Latest News

Civil and Human Rights Coalition Condemns Trump’s Executive Order to Undermine Health Care

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:55
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on President Trump’s heath care Executive Order:

Categories: Latest News

Nurses Call for Stepped Up Federal Effort on Fires

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:45
National Nurses United

With the death toll now topping at least 21 people, and fire officials saying the disastrous North Bay wildfires remaining far from contained, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United yesterday called on the federal government for a far greater urgent response with additional equipment and firefighting personnel.
 
“The Trump Administration has been distressingly slow in taking the urgent steps needed to protect the people and communities affected,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of both CNA and NNU.
 

Categories: Latest News

Trump Sabotages the Affordable Care Act With Latest Executive Order

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:40
Public Citizen

President Donald Trump continues to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this time through executive fiat. As with other recent GOP efforts, this executive order would hurt patients by driving up costs and threatening access to health care for millions.

The executive order would allow junk plans to be sold to consumers without adequate protections, including coverage of essential health benefits such as prescriptions drugs and maternity care. As a result, these plans could be sold more cheaply, and plans would target younger and healthier people.

Categories: Latest News

Stripping ACA Regulations From Association Health Plans Will Devastate Small Businesses and Destabilize the Small Group Market

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:58
The Main Street Alliance

President Trump signed an executive order today striping critical Affordable Care Act (ACA) protections from small business healthcare plans. In response, Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business owners, issued the following statement:

Categories: Latest News

Legal Advocacy Group Urges Chief Justice Roberts to Reprimand Justice Gorsuch For His Speech at Trump International Hotel

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:50
Free Speech for People

Following Justice Gorsuch’s speech at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., Free Speech For People issued an open letter to Chief Justice Roberts urging him to issue a letter of reprimand to Justice Gorsuch and to publish an official Court policy on the ethics issues involved with appearing at a venue owned by the president of the United States.

Categories: Latest News

Scouts Honor—It’s Wrong To Discriminate Against Girls.

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:35
National Organization for Women (NOW)

That old glass ceiling continues to break, but the cracks don’t run deep enough.

NOW welcomes the news that the Boy Scouts of America have once again admitted to their long history of discrimination, this time against girls, and are taking steps to correct it.

For more than a century, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have been an integral part of our society. But girls have been left to wonder, why were they left on the sidelines when boys got to earn badges, participate in scouting activities and be Eagle Scouts.

Categories: Latest News

Financial Choice Act Passed By House Threatens Consumer Bureau Protection of Older Americans

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:32
US PIRG

Mortgages were the leading source of 72,000 complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers 62 years of age and over, followed by complaints about credit reports and debt collection, according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). Further, legislation that has been passed by the House and awaits Senate action is intended to cripple the Consumer Bureau and would place older consumers at greater risk of harm from financial scammers.

Categories: Latest News

NWLC to Launch First National Legal Network to Battle Sex Discrimination

Commondreams - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 08:27
National Women's Law Center

In response to extensive and unprecedented threats to women’s rights, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) announced today that it is launching the first national legal network to combat sex discrimination faced by women and girls. The Legal Network for Gender Equity has initially recruited 75 attorneys from across the country who stand ready to represent women and girls experiencing sex discrimination on the job, at school, and in the health care system.

Categories: Latest News

People of Color Fight for a Place in New York's Money-Driven Arts Ecosystem

Truthout - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 06:03
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A small number of legacy arts institutions are sweeping up vast shares of public art funding, while newer immigrant and ethnic arts groups in New York City are clamoring for the remaining resources.

A new coalition of artists and advocates is pushing the city to increase access to arts dollars for those who have been left out. The group has put together a 17-page document called the People's Cultural Plan to serve as a set of policy recommendations for the city government which, if implemented, would more definitively benefit smaller arts groups -- often grassroots organizations run by immigrant or minority artists.

The document comes in response to a cultural plan unveiled by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in July 2017. Called CreateNYC, the plan aims to "serve as a roadmap to a more inclusive, equitable, and resilient cultural ecosystem, in which all residents have a stake."

Those behind the People's Cultural Plan argue that CreateNYC isn't doing enough. And access to funding is where smaller groups suffer. According to CreateNYC, in fiscal-year 2017, $111 million of the $177 million Department of Cultural Affairs budget was granted to just 33 large institutions. These organizations are members of the Cultural Institutions Group, made up of culturally significant, generally well-established public institutions. This imbalance of funding comes at the expense of smaller, often immigrant or minority-run arts groups, which then face stiff competition for the remaining resources.

Nicole Reiner, an organizer of the People's Cultural Plan, noted that there are about 1,000 smaller and often less established organizations that then must compete for what is left of the budget. Manhattan receives "ten times the funding per capita compared to Queens," she said.

Reiner believes the problem persists because people are "stuck to a definition of artistic quality that's grounded in elite Eurocentric norms" that advantage already-privileged organizations.

Northwestern University's Jennifer Novak, author of a 2016 paper entitled "Considering Cultural Integration in the United States," agreed. "Broadening the aperture we use to understand arts and cultural participation" is crucial in an increasingly diverse country, she said.

The People's Cultural Plan recommends the city increase the Department of Cultural Affairs' budget to $840 million -- nearly five times fiscal year 2017's budget of $177 million, though still just 1 percent of New York City's total budget. Under its plan, $140 million would be allocated to "initiatives in support of POC [persons-of-color] artists & cultural workers."

An imbalanced allocation of funds is not the only issue the People's Cultural Plan takes up. Smaller and mid-sized organizations also "need to compete every year for funding" through complicated grants systems, Reiner said. This is "incredibly burdensome especially for immigrant communities for whom English is not their first language."

Further, the city's cultural plan introduces a range of new mandates, including diversity quotas for staff and boards. For smaller organizations, this may mean greater investment in administrative costs. CreateNYC is creating "more hurdles" for these groups, says Reiner. CreateNYC mandates organizations develop diversity plans, but it doesn't "allocate funding for the creation of the plans."

Larger institutions are better positioned to meet the new requirements because of their disposable income, Reiner said. They also benefit from designated development staffers who can focus on fundraising, while smaller grassroots organizations don't have this kind of support. "You've got a system that's really piling up advantage on a select few institutions which tend to represent a very narrow view of what culture is worth funding," she said.

From her office on West 89th Street, Ballet Hispanico's Chief Development Officer Lorraine LaHuta paints a different picture. Ballet Hispanico is a success story, said LaHuta, explaining the company was founded in 1970 as a Latino-focused "grassroots organization" -- similar to ones Reiner and the People's Cultural Plan are fighting for -- when the founder, Tina Ramirez, "saw Latino children with nothing to do" in the neighborhood.

