The GOP Tax Bill Assaults the Planet as Well as the Poor

fracking-debate-climate-change

(Photo: Erick Gustafson / Flickr)

If you are an average American, your government has just declared war against you. Unless you happen to be an oligarch. I’m talking, of course, about the monstrosity of a tax bill that Congress looks set to pass.

With good reason, only about one-third of Americans support the bill, since its primary purpose is to cut taxes for corporations and fabulously wealthy people at all costs.

The costs are high indeed, since the bill systematically raises taxes on struggling lower to middle income people. It gets rid of taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes paid from their taxable income, which is a form of double taxation. While this increases everyone’s taxes, struggling working people will feel the pain of this double taxation more than oligarchs. Make the Poor (and the Middle Class) Pay Again. And Again.

It also ends the deductibility of large medical expenses, effectively a large tax increase for the seriously ill, especially the uninsured or underinsured among them. Make the Sick Bankrupt Again.

In an all-out assault on higher education, it turns tuition reductions or waivers for graduate student teaching and research assistants into taxable income, a move that would make graduate school unaffordable for most people. Make America Uneducated Again.

The bill also gets rid of tax-exempt bonds for affordable housing construction, which are used to finance more than half of affordable rental units built each year. Make Housing Unaffordable Again.

In fact, it raises taxes on most people in so many ways that it is disingenuous to even call it a tax cut. This bill is a massive tax increase on most of us.

Lost in the debate around the tax bill, however, are provisions that will make more wind-reliant Iowans and Texans jobless, leave more hurricane-struck Puerto Ricans without access to basic necessities, poison more African-Americans with toxic fumes, and submerge more Native Alaskan villages, just to enrich a particular subset of oligarchs.

The tax bill kills the modest tax credits for solar and wind power, effectively raising taxes retroactively on renewable energy developers. It also kills the tax credit for electric cars, but does not touch the much larger subsidies for fossil fuels. Make Fossil Fuel Barons Rich Again, by subsidizing them while raising their competitor’s taxes.

These changes in energy tax credits will hurt many more people than just the owners of solar and wind companies. Solar and wind energy create many, many more jobs — hundreds of thousands more — than coal, even though they account for much smaller share of our overall energy mix than fossil fuels. If the intent of the tax bill truly were to create jobs, it would reinstate the solar and wind tax credits and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, not the other way round. Make Americans Jobless Again.

Not content with changing the tax code to benefit oligarchs, Senate leadership sneaked in a provision to open up the pristine, ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, purportedly to get some revenue (about $ 1 billion over 10 years) to offset a wee bit of the $ 1.5 trillion shortfall created by the massive tax giveaways to the fabulously rich. Evidently, Republicans are fine with digging up and burning more fossil fuels, producing more greenhouse gases for our atmosphere, despoiling sacred sites of the Gwich’in people who live in the refuge, and threatening caribou, just to Make Oil Barons Rich Again.

The tax bill will counteract the very real progress the U.S. has made to date in expanding renewable energy and reducing our reliance on planet-warming fossil fuels. Both wind and solar energy have been expanding at record-breaking rates, even as overall energy use has stagnated.

Intentionally undoing this progress by subsidizing fossil fuels and taking away tax credits for renewables will inevitably increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, already among the highest in the world in per capita terms. By way of comparison, inhabitants of the Pacific island of Kiribati, which may be erased from the map by rising oceans attributable to carbon emissions, emit on average about 3.4 percent as much as average Americans. Similarly, Bangladeshis losing their homes to disastrous floods exacerbated by climate change emit on average 2.8 percent as much.

The Trump administration has defunded environmental protection and renewable energy research, censored government scientists, recklessly expanded fossil fuel production regardless of the consequences, and quit multilateral efforts to address the gravest existential threat that humanity has ever faced, making the U.S. a rogue nation intent on enriching a tiny oligarchy at the expense of the future of humanity. The tax bill continues down the same sociopathic path. Make America Rogue Again.

None of this, of course, matters to congress people determined to Make Oligarchs Rich Again, even at the price of Making (Most) Americans Poor Again, Making the Gulf Coast Drown Again, and any number of other adverse consequences for people and planet — up to and including Making Earth Uninhabitable.

The post The GOP Tax Bill Assaults the Planet as Well as the Poor appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later

In 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders launched a Poor People’s Campaign to organize towards transformative actions to end poverty, racism, and militarism in America.

