Al Jazeera: “Why the ‘one percent’ in the US is worried,” by David A Love

The wealthy elite increasingly recognises that the socioeconomic status quo in the US is unsustainable.

The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West [File: AP/Mark Lennihan]
The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West 

Inequality in the United States has reached such levels lately that even members of the “one percent” have started worrying.

  • Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates hedge fund who is ranked 57th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine, quipped in a recent interview that capitalism is denying “equal opportunity for the American dream”. He said that he was “a byproduct of capitalism when it also gave equal opportunity”, adding “I was very lucky to live the American dream by having the proper care and the proper public school education … A number of things have changed.”
  • Former Starbucks CEO and prospective presidential candidate Howard Schultz, who prefers to be called a “person of means” rather than a billionaire (ranked 617th by Forbes), recently observed that “the vast majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck” and declared that the next US president must urgently address inequality.
  • CEO of JP Morgan Chase Jamie Dimon (ranked 1,717th) also noted earlier this year that: “A big chunk of [Americans] have been left behind […] Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids.”

Indeed, the growing impoverishment and despair that are plaguing our country are hard to miss. The US also has the highest rate of income inequality among Western nations, with the top one percent claiming 40 percent of US wealth in 2016, in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent share in the 1980s. According to the rather conservative estimates of the US Census Bureau, around 14 percent of the population or 45 million live in poverty. According to the UN, 8.5 million of them face extreme poverty and 5.3 million suffer in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty”.

But in reality, many more Americans struggle to secure a dignified life for themselves and their families. A damning report published by the UN in 2018 found that: “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”

Perhaps parts of the American “one percent” are finally ready to admit that socioeconomic inequality has reached unprecedented levels and that the current status quo is unsustainable because just like South African billionaire Johann Rupert, the prospect of the poor masses rebelling is keeping them “awake at night“. They are now saying that capitalism “needs work” and are proposing various “fixes” – mainly “trickle-down philanthropy”. Some have gone as far as suggesting that social provision should be enhanced and that the wealthy should be taxed.

Yet all of them are quick to outright reject “socialist policies”. In a recent interview for NBC, Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of the second richest man in the world, echoed the thoughts of many of the super-rich, saying that: “What I know to be true is I would far rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society.”

But Gates is wrong. The current system in place in the US is not capitalism, but rather“socialism for the rich” which favours the “one percent” by granting it ever-increasing subsidies, exorbitant tax breaks, deregulation and executive bonuses. The rest of the population lives in an unfair system of inequality and segregation, struggling to make ends meet under severe austerity and erosion of labour rights. It is a system of “survival of the fittest”, which privileges some over the others based on race and gender.

Economic growth now only “uplifts” the rich, who are able to control the distribution of wealth by influencing the government and making sure it serves their interests and maintain their power. Through the US system of legalised corruption, the wealthy funnel billions of dollars in donations to election campaigns.

Unsurprisingly, the stop-gap fixes that people like Gates, Dimon, Schultz and Dalio are proposing are unlikely to work because they are designed to maintain the current system in place so they can continue to accumulate wealth unrestrained. The only viable solution that would prevent a major socioeconomic disaster in the US and subsequent social upheaval would be to overhaul the system.

Solutions to economic inequality and the excesses of American capitalism are necessary to save capitalism from itself, or better yet, to save people from capitalism.

There is an increasing number of dramatic proposals for economic justice that look promising. These include Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which envisions a national mobilisation to eliminate carbon emissions and transform the US economy, boosting economic growth and job creation, while seeking economic and racial justice for vulnerable communities. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on earnings above $10m.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren has a plan to wipe out $1.5 trillion in student loan debt by levying a surtax on the ultra-rich, while Congressman Bernie Sanders has put forward a proposal for universal healthcare. The idea of reparations for slavery, which could help alleviate some of the racial inequality in the country, is also gaining ground.

Although conservatives attack proposals promoting economic justice and equity as dangerous because they could lead to a totalitarian socialist system, such policies have long been a part of the US system. After all, the Green New Deal is named after the New Deal, which was introduced during the Great Depression to protect the poor, strengthen labour rights and impose strict regulation on the financial system.

At the same time, Americans are increasingly in favour of a major overhaul of the system, due to the problematic and corruptive nature of the current one. Existing and proposed government programmes of economic redistribution and equity are popular. Socialism is also gaining popularity, even surpassing capitalism among Democrats, particularly millennials. Such policies, which translate into more democratic ownership and control over the government and greater public accountability, most certainly frighten the wealthy for their effectiveness and political popularity.

