Poor, Less Empathy

Nearly two-thirds of American families were considered middle class in 1970. Today it’s half or less. The rest of us have gone up or down, mostly down.

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New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

Paul Buchheit | October 24 2016 | Common Dreams

charter_schools_buchheit
Charter schools have turned our children into the products of businesspeople. Enough. (Photo: AgainstAusterity.org)

An earlier review identified the “Three Big Sins of Charter Schools”: Fraud, a Lack of Transparency, and the Exclusion of Unwanted Students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires “increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools.” Wrong. As theNAACP affirms, our nation needs “free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children.” For ALL children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: “Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?”

Here are the 4 Big Sins of Charter Schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

1. Starve the Beast

Corporate-controlled spokesgroups ALEC, US Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity are drooling over school privatization and automated classrooms, with a formula described by The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” But as aptly expressed by Jeff Bryant, “As a public school loses a percentage of its students to charters, the school can’t simply cut fixed costs for things like transportation and physical plant proportionally…So instead, the school cuts a program or support service.”

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William K. Black — Hillary: The “Good News” is That China is “Forcing Down Wages”

William K. Black | October 24 2016 | Mike Norman Economics

Champion of the people, or slave driver? Sheriff Bill is on Hillary’s case.

The general media has been treating the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Clinton campaign documents, particularly the transcripts of her lucrative talks with Goldman Sachs as much ado about nothing. I have not found any article about the disclosures, however, that reported on the extraordinary statements she made in her talk with Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013.

Hillary told the Vampire Squid that the “good news” was that China was removing workers’ (meager) legal protections so that their employers could “forc[e] down wages” in order to increase corporate profits. She used China’s (pathetically weak) legal protections for workers as her exemplar of China’s “structural economic problems.”

Thirdly, they seem to — and you all are the experts on this. They seem to be coming to grips with some of the structural economic problems that they are now facing. And look, they have them. There are limits to what enterprises can do, limits to forcing down wages to be competitive, all of which is coming to the forefront…

Clinton’s support for “forcing down wages” by removing China’s meager protections for workers reveals that her (leaked) admission that she is increasingly “far removed from the struggles of” the working and middle-class is a grave understatement. She is not simply “far removed” from their “struggles” – she continues when speaking secretly to Wall Street to attack workers’ interests.

Department of Education Cooperates with ALEC to Privatize Education

Project Censored | October 4 2016

The Department of Education and school districts throughout the US are working with billionaire families such as the Waltons and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to undermine public education, Dustin Beilke reported for PR Watch in January 2016. Instead of defending public education in pursuit of equity for all students, the Department of Education (DoE) is working with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—an alliance of corporate lobbyists and state legislators—as well as local chambers of commerce to encourage the conversion of public institutions into private charter schools.

A December 2015 DoE presentation showed that the federal government had spent over three billion dollars of tax-payer money to boost charter schools, supporting an uncritical assessment of how effective charter schools actually are. Beilke described the 25-slide overview of the DoE’s charter schools program as “an uncritical PR document embracing a magical idea of charter schools.”

According to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), although many charter schools have failed and closed in the last twenty years, the DoE continues to provide significant funding to promote them. An October 2015 CMD investigation, “Charter School Black Hole,” uncovered how much the federal government has invested in charter schools, as well as the DoE’s ties to ALEC. As Beilke reported, a slide from the December 2015 DoE overview of its charter school program acknowledged that it had spent $3.3 billion to “fund the start-up, replication and expansion of public charter schools.” However, Beilke reported, “CMD was unable to extract this number from DOE despite inquiries and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests since 2014.” The actual figure may be higher, because the list of charter schools receiving DoE funding appears to have been incomplete. Overall, the DoE overview suggested that it functions as a “propagandist” for charter schools, Beilke wrote.

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‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis

BY YUTAKA DIRKS | OCTOBER 27, 2016 | rabble.ca

Illuminating a grave yet solvable human crisis

evicted_cover

Once bursting with well-paying jobs in the brewing and manufacturing industries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is now the second-poorest city in America. Over 170,000 people, including 41 per cent of the city’s African-American and 32 per cent of the city’s Hispanic residents, are living in poverty.

Between 2009 and 2011, one in eight Milwaukee residents were forced from their homes by eviction or foreclosure. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City tells their stories. Written by Matthew Desmond, now a Harvard sociologist, the book follows eight families, Black and white, who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

The reader meets Arleen and her two boys, Jori and Jafaris, after their rented house is condemned as “unfit for human habitation” by the city. After several short stays in apartments across the inner city, she finds a duplex unit for $550 a month, 88 per cent of her welfare cheque. Desmond introduces us to other Black Milwaukeeans, mostly women, in similar straits, and recounts the stories of a smaller number of poor white residents facing eviction: people like Scott, a young nurse who lost his license when he was overtaken by his drug addiction.

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