American Medical Association: Obamacare Is A HUGE Success, GOP Is Wrong

Source: OccupyDemocrats

Author:

Emphasis Mine

If the jury wasn’t in already, it definitely is now. The Journal of the American Medical Association has just released a report declaring the Affordable Care Act a rousing success, especially for minorities without healthcare.

(http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2411283)

Over the first two enrollment periods, 10.2 million Americans have received private coverage through Obamacare, and another 12.2 million have been covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Program– and thanks to Obamacare, costs for Medicaid have dropped dramatically and the program is fully funded for the next thirty years.   

Six measures were used to survey the pre-ACA respondents: Self-reported rates of being uninsured, lacking a personal physician, lacking easy access to medicine, inability to afford needed care, overall health status, and health-related activity limitations.

The AMA ‘s report found that “all but one of those measures—days limited by poor health—improved significantly after Obamacare plans went on sale,” reports CNBC.

There was an 11.9% decrease in uninsured Latinos and a 10.8% decrease in uninsured African-Americans. The study concluded that “As states continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the ACA, these results add to the growing body of research indicating that such expansions are associated with significant benefits for low-income populations.”

If there’s any proof that the Republican Party lives in a reality entirely of their own creation, where the truth is made up and facts don’t matter, it’s their reaction to the Obamacare program. No matter how many times they attempt to repeal it, every one is met with another report trumpeting the program’s success. Which is obviously why it makes sense for the Senate to waste even more taxpayer money on yet another attempt to repeal the law. President Obama’s healthcare law has changed the face of America for the better, and it is here to stay.

See: http://www.occupydemocrats.com/american-medical-association-obamacare-is-a-huge-success-gop-is-wrong/

Bernie Sanders: We Need Medicare for All, Not Cutbacks That Will Kill Our Seniors

Source: AlterNet

Author: Sarah Burris

Emphasis Mine

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland Representative Donna Edwards joined the rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare in Washington, D.C. this Thursday with several hundred nurses, health care workers, and labor allies.

Senator Sanders touted the success of the Medicare program and the millions of seniors and disabled patients it has helped. “Before Medicare, If you were poor and old or sick, you had no options, you died or you suffered,” he said.

The familiar Sanders crusade to fix financial inequalities is a key reason Sanders says he supports a single-payer system and promised to announce legislation within the next year. “We need to expand Medicare to cover every man, woman, and child,” he told the cheering crowd. “Every year, thousands die just because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. No one should go into the hospital and have to file for bankruptcy when they come out.” The Sanders plan, he said, will provide healthcare through the most “cost effective way, and that is a Medicare for all.”

Recent suggestions from Republican Party presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Medicare should be phased out has lead to linguistic punches from many progressive thinkers including economist Paul Krugman, who wrote this week “It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful.”

Senator Sanders told The Hill Bush’s comments are an example of how far right the Republican Party has become when their so-called moderate candidate is advocating “phasing out” Medicare.  

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, it is important that we defend this enormously important program rather than talk about ending it,” Sanders continued. “Medicare provides health care to 51 million American seniors and people with disabilities and has saved the lives of countless Americans. Further, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the finances of Medicare have been significantly improved and it is now fully funded for the next 15 years through 2030. Our goal as a nation should be to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all Americans, not end a highly-successful program which protects seniors and the disabled.”

Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) followed Senator Sanders speech with a powerful story about her grandfather who died at an early age forcing her grandmother to scrape together money to cover her healthcare costs.

“My grandmother lived much of her life before Medicare,” Edwards told AlterNet in a statement “I know how much she and our family struggled to pay medical bills. Thanks to Medicare, Americans like my grandmother can see their doctor and not go broke paying medical bills. This is why I continue to fight to protect Medicare and ensure that all Americans can lead healthy and productive lives.”

“After 50 years, we have a lot of experience with Medicare,” National Nurses United co-President Jean Ross, RN, said in a statement. “Enough time to see that it works, has kept tens of millions of Americans out of poverty, and remains enormously popular.”  The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people. The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people.

See: http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/bernie-sanders-draws-line-sand-we-need-medicare-all-not-cutbacks-will-kill-our?akid=13344.123424._gla7O&rd=1&src=newsletter1040172&t=3

5 Most Absurd Conspiracy Theories Peddled By Anti-Choice Christians

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: perhaps the best examples of the need for abortions might be found in the current Republican Presidential field.)

