Posts tagged with 'High Country News'

TMC Impact Awards 2016

Posted Apr 12, 2016 @ 1:45 pm by
Filed under: Landing Page Blog, Report, Reports     Bookmark and Share

2016 Impact Awards Recipients

“This year, what stood out for us was the sheer number of edgy, sustained, and deeply relevant pieces of investigative journalism included in the award submissions. To be perfectly honest, we were a little bit on edge ourselves in settling on our final choices, and so we offer these awards with appreciation not only for the quality of those who did make the cut, but also with more than a nod to the accomplishments of everyone who put their work forward.” 

— Zakia Henderson Brown, The New Press

 

Texas ObserverDeath on Sevenmile Road, by Melissa del Bosque

“Melissa del Bosque’s almost unbelievably intrepid and dogged reporting stood out for our judges in this case.  Here is a prime example, we remarked, on how the time and effort put into gathering human stories, connecting dots, forcing authorities to cough up documents, and really good writing can take what would have been a hidden crime and tragedy and blow it up into a genuine news story.”

Mother JonesThe True Cost of Gun Violence in America, by Mark Follman, Julia Lurie, Jaeah Lee, and James West

“Our judges were impressed in this case not only by the number of impact measures tallied by the submission — clearly a major accomplishment — but also agreed with MoJo’s larger claim about how this piece has helped shift the debate away from Second Amendment issues and toward the public health consequences of gun violence and the costs society incurs as a result. Both the argument itself, and its effective packaging (graphics, interactives, video, etc) helped to create a vector of influence that very clearly achieved an impact in the media, and in key and influential policy circles.”

High Country NewsWhen Our River Turned Orange, by Jonathan Thompson

“Jonathan Thompson’s reporting on the pollution of the Animas river was a riveting piece of journalism in its own right. But what stood out for the judges was the role that Jonathan himself played after the piece was published — whether fact checking other testimony and media coverage, providing expert, fact-based opinions about the causes of the spill, and educating the broader public about what could be done.   This seemed to all of us a really stunning example of the role that journalists should play in their communities (if only they had the commitment and depth of knowledge of the reporters at HCN).”

Earth Island JournalTeflon’s Toxic Legacy, by Sharon Kelly

“As editors of long-form narratives, we were all struck by the power of the historical arc included in this stunning account of DuPont’s deception in manufacturing this dangerous product, and many of us found ourselves discussing this story in disbelief in the days and weeks after reading it. For us, this is an example of a news story with legs: one that raises critical questions about industry and regulation, makes a sharp impact in its own space, and that will continue to ripple out into the broader media over time.”

The American ProspectCecile Richards: Grace Under Fire at Planned Parenthood, by Rachel M. Cohen

“We were all delighted to learn about Cecile Richards’ noteworthy professional background in organizing and advocacy, and how she’s used that sensibility to grow, fortify, and sustain Planned parenthood. More, this expertly researched profile uncovered Richards’ role in critical coalition building among progressive organizations over the last two decades. We valued the way this piece moved beyond topical coverage of Planned Parenthood to highlight how Richards turned one of the most important healthcare organizations for women and families into a political juggernaut.”

Weekly Immigration Wire: DIY Immigration Reform

Posted Sep 3, 2009 @ 10:43 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger

Many immigration reform activists feel stymied and frustrated by the Obama Administration’s approach to immigration. Because the administration has not clearly denounced the racially-based violence and sentiment fueled by groups like FAIR and pundits like Lou Dobbs, it appears to be ignoring the individuals in need and siding with the powerful players, like the detention industry, or grossly negligent lawmen like Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

So what can an advocate, activist, or even a conscientious citizen do to make a difference during this period of government inaction? Have hope and take action yourself! As Eric Ward of Alternet writes in “Seven Days to Beat Anti-Immigrant Bigotry,” “You can take a bite out of bigotry in less than five minutes a day!”

Ward’s essay helps replace a potentially overwhelming sense of frustration with concrete, attainable and clearly defined actions. He put it together because a friend wrote him in sheer frustration, and asked him what she could do—without having a whole lot of time on her hands. She works 60 hours a week as a florist, but was determined nonetheless: “I don’t want these bigots to have the last word.”

