Obama is proposing, along with the support of Republicans and many Democrats, to change how annual increases in Social Security benefits are calculated. Obama wants to switch to a different formula, called Chained CPI. This switch would result in a benefit cut of $230 billion dollars over 10 years. All this is being done under the guise of “strengthening” the program and “securing it for future generations”. (See here, here, here, here and here)
… The changes being proposed are an insidious way of robbing the elderly as they grow older.
What makes these proposed changes even sadder is that according to surveys, 84%of people believe current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, and 75% believe we should consider raising the amount of benefits paid and 68% support an outright raise in benefits.
In Washington, both sides of the aisle are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Angela Davis, Women, Race, & Class
ON JULY 18, a legal team representing the state of Michigan proved, as Woody Guthrie once sang, that some people “rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” At 4:06 p.m., lawyers working on behalf of the state-appointed Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr petitioned for bankruptcy in federal court.
In doing so, they upstaged lawyers for two union pension funds who appeared at 4:11 p.m. at a hearing in Ingham County court to block the bankruptcy. Lawyers for the state had asked the unions to delay their filing. Unbeknownst to the attorneys from the pension funds—one covering police and firefighters, and the other covering the general public workforce—this delay was aimed at assuring that the bankruptcy filing trumped the unions’ lawsuit.
"Governor Snyder’s plan to suspend democracy, drive one of America’s largest cities into bankruptcy and deprive workers of their hard-earned retirement security moved dangerously closer to reality today when, without a single negotiation with unions, workers or retirees, Snyder authorized Detroit’s financial manager to file for bankruptcy," said AFSME’s national president Lee Saunders in a statement.
… No one should lose sight of what’s at stake here. The living standards and quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people—disproportionately workers and people of color who have already endured dire cutbacks as a consequence of Detroit’s financial crisis—will be placed in further jeopardy. And the most basic democratic rights of millions of Michiganders stand to be trampled underfoot in a further imposition of austerity.And Detroiters should forget about receiving a bailout from the federal government like Citibank, General Motors and Chrysler, among others, have all gotten over the years. “Can we help Detroit?” Vice President Joe Biden asked. “We don’t know.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the Detroit bankruptcy is “something that local leaders and creditors are going to have to resolve…. “
It’s an old American story: malign policies hatched in Washington leading to pain and death in Indian country. It was true in the 19th century. It is true now, at a time when Congress, heedless of its solemn treaty obligations to Indian tribes, is allowing the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester to threaten the health, safety and education of Indians across the nation.
Ten thousand unused musical instruments. No sports or art programs. No assistant principals, counselors, cafeteria aides or secretaries.
That’s what the Philadelphia public schools will look like in September without a major cash infusion. And while the devastating consequences of the district’s $304 million deficit have been widely reported for weeks, parent Mike Mullins thought people still didn’t get it.
So for the past eight days, he’s been on a hunger strike.
… On Monday, dozens of pink-slipped music teachers joined some of their students for a goodbye concert. The strains of Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens and medleys of pop songs filled the soaring atrium of district headquarters downtown.
Come fall, students will hear only the sounds of silence, said Virginia Lam, the system’s music administrator.
"It’s a farewell concert because all 66 instrumental music teachers — who go to 190 schools, service over 10,000 students, present over a thousand concerts each year — their positions have been eliminated," Lam said.
The Bulgarian government was officially dissolved on Wednesday with the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov as thousands took to the street to protest against high electricity bills and declining living standards. The country, which joined the EU in 2001, remains the poorest member of the union after a long and troubled transition to capitalism.
The first casualty of the on-going crisis became Bulgarian finance minister Simeon Djankov — a well-respected former World Bank official who undertook painful economic reforms and austerity measures. Djankov stepped down on Tuesday in the middle of escalating protests in the capital of Sofia where people with signs that read “Mafia” and “Bring Down the Monopolies” were rallying against lack of transparency and monopolistic practices in the energy sector.
Just 88% of men ages 25 to 54 are participating in the workforce today, down from 97% in 1956.
So where have all the men workers gone?
