Category Archives: Jobs

Welcome to the Poor House, Virginia

Virginia eyes 3

Much of the sequester talk in the main media outlets is abstract, focusing on the political story line, the tactical advantage one side might potentially gain over the other. House Speaker Boehner even said he ‘wasn’t sure’ what the overall impact on the economy might be—which is remarkable given the estimates that are out there.

The effect on the economy will be bad, there’s no doubt. Nearly all economists agree. Business leaders also agree, austerity cuts when our economy is still on life support is the worst kind of policy, guaranteed to make our recovery long and painful. But the effects, both long-term and short-term, on individuals across this nation are going to be deeply harmful. Back in July, 2012 the Senate Appropriations Committee compiled an estimate of the sequester cuts, broken out by states, and then by individual departments and programs within those states.

Below are some of the greatest hits for Virginia. Top of the list? One of the most successful educational programs in this country: Headstart. Ten million dollars is being cut from the Headstart budget in Virginia—essentially a third of its budget. That’s 301 jobs down the toilet and 1,444 children who will not be able to access the program.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Headstart provides comprehensive early childhood services for low-income children and families. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, “High quality early childhood education has been proven to have lasting effects for children and families and save taxpayer dollars in the long run by reducing costs for welfare, special education, and criminal justice.”

Aside from the obvious economic advantage in training early, there’s an obvious societal benefit in doing so. Who exactly benefits by cutting this program?

Unfortunately, the list of cuts doesn’t stop there. It’s like an acid addled Grover Norquist with a butcher cleaver was set loose on the state. In the health and human services area, the toll is going to be horrific:
Child Care and Development Block Grant, $3,388,746 cut: 1,090 fewer children receive child care subsidies

Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, $948,491 cut: 32, 273 fewer women, children, and families served

AIDS Drug Assistance Program, $1,753,360 cut: 293 fewer patients receive life saving drugs

HIV Prevention and Testing, $525,132 cut: 13, 128 fewer people tested for HIV

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening, $77,821 cut: 309 fewer women screened for cancer

Childhood Immunization Grants, $375,882 cut: 5,502 fewer children receive MMR, Tdap, flu and Hepatitis B vaccinations

People, lots of people will suffer and die because of these cuts. Inevitably they will be our elderly, our poor and our least powerful citizens.

An energy assistance program is sliced by over 5 millions dollars, because, God knows, we can’t raise taxes on millionaires just to make sure someone doesn’t freeze to death this winter now, can we?

Oh, yes, we’ll cut food programs for old people as well. Up to $1,171,915 is to be cut from a program that delivers meals to needy seniors. Thousands no longer served.

Over 20 million is cut from our educational block grant funds, effectively gutting the program. But after all, this makes sense, because if you are going to impoverish an entire nation for the benefit of a handful of wealthy plutocrats and preening mouthpieces that purport to represent the people, you want to make sure those same people aren’t able to read or communicate this effectively. In the same way you would make sure to reduce any funds that would be provided for work-study or learning centers, etc… All of which this sequester effectively accomplishes.

The numbers are astounding and once you see them you realize how badly this little self-inflicted political kabuki is going to play out. Many people will be hurt in Virginia and all across the nation. But keep in mind, the purported rationale for this is so we can balance the budget without having to raise taxes on millionaires. This is all so we can continue to maintain subsidies for corporations (8 billion and counting for the fossil fuel industries, alone) and, for the insane purists like Grover Norquist and the libertarians and their tea party acolytes, so that we can drown ‘big government’ in a bathtub. Here’s the thing, you don’t drown ‘big government’: that’s an infantile abstraction.

You drown people.

Rather than disturb the rich enclaves of the new plutocracy, we’ll cut grants for workers who have lost jobs to the tune of $1,281,545. We’ll cut veterans retraining benefits by over $300,000. Why? To ensure that folks who fought and died to preserve our ostensible freedoms will not unduly burden our wealthier citizens with their own petty struggles to survive. Welcome to Dickens’ London. With our apparent nativist distaste for immigrants, we won’t have to greet the tired, the poor, the huddled masses on their way to Ellis Island, anymore. We’ll just grow them here, on our own.

Below is the Senate Appropriations Committee study:,69,720

Just like Rape

If we could get a breed of gals that didn’t care, now, for their young uns…would be ’bout the greatest mod’rn improvement I knows on … ~Uncle Tom’s Cabin


The Nation’s Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding, by JoAnn Wypijewski, takes a step back to look at the big picture of “choice” in the U.S and how it applies to the conservative war on women.

Wypijewski speaks of her sister’s upcoming book, and her new-found reasoning that includes the propagation of slaves as an important consideration in the legislation we’re facing, and the equal rights of women in general. She finds there “is another logic, and it calls us to complete the unfinished business of emancipation.”

