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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

31706098183 351a70b9e2 zU.S. Customs and Border Protection Headquarters in Washington DC  (Photo: Mobilus In Mobili )

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The Guardian US, in an article following the historic Saturday march in Washington, DC, recounted the experience of a group of Canadians -- with two French nationals -- traveling in two cars to join the protest. The paper interviewed Montrealer Sasha Dyck:

Border agents first told the two French citizens that they had been denied entry to the US and informed them that any future visit to the US would now require a visa.

“Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said. The group was also warned that if they tried to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested. “And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification.”

Dyck described it as a sharp contrast to 2009, when the research nurse made the same journey to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration. “I couldn’t even get in for this one, whereas at the other one, the guy at the border literally gave me a high five when I came in and everybody was just like, ‘welcome’. The whole city was partying; nobody was there to protest Obama the first time.”

Meanwhile a January 21 CNN article recounted the experience of Canadian Joseph Decunha at a New York immigration checkpoint while driving with friends to Washington, DC, for the march.

Friday, 20 January 2017 05:48

A Worker Is Someone to See, Not See Through

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

terkelworking3Forty years later, Studs Terkel's book inspired "Working America." (Image: The New Press)

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

Many Wealthy Americans Look at Workers Every Day Without Seeing Them

That's the striking premise of a photo exhibition, "Working in America," now on display at the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library through the end of January. Jane Saks, who conceived and oversaw the project, told BuzzFlash that she wanted to create a presentation that compelled the viewer to interact with the large-format photographic images of workers as individuals, instead of viewing them as replaceable members of a mass indistinguishable workforce.

"I wanted to put the individual worker first, to make his or her presence in their images part of a larger public dialogue," Saks said. "Persons who come upon the exhibit in the library are compelled to engage with the worker as they emerge from invisibility. The large portraits put the individual forward first."

The photography, taken by American photojournalist Lynsey Addario, captures the personalities of people at work or in retirement after a lifetime of labor. The images are mute, but the "voices" of the workers -- their identities -- become present in the viewers' mind. To many wealthy Americans, laborers such as building engineers, bus drivers, and fast food workers, for examples, register as just background noise to the day. We don't give full personhood to the persons we are encounteri

Saks, who heads the About Project -- which "amplifies artistic voices...[that focus on] human rights and gender inequality" -- describes the exhibit as a being a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the publication of Studs Terkel's iconic oral history, Working. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

7811078716 e5ddeff985 zWhy didn't the DC Press Corps ask the hard questions in interviews with President Obama? (Photo: Marc Nozell)

 This BuzzFlash commentary was only published because of support from readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

On January 10, President Barack Obama gave a farewell speech before 18,000 people at McCormick Place, Chicago's convention center. Some media pundits called his remarks a return to Obama's Chicago community organizer days. However, a lot of the rhetoric sounded like political pablum. Consider this, from the official White House transcript:

The peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected President to the next. (Applause.) I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. (Applause.) Because it's up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. (Applause.) Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

In a January 13 article, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) took the occasion to note that "for the eight years he was in office, President Barack Obama snubbed the Chicago press corps, ignoring repeated interview requests from local reporters in his adopted hometown."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2916200309 fe65dc6dce zThe myth of the "heroic savior." (Photo: cranky messiah)

There is a big difference between truly assisting marginalized groups and being a charitable "savior."

The latter label characterizes many people of privilege and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that attempt to provide solutions for individuals and groups in need -- without listening to the voices of those whom they are supposedly "helping." This is the essential message of a book recently featured as a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week: No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty.

In an excerpt from his book featured on Truthout, Flaherty writes:

The savior mentality means that you want to help others but are not open to guidance from those you want to help. Saviors fundamentally believe they are better than the people they are rescuing. Saviors want to support the struggle of communities that are not their own, but they believe they must remain in charge. The savior always wants to lead, never to follow. When the people they have chosen to rescue tell them they are not helping, they think those people are mistaken. It is almost taken as evidence that they need more help.

The savior mentality is not about individual failings. It is the logical result of a racist, colonialist, capitalist, hetero-patriarchal system setting us against each other. And being a savior is not a fixed identity....