For the past few years, conservatives have been diligently trying to put a kinder, gentler face on the anti-choice movement. They try to hide that they’re a bunch of ghouls stuck in a titillation-disgust obsession with female sexuality and reproductive function. Instead, they claim to be a bunch of well-meaning church ladies just trying to help those poor young ladies realize that their true calling is motherhood.

But a few weeks ago, the mask got ripped off when a radical anti-choice group going by the name Center for Medical Progress released a bunch of misleadingly edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal body parts in some kind of black market profiteering scheme. The accusations got a momentary blip of incredulous media coverage before the debunking started. To summarize: the people in the videos are actually talking about donating fetal tissue to research (something even Republicans have supported in the  past). The people behind the stunt are the same kind of loony right-wing nuts who love trading in bizarre conspiracy theories.

The real question here is why the anti-choice movement is taken seriously at all as a political movement by the media. The movement has a long history of pushing breathless and implausible urban legends that are more at home on some conspiracy theory website than in grown-up politics. Reproductive health care sits at an intersection of human sexuality and medicine, and anti-choicers really love wallowing in the ghastly and the sensational, even if neither has any relationship to reality.

(N.B.: the ‘pro-life’ movement has Never been about life: it is about sex.)

Here are some of the more ridiculous and gross examples.

1. ‘The Silent Scream’

The Silent Scream is a bit of religious right propaganda about abortion created in 1984. Simply looking at the video cover, with its horror movie font and pixelated image of a screaming face, should give you an idea of what level of ridiculousness we’re dealing with. The movie, which claims that a 12-week-old fetus “screams” when it is aborted, is so over the top it reads like camp to all but its intended audience of naïve conservative Christians. The Silent Screamhas the appeal of a snuff movie,” said a 1985 review in the New Republic, which also noted its “inappropriate horror B-movie title roll.”

2. ‘Hooking Kids On Sex’

The Center for Medical Progress is far from the first group making lurid accusations that Planned Parenthood engages in sinister behavior for profit. In 2013, the American Life League (ALL) put out a breathless video titled Hooking Kids On Sex.

“Just as the goal of a drug dealer is to make drug addicts,” the narrator explains, “Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make sex addicts.” The video calls masturbation a “gateway drug” and argues that the purpose of tricking teens into thinking they like sex is to get them to buy up more contraception, which ALL believes is designed to fail, so the young people then have to get even more expensive abortions. Ka-CHING! The flaw in this brilliant conspiracy theory, just like the new one about fetal tissue selling, is that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit, making the profit part of the equation nonsensical. 

3. Phony video accusing Planned Parenthood of child sex trafficking.

In 2011, the group Live Action (of which the Center for Medical Progress is a spin-off) made a splash in anti-choice circles with a video purporting to prove that Planned Parenthood engages in child sex trafficking. The video claimed to show undercover investigators posing as pimps who admit to trafficking minors.

The fact that the Planned Parenthood employees continued talking to the phony pimps was held out as evidence of collusion and a cover-up. It was neither. The employees did talk to the self-reported criminals, but then immediately alerted the FBI to the alleged sex trafficking. It also soon became evident that few, if any, of the “colluding” employees actually believed the ruse. But anti-choicers disregarded the obvious conclusion, because they prefer to believe whatever crazy nonsense they can about Planned Parenthood.

4. Abortion ‘reversal’ scam.  

This gambit is one of the loonier anti-choice contrivances to come around in recent years. Yes, they are telling women abortions can be reversed. The weirdness started with an anti-choice doctor named George Delgado, who claimed he could “reverse” medication abortions with shots of progesterone he said would save the embryo before the medications expelled it.

It’s not possible, of course, and Delgado’s “evidence” that there is any demand for this supposed procedure is iffy, to say the least. This is just more anti-choice theatrics. In reality, 95% of women say their abortion was the right choice for them.  

5. The pill kills.

Artificial progesterone is the hero of these mythical tales of “abortion reversal,” but when the same hormone is used (effectively, I might add) to prevent pregnancy, it becomes the demon that does nothing but bring terror and misery. Progesterone is used in birth control pills to suppress ovulation, so women can have sex without getting pregnant. Anti-choice activists oppose this, and so have created a dizzying number of lurid horror stories of all the bad things that will happen if women take the pill.