I like the article, but find it falls short by not including some of the other proposed legislation that adds reason to the madness. Those would include the push to end labor unions, repeal our child labor laws, and Virginia’s new law, for example, that allows discrimination against adoption on the basis of any moral reason a contractor puts forth to keep children’s rights under state control.

If all the outsourced jobs and industry return to American soil only after we’ve achieved a “competitive” edge – and they will – what does that mean? It means cheap labor, and lots of it. It means that the organization of workers will have been rendered futile. It means our corporations can compete with China’s standards of employment. It means child labor, something we put behind us long ago.

The concerted stages of deregulation for corporate profit over the people’s safety and workers’ rights in our country are all frightening to me. I think a large voting bloc is being used to promote corporate interests.

Abortion isn’t the issue we’re dealing with in the war on women. I think it’s about control … just like rape.


Dying for Work

Worker safety comes before corporate profit only when politicians and business alike understand the advantage to being “on the side of the angels“.

Once learned and understood, we’re supposed to have safe working conditions for good reason. This morning, in Dying for Work, Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers, brings back to the surface something we know, or should know, in the light of new-found accountability under corporate personhood.

If corporations are people, as Mitt Romney and the Republican majority on the Supreme Court claim, then their privileges as humans come with the responsibility to act humanely. Corporate-people must fulfill their obligations to workers and communities. Profit can’t be their sole raison d’etre. That’s not how it is with flesh-and-blood people. If it were, then society would condone profit-motivated murder, like killing a parent for insurance money. Now that they’re people, corporations have an even greater duty to prevent deaths on the job. And if they don’t, they must be held accountable in criminal court the same way a money-grubbing son would be if he murdered his parents for the life insurance

The legacy of those who died on March 25, 1911 should be honored, but unless enforcement effectively deters profit-driven corporate offenders, it’s meaningless.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – Impact

Ground Zero – Benton Harbor

We have failed sometimes, taken wrong paths, paused for renewal, filled our bellies and licked our wounds; but we have never slipped back – never. ~ John Steinbeck, America and Americans

What do you think Steinbeck would have to say about Benton Harbor, Michigan? I think he would say democracy is in a tailspin looking at ground zero. Grab the joy stick and pull!

After 9/11, we, as a nation, raised up patriotically and militarily and challenged the entire world against any act that would imperil the American people or the assurances of our democracy.

So, what happened to that?

The people of Benton Harbor have to be wondering where all those patriotic people are today, and the rest of the world must be wondering too. What could ever make democracy expendable in America?

The answer is poverty. Not just any poverty, but the sort that is planned in advance. The takeover of Benton Harbor and the concept of “financial martial law” was implemented by Michigan lawmakers in cooperation with corporate leaders while other local stakeholders organized a public land grab.

Political commentator, Rachel Maddow, a recent recipient of the The John Steinbeck Award, has championed this cause, but the national public outrage it deserves has yet to be seen. Consider what she has to say in this video:

The one thing we seem to hold most dear, that which ensures our freedom, is being considered expendable in Benton Harbor, and the same neoliberal pattern being used to privatize the public good across our nation is clearly observable in the process.

First, break it –

Sucked Down the Whirlpool
Whirlpool, which has its global headquarters in Benton Harbor, has long controlled the city. In 1986, at the behest of business leaders, Benton Harbor was designated as an “Enterprise Zone” to give tax exemptions to the private sector. Whirlpool quickly ate up the exemptions.”

“By 2010, nearly 99 per cent of Benton Harbor residents were receiving food stamps, while Whirlpool reportedly banked more than $18 billion in global annual sales.”

Benton Harbor’s population is 92% African-American and deeply impoverished by the de-industrialization of the city and surrounding area. Whirlpool’s plant shutdown is the most recent, crushing blow as the corporation continues to expand significantly in low-wage plants in Mexico, despite taking $19 million in federal recovery funds. Benton Harbor is plagued by the lowest per capita income in Michigan ($8,965), with 42.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line, including a majority of kids under age 18.”

Get paid to rebuild it in your image –

To skeptics of the redevelopment of Benton Harbor, Whirlpool looks less like a good corporate citizen than another company manipulating the system, leveraging its power to maximize its tax breaks and taking advantage of the town’s access to federal and state grant money. (It’s worth noting that Whirlpool hasn’t paid any federal corporate income taxes in the United States for the last three years (…)
The juxtaposition of Benton Harbor’s impoverished population and its two rising monuments to wealth — all wedged into a little more than four square miles — make it almost a caricature of economic disparity in America.
“I felt almost as if I were at a resort in a third-world Caribbean country: beyond the boundaries of Harbor Shores is the poorest city in all of Michigan. (…)

The contrast is deliberate, part of a strategy of social engineering that’s central to the plan to save Benton Harbor.” (Mahler, NYT)

Then, funnel the money to the top –

Whirlpool’s central role in the town and redevelopment plans has led many Benton Harbor residents to feel that the corporation views them as distinctly disposable and mainly a barrier to their plans.

