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Lee Camp: It’s Time for Major Wealth Redistribution — Yes, I Mean It.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 1:44am in

Princeton, New Jersey (ScheerpostIt’s time for wealth redistribution. There, I said it.

I know it’s the third rail of politics, but I’m not running for a damn thing, which makes me free to speak the truth. (Well, I am running for president of my neighborhood elementary school’s PTA, but I’m pretty sure I’ll win easily since my campaign slogan is “Extend the school day to 20 hours because we don’t want to deal with those little monsters. You take ‘em!” . . . Well, I’ll win as long as they don’t find out I don’t have a child.)

Anyway, we desperately need wealth redistribution. And before anyone starts yelling something about Joseph Stalin, here’s the part that’s going to blow your mind — in the United States we’ve already had wealth redistribution for decades.

Fifty trillion dollars has been redistributed from the poorest Americans to the top one percent over the past several decades. That’s right, a new study shows the richest people in the world have stolen trillions from average Americans. To put this in easier to access terms — you know how mad you get when someone takes the last donut? Well, imagine that multiplied by 50 trillion. (Quick reminder: If you make $40,000 a year, it would take you 1.25 Billion years to make $50 trillion.)

The new study reveals, “…that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020.”

And to be clear, this money has been stolen from nearly every American. Had income distribution and buying power remained the same as it was from the end of World War II to 1975, ” . . . the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is … enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.”

The richest people in America are pilfering over $1,100 from you personally and everyone you know every single month of every single year. Just imagine what each living soul in America could do with an extra $13,700 per year — how many people that would feed, how much less stressful their lives would be, how many fewer foreclosures there would be, and how many more people would get the healthcare they need. Yet every time the most modest tax increases are proposed on the richest Americans, or every time someone so much as mumbles about putting in a public jungle gym or putting in filters to take the metal chunks out of the water or fixing the holes in our bridges that are bigger than the ones in Maria Bartiromo’s head — every time someone brings up these common sense solutions, the elites of our society (who own the media outlets and the levers of the state and the law enforcement and the courts) start screaming from their wine-soaked ski resort orgy balconies, “That’s wealth redistribution! That’s class war!”

Meanwhile, most so-called “progressives” tip-toe around this subject, saying things like, “Well, we just want to slightly increase the taxes on the giant swimming pools filled with money of the wealthiest people. It would only impact people with billions of dollars, which is only a few individuals. We’re sorry. We’re so sorry to ask for this, Mr. Boss Man. Please forgive us.”

Enough of the pussy-footing. It’s time to demand true, full-on wealth redistribution. It’s time to say to the billionaires, “We’re taking your shit, and we’re giving it back to the society you stole it from. We’re taking your cars and your marble statues of your own ass and your boats that park inside your other boats and your emerald bathtubs filled with naked man servants and your inbred cross eyed ugly-ass dogs! . . . But you can keep your children. We don’t want those sociopaths in training. But other than that, we’re taking your stuff because this level of inequality is what most rational economists call ‘fucking nuts’.”

I will however give one caveat to make this go smoother. We only take back everything over $10 million. It’s estimated that there are about 1.4 million American households who have over $10 million. So that means what I’m proposing would impact less than one-half of one percent of Americans. The average American has never even met someone with over $10 million unless they shook Jim Carrey’s hand one time on a sidewalk in New York.

So we — the 99 percent — would take everything over $10 million from the people who have over $10 million. And we would give it out with the bottom 50 percent getting the vast majority of it. This means 99.5 percent of Americans would benefit from this redistribution of wealth. So, before you argue against this idea — Remember: you benefit. You would receive money. Because I promise there is no one with over $10 million reading this column right now, unless one banker accidentally clicked on this because it was next to the Wall Street Journal in his Twitter feed.

Do you need more numbers to hammer home the point? The billionaires in this country have increased their wealth by over $1.3 Trillion, an increase of 44 percent, just since the beginning of the pandemic.

One out of every three people in America have had trouble paying their bills during this pandemic.

Nearly 15 million people have lost their healthcare coverage just since the beginning of this pandemic.

And if you are the one person with over $10 million reading this, don’t give me that horse shit about, “I worked for that money. I earned that money.” No, no, no, no, you did not earn over $10 million. I know you didn’t because that’s impossible. It’s madness. It’s Gary Busey inside Charlie Sheen inside Ted Nugent. Taking the laws of physics into account, there is no way you worked a thousand times harder than a janitor or a sanitation worker or a nurse or a busboy or a fluffer or a fluffer’s second assistant fluffer intern. It’s physically impossible that you worked a thousand times harder than every “essential worker.” (Yes, fluffers are essential.)

What you did was merely take advantage of a system that is set up to exploit the vast majority of the society while most people don’t even realize what happened. That’s what you did because you’re a sociopath. Indeed, most of the Americans with over $10 million are sociopaths. They would kick a puppy down a flight of stairs into the teeth of a wool thresher if it meant they could make an extra $1,000. But I will acknowledge that not all of them are sociopaths. Some of them are relatively okay people working inside a breathtakingly corrupt system. So for the ones who are sociopaths, why should we feel bad for taking their wealth — over $10 million — and redistributing it? (They’re sociopaths after all. Lest we forget: they kick puppies.)

And then for the other ones, who are not sociopaths but still have over $10 million, they’re not going suffer because at the end of the day, they still have ten million goddamn dollars! It’s not like they’d suddenly be scraping by, clothing their children with cardboard boxes painted to look like shirts and bow ties.

So the next time someone says to you, “You can’t raise the taxes on the top 1% because that’s class war. It’s redistribution of wealth,” don’t respond the way most squishy liberals respond — “Ummm, ahhh, errr, no, uhhhh, I’m sorry.” Instead respond, “You’re damn right it is! I want redistribution of wealth. I want a nonviolent class war — because it has been done to the rest of us for the past 50 years at least. We have been exploited and abused, beaten down and defeated, kicked and slapped and scratched and drained and sucked dry and extracted and even burgled!” (Oh man, do I hate being burgled.)

Now is our time to fight back against this terrible machine that has allowed this unbelievable level of exploitation. Screw this system that allows some people to have enough money to end world hunger (literally Jeff Bezos could end world hunger many times over) and yet never do it, while other individuals sleep on a bench hoping no one steals their one box of cereal in the night. To put my conclusion into more sophisticated academic language — Fuck that.

This is an abusive relationship, and it’s time to get out.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his stand-up comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

The post Lee Camp: It’s Time for Major Wealth Redistribution — Yes, I Mean It. appeared first on MintPress News.

How This Country Fails Its Most Vulnerable

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 4:47am in

A field guide to our threadbare social safety net. Continue reading

The post How This Country Fails Its Most Vulnerable appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The need is to fix the system, not just to provide ‘sticking plasters’

Food Bank Cupboard stocked with tinned and packet foodImage by Staffs Live (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

It feels lately that we, like Lewis Carrol’s Alice, have fallen down a rabbit hole into an immensely troubling surreal situation with seemingly no idea how we are going to extricate ourselves.

Whether it is the distressing daily reports of Covid-19 deaths, the disturbing video accounts of the huge pressures on our NHS or care services, the political upheavals taking place across the Atlantic and elsewhere or the most serious challenge of all, climate change, it seems ever clearer that we are in Antonio Gramsci’s ‘time of monsters’ in which ‘the old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born’.

What that world will look like remains to be seen, but recent political events would seem to suggest that we still have some way to go before the ‘old world’ breathes its last. The pandemic, combined with the consequences of forty and more years of Neoliberalism Central which has infected every aspect of our lives and dominates political decision making, has created not only public disillusionment, but also petrification as our institutions sit in their blinkered bunkers holding on for dear life to all they knew.

Whether it’s the existing and growing union between government and global corporations, policy decisions which have increased inequality and poverty and encouraged charity, volunteering and philanthropy to take up the reins of public provision, or the promotion of sound finance as a vital component of good governance, the old structures are embedded in our consciousness.

It wasn’t always like this.

During the second world war, William Beveridge was appointed to investigate social security in Britain and his report, published in 1942, identified five major problems which prevented people from improving their lives. These were:

Want (caused by poverty)

Ignorance (caused by a lack of education)

Squalor (caused by poor housing

Idleness (caused by the lack of jobs or the ability to gain employment)

Disease (caused by inadequate health care provision)

It was recognised that government had a role to play in addressing those five ‘evils’ and as a result of the Beveridge report, the post-war government set up the social security system and pursued policies which aimed to address them including full employment. It may not have been perfect, but it changed people’s lives for the better.