Saviors adopt trendy labels such as social entrepreneur or change agent. They preach the religion of kinder capitalism, the idea that you can get rich while also helping others, that the pursuit of profit, described with buzzwords like engagement, innovation, and sharing economy, will improve everyone's lives through efficiency. However, I stand with nineteenth-century novelist Honoré de Balzac, who wrote that behind every fortune is a concealed crime. I don't believe you can get rich while doing good -- wealth and justice are mutually exclusive. The more wealth exists in the world, the less justice.

In short, the savior or charity mentality allows the "giver" to feel righteous, compassionate and fair without having to engage in the hard work of achieving those goals by listening to the needs of people whom they are allegedly assisting.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

5789845977 37e1a70e45 z(Image: DonkeyHotey )

 Many automakers have been using the fact that gas prices are relatively low to argue against EPA-mandated automobile fuel efficiency standards, which are scheduled to rise in the coming years. Of course, these manufacturer's resistance to the standards is a tremendously short-sighted position.

The issue of increasing fuel efficiency requirements for cars does have a consumer component, when it comes to choosing a car during times of high gas prices. However, more importantly, higher efficiency means less pollution per mile driven. Our society is dependent upon cars, and it's essential that we implement measures to increase miles per gallon, in addition to ramping up electric car sales and battery-range capacity.

We are just one week away from the dismaying transfer of power to a Trump presidency. We must find and advocate for economic, social and environmental justice to offset the coming threats.

That is why it is somewhat encouraging that according to a January 13 BloombergMarkets article:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it's keeping vehicle efficiency standards intact through the 2025 model year, shoring up a key piece of President Barack Obama's environmental legacy against a challenge by the incoming administration....

The move, completed just days before Obama leaves office, makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for President-elect Donald Trump's administration to ease off on the standards...

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2557176287 1b9161ff03 zPublic waterworks should not be managed by corporations. (Photo:[cipher] )

One of the rare areas on which Trump and Democrats appear to find some common ground is a goal of achieving infrastructure upgrading and modernization in the United States. However, Trump is more interested in enriching private contractors than meeting public need.

As Michelle Chen wrote in a December 2 article for The Nation:

Trump wants private investors to basically direct $1 trillion in infrastructure projects nationwide through a “revenue neutral” financing plan, which banks on financing from private investors, allegedly to control deficit spending (which the GOP generally deems wasteful, while promoting tax breaks as a wiser redistribution of public funds into corporate coffers). To draw some $167 billion to jumpstart the $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan, Washington would grant a giant tax break “equal to 82 percent of the equity amount.” The goal isn’t fixing bridges so much as fixing the corporate tax codes to promote privatization and unregulated construction with virtually no public input.

Right after the election, some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, talked about working with Trump on issues such as an overhaul of our national infrastructure. However, if the Democrats allow the project to become a corporate profit center -- instead of focusing it on publicly planned initiatives for the common good -- they will have no one to blame but themselves.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6289639278 e6336deb12 zConvert Obamacare enrollees to Medicare? (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

As Republicans continue to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it's crucial that we discuss progressive alternatives that would ensure access to insurance for as many people as possible. In an opinion piece in The Hill, Robert Hockett, Edward Cornell professor of law and public policy at Cornell University, proposes that those committed to repealing Obamacare need not look far for a replacement. Just let Obamacare enrollees and eligible individuals enroll in Medicare:

[Republican] Congressional leaders have said that their first order of business upon reconvening this week is to repeal and, at some point, replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — the 2010 legislation that President Obama often is said to regard as his signature achievement....

The impediment...which the leadership and the president-elect alike have noted, is that as yet there is no agreement on what should replace the ACA. Simply throwing millions of newly insured Americans off of their plans would cause hardship among working Americans on a nearly unprecedented scale....

Why not, in the very same legislation that repeals Obamacare, instantly entitle all who lose their insurance coverage under the ACA immediately to enroll in Medicare?

Medicare is probably the most popular health insurance in the United States. Even Tea Party senior citizens have issued a definitive demand at rallies: "Don't touch my Medicare!"