Some went into prison. Others are on disability. And still others can’t find jobs and have simply given up looking.
The trend is particularly pronounced among the less educated. As the job market shifted away from blue-collar positions that required only a high-school degree to more skilled labor, many men were left behind, labor analysts say. It’s harder these days to find well-paying jobs in manufacturing, production and other fields traditionally dominated by men without college diplomas.
But college men are leaving, too. The participation rate of those older than 25 and holding at least bachelor’s degree fell to 80.2% in May, down from 87.2% in May 1992.
International Socialist Review columnistexplains why the ruling class austerity agenda has been discredited—and at a terrible toll in human lives.
IN HIS 1873 afterword to the second German edition of Das Kapital, Karl Marx commented on how the conquest of political power by the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, had “sounded the knell of scientific bourgeois economy.”
Earlier bourgeois economists, like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, had made genuine scientific contributions to the understanding of capitalist society, but once its power was established, it became much more important for the ruling class to use economics to defend the status quo as both reasonable and inevitable. As Marx and Engels had put it many years earlier:
The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.
They put the idea more succinctly: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” In terms of mainstream economics, this meant that science came to be replaced by ideology—a set of ideas developed not primarily to discover the truth, but to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie. As Marx wrote in 1873:
It was thenceforth no longer a question whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prizefighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic.
… Many liberals hoped that when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, he would be the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt and initiate a 21st century New Deal that would both revive the economy and shift the balance of power in the U.S. back in the direction of labor.
The hopes were short-lived. Obama did push through a substantial stimulus package in his first year that stopped the U.S. economy from going into free fall, but which was not big enough to produce strong growth or make any significant reduction in unemployment. Since then, however, Obama has accepted the Republican view that budget deficits are the main problem, and since his reelection, he has taken the lead in proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
… BUT WHATEVER the long-term consequences of austerity policies, their devastating immediate impact on workers and the poor around the world is very clear.
In their new book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, a sociologist and an epidemiologist, respectively, survey the historical and contemporary record of sharply cutting wages and social programs, and document hw brutal toll in human terms. “The price of austerity is calculated in human lives,” they argue. “And the lives lost won’t return when the stock market bounces back.” In the book’s introduction, they write:
We were shocked and concerned at the illogic of the austerity advocates, and the hard data on its human and economic costs. We realized the impact of the Great Recession went far beyond people losing their homes and jobs. It was a full-scale assault on people’s health. At the heart of the argument was the question of what it means to be a society, and what the appropriate role of government is in protecting people.
During the current crisis, Europe and North America have seen an additional 10,000 suicides and perhaps a million new cases of depression. In the U.S., there has been a 30 percent increase in suicides by middle-aged Americans facing financial stress, long-term unemployment and other economic problems over the past decade. These consequences, however, are largely the outcome of the ways in which different societies have chosen to deal with their economic woes.
For example, Stuckler and Basu compare Iceland, which has protected social spending since the current financial crisis began, with Greece, which has been forced to slash government spending to get new loans. During this time, Iceland has seen no rise in its death rate, while in Greece the death rate has soared. “The human costs have become dramatically clear: a 52 percent rise in HIV, a doubling in suicide, rising homicides and the return of malaria—all as critical health programs were cut.”
Stuckler and Basu’s comparison makes clear that the economic crisis was not responsible by itself for the subsequent health crisis. “Ultimately, what we show is that worsening health is not an inevitable consequence of economic recessions,” Basu said in a statement. “It’s a political choice.”
Yesterday, Sen. Vitter of Louisiana offered up an amendment to permanently drop anyone ever convicted of a violent crime from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Democrats in the Senate obliged him. The amendment is for a farm bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate.
The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since. In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.
So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut. … Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects.
Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or the disabled, and two-fifths of SNAP households live below half the poverty line.
The streets are so much darker now, since money for streetlights is rarely available to municipal governments. The national parks began closing down years ago. Some are already being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. Reports on bridges crumbling or even collapsing are commonplace. The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards by the Environmental Protection Agency is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury and, according to the Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.
