Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Sunday, October 6, 2013
30 Statistics About Americans Under The Age Of 30 That Will Blow Your Mind
By Michael Synder
Progressive America Rising via EconomicCollapseBlog.com
Oct 3, 2013 - Why are young people in America so frustrated these days? You are about to find out. Most young adults started out having faith in the system. They worked hard, they got good grades, they stayed out of trouble and many of them went on to college. But when their educations where over, they discovered that the good jobs that they had been promised were not waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. Even in the midst of this so-called "economic recovery", the full-time employment rate for Americans under the age of 30 continues to fall. And incomes for that age group continue to fall as well. At the same time, young adults are dealing with record levels of student loan debt. As a result, more young Americans than ever are putting off getting married and having families, and more of them than ever are moving back in with their parents.
It can be absolutely soul crushing when you discover that the "bright future" that the system had been promising you for so many years turns out to be a lie. A lot of young people ultimately give up on the system and many of them end up just kind of drifting aimlessly through life. The following is an example from a recent Wall Street Journal article...
James Roy, 26, has spent the past six years paying off $14,000 in student loans for two years of college by skating from job to job. Now working as a supervisor for a coffee shop in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Ill., Mr. Roy describes his outlook as "kind of grim."
"It seems to me that if you went to college and took on student debt, there used to be greater assurance that you could pay it off with a good job," said the Colorado native, who majored in English before dropping out. "But now, for people living in this economy and in our age group, it's a rough deal."
Young adults as a group have been experiencing a tremendous amount of economic pain in recent years. The following are 30 statistics about Americans under the age of 30 that will blow your mind...
#1 The labor force participation rate for men in the 18 to 24 year old age bracket is at an all-time low.
#2 The ratio of what men in the 18 to 29 year old age bracket are earning compared to the general population is at an all-time low.
#3 Only about a third of all adults in their early 20s are working a full-time job.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Becoming Two Countries in 2014
By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising via TomHayden.com
Sept 25, 2013 - The logic of voter turnout data all but guarantees right-wing Republican congressional victories in 2014 and a sealing of the divide of America into two countries for the foreseeable future. White House operatives privately acknowledge that GOP gerrymandering plus low turnout make 2014 a war to keep the Senate Democratic and show gains while losing the House. There are eight battleground Senate seats where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in 2012 and incumbent Democrats are either retiring or vulnerable to defeat.
Even if Hillary Clinton manages to win in 2016, the battle for the House will favor the GOP since the current gerrymandered seats will remain intact until 2020, or even 2022. Assuming continued Democratic control of the White House and Senate in 2014, the opportunity to take back the Roberts Supreme Court may not occur until the next presidential term, as Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are both 77.
President Barack Obama was not wrong when he promised a single "red, white and blue America" in 2008. That is what a majority of registered voters want, but he under-estimated the white sea of hate that would be generated from him among Republicans. His electoral advisors concentrated their brilliance on the national electoral map more than the states where Republicans took over in 2010.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Sept 27, 2013- The United States is exceptional, President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday addressing the United Nations General Assembly, clearly in a bid to refute Russian President Vladmir Putin's criticism of American exceptionalism in a recent article published in The New York Times.
In fact, Obama's speech was exceptional as he tried to lecture the leaders and representatives from countries around the world. He said that next year an international coalition will end its mission in Afghanistan, having achieved its task of dismantling the core of al-Qaida that attacked the US on 9/11.
However, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation and a former special adviser at US Special Operations Command, has long argued that al-Qaida is far from defeated as there has been a net expansion in the number and geographic scope of al-Qaida affiliates and allies over the past decade. It would be surprising if the US president was not aware of this.
Obama also claimed that the US has limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the US, where capture is not feasible and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.
But was he admitting that he had not exercised enough caution and apologizing because he had dramatically increased drone attacks in the past years?
Obama has not got the anger at his use of drones. For example, in Pakistan, it is not just the "collateral damage" of innocent civilians that enrage people, it is also the disrespect and violation of their nation's sovereignty. Even if a bad guy is finally killed, they do not want a bomb from another country dropping from the sky and blowing up their villages.
Obama also claimed that the US is transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But for months more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo held a hunger strike, and US military officials said on Monday that a core group of 19 prisoners are still on hunger strike.
Obama said the US has begun to review the way that it gathers intelligence so that it properly balances the legitimate security concerns of its citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share. But he did not address the revelation by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US is spying on countries all over the world.
At the UN General Assembly session, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blasted the US' spying, accusing the US of violating international law. Rousseff cancelled a recent trip to the US because the US failed to apologize for eavesdropping on the Brazilian president's phone calls and spying on Brazilian oil companies and citizens. Brazil is just one of the many countries that are waiting for an explanation and apology from Washington.
Obama claimed that the evidence is overwhelming that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in his own country, but the evidence he gave was "these rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods".
Such logic is deeply flawed, as Obama with his background as a lawyer well knows, and is similar to then US secretary of state Colin Powell holding a model of a vial of anthrax during a presentation to the UN 10 years ago.