The Washington Independent’s Daphne Eviatar reports that 521 different civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter urging the President to “immediately terminate” the infamous 287(g) program, which deputizes local police to carry out federal immigration duties. The program is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice for racial profiling and civil rights violations. This is great news! As we reported in the August 20th Wire, only a few voices were speaking out against postponing immigration reform. Now there are many.

RaceWire reports on the coalition of “immigrant, racial justice and civil rights advocacy groups” that have signed on to the letter, and describes the 287(g) program as a “disturbing hallmark of the Bush administration’s law-and-order approach.” Michelle Chen describes ground zero for 287(g)’s implementation—Arizona’s Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is at the helm—as a “warzone.”

The letter is a “gauntlet” and a “long overdue test” for the Obama adminstration. Activists and advocates need a sign, Chen writes, that the White House is serious about immigration reform, and not just further incarceration and penalty.

Advocacy groups aren’t the only ones uniting in this struggle, as Alternet makes clear in “Asian Americans Mobilize for Immigration Reform.” Something is different about this moment. “For the first time in the nation’s history,” writes Vivian Po, “Asian American and Pacific Islander [API] groups came together this week to call for comprehensive immigration reform.”

While immigration is often focused on Latinos, “Asian Americans also want to activate their network and become involved,” said Tuyet Duong, senior staff attorney of Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). The campaign used new media such as text-messaging campaigns and Asian American blogs, attracting many younger voters. “This week’s series of collective actions is the beginning of a larger movement for immigration reform,” say API immigrant rights groups.

Last week’s Wire touched on the overlap between health care and immigration reform. One in three Latinos are uninsured, as New America Media’s Odette Keeley reports. Keeley speaks with Pilar Marrero, Political Editor for La Opinion about “the scapegoating of undocumented immigrants during the health care [debate]” and “the possible ramifications of these attacks on the debate for immigration reform.” Of special note are some practical tips for those who have undocumented family members and experience a medical emergency.

While we are discussing physical injury and the uninsured, we should dwell on The Dark Side of Dairies,” at High Country News. It may as well have been titled “Got Justice?” Rebecca Clarren reports on an immigrant worker who was kicked by a cow while at work, and now has a steel plate in his face. “Gustavo,” a husband and father of three, is afraid to use his own name, but gives a first hand account of the dangers and dark side of helping the U.S. dairy system move.

Unprotected and invisible, the majority of the Western United States’ nearly 50,000 dairy workers are undocumented. But even though workers are killed by “tractor accidents, suffocated by falling hay bales, crushed by charging cows and bulls and asphyxiated by gases from manure lagoons and corn silage,” as Marc Schenker, director of the Western Center for Agricultural Safety and Health puts it, “If you’re undocumented, you won’t complain.”

How can a nation profit and subsist upon the efforts of workers who suffer like this? It’s a skewed, postcolonialist view that lets one group of people profit off the pain of others.

And the U.S. isn’t alone. The American Prospect’s “Chicken Little Goes to Europe” clearly delineates that frame of mind. Stephen Holmes offers a rejoinder to the fears some in Europe have about the growing Muslim population within their borders. The fearmongering there mirrors anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. Simply replace “Muslim” with “Mexican.” Scapegoating immigrants who change the culture to which they contribute is not a new phenomenon. Neither, however, is the ability to rise above these base reflexes and give voice and action to our better natures.


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Key Legal Battles in Fight for Immigrant Rights

Posted Jun 11, 2009 @ 11:23 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

While the United States’ legal system is founded on grand ideals like all humans being equal, the law is rarely as benevolent or efficient in practice, especially for immigrants. Different classes of people receive different consideration, and the subsequent disparities are glaringly evident in the lives of immigrants. This week’s Wire focuses on immigration-related legal battles, including unconstitutional raids by Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and the rights to have competent representation in a court of law.

In 2007, ICE raided numerous residences in New Haven, Connecticut without arrest warrants, probable cause, or consent. The violent and “highly visible” raid was likely “retaliatory,” as it came two days after New Haven approved “the issuance of identification cards for all residents irrespective of immigration status.” The Department of Homeland Security was clearly sending their own message to the town, or so many perceive it. But good news: M. Junaid Levesque-Alam of Wiretap mag reports that a  federal judge ruled the raid unconstitutional, stating that ICE officials violated the rights of four undocumented immigrants and called a halt to the deportation proceedings on Monday.

