Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

EditorBlog (1504)


anincomeeq4(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

When The New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.

Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. "The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics," Porter writes, "is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it."

That's not a lot to hang your hat on. 


abernies(Image: DonkeyHotey)

In case you didn't know it, Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist - and he doesn't try to evade the identification if you ask him. That alone makes him an unusual politician: he doesn't try to steer away from his principles in order to climb the political ladder.

Officially, Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Now, he will be running for president as a Democrat, while robustly bringing up systemic problems with the US economic system, corporate media and ongoing injustices. 

Sanders says that he hasn't changed his political positions on fundamental systemic change in the US since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont years ago. Sanders isn't a politician who watches the polls; he keeps his eye on the prize of social and economic justice.

I know because when BuzzFlash started in 2000, we began interviewing Sanders and working with his press secretary, who was then David Sirota (now a progressive columnist and author). Sanders was also a regular reader of BuzzFlash, as he would tell us when we ran into him at venues such as the first Free Press conferences. The egregious flaws in the current US financial, media and political system were the ones he focused on back when we first talked with him. 


nasandler(Photo: Shinya Suzuki)

According to an April 23 Indian Country Article, "Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six."

Allison Young, a Navajo woman and former film student from Dartmouth, protested the film's demeaning portrayals of Indigenous people. She talked with Indian Country about the situation:

"When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted," she said. "I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.' I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."

"Nothing has changed," said Young. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."

"Just Hollywood Indians" is a resounding lamentation, considering the Tinseltown legacy of disseminating negative images of Indigenous people. 


ashelloilcoThe shell that is the logo of Shell should be covered in oil. (Photo: frankieleon)

Newly uncovered documents, disclosed in The Guardian, reveal that Shell has successfully slowed down the growth of renewable energy in Europe.

According to an April 27 article in The Guardian, "Weak renewable energy goals for 2030 [for the EU] originated with [a] Shell pitch for gas as a key technology for Europe to cut its carbon emissions in an affordable way."

Reading news websites, one comes across copious ads claiming that Shell is committed to a sustainable future for the earth. Their intent is to brand Shell as a company working to reduce environmental threats (and, by implication, global warming). Nothing could epitomize the hypocrisy of greenwashing and corporate ads on news content sites more than Shell's Madison Avenue efforts to portray itself as environmentally responsible.

After all, just look on the Shell website, which promotes Arctic exploration for oil and natural gas: 

It is estimated that the Arctic holds around 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea. Developing the Arctic could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges.


arefaThe plight of disposable displaced people extends worldwide, as this protest in Australia shows. (Photo: Takver)

Over the last couple of years, reports have flashed through the news cycles about hundreds of refugees drowning as they flee war and poverty, trying to reach Europe. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, yet it receives only periodic news coverage. Worse yet, the European Union is providing little more than lip service to prevent more refugees from dying; meet the needs of migrants; and address the postcolonial, neoliberal economic issues causing mass migration.

Truthout and BuzzFlash combat the corporate takeover of everything by bringing you trustworthy, independent news. Join our mission by making a tax-deductible donation now!

The Economist, hardly a bastion of progressivism, chastised the European Union on its generally indifferent response to the plight and deaths of the refugees. Its April 24 editorial, published after more than a thousand migrants drowned in the previous two weeks, stated:

The European Union likes to boast that it is a force for good. But in the past ten days as many as 1,200 boat people have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean. An unknown number were refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia fleeing war or persecution. They perished in part because the EU’s policy on asylum is a moral and political failure.

In a hastily arranged summit, under way as The Economist went to press, EU leaders set out to do something about the drownings. Before them was a ten-point plan designed to enhance rescues, suppress people-smuggling and spread the burden of taking in refugees. Yet, even if Europe’s leaders embraced the plan in full, it would still fall short.


afastracktpp(Photo: AFGE)

After being publicly rebuked by President Obama for her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted yesterday: "The Obama Admin says I'm wrong - we shouldn't worry about TPP. So why can’t the American people read the deal?"

Obama singled out Warren on Tuesday when he said on Chris Matthews' MSNBC program:

I love Elizabeth. We're allies on a whole host of issues, but she's wrong on this. When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.

As Sam Levine of The Huffington Post points out, however: "While Obama criticized Warren for being wrong on the facts of the deal, it's difficult to know exactly what the deal contains because his administration has deemed the negotiations to be classified."

Yet Warren - and the rest of Congress, not to mention the US public - can't "dig into the facts" of the TPP, because his administration won't disclose them. 