Obama was furious that he had not received support both at home and abroad for his planned military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. "It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack."
For Obama to suggest that so many people in the world cannot reason, simply because they reason differently to the exceptional reasoning of the US president, is insulting.
The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. email@example.com
(China Daily 09/27/2013 page8)
Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved
Monday, September 9, 2013
Syria and the Reality at Home in America
By Robert Reich
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost
Sept 9, 2013 - While all eyes are on Syria and America's response, the real economy in which most Americans live is sputtering.
More than four years after the recession officially ended, 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, many of them for years. Nearly 4 million have given up looking for work altogether. If they were actively looking, today's unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent instead of 7.3 percent.
The share of the population working or seeking a job is the lowest in 35 years. The unemployment rate among high-school dropouts is 11 percent; for blacks, 12.6 percent. More than one in five American children face hunger, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And the median wage keeps dropping, adjusted for inflation. Incomes for all but the top 1 percent are below where they were at the start of the economic recovery in 2009.
A decent society would put people to work -- even if this required more government spending on roads, bridges, ports, pipelines, parks and schools.
A decent society would lift the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy), and provide food stamps and housing assistance, so that no family with a full-time worker has to live in poverty.
We can afford this minimal level of decency.
Deficit hawks in both parties don't want you to know this but the federal deficit as a proportion of the total economy is shrinking fast: It's on track to be only 4 percent by the end of September, when the fiscal year ends. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts it will be only 3.4 percent in the fiscal year starting October 1.
To put this into perspective, consider that the average ratio of the deficit to the GDP over the past 30 years has been 3.3 percent. So the deficit is barely a problem at all. (We're still projected to have large deficits starting 10 years from now because of all the aging boomers needing health care.)
Yet while attention is focused on Syria, food stamps for the nation's poor are being cut. House Republicans would eliminate food stamps for more than 800,000 Americans who now receive them but still do not get enough to eat or have only a barely adequate diet.
Even if the Democrats prevent these draconian cuts, food stamp benefits will still be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
While attention is focused on Syria, funds for the nation's poorest schools are being slashed. Teachers are still being let go. Classrooms are more crowded than ever. The sequester will drain even more funds after October 1.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
PDA urging Congressional Progressive Caucus to oppose US military attack on Syria, after Barbara Lee wins on debating the war policy.
Beaver County Blue via In These Times
August 29, 2013 - Advocates of using U.S. military force against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have long made their case without success. But following a chemical weapons attack on civilians allegedly committed by Assad’s forces last week, the United States inched closer to military intervention.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack that left hundreds dead a “moral obscenity” and gave the strongest indication to date that the United States could be intervening militarily. As United Nations inspectors continue their investigations into last week’s attacks, President Obama says the United States has already “concluded” that the Assad regime is responsible.
Reports indicated that a U.S. attack on specific targets in Syria could take as place as soon as Thursday. But on Wednesday night, hours after delivering a speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama said in an interview that he had not yet come to a decision.
As the Obama administration mulls its course of action, opposition is slowly emerging in Congress, which is scheduled to be on summer recess until September 9. So far, nearly all of that opposition has focused not on the intervention itself, but on the executive branch’s lack of consultation with Congress.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Friday, 30 August 2013
Written by Rep Barbara Lee | Press Release
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was joined by 53 Members of Congress on a letter to President Obama condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and calling for full congressional debate an appropriate response.
The letter comes on the heels of rumors surrounding a military strike in Syria.
The letter reads, in part: “While we understand that as Commander in Chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.
“We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire.”
The letter further calls for U.N. inspectors to complete their assessments of the existence of the use of chemical weapons, as well as denounces the human rights violations taking place.
“This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”
A full list of signers and a pdf of the letter can be found here.
Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, as well as the Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus(CPC), where she serves as the Co-Chair of the CPC Peace and Security Task Force. She was the only Member of both chambers to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001.
Final list of Members (54):
Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, Lois Capps, Zoe Lofgren, John Lewis, Jackie Speier, Raúl Grijalva, Robin Kelly, Beto O’Rourke, Michael H. Michaud, Mark Pocan, Peter A. DeFazio, Peter Welch, Chellie Pingree, Nydia M. Velázquez, Sam Farr, Stephen F. Lynch, Lloyd Doggett, Janice Hahn, Jared Huffman, Tulsi Gabbard, Emanuel Cleaver, Rush Holt, Jim McDermott, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Suzanne Bonamici, José E. Serrano, George Miller, Donna F. Edwards, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Steve Cohen, Marcy Kaptur, Danny K. Davis, Alcee L. Hastings, James P. McGovern, Judy Chu, Marcia L. Fudge, Alan S. Lowenthal, Charles B. Rangel, Bobby L. Rush, Carolyn B. Maloney, Janice Schakowsky, Donna M. Christensen, David Loebsack, Henry A. Waxman, Diana DeGette, Yvette D. Clarke, Richard M. Nolan, Keith Ellison, Niki Tsongas, Eleanor Holmes Norton, John A. Yarmuth, Julia Brownley
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Protesters rally during "Moral Monday" demonstrations at Halifax Mall near the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., in July. More than 1,000 people have been arrested while protesting against policies being enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By Susan KlonskyI admit it. We have a great movement here in Chicago, but still, I'm jealous of Mondays in North Carolina.
