A great op-Ed by Nick Kristoff at the NYT explaining how, though lacking in first rate medical technology, the infant mortality rates are actually lower in Cuba. We could take away many good practices from the Socialist, island nation so close to our shores.
From the AP: https://apnews.com/6c66de0a22944b58b276d43eef91c093
The suffering of the Venezuelan people is heartbreaking. But:
A) This is not a result of a failing socialist system but rather an economic strangling committed by the U.S. and the International community, who are in our pocket, through strong sanctions, and,
B) If Maduro lets in the U.S. aid, it would be seen as a gift from Guaido which would strengthen him immensely. And Guaido would be a U.S. puppet.
The only thing that should solve this is the delivery of aid by Russia or China. Where are they at?
A little bit of good news and a lot of bad…
- Nearly 80% of the voters in Chicago supported publicly financed campaigns. When put to a public vote, this issue leaves little doubt where many stand on the idea that speech is money and where it belongs in our political campaigns. Most of us want it out and want the corruption that comes along with it gone as well. A Gallup poll showed half of the country was in favor of this in 2013, a number very likely to continue growing as the explosion in spending by outside groups who can hide their donors also continues. Of course, Congress would have to bite the hand that feeds their family members 6-figure salaries to run their campaigns in order for this to change, which means it certainly won’t in the foreseeable future.
- Worker productivity grew 74% in the past 40 years while wages only grew 9%. Because that is totally fair. It’s true that part of the increase is due to technology but the disparity is still startling. Considering the incredible increase in income inequality over the same period, it’s pretty obvious the average American is getting the shaft. It’s also obvious which political party’s ideology is most responsible for this outcome. But hey, voting against gay marriage, climate change, and abortion has worked out really well, hasn’t it?
- The sea level north of New York City rose over 5 inches in 2009-2010. The article states it was a “1-850 year event” and it’s likely we’ll see this type of thing more often. And, since it’s an article from an international media source, it doesn’t bother digging up a climate change denier paid by the fossil fuel industry to refute the reality. So refreshing when media accepts scientific consensus and doesn’t play to the least knowledgeable among us.
- If you live in the U.S. then no, you shouldn’t be very afraid of terrorists. An excellent op-ed in The Guardian by a couple of academics noting the recent change in political discourse about terrorism in the U.S. by mostly the Obama administration. In short, if you live here and aren’t traveling to dangerous locales, you are almost certainly not going to die at the hands of a terrorist. And you probably shouldn’t hand over your freedoms and privacy at home in the name of fighting the so-called “War on Terror”.
It is astounding that these utterances – “blindingly obvious” as security specialist Bruce Schneier puts it – appear to mark the first time any officials in the United States have had the notion and the courage to say so in public.
Speaking of terrorism…
- A Palestinian mosque was torched by an Israeli terrorist group. Not that there will be much outrage in the American media over nefarious Israeli actions, such as the shooting death of a 19-year old college student by the Israeli military the day before, as noted in the article. And it’s not like these Israeli terrorist groups have just started up or are carrying out their first attack on Palestinians:
Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on the walls, including “Revenge for the Land of Zion” and “Price Tag,” a phrase used by Israeli nationalists linked to hundreds of attacks on Palestinian targets since 2008. Some attacks have also targeted Israeli military posts. (Emphasis added)
Which begs the question, will the Israeli military kill over 2,000 people, mostly civilians and children, to get back at these groups like they did to Gaza last summer? I mean, these groups are attacking the Israeli military and “hiding behind civilian targets”, aren’t they? And that clearly doesn’t matter when it comes to bombing populations as they’ve shown in the past, right? What’s the difference? Amazing how the double-standards look when they are revealed.
Lies and income inequality, oh my!
- Israel is lying about the West’s negotiations with Iran. Not exactly shocking but this sums it up nicely:
(U.S.) State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that there was a “selective sharing” of information.
“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said.
But, hey. It’s Israel. I’m sure they’ve never lied about anything in the past, particularly when they’ve claimed they needed to “mow the lawn” in Gaza. And, honestly, does anyone think they care if they get caught in a lie? It’s not like they’ve had to pay for any of the more vicious acts, like the despicable war crimes they’ve committed against the Palestinians.