But if Ballet Hispanico struggled to acquire funding in its early stages, it seems to be a distant memory at this point.

LaHuta said she has been "overwhelmingly touched by the generosity and interest" of city government. Pointing out that the organization is not eligible for certain funding because it's "too big," LaHuta insists that all organizations can "find the opportunity [for funding] if you're really looking for it."

City Council members have been "amazingly open to hearing from arts organizations," she said. "It's really impressive how much they care about what's going on in their districts."

But looking beyond city funding, Peter Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, an organization that funds neighborhood development projects, identified another hurdle that smaller arts groups face: big donors like to give big grants. And as a result, smaller groups asking for less money fall through the cracks.

In Queens, artist Guido Garaycochea confirmed this challenge. "People don't want to give money," he said. Garaycochea, who immigrated to the United States from Peru, said that for immigrants, trust is a factor. "'What are you going to do with the money?'" would-be patrons ask.

Smaller organizations are "at a disadvantage compared to other organizations that have longevity," Garaycochea said. "They have the reputation and the names. They're going to get the money."

Carlos Martinez, an immigrant artist from Colombia, now works as a mentor with the New York Foundation for the Arts' Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program to help immigrant artists navigate the difficult process of connecting with funding and other resources.

"Resources are the most critical part," Martinez said. Beyond that, "understanding the language barrier, the change of culture, different dynamics" is often challenging for newly arrived immigrant artists, especially when it comes to the grant application process.

Applying for grants is a huge hurdle, confirmed Ayoka Wiles-Abel, grants manager at the Brooklyn Arts Council. She said there is a "learning curve" involved, and the application process may be particularly difficult if there is a language barrier or questions of documentation.

Now familiar with the complicated and competitive process, Martinez works to help immigrants navigate it and connect them with spaces to exhibit their work and to network.

A final barrier to obtaining sufficient funding may be that people just aren't that interested in financing the arts, Kostmayer said. The Citizens Committee for New York City has "very few funders who are interested in the arts." Only 74 of the 292 grants the organization awarded in 2017 were for arts and culture-related projects, said Director of Programs Arif Ullah.

And unfortunately, many of the donors who do want to provide funding for the arts "want to give to the Met and give to the Whitney," Kostmayer said. "They're not focused on kids of color in Bushwick creating a new dance."

The newspaper Naomi Klein calls "utterly unique," full of insightful dispatches from around the world, The Indypendent offers a fresh take on today's events.

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Why One Native Family Is Donating Their Fracking Proceeds to Benefit Indian Country

Truthout - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 05:59
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The environmental damage versus the income producing benefits of locating fossil fuel projects in Indian Country has divided some resource-rich Native American nations -- and one North Dakota Hidatsu tribal family in particular.

"I love my tribal homelands to my very core," says Charles Hudson of Portland, Oregon, of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where his extended family live in the midst of fracking operations. "All I really have wanted for myself is a place to exercise my hunting and gathering rights. I've pondered moving home many times over the years, finally settled on a plan to retire there, then BOOM! Literally. The oil boom turned the place on its head."

Mainstream media tends to underreport or inaccurately represent these stories -- reporting on community divisiveness while glossing over the risks posed to tribal communities by gas flares, explosions, wastewater contamination, or the temporary worker "man camps" that foster crime, sexual trafficking, and violence against Native women.

A new foundation, the Many Dances Family Fund, aims to reverse that trend.

Hudson, the Fund's director, says it will support deeply researched investigative journalism that reports on critical issues in Indian Country. This mission became even more relevant after the September 4 announcement by Indian Country Today that it will suspend publishing.

A tragic event is partially responsible for pointing Hudson's philanthropy in this direction. After fracking of Bakken shale began there 17 years ago, the reservation experienced a dramatic increase in collisions with diesel-belching semis rumbling up and down poorly equipped roads. In 2008, Hudson's 23-year-old niece, Cassi Dee Rensch, died in a traffic accident involving an oil field fracking truck.

Hudson's family derives income from the Bakken oil production on their allotments and their ownership of surface and mineral rights. But this event "shook the family to our core," he says. "My family, like many others, were finding western North Dakota unlivable."

Hudson says a recent oil payment added enough to his savings that he could, along with his sons, form a charitable organization aimed at improving conditions in Indian Country. The Fund's first grant has gone to InvestigateWest, an independent nonprofit media organization.

"We are not created to support solely journalism or Indian Country but both areas are -- and I believe will remain -- part of our core interest areas," Hudson says.

The fund's name comes from Hudson's great-grandmother Many Dances, who was born during one of the last buffalo hunts in 1871 and raised in the traditions of the Hidatsa. When the US government's Indian reservation system allocated her acreage on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota in 1891, she and her husband, Old Dog, settled into life as farmers. According to Hudson, they became renowned for their benevolence and generosity to the less fortunate.

Their land was farmed until the oil boom in 2000, when a majority of Many Dance's descendants voted to open the prairie and farms to oil rigs and hydraulic fracturing.

It was a decision Hudson struggled to reconcile.

"I had to do a lot of soul-searching." He says all the beauty of the place, the solitude, the open spaces were compromised by Halliburton trucks, man camps, and an ideological shift in the state's politics that collided with his values.

He says the Many Dances Fund is a matter of conscience and responsibility. And he hopes it will be a tangible legacy to give his sons when the soil and water of Fort Berthold may no longer be there for them. Their grant to InvestigateWest "is only a start," says Hudson.

InvestigateWest uses a nonprofit model that produces investigative and explanatory journalism in partnerships with commercial and public media. The grant is dedicated to InvestigateWest's Indian Country Initiative, aimed at delivering high-quality, deeply researched articles about Native issues that would otherwise go unreported. An advisory council of primarily Native Americans guides the project.

Their early goal is to develop a network of Native journalists to help the project dig "a little deeper into the cultural and geographic nuances of the work," says IW Managing Director Lee van der Voo. "But we do need to get our financial footing first, so this support from Many Dances Family Fund is pretty critical to helping us get to where we need to be."

The Initiative is producing in-depth stories on complex issues for magazine The Nation. Their partnership had included the Indian Country Media Network, until the announcement that they had suspended operations.

"My great hope is that they find new ownership and continue operations in the future," van der Voo says.

The Fund, Hudson says, honors the legacy of Old Dog and Many Dances, who instilled a set of values that survive and thrive generations later. The 2004 book Coyote Warrior describes the family's role in fighting against the construction of the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. They lost, but they took the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.

"There is so much power and strength in Native life, but we get trapped talking about distress," Hudson says. "It's time for fresh eyes, hearts, and minds to lead the discussion. I want my sons to be in the middle of the conversation on Native futures."

This article was funded in part by a grant from the Surdna Foundation.