Reviving the spirit and moral compass of the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, protest has become the Monday Lifestyle in NC. People put their Monday evening rallies on the calendar. “Mon. 5:30 pm: Sit in, get arrested @ State Capitol.” It’s becoming sort of normal.
For the past 4 months in Raleigh, every Monday is Moral Monday. Late in the day, as people get off work, they surround the Statehouse with rings of protesters. Mass arrests are scheduled, followed on Thursdays by well-organized press conferences by those arrested. Every Monday the protests get larger—now exceeding 15,000 in Raleigh, with big rallies throughout the state. The movement is multiracial and has spread well beyond North Carolina’s capital out to the mountainous west of the state, to small towns and tiny hamlets.
Reverend Dr. William Barber
The leader of this movement is a Disciples of Christ minister, the Reverend Dr. William Barber III. I had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Barber earlier this week. He is the latest in a bloodline of activist pastors who have fought racial segregation and its ugly siblings, poverty and violence, for generations. Rev. Barber, a giant of an orator, is the state chairman of the North Carolina NAACP. With the NAACP as its nucleus, the Moral Monday Movement is an expansive coalition embracing an impressive number of organizations in all fields, labor unions, religious congregations, professional societies, and even fraternities and sororities. And they are on a roll.
“We’ve got a strategy. We never expected this thing to take off as it has. But we had to sit down and say, ‘where are we going with this?’” Barber explains. “We started off with one rally, and now we’re at the point of having 13 mass rallies in all 13 Congressional districts across the state. We’ve even had one of the county Republican party chairs renounce his own party,” as the result of the backward legislation the GOP has rammed through the North Carolina Legislature.
The Moral Monday folks have put their heads together and done the math. They’ve cooked up a plan for retaking the Democratic majority in the North Carolina Legislature and the state’s Congressional delegation. To accomplish these objectives will require a massive voter registration effort designed to boost the percentages of African American registered voters as well as a one-percent shift of white voters away from Republican candidates.
More than 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience.
The plan involves mass participation in voter education and mobilization. Unions and professional societies will play a big part, by having their members trained to register voters (and to deal with the new and exceptionally stringent, obstructive regulations about voter identification). “If each of us does 50 registrations, we can make our goal of 45,000 new voters,” Barber explains. “That’s why we must start now. It’s totally attainable.”
I asked Rev. Barber if he feels they can keep these Monday events going indefinitely. He explained that they are building for a few major events this winter. In particular, in December when the remaining major cutbacks to Medicaid in the state kick in, and again in January, he expects an uptick in mass protest against the attacks upon public education, social and health services, including reproductive rights, and state aid to the poor and unemployed.
Last month, Barber told us, the movement spread to some of the whitest, most heavily Republican parts of the state, where the Tea Party had until recently held sway. Now that people are beginning to experience the impact of budget slashing including removal of protections for teachers and other public employees, the picture is changing. “We were invited to speak up in rural Mitchell County, way up in the mountains,” Barber said, “and we found ourselves at a church way up there, in the evening, with at least a thousand people—an all white crowd—waiting for us.”
It used to be Klu Klux country up there, and Reverend Barber admits he was somewhat apprehensive about what kind of reception he might receive. He was greeted by the assembled joining together to sing Blessed be the tie that binds/Our hearts in Christian love. “They were fired up for Moral Monday.”
What brought them out, at least in part, Barber observed, was the attacks upon teachers. “They have 17 or 18 percent unemployment up there. And the schools are some of the biggest employers in these counties, and now they are having to lay off school personnel because of the state budget cuts to education. Plus, there is no more tenure or job security at all for them. A man got up at that meeting and declared, ‘When they hurt education, they really hurt us mountain people.’”
Moral Monday has lots of religious participants. But it is not a religious movement. “For me, this is a fight to uphold our deepest Constitutional, Biblical and faith values,” says Barber. It is many things to many people. At public meetings throughout the state, people testify to their worries, anger and intention to be part of the fight in North Carolina.
The issues draw them together:
Voting rights, health care, education, jobs and poverty. The movement stands in defense of LGBT rights including marriage equality. How does Moral Monday deal with religion and religious differences? “We are tired of the Christian Right which is so wrong trying to dominate the moral high ground,” Barber explains. “We challenge them: Are you really ready for a moral debate? Are you ready to defend what you have done? Of course they don’t want to debate. It most certainly is a moral issue. Cutting people off from health care, from their jobs, taking food off their tables. They have no integrity and they hide from debate.”
The budget slashing and violations of basic civil rights are shaped by the ALEC agenda--the same ALEC which we protested less than 2 weeks ago in Chicago. The same ALEC which designed Florida’s murderous “Stand Your Ground” law. These people are extremists, Barber emphasizes. Their policies are dangerous. And people are beginning to see them for what they are.
