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.
Politicians’ drive towards austerity means scapegoating and attacking children, poor people, and those with learning and/or other disabilities …
IMAGINE THAT you’re an 8-year-old child. Your family receives welfare. Maybe your mom is a single mother who works a low-wage job (or more than one low-wage job) with no benefits. Your family may not be able to make the rent this month, and there’s not much left in the house to eat. Your family gets food stamps, but they don’t stretch very far.
Now imagine you—a hungry, worried kid—were told that if you don’t get good enough grades at school, the little bit of government assistance your family receives could be snatched away.
That could soon be the reality for schoolchildren in Tennessee. Currently, a bill known as HB261/SB132 is making its way through the state legislature. If passed, it would mandate that if a child fails a grade and their parents don’t attend two parent-teacher conferences, the family’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF)/Families First benefits could be cut by up to 30 percent.
Some 52,800 Tennessee families currently receive state TANF benefits. The maximum TANF benefit is $185 a month. Struggling families could see that cut to $129.50—a significant drop in for those struggling to make ends meet. Tennessee already ties welfare benefits to a child’s school attendance.
Supporters of the legislation say there should be nothing stopping parents from attending a parent-teacher conference. But that’s hard to do for low-wage workers who frequently don’t get paid vacation or sick days, or any sort of flexibility in their schedules.
In a comment on a petition against the bill organized by the group Clergy for Justice, Melissa Jennings, a former welfare recipient, explained her own struggle to feed her kids:
“I have been on assistance since I was laid off three years ago and chose to go back to school. If not for that help, my children and I would have starved. I have not been through a drive-through or eaten in a restaurant in over two years…My kids don’t get to go to McDonald’s or Dairy Queen, but that assistance has provided me the only way I have to “treat” my kids, and cook them healthy meals…This assistance has allowed me to allow them to “fit in” [at school] and take part in what is asked of them.”
“Now I am graduating in one month, as a provider to the community, and will more than pay back my share of the benefits given to my family. It has been a needed and appreciated stepping-stone for me, and not everyone abuses the system. I will gladly pay my share of taxes to help support those in need, because if my fellow community had not done the same for me, what would my kids have done?”
A former teacher who also signed the petition noted, “I have seen firsthand what lack of food does to a child in an educational setting. When you are hungry, you cannot learn. It is just that simple.”
Unwise, unnecessary, and unconscionable. You know you’ve been had when you find yourself hoping that the REPUBLICANS will block the President’s proposed cuts to the social safety net protecting elderly people, people with disabilities, and poor people.
Mark this day. For the first time in history, a Democratic president has officially proposed to cut the Democratic Party’s signature New Deal program, Social Security:
President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say.
In a significant shift in fiscal strategy, Mr. Obama on Wednesday will send a budget plan to Capitol Hill that departs from the usual presidential wish list that Republicans typically declare dead on arrival. Instead it will embody the final compromise offer that he made to Speaker John A. Boehner late last year, before Mr. Boehner abandoned negotiations in opposition to the president’s demand for higher taxes from wealthy individuals and some corporations.
The way this was explained to me is that the liberal Democrats in the House put out a leftward proposal and the Democrats in the Senate put out a moderate proposal, which the president tacitly endorsed. The Crazy Republicans then came back with a rightward proposal so now the president has simply set forth a compromise between the Senate Dems and the Crazy Republicans. And it’s his final, final offer this time.
God help us if the Republicans wise up and take this deal. After all, it’s a more conservative budget than even their hero Ronald Reagan ever submitted.
I hate our society so much …
A few days ago you wrote to me and told me you were planning to take your own life. You told me that your reasons for this are: because you are frightened about what will happen to you when you lose the disability living allowance you rely on to live independently, and because you want to take a stand against the government’s assault on welfare.
I’m writing like this, in public, in part because you spoke about taking your own life as a political statement. You asked if I, as a journalist you respected, would report on your suicide after the fact.
This is the point at which I’m supposed to give you the routine about how It Gets Better. But you and I both know that that would be a lie. We both know that right now, for anyone who is disabled, or mentally ill, or unemployed, or a single parent, or a young person, or a student, or simply poor and struggling, a lot of things are getting actively worse. So no - sometimes it doesn’t get better. What happens instead, as a friend of mine told me recently, is that you get stronger.
Choosing to live doesn’t have to mean choosing to accept the ugly reality that those in power are creating for us. By coming together and working to create change, by building each other up and getting smarter and more adept, you get stronger, we get stronger, people who care enough to resist and fight back and create a different reality get stronger together. You don’t need to be well to be involved in the fightback. The internet has enabled people with all kinds of different experiences of physical and mental health to make their voices heard and join in the struggle against shame and despair as public policy.
I know that right now you probably aren’t feeling very strong and powerful. That’s understandable. But please believe me: you are powerful, and important, and special, and stronger than you know. We’ve never shared a cup of tea together, or laughed together, or hugged each other. I don’t even know what you look like. But I feel like I know you, because I know you feel the same way I feel about what’s going on in this country right now. What I want you to try to understand, if you can just hold on to one thing, is this: you are not a burden.