RaceWire’s Michelle Chen reports on an important reversal in Bush-era immigration law made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Previously, immigrants represented by counsel they claimed were “incompetent, unethical, fraudulent, or absent” could not halt deportation proceedings. The right to contest the quality of their counsel has been restored. It’s a fair ruling, as the former law implied that, while immigrants members supposedly had “the privilege of being represented,” justice was little more than a show.

Unfortunately, even with this positive change in law, it’s hard to assert that justice has been attained for more than a relative handful. As Chen writes, “current law does not guarantee government-appointed counsel” and so most detained immigrants will not even have state-appointed representation.

In Local (In)hospitality, Chen also provides a good roundup of issues around the country that touch on immigration legislation, such as Republican lawmaker Joe Carr’s “vigorously slamming the door on undocumented workers” by advancing a bill to “block local governments from explicitly restricting police from enforcing federal immigration law.”

RH Reality Check’s Margo Kaplan reports on one Judge’s ruling that “doubled the recommended sentence and exceeded federal sentencing guideline recommendations” for Quinta Layin Tuleh, a woman five months pregnant, “for the sole purpose of keeping Tuleh in prison until she gave birth.” Whether or not such a ruling creates a double standard for women or women immigrants in the eyes of the law may be up for debate, but this interpretation of the law was cruel.

In other immigration news, Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly reports that approximately a million people cross into Mexico each year for medical care. Personalities or media outlets that seek to spread fear or maintain a particular view of Mexico often insist that violence is bubbling and spilling up over our southern border. It is difficult, however, to remember that many people are crossing the border into Mexico to reap the benefits offered there. And not only are the reported numbers thought to be low, but the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

“If America is the land of beckoning opportunity,” writes Terray Sylvester for High Country News, “Mexico is the land of bargain operations — and cheap dental care, and sensibly-priced treatments for chronic illness.” Sylvester points out that, since approximately 500,000 of these people are Mexican immigrants returning for care, there’s a new “twist in the refrain that Mexican immigrants stress social services” in the U.S.

Speaking of opportunity, Wiretap is featuring a video called Immigration: New York Voices, which puts today’s hostile attitudes against immigrants in stark contrast. In the words of one interviewee, the U.S. has a legacy: It is where you go when you need to find safety or are “unhappy” with the land you live in.

Finally, we come to New America Media (NAM), which is featuring a bunch of content related to last week’s Expo and Awards. In Women Immigrants Key to Family Unity, Viji Sundaram reports a panel focused on both a breakfast for women and ethnic media and the recent survey [pdf] that New America Media commissioned from pollster Sergio Bendixen.

“Women journalists navigate a greater range of threats than do their ‘male counterparts,'” said Meredith Greene Megaw, communications director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, because women face the same threats, in addition to “cultural taboos, as well as the danger danger of being sexually assaulted and threatened.” See the page to view a slideshow of that panel.

And in Coalition Vows to Press Congress and Obama for Immigration Reform, New America Media’s Khalil Abdullah reports on the Reform Immigration for America campaign (RIFA), a coalition of groups like the Center for American Progress and AFL-CIO and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference that came together to “press Congress for comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.” It sounds like a very positive move overall, but time will tell how effective this coalition is.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Audit: Congress Caves to Bank Lobby on Foreclosures

Posted May 5, 2009 @ 8:41 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger

On Thursday, lawmakers bowed to pressure from the bank lobby and killed a crucial piece of anti-foreclosure legislation, poisoning the economy in an effort to keep money flowing to Wall Street. Meanwhile, jobs continue to disappear, retirement accounts are evaporating and families are struggling to cope with economic hardship.

Last week’s turn of events proved that the U.S. Senate remains utterly beholden to the financial predators that created the current mess. You might think that after destroying the economy, bankrupting itself and then going on corporate welfare, the banking industry’s clout on Capitol Hill would have diminished. But you’d be wrong.

The American News Project’s Lagan Sebert recorded a lobbying strategy session at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This is the lobbying team that  torpedoed the anti-foreclosure legislation, which would have given judges the power to revise the terms of unaffordable mortgages in court—a process the bankers refer to as a “cram-down”—and level the playing field for homeowners. As it stands, when borrowers fall behind, banks can use the threat of foreclosure to deny a sustainable long-term loan modification and continue to squeeze them for high monthly payments.

