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Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Member since: Tue Aug 19, 2014, 11:02 PM
Number of posts: 3,732

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The #1 with Wealth Inequality: It's An Invitation to Slam the Door in Your Face

After reading Robert Reich's article about the political ramifications of extreme inequality (http://www.salon.com/2014/11/19/robert_reich_the_1_percent_is_gutting_americas_middle_class_partner ), I was reminded of how every big political showdown in history has come down to expediency: "Can you FORCE us to do it? How will this increase our POWER?"

Moral persuasion and justice has never been enough to secure rights, to free slaves, to win the franchise, or prevent vile abuses. There always has to be that element of "well we better get it done this time OR ELSE." There has to be an ultimatum. There has to be the art of the deal.

Think of the most basic injustice in our medical system as well. When the cure for cancer is discovered, who will be the first in line to get it: the wealthy. That's economic "rationing". The rest will be told to "live within their means". That's moral/character "rationing". Those on welfare won't have access to these kinds of treatments at all: they don't have a political voice, so no one will be the wiser. They don't have a political voice because they don't "contribute": they are a "cost center" rather than a "profit center" in terms of society. They should feel lucky when we throw them a moldy bread crust. They should not expect "cadillac care" from the medical system.

Similarly, people without money should not expect "cadillac care" from the political system. The wealthy persuaded us to give them all the money with the oh-so-economic-rational argument that this was the best way for the money to trickle back down to the rest of us. But all that does is empower the wealthy to shut the door in our faces. Now, as far as the wealthy are concerned, we're just an annoying rabble whose MoveOn petitions and Tweetstorms are at be swatted aside like flies. If they don't want to see our diseased bodies and dirty hovels, they can just build a gated community...on a "tax liberated" space station if they have to! The more money they have, the less they have to care about justice and human rights for other people. In fact once the walls go up they can commit humiliations and abuses we thought we had eradicated along with feudal society: because they own the judicial and police forces as well as the political establishment - that's part of what Ferguson is about.

In the U.S. we used to explain away wealth inequality by saying we had some sort of spiritual equality self-worth and "equality of opportunity". But who can say we have either of those any more when a tiny sliver of society not only has more rights than the rest of us, but they have the power to slam the door in our faces, preventing us from ever getting any kind of justice in the future?

Don't Ask How to Feed People, Ask How to End Poverty

This article in NYT speaks the truth:

However, the reason people always want to frame the problem in terms of the economics of scarcity is solving the problem of poverty - doing anything for the greater good of the "public" really - involves redistribution. It involves transferring wealth from people who have it (perhaps unfairly, perhaps even through cheating and theft) to people who need it.

Our civilization has advanced to the point where it's gauche to simply not care about people starving in the streets and being made vulnerable to the most terrible forms of exploitation by their need, so the wealthy like to rearrange things in their head so as not to see poverty as need. They will instead see character flaws like laziness, bad decisions and irresponsibility, mental illness, welfare queens and scammers, corruption that's causing problems in what's otherwise a perfectly good system, problems they can't do anything about, "the poor will always be with us", or they choose to turn a blind eye and not see people in need at all. Sadly no one seems too worried about the poor actually rising up in violent protest of the conditions in which they have been subjected to.

Political activity at the local level seems to be increasingly discouraged as the GoP are hyper-aware that the first thing people in need will do if they use their votes is "vote money to themselves". In other words, people in need who are politically empowered and don't have the wool pulled over their eyes some how will vote for some sort of redistribution.

That said, there is some question over how this redistribution will occur. Will it largely be conducted indirectly through the building of infrastructure and the delivering of services like universal healthcare, so it won't look like specific people are getting "handouts"? Will people get tax refunds that feel like they are getting something back for paying into the system? Will the money go into shoring up social security and our eldercare resources? Will we demand the creation of phony jobs so it will look like we're "working" for our money and so all the moral philosophers in the peanut gallery be happy? Would we fund free trade schools and public universities and take a serious bite out of the welfare system as we routed people through schools instead? Could we have subsidized housing, keyed to income, everywhere?

The amelioration of poverty can only happen through SOME form of redistribution. It's a dirty word, but someone has to say it. Gruber, of ACA faux pas fame, got into trouble because he felt the American people couldn't deal with this concept. If Democrats want to do anything about poverty, they should stop doing the two-step around this implicit logic - and they definitely shouldn't try to obfuscate what they are doing in a lot of legalese. Just OWN it. Lay out where the money was stolen and take a little of it back on behalf of the American people.