The American Life League has an annual event, tagged to the anniversary of the legalization of contraception by the Supreme Court, called The Pill Kills. Every year, they highlight some other supposed victim of this killer pill. The pill kills marriage! The pill kills babies! (Anti-choicers claim progesterone “kills” embryos. Yes, the same drug Delgado injects in women to “save” embryos.) The pill kills the environment! (Unlike those harmless fossil fuels.)  The pill kills women! (They neglect to mention the stroke risk for frequent pregnancy is much higher.)  

The conspiracy theories and theatrics of the anti-choice movement are ridiculous, of course. Yet they serve a serious purpose. The melodrama and lurid claims are meant to distract the public from a serious discussion about important public health issues, like contraception access and safe abortion care. All the blood and orgies talk forces pro-choicers to waste their time debunking right-wing urban legends, instead of focusing the discussion on less exciting but more realistic topics like how empowering women to choose when and if they give birth improves women’s educational and employment opportunities. Important stuff, but boring compared to screeching right-wing nonsense about black market fetal parts and Planned Parenthood pimp orgies. Which is, of course, the point.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-most-absurd-conspiracy-theories-peddled-anti-choice-christians?akid=13344.123424._gla7O&rd=1&src=newsletter1040172&t=5

Is America Undergoing a Major Political Sea Change? Inside the Shocking Rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Add MediaSource: AlterNet

Author: Stephan Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

America’s political center, if it ever really existed, appears to be shrinking.

On the left, Bernie Sanders’ issue-oriented presidential campaign of economic justice is drawing the crowds and generating the most passion, eclipsing his more moderate competitors. And on the right, Donald Trump’s loud promises to use his dealmaking moxie to fix the country, with a dose of racist comments thrown in, has pushed him to the top of the polls in 2016’s early states.

There’s no shortage of pundits writing off their surges. Surely, you’ve heard them all, which amount to saying that when the campaign gets serious, they will seriously falter. The latest analyses from this past weekend’s polling noted that both were doing well in two of the whitest states—Iowa and New Hampshire—but not in bigger, more diverse ones. So now these hallowed presidential proving grounds prove nothing?

But there is one explanation you won’t find among the politicos who are parsing the interior numbers in polls—such as the negative approval ratings, or appeal by race and gender. That explanation is that the political spectrum is changing, or stretching toward its blunter extremes, which also accounts for the muted enthusiasm for both party’s leading establishment candidates, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

A shifting electorate is the last thing many pundits want to confront. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, pointing to four recent polls, merely says Hillary should worry about her rising unpopularity. He does not touch the deeper question: is she out of tune with what’s engaging the public now? His colleague, Phillip Bump says she’s lagging among whites in Iowa and New Hampshire, but climbs back up in later states where she appeals to non-whites. Sanders and Trump aren’t doing that, he said.

At Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, another go-to site for reporters to get zeitgeist quotes, the reflex is to dismiss both Trumps and Sanders for different reasons, rather than probe how the electorate may be shifting. Trump’s surge, according to associate editor Geoffrey Skelly, is because he’s well-known, loud, in a crowded field, and keeps getting press coverage. Even worse, the GOP idiotically tied participation in its upcoming presidential debate to how candidates are polling, he said, where Trump will be “attacked from all sides.”

One can go very far in political analysis by being cynical. But that does not mean you’ve got your finger on a changing pulse. Politico’s  piece on Trump’s latest rise in New Hampshire and Iowa points to the politics of anger, especially against Washington power-brokers, which includes the GOP’s congressional majority.

Just 16 percent among all Republicans (15 percent of Republican registered voters… [and] 50 percent of Democrats (51 percent of Democratic registered voters) feel that they are [well] represented in the nation’s capital,” it reported. “Among independents, just 27 percent feel well-represented.”

What are people angry about? Who is giving voice to their problems, or offering solutions? CNN says the top concerns facing voters are the economy (44 percent), health care (20 percent) and terrorism (12 percent). If those numbers are accurate, it is not surprising that Sanders and Trump, on the left and right, have captivated voters because they are speaking outside the safe centrist political box.

Trump’s bragging that most of politics comes down to being the best negotiator has an appeal when the Republican-controlled Congress is bumbling at best. His slaps at immigrants are ugly, but there have always been racists in modern Republican ranks. Today’s GOP is not the party of Lincoln, nor is it Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-corporate reformers. Most of their 2016 candidates have been recycling Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric or predictable policies benefitting the upper classes.

