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Member since: Wed Dec 10, 2014, 12:21 AM
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Capitalism is eating our future

Stagnation aggravates all the great historic problems associated with capitalism. Economic inequality mushrooms, poverty increases, public services are slashed, there is tremendous downward pressure on wages. And at the same time, corporations and wealthy investors successfully demand ever greater concessions from governments and communities as the quid pro quo for their investment. Capital generally struggles to find profitable investment outlets, but today the problem is particularly acute. In 2014 there is by some accounts as much as $2 trillion in capital sitting on the sidelines while there are tens of millions of workers unemployed or only partially employed. It has been this way for years. By any objective measure, this is socially absurd.

The current pattern for capital is to zero in on public services like a heat-seeking missile and to take over those government operations and convert them into profit-centers for corporations. Many government activities have been, or are in the process of being, privatized or outsourced, from the military to surveillance to prisons to education. The evidence demonstrates these privatizations and outsourcings basically benefit the investors, who often reap monopoly profits, but degrade the quality and cost efficiency of the services otherwise. They are corrosive to effective democratic governance.(7) Likewise, government regulations to protect workers, consumers, and the environment have to be jettisoned to encourage the "job creators" to get off their butts and swing into action. These have proven to be palliative measures for ravenous investors, but a disaster for everyone else. To stay alive today, capitalism is eating our future...

Many liberals who wish to reform and humanize capitalism are uncomfortable with seemingly radical movements, and often work to distance themselves from them, lest respectable people in power cast a withering eye at them. "Shhh," they say to people like me. "If we antagonize or scare those in power we will lose our seat at the table and not be able to win any reforms." Yet these same liberal reformers often are dismayed at how they are politically ineffectual. Therein lies a great irony, because to enact significant reforms requires a mass movement (or the credible prospect of a mass movement) that does indeed threaten the powerful. The influence of mild reformers rises greatly when people in power look out the window and see a million people demonstrating. If there is an iron law of politics, this is it.

People in power certainly know this. Nothing frightens them like popular uprisings they do not and cannot control. For that reason, cynicism and political apathy are generally encouraged in the United States. It is not a fluke that voter turnout in the United States is well below that of nearly every other nation in the world. In the 1970s, on the heels of the popular uprisings of that era, people in power spoke candidly (to each other) about the need to have young people and the dispossessed return to apathy. Much of their work since then has been to achieve that goal. When we tune out politics, when we abandon hope, we aren't being cool or hip or ironic or even realistic—we are being played.

This elite fear of genuine democracy should encourage all those dedicated to building a more humane and sustainable post-capitalist democracy. Those atop the system know we have the numbers on our side. They know the system is rigged for them, and they want to keep it that way. They know they cannot win a fair fight. Hence billionaires' energy goes to matters like wholesale voter suppression and flooding election campaigns with unlimited secretive spending. They must feed the machinery of pessimism and despair because they know they cannot defeat an aroused citizenry. That tells me that if we do effective organizing it will be like planting a seed in rich Iowa topsoil. Put this way, I like our chances. I like them a lot.


Do Koch Bros fund opposition to police?

I ran across similar information a month or so ago & am putting it up for consideration. I don't know, and since this guy's a republican maybe it's bull. To my mind the main reason the kochs would fund something like this is as part of their antiunionization campaigns (as police unions are fairly strong and well-funded) and police privatization -- which I personally think is/would be a horrorshow.


As Koch-funded Nick Gillespie at Reason pointed out, the billionaires have used their unusually-massive financial power to promote a wide range of liberal-friendly causes like drug decriminalization, marriage equality, cuts to defense spending, and opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act...

In the wake of the crisis in Ferguson, progressive politicos might also find common ground with the Koch brothers on police militarization. Tim Mak at The Daily Beast, a recipient of a Koch fellowship, points out that Charles and David Koch have bankrolled opposition to police militarization for years. As an example, Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, took Koch-funded paychecks early in his career to write about the dangers of police militarization when he worked for Reason and The Cato Institute. Several organizations funded by the Koch brothers have been active in opposing what many see as an emerging police state...

How American Corporations and the Super Rich Steal From the Rest of Us

The Merriam-Webster definition of 'steal' is to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice. Much of our country's new wealth has been regularly taken by individuals or corporations in a wrongful manner, either through nonpayment of taxes or failure to compensate other contributors to their successes.

