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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Homeless In California 2 - Criminalizing Homelessness

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“They’ve turned their backs on us”
California’s homeless crisis grows in numbers and violence

By Sam T Levin
The Guardian
December 27, 2019

In a state with the worlds fifth largest economy, physical assaults and criminalization efforts have made 2019 a particularly grim year for the homeless

As homelessness surged to crisis levels in California in 2019, so did the violent attacks on people living in tents and on sidewalks and the political and law enforcement efforts to keep homeless encampments off the streets.

Physical assaults and criminalization efforts combined have made 2019 a particularly grim and terrifying year for many Californians struggling to survive without a roof over their head.

“They are trying to shove us underneath the carpet, and it’s just not fair,” said Shanna Couper Orona, 46, who is currently living out of an RV in San Francisco. San Francisco is supposed to be progressive, a place where you love everyone, take care of everyone. But they;ve turned their backs on us just because we’re unhoused. They are leaving us with nothing.

Amid expanding crisis, a surge in homeless victims

In a state with the world’s fifth largest economy, an IPO tech boom and some of the richest people on earth, Californias severe affordable housing shortage has become what advocates describe as a moral failing and public health emergency.

By the numbers

Los Angeles experienced a 16% increase in homelessness this year, with a total of 36,000 people now homeless across the city, including 27,000 without shelter. San Francisco’s homeless count surged 17% to more than 8,000 people. There was a 42% increase in San Jose, a 47% increase in Oakland, a 52% increase in Sacramento county and increases in the Central Valley agricultural region and wealthy suburbs of Orange county.

There were patterns across cities: huge numbers of people experiencing homelessness for the first time, evictions and unaffordable rents leading people to the streets, families and seniors increasingly homeless, and higher rates of the homeless not getting shelter.

“Homeless people are everywhere now, and they are becoming more and more desperate,” said Stephen Cue Jn-Marie, an LA pastor who was formerly homeless and now works with people living on Skid Row, known for its massive encampments. “All of these people are human beings. We need to respond to this as if it’s an earthquake.”

The growing visibility has led to an increase in complaints, news coverage focused on housed people who reside near encampments, and intense media attention on the rare cases of violence perpetuated by people living on the streets.

Communities have largely declined to treat the crisis like a natural disaster that demands humanitarian aid. In many places, what followed instead was a backlash, and in some cases overt attacks.

There were at least eight incidents in LA where people threw flammable liquids or makeshift explosives at homeless people or their tents this year, according to authorities and the Los Angeles Times.

A 62-year-old beloved musician’s tent was set on fire in Skid Row in August, killing him in what police say was an intentional killing. That month, two men also allegedly threw a “firework” at an encampment, causing a blaze that grew into a major brush fire just outside of the city. One of the men arrested was the son of a local chamber of commerce president. Police said this fire was intentional. In a separate attack, a molotov cocktail destroyed tents and donations.

In San Francisco, a man was caught on video appearing to dump a bucket of water on a homeless woman and her belongings on the sidewalk in June. Witnesses said it seemed to be a “deliberate attack.”

Three months later, San Franciscans who said they were upset with homeless people in their neighborhood paid to install two-dozen knee-high boulders along a sidewalk in an effort to stop them from living on the streets.

In neighboring Oakland, a resident recently put up an unauthorized concrete barrier in the middle of the street to deter homeless people from parking RVs. A real estate developer taunted homeless people by shouting free moneyӔ at them and offering to pay them to leave their encampment in Oakland.

Residents repeatedly organized against proposed homeless shelters in their neighborhoods, most notably in a wealthy San Francisco area where locals crowdfunded $70,000 to hire an attorney to fight a shelter project.

“A lot of it is brought out by this fear of the other as if their homeless neighbors are not neighbors at all, or not even people for that matter,” said TJ Johnston, who is currently staying in shelters in San Francisco and is an editor with Street Sheet, a local homelessness publication. “Hearing wealthy residents complain this year was like watching angry online comment sections come to life,” he said: “It’s very dehumanizing to be looked upon as a nuisance.”

