Article 43

 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Third World U.S.A. Part 11 - Just Getting By

image: ALICE - asset limited income constrained employed

ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget.

For far too many families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. These households struggle to manage even their most basic needs - housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and necessary technology.

When funds run short, cash-strapped households are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, filling a prescription or fixing the car. These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for ALICE families, but for all of us.Through a series of new, standardized measurements, each states ALICE Report presents a broad picture of financial insecurity at the county and municipal level. What we found was startling - the size of the workforce in each state that is struggling financially is much higher than traditional federal poverty guidelines suggest. United For ALICE is a grassroots movement stimulating a fresh, nonpartisan national dialogue about how to reverse the trend and improve conditions for this growing population of families living paycheck to paycheck.

- Unitied for ALICE

image: gig economy

Is the gig economy a path to prosperity or the indenture of just getting by?
Democrats participate in a public cringe about going too far left, too fast, and working people get the gig economy

By Bob Hennelly
Salon
May 19, 2019

One of the best things that American capitalism has going for it is the myth machine that’s programmed generations of school age Americans to believe that our collective national story is a narrative of remarkable broad-based socio-economic progress.

Its like that warm and fuzzy inner glow we get from Disney’s Epcot Center where we can trace early man executing cave drawings through the printing of the Gutenberg Bible all the way to today’s driverless car.

It’s all very patriotic and cuts down on the odds of incubating young radicals who might threaten capitals established order or be in too much of hurry to make things better now. The one thing you don’t want to teach them is LABOR HISTORY because then they will know just how bad its been and for how long.

Yeah, people died for the CAUSE OF LABOR RIGHTS in the fervent hope something might get better. Owners didn’t just say “oh, you don’t want to bring your 11-year-old to work with you anymore and you want Sunday off? No problem.”

The cover story for the great disappearance of unions goes something like this: Yes, at one time back in the era of black and white movies American workers were terribly exploited but then they organized unions and several FRANK CAPRA movies later, the workers won their struggle and we got the minimum wage and the forty-hour week, but we really don’t need unions in modern times.

Or, so we were told.

We know just how violently exploitative slavery was as an institution but how many Americans know that by some HISTORICAL ESTIMATES half to three-quarters of European immigrants that came to the colonies had some form of indenture price hanging over their head.

Capital has been kicking labor’s ass since it wore powdered wigs in this country and the data shows it hasn’t let up since, as the widening wealth and income gap demonstrates.

Scroll forward a few hundred years, the entire recorded history of the country, and according to a 2018 FEDERAL RESERVE REPORT on the Economic Well Being of the U.S. Household in the 21st century “four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.”

So that’s the great wheel of progress? More like the randomness of the wheel of fortune. At least when you were indentured there was a chance you might get free food and shelter.

In the 2020 debate for the Democratic nomination, the constant refrain we hear from the moderators of the cable debate is that the greatest danger Democrats face is the perilous prospect they will go too far left, too fast.

If anything, we have been moving too slow for too long and we can see it in the data related to the growing affordability crisis that’s been documented by the United Way across the country with its ANALYSIS OF THE WORKING POOR in several states.

The national non-profit takes a detailed look at the local cost of living and wages for families they define as asset limited income constrained but employed (ALICE). In California 48 percent of the state’s families are either poor or struggle week-to-week to get by. In Florida, it is 46 percent. In Ohio, 42 percent are in that ALICE cohort. In New York, 45 percent either live below poverty or are struggling on the edge over which they will plummet after one major unexpected expense.

We did not get to these numbers overnight. This is the consequence of decades of permitting corporations to grow larger and larger as the union movement shrunk to a fraction of what it once was. Fifty years ago, almost a third of Americans were in a union while today it is just one in ten. Is it any wonder that since the 1970s WAGES HAVE DECLINED or stayed flat as worker productivity skyrocketed along with the COST OF LIVING?

As I have written in this space before, there are signs of a grass roots labor union revival born out of something that has been brewing for several Presidential election cycles. It is driven by data that shows this generation of young adults are on track to be the first that wont do better than their parents economically.

For me it appears to be most evident In New York State that has a bit of a head start with one of the highest concentrations of organized labor in the country.  In the next few weeks the state’s union movement is hoping to right what New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, believes is a “decades old disgrace"with the passage this session of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (S-2837/A-2750).