“It’s being converted into a resort town for wealthy weekenders and Whirlpool employees that, when all is said and done, its struggling black population will either be driven out by the development or reduced to low-wage jobs cleaning hotel rooms, carrying golf bags or cutting grass.”(Mahler, NYT)

If elections and representation are now just a passé sort of thing, tolerated in some places but not in others – fine. We’re set. But if we still value the democratic process that we raised up and swore to protect, the people in Benton Harbor need help. They’ve been stripped of every semblance of democracy and left with no voice of their own.

I think it’s safe to assume that if corporations manipulating our government can successfully take over one little American town by getting democracy out of their way, they will expand that effort and try to “save” the rest of our country in due time.

This is a non-partisan fundamental issue. When powerful people and elected officials of any political persuasion decide to slap our hands and take the democratic process away from us, we have to find the courage to stand up to corrupting power and protect democracy with the utmost vigor.

Harbor Shores Golf Course, Benton Harbor, Michigan (photo, Mark Peterson)


What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?

I was gonna write this article, but Glenn kinda beat me to it.

Cheers, SP

“I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks.”

via What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests? – Wall Street –

Robert Reich, 6 Big Lies, and Cynicism

Noted author and former U.S. Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, speaking at the Summit For A Fair Economy in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 10, 2011. “The greatest enemy we have is mass cynicism.”

The big lies:
1) Tax cuts to the rich and corporations trickle down to the rest of us.
2) If you shrink government you create jobs.
3) High taxes on the rich hurts the economy.
4) Debt is to be avoided and it is mostly caused by Medicare.
5) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.
6) We need to tax the poor.

The worst thing is, because these facts from the right-wing are repeated over and over, the media repeats them without challenging them and people accept them as truth. This is intentional! The greatest enemy we have is mass cynicism. When people really get to the point where they think nothing can be done, the other side wins. That’s what they want, by the way. That’s what they want. They want government, because it is starved for money, because it is going to be underfunded – all the regulatory agencies – they want government at all levels to function so badly that people say, “Well government can’t work. I told you.” And they also want politics to be so bad and so paralyzed that most Americans say, “Nothing can be done. I’m going to give up on our democracy.”

Cynicism, now and then ~ an interesting cycle

“Modern cynicism has been defined as an attitude of distrust toward ethical and social values and a rejection of the need to be socially involved. It is often regarded as a product of mass society, but one where political engagement has no option but to be cynical. Unlike mere depression, cynicism can be said to be more active; in his bestselling Critique of Cynical Reason, Peter Sloterdijk defined modern cynics as “borderline melancholics, who can keep their symptoms of depression under control and yet retain the ability to work, whatever might happen … indeed, this is the essential point in modern cynicism: the ability of its bearers to work – in spite of anything that might happen.”

Late 5th century BCE: [Cynicism] meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions.
The ancient Cynics rejected conventional social values, and would criticise the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing suffering.

The name Cynic derives from the Greek word κυνικός, “dog-like” … the word dog was also thrown at the first Cynics as an insult for their shameless rejection of conventional manners, and their decision to live on the streets.

Diogenes of Sinope – depicted by Jean-Léon Gérôme


The Deficit Is a Cruel Mistress

On September 19, President Obama will release guidelines for paying for his jobs plan so that all costs are offset. 

From the American Prospect’s Balance Sheet.

Today, President Obama will send his new jobs plan to Congress — a key step in remedying relations between the president and the left-wing of his base. But we’re still waiting for one more proposal from the president, and this one could alienate liberal Democrats all over again. A week from today, Obama has promised a plan on how to pay for his $447 billion jobs proposal.  

If addressing jobs and unemployment are Obama’s best way to shore up his base, then addressing the deficit is Obama’s way to reach out to independents and curb criticism from the right. One way to bring in more revenue from the wealthiest Americans is to raise the capital gains tax rate. In fact, some members of the Super Committee tasked with coming up with a deficit-reduction plan want capital gains to be on the table. But as the Washington Post points out this morning, both parties have been active in lowering capital gains rates over the last two years and making sure they stay low. A second source of revenue progressives would welcome is taxes on the over $1 trillion in revenue American corporations are currently holding overseas, hoping to bring back to the U.S. at a highly discounted tax rate. But as The Wall Street Journalreports today, the Obama administration is leaning towards giving corporations a big tax break on their overseas profits. 

Both capital gains and repatriation taxes were a big part of Mitt Romney’s jobs plan and will undoubtedly be pushed on the 2012 campaign trail. Obama may try to beat them to it. That could be good politics but is certainly bad policy.


Pressure Builds on Deficit Panel to ‘Go Big,’ Beyond Its Mandate, in Cuts   The New York Times


Capital gains tax rates benefitting wealthy feed gap between rich and poorWashington Post


Treasury Weighs New Tax SchemeThe Wall Street Journal


Clawbacks Without ClawsThe New York Times