Categories: Latest News

Militarization and "Shock Doctrine" Policies Abound After Earthquake in Mexico

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00
Debris of a house in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Mexico. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

Barely a month has passed since a devastating earthquake struck Oaxaca, Mexico, destroying homes and people's lives, but the privatization of communal territory has begun in earnest. Even before the basic needs of the affected people had been met, the government, in collusion with business interests, had declared the establishment of three tax-free enclaves, attractive to foreign investors, under the guise of reconstruction and economic stimulus.

Debris of a house in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Mexico. (Photo: Renata Bessi)   Grassroots, not-for-profit news is rare -- and Truthout's very existence depends on donations from readers. Will you help us publish more stories like this one? Make a one-time or monthly donation by clicking here.

The colored tarps hung over streets and patios of homes awaiting repair have become part of the everyday landscape of the Isthmus communities in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, after the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on September 7 causing around 100 deaths. It was the most intense earthquake to strike Mexico in a century. People are still afraid and panicked due to the destruction that the earthquake and its aftershocks have caused. The earth still hasn't settled. Since the initial quake, the Mexican National Seismological Service has estimated more than 6,000 aftershocks, in addition to the subsequent earthquake on September 19 that measured a magnitude of 7.2 and devastated Mexico City and other areas of central Mexico. Three hundred and sixty-nine deaths related to the September 19 earthquake have been accounted for as of October 4.

In the Indigenous municipality of Ixtaltepec, 80 percent of the houses are damaged. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec, measuring 20,000 square kilometers, is the region that has been most affected by the September 7 earthquake. Official data presented by the government of Oaxaca show that the earthquake affected 120,000 people in 41 different municipalities, and around 60,600 homes. Of those residences, 20,664 were lost completely, while 39,956 sustained partial damage. Their infrastructure, drinking water and sewage systems are damaged. The local economy has taken a hit. The streets are piled with garbage. Many are concerned that a possible health crisis is at hand.

Public officials have resorted to opportunism, making humanitarian relief conditional -- delivering aid upon certain conditions and to supporters of certain political parties.

It's been more than a month since the earthquake and the communal kitchens and tents set up by neighborhoods in public spaces, through their own resources or through donations from people, have become the only option for these communities. Shelters provided for by the state are almost nonexistent. In the municipality of San Mateo del Mar, for example, where 80 percent of homes were affected, the state response was to send the Navy to set up a shelter, but this meager gesture has been surpassed by the organizing of community members, who have found ways to address their most immediate needs.

Girls walk between debris in Ixtaltepec. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

Seven civilian organizations carried out a humanitarian aid observation mission among the communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region. In their main conclusions, the organizations noted that "the basic, urgent needs of the people affected by the earthquake [have] not been met; and ... a lack of government coordination can be observed in the distribution of humanitarian aid." They also stated that "pre-candidates and public officials have resorted to opportunism by making humanitarian relief conditional, delivering humanitarian aid upon certain conditions to those who are in some way close to the government or to supporters of certain political parties."

The state's immediate policy in reaction to the earthquake was to demolish local homes that had been affected. In the municipality of Ixtaltepec, for example, residents reported that demolitions began hours after the earthquake. "The earthquake happened around midnight and by dawn the machines were already prepared to begin demolition, without any kind of qualified assessment or evaluation," stated a resident of the municipality who prefers to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.

A Woman prepares food in a community refuge in Ixtaltepec. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

Indeed, the official response to the disaster was top down and ignored the needs and capabilities of local communities, according to residents and organizers.

"This policy of destruction comes from the federal government, without any serious assessment," said engineer Gerardo de Gyves Ramirez, member of the Regional Council for the Reconstruction of Our Towns, made up of organizations and residents of the Isthmus. "Peña Nieto said it: 'I invited my friends who work in construction to come and rebuild.' Who are Peña Nieto's friends? They aren't the local construction workers or engineers. They are individuals that are connected up top. So, what these companies need is for the territory to be cleared so they can act. It means business for the major construction companies. People are scared, they're in shock, and the government is taking advantage of people's fear."

Ruins of a shopping center in Ixtaltepec. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

One of the demands of the Council is that there be a serious study of the residences that were affected and that their condition for reconstruction be realistically evaluated.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec region is rich in culture and traditions, resulting from the diverse ethnic groups that live in the area -- Zapotecs, Chontales, Huaves, Zoques, Mixes, Mixtecs, Tzotziles and Chinantecs. "The home is a fundamental part of the culture of a community. We have a particular architecture that the people of the Isthmus have developed for centuries," Ramirez said.

Residents of Ixtaltepec receive donations by general public. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

The government's response to the housing situation has been paltry at best. For example, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on October 2 that the government would distribute bank cards for monetary compensation. Those whose homes have suffered irreparable damage will receive $6,478; those whose homes sustained partial damage will receive $1,619. Immediately after this announcement, a line of trailers filled with construction materials made an appearance in the municipality of Juchitán, along with a sign that read, "In this establishment the compensatory card is accepted for the purchase of materials."

There is a pervasive feeling among residents of the community that the government does not value their homes or their lives.

Besides the miserly amount offered for the reconstruction of homes, compared to the homes' value, the way in which the compensation is provided presents difficulties for the diverse communities. In the communities along the coast, for example, where houses are built from palm leaves and wood, they will not be able to replace these materials by purchasing them from the construction supply stores that will accept these compensation cards.

The canvases of the shelters form the landscape of the isthmus communities. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

Economic and Military Control

"Seven days after the earthquake, they came to my house and condemned it as being irreparably damaged," said Reina Gutiérrez Ruiz, a resident of the San Mateo del Mar municipality. "They simply said, 'Ma'am find somewhere else where you can stay because you can't live here anymore.' And they demolished the house. A government worker arrived and told us that it wasn't an adequate place to build a home and that the government was going to find another place to relocate our house. So, I [asked] him, how are you going to relocate us if our ancestors always lived here?"

This is a common theme among residents of the community: a pervasive feeling that the government does not value their homes or their lives.

Inhabitants of the isthmus remove debris of their fallen houses. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

"We can't expect blessings from the government; we're a nuisance to them," said Beatriz Gutierrez Luis, teacher of Indigenous education, member of the Coalition of Oaxacan Teachers for Indigenous Recognition and resident of San Mateo del Mar. "For them, it would have been better if the earthquake had completely done away with our villages."

The teacher's statement is supported by the fact that her village has sustained a fierce fight against mega projects that have been present in the region for at least 15 years. "The government has an interest in the community leaving their land," she said. "Our lands are sought after. Even though we rejected the mega project through a town hall meeting, the government wants to install a wind turbine park on our lands. In the Isthmus there are 1,916 wind turbines already installed, and the government plans a second installment phase. We also know there are mining deals but we won't permit that."