While this effort was undercut by King’s assassination, two prominent faith leaders — the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II — are launching a new multi-issue, multi-racial Poor People’s Campaign to recapture the spirit of that 1968 campaign.

To support this modern-day Poor People’s Campaign, the Institute for Policy Studies has produced an analysis of the campaign’s four core issues: racism, poverty, the war economy/militarism, and ecological destruction. The report finds that by many measures, these problems are worse today than they were five decades ago.  

For example, the report documents the increased number of Americans below the poverty line; the acceleration of economic inequality; the emergence of new forms of voter suppression laws and mass incarceration that further entrench systemic racism in America; the growing imbalance in federal discretionary spending on the military relative to social programs; and the intensification of racial and income disparities in access to clean air and water and exposure to environmental hazards.

This report is a preliminary analysis for release at the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign on December 4, 2017. A more in-depth “audit” of these issues, including testimonials from many of the leading activists and thinkers of the past 50 years, will be released in 2018.

Key initial findings:

  • Compared to 1968, 60% more Americans are living below the official poverty line today — a total of 41 million people. And while the percentage of families in poverty has merely inched up and down, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled.
  • More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, people of color still face a broad range of barriers to democracy. According to the Brennan Center, 23 states have adopted voter suppression laws since 2010.
  • The criminalization of poverty and racially biased sentencing and policing practices have driven the number of prison inmates up eightfold since 1968, with the share who are people of color increasing from less than half to 66%. Federal spending on prisons has increased tenfold in real terms since 1976.
  • Spending trends also reflect increased scapegoating of immigrants. Between 1976 and 2015, federal expenditures on border control and immigration enforcement rose eightfold while the number of deportees grew tenfold.
  • The gap between our government’s discretionary spending on the military versus anti-poverty programs has grown from two-to-one at the height of the Vietnam War to four-to-one today. In the meantime, millions of lives have been lost in wars that have made us no safer, while “real security” in the form of good jobs, health care, and quality education remains beyond the reach of millions of Americans.
  • Since 1968, the environment has become less polluted, but the poor and people of color are bearing the brunt of climate change and suffering the most from environmental hazards. According to the CDC, for example, at least four million families with children are being exposed to high levels of lead, with low-income and people of color at greatest risk. And low-income families and people of color tend to be more likely to have living conditions and jobs that increase the health risks of extreme heat.

Find the full preliminary analysis here [PDF].

The post Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Don’t Lie to Poor Kids About Why They’re Poor

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

Work hard and you’ll get ahead — that’s the mantra driven into young people across the country.

But what happens when children born into poverty run face first into the crushing reality that the society they live in really isn’t that fair at all?

As new research shows, they break down.

A just released study published in the journal Child Development tracked the middle school experience of a group of diverse, low-income students in Arizona. The study found that the kids who believed society was generally fair typically had high self-esteem, good classroom behavior, and less delinquent behavior outside of school when they showed up in the sixth grade.

When those same kids left in the eighth grade, though, each of those criteria had degraded — they showed lower self-esteem and worse behavior.

What caused this downward slide?

In short, belief in a fair and just system of returns ran head-on into reality for marginalized kids. When they see people that look like them struggling despite working hard, they’re forced to reckon with the cognitive dissonance.

This problem doesn’t afflict the well-off, who can comfortably imagine their success is the result of their hard work and not their inherited advantage.

Erin Godfrey, a psychology professor at New York University and the study’s lead author, explains that for marginalized kids who behave badly, “there’s this element of people think of me this way anyway, so this must be who I am.” She points out that middle school is the time when many young people begin to notice personal discrimination, identify as a member of a marginalized group, and recognize the existence of systemic discrimination.

The existence of a permanent and rigid system of inequality can be hard to grapple with at any age. The United States leads the world in overall wealth yet is also near the top in childhood poverty, with one in five kids born into poverty.

Despite an often-repeated myth about social mobility — the ability of the poor to become rich — the United States lags behind in this category. Canada now has three times the social mobility of the United States.

The gap between the rich and poor starts early. A 2016 study by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund reports: “From as early as the age of 3, children from more affluent backgrounds tend to do better in cognitive tests.” By age 5, children from poor families are three times more likely to be in the bottom 10 percent in cognitive ability.