Over recent decades, that connection between the state and publicly paid-for provision, management and delivery of services has been broken. Responsibility for such provision is increasingly being shifted into the charitable/voluntary sector, whilst at the same time, the dominant orthodoxy of individual responsibility has led to shaming and blaming people for their situation as the government takes a back-seat role.

Food banks have become a normalised feature of Britain, as Therese Coffey, the Tory minister for the Department for Work and Pensions, indicated last year when she referred to people using food banks as ‘customers’ and suggested they were a ‘perfect way to help the poor’. It implies that government has no role at all in ensuring the economic well-being of its citizens, and worse, that the 14 million Britons who do not have enough to live on are there through their own lack of moral fibre!

When charities buy into this picture and act as mitigators for a rotten economic system (which drives the poverty and inequality, that drive, in turn, the consequences including hunger, homelessness, and illness), they are not aiming to fix the system, but to provide sticking plasters. As such, it demonstrates how they, too, have been captured by an ideology and accept it without question.

This was made shockingly clear in a paid-for content article in this week’s Guardian. The CEO of the Bethany Christian Trust, when talking about tackling the problem of food insecurity said: ‘if by giving someone a meal we’re sitting them down with people they can talk to about debt counselling, mental health issues, addiction, domestic abuse, or whatever help they might need, then that plate of food can work so much harder’.

Rather than starting with the political roots of these problems, charities increasingly view them as issues to be solved through improving the capacity of the individuals themselves to manage the challenges they face.

Quite simply, this facilitates the shifting of blame onto people, rather than highlighting the failure of the government to make provision for its citizens and is classic neoliberal text. As Neil Valley suggests in his article in the New Internationalist ‘The Self-Help Myth’.

‘The pervasive rhetoric of personal responsibility has transformed the role of government and society in the neoliberal era. Where once the role of government was to safeguard the general happiness of the majority of citizens, albeit to varying degrees, its primary role now is to facilitate the conditions where each citizen can take on more and more individual responsibility, absolving the state from its responsibility towards its citizens.’

Then step in charities to fill the gap in service provision and provide the mitigating support for the rotten toxic system which has created the need in the first place and designates those in receipt of such support as customers rather than victims.

The increasingly pervasive narrative, which is being driven further by the pandemic crisis, is that charities and the voluntary sector should be at the heart of our local communities to ensure that vulnerable people don’t fall between the cracks, rather than publicly paid for, managed and delivered state provision.

It was, therefore, all the more disconcerting this week to read the proposal in the left-wing publication The Tribune that a National Food Service should be set up. Whilst its aims to serve the public good rather than private profit are indeed laudable, one has to question the logic.

Of course, one could not object to the removal of private companies delivering public services, given that the tentacles of private profit are growing exponentially as government distributes contracts to its friends and large corporations with few strings attached, whilst at the same time the coffers remain largely bare to serve the needs of those who have for decades been at the sharp end of government policies. The resulting poverty and inequality have been highlighted during this crisis.

The proposal, however, seems to suggest that we mitigate for the crisis of capitalism being played out in the growth of hunger through mutual on the ground action, rather than dealing with its root causes – government policy driven by ideology. We don’t need a plan to ‘respond’ to this fundamental crisis of capitalism, we need a plan to change it; to put public purpose and the interests of citizens, not to mention the planet, at the heart of all government policy.

Over the last few decades, working people have borne the consequences of a toxic economic ideology underpinned by the notion of monetary scarcity, which has led to the reduction in their share of their productivity, which has translated into lower wages, insecure employment and underemployment and a decline in living standards. Poverty is the direct result. The constant repetition of these ideas via politicians, think tanks, economists and the media has led us to believe that this is the inescapable default.

Government, far from serving its citizens, has overseen through its employment and other policies, huge disparities in wealth and access to resources, allowing, for example, chief executives of big corporations to earn many more times that of their employees, not to mention garner political influence as a result.

To add to this picture is the decimation of our post-war public and social security infrastructure, which existed to provide health and social care through various publicly paid for institutions, to ensure that those in need had access to shelter, food and warmth, in times of personal tragedy, sickness, unemployment or economic collapse. When this infrastructure was built, the profiteers had no place in this model and nor should they today.

Whilst the human suffering continues to play out across the nation, the government cynically continues with its U-turns on policy in the vain attempt to keep its MPs and the public on side. Last week, as noted in the MMT Lens, Boris Johnson told MPs that ‘most people would rather see a focus on jobs and growth in wages than…welfare.’ This week, with his signature tune U-Turn, he has indicated a potential rethink of ending the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift, saying he wanted to ensure that ‘people don’t suffer as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic’. You couldn’t make it up.

Yes, indeed, to more jobs through the implementation of a Job Guarantee, to drive better wages overall and restore the government’s role as the price setter and rebuilding public service provision. But in the meantime, let’s ensure while the consequences of the pandemic continue to cause economic and social pain, that all people have enough to pay their bills and keep food on the table without worry, stress or having to get into debt to keep their heads above water. We have witnessed the power of the public purse, let us not allow that knowledge to be polluted by the restoration of household budget politics.

It is regrettable that politicians, journalists, institutions and think tanks, in their weekly forecasts of doom and gloom, continue to build up the narrative of money scarcity and a future price to pay for this massive round of government monetary intervention. A narrative that will be used to justify eventual hard decisions or another round of austerity in some form or another.

Whilst the livelihoods of many people lie in the balance, not just for now but in a rapidly changing world, we still have to endure the false notions of tax rises to pay for government spending and the penchant for sound finance. Such narratives suggest, not only that people must suffer, but also that the cost of saving our planet from climactic destruction will be too high.

The fact that the government continues to find huge sums of money to support businesses and yet quibbles over a few pounds to working people, suggesting that it is unaffordable should surely be a public conversation starter!

As the chancellor opines that there are some hard choices ahead, one of his treasury ministers clearly of the deficit dove variety, softens the blow by suggesting that the need for tax rises to tackle the record levels of government borrowing could be delayed at least until the economy ‘bounces back’. As if somehow increased tax revenues equate to the capacity to spend or pay down the national debt.

The experts at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and other think tanks then put the fear of God into the public that £40bn in tax rises might be necessary to put the public finances back onto a sustainable footing. Thus, making that public even more cautious about the government’s future spending plans. Self-fulfilling prophecies come to mind.

And then, just this week, when people thought that the vast round of government spending signified a change of approach to managing the economy, Rishi Sunak told Conservative MPs that he will be using his March budget to begin the process of restoring ‘order’ to the public finances through implementing higher taxes.

To those Tories who would like to see the Universal Credit uplift continue beyond April, he gave a reminder of its high cost which represents, according to his calculations, an equivalent of 1p on income tax plus 5p per litre on fuel duty. Thus, further reinforcing the idea that the provision of higher welfare benefits means collecting tax from elsewhere to cover it.

The ‘someone, somewhere will have to pay for it’ model of the state finances will no doubt be used cynically to drive further wedges between the haves and the have nots and justify the further decimation of the already inadequate social security safety net.

According to this narrative, the magic porridge pot is running on empty and needs replenishing in order to pay down debt and avoid a giant burden for future generations.

This tale of supposed coming woe serves to keep people in their place while reinforcing the old myths about how governments spend. It displays both economic illiteracy and a disregard for the lives of those who will lose out as a result, not to mention addressing the biggest challenge of all – climate change.

And then at the ‘left’ end of the household budget scale, we have economists, opposition politicians, unions and other so-called experts, urging the Chancellor to take advantage of low borrowing rates of interest to avoid tax rises until the economy gets back on its feet and restores tax revenues, or reinforcing the false narratives about taxing the rich to pay for the pandemic. The household budget model is endemic and those on the political left keep shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly.

A paper published by the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute last December, using data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades, concluded unsurprisingly enough that tax cuts for the rich didn’t trickle down; that they contributed to inequality and did little to stimulate business investment.

The authors then went on to suggest that it was time to tax the rich more to repair the public finances. This was backed up in the same month when the Wealth Tax Commission, founded in April of last year, concluded that a one-off wealth tax would raise significant revenue and be fairer and more efficient than other alternatives. To be exact, it suggested that a ‘one-off wealth tax on millionaire couples would raise £260 billion’ The implication being yet again that such a tax could be used to repair the public finances.

Whilst we can’t avoid these false tropes, which lead the public astray and reinforce the messages that government spends like a household, we can challenge them. When Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, bleats on as he did this week about the NHS Pay review body taking ‘account of the extremely challenging fiscal and economic context’ in its decision about future pay rises, we can show the public that such decisions have no connection, either with the current state of the public finances or the future monetary affordability of those pay rises.