Snippets from the bank lobby meeting seem like some absurd surrealist parody of the U.S. political system, with lobbyists urging other bankers to give money to politicians and claiming credit for holding the economy hostage. “The cram-down vote may come tomorrow, and wouldn’t it be beautiful for it to go down to defeat while we’re up on the Hill,” says an animated David Kittle, Chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Such bad behavior on Wall Street, of course, has lead to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate currently stands at 8.5% and is likely to go much higher when the Department of Labor makes its monthly report on the job market this Friday. As Emily Steinmetz explains for High Country News, high unemployment levels are much more than a statistic: They mean real hardships for ordinary people. In Arizona, food banks and churches have been overwhelmed by those seeking basic necessities like food and diapers. Steinmetz profiles St. Mary’s Food Bank, which distributed upwards of 19,000 emergency food boxes across the state in September alone. The boxes contain bare-bones items like canned vegetables, jars of peanut butter and bags of rice for families that cannot afford to eat.

In the below video, GRITtv’a Laura Flanders interviews Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, about how the unemployment crisis is impacting families based on gender. Typically women are much more likely than men to dropout of the labor force when they lose their jobs, but in the current recession, record numbers of men are being laid off.

That’s creating not just a loss of income, since women still face a significant pay gap, but serious schisms when men find themselves unable to perform the role in the family they’re accustomed to playing. It’s also sowing seeds for political unrest: when people find themselves out of a job thanks to structural economic forces beyond their control and facing problems at home as a result of being laid off, it generates a lot of anger.

As University of Texas Economist James Galbraith writes for the Texas Observer, evaluating the economy means examining the links between the lives of ordinary workers and the operation of major institutions like the banking industry and government. When we pretend that there is no public interest in overseeing economically critical firms, when bank regulators hold press conferences in which they literally attack stacks of regulations with a chainsaw, Galbraith says, a resulting calamity for workers and families is predictable.

If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that what Galbraith refers to as “the ritual confidence of public officials and the dry numerical optimism of business economists” simply cannot be trusted without a deeper analysis of the plight of everyday citizens. Powerful people on both Capitol Hill and Wall Street spent the last decade insisting that everything was just fine, when in fact the entire financial system was falling off a cliff.

Writing for Mother Jones, James Ridgeway sketches a brief history of the retirement industry, revealing the steady migration from employer-provided pensions to 401(k) plans outsourced to Wall Street professionals. Ridgeway makes it hard to view the 401(k) industry as anything but a decades-long scam that has been shielded from serious scrutiny by the stock market growth from the early 1980s to 2007. Even the name “401(k)” comes from a covert loophole that was originally designed to help big banks avoid paying taxes.

In 401(k) accounts, workers have their money invested in stocks and bonds picked by a Wall Street fund manager, rather than receive guaranteed benefits from their employer. In return for this precious investment advice, the fund manager takes a bite out of any profits the worker’s 401(k) fund reaps, in some cases as much as 50% of the actual gains. This might not be so egregious if the fund manager made amazing stock picks that garnered huge returns for the worker, but most of these funds underperform index funds. Even high-performing funds are subject to the often arbitrary movement of financial markets. So when, say, stocks take a beating thanks to years of excessive risk-taking on Wall Street, worker accounts are devastated.

This continued influence of the banking establishment in Washington imperils not only our economy but our political legitimacy. When an industry transforms itself into a vehicle for economic destruction, the appropriate response is to crack down on abuse with new rules and regulations. Instead, lawmakers have ignored public cries for accountability and capitulated to the culpable elite, making it increasingly difficult to view Congress as a group of representatives acting for the public good.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit StimulusPlan.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Audit: Curbing Credit Card Abuses

Posted Apr 28, 2009 @ 8:25 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger

While the bank lobby continues to hold significant clout in Congress, President Barack Obama entered the fray on behalf of consumers Thursday, demanding that lenders put an end to abusive fees and predatory interest rates.

Writing for Air America, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich highlights parallels between credit card problems, which are just now starting to take a serious toll on bank balance sheets, and the subprime mortgage meltdown that triggered today’s economic crisis. In both cases, Reich notes, banks used a vast array of traps to trick people into high-interest loans they couldn’t afford. Now that credit card loans are also going bad and eating up bank profits, lenders have deployed another set of fine-print gimmickry to gouge borrowers and make up for the losses.