In the 1930s America’s farmworkers were excluded from the landmark protections extended to the rest of the nation as codified during the New Deal. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act and the 1938 Fair Labor Practices Act expressly exempted them, along with domestic workers.

These landmark reforms codified the concept of overtime and a minimum wage.

“People think we all took these huge leaps forward, but these reforms were not universal,” said Joshua Freeman, a professor and labor historian at the City of New York’s Graduate Center. “It depended on your race and gender and the farmworker and domestic worker cutouts were to get southern Congressional Democrats on board who did not want to see black workers covered.”

During the eighty-plus years since, resistance to farmworkers organizing and gaining legal work place protections has remained intense with less than one percent of the workforce being able to benefit from union membership.

In New York States the drive to, at long last, provide farmworkers with labor rights they have been denied for decades is led by 33-year-old State Senator JESSICA RAMOS, who was first elected last year and chairs the State Senate Labor Committee.

“We must ensure that farmworkers are granted the rights that all other workers in our state are afforded a day off, overtime pay, unemployment benefits and the right to collectively bargain,” she said in an email exchange.

Ramos has held hearings across the state to raise the visibility of the issue and is trying to forge a consensus. “I am talking to all stakeholders in this issue and I have toured the state talking to farmers and farmworkers alike,” she said. “Farm work isn’t like a nine-to-five office job and is greatly impacted by inclement weather. I hope to come to an agreement and pass the bill by the end of session.”

Ramos has worked for two unions and sees advancing labor’s interests as central to her agenda. “Despite having the highest union density in the country, there are too many unorganized and disorganized industries in New York,” said Ramos. As the daughter of immigrants, one of whom is a former member of the now-defunct International Lady Garment Workers Union, I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility in bridging the gap between born and raised New Yorkers like me and immigrants like my parents.

The NEW YORK STATE AFL- CIO’S Cilento believes the farmworker labor standards bill, long a state labor priority, is now closer than it has ever been to becoming law

“Farmworkers don’t have the right to overtime pay which means a farmworker can work 60, 70, 80 hours a week at the discretion of their employer for as long as the employer sees fit,” Cilento said “And because they don’t have a right to join a union, to collectively bargain. they don’t have any say on the matter.”

Yet, even as the state AFL-CIO was lobbying hoping to finally deliver for farmworkers, Cilento said he saw a bigger challenge ahead for organized labor with the explosion of the so-called gig-economy.

According to a recent study by Cornell University’s Worker Institute, sponsored by the state AFL-CIO, the exponential growth in the on-demand workforce of independent contractors that’s managed by online platforms, or “apps,” is eroding long-standing legal protections for labor.

Intuit Inc, the parent company of Turbo Tax, estimates that almost 34 percent of the workforce today is in the gig economy and predicts that share to rise to 43 percent by 2020. No doubt, many of the participants in that realm also are still working a conventional job.

But for the millions of Americans who work only in the overall gig economy, there is no unemployment insurance, workers compensation coverage, wage and hour protection, family and medical leave, workplace health and safety, withholding of taxes, pension security, anti-discrimination or right to organize and collectively bargain.

“We have a class of workers who are being denied basic rights that most other workers have,” Cilento said in a statement when the report was issued on April 30. “This is a turning point in our changing economy that reeks of early 20th century working conditions of low wages and discrimination.”

“On-demand platform employment is but the latest demonstration of destabilizing changes in work, conditions, and labor markets that have developed since the 1980s,” according to the Cornell Worker Institute report commissioned by the NYS-AFL-CIO.

“Companies have systematically shifted or eliminated jobs formerly done in-house through subcontracting, reliance on third parties, contingent and temporary work contracts, and abuse of “independent contractor” status.”

The CORNELL ANALYSIS reports the industries most impacted by this trend are: transportation, trucking, construction, home health care, janitorial, hospitality, restaurant, household services, clerical, and retail services.

The research paper continues, “On-demand industry practice, represented by such companies as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and TaskRabbit, is to hire and dispatch workers as independent contractors. These workers are, however, not true “independent contractors;” they are not in business for themselves and cannot freely negotiate employment terms.”

“It is going to be very important for taxpayers,” Cilento warned. “These workers will be working 60 hours a week and not making even the minimum wage, which means ultimately if you have a growing percentage of the economy with workers working at these lower rates the general public - taxpayers - are going to be subsidizing their earnings with public assistance because we have a growing number of people who are not making ends meet. 

