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war on the poor

mncapitol2Namely, with Medicaid work requirements. A tiny, perverse part of me kind of wishes that Governor Mark Dayton actually would sign it (not really, but you know what I mean), presuming that it gets through the Senate with its big old 1-vote GOP majority. Because, for example, from last July:

 

James Acker is a Donald Trump supporter deep in Minnesota Trump country. Cass County voted two-to-one for Trump over Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential election.
 
Acker and some of his neighbors, however, are not sold on what they’ve heard from Trump and other Republican lawmakers on Medicaid. The federal health safety net plays a crucial role here and many residents are worried now about the GOP’s push to remake health care and how that will affect them and their communities…
 
Many in Cass County are watching intently. Despite the overwhelming support for Trump, people are wary about changing a program that for many is a life-or-death necessity.
(MPR)

This is about another really intellectually stellar proposal:
 

OK, Minnesota State Legislators: What is going on with SF 2487? It requires schools to adopt a “written academic balance policy” that must “prohibit school employees, in their official capacity, from requiring students or other school employees to express specified social or political viewpoints for the purposes of academic credit, extracurricular participation, or as a condition of employment,” among other things.
 
On its face, this seems simple enough. But what does it mean? I understand that, as a professional educator, I won’t be telling my students that they should vote for a specific candidate. I don’t know any professional teacher who would do that. Of course we wouldn’t say “only conservatives are allowed on the debate team,” or “only socialists are allowed to try out for the basketball team.”
 
But what is a “social viewpoint?” Is Black Lives Matter a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable: the lives of my black students, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens do matter, unequivocally. How about supporting LGBTQ students’ rights to have a safe place to learn, or that their lives matter? Is that a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable either. How about “women are equal to men?” There are so many different things that fall under the idea of “social viewpoint” that are basic rules of safe classrooms and healthy schools.
(Adventures in Distraction)

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Trumpkins hate poor people using the internet

by Dan Burns on November 21, 2017 · 0 comments

trump19We know that there are few, very few – indeed, if any – low and despicable things to which this president and his political allies – in Congress, state legislatures, the judiciary, everywhere – won’t stoop. But I find this one to be especially striking.
 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took steps Thursday to roll back Lifeline — a program that subsidizes broadband and phone service for low-income households…
 
Democrats don’t see the changes the same way that Pai and Wicker do. They argue that claims of waste and abuse that have plagued the program are based on dated research and say that giving states more power in handling Lifeline will curtail access to the internet for many poor communities.
 
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on Thursday called the program the “the Medicaid of the telecommunications universe” and argued in a statement that cuts “could exacerbate the digital divide and deprive disadvantaged communities the opportunity to access key educational, employment, and emergency services.”
(The Hill)

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You don’t – at least, I certainly don’t – see as much talk about the national debt as there was, say, back in the 1990’s. Perhaps even debt hawks among the sorriest dregs and rinsings of the contemporary human intellect – the conservative punditry – realize that the issue has lost its edge since it’s become clear that a huge federal debt doesn’t mean economic apocalypse.
 
But that’s not to suggest that a gi-normous national debt is a good thing. Especially if you consider what has really caused it. If you’re reading this you’re presumably enough into the issue to have seen graphs like the following plenty of times before.
 
US-national-debt-GDP-graph
 
Yeah, it started with Almighty Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich and military spending. And the fundamentals haven’t changed. The U.S. national debt is nothing more or less than the cost of 35+ years of aggrandizing the plutocrats and warmongers.
 
But the real cost of prioritizing that aggrandizement is even greater – indeed, far greater. It’s the cost of the lost potential inherent in a shrinking middle class, and a long-term underclass being screwed in almost every conceivable way. And so on; again, if you’ve read this far, having come to this blog, you know what I’m typing about. Fundamentally, we’re talking about constrained to virtually nonexistent access to substantial resources and opportunity for those not born to wealth, or otherwise granted ready access to it.
 
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trump19A matter of fundamental significance, indeed.
 

Budget proposal targets people who put Trump in power
 
Can America be great and mean to its most vulnerable at the same time?
 
This is a philosophical question whose answer has changed over the course of this century. In the race to alleviate the suffering of the largest taxpayers, politicians have pledged to protect the most vulnerable. It would have been political suicide to do otherwise.
 