16260167094 e0a88050fd zShouldn't food workers in the US Senate be paid livable wages?  (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

To paraphrase thoughts of a venture capitalist in a BBC series I was watching last night, if you're riding in a chariot and a few peasants get crushed under the wheels, it's for the overall good. The UK master of the universe - a Brit version of Mitt Romney – argued (like proponents of neoliberalism in the US) that all ships will rise as he creates a more "robust" economy. Of course, the dead peasants won't enjoy that fantasy economy. In addition, all the economic data in the US and UK indicate that the consolidation of wealth doesn't lift all ships: it raises only a few up to the stratosphere, while the tiny boats of the majority of people sink to the lowest tide.

The television film was Turks & Caicos, the second in a brilliant three-part spy thriller about the political takedown of a morally bankrupt and financially incentivized British prime minister clearly based on Tony Blair and his deference to the indefensible Bush administration post 9/11 policies. 

Truthout and BuzzFlash combat the corporate takeover of everything by bringing you trustworthy, independent news. Join our mission by making a tax-deductible donation now!

The resonance of Turks & Caicos on the moral and political corruption of neoliberal economic policy carried over to this morning when I read an article in The Guardian. Written by a cook in the US Senate, Bertrand Olotara, the personal commentary describes the plight of a single father who had to go on food stamps to ensure that his children receive adequate nutrition:

I'm a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can't manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don't go to bed hungry.


awarproit3(Photo: Steve Rhodes)

On April 18, a New York Times (NYT) article succinctly stated that the "sale of US arms fuels the wars of Arab states."

The NYT describes the sales bonanza for the US weapons industry:

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn. (Italics inserted by BuzzFlash.)

Last week, defense industry officials told Congress that they were expecting within days a request from Arab allies fighting the Islamic State — Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt — to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons, replenishing an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year.

Even the dreaded drone industry is now expanding sales outside of the US, according to the NYT: "Soon, the Emirates are expected to complete a deal with General Atomics for a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions in their neighborhood."

Not only does US hegemony and desire to control oil supplies create chaos in the Middle East, it's a profitable region for the enormous US military industry. The more carnage in that region, the more money there is to be made in supplying different factions with multi-million dollar hi-tech and standard weaponry.


aalmart(Photo: Mike Mozart)

2012 article in Mother Jones identified a shocking example of economic equality in the United States:

As Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute points out, the six Walmart heirs now have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined, up from 30 percent in 2007. Between 2007 and 2010, the collective wealth of the six richest Waltons rose from $73 billion to $90 billion, while the wealth of the average American declined from $126,000 to $77,000 (13 million Americans have negative net worth).

Of course, what makes this statistic even more vexing is that as the income divide increases, it increases the perceived need for people with extremely limited incomes to buy at Walmart - or comparable stores that carry inexpensive consumer goods primarily made overseas. As BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out before, this is the "self-cannibalization" effect on the US worker who has lost his or her job to manufacturing being moved overseas to nations where rock-bottom wages are the norm. Replacement jobs at minimum wage, if they can be found, then leave the workers with just enough funds to buy goods that used to be made in the US and, therefore, increase the fortune of the Walmart heirs.

According to a recent BloomburgBusiness article that focused on just one Walmart heir: “At the current rate, it would take a full-time Walmart employee working 12 hours a day more than a million years to earn the equivalent of [Christy] Walton's net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.”

So try and wrap your head around the two statistics cited above: 1) Six people (Walmart heirs) have passive net worth - the money is inherited through stock; they don't need to do anything to earn it - equal to more than the bottom 40% of the people in the US; and 2) It would take a Walmart employee working a 12-hour day a million years to earn just one Walmart heir's financial assets.


aaaincome inequality 2 ratio(Chart: SmartAsset)

According to an analysis conducted by SmartAsset.com, the only time the widening income gap narrowed in recent years - and then only slightly - was when the federal minimum wage was increased during the years from 2007-2009.  However, as the chart above from SmartAsset.com indicates, once the initial impact of the rise in the minimum wage had its effect, the income inequality gap started to rise again. The study focused on average management pay as compared to average food service worker pay.

In using statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, SmartAsset.com found:

While the federal minimum wage has been raised twice in the past 18 years, many states have enacted and raised their own minimum wages to keep pace with inflation and the rising cost of living. The impact of those state laws is evident in the state measurements of the income inequality ratio.

Of the 21 states with a minimum wage either at or below the federal limit (as of 2013), including the five states with no minimum wage law, six rank among the top ten states with the largest disparity between management and foodservice earnings in 2013. On the other hand, none of the seven states that had a minimum wage at least one dollar higher than the federal minimum in 2013 were among the top ten for highest inequality between management and foodservice workers.

The widespread national protests for a $15 minimum federal wage, as well as increased wages in general for the working poor, thus would move toward providing a livable wage to those in the most underpaid jobs. However, the reduction in the inequality gap is only temporary, if the minimum wage doesn't continue to rise. Why is that? Because the salaries of managers, in the comparison provided in the chart above, rise much faster than minimum wage jobs. 

Page 9 of 108