At the core of the Moral Mondays movement is a strong principle of anti-racism. It is impressive to witness this principle beginning to penetrate a broad swath of the population, as people come together to win back the rights that have been violated and denied.
Yes, we have a great movement here in Chicago, but I’m still a little jealous.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance
By Bruce E. Levine
Progressive America Rising via Alternet.org
July 31, 2011 - Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.
Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.
How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?
1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.
Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.
2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”
Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).
Monday, August 19, 2013
Finance Capital Vs. the New Generation
Tim Foley for The Chronicle
By Jennifer M. Silva
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Brandon, a 34-year-old black man from Richmond, Va., labels himself "a cautionary tale." Growing up in the shadow of a university where both his parents worked in maintenance, he was told from an early age that education was the path to the "land of milk and honey." An eager and hard-working student, Brandon earned a spot at a private university in the Southeast—finally, his childhood dream of building spaceships seemed to be coming true. He shrugged off his nervousness about borrowing tens of thousands of dollars in loans, joking: "Hey, if I owe you five dollars, that's my problem, but if I owe you $50,000, that's your problem."
But his light-hearted banter belies the long train of obstacles and uncertainties that have followed him at every turn. Unable to pass calculus or physics, Brandon switched his major from engineering to criminal justice. He applied to several police departments upon graduation, but he didn't land a job.
With "two dreams deferred," Brandon took a job at a women's-clothing chain, hoping it would be temporary. Eleven years later, he's still there, unloading, steaming, pressing, and pricing garments on the night shift. When his loans came out of deferment, he couldn't afford the monthly payments and decided to get a master's degree in psychology—partly to increase his chances of getting a good job, and partly, he admitted, to put his loans back in deferment. He finally earned a master's degree, paid for with more loans from "that mean lady, Sallie Mae."
So far, Brandon has not found a job that will pay him enough to cover his monthly loan and living expenses, and since the clothing company recently cut overtime and bonuses, he is worried. He keeps the loans in deferment by continually consolidating—a strategy that he said cost him $5,000 a year in interest. Taking stock of his life, Brandon is angry: "I feel like I was sold fake goods. I did everything I was told to do, and I stayed out of trouble and went to college. Where is the land of milk and honey? I feel like they lied. I thought I would have choices. That sheet of paper cost so much and does me no good. Sure, schools can't guarantee success, but come on—they could do better to help kids out."
Brandon, like many blue-collar millennials, is stuck on a journey to adulthood with no end in sight. His own parents, who had just high-school degrees, were married, steadily employed at the college, and homeowners well before they reached his age. But working-class kids today are growing up in a world where taken-for-granted pathways to adulthood are quickly eroding. Since the 1970s, stable blue-collar jobs have rapidly disappeared, taking family wages, pensions, and employer-subsidized health insurance along with them. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who followed a well-worn path from school to the assembly line—and from courtship to marriage to childbearing—men and women today live at home longer, spend more time in school, change jobs more frequently, and start families later.
Working-class men and women have come to see their relationship with college as a broken social contract.
The answer to the time-honored question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"—or, more aptly, "What can you be when you grow up?"—is in flux. And as working-class families have grown more fragile, and communities, churches, and neighborhoods less close, men and women find themselves on their own when it comes to piecing together an adult life amid the isolation, uncertainty, and insecurity of 21st-century American life.
I spent two years interviewing 100 working-class 20- and 30-somethings in Lowell, Mass., and Richmond. I spoke with African-Americans and whites, men and women, documenting the myriad obstacles that stand in their way. Caught in a merciless job market and lacking the social support, skills, and knowledge necessary for success, these young adults are relinquishing the hope for a better future that is at the core of the American Dream.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.
– John le Carré
By Henry A. Giroux
Progressive America Rising via Counterpunch
August 13, 2013 - The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem. The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible —stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment.
Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism.
Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged. Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games. Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.
The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation’s wealth, shape the reach of state resources, control of the global flows of goods and humans, and invest in institutions that educate an engaged and socially responsible citizens has become largely invisible. And yet these are precisely these issues that offer up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. The stories told by corporate liars and crooks do serious harm to the body politic, and the damage they cause together with the idiocy they reinforce are becoming more apparent as America descends into authoritarianism, accompanied by the pervasive fear and paranoia that sustains it.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Defend Social Security! Only a Few Days To Go Before The New Jersey Primary
This week Blue America and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) sent a joint letter to all our members asking them to support Rush Holt for the open New Jersey Senate seat.
The August 13 primary has 4 Democrats vying for the nomination-- Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, both progressive congressmen, General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a kind of boss-affiliated garden variety Democrat, and the Wall Street candidate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The special election itself will be held October 16. Digby penned the letter:
Last April, just three months before he passed away, the ailing liberal lion Senator Frank Lautenberg issues a strong statement in opposition to proposed cuts to Social Security. He said: "We can't afford to further balance our books on the backs of middle-class families and seniors. The proposed cuts to Social Security benefits are a major problem that would hurt countless Americans.”
Sadly, the man considered to be the front runner to succeed him, Newark mayor and media darling Cory Booker, isn't willing to hold that line. He said just this week that he'd consider raising the retirement age for younger people, a patented Republican dodge and a sure sign that he cannot be trusted to protect the Democratic Party's greatest achievement.