Banks are currently jacking up interest rates on previously accumulated credit card debt and charging outrageous fees for simple mistakes, like exceeding the credit limit. There is no law that says credit card lenders have to charge such fees—when a borrower hits the credit limit, the company could simply deny the transaction.

Lawmakers have protected the unfair credit card playing field for years. In 2008, a House bill to ban retroactive interest rate hikes, limit abusive fees and rein in deceptive marketing techniques passed by an overwhelming margin, but the banking lobby successfully prevented a similar measure from coming to a vote in the Senate. Sadly, as Mike Lillis emphasizes in The Washington Independent, policy observers are experiencing déjà vu on the current round of credit card legislation.

Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve finalized new regulations that would ban many abuses by credit card lenders, but the rules don’t go into effect until July 2010. This absurd delay was the source of much of the initial support for the legislation in Congress: lawmakers had hoped to protect consumers in the middle of a dangerous recession. While versions of the bill have cleared key committees in both the House and Senate, Lillis notes that the bank lobby has already exacted its pound of flesh, convincing members of Congress to delay the effective date of the legislation until—you guessed it—the middle of 2010. Lawmakers insist that the battle isn’t over, but we won’t know the result until the bills actually go to the floor for a vote, if they get voted on at all. No vote on the legislation is currently scheduled in either chamber.

Amid this Congressional stalemate, Obama met with credit card executives last week to emphasize his administration’s support for stronger regulations. Ezra Klein argues that the meeting bodes well for consumers in The American Prospect. The banking lobby routinely fights tighter regulation by claiming that stricter rules will lower profits, which, in turn, will force them to raise interest rates on other loans. If you reign in these abusive practices, the lobbyists say, we’ll have to raise interest rates on other borrowers. No administration in recent memory has bothered to challenge banks on the issue. A reporter raised the question at a press conference following Obama’s meeing with executives, asking whether the president believes there is a trade-off between credit card industry profits and consumer protection. Klein notes that Obama’s answer in the affirmative (“We think that it’s been out of balance.”) is a statement that has enormous implications for the policy debate, especially in the context of the president’s other comments on ensuring the extension of economically productive credit.

“We are confident that we can arrive at something that is commonsensical, something that allows the industry to continue to provide loans and to run a stable business model that’s not dependent on bubbles, that’s not dependent on people getting over-extended or finding themselves in over their heads,” Obama said.

Credit card companies clearly make a lot of money from these tricks and traps, otherwise they wouldn’t deploy them. If lenders could easily replace what they currently rake in with income from responsible loans, then there would be no trade-off between consumer protection and bank profits. But for lenders to argue that they need money earned by conning their customers is to admit that their business is dependent on predatory, economically destructive lending. This is not something that a company dependent on taxpayer support wants to acknowledge.

Obama, who has been very lenient with the banking industry, is essentially saying that banks have to earn their profits by playing a useful role in the economy, acknowledging that they have real obligations not just to their shareholders, but to the general public.

Obama’s sheer popularity will make it harder for members of Congress to water down regulations, but his willingness to play legislative hardball has already score a major victory over another key bank lobby priority: student loan subsidies. As Steve Benen notes for The Washington Monthly, the government has been giving money to private student loan companies for years in hopes that the funds are used to make responsible loans. In reality, the subsidies are squandered on executive compensation and shareholder dividends. As a solution, Obama proposed eliminating the bank handouts and replacing them with direct government loans to students.

The plan hit a temporary roadblock when Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., tried to scuttle the legislation to benefit lenders in his home state. As Benen explains, the student loan proposal wouldn’t have cleared the Senate without Nelson’s support. With 60 votes needed for any proposal to clear a filibuster, Obama usually needs every Democrat he can get. But instead of diluting the plan to win over Nelson, Obama just went around him by forging an agreement with negotiators in the House and Senate. The student lending changes will be pushed through the budget reconciliation process, allowing the measure can pass the Senate with just 51 votes, a situation which all but guarantees passage of any measure.