While it remains to be seen what broad new agenda will emerge on the right, it is not surprising that the cliché-ridden remedies spouted by a field of predictable candidates isn’t creating much excitement, even as they try to out-do each other on the far right. Trump’s rise strongly suggests something in the GOP’s base is shifting.

Bernie Sanders’ surge is more easily traced, and also shows shifting voter sensibilities. His messaging has been saturated with specifics, from his speeches to e-mails. On Monday morning, he sent out a long missive seeking $3 donations that listed 12 issue areas and his solutions: jobs, jobs, jobs; raising wages; wealth and income inequality; reforming Wall St.; campaign finance reform; fighting climate change; health care for all; protecting our most vulnerable; expanding opportunity and equality; dismantling structural racism; college for all; war and peace. This is not political fundraising as usual.

It is easy to say that Sanders, like Elizabeth Warren before him, is pulling the Democrats closer to their progressive heart. But Sanders would not be as successful as he has been if Democrats in the electorate were not embracing his message. As one of Iowa’s leading pro-Democrat bloggers, BleedingHeartland.com, wrote this weekend, “Bernie Sanders continues to draw the largest crowds in Iowa–including roughly 1,200 people in West Des Moines on Friday—and polls indicate that he is cutting into Hillary Clinton’s lead among likely Democratic caucus-goers.”

Clinton still led Sanders by 29 points, 55 percent to 26 percent, with Martin O’Malley at 4 percent and Jim Webb at 2 percent, it reported, citing the latest polls. But “his message is resonating with a sizable part of the Democratic base, as anyone could see on Friday night during his town-hall meeting at West Des Moines Valley High School. I challenge any Democrat to find one substantive point to disagree with in Sanders’ stump speech. Many people who attend his events are already ‘feeling the Bern.’ My impression is that the undecideds who show up walk away giving him their serious consideration. I doubt anyone leaves a Sanders event thinking, ‘I could never caucus for that guy.’”

BleedingHeartland continued, “Listening to Sanders on Friday, I was again struck by the senator’s distinctive way of speaking. He packs a lot of facts and figures into his remarks without sounding wonky. He conveys a lot of passion without raising his voice often. Compared to many candidates, he says very little about his children and grandchildren. Still, his feelings about family come through loud and clear when he contrasts Republican ideas about ‘family values’ (a ‘woman shouldn’t be able to control her own body’) with what family values should mean (for instance, a mom and dad having paid time off from work so they can get to know their new baby). Although the Sanders stump speech is overly long—pushed well past the one-hour mark by many interruptions for applause—he keeps his listeners’ attention. Even my 12-year-old was still engaged….”

Next years’ presidential caucuses are a long way off, and the November election is even further away. It’s easy for pundits to dismiss Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, for different reasons, with respect to their eventual prospects. But doing so can overlook what’s happening now, which is the assumed frames, views and mood of the electorate are shifting, or stretching, or changing, and favoring the blunt and unconventional.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008). 

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/america-undergoing-major-political-sea-change-exploring-shocking-rise-bernie-sanders?akid=13338.123424.tn7jbS&rd=1&src=newsletter1040052&t=1

What Trump’s Surging Popularity Says About the GOP Base

Source: Salon, via AlterNet

Author: Connor Lynch

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: about 30 years ago I read in the Humanist magazine that religious fundamentalism appealed to those who liked simple answers to complex questions.  Given that, we might  expect that voter block  to be drawn to the Donald…)

In the political discussion of today, there always comes a risk of being discounted as a crackpot when using a word like “fascist” to describe a political opponent. The word, much like “socialist,” has been so abused since the fall of fascism that it lost its meaning quite some time ago. Comparisons of modern leaders to Hitler tend to be completely void of any substance, and there is even an Internet adage, “Godwin’s law,” that says, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

In a recent article by Jeffrey Tucker, however, it is argued, quite justly in my opinion, that Donald Trump, whether he knows it or not, is a fascist (or is at least acting like one). Much like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is a demagogue dedicated to riling up the people (particularly conservatives) with race baiting, traditionalism and strongman tough and, according to polls, it’s working — for now. Tucker writes:

“Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable resentment (race, class, sex, religion, economic) and promising a new order of things under his mighty hand.”

