Trump administration moves to eliminate food stamps for 700,000 of his constituents. (He’s a Christian.)

The US Department of Agriculture has finalised a rule tightening work requirements for government food assistance.

Emma Goldman Quote: “Ask for work. If they don’t give you ...
With the implementation of a new work requirement rule, the US government could potentially take food assistance away from nearly 700,000 Americans 

The administration of United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it will make it harder for states to keep men and women in the country’s food stamp programme, a move that is projected to end benefits for nearly 700,000 people.

Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The programme provides free food to 36 million Americans.

More:

Three million could lose food stamps under new Trump proposal

New US rule would target immigrants who use public benefits

Food prices are skyrocketing, and economists are worried

The administration has finalised a rule that tightens guidelines on when and where states can waive limits on how long certain residents can receive benefits. The changes will move more “able-bodied” adults into the workplace, said US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“States are seeking waivers for wide swaths of their population[s], and millions of people who could work are continuing to receive SNAP benefits,” he told reporters.

The US generally limits the amount of time that adults can receive food stamps when they are aged 18-49 and who do not have dependents or disability benefits. The limitations are usually three months within a 36-month period unless the adults meet certain work requirements.

States can apply for waivers to this time limit due to tough economic conditions. However, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5 percent have been included in waived areas, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that runs SNAP.

The USDA is stiffening guidelines defining where recipients can reside to be eligible for waivers and standards for demonstrating whether an area has enough jobs to justify a waiver.

The US unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October.

“We need everyone who can work to work,” Perdue said.

But critics say the moves will hurt poor Americans.

“This is an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets to make ends meet,” said US Congressional Representative Marcia Fudge, an Ohio State Democrat.

The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after the US Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.

The latest rule will take effect next year and save the government $5.5bn over five years by removing about 688,000 people from the food stamps rolls, said Brandon Lipps, a USDA deputy undersecretary.

“For those impacted, it will mean less nutritious meals or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Social Security Works: What’s included in improved Medicare for All?

With Thanksgiving around the corner, and Medicare for All a hot topic, we thought it would be worth refreshing everyone about all of Medicare for All’s benefits for seniors. Have a great holiday! –Nancy and the SSW team

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The enactment of Medicare for seniors in 1965 was intended as just the first step to Medicare for All. But for years, corporate-funded propaganda has attempted to scare those who would benefit the most.

Right now, long-term care―at home or in a nursing home―is not covered by Medicare. And the cost of a semi-private room, food and housecleaning in a nursing home averages $225 a day, or $82,125 each year.

As a result, many seniors have no choice but to impoverish themselves until they can qualify for Medicaid.

Improved Medicare for All includes comprehensive long-term care coverage, including at-home services and supports, as well as nursing home care. This would be life-changing for tens of millions of seniors and their families, who would could live with dignity and still get the care they need.

The recently introduced Medicare for All Act of 2019 also includes vision, hearing and dental coverage. And the legislation eliminates every penny in premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

If Medicare for All were the law of the land, health care costs would no longer consume over 40% of the average Social Security benefit—effectively increasing benefits.

Improving Medicare’s benefits and expanding it to cover everyone will make the program stronger, more successful and more popular.

Right now, according to the most recent Trustees Report, Medicare spends just 1.1 penny of every dollar collected and spent on administrative costs. The other nearly 99 cents are spent on providing health care. In contrast, the administrative costs of private health insurance are generally more than 12%.

For-profit insurance corporations, big pharma and the other industries that profit off of our current wasteful health care system are terrified of Medicare for All. They will do everything they can to defeat it, including scaring those who are most dependent on health care and therefore have among the most to gain from Medicare for All. We are just beginning to see their campaign of fear.

Opponents of Medicare for All are seeking to scare older and younger Americans alike into opposition in spite of the fact that Medicare is significantly more efficient than commercial health insurance.

Adding everyone to Medicare would not only increase the size of the risk pool—it would reduce costs even more by adding healthier, younger beneficiaries to that risk pool, driving the per capita costs even lower.

Even conservative analyses show that Medicare for All will reduce what seniors and the rest of us pay currently.

Under improved Medicare for All, Americans will be able to choose whatever doctors and hospitals they prefer. They will be able to afford their medications. They will be able to get early treatment when medical problems arise.

We can make Medicare for All a reality, but only if millions of us mobilize to defeat the power of big money.

Chip in today to educate the American people and grow our movement for Medicare for All.

Right now, around one in three seniors aged 65 to 74 suffer from hearing loss. The number is nearly one in two for those aged 75 or older. However, three out of five of those over age 65 are untreated for their hearing loss.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Untreated dental problems can lead to malnutrition. And untreated gum disease can result in heart and lung disease. Improved Medicare for All covers these critical medical issues.

Let’s not let the fearmongers scare us from this better world. Together, let’s make high quality health care a human right for everyone in America.