The communities of the isthmus try to return to their daily lives despite living under shelters. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

Just as in San Mateo del Mar, historically, the entire Isthmus of Tehuantepec is sought after due to its natural resources. "The ransacking of wood, oil, water, minerals and energy has gone uninterrupted," Luis said.

Additionally, the southern border of Mexico is a high traffic corridor between Central and North America, both for goods and for migrants. For this reason, the region is being considered for neoliberal development plans like the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project. This is an economic integration project which began in 1999 with policy advice and funding from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It includes all seven Central American countries in the construction of wind turbine parks, highways, oil and gas pipelines, and power lines.

Inhabitants of Ixtaltepec spend their days in the streets. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

More recently, the Mexican government has established Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the region. SEZs have specific conditions attached that make them highly attractive to potential investors.

The economic control of the region works in conjunction with the Mexican government's plans for population control, such as the Programa Frontera Sur. With the support of the United States, this plan was designed to regulate the travel of migrants en route toward the United States. With the pretense of fighting drug trafficking, it maintains the presence of several different security forces that facilitate large-scale military control of this strategic zone.

Residents hold a sign that says: "I don't want my house demolished. I have the right to a traditional and dignified house." (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Since the earthquake, these communities are being militarized even further. "There is a clear intent to militarize as much as possible to have control over territory, as well as physical and psychological spaces -- all of it being disguised as humanitarian aid. It's brutal," Luis points out.

According to Jehú Pinacho of the Autonomous Investigation Group, the military -- in addition to providing a means of state control over the territory -- is also complicit with the wind turbine companies.

"An example would be the case of Unión Hidalgo, where members of the community informed [us] that Marine Corps members were hoarding the shipments of donated goods sent by civil society to later allow the wind turbine company EDF to label the goods as their own. Afterwards, EDF was accompanied by the Marine Corps to distribute the goods in the streets of the community," commented Pinacho.

Isthmus militarized. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The Special Economic Zones

Mexico's government has been expressing interest in the construction of a special economic zone precisely in the Isthmus, and the zone in question encompasses the area affected by the earthquake. Two days after the earthquake, the head of the Federal Authority for the Development of Special Economic Zones, Gerardo Candiani accelerated the process of construction of the SEZ in the region, supposedly to reactivate the economic activity of areas affected by the devastation left by the earthquake.

The truth of the matter is that this construction establishes a zone in which enormous privileges are bestowed upon investors, who, in addition to tax exemptions, will have control of movement and security in the region. The design and plan of the SEZ is led by private consultants with the counsel of the IDB. According to the nonprofit Project on Organization, Development, Education and Research (PODER), this new federal government policy represents solidification of the extractivist model and a step toward the privatization of Mexican territory.

A machine removes debris of a demolished house. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The government's response calls to mind Naomi Klein's concept of the "shock doctrine." In The Shock Doctrine, Klein held that while the economic policies of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics have had important impacts on countries with free-market models, it is not because they were popular, but rather because the influence of disasters on social psychology creates commotion and confusion which permits the adoption of unpopular reforms.

"It's a very difficult context for us because the government is using the shock doctrine in our region and taking advantage of the devastation," said Carlos Manso, resident of Unión Hidalgo and author of the book Communality, Indigenous Resistance and Neocolonialism. "People are afraid and more worried about meeting their most immediate needs. While in the midst of surviving this catastrophe and forming bonds amongst ourselves, we also have to find a way to mobilize against the government's larger strategy -- to displace us."

Disaster Opportunism

Women of Ixtaltepec expect donations. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The context of the disaster has been an opportunity for politicians and business people. On September 29, days after Candiani's declaration, the federal government, without first establishing a protocol that would meet the basic needs of the affected communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas, officially announced the declaration of three Special Economic Zones: the Port of Chiapas, Chiapas; Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz; and Lázaro Cárdenas-La Unión, in the states of Michoacán and Guerrero.

Even though the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has not been declared a SEZ during this first stage, Candiani stated that the project has achieved 90 percent of the prerequisites, like territory acquisitions, for it to be declared an SEZ and that this declaration will be made in the coming months.

Oaxaca is a rural and Indigenous state in which communal land comprises 76 percent of the territory, surpassing the total of private property. This is the principal challenge to implementing the SEZs -- the difficulty of privatizing lands, since they are already in the hands of Indigenous people and rural farmers.

In San Mateo del Mar, heavy rains cause flooding. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

In April, 2017, the municipal council of Salina Cruz, a city that will fall within the SEZ, signed an agreement with the Urban Land Tenure Regulation Commission for the State of Oaxaca, with the aim to "regulate" land tenure in areas designated by the government as "irregular human settlements," transforming these lands into private property, state or municipal assets under the argument that it is "the best response to society's demands."

In May, 2017, one month after signing this agreement and several months before the earthquake, Candiani announced that there were 1,230 hectares of land available as concessions to investors.

Men work in the reconstruction of an artisan pottery workshop damaged by the earthquake. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

US and China Will Benefit

The US and China have powerful interests in the Special Economic Zones. In 2009, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) presented a report titled, "Wind Energy Export Potential from Mexico to the US." This document states that Mexico figures as a potential exporter of wind energy to the states of California and Texas. The two most important wind-generating regions in Mexico are the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and Baja California.

China has also shown investment interest in the SEZs, specifically in the areas of administration, construction, development, management and maintenance. China's interests in the steel, metal, agriculture and information technology industries also make the SEZs particularly attractive for investment.

However, amid the accelerating push for development, resistance persists. Indigenous communities are standing their ground against the SEZs. On August 22, just days before the earthquake, representatives of social organizations from 23 municipalities of the Isthmus region gathered for the national forum, "Extractivism or Life" and agreed to reject the SEZs. In their final agreements, they upheld their opposition to extractivism and to SEZs as industrial models that destroy nature and communal property, while directly affecting the local work force, heirloom seeds like corn, and life sources, such as water and energy.

Categories: Latest News

NBC Reportedly Axed the Harvey Weinstein Story as Hollywood Made Rape Survivors the Butt of Jokes

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00

As part of a roundtable discussion on the rape and sexual assault allegations against disgraced and now-fired movie producer Harvey Weinstein, we speak with journalist Irin Carmon, who wrote an essay titled "Women shouldn't trust the men who call themselves allies." We are also joined by two women who are survivors of assaults by Weinstein: Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of psychology at Colorado College, and Louise Godbold, executive director of Echo Parenting & Education.

Please check back later for full transcript.