When society tells you that you are worth less because you are unwell, that’s society’s fault, not yours. They may be pursuing a doctrine of shame, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel ashamed. You have no reason whatsoever to feel ashamed. You are not a burden, and you are not a scrounger - you are just unwell.
As an unwell person, you have every right to support, from your family and from society. Please try to hold on to that belief, because right now that belief is the best weapon we have against the austerity consensus. You are not a burden. You are not a scrounger. You are valuable and important because you are human and alive. Believe it. Believe it because that belief is a torch in the darkness of an austerity winter. With love,
And here you thought we were living through “tough times,” standing on the precipice of “fiscal cliffs,” and therefore major budget cuts to social programs such as Social Security and welfare were “absolutely necessary.”
The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2012, adding $241 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 100 wealthiest individuals.
The aggregate net worth of the world’s top 100 stood at $1.9 trillion at the market close Dec. 31, according to the index. Of the people who appeared on the final ranking of 2012, only 16 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.
YOU DON’T have to be a socialist to see that Barack Obama has used the “fiscal cliff” tax deal to once again stiff workers, coddle the rich and further the corporate agenda.
Here’s the New York Times on the agreement with Congressional Republicans that made the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich permanent on income less than $450,000 per year, while raising taxes on all working people by ending the payroll tax break:
Just a few years ago, the tax deal pushed through Congress on Tuesday would have been a Republican fiscal fantasy, a sweeping bill that locks in virtually all of the Bush-era tax cuts, exempts almost all estates from taxation, and enshrines the former president’s credo that dividends and capital gains should be taxed equally and gently.
Nowadays, though, the deal is being sold by liberal Democrats as “progressive,” with all but three Senate Democrats voting in favor of it. When a majority of House Republicans rejected the agreement, complaining that it didn’t include spending cuts, it was Democrats who backed it overwhelmingly, assuring its passage.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka criticized the fiscal cliff deal as it emerged in the final days of 2012. But he soon changed his line, praising the agreement for sparing Social Security and Medicare from cuts and extending unemployment benefits:
The agreement passed by the Senate last night is a breakthrough in beginning to restore tax fairness and achieves some key goals of working families…A strong message from voters and a relentless echo from grassroots activists over the last six weeks helped get us this far.
In fact, as Trumka acknowledges, Social Security and Medicare are still on the chopping block. The $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that were set to kick in on January 1 have only been postponed for two months. Plus, the Republicans will use the coming vote on raising the limit on federal borrowing—known as the “debt ceiling”—to demand more cutbacks.
So another showdown is coming up in a matter of weeks—one in which Obama can be expected to make yet another deal with Republicans, this one potentially including cuts to “entitlement” programs. Obama can also be expected to claim that he is “saving” Social Security and Medicare by preventing even bigger cuts demanded by Republicans—even as the man who promised during the presidential campaign to defend these programs signs off on drastic reductions.
If that sounds like a conspiracy theory from the far left, take a look at the record. Obama already offered just such a deal to Republican House Speaker John Boehner during the 2011 debt ceiling debate.
LIBERAL CRITICS seem to think Obama’s problem is that he is a bad negotiator in the face of intransigent Republicans. “The president remains clueless about how to use leverage in a negotiation,” Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee told the New York Times.
In reality, the Obama administration represents the consolidation of a rightward turn in the Democratic Party that began in the 1980s and was furthered by Bill Clinton in the 1990s. From the surrender to Ronald Reagan’s tax policies to Clinton’s program of free trade and deregulation, the Democrats are making a bid to replace the Republicans as the main party of Corporate America.
What utter bullshit. For years when the GOP proposed cutting Social Security in this way, the Dems lambasted their proposal as a mean-spirited cut to the living standards of the elderly. But now that Obama and Co. have embraced this GOP proposal, it has all of sudden become neither “mean-spirited” nor even a “cut” at all!
Doug Henwood writes: “Alex Cockburn told me years ago - back during the pre-Monica Clinton days, when he was scheming to privatize the thing - that any move against Social Security would have to be “an inside job,” i.e., done by Dems. We are watching that now.”
Congressional Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), signaled greater willingness on Wednesday to cut Social Security benefits, with the party now considering a change to the way inflation is calculated for recipients.
Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that a cut proposed by President Barack Obama in the fiscal cliff negotiations would in fact “strengthen” the program, echoing the claims often made by Republicans about entitlement programs they want to slash.
Her remarks come a day after she said that liberals in Congress who are unhappy with Obama’s concession to the GOP would nevertheless support them.
The cut involves swapping out the traditional method for calculating cost of living increases, based on the current standard for measuring inflation, for something called a chained CPI, or chained Consumer Price Index.
The chained CPI works by assuming that when the price of a product, such as beef, gets too high, consumers don’t keep paying the higher prices. Instead, the model predicts they will switch to something cheaper, such as chicken, keeping their cost of living lower and leading to a lower rate of inflation, as measured by the chained CPI. The lower rate of inflation would mean a downward adjustment in cost of living, and thus stingier benefits.