No doubt about it, Donald Trump has decided to stir the pot, and, as Tucker says, he seems to be running for a CEO position, rather than president of a nation. Trump discusses Iran and Mexico as if they were competing corporations, and says that, as president, or CEO, he will drive them into the ground, make them file for bankruptcy — something Trump legitimately knows a thing or two about. Trump, of course, is largely taken as a joke, and most rational commentators assume he is doing this for publicity — which he is certainly getting.

The thing is, his style — full of race baiting, xenophobia and belligerent nationalism — is not unique to Trump; he is simply the most blatant and vocal about it. There’s a reason he’s leading in the GOP polls: the party’s base likes what he’s saying. The people are angry about illegal immigrants murdering white women (anyone who has followed Bill O’Reilly over the past week knows what I’m talking about), homosexuals destroying the tradition of marriage, and so on. Much like fascism reacted to modernity and social progress in the early 20th century, right-wingers are reacting angrily to social progress of the new century. (Of course, there has been no economic progress, which is why the left is also angry.)

So is the GOP becoming the new fascist party? That might be an exaggeration, but it does share many similar features, and Trump, with his demagogic style, is simply exposing how very similar the passions of the GOP base are to the passions of fascism of the early 20th century.

The modern GOP is a party of unwavering and dogmatic patriotism mixed with traditionalism and intolerance. The social progression we have been witnessing over the past decade in America, most clearly with the acceptance of the LGBT community, seems to be triggering a reactionary movement on the right. We see this most recently with the religious freedom controversies and the angry protests of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. Fascism of the early 20th century was also largely a negative reaction to modernity (in a social sense at least; fascists did tend to worship technology). Communism, which was the ultimate evil to fascists, promoted the destruction of traditional institutions such as the family, the bourgeois state and organized religion. In some ways, fascism was the conservative answer to communism — the defender of tradition.

It was also a very contradictory ideology, as Umberto Eco describes in his essay, “Ur-Fascism: “Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions. Can one conceive of a truly totalitarian movement that was able to combine monarchy with revolution, the Royal Army with Mussolini’s personal milizia, the grant of privileges to the Church with state education extolling violence, absolute state control with a free market?”

The modern GOP is also somewhat contradictory. Its followers, for example, promote free market ideals and despise welfare for the poor, while exclaiming the worship of Jesus Christ, whose teachings are almost socialistic.

Overall, however, the GOP has a pretty straightforward idea of its platform. Like fascism, tradition is holy — the tradition of marriage, family values, Christian ideals. Controversy over the confederate flag has also been based largely on tradition — a tradition that the South cannot give up. Another similarity is its belligerence. After news of the Iran deal agreement came out last week, the GOP faithfuls were outraged that America would actually practice diplomacy with an Islamic country in the Middle East. President Obama responded to criticism from the right by saying,

“I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement to, Number One, read the agreement, explain specifically where they think… and then present an alternative. If the alternative is we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so.”

The GOP alternative would indeed be military force, as it has been many times before. (This is not to say the Democratic party is not also a belligerent force, which it is. But clearly not as outright hawkish as the GOP).

Beyond these values, the GOP tends to preach and practice intolerance, xenophobia, nationalism and anti-democratic values (i.e., voter suppression). In many ways, the GOP is anti-enlightenment, and embraces passion over reason. The dangerous denial of climate change and other scientific facts seems to come out of the corrupt alliance of anti-intellectual traditionalism and corporate influence (i.e., oil and gas).

Now, the fact of the matter is that fascism died in the mid-20th century. The GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance. As stated above, the base have many similar passions — traditionalism, nationalism, intolerance towards immigrants or minorities. They react with hostility towards the social progress of others and largely believe in a ‘survival of the fittest’ ideology.

Giovanni Gentile, the “philosopher of fascism” and ghostwriter for Mussolini, said of the definition of fascism in the Encyclopedia of Italiana: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” This definition may very well fit the GOP ideology: a kind of corporate fascism, where large corporations have the ultimate power; where the politicians spew a hateful, intolerant ideology based on “traditional” values, on a platform funded by corporate interests, elected by the people to serve those very corporate interests; and deny environmental degradation because it would be unprofitable for the funders to do anything about it, using the anti-intellectual hostility to convince the people that it is nothing more than a left-wing conspiracy.

Donald Trump is no doubt a wealthy buffoon — but he is a buffoon who understands the underlying passions of the GOP base. Fascist leaders also understood these passions, and knew how to exploit them for political gain. These passions may seem irrational, but they should not be underestimated.