We can reinforce the message that curtailing public sector pay won’t increase the ability of the government to ‘set the public finances straight’, any more than the decade of austerity did. It could actually have a negative, indeed disastrous, effect on the economy at a time when it will, without doubt, need continuing government support.

Aside from the fact that public sector and, indeed, other key workers have seen their pay dwindle in real terms as a result of a decade of pay freezes or inadequate employment legislation, and that the pandemic has revealed the vital nature of their contribution to society, all increasing taxation will do is leave less money for working people to spend into both the national and local economies. Also, should that increased taxation fall on corporations, (as is being suggested) who will likely pass that additional cost on through higher prices to working people anyway, it will create a double whammy effect.

Whilst a pay rise will increase tax revenues, it will not increase the government’s capacity to spend. But we see the false narrative again in a study published this week by the London Economic Consultancy. The report claimed that the government would recover 81% of the cost of any pay rise in additional taxes, which would, in turn, have significant ‘knock-on’ benefits for the Treasury. Clearly suggesting that tax funds its spending.

Whether from the left or right of the political spectrum, the public is treated daily to a mishmash of false information dictated by the dominant economic paradigm which masquerades as truth. It’s no wonder that people are confused and feel disempowered or turned off by politics and economics, which they feel do not relate to their lives at all, even though, in reality, these things have everything to do with them.

While politicians, journalists and economists argue about monetary affordability and who should pay for government spending, people are dying and will continue to die for the want of a government that puts their interests first.

What happens next will depend on a successful challenge through raising public awareness that there is indeed an alternative to the vast disparities in wealth, the rise of poverty and inequality, the whittling down of democracy and increased corporate dominance in our lives. And it starts with understanding how government really spends.

 

Upcoming Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Pavlina Tcherneva – Online

January 24th 2021 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm GMT

GIMMS is delighted to present another in its series ‘In Conversation’.

Phil Armstrong, author of ‘Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference’ published in November 2020, will be talking to Pavlina Tcherneva.

Pavlina is program director and associate professor of economics at Bard College and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute. She conducts research in the fields of modern monetary theory and public policy and has collaborated with policymakers from around the world on developing and evaluating various job-creation programmes. Her work on the Job Guarantee spans over 20 years.

Author of the recently published book ‘The Case for a Job Guarantee’, she challenges us to imagine a world where the phantom of unemployment is banished and anyone who seeks decent living-wage work can find it – guaranteed. It will be of particular relevance as we begin to grapple with the economic fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic but for anyone passionate about social justice and building a fairer economy it should be essential reading.

We invite you to join us for this informal event which we are sure will be both stimulating and insightful.

Tickets via Eventbrite

 

Past Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Fadhel Kaboub – Online

Author and MMT Scholar Phil Armstrong talks to professor of economics and president of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity Fadhel Kaboub about how MMT insights apply to the global south, colonial reparations, the MMT Job Guarantee contrasted with Universal Basic Income, and much more.

 

 

Audio via the MMT Podcast here

 

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The Gower Initiative for Money Studies is run by volunteers and relies on donations to continue its work. If you would like to donate, please see our donations page here

 

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The post The need is to fix the system, not just to provide ‘sticking plasters’ appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The Covid-19 pandemic shows the need for change. For a real ‘Reset’.

Button with label "Push to reset the world"Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

‘We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.’

Ursula K Le Guin

The year 2020 will be not be remembered with any great affection. So much suffering, loss of human life and economic uncertainty has left the nation in turmoil. Whilst in normal times we would be welcoming the new year with resolutions and hope for better days to come, the prospects for the future remain very uncertain.

Whilst the government’s handling of this pandemic crisis has been chaotic and indecisive with disastrous consequences, it has also revealed the dire state of our public and social infrastructure for which decades of ideologically driven government policies have been responsible. That, combined with the vast wealth and other inequalities that exist in both rich and poor countries across the planet and the climate tsunami following up frighteningly behind, should leave a bad taste in our collective mouth. It should start to make us question the very foundations of the economic model now turning to sand before our very eyes.

Covid-19 has exposed in the most distressing way the damaging consequences of the pursuit of balanced budget narratives which have allowed governments to justify public sector rationalisation or austerity on the grounds of unaffordability, and overseen a huge increase in poverty and inequality. Successive governments have abdicated their responsibility for the lives of citizens; their responsibility to create a fairer distribution of wealth and real resources and ensure that the public infrastructure meets their needs. Instead, they have plumped in favour of that elusive but all-seeing ‘god of the market’ which, in real terms, has meant ceding control to global corporations who direct the policy orchestra and pouring public money into the pockets of those same corporations with little transparency or accountability.

Whilst the government has found the power of the public purse to manage this crisis, there have been winners and losers throughout which reflect its ideological persuasion. It has only been with public pressure that it has been forced into political U-turns to help some of the poorest people in our communities, whilst leaving still others in distress and without adequate support. The road to Damascus moment still eludes a government which has chosen a path that so far has only led to economic hardship and inequity for many and yet great wealth for a few others.

It has also done so with the usual threats of a financial price to pay in the future to keep the household budget narratives of state spending alive and well. It would not do for the public to be disabused of the notion that taxes fund spending, that government has to borrow to cover its deficit and that public debt is real and will require difficult decisions at some unspecified time in the future. Such narratives are vital to government and will, without challenge, allow them to be able to finish off the job of destroying publicly paid for and managed public and social infrastructure and thus ensure the continuing dominance of global corporate power. We do indeed face a continuing hollowing out of democracy in favour of a growing alliance between the state and big business and the big political revolving door.

Whilst GIMMS and other educational organisations across the world have made huge strides in raising awareness of how money really works, the task ahead remains a daunting one. The weekly news is testament to the ongoing consequences of government policies and the spun narratives of how government spends but also encouragingly shows the power the public has to effect change, and not just through the ballot box. The on-going saga of free school meals continues to rumble on and elicit government U-turns. The latest, and most shameful, were the pictures on social media of the meagre ‘rations’ from a private company contracted and paid huge sums to provide substandard food packs which it turned out largely reflected government guidelines and did not meet the standards for the nutritious, balanced diet all children need to grow and thrive. It is to be regretted that the government, in the same week, went on to tell headteachers in England not to supply vouchers and food parcels to disadvantaged children during the February half-term, signalling it was already doing enough which is clearly not the case. There are no excuses for hungry children, or hungry adults for that matter.

The fiasco was yet another example of public money being poured into private profit and at the same time failing to address the reasons for children going hungry in the first place. Poverty and hunger are not new phenomena. Covid-19 has, without doubt, put a spotlight on the prevailing economic system and the economic decisions of successive governments which have not only been responsible for increasing poverty and inequality through employment, welfare and taxation policies but also shifted blame and created widening societal divisions which allow the real authors of economic distress to go scot-free.

It is therefore shameful that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak whilst facing opposition from campaigners is still considering cutting the meagre £20 per week universal credit uplift which has helped people struggling to get by during the pandemic. The consequences of the crisis will be with us for many months to come, possibly years, and therefore the government with its power of the public purse has no excuses when it comes to ensuring that its citizens can pay their bills and put food on the table while the disruption continues. Instead, its policy responses have proved not strategic but piecemeal and ill-thought-out with plenty of U-turns along the way.

Whilst we need the power of the public purse to mitigate the economic consequences of the current crisis, we also need a government with a long-term strategy for addressing the poverty and inequality that has arisen over decades and which has allowed top managers to reap excessive monetary rewards whilst depriving working people and their families, whose standards of living have declined substantially through low incomes and insecure employment.

Boris Johnson suggested earlier this week that he was still in favour of reducing Universal Credit saying:

‘what we want to see is jobs, we want people in employment, and we want to see the economy bouncing back. And I think most people in this country want to see a focus on jobs and growth in wages than on welfare’.

A change of heart? Given that the Tory government has presided over exactly the opposite over the last 10 years through austerity and economic policies which have increased economic instability whilst at the same time serving the corporate estate, instead, it is likely to be yet another in a long line of so far undelivered promises to level up. However, the sentiment is correct and is what should be driving government policy. We need a recognition of the power of the public purse to pursue full employment through a Job Guarantee and the vested power of government to legislate fair employment terms and conditions with the aim of shifting the balance of power back to working people instead of where it currently lies in corporate hands with government approval. We need a government prepared to address the key issues of our time using its currency-issuing powers, not just for the coming months but for always. Whilst Rishi Sunak calls upon the nation to spend the savings resulting from lockdown to get the economy going again (aside from the fact that he is turning a blind eye to the many millions of people as reported by the Resolution Think Thank this week who have lost out or got into further debt as a result of the pandemic adding to their already insecure lives) the looming crisis of climate change has been put on the back burner and time is running out. The god of growth must be worshipped anew to get the economy back into shape.