1. The Corporations

As schools and local governments are going broke around the country, companies who built their businesses with American research and education and technology and infrastructure are paying less in taxes than ever before. Incredibly, over half of U.S. corporate foreign profits are now being held in tax havens, double the share of just twenty years ago. Corporations are stealing from the nation that made them rich...

2. The Forbes 40

Defenders of inequality argue that fortunes are deserved because of innovation and hard work. But many of the 40 Americans who own as much as the poorest half of the country have relied on less deserving means of accumulating great fortunes (details here)...

3. The Deniers

After 35 years of wealth theft there are still inequality deniers -- notably the American Enterprise Institute, which claims that income inequality has been shrinking since 1989, and that we should be asking whether or not the bottom 60% are paying their fair share...


"The existing system is built out of fear of each other and of scarcity and it has created more

scarcity and more to be afraid of."

It is mitigated every day by altruism, mutual aid, and solidarity, by the acts of individuals and organizations who are motivated by hope and by love rather than fear. They are akin to a shadow government—another system ready to do more were they voted into power. Disaster votes them in, in a sense, because in an emergency these skills and ties work while fear and divisiveness do not. Disaster reveals what else the world could be like—reveals the strength of that hope, that generosity, and that solidarity. It reveals mutual aid as a default operating principle and civil society as something waiting in the wings when it's absent from the stage."

"A world could be built on that basis, and to do so would redress the long divides that produce everyday pain, poverty, and loneliness and in times of crisis, homicidal fear and opportunism. This is the only paradise that is possible, and it will never exist whole, stable, and complete. It is always coming into being in response to trouble and suffering; making paradise is the work we are meant to do. All the versions of an achieved paradise sound at best like an eternal vacation, a place where we would have no meaning to make. The paradises built in hell are improvisational; we make them up as we go along, and in doing so they call on all our strength and creativity and leave us free to invent even as we find ourselves enmeshed in community. These paradises built in hell show us both what we want and what we can be."


Things seem like they'll never get better, they can't get better -- and then they do. It's up to us.

To use Le Guin’s language, physics is inevitable: if you put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the planet warms, and as the planet warms, various kinds of chaos and ruin are let loose. Politics, on the other hand, is not inevitable. For example, not so many years ago it would have seemed inevitable that Chevron, currently the third biggest corporation in the country, would run the refinery town of Richmond, California, as its own private fiefdom. You could say that the divine right of Chevron seemed like a given. Except that people in Richmond refused to accept it and so this town of 107,000 mostly poor nonwhites pushed back.

In recent years, a group of progressives won election to the city council and the mayor’s seat, despite huge expenditures by Chevron, the corporation that also brought you gigantic oil spills onshore in Ecuador and offshore in Brazil, massive contamination from half a century of oil extraction in Nigeria, and Canadian tar-sands bitumen sent by rail to the Richmond refinery. Mayor Gayle McLaughin and her cohorts organized a little revolution in a town that had mostly been famous for its crime rate and for Chevron’s toxic refinery emissions, which periodically create emergencies, sometimes requiring everyone to take shelter (and pretend that they are not being poisoned indoors), sometimes said — by Chevron — to be harmless, as with last Thursday’s flames that lit up the sky, visible as far away as Oakland.

As McLaughin put it of her era as mayor:

“We’ve accomplished so much, including breathing better air, reducing the pollution, and building a cleaner environment and cleaner jobs, and reducing our crime rate. Our homicide number is the lowest in 33 years and we became a leading city in the Bay Area for solar installed per capita. We’re a sanctuary city. And we’re defending our homeowners to prevent foreclosures and evictions. And we also got Chevron to pay $114 million extra dollars in taxes.”

For this November’s election, the second-largest oil company on Earth officially spent $3.1 million to defeat McLaughin and other progressive candidates and install a mayor and council more to its liking. That sum worked out to about $180 per Richmond voter, but my brother David, who’s long been connected to Richmond politics, points out that, if you look at all the other ways the company spends to influence local politics, it might be roughly ten times that.

Nonetheless, Chevron lost. None of its candidates were elected and all the grassroots progressives it fought with billboards, mailers, television ads, websites, and everything else a lavishly funded smear campaign can come up with, won.

If a small coalition like that can win locally against a corporation that had revenues of $228.9 billion in 2013, imagine what a large global coalition could do against the fossil-fuel giants. It wasn’t easy in Richmond and it won’t be easy on the largest scale either, but it’s not impossible. The Richmond progressives won by imagining that the status quo was not inevitable, no less an eternal way of life. They showed up to do the work to dent that inevitability. The billionaires and fossil fuel corporations are intensely engaged in politics all the time, everywhere, and they count on us to stay on the sidelines. If you look at their response to various movements, you can see that they fear the moment we wake up, show up, and exercise our power to counter theirs.