But there is someone in the race who will protect Social Security and his name is Congressman Rush Holt.
Holt not only opposes all cuts to our most important social insurance program, he is a co-sponsor of the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which would expand Social Security benefits not cut them. Where Mayor Booker has said that he has "not formed an opinion" on a carbon tax, something which 41 Democratic Senators have already voted for, Rush Holt is card carrying scientist who strongly supports it.
Where Mayor Booker thinks calling for repeal of the Patriot Act is "irresponsible", Rush Holt sponsored a bill in the House just this week to do just that. He said: "The executive branch’s groundless mass surveillance of Americans has turned our conception of liberty on its head. My legislation would restore the proper constitutional balance and ensure our people are treated as citizens first, not suspects.”
Where Mayor Booker considers Wall Street a strong friend and ally, Rush Holt... doesn't.
The last thing we need in the US Senate is another Wall Street friendly centrist with a propensity for government secrecy and a willingness to cut our most important social insurance programs. There are plenty of those already.
In the upcoming primary, New Jersey can choose an establishment celebrity who plays a progressive on TV or it can choose a real progressive. We strongly believe the choice for progressives in this race is obvious and urge you support Congressman Rush Holt for US Senate. Please donate what you can and spread the word among your friends and acquaintances in New Jersey.
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2013/08/less-than-two-weeks-to-go-before-new.html#sthash.ZBzLKQ0t.dpuf
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Members of Dream Defenders sit-in at Rick Scott’s office. (AP Photo)
From Student Nation at The Nation, July 23, 2013
E-mail questions, tips or proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org. For earlier dispatches, check out posts from January 18, February 1, February 15, March 1, March 15, April 2, April 15, April 26, May 10, May 24, June 7, June 21 and July 9.
1. Dream Defenders Occupy the Florida Capitol
On Saturday, July 13, George Zimmerman was found not guilty. This was the moment Florida showed the world that it does not care about its youth, especially young black and brown people. If neighborhood watch vigilantes are given the license to kill, what instructions are given to black and brown youth such as me? How do I stand my ground when I feel threatened? Am I not allowed to defend myself? Dream Defenders have been joined by community members and students from Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Miami, FAMU, FSU, UF, FAU and UCF, as well as the Advancement Project, Power U and USSA. We are occupying the state capitol until Governor Rick Scott meets our demand to convene a special session of the legislature. During this session, we want a new Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act to be passed. It will focus on the Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and the war on youth. This is deeper than just the Zimmerman murder case. This is a movement to unravel the system that allowed Trayvon to be criminalized, profiled and killed in the first place. We will stay in the capitol until the governor meets our demands. We have gotten support from across the country and around the world. This is what the student movement looks like.
2. Black Youth Strategize in Chicago
Black Youth Project 100 is a group of 100 young black activists from across the country convened by the Black Youth Project to mobilize communities of color beyond electoral politics. As we convened for our first Beyond November Movement gathering, we collectively mourned over the Zimmerman trial verdict and produced this video response to affirm the humanity of black life. We are committed to connecting the tragic loss of Travyon Martin and this recent miscarriage of justice in Florida to countless other examples of American systemic racism and injustice. Moving forward, we will be mobilizing a black youth contingency to attend the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington and offering civic engagement training to young people. We are organizing local chapters to build political power nationwide while simultaneously supporting the efforts of other youth-led organizations such as Dream Defenders. As stated in our video, we see the hopelessness of a generation that has been broken trying to find its place in this world, and we understand that we need to turn anger into action and pain into power.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Daniel Ellsberg is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He was charged in 1971 under the Espionage Act as well as for theft and conspiracy for copying the Pentagon Papers. The trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court.
By Daniel Ellsberg
Progressive America Rising via Washington Post
Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.
After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”
Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.
There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).
I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.
He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)
Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.
In my case, my authorized access in the Pentagon and the Rand Corp. to top-secret documents — which became known as the Pentagon Papers after I disclosed them — taught me that Congress and the American people had been lied to by successive presidentsand dragged into a hopelessly stalemated war that was illegitimate from the start.
Snowden’s dismay came through access to even more highly classified documents — some of which he has now selected to make public — originating in the National Security Agency (NSA). He found that he was working for a surveillance organization whose all-consuming intent, he told the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, was “on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”
It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist “German Democratic Republic,” whose goal was “to know everything.” But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasi’s heyday.
As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.
But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.
I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.
What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.
Read more on this topic: Eugene Robinson: We can handle the truth on NSA spying The Post’s View: Plug these leaks Marc A. Thiessen: The danger of what Edward Snowden has not revealed David Ignatius: Fallout from Snowden’s sharing of NSA secrets
© The Washington Post Company
Sunday, June 30, 2013
By Ted Glick
Progressive America Rising via Grist.org
“Those of us in positions of responsibility will need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of our children.” Barack Obama, June 29 national radio address
I’ll admit it—I was moved several times as I watched and listened to President Barack Obama’s major speech on the climate crisis on June 25th. As much as I have been angered so many times over the last 4 ½ years since he came into office by the weakness of many of his actions and his pretty-close-to public silence on climate, it is no small thing that the U.S. President, an essential actor if we’re to have any chance of avoiding worldwide, catastrophic climate change, has clearly turned a corner and come out rhetorically strong.
