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war on the poor

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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povertyA few recent items.
 

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don’t drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don’t require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they’re pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don’t require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don’t use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.
 
That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don’t recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That’s because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.
(Washington Post Wonkblog)

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Scott WalkerMinnesota’s legislative Republicans are keeping ideological company with the wrong kind of people.
 

Their plan will face scrutiny this week as the Legislature returns from its Easter/Passover break, but it’s already unnerved some health care advocates. They worry a $1.1 billion cut to human services could harm many needy Minnesotans at time when the state projects a $2 billion surplus…
 
Democrats say there’s no way Republicans can cut more than $1 billion from health and human services without cutting needed services for the elderly, the poor and the sick.
(MPR)

House leadership has proposed a $2.3 billion tax target, which they indicate would include about $2.0 billion for tax cuts and the impact of dedicating some existing tax revenues to transportation. This would come on top of significant tax cuts passed in 2014. That figure is simply unsustainable. Minnesota’s recent history demonstrates that when the state does too much tax cutting in good times, it makes the hard times worse when the next economic downturn comes along. This target not only makes it impossible to invest in Minnesota today, it also threatens the state’s ability to sustainably fund nursing homes, roads and bridges, and other critical services in the future.
 
Also concerning is that many of the tax cut proposals being discussed in the House would cut taxes only for the highest-income Minnesotans, reversing recent progress that has made Minnesota’s tax system more equitable.
(Minnesota Budget Project)

In other words, there’s a lot here that has failed Minnesota in the past, and that is failing Wisconsin and many other states, now. It’s things like this that point up the #1 problem with conservatives in power: they never learn. Or, they don’t want to.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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woundedThis makes a key point that is not emphasized enough in general, and practically never among the Very Serious People.
 

“Get government off our backs!” It’s a chant we’ve heard a lot of over the last few years, usually in the deep, gruff voice of those old enough to remember the heyday of our parents and grandparents. It’s a call to a simpler time when there was less government, less taxation, and more to go around. At least, that’s the story we are told.
 
But an analysis of the size of our Federal Government as a share of the economy shows that while it is a shade bigger than it used to be, it’s way below its maximum. There are peaks in Federal Government size which fit not to an increase in social benefits or productive spending, but the very expensive line item that has been pricey enough to bring down governments and cultures for centuries – war.
 
In short, it’s time for the progressive left to embrace “smaller government” of a kind and to show that world that peace is not idealistic but practical.
(Barataria)

I’m not entirely convinced of the following, but I’m passing it along, anyway.
 
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greedWith the releases of Republican budgets, full of attacks on earned benefits, I’m passing along a few relevant items that I’ve had sitting around.
 

Both (Bernie) Sanders and (Sherrod) Brown make the same accusation. The alleged problem with disability funding, Senator Sanders said, is a “manufactured crisis which is part of the long-term Republican agenda of trying to cut Social Security.” Senator Brown said, “Attacking disability insurance is only the first salvo in the Republicans’ plan to attack social insurance and make harmful cuts to Social Security.” The GOP created a false shortfall for disability benefits by blocking an accounting reallocation that is so routine it has been made eleven times in the past under presidents Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Clinton.
 
But here is my question for the Washington press corps. Why aren’t reporters writing about this? Why don’t they examine the Brown and Sanders analysis and determine if their accusations are correct? Instead of writing endless dope stories about a presidential campaign in 2016 and what might happen a year from now, shouldn’t the news media be alerting people to the fight over Social Security the GOP is starting in early 2015?
 
The dysfunction of Washington involves the failure of major media to examine the gritty politics of issues that truly matter to citizens. Political reporters typically find these subjects boring, and reporters who cover the candidates and campaign usually don’t know that much about how government really works. Both political parties work on warping the subjects by feeding pre-tested clichés and avoiding hot-button issues. The messaging thus reduces campaigns to empty slogans and opaque generalities.
(The Nation)

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greedNow that they have majorities in both federal legislative chambers (Thanks, sit-this-one-out Dems!), they’re behaving as you’d expect.
 

With a little-noticed proposal, Republicans took aim at Social Security on the very first day of the 114th Congress.
 
The incoming GOP majority approved late Tuesday a new rule that experts say could provoke an unprecedented crisis that conservatives could use as leverage in upcoming debates over entitlement reform.
 
The largely overlooked change puts a new restriction on the routine transfer of tax revenues between the traditional Social Security retirement trust fund and the Social Security disability program. The transfers, known as reallocation, had historically been routine; the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said Tuesday that they had been made 11 times. The CBPP added that the disability insurance program “isn’t broken,” but the program has been strained by demographic trends that the reallocations are intended to address…
 
House Democrats are sounding the alarm. In a memo circulated to their allies Tuesday, Democratic staffers said that that would mean “either new revenues or benefit cuts for current or future beneficiaries.” New revenues are highly unlikely to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Republican-led Congress, leaving benefit cuts as the obvious alternative.
(Talking Points Memo)

Here’s how they’re planning to help rig the game on yet more handouts for the haves:
 
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