 

Categories: Latest News

White Manifest Destiny

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00
Categories: Latest News

In "Disgusting" Attack, Trump Blames Puerto Rico; Says FEMA Can't Stay "Forever"

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00

Arian Rodriguez covers himself with a tarp as residents wait in the rain to register with FEMA more than two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island, on October 9, 2017, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

In less than an hour on Thursday morning, President Donald Trump went from encouraging Americans to watch his favorite show, Fox & Friends, to telling residents of Puerto Rico the crisis there is "largely of their own making" to ultimately saying that the US government cannot keep federal emergency workers there "forever."

"Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making." says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

...accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

...We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

The series of tweets comes as relief workers on the ground and Puerto Rican officials say the humanitarian crisis is much worse on the ground than the rosy picture Trump continues to paint.

Disgust aimed at the president came swiftly:

I am Disgusted Beyond Belief.
RETWEET For Puerto Rico!https://t.co/D2xv46nGY4

— Impeach Donald Trump (@Impeach_D_Trump) October 12, 2017

Trump woke up this morning and decided to attack Puerto Rico while 84% of the country is still without power and 37% is still without water.

— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) October 12, 2017

Trump serves notice to Puerto Rico that federal government may eventually abandon the U.S. territory amid humanitarian crisis https://t.co/Ojja9xrBlX

— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) October 12, 2017 In times of great injustice, independent media is crucial to fighting back against misinformation. Support grassroots journalism: Make a donation to Truthout.
Categories: Latest News

Russia Before 1917: Imperial Schemes, Doomed Royals and Young Marxists

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00

The Russian Revolution, which celebrates its 100 year anniversary this year, changed the world. It’s development and contested history is the topic of China Miéville's new book,  October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, which tells the story of two revolutions. In this Progressive Pick excerpt, Miéville provides the historical context for the 1917 uprising and examines the origin of the Bolsheviks.

A meeting of the St. Petersburg chapter of the Union of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class in February 1897. The whole group was arrested by the Okhranka shortly after the picture was taken. (Photo: Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya)

One hundred years ago, the Russian Revolution changed the world. Ever since then, it has been contested history. China Miéville's October tells the story of not one but two revolutions that took place in 1917 and the extraordinary events surrounding them: a remarkable story of uprisings and repression, heroism and folly, triumph and tragedy. Get your copy by making a donation to Truthout! 

The following is an excerpt from October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, in which China Miéville sets the scene by providing historical context for 1917, introductions to some of the key figures and the origin of the Bolsheviks.

In the final years of the nineteenth century, the state pours resources into its infrastructure and industry, including an immense program of railway building. Great crews drag iron rails across the country, hammering them down, stitching the limits of the empire together. The Trans-Siberian Railway. "Since the Great Wall of China the world has seen no one material undertaking of equal magnitude," breathes Sir Henry Norman, a British observer. For Nicholas [II, tsar of Russia], the building of this transit route between Europe and East Asia is a "sacred duty."

Russia's urban population soars. Foreign capital flows in. Huge industries arise around St Petersburg, Moscow, the Donbass region in Ukraine. As thousands of new workers struggle to eke out livings in cavernous plants under desperate conditions, subject to the contemptuous paternalism of their bosses, the labor movement takes unsteady steps forward. In 1882, the young Grigory Plekhanov, later to be Russia's leading socialist theorist, joins the legendary Vera Zasulich herself, the failed assassin of Trepov, to found Osvobozhdenie truda, Liberation of Labor -- the first Russian Marxist group.

In its wake come more reading circles, cells of agitators, gatherings of the variously like-minded, aghast at a world of ruthless, exploitative capital and the subordination of need to profit. The future for which the Marxists yearn, communism, is as absurd to their detractors as any peasant's Belovode. It is rarely distinctly outlined, but they know it beckons beyond private property and its violence, beyond exploitation and alienation, to a world where technology reduces labor, the better for humanity to flourish. "The true realm of freedom," in Marx's words: "the development of human powers as an end in itself." This is what they want.

The Marxists are a gaggle of émigrés, reprobates, scholars and workers, in a close weave of family, friendship and intellectual connections, political endeavor and polemic. They tangle in a fractious snarl. Everyone knows everyone.

In 1895, a Union of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class is formed in Moscow, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Ivanovo-Vosnessensk and St Petersburg. In the capital, the founders of the Union are two fervent young activists: Yuli Tsederbaum and his friend Vladimir Ulyanov, brother of Alexander Ulyanov, the narodnik student executed eight years before. Noms de politique are the norm: Tsederbaum, the younger of the two, a scrawny figure peering through pince-nez over a thin beard, calls himself Martov. Vladimir Ulyanov, a striking, prematurely balding man with distinctive narrow eyes, is known as Lenin.

*

Martov is twenty-two, a Russian Jew born in Constantinople. He is, in the words of one leftist sparring partner, "a rather charming type of bohemian ... by predilection a haunter of cafés, indifferent to comfort, perpetually arguing and a bit of an eccentric." Weak and bronchial, mercurial, talkative but a hopeless orator, not much better as an organizer, affecting, in these early days, a worker's get-up, Martov is every inch the absent-minded intellectual. But he is a celebrated mind. And while certainly not above the sorts of sectarian machination typical of political hothouses, he is renowned, even among his adversaries, for integrity and sincerity. He is widely respected. Even loved.

As for Lenin, all who meet him are mesmerized. As often as not, it seems, they feel driven to write about him: libraries' worth of such books exist. He is a man easily mythologized, idolized, demonized. To his enemies he is a cold, mass-murdering monster; to his worshippers, a godlike genius; to his comrades and friends, a shy, quick-laughing lover of children and cats. Capable of occasional verbal ogees and lumbering metaphors, he is a plain rather than a sparkling wordsmith. Yet he compels, even transfixes, in print and speech, by his sheer intensity and focus. Throughout his life, opponents and friends will excoriate him for the brutality of his takedowns, his flint and ruthlessness. All agree that his is a prodigious force of will. To an extent unusual even among that ilk who live and die for politics, Lenin's blood and marrow are nothing else.

What particularly distinguishes him is his sense of the political moment, of fracture and traction. To his comrade Lunacharsky, he "raise[s] opportunism to the level of genius, by which I mean the kind of opportunism which can seize on the precise moment and which always knows how to exploit it for the unvarying objective of the revolution."

Not that Lenin never makes mistakes. He has, however, an acutely developed sense of when and where to push, how, and how hard.

In 1898, a year after Lenin is banished to Siberia for his activities, the Marxists organize into the Rossiskaya Sotsial-Demokraticheskaya Rabochaya Partiya, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party (RSDWP). For several years, despite such periods of exile, Martov and Lenin remain close collaborators and friends. With characters so different, exasperations are inevitable, but they complement and like each other, a pair of Marxist Wunderkinder.