Thank you,

Nancy Altman
Social Security Works

Petition: Reject Mitt Romney’s Trust Act to cut Social Security

Tell Congress:

“Reject Sen. Mitt Romney’s TRUST Act, which would create a fast-track process to cut Social Security behind closed doors. Any debate over the future of Social Security must be done in the light of day where the American people can see it, and the American people’s voices can be heard.”

Congressional Republicans know that the only way they’ll successfully cut Social Security is behind closed doors where there’s less political accountability.

That’s what Senator Joni Ernst suggested at a recent town hall meeting in Iowa. And that’s exactly what Senator Mitt Romney is proposing in his new TRUST Act.

The TRUST Act is nothing more than an extension of the Romney-Ryan plan to cut Social Security, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in the 2012 presidential election. It would create a fast-track, closed-door process for cutting Social Security.

Join Social Security Works and our allies in telling Congress to reject Mitt Romney’s TRUST Act, which is nothing more than a plan to cut Social Security behind closed doors.

Tell Congress that any discussion about the future of Social Security must be done in the light of day, where the American people can see it. Sign the petition today >>>

Politicians don’t shut the door when they’re trying to do something popular. And the TRUST Act is simply another plan that has been consistently rejected by the American people: Cuts, cuts, cuts.

Together, we’ve fought these attempts before and won! We defeated the Bowles-Simpson fast-track process to cut Social Security; we stopped the Supercommittee fast-track process; and we stopped the Republican debt ceiling hostage-taking of our earned Social Security benefits.

For 84 years, Social Security has paid out all benefits in full and on time. But, starting in 2035, the Social Security Trust Fund will face a modest funding shortfall if nothing is done. Democrats have proposed plans to protect and expand Social Security, including the Social Security 2100 Act, which would extend the lifespan of the trust fund beyond the year 2100—paid for by having the rich pay their fair share.

Senator Mitt Romney instead has a bill, which lays out a fast-track process to cut Social Security benefits behind closed doors. Romney’s plan doesn’t only endanger Social Security―it creates fast-track threats to Medicare, highway funding, and more. Now, we must beat this latest attempt to cut our earned benefits. We must defeat the TRUST Act.

Sign the petition today to fight back against Mitt Romney’s new legislation and tell Congress where the American people stand: Expand, don’t cut, Social Security!

Thank you for taking action today to defend our earned benefits against the relentless attempts by Wall Street and their bought-and-paid-for politicians in Washington.

Michael Phelan
Social Security Works

Poor People’s Campaign: Save Apache Sacred Place, Oak Flat.

My name is Reverend William J. Barber II, of the Poor People’s Campaign. I’m a preacher—and I’ve dedicated my life to the pursuit of social and economic justice as part of my faith and a moral obligation to counter injustice.

I’m writing to you because, unless we act, one of the most sacred places of the Apache Nation in Arizona will be destroyed by Resolution Copper, a corporation that is planning to create a crater below Oak Flat two miles wide and 1,000 feet deep.1 To Christians and Jews, this would feel like a desecration of Mt. Sinai.

Will you sign the petition in solidarity with the leaders of the Apache-Stronghold and demand Congress do everything in its power to stop the destruction of Oak Flat?

We demand Congress return the full rights and religious protections to the Apache of Oak Flat in recognition of their religious freedom and stop the destruction of Oak Flat.

Sign the Apache-Stronghold’s petition

When I first visited the Apache Nation in Arizona years ago, I heard how the Apaches, a people who had lived in the hills, were forced onto a reservation down in the river basin. And then the Army, at night, opened the dam and flooded the river basin, in an attempt to wipe them out.

Their story—and their trauma—is not isolated. First Nations, the indigenous peoples who once populated this land, were almost wiped out in the Indian Wars of the first two hundred years of what would become the United States. And these attacks, despite the resiliency of First Nation tribes, continue today.

Apache-Stronghold members at Oak FlatMembers of the Apache-Stronghold.

Oak Flat is a sacred place to the Apache people. But the U.S. Forest Service has moved forward with an environmental impact statement on this proposed plan from Resolution Copper—and has refused to consider the Apaches’ religious freedom claim, which would stop this destructive mining project.2

I’m writing to you as a preacher, hoping you will join me in demanding Congress stop this sale and condemn this immoral, racist, and unconstitutional seizure and sale of Oak Flat.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.

Thank you.

–Rev. William J. Barber II, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Sources:

1. “The Forest Service Ignored Apache Religion in Its Review of Oak Flat Copper Mine,” Phoenix New Times, October 15, 2019
https://act.moveon.org/go/113021?t=11&akid=250143%2E41035463%2E8fDtdl

2. Ibid.

“State of Emergency”: Special Report on California’s Criminalization of Growing Homeless Encampment

OCTOBER 25, 2019

TOPICS

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