To have Obama speaking for 50 minutes on the subject—to hear him put forward a solid analysis of why this is such a critical issue—to hear him go aggressively after the climate deniers (“we don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society”)—and to hear him say, unexpectedly, about the Keystone XL pipeline that it should be built “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” which of course it does, big time—to hear all of this was a very big deal.
What about his specific plans? A number of them are important, without a doubt: directing EPA to come up with a regulatory regime to reduce CO2 from all, both new and existing, power plants; active government support for the spread of renewable energy; a strengthening of energy efficiency; support to communities in their efforts to adapt to a changing climate; advocating, again, a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies; an end, or close to it, of government funding of overseas coal plants; and more.
But here’s the thing, the very big “but” about Obama’s speech: it was the speech of an incrementalist on climate. His plans are not even close to what is needed. A goal of a 17% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 by 2020 is weak, very problematic. And the most problematic of all: in his speech Obama projected as the #1 thing we should be doing to reduce emissions the “strengthen[ing] of our position as the top natural gas producer” in the world. He did this even though in his plan of action he identifies the reduction of methane leakage into the atmosphere as one of his objectives. About 90% of natural gas is methane, and there’s a huge problem of leakage all throughout the lifecycle of gas, especially fracked gas. Talk about a contradiction!
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By Tom Hayden
With the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approaching, is the time at hand for mass protest and civil disobedience against the Republican/Tea Party's war against voting rights and immigrant rights?
That's among the immediate questions as the Roberts Court has dropped its hammer on the 1965 Voting Rights Act while a dubious "immigration reform" bill passed the Senate on its likely way to an even worse fate in the Tea Party-controlled House. Together with the Court's Citizens United decisions protecting secret money in campaigns, Republicans are doing everything possible to cement a grip on power as a numerical white minority bloc. Successful Republican efforts to gerrymander House seats to gain ground in the Electoral College, combined with the rising tide of anti-abortion restrictions in southern states, reinforce the drift towards a new civil war - one fought by political means with recurring episodes of mass violence. The Court's narrowing of affirmative action also guarantees a widening of the racial divide in education and economic opportunity.
The Court's composition reveals its underlying partisan character, with the decisive tilt occurring after the 2000 election between Al Gore, Ralph Nader and George Bush, in which the Court usurped the verdict of a majority of voters, thus becoming a de facto branch of the Republican apparatus. The Republican bloc now includes: Roberts [Bush, 2005], Alito [Bush, 2006], Scalia [Reagan, 1986], Kennedy [Reagan, 1988], and Thomas [Bush, sr., 1991]. The Democratic bloc includes Ginsberg [Clinton, 1993], Stephen Breyer [Clinton, 1994], Sonia Sotomayer [Obama, 2009], and Elena Kagan [Obama, 2010]. The Republican tilt is likely to continue indefinitely, with Obama only able to appointment replacements to retiring liberals. The tilt will become a lock if a Republican president is elected in 2016.
Lost in both the partisan spin and rhetorical legalisms is that the scale of political power is being tipped far to the right in spite of progressive majorities which elected and re-elected President Obama.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Big Lie: America Doesn't Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World...We're Ranked 27th!
By Les Leopold
Progressive America Rising via Alternet.org
June 18, 2013 - America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet's riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!
This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that's what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.
Unfortunately, it's a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.
Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we're number 27.
The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can't get more middle than that.
Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, "God bless the child that's got his own."
Well, it's a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).
Here's a starter list:
We don't have real universal healthcare. We pay more and still have poorer health outcomes than all other industrialized countries. Should a serious illness strike, we also can become impoverished.
Weak labor laws undermine unions and give large corporations more power to keep wages and benefits down. Unions now represent less than 7 percent of all private sector workers, the lowest ever recorded.
Our minimum wage is pathetic, especially in comparison to other developed nations . (We're # 13.) Nobody can live decently on $7.25 an hour. Our poverty-level minimum wage puts downward pressure on the wages of all working people. And while we secure important victories for a few unpaid sick days, most other developed nations provide a month of guaranteed paid vacations as well as many paid sick days.
Wall Street is out of control. Once deregulation started 30 years ago, money has gushed to the top as Wall Street was free to find more and more unethical ways to fleece us.
Higher education puts our kids into debt. In most other countries higher education is practically tuition-free. Indebted students are not likely to accumulate wealth anytime soon.
It's hard to improve your station in life if you're in prison, often due to drug-related charges that don't even exist in other developed nations. In fact, we have the largest prison population in the entire world, and we have the highest percentage of minorities imprisoned. “In major cities across the country, 80% of young African Americans now have criminal records” (from Michelle Alexander's 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness).
