Tag Archives: Poverty

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

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Feeling Grateful in Time of Great Despair: Happy New Year

1 Jan
2017:Organize

2017:Organize

2016 has been an exceedingly painful, turbulent, and awful year. Since turning 50 three weeks ago, I have been deeply troubled by the current course of the United States under what can only be called a Fascist regime, under Trump and his merry band of racists, misogynists, and homophobic collectibles, who seem to want to dismantle all of the agencies that serve people in the United States. Their collective efforts will ensure that the top 20% of Americans not only keep their wealth but will build on it exponentially — a wet dream for Paul Ryan. Sadly,  author Thomas Pynchon  captures the philosophy of the 21st century GOP:

Back when I was getting into the business, all ‘being Republican’ meant really was sort of principled greed. You arranged things so that you and your friends would come out nicely, you behaved professionally, above all you put in the work and took the money only after you’d earned it. Well, the party, I fear, has fallen on evil days. This generation — it’s almost a religious thing now. The millennium, the end days, no need to be responsible anymore to the future. A burden has been lifted from them. The Baby Jesus is managing the portfolio of earthy affairs, and nobody begrudges Him the carried interest…

There is no sense of paying it forward — no sense of leaving the earth a better place for future generations. No, the rules have changed and now it is about getting all you can and getting more than you need, regardless if others have to go without, and future generations have to suffer for it.

As I have turned 50, I am witnessing our country turn backwards and turn its back on all targeted individuals and communities. For those predicting an economic windfall under TrumpPutin, I worry you are a bit delusional. I am most regrettably predicting a recession that will be just as traumatic as the one George W paved the way for during his administration.

While it has been most challenging not to give into a misanthropic abyss, or The Princess Bride’s “Pit of Despair,”  I have also had to do some serious reflection as we are about to usher in 2017. While I am terrified of what the next four years have in store, I have to also be exceedingly grateful for the life I have.

Here is what I have that makes me share tears of joy: A life partner whom I love and adore and who loves me as we get to travel this journey of life together; such amazing family and friends who make my heart swell with love — friends who constantly make me work to be a better person. These two things alone give me hope and make me so extraordinarily grateful! I know I am strong enough to persevere and resist a fascist regime.

I know how to engage in community organizing, how to stand in solidarity for human rights and social justice. I know how to keep vigilant and NOT normalize our current condition. I also know I do not do this work alone, for I do this work with my brilliant family and friends! To all of you: I say thank you! Happy New Year. I wish you all peace and that you each are surrounded by love.

Celebrating the Much Despised Labor Day

5 Sep

Labor DaySince the Reagan era, we seem to have surrendered to what I would term an irrational, inexorable disdain for the laborer. Labor Day seems to have become a hollow holiday for some without a sense of history. Let us remember why it is important to celebrate and elevate the laborer. This is a time for us to reflect and look at how we value human beings; how we look at and address income disparities; how we address and look at people who are over-employed!

Yes, over-employed, those who have to work more than one job and still remain in poverty, while CEOs and those who enjoy being in the top echelon of corporations and organizations earn exponentially more than those who actually allow those organizations to sustain themselves. According to the Economic Policy Institute and Fortune, many top executives make over 300 times that of their employees, many of whom live at or below the poverty line. Yes, CEOs earn 20 times more than they did 20 years ago and 30 times more than they did 30 years ago. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, “In between 1978 and 2014, inflation adjusted CEO pay increased by 1000%,” while the typical worker has only seen a possible 11% increase in that same time frame. That 11% means workers are now either earning the same as they earned in 1978 or even less, allowing executives to earn so much money that it is next to impossible to chart.

We saw the architecture of this with Ronald Reagan, who did his best to bust unions. You remember the union, the reason why we have a little something called a “weekend,” and an 8 hour workday, and protections against the exploitation of children workers. Unions: the reason  we hope to never witness another tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

Just a little history about Labor Day. Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, under the Cleveland administration, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small move forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from Trump and Ryan and their ilk — remember, they aren’t as different as they’d like you to believe —  has been nothing less than hostile. They all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy. Our current Republican controlled House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against the equal pay act — the same people who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act and witness millions suddenly going without health care. All the while ALL of those in our congress have Cadillac insurance packages and earn a minimum of $174,000. Yes, you read that number correctly. Please watch this very short video of the maldistribution of wealth in the United States.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra burger before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg)

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all who have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line. We must stand in solidarity!

Call The Midwife and Social Justice

27 May

CallTheMidwife_S5_BLUFor those who follow this blog, you know I am a devoted fan of Call the Midwife.  My husband and I just finished watching the conclusion to season five and wow! While the story is quite different from the show I fell in love with during seasons one through three — where they were drawing from Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and based on her experiences working in London’s East End in the late 1950s — season five proved to be an amazing journey. The season fully explores topics of social justice — issues of power, race, misogyny. In fact, season five seems to be the point of reinvention. This is where the show decided to really take on themes of that are sadly still relevant today such as queerness, the lesbian love story, and poverty, and how differently women have to navigate the world and how difficult it can be for women to govern their own bodies.

