PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
2017 safety net is about $850 billion, compared to over $1.5 trillion for tax expenditures, most of which are for rich Americans.
The Unrelenting Wealth Grab by the 1%
The average 1% household increased its wealth by $3 million in 2016. Since much of that was in the form of stock gains, they paid tax on only a small part of their incomes, and then took an average of about $200,000 per household in tax subsidies. When ALL forms of taxes and income and capital gains are considered, the richest 1% pay lower tax rates than the poorest 20% of Americans.
The Rich Old White Guy's Safety Net: Retirement and Health Care
Wealthy people are living longer, so they're getting much more of the late-life benefits. A Brookings report estimates that lowest-quintile Americans born in 1960 will receive "only 78 percent of the lifetime Medicare benefits received by the top income quintile." A Congressional Research Service report states: "When Social Security benefits are measured on a lifetime basis, low earners, who show little to no gains in life expectancy over time, are projected to receive increasingly lower benefits than those with high earnings." The American Medical Association agrees. The National Institutes of Health agrees. Middle- and upper-income Americans are even grabbing MEDICAID benefits because of the program's accommodating asset-exclusion limits.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Excellent news, folks: A decade after Wall Street greed crashed our economy and crushed the working class, jobs are suddenly plentiful!
As an Associated Press article joyously put it, "The U.S. job market has settled into a sweet spot of steadily solid growth." At long last, the American dream is back for working families, right? Well ... in a word: No. Further down in the article, AP's sweet news turns sour with this little admission: "About all that's still missing [in the jobs market] is a broad acceleration in pay."
In other words, you can find work, but getting paid for it is another matter. And forget about such "luxuries" as health coverage, pension, sick leave, vacation time and having a regular schedule. These are not jobs, they're jobettes! Most are in service work — such as fast food chains, amusement parks, nursing homes, Big Box retailers, car washes, delivery services, supermarkets and call centers. Nearly all are poorly paid, temporary, offer little or no upward mobility and are routinely exploitative.
Ironically, the fact that so many families have been in dire economic straits for so long that they now have to take such onerous, one-sided terms of employment increases the power of low-wage corporations. With hundreds of thousands of people scrambling at once to find jobs, the bosses can effectively conspire to hold pay levels down and get away with treating hires as disposable cogs in the corporate profit machine. Indeed, the phenomenally-bloated profits they've been enjoying are largely extracted from the labor of underpaid workers. And in a double irony, corporations rationalize the obscene salaries and bonuses they give to top executives by pointing to those same profits the executives take out of the workers' paychecks.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is being sued for allegedly protecting the financial interests of for-profit colleges over the plight of students with excessive loans. As Politico detailed on July 6:
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday over her delay of regulations meant to protect federal student loan borrowers defrauded by their schools.
The lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in D.C., led by Massachusetts and joined by 18 other Democratic attorneys general, accuses DeVos of illegally delaying the regulations aimed at predatory colleges, which were finalized by the Obama administration and had been set to take effect on July 1.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTMICHELLE COOK AND OSPREY ORIELLE LAKE OF
Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch
Despite shifts in the terrain of struggle, the courageous and determined Water Protectors of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continue to stand strong, gain momentum and mobilize in diverse and effective ways in their work to protect Indigenous rights, water and life in North Dakota and beyond.
From powerful Indigenous and frontline leadership at the 200,000 strong People's Climate March in Washington DC, to ceaseless advocacy and actions in courtrooms, in the streets, in the halls of government, and in the offices of financial institutions that support exploitation and extraction -- the DAPL resistance continues, while also joining together with other communities to face mounting pipeline struggles including Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, Enbridge's Line 3, TransCanada's Energy East, Sonoco Logistic's Bayou Bridge, the resurrection of TransCanada's Keystone XL and efforts to stop fossil fuel extraction at the source.
RENAE REINTS AND COLE HARRISON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As Americans celebrated July 4 on Tuesday, North Korean President Kim Jong Un celebrated a frightening success of his own. The northern regime launched their longest-reaching weapon yet -- an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe has the ability to reach Alaska. This missile launch comes just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with President Donald Trump in Washington, DC. The two world leaders discussed the desired denuclearization of mutual threat North Korea, but each argued for a different methodology.
Moon, South Korea’s first progressive president in eight years, has called for a revival of something similar to the 1998 Sunshine Policy, which embraces better relations with North Korea, but was rejected by subsequent conservative governments until Moon was elected in May. The Sunshine Policy aims to open conversation on the peninsula with the eventual goal of having the North Korean government denuclearize itself. With this in mind, Moon hopes to persuade North Korea to freeze their nuclear program.
Trump, however, has thus far chosen the strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” increasing sanctions on North Korea and conducting military exercises. The United States has left no room for compromise, demanding only full removal of the weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said negotiations “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction … Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.” Last Thursday, Trump imposed new Chinese sanctions in an attempt to cut off North Korean funding.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A July 5 media advisory, distributed in conjunction with a news conference in Stockholm, stated it bluntly: "Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, has announced that every Volvo it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine (ICE) and placing electrification at the core of its future business."