If members of the “one percent” truly care about the widening wealth gap, they should not resist the implementation of these policies. An overhaul of the system might make them less wealthy, but ultimately will not be to their detriment. A profit can still be made if workers are paid dignified salaries, provided proper healthcare, and granted social and labour rights.

Indeed the choice of the “one percent” is reduced to either living in a more equal and just society or facing the wrath of angry impoverished masses.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 


Escobares, Texas: Life in the poorest city in the US

In the tiny city of Escobares, Texas, 62% of residents live below the poverty line.

That’s the highest rate of any US city with more than 1,000 people, according to the 2016 US Census Bureau survey.

Directly on the US-Mexico border, the city struggles with crime and unemployment.

But local officials say they’re trying hard to lift Escobares out of the cycle of poverty.

Video produced by: Cecilia Barria and Mohamed Madi

 

 

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic regulations

Chief Justice Roberts joins court’s four liberals to block Louisiana from enforcing law, pending full review of the case

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC during the 2018 March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC during the 2018 March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

A divided Supreme Court stopped Louisiana from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics in a test of the conservative court’s views on abortionrights.

The justices said in a 5-4 decision late Thursday that they will not allow the state to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in putting a hold on the law, pending a full review of the case.

President Donald Trump‘s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were among the four conservative members of the court who would have allowed the law to take effect.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said the court’s action was premature because the state had made clear it would allow abortion providers an additional 45 days to obtain admitting privileges before it started enforcing the law.

If the doctors succeed, they can continue performing abortions, he said. If they fail, they could return to court, Kavanaugh said.

The law is very similar to a Texas measure the justices struck down three years ago. Roberts dissented in that case.

OPINION

American women’s right to choose is in danger

Ashley Andreou,Alexander Urry
by Ashley Andreou,Alexander Urry

But the composition of the court has changed since then, with Kavanaugh replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to strike down the Texas law.

Restrictions would close clinics, providers say

Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state’s three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law. There would be at most two doctors who could meet its requirements, they said.

But the federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected those claims, doubting that any clinics would have to close and said the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal.

The law had been scheduled to take effect Monday, but Justice Samuel Alito delayed the effective date at least through Thursday to give the justices more time.

The justices could decide this spring whether to add the case, June Medical Services v Gee, to their calendar for the term that begins in October.

‘Pro-life’ justices

Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint “pro-life” justices – judges who are opposed to abortion rights – and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.

READ MORE

Under Trump, states step up effort to restrict abortion access

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump called for legislation to limit what he and anti-abortion rights activists describe as “late-term abortion”.

While such legislation at the federal level is unlikely, research at the Guttmacher Institute shows that about 20 states already have laws in place that restricts abortion after about 20 weeks post-fertilisation.

Since Trump came to power, a number of states have also introduced measures that seek to restrict abortion access.

Other states, including New York, have passed laws to ensure that abortion access would still be protected if the Supreme Court were to overturn parts or all of Roe v Wade, a 1973 decision that blocks states from prohibiting abortion.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders Proposes Expanding Estate Tax for Wealthiest Americans

Guest bernie cln

Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation Thursday that would lower the threshold for paying estate tax on inheritance, which is now at $11 million after the passage of the 2017 tax bill. The measure would lower the amount to $3.5 million of assets, after which the estate tax would apply—the same level as in 2009. The change would only affect the richest 0.2 percent of Americans, and the revenue would help pay for social programs like Medicare for all.

The measure comes after other high-profile Democrats introduced their own tax proposals on the wealthiest Americans. Last week, 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed her “ultra-millionaire tax” on the top 0.1 percent, while freshman congress-member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been advocating for a 70 percent top marginal tax rate.

2018 saw most killings linked to US far right since 1995: ADL

Watchdog says 2018 saw most far-right-linked killings since 1995, with 42 of 50 murders carried out by firearm.

People protesting against US President Donald Trump wait near the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Brendan Smialowski/AFP]

People protesting against US President Donald Trump wait near the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Brendan Smialowski/AFP]

From a deadly ambush on a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 to a Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, every US “extremism-related murder” in 2018 was linked to the far right,according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Last year marked the most killings by far-right attackers since 1995, with 42 of 50 murders carried out with firearms, an annual report published by the ADL concluded.

The report adds that 2018 was the fourth-deadliest year on record since the ADL started tracking such murders in 1970.

“The white supremacist attack in Pittsburgh should serve as a wake-up call to everyone about the deadly consequences of hateful rhetoric,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, in a statement.

“It’s time for our nation’s leaders to appropriately recognise the severity of the threat and to devote the necessary resources to address the scourge of right-wing extremism.”

Hate before the vote: Pipe bombs, shootings, incitement

The ADL partly attributes the comparably high number of deaths to a series of mass shootings, including 17 incidents involving “shooting sprees that caused 38 deaths and injured 33 people”.