From the start, season five addresses powerful topics and does not shy away from where and when people in the “helping profession” cause harm. Such is the case in episode two, which deals with breast feeding or using formula. What is lovely is that our dear Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) is able to offer some repair work with a woman who was unable to breast feed. Episode three was very difficult to watch and deals with how we treat pregnant women who are not married and also takes on the issue of abortion. I strongly recommend this episode, as here in 2016 women still face so many of these same barriers. Of course, if we then look at intersecting identities, we look at how women of color and queer women may face even more barriers.

The show also takes on sex work, poverty, and the clandestine lesbian affair between Patsy and Delia. We also see the advent of the pill and how we look at women’s reproductive health and choice. I have to say that every episode is very intense and well done. I will continue to use many of the episodes in social work classes I teach, as they address what good social work can look like and what intersectionality is.

While I am exceedingly sad that our Pam Ferris has left the show, and I still miss Chummy (Miranda Hart), I am thrilled that Call The Midwife will return for a sixth season.  Rumor has it that our Chummy will return. I don’t know of another show that takes on social issues the way this show does, especially around the disparities of how we treat women. Well Done! Stay tuned for Season Six.

John Boehner and the Implosion of the Republican Party

29 Apr

cruz-devilIf you have followed this blog at all, you already know I have worked hard to expose how awful former Speaker of the House, John Boehner is, which makes it just that more delicious when even Boehner compares Ted Cruz to Satan. To be fair, I suspect Satan looks at Cruz and says: “Gosh, you are kinda mean.”  Boehner’s exact words in describing Cruz were: ““Lucifer in the flesh… I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

My own bias is that yes, Cruz is an awful human being. He is explicitly anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-immigration, in fact, I’m not certain there are actually any people he likes, save for white Christian men–OY! Of course, given the wide berth his colleagues give him, the feeling seems to be mutual. I wonder if we need to ban Cruz from using public bathrooms.

This most recent trouble with Cruz is indicative of something greater at work–the implosion of the Republican party. The wave of Tea Party (right wing extremists) have pulled the GOP into a direction that makes a train wreck look like a lovely afternoon outing. I submit all of the GOP presidential debates as evidence. Cruz’ bizarre attempt at courting Indiana primary voters by trotting out Carly Fiorina as his running mate seems desperate but also exceedingly ignorant, as it holds no weight. If this becomes a contested convention, then the delegates pick the VP candidate. The implosion of this party manifests itself by working to hurt most United States citizens.  The rise of this hateful state has also emboldened the Chief Obstructionist and Racist, Mitch McConnell.

While it becomes more apparent everyday that Cruz needs to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, sadly, that would make him the only person currently that should be there. Let us not forget how equally awful John Kasich is, despite that “Golly Gosh” grin of his.

GOP leaders seem shocked that decades of discrimination and obstruction have left them with these yahoos as their candidates. Many congresscritters running in tight races have even said they won’t show up at the convention. Sorry, folks, but you built this — walking away won’t change a single fact, for you all have created a dirt that just won’t wash clean.

Earth Day 2016: United By the Soil Beneath Our Feet

22 Apr

globalsoilweekToday is Earth Day, celebrated by nearly 200 nations and an important chance to look at the world we share and celebrate better ways to live in healthy cooperation. This isn’t just a day about recycling or public transportation — although every effort to improve our world helps. It’s a time to reflect on the fact that the billions of people who live on this planet fundamentally walk the same ground, breathe the same air, drink the same water. We are all connected.

I would like to thank Melody Travers of the Global Soil Forum for bringing a powerful program to my attention. Global Soil Week, timed to coincide with Earth Day and Earth Week activities around the world. This program, sponsored by IASS Potsdam and an impressive array of international organizations, speaks to my heart. Their work is about ensuring healthy soil, a key component of healthy living that is often overlooked. As Ms. Travers observes:

Our soils which are our communal life-support system, a common good for humanity, are under immense pressure to produce an increasing amount of food, energy, and raw materials. Soil degradation continues unabated in many countries, resulting in devastating losses of biodiversity and threatening the provision of ecosystem services such as soil fertility for food production, groundwater recharge or carbon sequestration. Thus we need to protect the living soil from rapid and continuous large scale degradation going on all over the world.

This year, Global Soil Week is promoting its efforts through the international  release of the song Golden Grounds. Please visit the website and listen to this anthem of interconnectedness. Spend some time looking at the amazing information collected by this important program. I am thrilled to see the celebration of inclusive development, the focus on poverty and hunger, the acknowledgment of maldistribution of resources, including the very land on which we live.

We are all connected on this weary world. Let’s work together to nurture it and each other on our respective journeys.

Labor Day 2015: Much Despised by the GOP

7 Sep

Labor Day 2015Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how all of the GOP presidential candidates show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals — that whole notion of having a weekend.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  President Clinton left a nasty legacy called NAFTA and perpetuated a culture of vilifying those in poverty.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small movement forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from all of the GOP candidates has been nothing less than hostile, as they all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy.

We hear Republicans bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level we see a nefarious and dangerous Scott Walker are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.  We have seen Walker, Christie, Kasich, and Jindal bash and target teachers and unions, rather than looking at how do we redistribute wealth in an equitable way that helps to lift people out of poverty. Please take a look at this short video on the distribution of wealth; this is what we should desperately focus on and how every GOP candidate is on the wrong side of history here.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

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