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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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. 

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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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

2015.20.4 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Terry Kearney)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Librarians are serving the public in ways unimaginable 20 to 25 years ago, “offering free technology workshops, small business centers and 24/7 virtual access to e-Books and digital materials.” But one thing that hasn’t changed with the passage of time is that there is a small, but vocal group of mostly conservative parents aiming to remove books they don’t approve of from library shelves; over the past few years, those efforts seem to be particularly focused on books written by authors of color.

Earlier this month during National Library Week, April 12– 18, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2015 State of America’s Libraries report. The report covers a myriad of issues and trends that school, public and academic libraries across the country are currently facing, recognizing that “Public libraries serve as community anchors that address economic, educational, and health disparities in the community. They offer educational programs, print and digital books, access to databases, meeting spaces, and instruction on how to use new technologies.”

The American Library Association is “the oldest, largest and most influential library association in the world. Its approximately 56,000 members are primarily librarians but also trustees, publishers and other library supporters.”

An ALA Press Release titled “New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries,” public libraries and librarians are viewed as change agents by addressing unique needs and identifying trends that impact the community. The majority of public libraries offer neutral space for patrons, residents and students to discuss and resolve critical issues.” 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

2015.20.4 BF BUchheit(Photo: DonkeyHotey)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Every American deserves a share of our country's co-owned wealth. While the Kochs and the Waltons may not be lining up to collect their checks, most families will, and they will benefit immensely, as will the economy in an inevitable surge of consumer spending. It's not redistribution or a handout, because each family will be reimbursed for the use of its share of the air and the land and the water, and for 70 years of labor and taxes.

Americans want to work, but available jobs don't provide a living wage. Almost three-quarters of people receiving public assistance are members of working families.

As a result of their low pay, almost two-thirds of Americans would be unable to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit with funds from their bank accounts. A national dividend would help to fix that. There are several powerful reasons why this should happen.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDivestHarvard(Photo: EcoWatch)Many students have vowed to ramp up their divestment campaigns at universities across America this spring. One group who has garnered much media attention is Divest Harvard, which is wrapping up a week-long campaign known as “Harvard Heat Week.” Harvard has the largest endowment of any university in the world at $36.4 billion, and hundreds of alumni including Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth are participating in the group’s efforts this week.

After a week of sit-ins that have shut down administration offices at Massachusetts Hall, President Faust finally reached out directly to students with Divest Harvard. ”I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations,” wrote President Faust in an email.

The students however were not pleased with the offer for another closed door meeting and called for a more open process on divestment that schools like MIT have convened. Divest Harvard has made multiple requests for a more transparent process involving the entire student body, faculty and alumni. The group knows there is strong support for divestment because the student body voted 72 percent in favor of divestment and hundreds of faculty and thousands of alumni signed a letter supporting the initiative.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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. 

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSick(Photo: Calleamanecer)Snaking its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that will block local governments from requiring companies to provide sick leave, even if unpaid, that is more than required by state or federal regulations.

There are no Pennsylvania or federal regulations requiring companies to provide sick leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 39 percent of all employees, and 79 percent of all employees in food service and hotel industries, have no sick leave. Unlike the United States, about 130 countries require employers to provide at least one week of sick leave per employee.

The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the bill, 37–12; the Republican-controlled House will now discuss it—and probably follow the Senate's wishes.

Gov. Tom Wolf opposes this legislation, will probably veto it, and then have to deal with a Senate that has enough votes to override that veto.

The proposed legislation is in response to Philadelphia's recent directive that requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide mandatory sick leave for its workers. Several metropolitan U.S. cities, as well as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, already require companies to provide sick leave to employees.

Republicans are hypocritically philosophically conflicted on the legislation. Their party believes in limited government regulation, and this bill would keep government out of private enterprise's believed-right to treat workers as serfs.

Thursday, 16 April 2015 08:28

Overfished Stocks at All-Time Low

2015.16.4 BF Eco(Photo: Kris Krüg)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The number of US domestic fishing stocks listed as overfished or threatened by overfishing declined to the fewest number since 1997, according to the 2014 Status of US Fisheries report to Congress from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA has only been compiling the report since 1997, so that’s the lowest number yet, which indicates significant progress in managing fishing stocks.

A stock is on the overfishing list when annual catch is too high; it is considered overfished when the population size is too low.

“This report illustrates that the science-based management process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working to end overfishing and rebuild stocks,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “While we have made tremendous progress, we know there’s more work to be done—especially as we continue to document changes to our world’s oceans and ecosystems. We will continue to strive toward sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries in order to preserve our oceans for future generations.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) was initially passed in 1976 to oversee fishing in federal waters. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 amended the original legislation to define overfishing, require regular assessment of overfished populations and mandate plans for the recovery of overfished populations as well as the reduction of bycatch—unwanted marine life caught in the process of fishing.

The NOAA report cited two stocks that have rebounded enough to be removed from the overfished list—gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic albacore. The North Atlantic albacore and another five fish populations were removed from the overfishing list: haddock in the Gulf of Maine, gag grouper in the south Atlantic, snowy grouper on the southern Atlantic coast, Jacks complex in the Gulf of Mexico and Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

130275552 c44efdbbcb z(Photo: kyle rw)

If you want another indicator of how much the United States has devalued education, take a look at college adjunct instructors. These are essentially part-time professors who are often paid so little, they need government financial assistance to survive.

Given cutbacks in government funding of higher education, increasing top college administrator salaries, recruitment of top professors with higher salaries to help universities compete in a corporatized academic environment and other economic pressures, institutions of higher learning are relying more on part-time faculty who are frequently paid penurious wages.

According to an April 15 article in Marketwatch.com,

A quarter of the growing number of part-timers who are teaching college students need some government help to get by, according to a study from the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

Nearly 100,000 of these part-time faculty, generally known as adjuncts, benefit from the earned income tax credit and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid and the CHIP health-care program for children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, according to the study.

“It’s shocking, but it’s the reality,” said Carol Zabin, research director at the Center for Labor Research and Education. “Universities are depending much more on part-time and adjunct faculty.”

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