 

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, The Hill, AlterNet, and openDemocracy. Follow him on Twitter.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/what-trumps-surging-popularity-says-about-gop-base?akid=13333.123424.h42YOV&rd=1&src=newsletter1039927&t=5

10 Brutal Ways the American Safety Net Is Being Shredded

Source: alterNet

Author: Alex Henderson

Emphasis Mine

On the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act of 1935, which established the social security system in the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is on life support as the American middle class continues to be squeezed and millions of Americans struggle with poverty.

1. Income Inequality Is Going from Bad to Worse

FDR firmly believed that capitalism cannot function well without a strong middle class, and even auto magnate Henry Ford agreed with him: Ford famously said that American workers needed to be paid a decent wage in order to be able to afford his products. And during the post-FDR America of the 1950s and 1960s, having a robust middle class was great for a variety of businesses. But in 2015—with the gains of the New Deal having been imperiled by everything from union busting to the outsourcing of millions of American jobs—income inequality in the U.S. is a huge problem. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released a report on income inequality among OECD members and found that the U.S. was among the worst offenders. The U.S., Mexico and Turkey had some of highest income inequality of OECD countries, while Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Belgium fared much better. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría commented that “high inequality is bad for growth,” and he’s absolutely right.

2. Republicans Yearn for Social Security Privatization

Although President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Republican, he supported elements of the New Deal and saw the need for a strong social safety net: in fact, Eisenhower expanded social security, and in 1954, he bluntly asserted that any oligarchs who would “attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor law and farm programs” were “stupid.” But in the 21st century, Republicans have been going after social security with a vengeance. The privatization of social security was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2004, and far-right Republicans, the Tea Party and wingnut lobbying groups like the Club for Growth have been doubling down on the idea of privatizing social security. GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called for social security privatization at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in June, and he also favors raising the social security retirement age to 69 or 70, which would be especially bad for blue-collar workers who have spent decades in physically demanding jobs.

3. The 1% Continue to Dodge Taxes

FDR had no problem asking the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes: the U.S.’ top marginal tax rate rose to 94% in the early 1940s, when the country entered World War II. Taxes for the ultra-rich didn’t go down much under Republican Eisenhower, who lowered the top tax rate to 91% in the 1950s—and after that rate decreased to 28% under President Reagan, it rose to 39.6% under President Clinton and decreased to 35% under President George W. Bush. Looking at the last 80 years of tax history, one sees a clear pattern: the American middle class does much better when the 1% pay their fair share of taxes. And even though the Tea Party tries to paint Barack Obama as a soak-the-rich president, their assertion is laughable because Obama extended the Bush tax cuts and hasn’t been nearly as forceful as FDR or Eisenhower when it comes to taxing the 1%.

4. The Minimum Wage Is Much Too Low

One of the important elements of the New Deal was FDR’s strong belief in a national minimum wage. FDR began to push for a federal minimum wage after taking office in January 1933, saying, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living.” And Congress enacted one in 1938, when the U.S.’ first federal minimum wage was set at 25 cents per hour. But in recent years, the federal minimum wage (which was raised to $7.25 an hour in 2009) has not kept up with inflation. Economist Robert Reich has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which he sees as a crucial part of economic recovery. And in some cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, city councils have raised their local minimum wages to that amount. But at the federal level, an increase to even $10.10 an hour (President Obama’s proposal) is a steep uphill climb when both houses of Congress are dominated by far-right Republicans who hate the poor with a passion.

The U.S. desperately needed a New Deal 3.0 after the crash of September 2008 and a program of aggressive reforms. Instead, most of the welfare that followed the Panic of 2008 has been corporate welfare rather than programs to help America’s embattled poor and middle class. Overall, the U.S. has been moving away from the New Deal when it should be reinvigorating it. Below are 10 ways in which the New Deal (and by extension, LBJ’s Great Society) continues to be under attack in the United States.

5. Infrastructure Continues to Deteriorate

The New Deal was great for the U.S.’ infrastructure thanks to programs that built or strengthened everything from roads to water and electric systems to municipal power plants. But in recent years, the American infrastructure has been seriously decaying—and a major wake-up call came on May 12, when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia and eight passengers were killed. But the nation’s railways are only one of the ways in which the U.S.’ infrastructure has deteriorated. According to Ray LaHood (former secretary of transportation for the Obama Administration), 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are now structurally deficient. That is in addition to all the roads that are in desperate need of repair. And when it comes to high-speed rail travel, the U.S. lags way behind Europe (where one can get from London to Brussels in just under two hours or from Madrid to Barcelona in less than three hours).