A terrifying trend: jailing people for being too poor

As the crisis has worsened, local governments have spent billions to create new housing and provide services, but the scale of the response has been inadequate. Cities have increasingly looked to law enforcement and legal maneuvers to tackle the problem.

Those political efforts to further criminalize the homeless in turn have sparked intense anger and fear among the homeless population and their advocates.

LA leaders fought to ban people from sleeping on streets and sidewalks throughout the city. In Lancaster, a desert city north of LA, the mayor has pushed a proposal to ban groups that provide food to homeless people and suggested people should buy firearms to protect themselves from violent people on the streets.

This month, in a case closely watched by many west coast cities, the US supreme court dealt a victory to homeless advocates by allowing an existing ruling to stand that states governments cannot ban people from living on the street if they don’t offer enough shelter beds.

Officials in Oakland have proposed a new policy to cite homeless people in parks while some have suggested setting up a shelter in a defunct jail. Law enforcement leaders in Bakersfield in the Central Valley pushed a plan to throw homeless people in jail for misdemeanor offenses. A state taskforce has also suggested a similar system of forcibly placing homeless people into shelters.

“These efforts ignore the overwhelming evidence that criminalization and locking people up are costly and harmful responses that fail to fix the crisis,” said Eve Garrow, homelessness policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“There’s a dangerous and disturbing movement in California to address homelessness not by expanding access to safe, affordable and permanent housing but by jailing people,” she said. It’s a terrifying prospect of a world in which we segregate, incarcerate and restrict the civil liberties of people just because they have disabilities and they are too poor to afford a home in our skyrocketing private rental market.

“Fears and unfounded stereotypes about people experiencing homelessness seem to be driving these policy pushes to jail those in need,” she said.

The Trump administration has created further anxiety by repeatedly suggesting he might pursue some kind of police crackdown in California to clear the streets of encampments.

The president has used the crisis to attack Democratic leaders in the state, and has COMPLAINED ABOUT HOMELESS PEOPLE in LA and San Francisco taking up space on the “best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings” where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige

It’s a huge concern - are they just going to take people to jail?” said Kat Doherty, an LA woman who became homeless this year and is living at a shelter at Skid Row.Trump’s talk has terrified her and others, she said. “It’s horrendous. It sounds like a death camp situation.”

“With the president promoting criminalization, it could inspire some anti-Trump Democrats in California to push back,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. There’s some hopefulness that it will force the local municipalities to shift in opposition to Trump and talk about how criminalization doesn’t work.

But some are not optimistic about 2020, especially since the crisis is on track to continue escalating, with people falling into homelessness at rates that far outpace government’s ability to find housing for those on the street.

“Conditions are going to get worse and the responses are going to get worse,” said Jn-Marie.

If the political attacks continue next year, some said they hoped to see more communities fighting to stand up for the homeless.

“I want people to give a fuck and help. Don’t just ignore it,” Orona said. “Just because we’re unhoused doesn’t mean were not San Francisco residents. We still have a heartbeat. We still buy food. We still exist.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/29/19 •
Section Dying America
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Trump And The Working Class

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How Trump Has Betrayed the Working Class

The consequences of Trump’s and the Republicans; excessive corporate giveaways and their failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day.

By Robert Reich
December 24, 2019

For a century the GOP has been bankrolled by big business and Wall Street. Trump wants to keep the money rolling in. His signature tax cut, two years old last Sunday, has helped U.S. corporations score record profits and the stock market reach all-time highs. To spur even more corporate generosity for the 2020 election, Trump is suggesting more giveaways. Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney recently told an assemblage of CEOs that Trump wants to go beyondӔ his 2017 tax cut.

Trump also wants to expand his working-class base. In rallies and countless tweets he claims to be restoring the American working class by holding back immigration and trade. Incumbent Republicans and GOP candidates are mimicking Trumps economic nationalism. As Trump consigliore Stephen Bannon boasted recently, “we’ve turned the Republican party into a working-class party.”