As a consequence, Cilento predicts conventional brick-and-mortar businesses will increasingly be handicapped by having to live up to their legal obligations under existing labor law that protects their employees as their web-based competitors can increase their profits and increase their market share because their business model is based on evading them.

So much for social progress.

SOURCE

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Half of Americans Are Effectively Poor Now. What The?
Americas Collapsing Because it’s the World’s First Poor Rich Country

By Umair Hague
May 31, 2019

There are days I feel like I read dystopian statistics for a living. And then there are day when the dystopian statistics take even my jaded breath away. Heres one: 43% OF AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS can’t afford a budget that includes housing, food, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and a cellphone. Translation: nearly half of Americans cant afford the basics of life anymore.

Does that take your breath away too? It should. And yet it might not come as a surprise. You might know it intimately. The statistics say thereҒs an even chance you’re living it. What a grim and bizarre reality. Half of people are effectively poor in the worlds richest country. What the?

The folks that did the study above call this new class of people ALICE, for asset limited, income constrained, employed. It’s a sharp way to think about American collapse. Let me translate this term, too: the people formerly known as the American middle class.

Lets take each of those terms one by one. “Asset limited” means that these households don’t have the resources - the hard financial assets - to drawn down on anymore. That tallies with other research which says the majority of Americans now have a negative net worth. In short, asset limited is a polite way of saying: indebted for life, with no real way of ever not getting out of the trap. Its a nice way of saying: broke.

Why not? That brings me to the second idea in the term. “Income constrained.” American incomes haven’t risen for half a century. But the cost of living has exploded..skyrocketed..gone supernova. Healthcare and education didn’t cost as much as a house in the 1970s, or even the 1980s. And houses didn’t cost more than the average person would ever make in their lifetime. If “asset-limited” is a polite way of saying broke and indebted, income constrained is a polite way of saying poor.

There are two basic kinds of financial poverty, after all. Not having much of an income, and not having any wealth saved up. Americans are poor in both ways now. Thats because their incomes haven’t risen to allow them to save, and their debts keep mounting, which eats up their meagre incomes. Hence (another shocking stat) most Americans now die in debt. What the?

Is this the 1300s? What do we call a population that live and debt - in debt? We certainly don’t call them free in any real sense. They’re the modern equivalent of serfs or peasants - who are born owing, and who will die owing, a fictional, unplayable amount.

Americans are something very much like Neo-serfs because of the last idea in the phrase ALICE, employed. You see, its not as if the average American is poor now because he or she is sitting around playing video games all day. Quite the contrary. Americans are notoriously hard working people - and that trend continues right down to this day. Americans hold several jobs. The side hustle has become an everyday feature of life.

Americans arent poor because they don’t work, they don’t work hard enough, or they don’t work long enough. Theyre poor even if they do. In that sense, the final idea in the phrase ALICE is underwhelming, inadequate - it fails to really get to the root of the problem here. If the majority of people in a rich society are poor noweven though “they’re employed” then clearly the problem isn’t the people it’s the system.

Now, you might object. Are Americans really becoming poor? What else would you call people that struggle to afford food, housing, childcare, and healthcare? You can’t call them rich, and you can’t call them middle class. They are poor in the sense that they are deprived of the basics of life, and deprivation is what poverty is. Even far poorer countries, Id wager, don’t have such dire outcomes - bigger percentages can afford the basics - because medicine or rent or childcare in Pakistan or Nigeria doesn’t cost so relatively much. Americans are indeed growing effectively poorer and poorer now - and it shows in their depression, stress, anger, rage, anxiety, falling longevity and health, not to mention classic turn towards authoritarianism.

Poverty in America, in other words, has become endemic and ubiquitous because its systemic and structural. It’s baked into the system. It’s a feature, not a bug. And most Americans these days, Id wager, understand this intuitively. Work hard, play by the rules, become something, someone worthy. Be a teacher, engineer, writer, coach, therapist, nurse etcetera. What do you get? You get your pension “raided” (read: stolen) by hedge funds, you get your income decimated by “investment bankers,” you get charged a fortune for the very things you yourself are involved in producing but never earn a fair share of, you get preyed on in every which way the predatory can dream up.