The cuts would start small, but wind up costing beneficiaries thousands of dollars over time, which is why Democrats have traditionally fought the idea.
But Pelosi wrapped both her arms around it Wednesday, insisting she does not regard it as a “cut.”
To anyone who voted for Obama in the hopes that he would stave off massive Republican-style cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs, I’m sorry to say it, but, to quote Malcolm X, you’ve been had.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, with his latest fiscal cliff offer, proposes extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less than $400,000 a year, and paying for it by increasing taxes on the middle class and cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Obama’s offer would allow the payroll tax holiday to expire, meaning middle class workers will see smaller paychecks in 2013. Economists have warned that the recovery is too fragile to risk a broad tax hike on workers. It would also gradually reduce Social Security, pension and disability benefits seniors are due to receive, taking a small bite up front, but building up to much larger cuts over time.
Obama’s concession to Republicans is opposed by a majority of Americans, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said the payroll tax cut should be extended to avoid raising taxes on the middle class, while 22 percent said that it should be allowed to expire to help pay down the debt. Extending the payroll tax cut received bipartisan support: 64 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans in the survey said they supported the extension.
Utterly, utterly devastating. Global capitalism is failing humanity’s youth — from America to Greece to Spain to Egypt.
Duane Taylor was studying the humanities in community college and living in his own place when he lost his job in a round of layoffs. Then he found, and lost, a second job. And a third.
Now, with what he calls “lowered standards” and a tenuous new position at a Jack in the Box restaurant, Mr. Taylor, 24, does not make enough to rent an apartment or share one. He sleeps on a mat in a homeless shelter, except when his sister lets him crash on her couch.
“At any time I could lose my job, my security,” said Mr. Taylor, explaining how he was always the last hired and the first fired. “I’d like to be able to support myself. That’s my only goal.”
Across the country, tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.
Those who can move back home with their parents — the so-called boomerang set — are the lucky ones. But that is not an option for those whose families have been hit hard by the economy, including Mr. Taylor, whose mother is barely scraping by while working in a laundromat. Without a stable home address, they are an elusive group that mostly couch surfs or sleeps hidden away in cars or other private places, hoping to avoid the lasting stigma of public homelessness during what they hope will be a temporary predicament.
These young adults are the new face of a national homeless population, one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem is mostly invisible. Most cities and states, focusing on homeless families, have not made special efforts to identify young adults, who tend to shy away from ordinary shelters out of fear of being victimized by an older, chronically homeless population. The unemployment rate and the number of young adults who cannot afford college “point to the fact there is a dramatic increase in homelessness” in that age group, said Barbara Poppe, the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Those who provide services to the poor in many cities say the economic recovery has not relieved the problem. “Years ago, you didn’t see what looked like people of college age sitting and waiting to talk to a crisis worker because they are homeless on the street,” said Andrae Bailey, the executive director of the Community Food and Outreach Center, one of the largest charitable organizations in Florida. “Now that’s a normal thing.”
Los Angeles first attempted a count of young adults living on the street in 2011. It found 3,600, but the city had shelter capacity for only 17 percent of them.
“The rest are left to their own devices,” said Michael Arnold, the executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “And when you start adding in those who are couch surfing and staying with friends, that number increases exponentially.”
A friend says: “Obama demonstrates what a Romney presidency might have looked like. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity, but can you please not cut 1 trillion dollars from an already anemic social safety net? I don’t want my grandparents to die. Thanks.”
… On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits. Beyond that, the negotiators will agree to targets for spending cuts. Expect the final number here, too, to be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, but also expect it to lack many specifics. Whether the cuts come from Medicare or Medicaid, whether they include raising the Medicare age, and many of the other contentious issues in the talks will be left up to Congress.
WHAT DO workers at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and any number of other multibillion-dollar corporations have in common?
For millions of workers in low-wage America, food stamps—now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—are all that stands between their family and hunger.
Despite this, Republican lawmakers have taken aim at the program during recent discussions about how to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff”—the end-of-year deadline Congress imposed on itself for coming up with deficit reduction measures, or automatic cuts will kick in.
No social program is off the table and no cut is too deep in Washington’s crusade for cutting the deficit. As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told the Wall Street Journal: “What we need to be able to do is to demonstrate that that is the better way for the people of this country. Get the fiscal house in order, come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that, frankly, are not going to be kept for many…the math doesn’t lie.”
The Republicans say the government has to unload the burden of “pricey” and wasteful spending in order to balance the federal budget. “[T]his program has been growing out of control at an incredible rate, and there are a lot of people receiving benefits who do not qualify and should not receive them,” Sen. Jeff Sessions said in an interview on CNN’s Starting Point earlier this month.
Sessions “represents” the state of Alabama, where 20 percent of the population depends on food stamps.
Actually, he is right about one thing—food stamp use is increasing. Because workers need them to feed their families.