Our tax structures favor the rich and their corporations that no longer pay their fair share. They move money to foreign tax havens, they create and use tax loopholes, and they fight to make sure the source of most of their wealth—capital gains—is taxed at low rates. Meanwhile the rest of us are pressed to make up the difference or suffer deteriorating public services.
The wealthy dominate politics. Nowhere else in the developed world are the rich and their corporations able to buy elections with such impunity.
Big Money dominates the media. The real story about how we're getting ripped off is hidden in a blizzard of BS that comes from all the major media outlets...brought to you by....
America encourages globalization of production so that workers here are in constant competition with the lower-wage workers all over the world as well as with highly automated techonologies.
Is there one cause of the middle-class collapse that rises above all others?
Yes. The International Labor organization produced a remarkable study (Global Wage Report 2012-13)  that sorts out the causes of why wages have remained stagnant while elite incomes have soared. The report compares key causal explanations like declining bargaining power of unions, porous social safety nets, globalization, new technologies and financialization.
Guess which one had the biggest impact on the growing split between the 1 percent and the 99 percent?
What is that? Economist Gerald Epstein offers us a working definition :
"Financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies."
This includes such trends as:
The corporate change during the 1980s to make shareholder value the ultimate goal.
The deregulation of Wall Street that allowed for the creation of a vast array of new financial instruments for gambling.
Allowing private equity firm to buy companies, load them up with debt, extract enormous returns, and then kiss them goodbye.
The growth of hedge funds that suck productive wealth out of the economy.
The myriad of barely regulated world financial markets that finance the globalization of production, combined with so-called "free trade" agreements.
The increased share of all corporate profits that go to the financial sector.
The ever increasing size of too-big-to-fail banks.
The fact that many of our best students rush to Wall Street instead of careers in science, medicine or education.
In short, financialization is when making money from money becomes more important that providing real goods and services. Here's a chart that says it all. Once we unleashed Wall Street, their salaries shot up, while everyone else's stood still.
Do we still know how to fight!
The carefully researched ILO study provides further proof that Occupy Wall Street was right on the money. OWS succeeded (temporarily), in large part, because it tapped into the deep reservoir of anger toward Wall Street felt by people all over the world. We all know the financiers are screwing us.
Then why didn't OWS turn into a sustained, mass movement to take on Wall Street?
One reason it didn't grow was that the rest of us stood back in deference to the original protestors instead of making the movement our own. As a result, we didn't build a larger movement with the structures needed to take on our financial oligarchs. And until we figure out how to do just that, our nation's wealth will continue to be siphoned away.
Our hope, I believe, lies in the young people who are engaged each day in fighting for the basic human rights for all manner of working people—temp workers, immigrants, unionized, non-union, gays, lesbians, transgender—as well as those who are fighting to save the planet from environmental destruction. It's all connected.
At some point these deeply committed activists also will understand that financialization both here and abroad stands in the way of justice and puts our planet at risk. When they see the beast clearly, I am confident they will figure out how to slay it.
The sooner, the better.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Smoke rises over a battle-scarred Saif Al Dawla district in Aleppo, Syria, on October 2, 2012. (Photo: Manu Brabo)
By Tom Hayden
June 14, 2013 - We are edging closer to the neo-conservative dream of total conflagration in the Muslim Middle East. Despite only 11 percent public support for US military intervention in Syria, a reluctant President Barack Obama is being pushed into escalation.
The given reason is that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons “on a small scale multiple times in the past year,” according to the White House. Intelligence officials say 100-130 people died from the attacks. Even if the chemical testing proves accurate, that can only be a pretext in a conflict, which has claimed at least 93,000 lives and seen barbarism on both sides.
The real reason appears to be that the balance of forces has changed somewhat in Assad’s favor since the recent victory at Qusayr by his troops and their Hezbollah allies. Fearing the collapse of rebel forces, the US is stepping onto the treadmill of escalation. Whatever steps are taken now by the US and NATO, of course, if they choose, can be countered by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.
Obama’s reluctance is reflected in a statement by his adviser Ben Rhodes, responding to hawks like Senator John McCain:
“People need to understand that not only are there huge costs associated with a no-fly zone, not only would it be difficult to implement, but the notion that you can solve the very deeply rooted challenges on the ground from the air are not immediately apparent.”
Rarely has a call to escalation been so muted.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Chokwe Lumumba is the New Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi
By Bob Wing
Progressive America Rising
June 5, 2013 - Chokwe Lumumba--a founder and leader of the Republic of New Afrika, the New Afrikan People’s Organization and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, defense attorney for Tupac Shakur and others, and a first term city councilman--is the new Mayor of Jackson, Miss.
His June 4 victory is a stirring tribute to the courageous Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers who fifty years ago on June 12, 1963 was gunned down at his Jackson home.
In a stunning turn of events Chokwe defeated Jackson’s three-term incumbent and first African American mayor Harvey Johnson, the white Republican-financed young Black businessman Jonathan Lee, and others to win leadership of the city with the second highest percentage of Black people in the United States.
I was privileged to briefly participate in the victory of one of the most radical mayors in U.S. history, right in the heart of Dixie, and to glimpse a new Black-led progressive coalition that intends to fight for the state.