It’s 2023 — and this is America 10 years after the first across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration went into effect. They went on for a decade, making no exception for effective programs vital to America’s economic health that were already underfunded, like job training and infrastructure repairs. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Traveling back in time to 2013 — at the moment the sequester cuts began — no one knew what their impact would be, although nearly everyone across the political spectrum agreed that it would be bad. As it happened, the first signs of the unraveling which would, a decade later, leave the United States a third-world country, could be detected surprisingly quickly, only three months after the cuts began. In that brief time, a few government agencies, like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after an uproar over flight delays, requested — and won — special relief. Naturally, the Department of Defense, with a mere $568 billion to burn in its 2013 budget, also joined this elite list. On the other hand, critical spending for education, environmental protection, and scientific research was not spared, and in many communities the effect was felt remarkably soon.
Caveat, I’d like to add to the above article: I’m actually not so certain the state of things described above isn’t precisely what the American ruling elite want. Namely, first-world prosperity and profits for them and their fellow members of the capitalist class, third-world conditions and labor standards for the rest of us who make up the proverbial 99%.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Thousands of Philadelphia school students walked out of class and marched on city buildings to fight drastic budget cuts to their education.
Chanting “save our schools” and holding signs, the teens from at least 27 schools converged on the School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street just after noon Friday, shutting down Broad Street to traffic.
Once the demonstrators reached numbers in the thousands, they began marching south on Broad Street towards Philadelphia City Hall at Broad and Market Streets — arriving around 1:30 p.m.
The students are fighting a series of severe budget cuts proposed by the district to close a more than $300 million funding gap. The proposed cuts include ending arts and music programs, sports and cutting auxiliary staff like secretaries, librarians and counselors.
The demonstration is happening at the same time parents, teachers and students testify before a Philadelphia City Council hearing on school funding.
The demonstration walked around City Hall in the middle of the street — shutting the area down to traffic. They also made their way into the building’s courtyard to have their voices heard.
Amazing 9 year old Asean Johnson brings the crowd to their feet at Chicago school closings rally
Asean (ah-Shawn) goes to Marcus Garvey Elementary School, slated for closure by the Chicago Public School administration, an un-elected board who’s members are appointed by Mayor Rahm Elmanuel, former Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama
Daaaamn. Watch this 9-yr old student stand up and spit hot fire at a mass rally against the Chicago Mayor and Public School administration who are trying to close his and dozens of other schools in mostly non-white neighborhoods.
People do not inevitably get sick or die because the economy has faltered. Fiscal policy can be a matter of life or death.
… People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.
The GOP claims to be adamantly against using Medicaid dollars to help poor women obtain an abortion because of their deep commitment to the “sanctity of life.” Yet this is the same party which pushed a bill through the House of Representatives in 1995 to enable Medicaid recipients to obtain physician-assisted suicide services as a “cost-saving” measure … As one conservative advocate put it at the time, “Sick people are expensive. The dead are a burden on no one.”
Superintendent John White takes his marching orders directly from Bobby Jindal, who recently had to abandon eliminating the state’s hospice program and an ill-conceived reverse robin hood tax scheme that increased the taxes on the poorest citizens of our state so as to eliminate taxes for the wealthiest citizens and corporations. This follows on successful Jindal campaigns to eliminate the office of elderly affairs, over the objection of the head of this agency – whom Jindal fired immediately after she voiced her assessment under oath that eliminating this agency would lead to a decrease in support for our state’s aging citizens. Jindal has also closed most of the state’s mental hospitals, eliminated the state’s charity hospital system, rejected a largely free expansion of Medicaid that would have provided life-saving benefits to Louisiana’s poorest citizens, and slashed funding for state university’s by more than half - with more cuts on the way. Jindal, a “theoretical” devout Catholic, also executes inmates as often as possible, refusing even to delay them by one day despite objections from his own Bishops to postpone one until at least after Ash Wednesday. Obviously Jindal is not exactly trying to win any awards for devout Christian, or nicest human (or even for someone with a shred of any humanity) so it should be no surprise that he has decided conduct experiments on Louisiana’s Special Education students in the name of fiscal responsibility and accountability.