Why Is No One Talking About the GOP’s Plan to Send Millions of Disabled Americans Into Poverty?

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill, February 10, 2015 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill, February 10, 2015 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By William Greider

Despite their virtues, many conservative Republicans have an unfortunate habit of picking on the weak and disadvantaged, slandering the people least able to fight back. We saw a glimpse of this callousness in Mitt Romney’s disparagement of the “47 percent” who are “takers” living off the hard-working “makers.” The newly empowered GOP majority in Congress is going down the same road—targeting the millions of sick or injured Americans who receive Social Security disability payments.

This is a favorite old canard of self-righteous right-wingers. They label these unfortunate people as shiftless and suggest none too subtly that many are faking their injuries and illnesses. The GOP has been pushing this cold-hearted slander for at least thirty-five years, ever since the glorious reign of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s (who remembers Reagan’s imaginary “Welfare Queen” who drove to pick up her welfare check in a Cadillac?).

McConnell-Boehner Republicans are now reviving the Gipper’s big lie, claiming the Social Security system is in crisis because of swollen disability benefits. Allegedly to save the system, these so-called fiscal conservatives intend to cut benefits and throw out those supposedly able-bodied slackers. Once again, their facts are bogus. Never mind, their story line is concocted to arouse anti-government resentment among people who are themselves strapped for income.

Read more at The Nation

Israeli Parliament Deputy Speaker Calls For “Ethnic Cleansing” of Gaza

Moshe Feiglin

“A refreshingly open call for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from an Israeli deputy speaker”

By Katie Halper in The Raw Story

I’ve always said that I like my ethnic cleansers like my men: honest, direct, and with a plan. Sadly, like good men, honest and open ethnic cleansers are few and far between. As the Israeli government, and those who blindly defend it, claim that the attacks in Gaza are for self-defense, and self-defense alone, one man has the courage to admit that the real goal is to rid the area of Palestinians and populate it with Jews. And that man is Moshe Feiglin, Deputy speaker and member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

Read more at The Raw Story

World News Forum Commentary

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© 2010 by Paul Kennedy

Hello, Jewel. I vaguely remember this last CPAC convention. Basically, a bunch of rich donors to the Republican Party gathered to go over their talking points and write big checks.

This is sad stuff. This is the best they can do. Red state-blue state? Really, Rick? Texas ranks 21st among states in per capita income in the United States–New York ranks fourth, and most of the rest of the top twenty are blue states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Texas has more citizens without health insurance than any other state, according to a Gallup poll taken in 2011:

Texas continues to be the state with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance. At 27.6%, its rate is more than four percentage points higher than the next highest state, Mississippi. This is the largest gap Gallup has measured between the first and second state since it began tracking health insurance in 2008.

During the last presidential election campaign, as I’m sure you’ll remember, Rick Perry’s Texas was lauded by Republicans as a model of sensible Republican fiscal management. Never mind that he used billions in Federal bailout funds to balance his state budgets, even while bashing Obama over federal stimulus spending:

But the reality of Perry’s relationship with fed-stim is complicated. Through the second quarter of this year, Texas has used $17.4 billion in federal stimulus money — including $8 billion of the one-time dollars to fund state expenses that recur over and over. In fact, Texas used the federal stimulus to balance its last two budgets.

Source: The Texas Tribune.

Because Republicans have no earthly idea how to grow an economy, they are desperate to slash spending whenever and wherever they can, except for rich people, because the very, very wealthy are, after all, the minority interest they represent.

America incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than Putin’s Russia or Communist China, and those countries put people in prison just for making the government mad by saying unpopular things. And Texas, by the way, executes more people than Saudi Arabia.

Republican governors have discovered that, in the long run, it might actually be cheaper to spend money on things like education than on incarcerating people. Republicans have had a sudden revelation: after decades of pushing for harder and stiffer sentencing laws, that maybe it doesn’t really make all that much sense to put every kid convicted of a minor drug offense into prison for decades.

Republicans are the party of bold new thinking. Trouble is that it’s progressive thinking from the 1930s.

Thanks to the Roberts Court, Corporations Have More Constitutional Rights Than Actual People

By William Greider on May 20, 2014 – 12:00 PM ET


Members of the Supreme Court (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The big media talk a lot about stalemate in Congress, but they are missing the real story. While representative democracy is dysfunctional, the Supreme Court has taken over with its own reactionary power grab. In case after case, the court’s right-wing majority is making its own law—expanding the power of corporations and the very wealthy, while making it harder for ordinary citizens to fight back.

Worst of all, the Roberts Court is trying to permanently inhibit the federal government’s ability to help people cope with the country’s vast social and economic disorders.