Nina Simone famously cussed Mississippi white supremacy in her 1964 civil rights anthem “Mississippi Goddam.” The election of Chokwe Lumumba is now an occasion to say “Jackson Hell Yes!”
‘Impressed with the People’
Jackson has a partisan mayoral electoral system that allows all voters regardless of party affiliation to cast ballots in any party’s primary election. With their deep pockets and high turnout bloc voting, this so-called “crossover primary” often enables Mississippi’s ultra-conservative white voters and businessmen to influence the candidates of both parties.
Not this time. In a reversal the near unanimous financial and political support that whites gave Jonathan Lee backfired.
By depriving incumbent Johnson of their support, whites inadvertently helped Lumumba upset Johnson in the primary. And in the Lee/Lumumba runoff the full throated white backing of Lee helped most Black voters come crystal clear who he really represented in stark contrast to the powerful progressive grassroots candidacy of Chokwe Lumumba.
Lee flaunted his deep pockets by filling the airwaves with dire warnings of Lumumba’s “militancy,” “divisiveness” and “anti-Christianity,” but a large Black majority went for Lumumba in huge percentages.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Photo: May Day in Copenhagen
By Sen. Bernie Sanders
Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post
May 26, 2013 - Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.
Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.
While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries
Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?
In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a "solidarity system" that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Triumph of Progressivism: Graduation 2013 and 1968
By Robert Reich,
Robert Reich's Blog | Truthout Op-Ed
May 19, 2013 - Many of you soon-to-be college graduates are determined to make the world a better place. Some of you are choosing careers in public service or joining nonprofits or volunteering in your communities.
But many of you are cynical about politics. You see the system as inherently corrupt. You doubt real progress is possible.
“What chance do we have against the Koch brothers and the other billionaires?” you’ve asked me. “How can we fight against Monsanto, Boeing, JP Morgan, and Bank of America? They buy elections. They run America.”
Let me remind you: Cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You have no chance if you assume you have no chance.
“But it was different when you graduated,” you say. “The sixties were a time of social progress.”
You don’t know your history.
When I graduated in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. Over half a million American troops were already there. I didn’t know if I’d be drafted. A member of my class who spoke at commencement said he was heading to Canada and urged us to join him.
Two months before, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. America’s cities were burning. Bobby Kennedy had just been gunned down.
George (“segregation forever”) Wallace was on his way to garnering 10 million votes and carrying five southern states. Richard Nixon was well on his way to becoming president.
America was still mired in bigotry.
I remember a classmate who was dating a black girl being spit on in a movie theater. The Supreme Court had only the year before struck down state laws against interracial marriage.
My entire graduating class of almost 800 contained only six young black men and four Hispanics.
I remember the girlfriend of another classmate almost dying from a back-alley abortion, because safe abortions were almost impossible to get.
I remember a bright young woman law school graduate in tears because no law firm would hire her because she was a woman.
I remember one of my classmates telling me in anguish that he was a homosexual, fearing he’d be discovered and his career ruined.
The environmental movement had yet not been born. Two-thirds of America’s waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing because of industrial waste and sewage.
I remember rivers so polluted they caught fire. When the Cuyahoga River went up in flames Time Magazine described it as the river that “oozes rather than flows,” in which a person “does not drown but decays.”
In those days, universal health insurance was a pipe dream.
It all seemed pretty hopeless. I assumed America was going to hell.
And yet, reforms did occur. America changed. The changes didn’t come easily. Every positive step was met with determined resistance. But we became better and stronger because we were determined to change.
When I graduated college I would not have believed that in my lifetime women would gain rights over their own bodies, including the legal right to have an abortion. Or women would become chief executives of major corporations, secretaries of state, contenders for the presidency. Or they’d outnumber men in college.
I would not have imagined that eleven states would allow gays and lesbians to marry, and a majority of Americans would support equal marriage rights.
Or that the nation would have a large and growing black middle class.
It would have seemed beyond possibility that a black man, the child of an interracial couple, would become President of the United States.
I would not have predicted that the rate of college enrollment among Hispanics would exceed that of whites.
Or that more than 80 percent of Americans would have health insurance, most of it through government.
I wouldn’t have foreseen that the Cuyahoga River – the one that used to catch fire regularly – would come to support 44 species of fish. And that over half our rivers and 70 percent of bays and estuaries would become safe for swimming and fishing.
Or that some 200,000 premature deaths and 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis would have been prevented because the air is cleaner.
Or that the portion of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood would have dropped from 88 percent to just over 4 percent.
I would not have believed our nation capable of so much positive change.
Yet we achieved it. And we have just begun. Widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, global warming, the corruption of our democracy by big money – all of these, and more, must be addressed. To make progress on these — and to prevent ourselves from slipping backwards — will require no less steadfastness, intelligence, and patience than was necessitated before.
The genius of America lies in its resilience and pragmatism. We believe in social progress because we were born into it. It is our national creed.
Which is to say, I understand your cynicism. It looks pretty hopeless.
But, believe me, it isn’t.
Not if you pitch in.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock" and “The Work of Nations." His latest, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.