Aside from the fact that people are unlikely to spend their savings like drunken sailors in the near future, given the on-going uncertainty about the economy and jobs, exhorting the gods of growth and indiscriminate private consumption as a solution to economic slow-down would not only be folly but denies the clear power of government to spend to effect real and sustainable change.

We need a sea change in how we live our lives to address the already happening climate catastrophe and indeed, it will only be through large scale government action in spending policies and legislation that will enable this to happen. There is a pressing need for a national investment strategy that includes a massive and long-term investment in education and training in order to secure our future productive capacity. We much focus on high-skilled, low-carbon and well-paid jobs both for the private sector and in a much-expanded public sector to ensure high-quality basic services are provided to everyone, including our disabled and elderly citizens. Our nation must become more productive if we are to reduce our working week and support our retirees and support to those nations without the necessary real resources to support their communities.

The overarching need is to protect our environment for future generations which should also include acting to redress the vast wealth inequalities that exist. We need to restore our sense of the value of publicly paid for and provided public sector work to national well-being, implement a Job Guarantee to provide stability through an effective countercyclical response to the inevitable economic ups and downs all economies face, and a living income for anyone who is unable to work for health reasons or caring or other essential duties including higher education. Of course, these will not be magic bullets to bring about a perfect world, but provide a basis for a conversation that we need to have.

These are important decisions, not just concerning the big macroeconomic questions about creating an efficient functioning economy, but also relating to the sort of society we want to see. For left-wing progressives, this would suggest creating a fairer and more equitable society where people have sufficient wages to live comfortably with adequate nutrition and good living conditions as well as good public services such as health and education. Assuming that the future will bring forth a political party that has the express intention of addressing these issues, change is in our collective hands as an electorate and we should not forget the power we hold.

It is regrettable that currently there is no such party dedicated to the change we need and that all roads are still leading to an ever-distorted capitalism wherever you place the X on the ballot paper.

Whilst the very real human consequences of government decisions and its policies continue to play out in our communities and our families the government, opposition politicians, economists and journalists continue to pound out the messages of monetary scarcity; either talking about the need for ‘hard choices’ to deal with the deterioration of the public finances or delaying the ‘repayment pain’ until economic conditions will allow.

Whether it’s Rishi Sunak the Chancellor or his shadow opposition sidekick Labour’s Annaliese Dodds, they both adhere to a household budget narrative of the public accounts, in other words, the diktat of sound finance as if a government suffered from the same constraints as business. The operative question in either case being, at what point do you enact such fiscal tightening, not whether you actually need to. How the state really spends cannot have escaped their notice, and yet they stick to the orthodoxy like glue.

Whilst that is undeniably to be expected with the Conservatives, whose agenda is more about creating an alliance with big business under cover of stories about monetary scarcity and ‘hard choices’, Annaliese Dodds in this week’s Mais lecture indicated clearly her party’s on-going adherence to the false notion that government constraints are monetary. Whilst, to be fair, she gave a cutting analysis of the effects of government policies on people’s lives both before and after the arrival of Covid-19, she stuck to the orthodox economic mantras. Namely keeping the City sweet by maintaining the joke of supposed Central Bank independence and having a ‘responsible approach to government debt.

She summarised her approach to fiscal policy as requiring ‘a set of rules around both annual and the stock of debt, that simultaneously demonstrates a prudent approach to the public finances and leaves space for investment in the future and the ability to adapt to crises’. A sound approach to the public finances she said must ‘also include consideration of the quality and effectiveness of public spending.’ Whilst such evaluation should always be a part of government spending strategies (and clearly, we have seen in recent months and years the exact opposite) the concept of sound finance continues to be the guiding doctrine of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. They might have different spending objectives, but both are couched within the clear limitations of household budget thinking.

As society implodes as a result of rising poverty, inequality and ill health which has arisen as a result of government policies and placed increasing pressures on public services such as our NHS which this last year has bravely served the nation in a deliberately created environment of insufficient staff, facilities and other resources, there is only one direction in which we can place the blame. Governments whose decisions have favoured market solutions through privatisation and legislative policies which favour them – with shocking consequences.

In similarity to nature’s web of life, which is defined by its interdependence, our economy does not exist as disparate parts. The economy represents the lives of working people and the businesses that employ them, and its health is reliant on the public and social infrastructure provided by the government to support it. Remove one vital link and you risk that eventually the whole will collapse.

This is the frightening consequence we already face, not just in the real but finite resources upon which our societies are built and owe their existence, but also our dependency on the goodwill and care we express for others. As reliance on charitable institutions to feed hungry people or deal with rising homelessness increases, or rich philanthropists replace public institutions with the equivalent of poor law boards dictating the pace and deciding who will be a beneficiary, our society will continue to break down on the basis of a ‘convenient lie’ that the state has no money of its own and there is no alternative course of action.

Instead of examining the public accounts and deducting from the financial position the health of a country, a future government should be turning that idea on its head to see the reality of the challenges we face. The reality of the real constraints which are not money but real resources and how they can be managed fairly in the interests of all citizens. The fast-approaching reality of climate change and its consequences threaten to engulf us if world governments fail to work together to create better, fairer and more sustainable solutions.

We need a ‘Reset’. Not the ‘Great Reset’ being promoted by the World Economic Forum which, whilst sounding just the thing to address rising inequality and climate disaster, will maintain the same power structures with the same corporations dictating the rules in the interests of accumulating more profit and wealth whilst still clinging to the sham economic model which seeks to keep power in the hands of the few.

We need quite a different ‘Reset’ as suggested by Associate Professor Fadhel Kaboub in a GIMMS ‘in conversation’ event last week. One where public purpose, not profit or greed, directs government spending and legislative actions for a sustainable and fairer future and without which the light at the end of the tunnel will recede, not get closer.

There is an alternative and history is still to be written on the choices we make. We once believed that the Earth was flat, that it was at the centre of the universe and the sun and planets revolved around it. Those notions were disproved by the observations of scientists like Copernicus and Galileo. We need now to disprove the notions that money is scarce – not because knowing it makes a difference in itself, but because knowing it will enable us to decide what history will eventually record about the decisions that were taken as a result.

We can be on the right side of history if we choose to be.

 

Upcoming Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Pavlina Tcherneva – Online

January 24th 2021 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm GMT

GIMMS is delighted to present another in its series ‘In Conversation’.

Phil Armstrong, author of ‘Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference’ published in November 2020, will be talking to Pavlina Tcherneva.

Pavlina is program director and associate professor of economics at Bard College and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute. She conducts research in the fields of modern monetary theory and public policy and has collaborated with policymakers from around the world on developing and evaluating various job-creation programmes. Her work on the Job Guarantee spans over 20 years.

Author of the recently published book ‘The Case for a Job Guarantee’, she challenges us to imagine a world where the phantom of unemployment is banished and anyone who seeks decent living-wage work can find it – guaranteed. It will be of particular relevance as we begin to grapple with the economic fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic but for anyone passionate about social justice and building a fairer economy it should be essential reading.

We invite you to join us for this informal event which we are sure will be both stimulating and insightful.

Tickets via Eventbrite

 

Past Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Fadhel Kaboub – Online

Author and MMT Scholar Phil Armstrong talks to professor of economics and president of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity Fadhel Kaboub about how MMT insights apply to the global south, colonial reparations, the MMT Job Guarantee contrasted with Universal Basic Income, and much more.

Audio via the MMT Podcast here

Video will be available soon.

 

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The Gower Initiative for Money Studies is run by volunteers and relies on donations to continue its work. If you would like to donate, please see our donations page here

 

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The post The Covid-19 pandemic shows the need for change. For a real ‘Reset’. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

More States Say of Roadkill: Why Waste It?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 1:25am in

It always broke Laurie Speakman’s heart to hear that another moose was struck and killed on the rural highway near her home in Soldotna, Alaska, on the western end of the Kenai Peninsula. But it also warmed her to know that several local families were about to get fed.

For the past eight years, Speakman, lovingly called “The Moose Lady” by her friends and neighbors, was one of the people state troopers called at all hours of the night as a volunteer driver for the nonprofit Alaska Moose Federation. Often in below-zero temperatures, she drove to the crash site in her truck, wrapped a cable around the enormous ungulate and lifted the carcass onto the flatbed with a remote-controlled winch. Then she delivered the hundreds of pounds of fresh, high-protein meat to area charities that distributed it to low-income, disabled, older-adult and Alaska Native households.

Speakman did this around 250 times a year, dodging drunk drivers and angry cows. She once picked up nine moose carcasses in 36 hours. But now her truck is collecting snow at her house, and many Alaskan families will be left without the roadkill moose they depended on for their meat supply. “It hurts,” she said.