- Speaking of lying, a new report by the U.S. Army War College finds “‘dishonesty and deception’ among Army personnel is common, often encouraged to maintain a false sense of integrity.” This isn’t overly shocking in terms of the psychological aspect but the word “encouraged” should be a little disheartening in the sense that this suggests it’s a top-down action. The integrity part begins at the top and, if it isn’t being displayed by the highest ranks, it’s not surprising when those in the lower ranks take things like torture even farther than the rules state. This is the reason why holding those at the top accountable for their despicable orders is so important.
- Middle-class wages dipped again last year, but the story isn’t all bad. If we push our elected officials to intervene with the right legislative actions, things can get better:
Still, wage trends last year underscore that policy makers can do a lot to boost workers’ pay. Take the rise in wages for the country’s lowest-paid workers, which the EPI says is proof that policy changes are positively impacting American families. Those states that raised their minimum wages last year — including New York, Florida and California — witnessed a pay gain of 1.6 percent for the lowest-paid workers, compared with a 0.3 percent increase for those without a rise in a state’s baseline pay.
Just another example of how the government can do things to reduce the dangerous levels of economic inequality in the U.S., something the voters want as pointed out next.
- 60% or more Americans want higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and requirements for time off after the birth of a child. As inequality continues to get worse, these numbers will just continue to grow over time. The question now becomes, how high will they have to get before change will come? I’m sure Congress will consider all of these quickly since it’s filled with so many middle-class workers that have no sick time and will soon be having children…
- Walmart will be hiking wages to $10 per hour a year from now. Yes, you read that right. Income inequality has gotten so out of control that one of its biggest villains is giving in to the pressure. Soon, Walmart employees will be able to climb the economic ladder from desperate poverty to just regular poverty. Walmart’s stock price took a hit today because of the announcement since doing even the slightest thing to help the 99% really angers the 1%. Remember folks, capitalism is not about the wealthy exploiting the poor!*
*Statement approved and paid for by Exploiters of the 99% of America.
Oh, the things the right will say to fool people!
First up, Robert J. Samuelson gave us his take on a new book detailing the perils of economic inequality by, of course, pretending like it isn’t a problem. Buried in his critique was this ridiculousness:
As for the power of the super-rich, they hardly control most democracies. In the United States, where about 70 percent of federal spending goes to the poor and middle class, the richest 1 percent pay nearly a quarter of federal taxes.
Saying that 70% of federal spending goes to the lower classes does seem to back his first point on the surface but not in reality. What if the GDP was $1 trillion with total government spending being $1,000 and 70% of that spending went to the lower classes? Would that make it appear as if the super-rich hardly controlled the government and got what they wanted as far as taxes and spending? Exactly.
A more accurate measure would be percent of GDP spent on social programs. And where does the U.S. rank among developed countries? No where near the top and, in fact, below the average (shown here). As for his point about the richest 1 percent and taxes, I’ve addressed this previously here.
The other preposterous claim for the day comes from the Washington Examiner:
What Fox News found in its most recent public opinion survey was that 61 percent of Americans believe Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” No other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate. (Emphasis added)
I’ll ignore the absurd and unscientific question in the Faux News poll and just ask, were the people at the Washington Examiner alive and awake from 2001-2009?
Actually, the question of presidential trustworthiness has been asked plenty of times just not in the stupid way Faux News decided to word it. For example, this ABC News poll asked whether George W. Bush “Is honest and trustworthy?” Answer in 2005: about 40% agreed, basically identical to Faux News’ poll for Obama considering margin of error.
And taking into account Bush left office with far worse approval ratings than he had at the time of that poll, safe to say his trustworthiness ratings would have been far worse if people had been asked the same question and given the same options for answers as the recent Faux News poll.
- An independent review has found the NSA’s phone data collection to be illegal. Whether the actions are legal or illegal, we must simply ask whether they are useful. Still little to no evidence supporting that, as mentioned in the article:
“Moreover, even in the dozen cases examined by the board where the metadata linked contacts to a terrorism suspect, most benefits were modest and “limited to corroborating information that was obtained independently by the ,” the board report found.”
