Archive for category American People
Maxwell Strachan, HuffPo:
Congress effectively pulled money out of the hands of 47 million struggling Americans last month when it allowed massive cuts to the country’s food stamp program to go through without a hitch.
This was a callous decision. If you’re struggling to remember why, look no further than this chart from a new report by the Brookings Institution-affiliated Hamilton Project:
William Galston, Wall Street Journal:
The food-stamp program’s costs have soared since 2000, and especially since 2007. Here’s why.
First, there are many more poor people than there were at the end of the Clinton administration. Since 2000, the number of individuals in poverty has risen to 46.5 million from 31.6 million—to 15% of the total population from 11.3%. During the same period, the number of households with annual incomes under $25,000 rose to 30.2 million (24.7% of total households) from 21.9 million (21.2%).
Critics complain that beneficiaries and costs have continued to rise, even though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009. They’re right, but the number of poor people and low-income households has continued to rise as well.
According to the Census Bureau, there are 2.9 million more poor individuals today than in 2009, and three million more households with incomes under $25,000. The economic recovery, such as it is, has not yet reached low-income Americans.
A couple key passages:
The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.
Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.
And finally this one:
How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.
NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.
The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
From Ken Burns’ documentary “The Civil War” (1990). Today marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s 269-word Gettysburg Address.
Ken Burns: Learn Lincoln’s words by heart
Let’s face it! We all agree with John McCain sometimes and he certainly gets a lot of face-time. When he comes out against ‘human cockfighting’, I’m for it.
An article I’m about to link to has this paragraph:
Prominent critics of [mixed martial arts] for adults including Senator John McCain, who called it ‘human cockfighting’ and in 2008 wrote a letter to the governors of every state asking them to ban it.
I’m interested in the word “adults” in the above paragraph, because I want to know if McCain was talking about human cage fighting for adults or something much, much worse.
I’ve never been a parent, but I imagine you have to walk a fine line between teaching your children to be kind to others or take a strong stance when threatened.
If you are weak of heart, don’t go here.
If this is the only future America can come up with, we need a LOT more bread and a LOT less circus!
Senator Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz (R-TX), yesterday:
“Obamacare is reducing health care options, increasing costs and hurting jobs. It has no place in Texas and must be repealed so we can empower Americans and their families by offering real health care choices rather than a government-written menu of plans they don’t want and can’t afford.
President Obama should take his broken promises tour elsewhere so Texans can continue focusing on the solutions that have allowed our state to become and remain the nation’s economic and job creation powerhouse.”
Texas needs health care reform more than any other state. In addition to having the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation, Texas also has the largest number of children without health insurance and the highest rate of poor adults without health insurance.
Therefore, it’s fair to ask if Senator Cruz has his own health care plan that’s better than the ACA. Actually, he does! Through his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs, he’s enrolled in a fabulous health insurance policy worth at least $20,000 per year, including an $8,500/year federal subsidy.
Oh, you wanted to know if Senator Cruz has come up with a better health care plan for ordinary Americans? No, nothing.
Starting today SNAP, or food stamp benefits, will be reduced by 5 percent. SNAP used to max out at $668 a month for a family of four. Now, the maximum amount will drop to $632, or a cut of $432 a year.
Thanks to the Great Recession and a commitment to austerity by the government in the wake of the recession, an additional 21 million people were added to SNAP since 2008. Today, more than 1 in 4 U.S. children live in a home that gets food stamps.
Another group with lots of members in SNAP: Veterans. U.S. Census Bureau data show that, in 2011, some 900,000 former U.S. military personnel lived in households that used food stamps.
Economists have found that every dollar of SNAP spending generates roughly $1.70 in local economic activity. The USDA has calculated that food stamps generate an even bigger bang for the buck. So pinching food stamp recipients will ripple into the broader U.S. economy.
Food bank operators are bracing for more people lining up at local pantries while Congress debates additional cuts to the supplemental nutrition program that helps 1 in 7 Americans, including 22 million children. Utah alone is already losing $26 million in SNAP funding this fiscal year.
When we go shopping at Costco we always pick up some additional food to donate to the Utah Food Bank, which provides food to a statewide network of 134 emergency food pantries. Also we send them an annual cash contribution. Washington politicians are always ready with handouts for the rich and the corporations, but not for ordinary American people who work for a living. It’s going to be up to us to bail out the food banks!
h/t Jon Walker (FDL)
Rising inequality and declining economic mobility in the United States are having an effect on public opinion. The Gallup Poll finds a bare majority of Americans (52%) who believe the country has plenty of economic opportunity, down from 81% in 1998. Also, when asked about fairness many more now realize the odds are stacked against the 99 Percent and in favor of the 1 Percent.
Today, just half say “the economic system in the United States is basically fair, since all Americans have an equal opportunity to succeed,” while 44% instead see it as basically unfair, and lacking such opportunity. This is a significant change of attitudes compared with the economically heady and dot-com boom year of 1998, when nearly seven in 10 Americans saw the economic system as fair.