The Alaska Moose Federation shut down in November, succumbing to the financial strain of Covid-19 as membership fees from charities and individuals dried up. The federation could no longer afford to maintain its fleet of five trucks spread among Anchorage, Kenai and Wasilla, nor could it find enough capable volunteer drivers to respond to the moose collisions, which are most frequent between November and February.

A growing majority of states have legalized the salvaging of roadkill, including California and Oregon most recently, and this source of free meat is more important than ever for families financially stressed by the pandemic. At the same time, however, the public health and economic crises have made it harder for some charities to process and distribute the food.

“I know these people,” said Don Dyer, the federation’s executive director. “I know their needs. I’ve delivered moose after moose. They literally depend on it.”

One in six Americans — more than 50 million people — will have experienced food insecurity this year, according to an October report from Feeding America, the country’s largest food-relief organization, with a network of 200 food banks. Food banks can’t keep up with demand, and in some places people have had to wait in line for hours. Meanwhile, Americans continue to wait for Congress to pass a second Covid-19 relief bill, which may or may not include another stimulus check that could put food on the table.

The drastic economic impact of the pandemic has led many people to rely on new food sources, said Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. That includes roadkill.

A no-waste solution

Between hunting and salvaging roadkill, Randy Bonner has enough meat to last a year without going to the grocery store. He wants to help his neighbors do the same.

Bonner, an outdoors writer who lives in Corvallis, Oregon, launched a Facebook group earlier this fall for his county and three other counties in the western part of the state. Members who spot a roadkill deer or elk on the side of the highway post its location and the condition of the carcass. The group includes hunters and nonhunters who want a little more meat at home. It’s one of several similar pages throughout the Beaver State, which two years ago legalized roadkill salvaging.

“We’re figuring out ways that ensure the animals aren’t wasted,” he said. “It’s just sad to see them on the side of the road.”

Brunswick stew, a popular dish in the Deep South, is sometimes prepared with roadkill. Credit: Wikipedia

At least 30 states allow residents to salvage meat from an animal killed in a car collision, though the policies surrounding specific animals and permit processes differ by state.

California is the latest state to legalize the practice. While the law went into effect this year, the state won’t allow salvaging until the California Fish and Game Commission establishes a formal program and reporting database. State officials must launch a pilot program by the beginning of 2022.

Since Oregon began allowing deer and elk roadkill salvaging in January 2019, the practice has become enormously popular, said Justin Dion, an assistant wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who runs the roadkill data collection program. The state has issued 3,100 salvaging permits over the past two years, mostly from the western part of the state and for black-tailed deer, peaking in November.

“We knew it would be utilized, but we didn’t know how big it would become,” he said. “One of the reasons we have a lot of people taking advantage of this is certainly to offset some of that grocery budget. And it certainly doesn’t hurt in a time like the pandemic when a lot of people are out of work.”

Oregonians are required to obtain an online permit, remove the carcass entirely from the road and turn in the head and antlers to a state Fish and Wildlife office. State officials use the heads to gather samples to track chronic wasting disease — an infectious, fatal disease found in deer, elk and moose in at least 24 states.

The state will notify anybody whose roadkill deer has the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not consuming meat from an infected animal.

Chapman, the food safety expert, generally supports roadkill salvaging, but said there are risks to consuming wild animals. State officials and local charities, he said, should be upfront about the possibility of foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli and parasites, making it clear they may not know how healthy the animal was before the roadway accident. Charities should distribute food thermometers and discourage riskier cooking processes that may not eliminate pathogens, like making jerky, he added.

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“Most individuals who are comfortable with this have been hunting game,” Chapman said. “But as we experience this pandemic and see food shortages, how many of the new consumers of this important food source might not be familiar with the risks?”

Still, salvaging roadkill continues to enjoy wide support from conservationists, hunters and even some animal rights groups. “PETA has no ethical objection to the legal collection of an animal’s roadway remains — even if we are mystified why anyone would find the idea of eating body parts to be appetizing,” said Ingrid Newkirk, the nonprofit’s president, in an emailed statement.

For many communities across the country, roadkill has become an inexpensive way to feed more families during difficult economic times.

Four years ago, in the western part of Wisconsin along the Mississippi River, Trempealeau County Sheriff Brett Semingson started a list of 50 families to contact whenever there is a highway collision with a white-tailed deer. Once notified, people can come to the crash site, gather the roadkill and take home a healthy alternative to beef — which would otherwise rot in a ditch.

“Living here, we don’t like seeing things go to waste,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to prevent that and help someone who may certainly need it.”

But some charities have had to stop taking donated roadkill meat because of challenges associated with Covid-19. In Whitefish, Montana, the North Valley Food Bank had to stop accepting roadkill this year because staff and volunteers could not be near one another to process the meat. It was a tough decision, the group said.

An Alaska tradition

Moose are a part of life for Alaskans such as Linda Koenig, a 65-year-old retired state government employee. She won’t hunt them—not with “those big brown eyes.” The most aggressive she’ll get is scaring them off with an airhorn when they sneak into her chicken coop looking for grain. But she’ll never turn down a fresh bundle of free moose meat, courtesy of a nearby highway collision in her small town of Willow, 70 miles north of Anchorage.

Koenig was a longtime member of the Alaska Moose Federation, accepting donations to grind, package and give away meat to her friends and to struggling families, including several older people unable to hunt. Her help was especially important when the local food bank did not have meat to give out.

“There’s no need for people to go hungry when there’s a moose that can be used,” she said.

Alaska state troopers still maintain a list of charities they will call when a moose is struck on the highway. But with the dissolution of the federation, many of those charities don’t have the necessary tools or resources to pick up the massive animals from the side of the road.

Lance Roberts, head custodian at Soldotna High School, worries some inexperienced people may get hurt trying to field dress a moose alongside the highway, especially in the dark winter months. He volunteers for Grace Communion International, a church in Kenai that was a federation member.

The meat was essential for the small congregation of mostly senior citizens, said pastor Jack Evans, who would package and distribute the meat with his wife.

Roberts still plans to take calls from state troopers for the sake of the many families affected by layoffs and other Covid-19 hardships. He doesn’t waste any of the animal, using the marrow for broth, the bones for fish bonkers and the hide and guts for local trappers. Any extra meat scraps are given to sled dogs.

“We were able to spread a lot of meat, a lot of good eating to people who normally weren’t able to get it if they were too old or disadvantaged,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who will miss out on meat this year.”

This story was originally published in Stateline, which is part of the SoJo Exchange from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

The post More States Say of Roadkill: Why Waste It? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Employment report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 9:23am in

As the job market loses steam, and Congress dithers over a new bailout package, Americans are having a harder time paying their bills.

First the job market. Employers added 245,000 jobs in November, the least since the recovery from the March–April crash. As the graph below shows, that recovery has been losing momentum since June, when employment rose by 4.8 million. What looks to be happening is that the easy recalls after the initial shutdown have happened, and with the giant stimulus of the CARES Act receding, there’s not much fuel for more. It would not be a surprise to see some minus signs starting early next year, as sickness and death march across our great land.

monthly change in E 2020

Of the 22.2 million jobs lost between February and April, we’ve now regained 12.3 million, or not quite 56% of the loss. Despite the recovery, November employment was still 6.4% below February’s, which would qualify as a savage recession in itself. At the low point in the aftermath of the Great Recession, February 2010, employment was 6.3% below the its pre-recession peak in January 2008. Public employment has not seen any recovery; governments at all levels shed 969,000 workers in March and April, and another 344,000 since, for a total of 1.3 million. More than half those losses come from local government education, and another quarter from state government education. COVID-19 is ravaging our schools, and the state and local fiscal crises have yet to bite fully.

As the graph below shows, the initial drop in jobs took us back to the early 2010 low, meaning the entire comeback from Great Recession’s depths was undone in just weeks. Next to that, the 2008–2010 decline looks mild, though it was anything but. Recovering just over half those jobs takes us back to the late Obama years. Trump will leave office the only post-World War II president with fewer people working than when he took office.

Employment since 2000

The story is similar for unemployment: a rapid initial drop from April’s 14.7%, the highest since 1940, and well above 1982’s 10.8% and 2009’s 10.0%, to 6.9% in October. November, however, saw just an 0.2 point drop to 6.7%, a number that’s higher than three-quarters of all the months since 1950. (Graph below.) And that’s the official, aka U-3, unemployment rate, which requires you to be actively looking for work. The broader U-6 rate, which adds workers who’ve given up the search as hopeless and those who want full-time work but can only find part-time, was 12.0% in November—down sharply from April’s 22.8%, but down just 0.1 point from October. U-6, and its not-strictly-comparable U-7 predecessor, were higher only during the Great Recession and the early 1980s slump. In other words, even with recovery, unemployment remains near severe recession levels.