- Virginia’s new attorney general has decided not to defend the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Just like what has or will happen to every other ban such as this one, it will go down likely in the courts for the exact reason given by the AG:
“Having exercised his independent constitutional judgment, consistent with his oath of office, the Attorney General has concluded that Virginia’s laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
- An excellent op-ed by economics professor Daniel Altman appeared in Foreign Policy regarding the reasons why high levels of income inequality are actually very bad for the economy. One of the biggest reasons:
“…the allocation of opportunity is not determined solely by effort or ability. To a great degree, access to opportunity in the United States depends on wealth. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual discrimination may be on the wane in many countries, but discrimination based on wealth is still a powerful force. It opens doors, especially for people who may not boast the strongest talents or work ethic.”(Emphasis added)
In short, defenders of the economic status quo haven’t figured out being the child of a wealthy or powerful person does not equal being as smart or talented as the parent. I’m looking at you, former president youknowwhoyouare.
- AG Eric Holder is calling for Congress to pass legislation reducing prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. One of the clear realities of the failed drug war at this point is the huge economic cost on tax payers (along with the societal ones on the many victims):
“The federal prison population has mushroomed by 500 percent, to 219,000, over the last 30 years, mainly because of the number and length of mandatory sentences, especially drug sentences…the Urban Institute said in a study that that reducing the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses by even 20 percent would save nearly $1.3 billion over 10 years and cutting the number of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses by half would save about $2.5 billion over the time span.”
- And finally, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, took a break from apparently performing brain surgery on himself to try to court the votes of women…by insulting them. Well done, sir. I can almost hear the heavy flow of campaign money dumping into the Republican coffers of anyone-but-this-guy. His quote:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are hopeless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them with their prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”
The point is also made that this line of thought is prominent amongst lower-income students. I was one of these kids written about and it’s true. With a mother who has an eighth grade education, I did not reside in an affluent neighborhood growing up. So I fell into this trap as I entered college.
But after my initial two years of study at the University of Louisville, I found philosophy, media studies, and sociology, which were priceless in developing my critical thinking skills and have enriched my life immensely.
The Census Bureau released data on income inequality recently and Mother Jones put together some charts showing the results of the research (linking one here but more good ones in the article). It’s very clear how this is continuing to shrink the middle class and, if not for the social safety nets we have had in place since the 1960s and before, the poverty rate would be tremendously higher.
The Atlantic also added a chart to this data that should be noted and I’ll include here.What should be pointed out in this chart is that the S&P was doing just fine in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s when inequality was nowhere near the levels it is at today. This is important since the typical argument from the right as to why we can’t have higher taxes on the wealthy that would lessen income inequality is because of its crushing impact on investment which, in turn, would cut economic growth. Clearly, not true.
The European Union again proved they are willing to take much more aggressive action than the United States when it comes to putting the burden of financial crises on the backs of the wealthy instead of on the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. They announced today part of the responsibility for bailing out banks when they fail will be placed on large depositors. From the article:
The plan stipulates that shareholders, bondholders and depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($132,000) should share the burden of saving a bank…The rules break a taboo in Europe that savers should never lose their deposits, although countries will have some flexibility to decide when and how to impose losses on a failing bank’s creditors.
This seems to be a little bit of a check on banks acting badly since big investors will be watching their actions more closely in the interest of not losing their money. And as the piece further illustrates, some bankers just didn’t care when it came to dealing with the crisis and what was done with taxpayer money:
Earlier this week, Ireland’s deputy prime minister attacked “arrogant” executives at a failed bank who had mocked government efforts to tackle the country’s banking crisis.
In the tapes published by an Irish newspaper, the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank’s then-head of capital markets was asked how he had come up with a figure of 7 billion euros for a bank rescue, responding that he had “picked it out of my arse.”
I could see some flaws with the policy in that it could lead investors to put their money elsewhere or create a problem for an individual bank when a wealthy investor gets nervous and starts a run taking money out of a bank. But the pro seems to outweigh the con here and this policy is a step in the right direction of a more stable economy in times to come.
It would be nice to see the U.S. actually take some steps like the EU when it comes to income inequality. As we previously noted, the EU sees the problems that come with too much imbalance in income and they are taking action to remedy the situation. Here’s hoping the U.S. can eventually follow in their footsteps in the interest of long-term economic stability.