Keeping the GOP the Party of Big Money while making it over into the Party of the Working Class is a tricky maneuver, especially at a time when capital and labor are engaged in the most intense economic contest in more than a century because so much wealth and power are going to the top.

Armed with deductions and loopholes, Americas largest companies paid an average federal tax rate of only 11.3 percent on their profits last year, roughly half the official rate under the new tax law - the lowest effective corporate tax rate in more than eighty years.

Yet almost nothing has trickled down to ordinary workers. Corporations have used most of their tax savings to buy back their shares, giving the stock market a sugar high. The typical American household remains POORER TODAY than it was before the financial crisis began in 2007.

Trumps giant tax cut has also caused the federal budget deficit to balloon. Even as pretax corporate profits have reached record highs, corporate tax revenues have dropped about a third under projected levels. This requires more federal dollars for interest on the debt, leaving fewer for public services workers need.

The Trump administration has already announced a $4.5 billion cut in food stamp benefits that would affect an estimated 10,000 families, many at the lower end of the working class. The administration is also proposing to reduce Social Security disability benefits, a potential blow to hundreds of thousands of workers.

The tax cut has also shifted more of the total tax burden to workers. Payroll taxes made up 7.8 percent of national income last year while corporate taxes made up just 0.9 percent, the biggest gap in nearly two decades. All told, taxes on workers were 35 percent of federal tax revenue in 2018; taxes on corporations, only 9 percent.

Trump probably figures he can cover up this massive redistribution from the working class to the corporate elite by pushing the same economic nationalism, tinged with xenophobia and racism, he used in 2016. As Steve Bannon has noted, the formula seems to have worked for Britain;s Conservative Party. 

But it will be difficult this time around because Trump’s economic nationalism has hurt American workers, particularly in states that were critical to Trump’s 2016 win.

Manufacturing has suffered as tariffs raised prices for imported parts and materials. Hiring has slowed sharply in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states Trump won, and in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost.

The trade wars have also harmed rural America, which also went for Trump, by reducing demand for American farm produce. Last year China bought around $8.6 billion of farm goods, down from $20 billion in 2016. (A new tentative trade deal calls for substantially more Chinese purchases.)

Meanwhile, health care costs continue to soar, college is even less affordable, and average life expectancy is dropping due to a rise in deaths from suicide and opioid drugs like fentanyl. Polls show most Americans remain dissatisfied with the countrys direction.

The consequences of TrumpҒs and the Republicans excessive corporate giveaways and their failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day.

The only tricks left to Trump and the Republicans are stoking social and racial resentments and claiming to be foes of the establishment. But bigotry alone won’t win elections, and the detritus of the tax cut makes it difficult for Trump and the GOP to portray themselves as anti-establishment.

This has created a giant political void, and an opportunity. Democrats have an historic chance to do what they should have done years ago: Create a multi-racial coalition of the working class, middle class, and poor, dedicated to reclaiming the economy for the vast majority and making democracy work for all.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/26/19 •
Section Dying America
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Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Awakening Part 14

What Working-class and Poor White People Need to Understand About Rich White People

By Jonna Ivin-Patton
Medium
December 22, 2019

No, I’m not talking about your cousin who drives a Mercedes, has his own insurance business, and always picks up the tab when you go out for beers. I’m talking about super-rich people: the Walton family, the Koch brothers and, yes, the Trumps. Im talking about people who continue to make money off the backs of the poor while convincing those same people to remain loyal no matter what. But the truth is they are never going to share or trickle down their money to you - regardless of how white you are, how loyal you are, or how much you support their companies or their politicians.

When a family like the Waltons, worth over $50 billion that’s billion with a “b” are fine knowing their employees are collecting food stamps to survive and they do nothing about it, that speaks volumes. It says loud and clear: I don’t fucking care about you!