That power operated on a larger scale last week, when local activists and public health professionals applied sufficient pressure to get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation banning fracking statewide. Until the news broke on December 17th, the outcome had seemed uncertain...


Folkways -- a wonderful resource (Len Chandler, Bernice Johnson Reagon)

For the holidays, just want to recommend the Folkways catalog and their webpage resources. If you like folk music, they have everything, world music to US civil rights era music and all stops in-between.


One of my favorite songs, from the civil rights era -- I just think the harmonies are beautiful and the lyrics too:

I’m going to get my baby outta jail
I’m going to get my baby outta jail
She said she wasn’t guilty, and she wouldn’t pay no bail
I’m going to get my baby outta jail

I must have walked a valley on my floor
I must have walked a valley on my floor
Just waitin’ on her foot steps and a-knockin at my door
I’m going to get my baby outta jail

Just one more thing a-workin’ on my mind
One more thing a-workin’ on my mind
High court costs and lawyer fees ain’t something like a fine
I’m going to get my baby outta jail

I’m going to get my baby outta jail
I’m going to get my baby outta jail
She said she wasn’t guilty, and she wouldn’t pay no bail
I’m going to get my baby outta jail



It Would Actually Be Very Simple To End Homelessness Forever

Kirk is doing everything you would expect him to do. Having lost his job amid the recession and been mostly homeless since September of 2009, he’s applied to literally hundreds of thousands of jobs – he has 12,000 pages with 36 sent applications per page in his email inbox – while also trying to navigate the Seattle-area homelessness system. He’s focused mostly on legal jobs given that he has a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary prelaw and a paralegal certification from a community college. He even managed to secure housing a few times, briefly, but lost one apartment when his unemployment benefits ran out, and was kicked out of housing through homeless programs twice because of errors in his psychiatric assessments. He also secured jobs twice, but they were both seasonal positions, one with the United Postal Service and another with Wal-Mart...

Someone like Kirk likely wouldn’t have experienced such a long bout of homelessness in the decades leading up to the 1980s. But since then, thanks to a series of events but most notably the gutting of affordable housing, the country has experienced mass homelessness not seen since the Great Depression. More than 600,000 Americans don’t have a home to sleep in on any given night, with over 100,000 chronically dealing with the problem.

Even with the size and scope of today’s homeless population, though, it’s not an unsolvable problem. The United States does actually know how to end homelessness. So why is Kirk still sleeping in a park?

The 1980s “was when contemporary homelessness really began,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “It’s really critical to remember that we didn’t always have mass homelessness in this country.”

In 1970, there was a surplus of 300,000 affordable housing units in the U.S. But then, in the 1980s, affordable housing began to evaporate. The Reagan administration slashed funding. Federal spending on housing assistance fell by 50 percent between 1976 and 2002. At the same time, gentrification sped up, with cities getting rid of cheap housing like single room occupancy units and replacing them with more expensive stock, and units being built were more often for co-ops and condos for ownership instead of rent. Federal incentives to build affordable housing dried up. Add to that the AIDs crisis, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, cutbacks to the social safety net, and the rise in incarceration and subsequent hurdles for reentry, and you have today’s crisis...

“The evidence pretty much indicates that if you provide people with a housing subsidy, their homelessness ends and they don’t become homeless again,” Roman said. That’s what Kirk thinks would happen for him if he could just get into an apartment. “If I got housing I’m sure I’d keep it. I know I’m mature enough to keep care of an apartment, I did it for years,” he said. “I know I could be successful for any housing program, but I don’t get in.”

It’s a simple, yet still radical idea, that for a person who’s homeless, the solution is a home.

The government is putting that idea to the test. In 2010, it launched Opening Doors, what it says is “the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.” The goal is to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2016, and to end it for children, youth, and families by 2020. Progress is already visible on the first goal, although it’s not clear if it will be met. Since the beginning of Opening Doors, veteran homelessness has fallen 33 percent and the number of veterans sleeping on the street has fallen by nearly 40 percent.

Some cities that are participating in the program have made even more progress. Last year, Phoenix and Salt Lake City both announced they had ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Both focused on a housing first approach, coupled with resources like job training and health care. Zeilinger said that New Orleans will end veteran homelessness before the federal deadline and is also on track to end chronic homelessness soon after that.