6. Union Representation Has Reached Historic Lows 

One of the most important pieces of New Deal-era legislation was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a.k.a. the Wagner Act, which did a lot to advance labor unions in the U.S.: by the mid-1950s, around 35% of America’s labor force was unionized. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a mere 11.1% of salaried U.S. workers (factoring in both the public and private sectors) were union members in 2014. Among private-sector workers, the number was a paltry 6.6%. And the decline of unions has been encouraged bad working conditions: according to the Economic Policy Institute, executives at large companies earned, on average, 296 times as much as their average workers in 2013 compared to only 20 times as much in 1965. But as much as labor unions have declined in the U.S., Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (a GOP presidential hopeful for 2016) and his fellow Republicans would like to see them decline even more. Walker recently set a disturbing precedent in that state when he supported anti-union legislation that prohibits private-sector unions from requiring members to pay union dues; Walker has, in essence, made Wisconsin a northern “right to work” state. And it’s safe to say that Walker, based on his actions in Wisconsin, would be among the most anti-union presidents in U.S. history.

7. “Too Big to Fail” Is Bigger Than Ever

Unlike many of today’s extreme-right Republicans and neoliberal corporatist Democrats, FDR was not afraid of offending the banking sector. FDR said of the banksters of the 1930s, “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” One of the New Deal achievements that banksters detested was the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which mandated a strict separation of commercial and investment banking and was designed to prevent another major Wall Street calamity like the crash of 1929. Glass-Steagall served the U.S. well for many years: although there were some tough recessions in the mid-1970s, early 1980s and early 1990s, none of them cut as deep as the Great Depression. But the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 was a major blow to the New Deal and paved the way for the crash of September 2008, clearly the most devastating financial event in the U.S. since 1929. Unfortunately, there was no real banking reform after the 2008 calamity, and as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders points out, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are now “80% larger” than they were in 2007. Critics of the banking sector propose bringing back Glass-Steagall, including Reich (who warns that another major Wall Street crash “is not unlikely”) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And Sanders has proposed New Deal-like legislation that would break up the U.S.’ largest banks.

8. Medicare, An Expansion of the New Deal, Is a Major GOP Target

Medicare, which established a single-payer health care system for Americans 65 and older, was not part of the New Deal per se: Medicare came into being in 1965 as part of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society (which was very much an extension of the New Deal). And the program proved to be so popular that even Republican President Richard Nixon (who was considered an arch-conservative in his day) expanded Medicare in both 1969 and 1972. But these days, far-right GOP wingnuts in the House of Representatives—especially Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—have repeatedly called for drastic Medicare cuts and for replacing traditional Medicare with a privatized voucher program. In June, a variety of pro-Medicare groups (including the Alliance for Retired Americans and the Medicare Rights Center) sent a joint letter to the House criticizing representatives who wanted to cut $700 million from the Medicare program.

9. Home Ownership Is Becoming Increasingly Difficult for Many Americans, and the Rent Is Too Damn High

Before the New Deal, five-year or 10-year mortgages were the norm in the U.S., and were unaffordable for most Americans. But FDR saw home ownership as a crucial part of building a strong middle class: between the Federal Housing Administration, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the introduction of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages—all of which came about under FDR—home ownership in the U.S. gradually increased. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership in the U.S. went from 45% in 1920 and 47% in 1930 to 55% in 1950, 61% in 1960 and 62% in 1970. But the Crash of 2008 has been terrible for American homeowners, resulting in countless foreclosures, and banksters have been allowed to acquire and rent out many foreclosed homes. The private equity firm Blackstone Group had, as of late 2013, bought almost 40,000 homes in the U.S. in order to rent them. To make matters worse, all those post-2008 foreclosures have caused rents to skyrocket all over the country. And the more one pays in rent, the harder it is to save for a down payment on a home. To quote Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high.