It’s a complex problem. But the solutions to this deep structural inequality are actually fairly straightforward.

In short, we need major investments in universal public programs to rebuild the social safety net, ensure early childhood education as well as debt-free higher education, and good-paying jobs.

In other words, we need to help those born without inherited assets to get the same shot at education and employment as everyone else — and also reassure them that if they fail, they won’t end up homeless.

Those who claim the country can’t afford such programs should look at the massive subsidies lavished out to the ultra-wealthy. In 2016, half a trillion dollars were doled out in tax subsidies, overwhelmingly to the already rich.

But before we do all that, we simply have to tell the truth: Our economic system is far from fair. It’s tilted heavily against marginalized communities.

Teaching that to kids, rather than perpetuating a myth about “fairness,” is an important step forward.

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Beyonce’s ‘sweatshops’ help the poor – The Detroit News


The Detroit News
Beyonce's 'sweatshops' help the poor
The Detroit News
Some may remember the 1996 teary-eyed apology Kathie Lee Gifford offered the nation after her Wal-Mart clothing line, which Wal-Mart produced, was made in Honduran factories that employed underage workers. At the time, the average apparel worker earned
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Immigrants, the Poor and Minorities Gain Sharply Under Affordable Care Act – New York Times


New York Times
Immigrants, the Poor and Minorities Gain Sharply Under Affordable Care Act
New York Times
Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, …. “From the vantage point of the poor and working poor, Obamacare has been profound,” said Jim Mangia

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Climate Justice: A Fight between Rich and Poor

The ten richest per cent of the population produce almost half of all global greenhouse gas emissions whereas the poorest half is responsible for only ten per cent. Unless we can tackle inequality and climate change together, you won’t solve either of them, says Tim Gore of Oxfam. The carbon footprint of the richest 10 per cent of the population must shrink dramatically, says the renowned climate scientist Kevin Anderson. According to the World Health Association, droughts, floods, hurricanes and diseases related to climate change are already killing at least 150.000 people each year. With proceeding global warming there are risks to overstep certain tipping points in the climate system, for instance the permafrost which could melt and set free the greenhouse gas methane. To have a chance to stay below 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise developed nations have to reduce their emissions by 80 per cent until 2030. The EU has pledged only 40 per cent, the U.S. even less.

Watch the broadcast on Kontext’s website.

The post Climate Justice: A Fight between Rich and Poor appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Do poor environmental practices affect palm oil firms’ bottom lines on a scale meaningful for investors and financiers? – Mongabay.com


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Do poor environmental practices affect palm oil firms’ bottom lines on a scale meaningful for investors and financiers? – Mongabay.com


Mongabay.com
Do poor environmental practices affect palm oil firms' bottom lines on a scale meaningful for investors and financiers?
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The question of materiality — whether an issue affects a company's finances to a meaningful extent — is key to understanding the drivers behind palm oil finance. Evidence shows that the majority of investors have incentives to evaluate and make

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Italy’s top court: Amanda Knox conviction based on poor case – USA TODAY


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Give them a break: The bitter consequences of poor working conditions in the Central American sugarcane industry

In the report ‘Give them a break, the bitter consequences of poor working conditions in the Central American sugarcane industry’, Fairfood International, the Dutch trade union federation CNV Internationaal and the Central American Institute for Social Studies (ICAES) reveal the issues sugarcane workers are facing – including the deadly kidney disease CKDnT –  and explain what companies like Bacardi can do to improve, and sometimes save, the workers’ lives. The three civil society organisations are calling upon sugarcane producers, buyers as well as local and EU governments to take positive action to improve, and in some cases save, the lives of thousands of workers employed in the sugarcane industry.