Unemployment

Despite the improving overall unemployment numbers, the story under the surface is less encouraging: more workers are reporting themselves as permanent job losers (rather than being on temporary layoff), and we’re developing a serious long-term unemployment problem. The average duration of unemployment in November was 23.2 weeks, higher than at any point before 2009, when the Great Recession was setting records.

Unemployment is an important indicator, but it doesn’t reflect the full picture: if people give up on the job search, they’re not counted as jobless. The participation rate—the share of the adult population either employed or actively searching for work— was 61.5% in November, an improvement from April’s 60.2%, but not that much of one, and a level we haven’t seen since 1978, when there were many fewer women in paid work. (Women were about 40% of the workforce then, and are 50% now.) The low participation rate suggests that a lot of people aren’t trying because things look so miserable.

Rather than the unemployment rate, another way of measuring slack in the labor market—as employers think of it: they love a “slack” job market because it means they can more easily dictate terms—is the employment/population ratio (EPOP), the share of the adult population working for pay. As the population ages and boomers retire, the ratio will trend downwards over time. It peaked around 2000, and the expansions of 2002–2008 and 2009–2019 never recovered the ground lost in the recessions that preceded them. But the drop from February to April was fierce, taking the EPOP to an all-time low of 51.3%; it had barely been below 55% in its seven-decade history. It’s recovered to 57.3%, a level it frequented forty to fifty years ago.

EPOP

There’s demographic variety under the EPOP’s headline level. Here’s what its recent history by race, sex, education, and age looks like. Several points deserve mention.

• The ranking by race/ethnicity and sex may surprise some. Hispanic/Latino men are employed at a significantly higher rate than white men, which you’d never know if you listened only to Donald Trump. The lowest EPOP is found among white women (though they’re now tied with Hispanic/Latina women). 

• Despite everything you hear about the pointlessness of going to college, people with bachelor’s degrees (43% of the workforce) are employed at higher rates than those with only some college (25%), and those with some college more than those with only a high school diploma (25%). Though they’re not graphed, the unemployment rates of people with bachelor’s degrees are more are consistently about half that of those with only high school. And those without a high school diploma, just 7% of the employed, are less likely to be employed than not. 

• EPOPs of all demographic groups took a severe hit in the early months of the crisis and have yet to claw back their losses. 

EPOPs by race and sex

Here’s a measure of how well the various groups have recovered. Men have done more poorly than women, and black people worse than whites or Hispanics/Latinos. Aside from those who didn’t finish high school, education hasn’t had much bearing on the rate of recovery, or age except for teenagers. (Both of those are small groups.) At 43%, black men lag the average by 18 percentage points; if they matched that average, 1.6 million more would be working. For the entire population, if we could get back to February’s EPOP, almost 10 million more would be working.

EPOP share recovered

Yes, there’s been some recovery, but the job market, which is what most people rely on to pay their bills, is still a wreck. The table below is derived from the Census Bureau’s experimental Household Pulse Survey, before the pandemic, 72% of respondents reported having enough of the food they wanted. That fell to 55% in mid-May, recovered into October, and has been sliding in recent weeks to 58% on the latest reading. In numbers, about 20 million people sometimes or often had trouble getting all the food they wanted; now 26 million do. Pre-pandemic, about 175 million could get enough of what they wanted; that’s now down to 125 million, a decrease of 50 million. According to the same survey, 83 million people, or 35% of the population, is finding it somewhat or very difficult to pay their regular bills. Unfortunately there’s no pre-pandemic baseline to compare this to, but it’s almost certainly a deterioration from an inexcusably high number.

food sufficiency

enough of
wantedenough, but not
always
what’s wantedsometimes
not enoughoften
not enoughpre-pandemic71.6%20.2%6.5%1.7%5/12/2054.8%34.6%8.5%2.1%10/12/2061.4%28.3%7.9%2.5%11/23/2058.2%29.9%9.0%2.9%change from
pre-pandemic
-13.5%
9.7%2.5%1.2%

Housing stress is rising too. CoreLogic, a credit-tracking firm, reports that 6.3% of mortgages were past due in September, up from 3.8% a year earlier, and 3.3% were 120 or more days past due, more than triple September 2019’s 1.0%. Every state is showing a rise in serious delinquency rates. If it weren’t for the forbearance programs enacted in the early pandemic days, foreclosures would be rising, but we’re not there yet.

Renters, who are generally poorer than homeowners, are showing more stress. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reports that 4% of renter households, representing 4 million people, are significantly behind on their rent, owing an average of $5,400 each. That number would have been much higher had it not been for the $1,200 payments and $600 weekly unemployment benefits that were part of the CARES Act. Now that those have expired, trouble is rising. If there’s no aid forthcoming, and no significant recovery in the job market, 10% of all renters will find themselves seriously behind on their rent in a few months. A renewal of CARES-style payments would cut those numbers to less than 1%.

COVID-19 is bad enough. If we had a civilized government, we could mitigate its economic effects, but alas we don’t have one of those.

Food Banks Get on Board With Fast, Free Delivery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 7:00pm in

Tags 

Food, hunger, oceans, Water

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Dining with dignity

This year, a lot of people found themselves at a food bank for the first time. But countless more who could have used the help avoided it, simply because they were reluctant to be seen there.

While there’s nothing shameful about seeking assistance, one organization, Feeding Children Everywhere, is navigating the self-consciousness factor by discreetly delivering meals right to people’s doors. “It’s like an Instacart or Blue Apron experience,” said Rick Whitted, the group’s CEO since April. Whitted comes from the corporate finance world, where one’s public image, rightly or not, is considered important to preserve. Now he’s bringing that same top-flight service to food banking, delivering free, well-presented food in Amazon-style boxes that preserve what the report calls “client dignity.”

Since the pandemic began, utilization of Feeding Children Everywhere’s services has soared, from 40,000 households in 2019 to 61,000 this year. “It’s very difficult to address any kind of insecurity — whether food, housing, economic instability or education gaps — without first making clear that a person is valued,” Whitted said. “The point is you really matter.” 

Read more at Food Bank News

We’ll drink to that

Bloomberg CityLab takes a look at how dusty Tucson, Arizona has made water harvesting a key component of its effort to keep the city’s pipes from running dry. Water harvesting is the practice of capturing rainwater that otherwise would have gone into storm drains or the ground. About a decade ago, Tucson started getting serious about putting this water to better use. In 2010, the city required developers to use harvested water to irrigate at least 50 percent of their landscaping. And in May of this year, it implemented a small water tax that will raise $3 million per year for stormwater capture projects.

tucsonA diagram made by a Tucson resident of their water harvesting system. Credit: Ben Lepley

But it’s the rebates that Tucson offers residents for installing water harvesting systems that have the most potential to transform the city’s relationship to water, say advocates. Residents can get a full refund on their water bill for active rainwater harvesting. Hundreds of residents are now claiming the rebates, and last year the program saved 52 million gallons of water — enough to meet the needs of 160 households. “Rainwater is the cheapest, most accessible, highest-quality water you can get. We have this huge amount of water coming and nothing to do with it. So yes, it behooves us for our future to invest in this,” said the spokesman for one city councilmember.

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

Using their heads

A Māori community in Auckland, New Zealand is up to their eyeballs in donated food since their community center began distributing two tons of fish heads each week for those experiencing hunger. The heads are usually discarded by the area’s fishermen. But in Māori culture, fish heads are considered “chiefly” food. “It would be $150 to get a meal like this,” one unemployed Māori man picking up free heads told the New York Times. 

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Before Covid-19 lockdowns began, the organization that gives out the fish heads distributed about 550 pounds per week; over the past few months, those quantities have quadrupled. The increase in demand has sparked new discussions about how New Zealand’s fishing industry — which often strips fish of their filets before discarding the rest — can use more parts of the fish. There’s plenty of potential: for every pound of fish the industry produces, twice as much is thrown away, though much of it is edible. “Our objective is to change the way people perceive these fish in their totality,” said one conservationist involved with the work.

Read more at the New York Times

The post Food Banks Get on Board With Fast, Free Delivery appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The City That Guarantees the Right to Eat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 7:00pm in

Welcome to The Fixer, three great stories found on the internet this week.

Who’s hungry?

In the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro, the city of Belo Horizonte, population 2.5 million, has done something remarkable: It has virtually eliminated hunger. And it hasn’t cost a fortune to do it.