If Obama can win so easily on student loans, he can win on credit cards, but he has to move quickly. Unemployment call centers are being completely overwhelmed by the volume of laid-off workers seeking relief. As Marty Durlin notes for High Country News, The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is currently taking more than 10 times the call volume it received during the recession of the early 1990s. As job cuts continue to escalate, people are relying more and more on credit cards to fund necessities. The recession is happening right now. Reform can’t wait.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit StimulusPlan.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Audit: It’s a recession, stupid (and what that means)

Posted Dec 2, 2008 @ 9:09 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

The gurus at the National Bureau of Economic Research have finally acknowledged the obvious: the U.S. economy is in a recession, and has been since December 2007. With Wall Street still on life support and unemployment statistics reaching levels unseen since the heyday of Ronald Reagan, the news was far from shocking, as Truthdig’s Ear to the Ground notes, but still enough to help push the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 700 points on Monday.

More frightening than the belated use of the r-word– Kevin Drum of Mother Jones called the December start-date all the way back in February in a piece for the Washington Monthly– is the fact that drastic government action to right the nation’s faltering economic ship does not appear to be working. The current crisis has delivered a blow not just to investors and homeowners, but to the work of economist Milton Friedman, a thinker granted almost sacred status in conservative circles. Over at Salon.com, Andrew Leonard highlights a New York Times column by economist Paul Krugman on how Friedman’s monetarist economic theory has taken a hit over the past year. Friedman’s doctrine calls for restricting government relief in times of economic strain to the arena of monetary policy—that is, central banks should increase the supply of money in the economy, but governments should not directly undertake spending initiatives to boost demand.

But while the Federal Reserve has pumped liquidity into the financial sector at every conceivable opportunity over the past year, but the crisis has continued to grind on, spreading from one troubled sector to another. We are clearly out of options that match up with Friedman’s monetarism, indicating that public policy has nowhere left to turn except direct government spending on economic support, as Ezra Klein argues for The American Prospect.

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to deliver a major fiscal stimulus package as soon as possible after taking up his new job on January 20. Joshua Holland notes for AlterNet that Obama does not have to radically overhaul the economy to implement short-term stimulus that will have long-term economic benefits. Rebuilding our infrastructure with sustainable designs and materials and revitalizing our outdated health care system would both create jobs quickly and prevent other problems looming down the road.

The past week, of course, included the Thanksgiving holiday, and no coverage of the U.S. economy for the period would be complete without a discussion of Black Friday. It appears that the retail sector is about to follow Wall Street and the auto industry into disaster over the next month, as consumer confidence remains at dismally low levels. In a report for The Colorado Independent, Mary Kane explains how the massive loss of housing wealth over the past two years and decades of expensive consumer debt have made people much less eager to pull out the plastic for holiday gifts.

But while one industry after another steadily succumbs to economic reality, some of the people hardest hit by the downturn are not involved in any industry at all. With retirement savings devastated by the financial earthquake, many elderly retired people are now going back to work just to make ends meet, as Leslie Casimir details in a harrowing report for New America Media.

One of the most striking public policy disparities over the past year has been the rabid push from global governments to salvage financial institutions without devoting any serious attention to ordinary people, particularly the poor. The Bush administration has repeatedly argued that allowing major firms to fail would cause significant harm to vulnerable individuals well outside the financial system, but has done almost nothing to directly address the concerns of those people, who do not simply stop being poor once Citigroup gets its groove back. Oneworld.net notes an analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies that reveals the U.S. and Europe have dedicated $4.1 trillion to rescue the financial industry—roughly 40 times what they have spent to fight climate and poverty in the developing world.

The incongruity is reflected not only in the sheer size of the bailout packages compared to the poverty programs, but in the speed of implementation. Literally hundreds of millions of people have been unable to afford to eat for literally decades, but when Bear Stearns hits a liquidity logjam, a solution is in place by the end of the weekend.

Part of this is probably due to the U.S. psychological obsession with both Wall Street and homeownership. Writing for The Nation, Max Fraser discusses the development of pervasive and fundamentally irrational beliefs among bankers and borrowers alike over the past decade, beliefs that have ultimately eroded access to affordable housing despite an explosion in lending between 2004 and 2007. The current crisis proves that we cannot rely on private-sector initiatives or pseudo-public entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to responsibly expand access to homeownership.

Until the government steps in with a meaningful commitment to affordable housing, check out the tips Jane Goetze offers at High Country News on how to survive by living out of your car.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit Economy.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on the economy. And for the best progressive reporting on critical immigration and healthcare issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.