From Marx, whatever their divisions over other points, the RSDWP thinkers take a vision of history as necessarily proceeding through historical stages. Such 'stageist' conceptions can differ wildly in terms of detail, degree and rigidity -- Marx himself opposed extrapolating his "historical sketch" of capitalism into a theory of an inevitable path for all societies, as "both honoring and shaming me too much." Still, it is uncontroversial among most Marxists at the end of the nineteenth century that socialism, the initial phase beyond capitalism and en route to communism, can only emerge from bourgeois capitalism, with its particular political freedoms and its working class positioned to take control. It follows that autocratic Russia, with its huge rural masses and small working class (substantially made up of semi-peasants), with its private estates and omnipotent tsar, is not yet ripe for socialism. There is, as Plekhanov puts it, not yet enough proletarian yeast in Russia's peasant dough to make a socialist cake.

Serfdom is a living memory. And a few miles beyond the cities, peasants still dwell in medieval squalor. In winter, farm animals share their homes and fight for space by the stove. A stench of sweat, tobacco and lamp fumes. Whatever improvements are slowly coming, many villagers still walk barefoot through muddy, unpaved streets, and latrines are open pits. Agricultural decisions about common land are reached by no more rigorous a system than competing shouts in chaotic village meetings. Transgressors of traditional mores are subjected to what is called 'rough music,' cacophonous intervention, public shaming, a sometimes murderous violence.

But there is worse. 

According to the ecstatic rant of Marx and Engels in the Com­munist Manifesto, it is the bourgeoisie which "historically, has played the most revolutionary part ... put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations ... pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties" -- and thus, through the concentration of the working class at the point of productive power, created "its own grave-diggers." But in Russia, the bourgeoisie are neither pitiless nor revolutionary. They tear asunder nothing. As the RSDWP manifesto has it: "The further east one goes in Europe, the more base, weak and cowardly does the bourgeoisie appear, and the more gigantic are the cultural and political tasks that fall to the lot of the proletariat."

The author of these words, Peter Struve, will soon lurch to the right. In Russia, such so-called 'Legal' Marxists often find in their Marxism a roundabout way to be liberals, their focus shifting from workers' concerns to the necessity of the capitalist 'modernization' that Russia's cowardly bourgeoisie cannot bring forth. An obverse or complementary left heresy is 'Economism,' according to which workers must focus on trade union activity, leaving politics to those struggling liberals. Pilloried by those more orthodox for downplaying socialist struggle, and indeed quite ineffectual in their quietist solutions, such 'Legal' and 'Economist' heretics nonetheless focus on key questions. They have come up against a conundrum of left catechism: how does a movement go about being socialist in an unripe country with a weak and marginal capitalism, a vast and 'backward' peasantry, and a monarchy that has not had the decency to undergo its bourgeois revolution?

The tail end of the nineteenth century sees a flurry of imperial machinations, allegiance and counter-allegiance underlying a steady hunger for expansion. Internally, the colonial drive means upholding the language and culture of dominant Russian elites at the expense of minorities. Nationalists and the left recruit prolifically from subordinated peoples and nations: Lithuanians, Poles, Finns, Georgians, Armenians, Jews. The socialist movement in the empire is always multi-ethnic, disproportionately comprising those of minority groups and nations.

Ruling over the whole patchwork since 1894 is Nicholas Romanov. As a youth, Nicholas II submitted stoically to his father's bullying. As tsar he is distinguished by courtesy, dedication to duty, and little else. "His face," one official hesitantly reports, "is expressionless." Absence defines him: absence of expression, imagination, intelligence, insight, drive, determination, élan. Description after bemused description turns on the 'otherworldliness' of a man adrift in history. He is a well-educated vacuity stuffed with the prejudices of his milieu -- including pro-pogromist antisemitism, aimed particularly at revolutionary zhidy, 'yids.' Averse to change of any kind at all, he is wholeheartedly wedded to autocracy. Uttering the word 'intelligentsia,' he makes the same disgusted face as when he says 'syphilis.' 

His wife, Alexandra Fedorovna, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is deeply unpopular. In part this is jingoism -- she is German, after all, at a time of mounting tensions -- but it is also due to her frantic intrigues and patent contempt for the masses. The French ambassador Maurice Paléologue sketches her concisely: "Moral disquiet, constant sadness, vague longing, alternation between excitement and exhaustion, constant thought given to the invisible and supernatural, credulousness, superstition." 

The Romanovs have four daughters, and a son, Alexis, who is stricken with haemophilia. They are a close, loving family, and, given the tsar and tsarina's obdurate myopia, they are utterly doomed.

*

From 1890 to 1914, the working-class movement grows in size and confidence. The state pursues ham-fisted strategies against it; in the cities, it attempts to contain burgeoning popular discontent with 'police unions,' workers' societies organized and overseen by the authorities themselves. But to have any traction at all, these must channel real concerns, and their organizers must be what the Marxist historian Michael Pokrovsky calls "clumsy imitations of the revolutionary agitators." The demands they issue are mere echoes of workers' calls -- but in echoes, words can still be made out, with unintended consequences.

In 1902, a police-union strike takes over the whole city of Odessa. Similar mass protests spread throughout south Russia the following year, and not all under the aegis of the authorities' puppet bodies. A strike spreads from the Baku oilfields through the Caucasus. Sparks of revolt flare in Kiev, Odessa again, and elsewhere. By now the strikers' demands are political as well as economic.

During this slow acceleration, in 1903, fifty-one of the great and good of Russian Marxism relocate a crucial meeting from a vermin-flecked Brussels flour warehouse to London. There, in backrooms and cafés or overlooked by the fishing trophies of an angling club, over three disputatious weeks, the RSDWP holds its Second Congress.

It is in the twenty-second session of that gathering that a chasm opens between the delegates, a split remarkable not only for its depth, but also for the seeming triviality of its catalyst. The question is whether a party member should be one who "recognizes the party's program and supports it by material means and by regular personal association under the direction of one of the party organizations," or "by personal participation in one of the party organizations." Martov demands the former. Lenin stakes all on the latter.

Relations between the two have been cooling for some time. Now after an intense, vigorous debate, Martov wins, twenty-eight to twenty-three. But various fits of huff and dudgeon ensue on other issues, and by the time the party leadership is to be decided, walk-outs by the Jewish socialist group the Bund and by the Economist Marxists mean Martov has lost eight of his original supporters. Lenin manages to push through his choices for the Central Committee. Minority in Russian is menshinstvo, majority bolshinstvo. From these words the two great wings of Russian Marxism take their names: Martov's Mensheviks and Lenin's Bolsheviks.