But it’s a new kind of poverty too - or at least one unseen since the Weimar Republic, really. It’s the poverty of decline, degeneration, decay. Its the poverty of a middle class becoming a new poor. It’s the reversal of an upwards trajectory - not the failure to launch. It’s people who expected to live better and better lives finding themselves in the grim, unfamiliar predicament of never being able to reach them, no matter what they do. Except maybe sell out and become one of the predators. What happens when that takes place? Something strange, something difficult, something paradoxical and backwards.

If I say to the average American - hey, I know you’re poor. Listen, I’m not trying to insult you. I’m trying to help you. I know it. The statistics tell me so. I can see it in on your stressed out, depressed face. I can see it in everything about you now - what will the average American say? Well, he or she will respond defensively, probably. “Hey, go to hell buddy! Im not poor!” That’s understandable. Nobody likes to be called poor - and especially not Americans, because living in a hyper capitalist society, poverty is stigmatized, scorned, mocked, and hated. To call an American poor is something like calling a Soviet a bad communist party member - or maybe even a capitalist. Comrade! To the gulag with you!

I get it. But it’s not helping anyone to pretend Americans are rich now when in fact theyre poor. The difficult truths are these. The majority of Americans - or near enough - are effectively poor now. America is the world;s poor rich country. And no progress whatsoever can be made until enough of them are willing to admit it. Think about it. If Americans go on playing this strange and silly game of pretending to be rich when they’re poor, then what reason is there to address any of the obvious and fatal failures at the heart of American life anymore? If you’re rich and fortunate, why do you need public, healthcare, childcare, retirement? And yet without those things, Americans will only ever get poorer.

There’s a place where pride becomes hubris. Where stoicism becomes vanity. Where self-reliance becomes ignorance of the common good. Americans are at that place right now, in this moment.

American poverty - middle class falling into ruin, the majority of people now effectively poor - is what gave rise to today’s problems: Trumpism, extremism, fascism, theocracy. It’s what drives religious fervour - save me, someone! It’s what ignites the spark of racial hatred all over again.

And until and unless this problem is addressed, my friends, in a tough and gentle and sane way, America is going to stay where it is. People that really understand political economy have a saying: “capitalism implodes into fascism.” That’s because it produces mass poverty, not riches, decline, not upward mobility - and the new poor then turn on everyone, neighbours, friends, allies, values, morals. If that sounds eerily like America today, then you should be able to see America tomorrow, too.

Somebody needs to say it, and it needs to be said with gentle understanding, real empathy, uncompromising truth, and genuine compassion. America is effectively a poor country now. Not a poor country like poor countries, but a poor country of its own kind. A poor rich country, a rich country where the average person lives like a poor person. That single fact is at the heart of American collapse, my friends. And its not OK.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/31/19 •
Section Dying America
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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Iphone Phone Home

image: iphone phone home

Its the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?

Apple says, :What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”
Our privacy experiment showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled our data - in a single week.

By Geoffrey A. Fowler
Washington Post
May 28, 2019

It’s 3 a.m. Do you know what your iPhone is doing?

Mine has been alarmingly busy. Even though the screen is off and I’m snoring, apps are beaming out lots of information about me to companies I’ve never heard of. Your iPhone probably is doing the same - and Apple could be doing more to stop it.

On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my iPhone. At 11:43 p.m., a company called Amplitude learned my phone number, email and exact location. At 3:58 a.m., another called Appboy got a digital fingerprint of my phone. At 6:25 a.m., a tracker called Demdex received a way to identify my phone and sent back a list of other trackers to pair up with.

And sll night long, there was some startling behavior by a household name: Yelp. It was receiving a message that included my IP address - once every five minutes.

Our data has a secret life in many of the devices we use every day, from talking Alexa speakers to smart TVs. But we;ve got a giant blind spot when it comes to the data companies probing our phones.

You might assume you can count on Apple to sweat all the privacy details. After all, it touted in a recent ad, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” My investigation suggests otherwise.

IPhone apps I discovered tracking me by passing information to third parties - just while I was asleep - include Microsoft OneDrive, Intuits Mint, Nike, Spotify, The Washington Post and IBM’s the Weather Channel. One app, the crime-alertservice Citizen, shared personally identifiable information in violation of its published privacy policy.

And your iPhone doesnt only feed data trackers while you sleep. In a single week, I encountered over 5,400 trackers, mostly in apps, not including the incessant Yelp traffic. According to privacy firm Disconnect, which helped test my iPhone, those unwanted trackers would have spewed out 1.5 gigabytes of data over the span of a month. That’s half of an entire basic wireless service plan from AT&T.