The problem is lack of opportunity. Charlie Mangiardi, who works with Year Up, a nonprofit that trains young adults for careers and helps them find jobs: “There’s a whole pool of talent that is motivated, loyal and hardworking.” They just can’t get through an employer’s door, he added.
Over 80% of Americans oppose cuts to our Social Security system — in fact, 71% want to expand Social Security. Yet President Obama seems committed to taking away Social Security and Medicare benefits, via the so-called “chained CPI” cuts and other proposals that Washington politicians call the “Grand Bargain.” Progressives have re-named it the Grand Betrayal.
This is not the time for austerity budgeting or proposals to hack away at our social safety net. Social Security, the only defined-benefit retirement plan most Americans have access to, pays less than minimum wage. We need economic recovery. The Republican Shutdown cost the economy $24 billion in lost productivity, which we can’t get back. The Tea-GOP has failed, and FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe said Friday that divisions on the right could cause the Republican Party to split in two.
UPDATE: Democrats have already conceded earned benefit cuts. Which is one of the reasons the Dems lost the 2010 election. RJ Eskow: What Are Democrats in the Senate Smoking? Caving into Right-Wingers to Cut Medicare Would Be Political Disaster
The viewpoint of a vast majority of Americans — including the vast majority of Republicans, and even of Tea Party members — has been marginalized inside the Beltway as that of “the left,” or even “the extreme left.” Politicians who defend these [earned benefit] programs will have to stand up to the talking heads and lobbyists who, despite all the evidence, continue to deny the truth: their anti-”entitlement” Beltway views stand well outside the mainstream of American public opinion.
That crowd, with its talk of “Baby Boomers busting the bank” and “Social Security gone bankrupt,” is the real political “fringe” in this debate. Unfortunately, this “fringe” has a lot of money behind it.
Yes, the astroturf for the oligarchs people invoke class warfare, hoping people don’t realize that means testing is a divide and conquer strategy. The reason everyone receives Social Security is because it is a program for everyone, everyone is a stakeholder. If it was just for the poor, like food stamps, the rich would try to cut it all the time.
As a counterpoint to my earlier post, Eric Idle, writing at HuffPo:
Half of America seems to be entirely enviable: movies, books, TV, arts, liberal democratic institutions, great centers of learning and research, gay marriage, social freedoms, etc., etc.
The other half does seem to be, well, nuts.
Currently you appear to be almost in a state of civil war. If one party can shut down the government, then the social compact to rule is broken. In most other democracies this simply could not happen. In the UK, for example, the government would dissolve and the prime minister would call for an immediate general election, which would be held within three weeks. (Yes, that quickly.) With your fixed terms you do not have this benefit. You must limp on to the next overlong election cycle and then waste a whole year of execrable television and billions of dollars on it. This is a very expensive and not very flexible system of democracy that no one else wants to follow.
The Mad Hater’s Tea Party throws everything overboard, not just the tea. The captain, the crew, the ships dog… Pirates could hardly do worse.
And this from Think Progress:
Ultimately, the roots of the looming shutdown stem from a different distinction between our government and that of most other modern democracies. Canada, Britain and many other democratic nations are what is known as “parliamentary democracies,” meaning that the nation’s executive is chosen by whoever controls the legislature. Stephen Harper’s power flows from the fact that his party controls a majority of the seats in Parliament. Similarly, Prime Minister David Cameron owes his job to his position as the leader of a governing coalition in the legislature. President Obama’s election, by contrast, took place entirely separate from the (admittedly, quite flawed) election that placed Republicans in control of the House. In the United States it is possible for a president to serve despite the fact that he or she is widely loathed by both houses of Congress. This is a unique problem facing what are known as “presidential democracies.”
IOW, the Madisonian system is working exactly as it should and the outcomes are unacceptable; the flaw is inherent in the system, the system itself is flawed.
Tonight, Lawrence O’Donnell observed that you know you’re losing in American politics when you see Sarah Palin standing right beside you.
Seventy-four percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the budget, the Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. This is up four points from last week’s poll and up 11 points since the start of the shutdown.
A plurality of self-identified Republicans are opposed to the Republican Shutdown and the even more appalling threat of a default on the National Debt that would plunge America and the world into another recession, or perhaps all the way to depression this time.
Anyone who had heard about the Million Vet March on the Memorials knew this march wasn’t meant to be any kind of political statement.
…You also shouldn’t be shocked that Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Mike Lee decided to turn the march in Washington DC into a photo-op for their own political gains.
…This is just more of the same behavior from Republicans. They’re blaming someone else for a problem they caused. Their party is the one that’s not allowing the House to vote on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution that would reopen the government. We could reopen the government today if John Boehner would just let the House vote, but he won’t.
So when these people show up at the White House holding symbols of racism and shouting things which are racist, while blaming President Obama for the government shutdown, they prove one glaring fact…
That they don’t know a damn thing.