One of the perpetrators, 17-year-old Corey Johnson of Florida, had switched from white supremacism and “allegedly converted to Islam” prior to stabbing several people during a sleepover, killing a 13-year-old and injuring two others.

A demonstrator waits for the start of a protest in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh [Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

Unlike previous years, the ADL included a new category of political motivation known as the incel (or “involuntary celibacy”) movement.

The incel movement is a predominantly white online subculture populated by men who blame women for their failure to find sexual or romantic partners.

In November 2018, Scott Paul Beierle opened fire on a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, killing 61-year-old Nancy Van Vessem and 21-year-old Maura Binkley. Four others were injured; Beierle killed himself.

Media reports later found that Beierle had posted several YouTube videos in which “he revealed deep-seated hatred towards women, particularly women in interracial relationships who had ostensibly betrayed their ‘blood'”, the report says.

Hate crimes on the rise

In California’s Orange County on January 2, 2018, Samuel Woodward, a member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, stabbed to death Blaze Bernstein, a former classmate of Woodward’s who was gay and Jewish. Woodward was charged with first-degree murder with hate crime enhancement.

In February 2018, Nikolas Cruz shot up his former high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 and wounding 17 more.

In October 2018, white nationalist Robert Bowers allegedly stormed a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue and shot dead 11 worshipers. Authorities charged him with 44 counts, including religious hate crimes.

The youngest victim was 53 years old and the oldest was 97.

Barry Werber, a 76-year-old survivor of that attack, later told the Associated Press, “I don’t know why he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the world, but he’s not the first and he won’t be the last.”

Anti-Muslim campaigning in the US is a ‘losing strategy’: report

Werber added, “Unfortunately, that’s our burden to bear. It breaks my heart.”

In the wake of the massacre, critics accused US President Donald Trump of stoking hatred and inciting against minorities, a charged Trump rejected.

Writing on Twitter after visiting the community in the wake of the incident, Trump dismissed the criticism and claimed his office was “shown great respect on a very sad and solemn day” in Pittsburgh.

The FBI reported a 17-percent rise in hate crimes in 2017, the largest increase in more than a decade.

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Opinion: Racist hecklers at Indigenous Peoples March were “..taught misleading facts and hatred.”

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Hi All, So I have been following this closely and below are two interviews that were on Democracy Now today. And below that is the full video not cut. As you will hear from both Nathan and Chase, the Black Hebrew Israelite was spewing hate words at both the tribal folks there as well as the boys. Nathan went in between the two to try and calm things. What I find the most disturbing here is that we have all sorts of blame on the boys and Nathan and no one is talking about the horrible things the BHI were spewing that stirred the boys up to begin with. Since we have the words of both Nathan and Chase below and the video below that that shows just what they say I think we can respect that all else is certain people trying to make more out of this then there is.
The big thing I take from this is, that these boys have been taught misleading facts and hatred, but they are young and they can be given the truths. They were not born that way but that is all they know and it seems that neither at home nor in this school are they going to get anything different. As someone noted, why was there a school of young boys there to tell women what they can or can not do with their bodies and brought there by adults who did not stay with them to step between them and the Israelites. However this has now become a good time for people to learn some truths and I hope that folks will do as I am doing and start deleting any Social Media that is thriving on the hatred. I have also included the full Democracy Now.
Love,jacqui
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by Jacqui Voltaire, the Maine Resistance

“I Was Absolutely Afraid”: Indigenous Elder on “Mob Mentality” of MAGA Hat-…

On Friday, thousands took part in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. The next day, video went vira…

 

Chase Iron Eyes: Trump’s Mocking of Native Americans Gives License to Other..

As we continue to look at the video that has gone viral showing a group of Catholic high school students apparen…
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A daily independent global news hour with Amy Goodman & Juan González. “I Was Absolutely Afraid”: Indigenous Elder on “Mob Mentality” of MAGA Hat-Wearing Students in D.C.; Chase Iron Eyes: Trump’s Mocking of Native Americans Gives License to Others to Denigrate My People; “The Heartbeat…
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Oxfam: 26 Wealthiest People Own as Much as World’s 3.8 Billion Poorest! (y’all wanted a King, right?)

JAN 22, 2019

H21 poverty 2

Winnie Byanyima “So, last year alone, we saw billionaire wealth increase by $2.5 billion every day, while the wealth of the bottom half of humanity—3.8 billion—was dropping by $500 million a day. I’m here in Davos to call on governments to wake up and take up their responsibility and tax fairly, tax wealth and put money in the public services that people need.”

[We’re all buffalo.]