This is your data. Why should it even leave your phone? Why should it be collected by someone when you donӒt know what theyre going to do with it?Ҕ says Patrick Jackson, a former National Security Agency researcher who is chief technology officer for Disconnect. He hooked my iPhone into special software so we could examine the traffic. I know the value of data, and I donӒt want mine in any hands where it doesnt need to be,Ҕ he told me.

In a world of data brokers, Jackson is the data breaker. He developed an app called Privacy Pro that identifies and blocks many trackers. If youre a little bit techie, I recommend trying the free iOS version to glimpse the secret life of your iPhone.

Yes, trackers are a problem on phones running Google’s Android, too. Google wont even let Disconnect’s tracker-protection software into its Play Store. (Googles rules prohibit apps that might interfere with another app displaying ads.)

Part of Jackson’s objection to trackers is that many feed the personal data economy, used to target us for marketing and political messaging. Facebook’s fiascos have made us all more aware of how our data can be passed along, stolen and misused - but Cambridge Analytica was just the beginning.

Jackson’s biggest concern is transparency: If we don’t know where our data is going, how can we ever hope to keep it private?

The app gap

App trackers are like the cookies on websites that slow load times, waste battery life and cause creepy ads to follow you around the Internet. Except in apps, theres little notice trackers are lurking and you can’t choose a different browser to block them.

Why do trackers activate in the middle of the night? Some app makers have them call home at times the phone is plugged in, or think they wont interfere with other functions. These late-night encounters happen on the iPhone if you have allowed “background app refresh,” which is Apple’s default.

With Yelp, the company says the behavior I uncovered wasn’t a tracker but rather an “unintended issue that’s been acting like a tracker.” Yelp thinks my discovery affects 1 percent of its iOS users, particularly those who’ve made reservations through Apple Maps. At best, it is shoddy software that sent Yelp data it didn’t need. At worst, Yelp was amassing a data trove that could be used to map peoples travels, even when they weren’t using its app.

A more typical example is DoorDash, the food-delivery service. Launch that app, and you’re sending data to nine third-party trackers - though you’d have no way to know it.

App makers often use trackers because they’re shortcuts to research or revenue. They run the gamut from innocuous to insidious. Some are like consultants that app makers pay to analyze what people tap on and look at. Other trackers pay the app makers, squeezing value out of our data to target ads.

In the case of DoorDash, one tracker called Sift Science gets a fingerprint of your phone (device name, model, ad identifier and memory size) and even accelerometer motion data to help identify fraud. Three more trackers help DoorDash monitor app performance - including one called Segment that routes onward data including your delivery address, name, email and cell carrier.

DoorDashҗs other five trackers, including Facebook and Google Ad Services, help it understand the effectiveness of its marketing. Their presence means Facebook and Google know every time you open DoorDash.

The delivery company tells me it doesnt allow trackers to sell or share our data, which is great. But its privacy policy throws its hands up in the air: ҒDoorDash is not responsible for the privacy practices of these entities, it says.

All but one of DoorDashӔs nine trackers made Jacksons naughty list for Disconnect, which also powers the Firefox browserҒs private browsing mode. To him, any third party that collects and retains our data is suspect unless it also has pro-consumer privacy policies like limiting data retention time and anonymizing data.

Microsoft, Nike and the Weather Channel told me they were using the trackers I uncovered to improve performance. Mint, owned by Intuit, said it uses an Adobe marketing tracker to help figure out how to advertise to Mint users. The Post said its trackers were used to make sure ads work. Spotify pointed me to its privacy policy.

Privacy policies don’t necessarily provide protection. Citizen, the app for location-based crime reports, published that it wouldn’t share your name or other personally identifying information.ғ Yet when I ran my test, I found it repeatedly sent my phone number, email and exact GPS coordinates to the tracker Amplitude.

After I contacted Citizen, it updated its app and removed the Amplitude tracker. (Amplitude, for its part, says data it collects for clients is kept private and not sold.)

“We will do a better job of making sure our privacy policy is clear about the specific types of data we share with providers like these,” Citizen spokesman J. Peter Donald said. We do not sell user data. “We never have and never will.”

The problem is, the more places personal data flies, the harder it becomes to hold companies accountable for bad behavior including inevitable breaches.

As Jackson kept reminding me: This is your data.