In 1993, the city created a law that guarantees the right to food and requires municipal agencies to “provide access to food as a measure of social justice.” How do they do it? By connecting food producers directly to consumers; holding prices at 25 to 50 percent below market rate for 25 basic food items; providing free food through schools, daycare centers and nursing homes; and operating food banks that distribute excess food that would otherwise be thrown away.

This system only consumes two percent of the city’s budget — money well spent, as it left Belo Horizonte well positioned when Covid-19 struck. Even as unemployment and economic hardship has spread, the city’s hunger rate remains at near zero. Yes! Magazine has a nice photo spread of the system in action, showing a city mobilized around keeping every citizen fed.

Read more at Yes! Magazine

The village green

For those hoping that we can “bounce forward” from challenging times, the tiny town of Greensburg, Kansas is about as encouraging as evidence gets. Completely devastated by a tornado in 2007, the deep-red suburb — which overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in 2016 — seized the opportunity to build back better by going green. 

After the tornado, it rebuilt its schools, library, city hall, medical center and other municipal buildings as high-efficiency structures that save $200,000 per year. Greenburg’s toilets are low-flow, its landscaping drought-resistant and its streetlights LED. Most amazingly, what energy the town still uses now comes entirely from wind power, making it one of the few places in the U.S. that runs on 100 percent renewables.

greensburgGreensburg, Kansas after the 2007 tornado. Credit: Jenni / Flickr

Greenburg is living proof of what might be possible as cities and towns rebuild for resilience after floods, hurricanes — even Covid-19. Around the world, pandemic-related stimulus funds are being leveraged to create greener economies, as research shows that investments in green energy deliver twice as many jobs as spending on fossil fuels. “I totally believe that we’re a living laboratory here with a plethora of architectural design and sustainable environmental practices to share,” the former mayor told the Washington Post.

Read more at the Washington Post

Meet me at the mall

If the Mall of America just outside Minneapolis has one thing in abundance, it’s space. It’s nearly twice as big as the second-biggest mall in the U.S., with over 500 stores and 40 million visitors per year. Now, it’s dedicating some of that square footage to free retail space for small businesses affected by Covid-19 and civil unrest.

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Altogether, 17 businesses are getting a space in the mall rent-free for a six-month period, long enough to carry them through the holiday shopping season. All 17 businesses are minority-owned, and 10 are owned by women. The move could benefit the businesses involved long after they’ve moved back into their old spaces, as the new customer bases they found at the mall follow them. “The ethnic minority entrepreneurs who dream big can benefit from this expanded market exposure,” said one retail expert. “To build a successful crossover to a mainstream market, they need to appeal to an audience sizable enough to ensure profitability.” 

In the meantime, the arrangement is paying dividends. “I would always say we’re going to have a storefront at the Mall of America, even last year when I just started my company,” one of the business owners told Next City, adding that he’s on track to do $10,000 in sales this month — quadruple his typical number.

Read more at Next City

The post The City That Guarantees the Right to Eat appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Ending needless suffering

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/11/2020 - 8:17am in

Hungry child with her hand in her mouthImage by Chitsu San from Pixabay

“When the MMT coin drops and you realise the suffering is gratuitous”

Stephanie Kelton

In this week’s blog, hunger is on the menu yet again. Gratuitous hunger and hardship. Gratuitous suffering. Whilst the government gives with one hand (not enough), lauds its generosity at every media opportunity and yet is selective in its distribution of public money, it is making it very clear that the magic money tree they swore blind didn’t exist prior to the pandemic does have limits and we can expect a tightening of the public purse in the future. Indeed, in a recent tweet Rishi Sunak made his position very clear in when responding to the question whose money are we spending:

‘… the simple answer is your money. The government is not some entity that has its own money. The government only has money because people pay taxes and we borrow money. That’s how we fund what we do.

 

That’s why I’m careful with how we spend that money. It’s why often I will say look we can’t do absolutely everything that people want. There’s obviously limits. I’ve got to try and balance what’s the right level of taxation, how much we can safely borrow, conscious that that will need to be paid back and the burden will fall on future generations.

 

We’ve spent an enormous amount and we’ve borrowed an enormous amount on everyone’s behalf.

We always have to be mindful of the money we’re spending. It’s yours, it’s everyone else’s and we need to keep an eye of needing at some point to know that we have to pay things back.’

Let’s not be under any illusions; Sunak may have found the money taps to mitigate for the worst effects of the pandemic and for their corporate friends benefit, but Maggie Thatcher’s dictum stands ‘There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money,’ when it comes to spending on the public and social infrastructure upon which our economy stands. Instead of focusing on the real limitations to government spending, which are our real resources, its fall-back line is that there will be a future monetary price to pay or future generations will suffer.

We are not so subtly being prepared for yet another round of some sort of austerity, more cuts to public spending and wage caps in the public sector (already on the cards potentially to be announced at the next spending review in November).

The government line of thinking seems to be yes, let’s clap for the NHS, give out awards for the ‘courage and dedication’ shown by frontline workers, as long as it doesn’t involve an increase in government spending on those very key workers who have gone beyond the call of duty during this pandemic.

Awards won’t pay the bills, but they will be the perfect distraction at a time when the country needs something more than a cynical diversion to take the public’s eye away from the realities of government policies. The household budget myth of how the government spends adds another layer of distraction and quite simply reinforce a useful lie to justify what comes next. And it’s not just more tightening of public sector spending.

This week Matt Hancock suggested with all seriousness that businesses, charities, and local government should be praised for ‘stepping up to the plate’ in support of Marcus Rashford’s Free School Meal Campaign. He said that he was ‘strongly on the side of those who have come out to help’.  ‘It’s brilliant’ he said and added ‘I saw that Marcus Rashford said what we need is collaboration, people working together … making sure that everybody gets the support that they need’.  It would be laughable if we didn’t know better what this distraction signals and it is much more cynical than at first sight.

Whilst Hancock praises the generosity of the nation, he hides a more insidious objective, which combined with the alarmist headlines about the huge levels of borrowing and trillions of public debt and on-going references to getting the public finances back in order by the Treasury should definitely set the alarm bells ringing.

Jack Monroe, the food writer, journalist and activist known for campaigning on poverty and hunger issues wrote in an article this week in the Guardian ‘long term, we need a reckoning as to how so many people have ended up at the doors of food banks, how so many people are falling into desperate situations’  A volunteer food bank manager at the Hillingdon Crisis Support Service in North West London pointing to the receipts for food that her team of volunteers purchased with their own money was absolutely clear when she asked the question ‘Where’s the government’?

Where is the government indeed?  On the one hand, Rishi Sunak talks about the government’s enormous fiscal response; a message which is then tempered by his warnings that there will be a future price to pay. Heaven forbid that the public might get to know how the government spends.

Then from the Tory propaganda units in the basements of Westminster, their PR men and women spend their days writing their media press releases and ministers get dizzy at their generosity, the dissonance between the government version of events and reality is becoming ever starker as the crisis deepens.

It is worth remembering that whilst the current government through its employment and other policies has consistently rejected its direct responsibilities towards the health of the nation, since 1948 all Finnish children have been served a free lunch every school day. Children learn cooking through school subjects, the effects of food on health, the environment, economy and culture and as such education plays a central part in the health of future generations and the Finnish economy.

A healthy nation equates to a healthy economy, a fact our government ignores whether we are talking about public health, education or those public structures which enable them. You know, those very things that are ‘unaffordable’.

Whilst the smoke and mirrors of blame have pointed only too often at irresponsible parents, lazy people and scroungers, the enormity of the economic crisis affecting all working people who have already lost jobs or will do so in the months to come, will increasingly begin to unravel the lies about who is responsible.

The culprits lie at the heart of government; not just this government but successive governments who have bought into the lie of the superiority of markets, the scarcity of money and the unaffordability of spending on publicly paid for and delivered services. Our society is not just poorer for it, it is crumbling as a result.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned in late September that if the government failed to keep its much-vaunted promises on protecting living standards and levelling up, then many more people would be pulled into poverty. It said that cutting the increased Universal Credit rate would hit those on the lowest incomes and families with children, and that the cut would impact on those who are having to turn to the social security system for the first time as a result of job losses caused by the pandemic as well as those who were already in poverty. This action, it said, would plunge 500,000 more people into deep poverty – 50% below the poverty line.

While Rishi Sunak reiterates the lie about ‘taxpayer’s money’ like a worn-out Thatcherite record, if people are not to face huge financial hardship this winter and if the economy is not to nosedive completely, particularly in the light of the prospect of a further lockdown, then the government as the currency issuer should do what only it can do; pay the people what they need to pay their bills and keep food on the table.

The rhetoric of generosity spouted by modern-day versions of Scrooge seated in Westminster should be ridiculed and shown up for what it is. Mean, monetarily unnecessary and very damaging to the health of the nation today and for future generations.