That is no longer the case; quite the opposite, actually.
 
This is a seismic political shift lost in the drama and theater of daily political news.
(MPR NewsCut)

Comment below fold.
 
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mn_capitolThis is going to be vetoed, but it really is what Minnesota’s legislative Party of Trump members want to do.

 

The House repassed the omnibus health and human services bill in a 76-56 vote Tuesday night.
 
Sponsored by Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) and Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), HF945/SF800* would cut $482.44 million from projected state spending during the 2018-19 biennium, totaling about $14 billion…
 
“This bill hurts the very people who look to us for support,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), who criticized the bill’s cost-savings measures as “tricks and gimmicks.”
 
Other DFLers called the bill “reprehensible,” “infuriating,” and “dangerous,” stating that it weakened consumer protections and failed to adequately provide for personal care attendants, employees at the Minnesota Security Hospital, or children and families.
(Session Daily)

Here’s something about what just one part of the bill would do.
 

A top Minnesota official visited Baxter (April 11) to discuss the rural mental health crisis—and to decry proposed Republican budget cuts she said would gut mental health care initiatives.
 
Emily Piper, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, met with local health care leaders at the Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Baxter.
 
The Baxter hospital is a 16-bed acute psychiatric care facility, run by DHS.
 
The proposed $600 million in cuts would force DHS to eliminate 200 positions at their facilities, Piper said. That includes Community Behavioral Health Hospitals like the Baxter facility.
(Duluth News Tribune)

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minnesota_state_capitolAt least, that seems the readily apparent interpretation, to me.
 

Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans held a state Capitol news conference Wednesday to say the budget proposal Dayton released in January and updated last month is fiscally responsible, while the House and Senate GOP plans are not.
 
“The Legislature’s math just does not add up,” Frans said.
 
Frans accused Republican leaders of using “fuzzy math,” as well as “phony savings” and delayed payments to pay for a large tax cut bill. He suggested many of the bills could be headed for vetoes if not altered.
 
Frans highlighted several examples in the finance bills for Health and Human Services and State Government.
 
“The legislative budget bills we have seen are not serious attempts to govern Minnesota,” Frans said. The bills are designed to be talking points to start negotiations with the governor from an imaginary position, a made up starting point if you will.”
(MPR)

And here’s an example of that “starting point.” Legislators in the Party of Trump actually have the gall to call it the “Minnesota Way.” They should be saying the “ALEC Way.”
 

The Minnesota budget blueprint produced (March 20) by majority House Republicans seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to pare down expected costs in publicly subsidized health and welfare programs.
 
GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later.
(MPR)

 
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Corporate media, anti-poverty programs, and race

by Dan Burns on February 20, 2017 · 0 comments

mediaLast Friday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reprinted an article from the Washington Post titled “Whites benefit most from government safety nets.” Here’s the Strib link. In the print edition, it was at the top of page A2, and got blurbed above the fold under “Top News” on page A1. It’s based on a study called “Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most.”
 

People of all races and ethnic groups who lack a bachelor’s degree receive significant help from the safety net, but on two significant metrics, the results for white working-age adults stand out. Among working-age adults without a college degree, 6.2 million whites are lifted above the poverty line by the safety net — more than any other racial or ethnic group. (See Figure 1.) In addition, the percentage of people who would otherwise be poor that safety net programs lift out of poverty is greater for white working-age adults without a college degree than for other adults without a college degree. Still, poverty rates among people without a college degree are substantially higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites — whether or not safety net assistance is considered.
 
These findings are particularly noteworthy because the election has brought increased attention to the economic difficulties that people without a college degree can face. Largely overlooked in the discussion of these issues to date, however, is the fact that the nation’s poverty reduction programs provide extensive support to adults lacking a college degree, including working-class whites, and that such people would be the principal losers under various proposals to cut these programs that may emerge in coming months.
(Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

(As is often not the case with right-wing propaganda mills, the CBPP describes its methodology in detail. Of course, when you have facts, intelligence, and integrity on your side, you can be a lot more comfortable doing that. )
 
What I find interesting is that the CBPP article, from the title on down, is primarily about how differences in educational attainment affect use of, and benefits from, government aid for the poor. Corporate media is spinning it here to emphasize the racial differences, in a way that directly contradicts the African-American, inner-city “welfare queen” narrative that has been such a key part of right-wing propaganda going back to the Reagan era. And they’re doing this in the context of the openly racist Trump presidency.
 