At bottom this schism is about far more than membership conditions. Already during the conference Lenin was referring to his supporters as 'hard' and his opponents as 'soft,' and the distinction will generally remain glossed in such terms: the Bolsheviks considered hard leftists, the Mensheviks more moderate -- though this is not to deny the substantial range and evolution of opinions on each side. What fundamentally underlies the membership dispute -- in winding, mediated fashion, and far from clearly, even to Lenin -- are divergent approaches to political consciousness, to campaigning, to working-class composition and agency, ultimately to history and to Russian capitalism itself. This will emerge more plainly fourteen years later, when issues of the centrality of the organiszd working class will come to the fore.

Truthout Progressive Pick

Acclaimed author China Miéville tells the story of a pivotal moment in world history.

Click here now to get the book!

For now, a Martovian counterattack comes quickly: the London decisions are rescinded, and Lenin resigns from the board of the party journal Iskra in late 1903. On the ground, however, in so far as they even know about it, many RSDWP activists consider the split absurd. Some simply ignore it. "I don't know," one factory worker writes to Lenin, "is this issue really so important?" Years pass while Mensheviks and Bolsheviks veer towards and away from semi-unity. The bulk of party members consider themselves simply 'Social Democrats', right up to 1917. Even then, Lenin will take some time to convince himself that there is no going back. 

Copyright (2017) by China Miéville. Not to be reprinted without permission of the publisher, Verso Books.

Categories: Latest News

How Hurricane Response Efforts Are Sorting People Into Deserving and Undeserving Poor

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00
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Hurricanes Irma and Harvey delivered a devastating one-two punch to Texas and Florida, forcing millions to evacuate and leaving thousands displaced. Now, as emergency responders try to help hurricane victims cope with the aftermath of the storm, previously homeless residents are taking a particularly hard hit.

In Florida, as officials rushed to open emergency shelters for those forced from their homes by Irma, some residents who had been homeless before the hurricane were forced to wear bright yellow bracelets to mark their status. In St. Augustine, previously homeless people reported that they were not only forced to wear wristbands, but that authorities warned newly homeless hurricane victims to stay away from people with the yellow bracelets because they were criminals, thieves, and drug users. One woman described her experience to a local service provider this way: "They treated me like I was non-human, insulted me and others … [They] separated us from other people."

In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, a community volunteer said that previously homeless people -- including some in wheelchairs -- were turned away from hurricane shelters and later directed to the Volusia County Fairgrounds, which served as a segregated shelter for pre-hurricane homeless people. A homeless man in Daytona Beach said, "[We] were treated like animals … like we got a disease or something."

The unequal treatment of "pre-hurricane homeless" people versus "hurricane homeless" people was not unique to Florida. One Houston service provider told me, "There was definitely a treatment of people who had been homeless prior to the storm that was different … [they were] told that they needed to go to agencies that are part of the city homeless service system, rather than receive services within the [hurricane] shelter." They were then de-prioritized for assistance too, as a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency wrote in an email to Reuters: "If an individual was homeless pre-disaster, they may not be considered for Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance, which both require successful verification of pre-disaster occupancy."

The reality is, none of the people who were homeless before the storms were living "pre-disaster" lives. Before the hurricanes struck, they had already fallen victim to more routine disasters: a lost job, eviction, health crisis, domestic violence, untreated addiction, or mental illness. Any of these can lead to homelessness because of the manmade disaster that is the biggest driving cause of homelessness today: the crisis in affordable housing.

After decades of cuts to federal housing programs -- which shrank as a share of gross domestic product by 30 percent between 1996 and 2016 -- only 1 in 4 of those who are poor enough to qualify for housing assistance currently receive it. At the same time, as many cities experience luxury development booms, lower-income people are being displaced from the private housing market. As inequality deepens, poorer Americans must crash with families and friends, live in their cars, seek refuge in emergency shelters, or try to survive on the streets.

Some of us are both more vulnerable and more likely to be excluded from help and human decency.

For those living in public, there is also the risk of being fined, arrested, and even jailed. Increasingly, cities across the country are passing and enforcing laws that make it a crime to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places. Over the past ten years, such laws have increased dramatically the throughout country -- including in some of the same cities that rushed to the aid of hurricane victims.

In Houston, some 6,000 people were homeless pre-Harvey, and emergency shelters had long been full. But instead of helping homeless residents, the city passed a new law just before the storm making it a crime to sleep on the street -- punishable by fine, arrest, and incarceration.

The slew of storms will now worsen the already tight housing market -- the destruction of millions of properties will increase demand and drive rents higher. This will likely hit low-income people particularly hard, since they are more likely to live in flood-prone areas or in shoddy, unsafe housing, making their residences particularly vulnerable to ruin. Not surprisingly, these disasters disproportionately affect people of color, who are not only more likely to be poor, but also more likely to be homeless. Those unable to receive housing assistance will be left to fight for space in overflowing emergency shelters or to live on the streets.

People often come together with generosity in the face of natural disasters, as they can remind us that we are all vulnerable to nature. But as Harvey, Irma, Jose, and now Maria have shown, the reality is that some of us are both more vulnerable and more likely to be excluded from help and human decency.

A coalition of organizations is now advocating for new policies to ensure a fair and just recovery -- and to prevent those who are most vulnerable from being stigmatized, excluded, and tagged with special bracelets during future natural disasters. Responses to natural disasters must be equitable, both during and after the crisis. They must recognize the needs -- and humanity -- of those made homeless by natural disasters and those made homeless by manmade disasters.

Editor's Note: This article was produced in collaboration with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

This material was published by TalkPoverty.org.

Categories: Latest News

Protect the Dreamers, but Don't Fall for an E-Verify "Compromise"

Truthout - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 21:00

Democratic leaders working with Trump to protect DACA recipients may be unwilling to fund a border wall, but they seem open to concessions on E-Verify -- a system for checking on work authorization. However, universal E-Verify would only drive undocumented workers into the underground economy, costing billions of dollars in tax revenue and mostly benefiting big businesses that use subcontractors.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speaks during a news conference to announce the launch of E-Verify Self Check service March 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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E-Verify is back on the political agenda.

For years, politicians have wanted to force all of the country's 7.7 million private employers to check new hires against this online system -- which compares employees' documents with government databases in order to catch immigrants without work authorization -- but so far, the efforts to impose a universal E-Verify requirement have failed. Now the idea has been given new life by a tentative agreement that President Trump and Democratic leaders made on September 13 to promote legislation protecting the immigrants previously covered by President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

An E-Verify requirement for all employers is part of the list of immigration "principles" the White House issued on October 8; policies that Republican legislators might demand in exchange for helping DACA recipients. Meanwhile, anti-immigrant organizations and Republican senators have been calling for a new E-Verify push. The National Review announced that making E-Verify mandatory "should be non-negotiable."