Also, people in the activism world should be focusing GOTV efforts among people in need and teaching them that the vote is the way they ultimately change their circumstances and get their needs met. They should raise awareness of the long term connections between policies that affect redistribution and the way those ultimately shape the world we live in. We joke about how "all politics is local", but is it anymore? Do people feel very engaged with their local politics, especially the neediest constituents who are largely ignored because they can't make donations to candidates. Maybe they can't donate, but they can still vote.

Shifting the landscape of poverty in the US should become a prominent feature of the Democratic agenda if we don't want to look like "the other Republicans".

2595 people apply for 18 affordable housing units in SF


This is what's placing the pressure on Berkeley - and we have no way of coping with it since Mayor Bates was dismantling the affordable housing infrastructure in order to change the "profile" of Berkeley. We're at the mercy of greedy landlords eager to accommodate this SF spillover.

I was about to post this in GD, but Liberal in LA had already posted it yesterday. Go comment on that post for visibility.


Politicians Deny Problem if They Don't Like the Solution

I've been greatly frustrated by a local political situation where monied/propertied interests have largely been successful in denying the very existence of an enormous poverty problem and housing crisis. But anything I have to say about it is just "anecdotal" or "opinion" of course.

I love it when science comes through and starts kicking some butt on behalf of the truth. Thank you, Duke University, Harvard of the South:


In summary, this article says that politicians of all stripes will pretend a problem doesn't exist if the obvious solution doesn't fit into their ideology/talking points

A case in point that should have been enacted in 2008: a massive Federal jobs program that would have reduced unemployment, placed pressure to raise wages, both expanded the tax base and increased the wages on which taxes were paid, could have rebuilt some of this country's crumbling infrastructure and restored its collapsing public services, and would have naturally dissolved as people left to seek higher wages in the private sector.

But no. We didn't do it because "big government is bad". We can spend a trillion dollars on an airplane, but not on enhancing the quality of our own civilization.

We have met the enemy, and s/he is us.

So now that that's been said - what to do about it?

When You Find Out Your Progressive Hero Is Not So Progressive

A few years ago I was very active on Daily Kos. I wrote a series of diaries to try to educate people about welfare.

Then the Measure S campaign in Berkeley happened. This was a campaign sponsored by business interests in Berkeley to get the riffraff off the sidewalks. "Kos" himself descended to comment in that discussion. He made some amazingly revealing remarks - the type that I would have associated with a Republican strategist trying to get things done. He made some B.S. remarks about his wife being "afraid" of walking down the streets. (In 20 years I haven't been afraid of walking down the streets in Berkeley, and I'm a small, disabled woman). What he meant is she didn't like being "bothered", and he was too self-absorbed to learn about why there were so many people on the streets (re: the utter failure of Alameda County Social Services). He could have benefited from reading a few of my diaries. He furthermore started referring to people as "it", dehumanizing those he wanted to scrape off his shoe. Soon thereafter I deleted all my diaries and left Daily Kos.

Today I went to check my local online news site for election results, and what do I see but Kos (who, ironically, happens to live in my neighborhood) crowing about conservative victories and strategizing about how to throw out all the left-leaning Berkeley City candidates!!!

In the same thread he makes numerous comments about the need for further gentrification of Berkeley and proclaims support for the forces that have created a crisis of homelessness there that has been generally ignored and suppressed by the City Council. While the mayor directs city funds meant for housing to consultants and year long studies that only serve to hide the crisis by separating "couch surfers" from the "chronic" street homeless, there are desperate people in need of housing RIGHT NOW. Bates knows darned well his plan is to invite Rich People in and quietly pressure the poor people to go elsewhere while no one is looking.

Read the whole thread for other jaw-dropping remarks: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/11/11/berkeley-2014-elections-tune-in-here-for-live-coverage/

Kos is a COLLABORATOR in all this and his attitude toward Measure S, and the statements he has made on Berkeleyside about pushing all Left-leaning people out of the Berkeley City council show this. Yet he made his fortune by crowd-sourcing people's progressive values! How wrong is that?!

I am really sad and disappointed right now. I tried to make a comment on Berkeleyside, but I think it was modded since it addressed Kos directly.

Update: Interesting - Berkeleyside did approve my comment. Well maybe Kos will read it and take a minute to actually look around his neighborhood.
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