>>> Read the full Report – ‘Give them a break’<<<                  <<< Para la versión española, haga clic aquí>>>

Give them a break - report - FF CNV ICAES                     spanish report cover merecen un respiro

Key recommendations:

For sugarcane buyers:

  • Have in place a global sugarcane supplier code of conduct or similar that applies to all supplier contracts which includes:
    • all applicable domestic and international laws and standards relevant to the issue including, but not limited to, the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (87), the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively (98); and the Right to a Safe and Healthy Work Environment (155);
    • additional explicit protections for physical labourers working in high heat conditions equal or similar to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Guidelines on heat stress (Water.Rest.Shade. program);
    • a clear statement that all rights and requirements of the code apply equally to all workers at the ingenios regardless of whether they are part/full-time, temporary/permanent workers and/or directly employed or subcontracted and;
    • a guarantee that a reduction in the number of hours worked by an employee pursuant to new compliance with the explicit protections for physical labourers (detailed above) will not under any circumstances result in a reduction in the amount of income currently received by that employee and will in no instance be less than the domestic agricultural minimum wage.
  • Implement an ongoing credible and effective assurance mechanism to ensure that all global sugarcane primary, secondary and tertiary suppliers are complying with the supplier code of conduct, and therefore all of the new standards included therein. This assurance mechanism should include independent third party audits[i];
  • Uphold supply chain loyalty and to ensure that the buyers’ suppliers commit to supply chain loyalty with respect to producers and producer countries, i.e., continue sourcing from current producers;
  • Offer fair and credible compensation to the cost bearers for the extra expenses caused by compliance with each of the key changes described.

For sugarcane producers:

  • Have in place health and safety standards as well as responsible sourcing standards or similar that apply to all supplier contracts, which include:
    • all applicable domestic and international laws and standards relevant to the issue including, but not limited to, the ILO Plantations Convention (110), the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (87), the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Collective Bargaining Collectively (98); and the Right to a Safe and Healthy Work Environment (155);
    • additional explicit protections for physical labourers working in high heat conditions equal or similar to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Guidelines on heat stress (Water.Rest.Shade. program);
    • a clear statement that all rights and requirements of the health and safety standards and responsible sourcing standards apply equally to all workers at the ingenios regardless of whether they are part/full-time, temporary/permanent workers and/or directly employed or subcontracted;
    • a guarantee that a reduction in the number of hours worked by an employee pursuant to new compliance with the explicit protections for physical labourers (detailed above) will not under any circumstances result in a reduction in the amount of income currently received by that employee and will in no instance be less than the domestic agricultural minimum wage and;
  • Implement an ongoing credible and effective assurance mechanism to ensure that all stipulations above are complied with. This assurance mechanism should include independent third party audits, among others[ii];
  • Uphold supply chain loyalty and to ensure that your suppliers commit to supply chain loyalty with respect to producers, i.e., continue sourcing from current producers;
  • Offer fair and credible compensation to the cost bearers for the extra expenses caused by compliance with each of the key changes described.

For government actors:

For the Board on Trade and Sustainable Development of the Association Agreement:

The Board of Trade and Sustainable Development is monitoring the implementation of the trade-related aspects of the Association Agreement including the sustainable development obligations.

  • To thoroughly investigate the concerns outlined in this report and to take the necessary measures to ensure an effective and timely solution for the lack of compliance with the Multilateral Labour Standards and Agreements as contained in article 286 of the Association Agreement in the sugarcane industries in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

For the EU Party to the Association Agreement:

  • To request an official consultation with the relevant Central American Parties regarding the concerns related to the enforcement of the Multilateral Labour Standards and Agreements referred to in the Association Agreement in the sugarcane industry in Central America.

For the European Parliament:

  • To address these issues with the European Commission and question the implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development obligations as specified in the Association Agreement, in particular with respect to the implementation and enforcement of Multilateral Labour Standards and Agreements in the sugarcane industry in Central American member countries.

For the Nicaraguan and Guatemalan governments:

  • To effectively enforce the ratified American Convention on Human Rights, the ratified ILO’s Conventions on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize Convention (nº 087), and the Plantation Convention (nº 110), part 9, article 54 on the right to organise and collective bargaining;
  • To effectively enforce the ratified UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which requires them to ensure safe and healthy working conditions and a reasonable limitation of working hours;
  • To ratify ILO Convention 155 on Occupational Safety and Health and ensure effective implementation and enforcement.

For the Nicaraguan government:

  • To renew their commitments to the ILO Decent Work programme and to ensure that the epidemic of CKDnT among sugarcane workers is ended.

 

Fairfood, ICAES and CNV Internationaal invite all stakeholders to come together in order to identify best practices within the industry and work collaboratively on establishing policies and practices to create positive change.

Only together we can change the lives of those working in the sugarcane industry.

 

[i] These third party audits should be unannounced, based on a representative sample and publicly disclosed. More specific information on this is available upon request.
[ii] Ibid.

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