Democratic leaders say their agreement with Trump excluded any funding for the president's promised border wall, but they may be more open to concessions on E-Verify. Liberal commentators have written favorably about the program in the past, from the New York Times editorial board to Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum, and even Bernie Sanders seemed to accept some form of E-Verify in his 2016 election campaign platform. But E-Verify isn't really any better than Trump's "big beautiful wall."

How Much, and Why?

In 2013 the House Judiciary Committee ordered the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to report on the potential effect that a proposed E-Verify requirement would have on the federal budget. The CBO responded with an estimate that over a 10-year period the legislation would increase the federal deficit by about $30 billion -- the agency expected some types of government revenue to go up by $58 billion and others to decline by $88 billion.

What would we get in exchange for this $30 billion increase in the deficit?

The theory underlying E-Verify is that undocumented immigrants come to the United States largely to find jobs. If we keep them from getting jobs, E-Verify's promoters claim, the immigrants will stop coming, and many of those living here will go home. In September, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas published a study testing this theory. The authors, economists Pia M. Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny, analyzed changes in the undocumented populations and workforces in seven states that currently require all or most private employers to use the system. They found that the number of undocumented immigrants in four of the states was significantly less than what would be expected based on demographic trends; two other states showed no "statistically discernable" difference, and the seventh state had less than the expected number of unauthorized workers, but no major change in the overall undocumented population.

So E-Verify appears to have been successful in some states but not in others. Moreover, this partial success doesn't tell us how effective E-Verify would be on the national level. There's no way to determine how much of the change that the authors found resulted from migration to and from other countries, and how much was simply migration between states. For example, undocumented workers in Arizona, one of the states with E-Verify, might have chosen to go to California or New Mexico -- states with comparable wages but without the E-Verify requirement. This doesn't mean E-Verify would necessarily inspire the workers to move back to their home countries.

But even if E-Verify performed as advertised, why would deterring unauthorized immigration be worth a $30 billion deficit? As Senator Sanders noted back in 2016, "The so-called immigration problem we face today at this particular moment is a trumped-up and exaggerated problem." Far from increasing, as he pointed out, the undocumented population has actually been declining recently. And there's no sign that the causes of this drop-off will go away in the near future (although climate change might result in renewed immigration later).

"We don't need a wall and we don't need barbwire," Sanders concluded. The same goes for E-Verify.

Pushing People Into the Shadows

Whatever else it may accomplish, E-Verify undoubtedly has one important effect: It drives undocumented workers into the country's massive underground economy, where employers don't report to the government and won't be affected by an E-Verify requirement.

As it is, undocumented immigrants already tend to work in areas like construction, maintenance, landscaping and homecare, where employees are often paid off the books. The Social Security Administration estimated in 2010 that about 56 percent of unauthorized workers were employed in the informal economy. E-Verify is certain to intensify this trend. A study of the first two years of the E-Verify requirement in Arizona suggested that about 56,000 undocumented immigrants had dropped out of the regular workforce, but it appears that some 25,000 of these workers had simply switched to jobs that paid under the table.

In fact, the movement of immigrants from regular to underground jobs accounts for most of the CBO's predicted deficit. The agency estimated that universal E-Verify would decrease payroll taxes over the 10 years by about $88 billion, reflecting an expectation that the requirement "would result in some undocumented workers being paid outside of the tax system -- that is, they would move into the underground economy."

An increase in irregular employment would hurt both immigrants and nonimmigrants. Informal sector workers are subject to greater exploitation -- lower pay, few or no benefits and more dangerous workplace conditions. When people make less money, they also spend less, pay less in sales and real estate taxes, and have a harder time supporting their families.

In addition, there's the ripple effect on wages. Economists disagree -- often bitterly -- about the extent to which lower wages for undocumented workers produce a downward pressure on authorized workers' wages in the same field, but most agree there's at least some effect. Clearly this downward pressure would be magnified if E-Verify forced more undocumented immigrants into lower-paying informal work.

Who Benefits?

Anti-immigrant politicians and pundits routinely charge that undocumented workers don't pay taxes, burden social services with their citizen children, and drive down wages for authorized workers. These claims are greatly exaggerated, but there's irony in the fact that the same anti-immigrant forces are promoting a policy that will actually aggravate the problems they pretend to care about.

Still, this doesn't mean no one wins out from a universal E-Verify requirement. Employers do -- not the legitimate small business owners, who would incur an extra expense of time and money in using the verification system, but the large corporations, which are generally careful not to employ undocumented workers directly. Instead, they employ the undocumented indirectly through subcontractors. 

Subcontracting has grown dramatically in the last few decades. According to New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter, a 2016 study by Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger "concluded that independent contractors, on-call workers and workers provided by contracting companies or temp agencies accounted altogether for 94 percent of employment growth over the last 10 years." Many of these jobs are in fields with a concentration of undocumented workers -- maintenance, warehousing, food services. Employment agencies can easily avoid complying with E-Verify or other rules by paying workers as subcontractors or off the books. If they get caught, the agencies can disappear overnight and pop up the next day under a new name. If big companies get caught using a labor agency that violates the law, they can claim ignorance, cancel the contract and find a new agency to provide them with workers.

How large is the benefit to employers? The CBO's 2013 report projected that "employers whose workers move outside the tax system would have fewer wage deductions and therefore higher taxable business profits on their income-tax returns, boosting their income taxes. On net, JCT [Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation] estimates that on-budget revenues would increase by about $49 billion." This represents most of the government's gain from E-Verify.

In other words, big business would reap huge profits from avoiding wage deductions; this doesn't include the additional profits bosses can expect from paying workers less. The expected increase in profits may help explain why the pro-business National Review insists that the universal E-Verify requirement "should be non-negotiable."

Categories: Latest News

Nurses Demand Congress Act to Avert Further Public Health Calamity in Puerto Rico

Commondreams - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:31
National Nurses United

In a letter to all members of Congress today, National Nurses United, whose disaster relief organization has placed 50 volunteer RNs on the ground in Puerto Rico, is pressing Congress to “take immediate action to prevent a further public health calamity in Puerto Rico”.
 

Categories: Latest News

ACLU Free Speech Case Challenges Law Aimed at Anti-Israel Boycotts

Commondreams - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:26
ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today arguing that a Kansas law requiring a high school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.

The law, which took effect on July 1, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

Categories: Latest News

JVP Welcomes ACLU Challenge to Unconstitutional Anti-Boycott Legislation

Commondreams - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:24
Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes the challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union today against an unconstitutional law in Kansas aimed at silencing the movement for Palestinian rights.

Categories: Latest News

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