It should be noted that this is applicable to newly designed cars by Volvo in 2019 and will include both 100 percent electric cars and hybrids. In addition, current models will still be manufactured with internal combustion engines, since this commitment only applies to new Volvo designs. However, it is cause for celebration that an automobile manufacturer is outpacing many governments in moving toward vehicles run on renewable energy. Unlike the US under the Trump administration, some nations are also moving away from gas-powered vehicles: The Telegraph reported today that "France plans to outlaw all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040," according to its new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot.
In fact, the Volvo announcement represents a new intensified round for the emerging electric car market.
JULIA TRAVERS OF ENVIRONEWS ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On March 23, 2017, after less than six months of operation, the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear power unit (Watts Bar 2) was shut down. Failing components in the condenser caused America's first 21st Century nuclear reactor to cease functioning, and as of July 3, it remains shut down.
"Nuclear technology is very unforgiving… The nuclear industry is very optimistic about its projections of performance. This is more evidence that they need to temper that optimism," David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), told The LA Times.
Lochbaum was specifically referencing the importance of the condenser, which cools down the steam used to drive the unit's generating turbines. The unit will now be offline until sometime this summer, preventing it from providing electricity during peak demand in the TVA service region.
"We have a team of workers currently evaluating the extent of the condition within the condenser at Watts Barr 2 and we have already begun repairs that should allow us to return the unit to service sometime this summer," Jim Hopson, Manager of TVA Public Relations told EnviroNews.
Hopson also said there was no risk of radioactive material entering the environment due to the condenser failure. "The condenser is not a part of the nuclear side of the plant," he continued. "The condenser is on the power generation side, which is completely separate, so there are no radiological concerns, whatsoever."
KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
At an April, 2017 Symposium on Peace in Nashville, TN, Martha Hennessy spoke about central tenets of Maryhouse, a home of hospitality in New York City, where Martha often lives and works. Every day, the community there tries to abide by the counsels of Dorothy Day, Martha’s grandmother, who co-founded houses of hospitality and a vibrant movement in the 1930s. During her talk, she held up a postcard-sized copy of one of the movement’s defining images, Rita Corbin's celebrated woodcut listing "The Works of Mercy" and "The Works of War."
She read to us. "The Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Visit the imprisoned; Care for the sick; Bury the dead." And then she read: "The Works of War: Destroy crops and land; Seize food supplies; Destroy homes; Scatter families; Contaminate water; Imprison dissenters; Inflict wounds, burns; Kill the living."
The following week, General James Mattis was asked to estimate the death toll from the U.S. first use in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of the MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Burst bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in U.S. arsenals.
"We stay away from BDA, (bomb damage assessment), in terms of the number of enemy killed," he told reporters traveling with him in Israel. "It is continuing our same philosophy that we don't get into that, plus, frankly,digging into tunnels to count deadbodies is probably not a good use of our troops' time."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you think that Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is an effort for him to try and prove that Hillary's 2016 popular vote victory of approximately three million votes was due to fraudulent voters, you are probably wrong. The demand of the infamous vice chair, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for every state to turn over details of their voter rolls is possibly an attempt to capture the invaluable data for use by Republicans and Trump in upcoming elections.
The commission can't realistically be an attempt to reduce voter fraud, since voter fraud is an infinitesimal occurrence in the United States, as BuzzFlash has reported in the past. In January of this year, the Brennan Center for Justice published a study, "Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth," that concluded:
Most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. [Our] report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
After all, with modern sweeping data collection and pinpointing of voters for either party a reality, the information, if collected, will be a gold mine at the Trump team's disposal and a staggering advantage to Trump in his manipulation of democracy. Greg Palast has just pointed out in a July 4 advisory that despite protests by many Republican states, Kobach already has a good deal of the information through a national voter suppression project called Interstate Crosscheck that he oversaw as Kansas secretary of state, using state voter registration data provided to him by other Republican secretaries of state.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
To go, or not to go? That could be the question the NBA champion Golden State Warriors will have to grapple with if they are invited to Donald Trump's White House. More than two decades ago, Craig Hodges, a member of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls, delivered a letter protesting the mistreatment of poor people and people of color to President George H.W. Bush during the team's 1991 visit to the White House. Vilified for being so bold, Hodges was recently asked by Dave Zirin, on his Edge of Sports podcast, for his thoughts on a possible visit by the Warriors. Hodges suggested that the Warriors should consider going, and take the opportunity to deliver a message about inequality and social justice. If they don't go, Hodges said, they should be clear about why they decided not to go.
As an NBA player, the outspoken Hodges initiated a boycott against Nike, and spoke out against police brutality. After ten productive seasons, which included leading the league in three-point shooting percentage three times, winning two NBA championships, and winning the three-point shooting contest at the NBA's All-Star weekend three times, he was out of the league.
In the Foreword to Long Shot: The Triumphs And Struggles Of An NBA Freedom Fighter, written by Craig Hodges, with Rory Fanning (Haymarket Books, 2017), Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation, author of numerous books about sports and politics, and the host of the Edge of Sports podcast, points out that while athletic activism flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with protests and consciousness raising by Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and others, it cooled precipitously in the 1990s and in the early part of the twenty-first century.
However, in the face of rampant police murders of black men, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a re-birth of activism amongst athletes. The most prominent athlete to take a stand is former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before National Football League games last season to protest police brutality and social inequality. A free agent, Kaepernick has yet to be signed by an NFL team.