In June of 2016, CNBC predicted -- based on an Urban Institute study -- that 24 million people would lose health insurance coverage if Obamacare were repealed and not replaced.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3622561994 322baa7a0a zThere are 24 states whose governments are controlled by Republicans as compared to only 6 such Democratic states. (Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM)

BuzzFlash recently reported on how the reactionary threat in many statehouses is growing.

We noted the fact that 24 states have both Republican-dominated legislatures and GOP governors. Meanwhile, only 17 states have Democratic governors and only 13 statehouses are controlled by Democrats.

These numbers provide an indicator of the right-wing tidal wave -- largely in Southern and small states -- that continues to advance Republican control of states, in part due to state-level gerrymandering after the 2010 election. After the 2016 elections, the Republicans reached a percentage of representation at the state level that is the highest since its founding as a political party.

This high water mark for Republicans on the state level has serious implications. A January 5 article in The Hill reveals the continued efforts of GOP-controlled states to prohibit various progressive laws at the local level, particularly in cities. This is an accelerating strategy to stifle grassroots progressive victories:

After consolidating power in Washington, D.C., and state capitals under President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans are moving to prevent large cities dominated by Democrats from enacting sweeping liberal agendas.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Us south censusSouthern states lead the red states in social safety net hypocrisy. (Map: Wikipedia )

A recent article in Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) scathingly debunks the "racialized rural mythology" that conservative white rural voters subsidize urban residents. In fact, in general, the opposite is true. FAIR rebuts this fiction, which is embedded in rural culture and politics, with the revealing raw facts:

On an individual level, too, rural residents are more likely to receive government benefits than urban or suburban residents; a Pew survey (12/18/12) found that 62 percent of rural residents had received Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or unemployment benefits, vs. 54 percent of urban dwellers and 53 percent of suburbanites.

In a 2012 BuzzFlash commentary, I noted that Mitt Romney received his greatest support from a significant portion of Americans he referred to as "moochers," who reside in the rural South. The Tax Foundation found that the Southern states have the largest percentage of people who don't pay income taxes, in general, due to low income or tax avoidance:

Nine of the ten states with the largest percentage of nonpayers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina, and New Mexico at 40 percent.

These high percentages of income tax non-filing are indicative of blue states being much more likely to subsidize red states than the other way around. Yet, every election, the myth that white rural voters are paying to prop up poor people of color in cities is trotted out. In fact, as I noted in 2012, the state of Mississippi received $2.73 in federal support for every dollar state residents paid to the IRS. The net flow of tax dollars into Mississippi is fairly typical of Southern states, as a map in a Mother Jones article reveals. Meanwhile, solid blue states  -- such as California, Illinois and New York -- receive less money back from the federal government than the state residents pay to the IRS.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

23038207819 26b0b6d170 zThe rotunda of the Texas capitol, where Republicans are in full control of the legislature and governorship, as is the case in 24 states.  (Photo: Adam Simmons)

We are all aware that after the 2016 elections, the Republicans have majorities in the US Congress, and they will shortly have a GOP president in the White House. However, the national election results have overshadowed the continued loss of Democratic Party ground on the state level. For example, only 17 states will have Democratic governors in 2017.

What is more worrisome is that Democrats only control 13 statehouses. According to The Hill, as a result of the November elections, the Democrats have hit a "new low in state legislatures":

The Democratic Party will hit a new nadir in state legislative seats after suffering more losses in November’s elections, highlighting the devastation up and down the party across the nation.

Republicans will control 4,170 state legislative seats after last week’s elections, while Democrats will control 3,129 seats in the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers. Republicans picked up a net gain of 46 seats in Tuesday’s elections, while Democrats lost 46 seats, according to the latest vote counts from The Associated Press. Beginning next year, Republicans will control 67 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, after winning new majorities in the Kentucky House, the Iowa Senate and the Minnesota Senate. Democrats picked up control of both the state Assembly and Senate in Nevada, and the New Mexico state House. 

Since Obama took office, Republicans have captured control of 27 state legislative chambers Democrats held after the 2008 elections. The GOP now controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party.

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