This is not a theoretical complaint. Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the conservative Republican Court is building a barbed wire fence around the federal government—creating constitutional obstacles to progressive legislation in ways that resemble the Supreme Court’s notorious Lochner decision of 1905. That case held that property rights prevail over people and the common good.

For more than thirty years, the conservative Justices used that twisted precedent to invalidate more than 200 state and federal laws on major social and economic concerns like child labor, the minimum wage, bank regulation and union organizing. New Deal reformers were stymied by Lochner at first, and they only managed to overturn it in 1937 and only then when FDR mobilized a take-no-prisoners campaign to reform the Supreme Court by weakening its unaccountable power.

The Roberts Court has so far produced a slew of precedent-smashing decisions designed to hobble left-liberal reform movements before they can gain political traction. Citizens United opened the floodgates for corporate money; McCutcheon scrapped the dollar limits on fat-cat donors. Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, implicitly endorsing the GOP’s crude campaign to block racial minorities from voting. The US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have won numerous victories, large and small, expanding the rights of their corporate sponsors.

The Roberts Court has so far produced a slew of precedent-smashing decisions designed to hobble left-liberal reform movements before they can gain political traction. Citizens United opened the floodgates for corporate money; McCutcheon scrapped the dollar limits on fat-cat donors. Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, implicitly endorsing the GOP’s crude campaign to block racial minorities from voting. The US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have won numerous victories, large and small, expanding the rights of their corporate sponsors.

Despite his genteel manner, Justice Roberts is a “smart strategist” who plants provocative phrases in his decisions that he can cite later as false precedents, according to Law Professor Gregory Magarian of Washington University in St. Louis. “Roberts tells a story that sounds like they are not making radical change,” Magarain said. “But they are still making things up, still making up social policy. And the judgments are still pointed toward the past.”

Read more at The Nation

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Paul Ryan Has a Plan for the Poor. It’s Terrible.

How his 2015 budget could sink America’s neediest deeper into poverty.

Tony Alter/ Flickr

House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has lately rebranded himself as an advocate for the poor, albeit with his own makers-versus-takers, Ayn Randian twist. He recently issued a lengthy study of federal anti-poverty programs and over the past year and a half he has embarked on a “listening tour” to hear from low-income Americans. On Tuesday, Ryan issued the House GOP’s 2015 budget proposal, which would make major changes to two of the federal government’s primary anti-poverty programs, food stamps and Medicaid. Using as his model the supposedly successful welfare reform effort of the 1990s, Ryan envisions turning these programs into block grants that are handed over to the states to administer. But his plan to “help families in need lead lives of dignity” is likely to make matters worse for America’s neediest. Here’s why.

In 1996, Congress reengineered the federal program that provided cash assistance to the poorest families. Along with imposing stiff work requirements, Congress turned the old entitlement program, whose budget rose and fell automatically with need, into a block grant with a fixed budget. The grant was then distributed to the states, with few strings attached, under the premise that they were “laboratories of innovation” that would revolutionize the way the government helped the poor.

But as welfare reform has shown, giving states this sort of flexibility in how they spend federal money can lead to a lot of abuse that Republicans are so keen on rooting out.

According to data crunched by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have diverted billions of dollars of welfare block grants for uses these funds were not intended to support. In the first year of welfare reform, about 70 percent of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant went to pay for basic cash assistance for poor families. By 2012, that number had fallen to 29 percent and states were spending just 8 percent on providing transportation, job training, and other services intended to help people transition from welfare into the workforce.

The numbers are even more dismal in some individual states. In 2012, Louisiana spent 7 percent of its $261 million in TANF funds on basic assistance, down from 36 percent in 2001. Just 4 percent of the funds went to programs to help welfare recipients get back into the workforce. A mere 2 percent of the funds paid for child care, another critical component of a reform effort that was geared toward nudging women with small children into low-wage jobs.

What happened to the rest of the money? According to CBBP, 71 percent of it went to other services, including “other nonassistance,” a nebulous category used to mask payments for a hodgepodge of programs that the state didn’t want to spend its own tax revenues on.

Read more at Mother Jones

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And if you feel like you need still more Paul Ryan, you can check out Michael Thomasky’s article in the The Daily Beast: Paul Ryan: Still a Total Jerk

Michelle Obama Expands Program That Gives All Students Free Meals

CREDIT: AP

On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the expansion of a pilot program that gives all students, regardless of income, free school meals, including breakfast and lunch.

The original program targeted students in 11 states, but as of July 1, it will be expanded to 22,000 schools across the country where 40 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, a sign of a high concentration of poverty. The administration says this will reach 9 million children and help them “eat health meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement.”