The letdown

What disappoints me is that the data free-for-all I discovered is happening on an iPhone. Isn’t Apple supposed to be better at privacy?

“At Apple we do a great deal to help users keep their data private,” the company says in a statement. “Apple hardware and software are designed to provide advanced security and privacy at every level of the system.”

In some areas, Apple is ahead. Most of Apple’s own apps and services take care to either encrypt data or, even better, to not collect it in the first place. Apple offers a privacy setting called “Limit Ad Tracking” (sadly off by default) which makes it a little bit harder for companies to track you across apps, by way of a unique identifier for every iPhone.

And with iOS 12, Apple took shots at the data economy by improving the ?intelligent tracking prevention” in its Safari web browser.

Yet these days, we spend more time in apps. Apple is strict about requiring apps to get permission to access certain parts of the iPhone, including your camera, microphone, location, health information, photos and contacts. (You can check and change those permissions under privacy settings.) But Apple turns more of a blind eye to what apps do with data we provide them or they generate about us Ӕ witness the sorts of tracking I found by looking under the covers for a few days.

For the data and services that apps create on their own, our App Store Guidelines require developers to have clearly posted privacy policies and to ask users for permission to collect data before doing so. When we learn that apps have not followed our Guidelines in these areas, we either make apps change their practice or keep those apps from being on the store,ד Apple says.

Yet very few apps I found using third-party trackers disclosed the names of those companies or how they protect my data. And what good is burying this information in privacy policies, anyway? What we need is accountability.

Getting more deeply involved in app data practices is complicated for Apple. Todays technology frequently is built on third-party services, so Apple couldn’t simply ban all connections to outside servers. And some companies are so big they dont even need the help of outsiders to track us.

The result shouldn’t be to increase Apple’s power. “I would like to make sure they’re not stifling innovation,” says Andrs Arrieta, the director of consumer privacy engineering at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  “If Apple becomes the Internets privacy police, it could shut down rivals.”

Jackson suggests Apple could also add controls into iOS like the ones built into Privacy Pro to give everyone more visibility.

Or perhaps Apple could require apps to label when they’re using third-party trackers. If I opened the DoorDash app and saw nine tracker notices, it might make me think twice about using it.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/30/19 •
Section Privacy And Rights
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Made In China

image: your job is next to go to china

No, Mr. President: China didn’t steal our jobs. Corporate America gave them away
Trump’s trade war points the finger in the wrong direction. China behaved normally; corporate CEOs betrayed us

By Cody Cain
Salon
May 19, 2019

China is not stealing American jobs.

President Trump loves to blame China for the job losses that have devastated American workers under globalization. But the truth is that Trump is blaming the wrong party. Trump’s reckless trade war against China is misguided and amounts to a colossal charade that will not solve the actual problem.

Yes, it is true that numerous American manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas to China, thereby leaving American workers jobless and suffering. But China did not steal these jobs.

No. These jobs were given to China. It was all legal and legitimate. China merely accepted the gift.

What would anyone expect China to do? Accepting these jobs was a perfectly rational course of action.

China was an underdeveloped nation with a large population of poor people willing to work for a fraction of the hourly wages of American workers. And then corporations came along and presented China with an attractive offer: We would like to build manufacturing plants in China and hire droves of your unemployed people to work there. What was China supposed to do? Naturally, China said yes.

This is hardly stealing.

It is true that these new jobs in China were intended to displace American workers. But does that concern belong to China? Does China have the responsibility to care for the well-being of American workers? Is China supposed to prioritize American workers over its own workers?

Of course not.

China is supposed to look out for itself and for its own workers, not for American workers. Thus it was perfectly proper for China to allow the manufacturing plants to be built in China and employ Chinese workers. China did not steal these jobs.

So if China is not at fault, then who is to blame for the devastation caused to American workers?

The answer is plain to see, and it lies within our own shores. The fault belongs squarely with corporate America.

It was corporate America that made these decisions. Corporate America decided to close their American plants and open new plants in China. Corporate America decided to lay off multitudes of American workers and ruin entire American communities.

And who profited from the destruction to American workers? It was the wealthy executives and shareholders of American corporations. They earned millions of dollars for themselves by cutting the costs of their workforce.

This is part of the larger trend of economic inequality that is eroding the entire middle class in America. Wealth is being shifted away from the workers down below and transferred up into the hands of the wealthy executives and shareholders at the top.