When Donald Trump was willing to close down and bankrupt multiple small businesses because he couldnt be bothered to pay his bills, all while living in a gilded penthouse and flying around New York City in a helicopter, that screamed: I don’t fucking care about you!

Creating jobs isn’t a thing to be praised.

Creating well-paying jobs is. Billion-dollar corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s don’t create healthy economies. They create mass poverty. Anyone can create a job. Ill pay you $1 an hour to clean my house, do lawn care and general maintenance Monday through Friday for eight hours a day. There, I created a job. Have I contributed anything to society? No. Have I boosted the economy? No. All I’ve done is put one person in poverty.

Job-creation is nothing more than a catchphrase that politicians use to get votes. It doesn’t mean anything. Let’s say there is a small town with 500 people and a factory opens and pays minimum wage. If the company hires everyone in the area, the result will not be a thriving community. It will be a community of 500 poor people. Yes, the factory technically created jobs, but it also spread poverty. Never forget they need us more than we need them. Without us working their low-paying jobs, they have nothing. Make them pay fairly for your labor. Make them create well-paying jobs.

Black and Brown people are not the reason you’re poor, rich white people are the reason youre poor.

Corporations siphon money from profits to share with stockholders, upper management, and CEOs, leaving everyone else, regardless of color, scrambling at the bottom for crappy pay. The owner of the factory is the reason you are poor, not the person of color working beside you for the same wage. Donn’t be angry at the immigrant trying to make a better life. Be pissed off at the company who exploits both of you so they can pay lower wages and maximize profits.

There is NO such thing as a “Welfare Queen.”

There never was. Politicians made this up. It is propaganda designed to make you think people of color are lazy and want a free ride at your expense. If you resent them, you are more likely to vote to eliminate programs that benefit them but could also benefit your own family. Generations and generations of white people have been programmed to be racist even if its to their own detriment. By helping to keep people of color down, you keep yourself down - and that/s how politicians want it.

The “War on Drugs” and “The War on Crime” are fake.

These programs target minority communities and keep the private prison system making billions. As collateral damage, poor whites sometimes get sucked into the system, but not enough that anyone cares. Poor people are funneled through the prison system with plea deals. Incarcerated people work for pennies a day in a modern-day slave trade, making products for billion-dollar corporations.

The rehabilitation system has almost no programs for actual rehabilitation because the system wants ex-convicts to fail. ItҔs how they keep the money pouring in. The propaganda of these fake wars tries to convince white people that black and brown people commit more crimes, that white people should fear them, and that prison is where they belong. If you allow yourself to be brainwashed by racism, the system will continue to prey on poor people of all colors. Rich people hire lawyers to get out of prison time. Poor people are scared and pressured into plea deals. And no one cares until it happens to them.

Stop listening to people who say you need to boot-strap your way up, especially if they have never had to boot-strap their way anywhere.

This is a myth wealthy people have been telling poor people for centuries. Its a way to keep poor and working-class people grinding away at jobs that create more wealth for them, not you. It’s a way to pit working class people and poor people against each other. Instead of showing each other compassion and joining together, we look down on anyone we see as not working hard enough even when that mentality keeps us down too. Working hard is admirable; being made to feel lazy or less than because you lack equal opportunity is manipulation.

Rich people don’t have some magical way of thinking that makes them rich. They arent better, smarter, or more creative than poor people. They have more money, and more money offers greater opportunities. That’s it.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t try to better their lives. Never give up. What I’m saying is stop beating yourself up because you face a longer, tougher road to succeed than someone who was born into wealth and privilege. And try to have compassion for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Beating people down who are already exhausted isn’t just unfair it’s cruel.

Wealthy white people love to see poor people fighting among ourselves.

If we dislike each other over things like race, sexual orientation, and religion, then we arent paying attention to what the billionaires and politicians are doing. They want you to get riled up over wedding cakes, who uses what bathroom, and what to say at Christmas time. By pumping out media stories that make you think you are losing something, or that your lifestyle is in danger, they can keep you focused on stuff that really makes no difference in your life.

