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Posts tagged with 'The Real News Network'

Weekly Audit: Grandparents Take on the Recession

Posted Dec 28, 2010 @ 12:54 pm by
Filed under: Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

Flickr, Creative Commons, Qole PejorianBy Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Raising kids is never easy, but a recession only makes the job tougher. As more parents struggle to make ends meet, an increasing number of grandparents are stepping in to fill the void. One out of 10 U.S. kids lives with a grandparent, according to new research released by the Pew Charitable Trust, Katti Gray reports for ColorLines. About 40% of these children are being raised primarily by their grandparent(s).

Dawn Humphrey, a 51-year-old grandmother who is raising her 4-year-old grandson, describes her new role as challenging but deeply rewarding. Humphrey and her partner are making the best of a bad situation. Humphrey herself was laid off and her unemployment benefits ran out 3 weeks ago:

“Our situation would be ideal if I had a job,” Avion’s grandmother said. “We’re not materialistic people but this boy has needs. He looks to us for comfort and for love, when he’s hurt and needs help going to the bathroom. Just hearing him calling be ‘Grandma,’ I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just pure joy.”

Humphrey’s partner, Vernon Isaac, agrees:

“Yes, but, wow, grandparents like us could use some help.This recession, with things as tough as they are … I would love to give him the things I never got. But what I do give him is love. And that’s the most important thing.”

The magical thinking in free market ideology

When it comes to fingering culprits behind our economy’s current malaise, one could do worse than note just how poisonous so-called “free-market” ideology has been. That’s the diagnosis of financier Yves Smith, author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism, who recently spoke to the Real News Network.

Smith argues that magical thinking about markets has wrecked the United States’ economy. The old view was that the economy needed to be managed so that businesses could thrive. The new dogma is that “free markets are good” and therefore whatever happens as a result of “market processes” must be better than what would have happened if the government had intervened. By definition, everything that happens in a market is the result of market processes. So, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds! (It’s all fun and games until somebody needs a bailout.)

As Smith says:

[W]e then went to a model where everything that–anything that came out of, quote, “free markets”, even though free markets is–conveniently means something different, depending what context it’s in. But we have this kind of nebulous, flexible, free markets concept. But the idea is that anything that happens out of market activity is deemed to be virtuous, so if we go to less regulation, which–corporate interests took this free markets mantra and used it to justify deregulation–if we as a result of deregulated activity suddenly have a big trade deficit, well, we shouldn’t worry: that’s really the result of free markets, and somehow it will correct [itself].

Geico Gecko and Flo

What does it say about our economy that two of the most recognizable fictional characters on TV are insurance company mascots? For David Sirota of In These Times, the GEICO Gecko and Flo from Progressive Auto Insurance are chipper harbingers of economic death.

For Sirota, these ads epitomize everything that’s wrong with contemporary capitalism: Drivers are legally obliged to buy auto insurance. Instead of innovating or providing better service, GEICO and Progressive spend millions of dollars to poach each other’s customers with catchy TV ads.

Who can afford to retire?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the prospect of raising the retirement age from 65 to 69 to shore up Social Security. This proposed change has been vehemently opposed by progressives. Why raise the retirement age when we could just as easily raise the payroll tax ceiling? In Ms. Magazine former Harvard sociology professor Mariko Lin Chang argues that the inequalities of raising the retirement age pale beside the inequities that are already built into the system because of preexisting income differences.

The lower your wages, the longer you have to work to retire at a given level of Social Security benefits. The average American works for 40 years to collect full Social Security benefits. However, the average female worker earns only 77 cents per dollar earned by the average male. So, the average woman already has to work for 50 years to retire with the benefits the average man earns after 40 years.

Similar statistics apply to workers of color, who earn less on average than white workers.

Defending the official retirement age of 65 is a worthy endeavor, but we shouldn’t forget that the official criteria already obscure the brutal financial realities facing large segments of the workforce.

Southern anti-poverty programs at risk

Big Republican gains in state legislatures in the deep south may put poverty programs in jeopardy, Monica Potts of The American Prospect reports. In the midterm elections, Republicans took control of state legislatures in North Carolina and Alabama for the first time in a century. The GOP swept to power on a tide of anti-tax, anti-government spending sentiment. According to Potts:

Anti-poverty programs are among the most vulnerable because states have flexibility over how they spend federal money they receive for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps. Rules for TANF, the program once known as welfare, require states to maintain a certain level of spending to keep their block grants, but how and on what they spend the money is largely up to them.

States are ordering off a menu of programs, for which they must provide matching funds if they choose to participate. Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies predicts that states will try to save money by cutting programs like prescription drug and dental care for the poor, rather than come up with their share of matching funds.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Free Clinics at the USSF, Deadly Pollutants, and OTC Birth Control

Posted Jun 23, 2010 @ 11:07 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tens of thousands of progressive activists are converging on Detroit this week for the U.S. Social Forum to envision a better future. In the fight for social justice and sustainability, health and health care are at the forefront. During the meeting, the Washtenaw Reds plan to launch a free clinic in Detroit. They envision the facility as a center of healing and a nexus of political organizing. The USSF also features workshops on reproductive justice and drug policy issues. Urban farming and food justice are also key items on the agenda, Paul Abowd of In These Times reports.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Republicans are still scheming to overturn health care reform. The GOP leadership and its allies in the health care industry plan to use the upcoming confirmation fight over Dr. Donald Berwick, Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, as an opportunity to air their grievances about health care reform, Jamelle Bouie reports in the Washington Independent.

Deadly pollutants

As oil continues to spurt from the wrecked oil well in the Gulf, everyone is wondering how the disaster will affect human health. The scary part is, nobody really knows. The Climate Desk at Mother Jones says that more than 20,000 workers are slogging through as they attempt to clean up the mess. Fresh crude oil contains a many volatile chemicals, some of which have been shown to be carcinogenic. Over 100 workers have already complained of illnesses that may be connected to their work on the cleanup project, according to Louisiana public health authorities.

(more…)

Weekly Diaspora: Obama Deploys Troops to Border Amid Rising Civil Disobedience

Posted May 27, 2010 @ 10:45 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user jim.greenhill, via Creative Commons LicensePresident Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he would be deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to beef up security along the Río Bravo. This surprise move has garnered criticism from immigrant rights supporters, who argue that it will dehumanize and endanger immigrant and Latino communities.

Julianne Hing at RaceWire offers more details on the plan, reporting that an extra $500 million has also been allocated to law enforcement along the border.

“Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week,” Hing writes. “But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border.” (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: Fort Hood, Pundits and Immigration Reform

Posted Nov 19, 2009 @ 12:19 pm by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

First it was immigrants from Mexico, now Muslims in the armed services. After the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, conservative pundits are verbally attacking Muslims and Arab-Americans, much like they have vilified the immigrant community. The complexities of Islamic faith are being glossed over and “Muslim Terrorist” is stamped upon any act of violence involving their community. As a result, nuanced voices are buried in favor of suspicion and violence. (more…)