Trump blaming China is nonsense. China is not at fault. To be sure, China is hardly an angel and indeed engages in improper trade practices. But even if China agreed to whatever bone-headed demands Trump is seeking, the problem still would not be solved. The truth is that America cannot possibly compete against China on labor costs. The standard of living is much lower in China and thus Chinese workers are willing to accept wages far below living wages in America. So corporate America will continue to transfer more and more jobs to China and elsewhere. If we do not address this fundamental economic reality, then we will never solve the problem.

Trump blaming China has an insidious aspect to it as well. Focusing all the ire upon China is a grand misdirection that conceals the true culprit, namely, the super-rich corporate executives and shareholders in America.

This is part of Trump’s standard playbook. Trump falsely proclaims to be fighting for blue-collar workers, when in truth, Trump acts entirely in favor of the rich at the top.

Surprisingly, this seems to work. Some of the hard-working Americans who are being crushed by Trumps idiotic trade war and who should be denouncing Trump, nonetheless praise him for standing up to China, believing that Trump is fighting for blue-collar jobs. It is painful to witness such good people falling victim to Trump’s despicable con job.

In order to actually save the middle class, we need to focus on the true cause of the problem. We must direct our great powers of reform where they belong upon the wealthy executives and shareholders of corporate America who caused this problem in the first place.

The nature of the problem is that corporate America has no incentive to protect American workers. In fact, corporate America has every incentive to harm American workers by shifting their jobs overseas.

So the financial incentives must be reconfigured. If corporate America is going to ship American jobs overseas, it must not be permitted to pocket all the profits themselves and leave their displaced workers with nothing. Instead, corporations that send jobs offshore must be required to sufficiently compensate their displaced American workers. Executives and shareholders must not be permitted to enrich themselves unless and until their workers are financially secure.

OUR SOCIETY MUST FAVOR PEOPLE OVER PROFITS, not profits over people.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/29/19 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Thursday, May 23, 2019

America In Collapse 5

image: the end is near

We’re In The Final Years Of The American Empire

By Rainer Shea
Medium
May 19. 2019

The United States has reached a point where its entire claim to global hegemony is based on a series of largely fragile geopolitical alliances, and on a worldwide military presence that can’t be sustained for much longer. As the political writer Dmitry Orlov said in an interview last month: “I think that the AMERICAN EMPIRE is very much over already, but it hasn’t been put to any sort of serious stress test yet, and so nobody realizes that this is the case.”

The last few years military budget expansions, war campaigns against Iran and Venezuela, and attempts to strong-arm Russia and China are all part of the American empire’s reaction to this fragility on its part. So is the fact that the United States has been directly at war for the last eighteen years. Throughout this time, the American empire has been in a state similar to that of the British empire after it attacked Egypt in 1956, or to that of the Athenian empire during the Peloponnesian War of 431404 B.C. When these empires launched these great military adventures, they both experienced a rapid decline in their ability to hold together the power structures they֒d created, and soon they were no longer dominant. The same has been happening to the U.S. since the start if its disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since that time, endless wars and military expansions have drained the U.S. economy while the Great Recession and increasing income inequality have further impeded the country’s ability to economically function. The U.S. has mostly lost its ability to persuade formerly loyal countries to serve its foreign policy goals; the Trump administration’s push for war with Iran is mainly getting support from Saudi Arabia and Israel, with the international community overwhelmingly rejecting Trumps Iran agenda. Overall, the hand that America plays during its regime change attempts is now decrepit and increasingly ineffectual; the U.S. has ended up isolating itself on the world stage by supporting GuaidoҒs illegal coup attempt in Venezuela, with 75% of the worlds countries backing Maduro. And in a world that’s become multipolar, Russia and China have lately been outmaneuvering the U.S. economically and militarily, such as with their preparations to protect Venezuela from an invasion.

The U.S. still can still do great damage through sanctions-as its doing right now in Syria-and its military remains the largest in the world. But without strong international support or an economy that works properly, the country is only retaining its power through endless violence and military buildup. The U.S. is an international outlaw whose government is widely hated and distrusted both at home and abroad, and mass revolt against it could easily break out in the coming years as lower class discontent reaches a boiling point.

None of this is hyperbole. In 2017, a Pentagon report stated that American power “is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing.” The report even recommended that the government try to maintain its control through propaganda, increased surveillance, and more military expansionism.