The solutions are there. The public is moving in the right direction. What is lacking is political willingness to spend money. But most are hopeful that homeless will end in their lifetimes. “I’m in my mid-40s, I grew up in a generation that did not have mass homelessness,” Jones noted. “It’s definitely not only a solvable problem, but an aberration from how this country usually works.” The challenge is to put it back on the right track.


Leaving Homeless Person On The Streets: $31,065. Giving Them Housing: $10,051.


The most recent count found 1,577 chronically homeless individuals living in three central Florida counties — Osceola, Seminole, and Orange, which includes Orlando. As a result, the region is paying nearly $50 million annually to let homeless people languish on the streets.

There is a far cheaper option though: giving homeless people housing and supportive services. The study found that it would cost taxpayers just $10,051 per homeless person to give them a permanent place to live and services like job training and health care. That figure is 68 percent less than the public currently spends by allowing homeless people to remain on the streets. If central Florida took the permanent supportive housing approach, it could save $350 million over the next decade.

This is just the latest study showing how fiscally irresponsible it is for society to allow homelessness to continue. A study in Charlotte earlier this year
found a new apartment complex oriented towards homeless people saved taxpayers $1.8 million in the first year alone. Similarly, the Centennial State will save millions by giving homeless people in southeast Colorado a place to live. And in Osceola County, Florida, researchers earlier this year found that taxpayers had spent $5,081,680 over the past decade in incarceration expenses to repeatedly jail just 37 chronically homeless people.

An Agenda And Narrative That Wins Elections

To be clear, Democrats don’t deserve all or most of the blame for an economy that still punishes the poor and middle class 7 years into the economic crisis that began building in 2007 just because Obama has been president for most of those years- not even close. It was George W. Bush’s policies and regulators who led us into economic collapse while cluelessly ignoring the bright red warning signs flashing everywhere around them. And the Republican House and Republican Senators in the last 4 years who blocked good policies that would have helped create more jobs and raise a lot of workers’ wages (infrastructure spending, minimum wage increase, etc) deserve a great deal of the blame.

But the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was the one who pushed for the most massive deregulation of the financial industry in modern history, and Obama’s made a series of decisions that haven’t helped either- failing to restructure Wall Street excess when he had the chance to in 2009, agreeing to a program of extreme austerity when the economy was still severely damaged in 2011, and keeping his executive actions to raise wages and spur the economy much more modest than they could have been over the last 2 years . And beyond the facts on what Obama has or hasn’t done on the economy, when you are presiding over an economy this bad at raising wages, you are going to get most of the blame from the voters...


401(k)s are a sham: Duped by a DIY retirement dream, elderly face staggeringly low living standards

“For retirement, the answer is 4-0-1-k,” proclaimed Tyler Mathisen, then editor of Money magazine in 1996. “I feel sure that someday, like a financial Little-Engine-That-Could, it will pull me over the million-dollar mountain all by itself.”

For this sentiment, and others like it, Mathisen was soon rewarded with an on-air position at financial news network CNBC, where he remains to this day. As for the rest of us? We were had.

The United States is on the verge of a retirement crisis. For the first time in living memory, it seems likely that living standards for those over the age of 65 will begin to decline as compared to those who came before them—and that’s without taking into account the possibility that Social Security benefits will be cut at some point in the future.

The culprit? That same thing Mathisen celebrated: the 401(k), along with the other instruments of do-it-yourself retirement. Not only did they not make us millionaires as self-appointed pundits like Mathisen promised, they left very many of us with very little at all...

According to a recent report issued by the National Institute on Retirement Security, the median amount a family nearing retirement has saved for their post-work lives is $12,000. As for the magical 401(k)? If a household where the earners are between the ages of 55 and 64 does have a retirement account, they barely hit the six-figure mark at $100,000—a far cry from $1 million we’re told we need.

Yet whether the stock market goes up, down or sideways, the financial services sector makes out when it comes to your retirement accounts. How much do they earn? Astonishingly, we don’t know the answer. In 2008, Bloomberg magazine polled a group of pension consultants and came to the conclusion that 401(k) fees alone totaled $89.1 billion annually...


The IRS recently changed the rules for IRA rollovers, which means that now you can only rollover one IRA a year, once a year. Does anyone understand the ramifications of this?

It ticks me off because I feel like it's designed to get you to put all the money in one IRA so it's easier to steal.

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