For purposes of political hyperbole I sometimes characterize corporate media as all about just pandering and propagandizing to conservatives. It’s really more complicated than that. Among other things, they don’t want to lose paying customers whatever their political views, which can and often does lead to strange and erratic juxtapositions and so forth.
 
But maybe this is evidence (and it’s far from the only piece, since Trump’s “election”) of something of a shifting agenda here, what with Trump’s pitiful approval rating – historically low for a new presidency, which usually gets a “honeymoon” – and his own attacks on and threats against corporate media. We’ll see.
 

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bensonIt should always be kept in mind that right-wing drivel like this is inevitably spewed with one ultimate end in mind: disastrous outsourcing to greedheads. Assuming that we as a society are supposed to actually try to help those who need it, at all. Though not a Christian I can’t help but point out that the Bible certainly says that we should.
 

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson delivered a blunt message Friday to nonprofit leaders seeking state funding: Be prepared to prove your worth.
 
“When it comes to accessing public dollars, you will want to work really hard to prove what you’ve already done with the dollars you’ve already been given, whether it’s public dollars or private dollars,” said Benson, R-Ham Lake. “Be ready to deliver accountability.”
 
…“It’s a frightening time right now,” said Shelley Jacobson, CEO of Minnesota Communities Caring for Children/Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. The nonprofit relies, in part, on state funding, and she said she was worried that could be stripped away.
 
Jacobson called Benson’s demands for proof of impact a Catch-22: “You have to have staff to be able to do the research.”
(Star Tribune)

As Sen. Benson (R-Ham Lake) has a safe seat I haven’t paid any attention to her during election seasons. She’s your typical Minnesota Party of Trump member, with a website that’s heavy on MNsure/ACA-bashing and whimpering about tax “relief.”
 

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Taking on predatory lenders in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on August 17, 2016 · 0 comments

predatory-lending-practices-how-to-avoid-them-12-638This article is well worth reading in full. There are ways to make things better, even when corporatists in both parties are being unhelpful, to say the least.
 

Even as guidelines against payday lending services stall out in the labyrinth of bureaucracy, local changemakers continue to provide relief for families caught up in debt traps–and fight to keep wealth within our communities and out of the hands of financial predators…
 
Payday loan services have been a staple on the public financial landscape since the 1980s. By definition, a payday loan is a small dollar loan, usually between $200 to $1,000, with an extraordinarily high interest rate that requires the borrower to pay back in full with their next paycheck, or risk even further financial penalties. The average annual percentage rate (APR) on payday loans is about 273 percent.
 
Shockingly, payday loans are still legal and in many states operate without regulation. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence as to the predatory and unjust nature of such loans, multiple efforts to impose national guidelines on payday loans since the 2008 recession have failed. Payday lenders even have both Minnesota DFL and Republican parties eating out of their hands.
(Twin Cities Daily Planet)

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The loathsome TPP crawls along

by Dan Burns on April 8, 2016 · 0 comments

tpp2This vile, corporate atrocity was signed by delegates on February 4. It now has to be ratified by legislatures. It’s telling that that’s not expected to be a problem in more totalitarian-leaning places like Malaysia and Vietnam, but it is perhaps iffy in somewhat more democratic ones.
 

Japan’s parliament has started in on it. This article does not include speculation on whether it’s expected to pass, there. It does note a great deal of controversy.
 

Canada and Australia has been suggested as other countries that may not go for it. There’s plenty of opposition, and therefore grounds for hope, in Canada. My searches this morning turned up nothing recent about where Australia may be headed.
 

The biggest question mark is probably right here in the U.S., where among other things all four major remaining presidential candidates (Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, Trump) have expressed opposition. The plan appears to be to try to get it passed in a lame-duck session in December, with tactics that could well include all-but-open bribery for outgoing congresscritters. I wish that I was as optimistic about it being killed as the author of this kind of appears to be. I really hope he’s right.
 

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