10. Wingnut Attacks on Food Stamps Never End

The American food stamps program started on a pilot basis under FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, in 1939 but became permanent when LBJ signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 into law as part of his Great Society. In recent years, the U.S.’ economic decline has been so painful that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of Americans poor enough to quality for food stamps was 46.2 million in 2014 compared to only 17 million in 2000. Food stamps, as envisioned under the New Deal and the Great Society, are designed to be a stepping stone for the poor—and the benefits (which presently average $127.91 per month per person, according to USDA figures) are hardly lavish. But that has not prevented Republicans in Congress from repeatedly proposing dramatic food stamp cuts during the Great Recession. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to punish and shame food stamp recipients by subjecting them to drug-testing.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Three Things to Know About That Terrifying New Climate Study

from hurricane Sandy
from hurricane Sandy

Source: TakePart

Author: Emily Gertz

Emphasis Mine

James Hansen is one of the most respected and recognizable names in climate science.

When this ex-NASA researcher speaks, reasonable people listen.  That good reputation has made his latest research finding that much more frightening.

That good reputation has made his latest research finding that much more frightening.

According to a new paper by Hansen and 16 equally expert coauthors, seas could rise by 10 feet within 50 to 85 years, making coastal communities and cities worldwide uninhabitable.

Whether this is good or bad depends on what you think and believe about the intersection of science and climate change with politics. But this much is true: The international climate action process has not slowed global warming. And Hansen and colleagues have been transparent about their motivations.is one of the most respected and recognizable names in climate science. When this ex-NASA researcher speaks, reasonable people listen.

That good reputation has made his latest research finding that much more frightening.

According to a new paper by Hansen and 16 equally expert coauthors, seas could rise by 10 feet within 50 to 85 years, making coastal communities and cities worldwide uninhabitable.

So, Why Should You Care? That’s much sooner than the forecast of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate science group of the United Nations, which informs international climate treaty negotiations. IPCC scientists predict sea levels could rise to 2.6 feet by 2100, much lower and later than the Hansen report’s projections.

Hansen and colleagues concluded that to avoid this crisis, global temperature rise must be kept at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) or lower, rather than the informal international target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

RELATED: Sea-Level Rise Poses Hard Choice for Two Neighborhoods: Rebuild or Retreat?

To make that happen, nations would need to slash fossil fuel use nearly to zero within 30 years.

In June, the G-7 major industrialized nations, including the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany, committed to fully phasing out coal, oil, and gas-fueled energy by 2100.

Here are three things to keep in mind about Hansen’s worrying new study.

1. This research paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed—yet.

The peer-review process for traditional scientific journals is meant to weed out poor research from stronger. It’s not a perfect process, but it’s valuable, and it can take many months to play out.

So Hansen and colleagues intend to release their work this week in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, an open-access journal where peer review happens after publication, in public.

 

Putting the findings out ahead of peer review isn’t traditional for scientists of Hansen’s stature and has increased the buzz around the paper and its conclusion about catastrophically high seas in less than a century.

2. A consensus among scientists regarding the study’s conclusions about ice melt and sea-level rise hasn’t been reached.

Scientists are still learning how to judge the speed at which the world’s land-bound ice is melting and will continue to melt in coming decades and centuries. We’re also still remarkably ignorant about the oceans, including how currents are affected by changing water conditions.  All these unknowns make melting glaciers and sea-level rise contested arenas in the research world, with significant disagreements among respectable experts over whose ideas are wrong and whose are right. That’s how science rolls.  To reach their conclusions, Hansen and colleagues looked at recent figures on the faster-than-anticipated rate at which the Greenlandic and Antarctic ice caps are melting. They also looked at modeling data and the prehistoric record for the last time Earth’s surface temperatures were as warm as they are now—and sea levels were 30 feet higher.

Based on what those data showed, the authors posit that if the world stays on its course of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature rise, contemporary ice caps could hit a tipping point and melt exponentially faster than the more linear rate projected by the IPCC.

This isn’t a conclusion that a majority of climate scientists and ice experts yet accept, but it’s an analysis that warrants consideration.

3. Hansen and colleagues stated plainly that they published their findings quickly, before peer review, to influence the outcome of the December international climate treaty conference in Paris.

Already some informed observers are suggesting that the unorthodox publishing approach may backfire.  Whether this is good or bad depends on what you think and believe about the intersection of science and climate change with politics. But this much is true: The international climate action process has not slowed global warming. And Hansen and colleagues have been transparent about their motivations.

See: http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/07/22/3-things-know-about-terrifying-new-climate-study?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2015-07-22