Programs that give all students free meals come with a variety of benefits. It eliminates the stigma children on free or reduced-price meals can experience, particularly when schools throw out their lunches and stamp their hands when their balances run low.

Read more at ThinkProgress

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Catholic activists want Pope Francis to match words with actions

Sister Teresa Forcades and other left-leaning religious leaders welcome new papal rhetoric but wonder about substance

From her small convent in the mountains near Barcelona, Harvard-educated Sister Teresa Forcades has emerged as a leading advocate of Spain’s “Indignant” protest movement. Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish revolutionary, Harvard-educated public health specialist, abortion rights advocate and Roman Catholic nun.

These four labels seldom apply to the same person, but Sister Teresa Forcades, a 48-year-old woman from Barcelona, straddles many worlds.

In Europe she is the star of televised debates on feminism and religion, a leader of the Occupy movement in Spain who has taken on big corporate interests and a fierce critic of modern capitalism.

She pulls no punches with her views. “I don’t think it is possible to have democracy and capitalism. They go against each other because the way we live capitalism is that we allow some corporations to have such power that they are able to influence government. And that’s the problem,” she told Al Jazeera in an interview.

Until recently, these controversial opinions might have led to her being reprimanded by the Vatican. But now, with a new leader in power apparently committed to fundamentally changing the church’s approach on social justice issues, she believes she’s merely taking some of Pope Francis’ ideas and running with them.

The new pope has invigorated the previously isolated social justice wing of the church, a change that many leading activists have welcomed. But at the same time, others are warning that his papacy has so far been more about a shift in tone than about substantive change on key issues such as abortion, women’s ordination and gay rights.

In a much-publicized manifesto for his papacy, Francis lamented the misguided priorities of a world obsessed with money. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?” he asked.

Francis drives an old Renault, refuses to live in luxurious papal suites, invites homeless people over for dinner and expelled a German bishop for his exorbitant lifestyle. His focus on social justice represents a stark departure from his predecessors’ focus on doctrine and propelled grassroots activism back into the spotlight.

Forcades said his words hinted at a possible revival of liberation theology, a branch of religious philosophy that “has been where the poor have been” and looks at the imperative “to lose fear to be like Jesus was, entangled in political matters.”

In the 1980s, liberation theologists in Latin America worked with local activists against poverty as part of a political movement for the rights of the oppressed. Accused of professing Marxism under the guise of social justice theories, many priests were driven out of countries such as Nicaragua and Mexico, where they assisted local activists in combating poverty and authoritarian governments.

Read more at Al Jazeera

The GOP’s health crisis – Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Oh dear. The Republican Party’s worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working.

The news that nearly 1.2 million people signed up last month for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is highly inconvenient for GOP candidates nationwide. It looks as if the party’s two-word strategy for the fall election — bash Obamacare — will need to be revised.

Wednesday’s status report on the health-insurance reforms was by far the best news for Democrats and the Obama administration since the program’s incompetent launch. January was the first month when new enrollments surpassed expectations, as the balky HealthCare.gov Web site began functioning more or less as intended.

Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration had originally hoped but well above the predictions of critics who believed — or hoped — that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.

The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people — from 18 and 34 — who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enrolled.

Read more at The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Distinguished Commentary.

Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

They just can’t help themselves, and here’s why.

As you’ve heard, yesterday Mike Huckabee stepped up to the plate and smacked a stand-up double in the GOP’s ongoing effort to alienate every woman in America, when he said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”

As expected, Huckabee quickly explained to his supporters who the real victim is here (“I am apparently the worst conservative ever or at least the most annoying one according to the left wingers in Washington today”), but the question is, why do they keep doing this? After all, every Republican knows by now that their party has a problem with women; Mitt Romney lost their votes by 11 points. The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars:

Read more at The American Prospect

I Wear the Badge of Socialist With Honor

The full text of the new Seattle city council member’s inauguration speech.

kshama_sawant_inauguration_ap_img

New Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant, left, stands with Nicole Grant, who assisted in a ceremonial swearing-in. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Editor’s note: At a ceremonial swearing-in on Monday, Kshama Sawant became Seattle’s first socialist city council member in almost a century. The full text of her inauguration speech is below.

My brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your presence here today.

This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape. At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and healthcare become inaccessible.

This is not unique to Seattle. Shamefully, in this, the richest country in human history, fifty million of our people—one in six—live in poverty. Around the world, billions do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation and children die every day from malnutrition.

This is the reality of international capitalism. This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street. In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99%.

Despite recent talk of economic growth, it has only been a recovery for the richest 1%, while the rest of us are falling ever farther behind.

The Nation