But reality will catch up with the empire’s attempts to stop its own unraveling. Americas great undoing will be the collapse of the dollar-an eventuality which the U.S. has been trying to stave off by intervening in Iran and Venezuela for their rejection of America’s currency. If the U.S. were to conquer both of these countries, it wouldnt be able to halt the transition away from American trade dominance that nations around the world are making. With Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq, the U.S. lost the respect of many nations around the world, and Trumps TRADE WARS and rejections of international agreements like the Paris agreement have accelerated this rupture between the U.S. and the rest of the world. America’s global dollar reserves are being replaced by other currencies. And as this process continues, its going to combine with the country’s internal financial mismanagement to create a 21st century Great Depression.

By the end of the 2020s, the U.S. may be so economically crippled that it will have to massively withdraw its global military forces. This will represent the death of the American empire, which the author Alfred McCoy has predicted will come around the year 2030. At that point, writes McCoy, the country will be experiencing soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages throughout the 2020s, [as] domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over symbolic, insubstantial issues.Ӕ

“The decline of the dollar, as well as potential wars with Iran, Russia, and China, are going to be the stress test” that Orlov anticipates will end America as we know it. This collapse cant be stopped. The question is what will happen after America goes under.

This question will be decided by those who make the choice between whether they’ll continue to support capitalism, or fight for a world that isn’t controlled by fascistic governments and powerful multinational corporations. After the U.S. loses its power, the corporatocracy will use the private armies of mercenary companies like Blackwater to carry out its regime change projects. Already, Blackwater is aiming to cash in on American desires for continued military involvement by becoming part of the wars in Afghanistan and Syria. This privatization of the empire will be an unprecedented corporate takeover, and it will be facilitated by a collection of world powers that have embraced ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism.

The European Union will likely work as one of these authoritarian powers; the EU’s recent efforts to control information and exert police power over the populations of its member countries show that the EU could soon become an instrument for social control within its region. This will be paralleled by a plethora of countries which are already quickly shifting towards despotism and ethnic nationalism, with America having some of the greatest potential for falling into tyranny. As Chris Hedges has written about what America will look like if it continues on its current path:

The central government will be reduced to its most basic functions - internal and external security and collecting taxes. Severe poverty will cripple the lives of most citizens. Any essential service once provided by the state, from utilities to basic policing, will be privatized, expensive and inaccessible to those without resources - The mass media will become nakedly Orwellian, chatting endlessly about a bright future and pretending America remains a great superpower. It will substitute political gossip for news - a corruption already far advanced - while insisting that the country is in an economic recovery or about to enter one.

But the world DOESN’T HAVE TO end up like this. There are people who are fighting back against corporate power, fascism, and imperialism. They may be on the margins, but they have the advantage of being the ones who are fighting on behalf of a population which is outraged at declining living standards and widening inequality. We need to unite all of these freedom fighters around the goal of overthrowing capitalism and building a socialist workerŒs state, or the forces of empire will continue to subjugate us.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/23/19 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Message For 2019 Graduates

image: people applying for a job

“No matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, sooner or later, you’ll face circumstances beyond your control.”
- Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones

How to Survive the Journey Ahead: A Graduation Message for a Terrifying Age
By John W. Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
May 20, 2019

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever ENCOUNTERED by young people.

They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and STRUGGLING TO FIND worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be EVISCERATED by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a MILITARY EMPIRE constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moments notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Worse, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes FRACTURED BY DIVORCE, distracted by MINDLESS ENTERTAINMENT, and OBSESSED WITH the PURSUIT OF MATERIALISM. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in SCHOOLS which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well - where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Based on the current political climate, things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is ”THE JAILER OF FREEDOM AND THE ENEMY OF GROWTH.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “Columbus” to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us dont know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, dont become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become “conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, weve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If youre going to make a difference in the world, youҒre going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If were going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ғOur lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. All the while, since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and police the rest of the world. This is an egregious affront to anyone who believes in freedom.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war ԓon different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history - even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age - some of whom disguise themselves as politicians - delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground ... that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing rightӗrespect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebutbut don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately ... ultimately - you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe, there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy - prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies - he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb ... and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way well ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.

Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.

SOURCE

MESSAGE FOR THE 2018 GRADUATES

Posted by Elvis on 05/21/19 •
Section Dying America
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