I’ll put it like this: if I offered you $5 more per hour at your job on the condition you do not insert yourself in matters that don’t concern you, like gay couples getting married, would you accept it? Here’s another way to look at it: would you rather have a $100 Christmas bonus, or a $1000 Holiday bonus? When we take a step back, get honest, and ask ourselves if we genuinely care how other people live, the answer is usually no. We get fired up over the onslaught of shocking headlines, and that’s exactly what people in power want.

Rich people have convinced working class people that unions are bad.

Workers are stuck in low-paying jobs without the power to walk out and negotiate for better wages and benefits. News outlets (owned by rich people) frame stories of union walkouts as if workers are lazy or greedy. They often show workers of color on picket lines to reinforce the notion that black and brown people want “something for nothing.” That is one way to minimize wages for workers and maximize payouts to stockholders and CEOs.

If a CEO makes $120 million a year, in one year he or she has enough so they never have to work again for the rest of their life. They never have to work another day, and neither do their grandkids or great-grandkids. The entire family is set. Do you think they care if the company goes belly up? Why would they when they’ve got theirs? If you lose your job are you set? Corporations spend a great deal of time peddling fear in workers that the most important thing is the health of the company above all else. That’s just a tricky way to convince workers to take less, so those at the top can take more. What’s the best way to achieve that? Split up unions and take away workers power. There is power in numbers, and they know it, and do everything they can to keep us from seeing it. Remember: without your labor, they have nothing!

When the show Friends became a runaway hit it came time for the actors to renegotiate their contracts. David Schwimmer, who played Ross, went to the rest of the cast and suggested that, instead of negotiating individually, which could lead to resentment if some were paid more than others, they should negotiate as a single group. The result was the entire cast was paid the same for the run of the show. It was equal and fair, and no one left the show because of hurt feelings or resentment. That’s a union.

There is a myth that raising the minimum wage would allow unskilled workers to make as much as skilled workers and that wouldnt be fair.

Again, this is more spinning of tales so that wealthy CEOs can keep worker pay at an all-time low while they make billions. The truth is if minimum wage went up, skilled wages would go up too. How? Let’s say you are an EMT working for $15.00 an hour and the minimum wage goes up. Now everyone working in retail and fast food is making the same as you. Pretty insulting, right? Wrong. That’s what corporations want you to think so you will fight to keep other poor people down. If the minimum wage rose to $15, you could get a job anywhere for the same pay. That would give you leverage to negotiate a higher wage by saying, essentially, “There is now an abundance of jobs paying what I make. I can leave and take one of those jobs unless you pay me more for my added skills. Your skills are now worth more. Instead of $15, you may get $20, but you’ll never get the $20 if you keep fighting to keep others down. Lifting others lifts you up too.

Continuing to support politicians who give tax breaks to the rich is never going to make your life better.

When a company gains billions in tax breaks, the people at the top get multi-million-dollar bonuses. Workers at the bottom may (if they are incredibly lucky) get $1000 after 20 years of service. Thats $50 a year! A one-time bonus of a $1000 will do nothing to change a working person’s life. At best, it will alleviate a bit of stress for one month. One month for 20 years! Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives are wondering if they should buy a yacht or another vacation home. While poor people are cheering over being thrown slop, the rich are pigging out at the buffet table.

If poor and working-class people stop fighting each other and band together, we have the numbers to make real change. Rich people know this, and it terrifies them. If we suddenly start demanding better wages, they may have to give up a bit of profit. If we start demanding health care and quality education, they may have to pay a bit more in taxes. If we start treating each other with respect and equality, they can no longer use fear, homophobia, racism, and propaganda to distract us.

We have the power. Now we need to stop giving it away.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/22/19 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Dying America
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Compassion is the closest value to love itself. To be compassionate is not to take pity; it is to extend care to others simply because you see their need. - Deepak Chopra

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