As the TUC and the IPPR made clear in their jointly authored research paper published this week, struggling families need an urgent cash boost and that strengthening the social security system (which is one of the least generous in the developed world), doubling child benefit payments or raising Universal Credit payments would make a ‘life-changing difference’ to many of the poorest families.

The IPPR’s executive director Carys Roberts made it clear that without a significant cash injection, more families would be forced to rely on food banks [at a time when donations in some areas are drying up as economic conditions worsen] and that putting more money into families’ pockets would ‘spare hundreds of thousands of children from the scarring effects of poverty over the next 18 months’ and would ‘also mean an economic stimulus to keep the economy going’

To this mix should be added, as a long term objective, a larger public sector to undo the damage caused by the last 10 years of cuts and the previous decades of shrinkage, a fit for purpose social security system, a permanent Job Guarantee programme to stabilise the economy when it falters and the implementation of a wage floor below which no-one can fall.

A government that fails to serve the interests of the nation is a failed government. A government that ignores poverty, hunger and hardship whilst pouring vast sums into corporate bank accounts is a rogue government.

As politicians cynically praise the public and local bodies for their collective action, it cannot be emphasised too strongly, as indeed GIMMS has done previously, that it is a signal of their real intentions to continue along a path reminiscent of the world of Victorian philanthropy in which the public’s goodwill is exploited and charitable donations and volunteering become the norm. A place where properly organised and publicly paid for public and social infrastructure (which lies at the heart of a functioning economy and the distribution of wealth and resources) becomes a mere shadow of itself, if it exists at all.

As the government faces more pressure to provide funding for free school meals, we need to examine this as just part of the vicious nature of government policies whereby power is being centralised, public money is poured into corporate delivery of public services and our local communities are dying a slow but quickening death, unable to withstand the pressures caused by a decade of austerity and now the pandemic.

When Johnson says ‘we don’t want to see children going hungry this winter’ but fails to provide adequate funding at national or local level, you can be sure that the opposite will happen. Whilst government ministers praise their response, they ignore the comments of local government leaders to the already spent allocation of funding; ‘the government’s rhetoric on the sums provided to councils was absolutely disingenuous’‘the north London local authority share of the £63m (government allocation) was not enough to even cover free school meals over half term and Christmas’ and ‘the council is paying for this out its existing budget’.

As we stand at a significant crossroads in the history of humanity, it is an opportunity to examine our consciences, our values and the prevalent prejudices that we hold as a result of the demonisation of vulnerable, unemployed, sick and disabled people. Instead of accepting the prejudices as truth, we should be looking more closely at the motives for such an agenda.

Whichever way we look, there is no-one to vote for who hasn’t or can’t be bought by a corporate establishment which has been allowed, through its excessive wealth, to buy power and influence whilst the revolving door keeps the political machinery oiled and functioning in its favour. This has been at the expense of working people and the infrastructure which form the foundation of a good society.

If we turn a blind eye now, we are turning a blind eye to the future of our young people who deserve something better – stable lives, stable jobs and a sustainable economy.

The mantle of fiscal responsibility worn by successive governments to justify their policies and spending decisions, which have been the measure by which a government’s economic record has been judged, should be at the heart of future discussion. If we are to challenge the false narratives which have allowed such wealth disparities, poverty and inequality to exist, we can only do so from a position of public knowledge.

If the media as part of that orthodoxy will not tell the truth, then it is up to others to be the bringers of that knowledge.

GIMMS and many other activist organisations which are growing across the world are committed to making a difference. As Stephanie Kelton so rightly said“When the MMT coin drops and you realise the suffering is gratuitous” that should be our lightbulb moment.

If you are interested in exploring further, you can find information here:

gimms.org.uk/mmtbasics/

gimms.org.uk/tools-and-resources/

pileusmmt.libsyn.com/

All that we ask is that you pass the knowledge on.

 

 

Upcoming Event

Phil Armstrong in Conversation with Neil Wilson – Online

November 15 @ 14:00 pm – 15:30 pm

The GIMMS team is delighted to host its next ‘in conversation’ event at which Phil Armstrong will be talking to Neil Wilson

Neil is an expert in finance and information systems and one of the UK’s leading thinkers about MMT. After more than 30 years in the systems business, Neil learned the hard way that operations rarely follow the manual. Moving from network crashes to financial crashes, Neil was intrigued as to whether the economy could be fixed with a reboot – which lead him to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). His work challenges the high-priesthood of Important Grey Men who refer to people as ‘resources’ and who believe debt is bad for government and good for you.

He dreams of a world where everyone who wants a living wage job can find one, close to their home, their friends and family.

You are invited to join us for this informal event which we are sure will be both stimulating and insightful.

Register via Eventbrite

 

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Support us

The Gower Initiative for Money Studies is run by volunteers and relies on donations to continue its work. If you would like to donate, please see our donations page here

 

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The post Ending needless suffering appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

55 Million People Face Famine as COVID-Ravaged Economies Fail To Meet Funding Goals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 5:01am in

More than 55 million people in seven countries are in desperate need of COVID-19-related famine relief. That is according to a new report from international charity Oxfam, entitled “Later will be too late.” The report details how 55.5 million people in seven countries — Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia — are living in severe-to-extreme levels of food insecurity or even famine conditions, thanks largely to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the United Nations called for $10.3 billion in emergency funding to deal with the worldwide humanitarian impact the pandemic was expected to bring. Unfortunately, it has received barely a quarter of what it has asked for from donors. Every sector, including gender-based violence (58 percent funded), protection (27 percent), health (27 percent), and water, sanitation and hygiene (17 percent) are chronically under-funded. But the worst underwritten parts of its coronavirus response plan are food security (11 percent) and nutrition (3 percent). Indeed, in 5 of the 7 countries noted, the UN has received nothing at all to deal with the crisis. Oxfam called the international community’s response “dangerously inadequate.”

“The Committee for World Food Security must raise the alarm at the UN that famine is imminent on its watch and not enough is yet being done to stop it. We need a fairer and more sustainable food system that supports small scale producers. Years of neglect mean that millions upon millions of people remain unnecessarily vulnerable to shocks like COVID, climate change and conflict,” said Oxfam’s International interim Executive Director, Chema Vera.

Official estimates suggest that around 1.1 million people have died from COVID-19 globally since its emergence in China late last year. While the United States has seen the most cases and deaths overall, it is now countries in the global south that are the most intense hotbeds of the virus, with Brazil, Mexico, and India right behind the U.S. There are currently over 800,000 active cases in India alone.

As nations all over the world have scrambled to take emergency action in the wake of COVID-19, businesses have been disrupted, supply lines cut and economies stunted. As a result of the mass unemployment, the number of food insecure people has greatly increased in many countries. In northern Nigeria, for instance, that number has increased to 8.7 million from 4.7 million three years ago. No one in Burkina Faso in 2017 fell into the food insecure category, however, that number has jumped to 3.3 million today, according to Oxfam. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s food insecure population has rocketed from 7.7 million in 2017 to 21.8 million today.

Yemen was already considered the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” by the United Nations before the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks largely to the Saudi-led onslaught against the country. Over 20 million people are dependent on foreign food aid to survive. In April, the World Food Program warned that a “famine of biblical proportions” could be on the way in the country. And yet, following U.S. government pressure, aid to Yemen has sputtered to just $0.25 per person per day, nothing like what is needed to change the course of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo successfully pressured the international community to reduce its aid to the beleaguered nation in a bid to starve the country’s Houthi rebels of aid. As a result, Yemen may be reaching a humanitarian tipping point in the near future.

Partly because of the inaction, Oxfam has suggested that more people could die from COVID-19-linked hunger than of the virus itself, warning that up to 12,000 people could perish daily if more action is not taken. But even as the UN desperately begs for just $10 billion to avert a massive famine, food and beverage companies have paid out over $18 billion in dividends to shareholders between January and July, suggesting that a lack of funds is not the principal problem.

People in the United States, too, have had problems with food insecurity, although nothing like the severity of those in sub Saharan Africa or in Yemen. 56 million Americans were forced to use a food bank during the crisis, as tens of millions were left unemployed almost overnight. While Americans do not have to worry about a potential famine in their country, those in the African and Asian countries highlighted by the report are not as lucky.

Feature photo | Iraqi children sit on bags of rice from the World Food Program (WFP) at a school that serves as a shelter for internally displaced people in Baghdad’s eastern district of Jamila, Iraq. Karim Kadim | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post 55 Million People Face Famine as COVID-Ravaged Economies Fail To Meet Funding Goals appeared first on MintPress News.

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