Tag: Social Safety Net

Abolish the CBO

In the 2019 they used 11 studies, and found the median “directly affected employment” elasticities (closely related to the own-wage elasticity of employment) of around -0.25. Then they multiplied by 1.5 to capture “long run” effects, getting -0.38. pic.twitter.com/thBqW6t0Cj

— Arindrajit Dube (@arindube) February 8, 2021

The Twitter thread gets wonkier.  Short version:  The CBO juiced their report

The Republican hack running the CBO just released a report saying that raising the minimum wage would create unemployment.

That’s news to me, since the overwhelming majority of studies show no such effect.

The CBO report also disappointed people whose studies were actually used in that report.It also people who study this for a living, who note that the CBO report is complete sh%$: (I miss profanity SO much)


Michael Reich, a prominent minimum-wage expert at the University of California at Berkeley whose work is cited by the CBO, disputed the report’s more pessimistic estimates.

“Studies have found that wage floors have minimal to low effect on level of jobs or for inflation,” he said on a call with reporters. “Minimum-wage increases are generally paid for by small price increases, mostly in restaurants, but restaurants have increased sales….When low-wage workers get a wage increase they put it to good use — to improve living standards of themselves and their families.”

Reich did his own estimate of the minimum-wage proposal earlier this month, which found that instead of creating a budget deficit, it would increase federal tax revenue by $65 billion a year. This was due largely to increases in payroll taxes from higher wages and a reduction in government spending on safety net programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which are heavily used by people earning below minimum wage and living in poverty.

The problem is not that the CBO is full of crap now, it is that it is ALWAYS full of sh%$, and this is by design.

The CBO and the power that it is given by the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) through PAYGO rules is not, and has not, fulfilled its stated purpose, to give Congress accurate and timely budget projections and information.

Rather it is a place where bills that might inconvenience fat-cat donors go to die.

Muck Fitch

In responce to increasing calls from both sides of the aisle to hold a vote on the House’s clean $2000.00 stimulus check bill, Mitch McConnell has introduced a dirty bill, including a provision for a complete repeal of Section 230 of the CDA, not because he gives a crap about Section 230, and also a bit about setting up a commission to study election fraud, but because he is trying to kill the movement toward making a larger payment.

This will give Democrats an excuse to cave, and I think that they will try to do so.

Hopefully, Sanders will stick to his guns, and keep the Senate in Session for the mandatory debate the Senate rules require without unanimous consent.

In the mean time, if you see McConnell, throw your shoe at him, and if you see Amy McGrath, thank her for 6 more years of Moscow Mitch:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has thrown a wrench into Congressional approval of an increase in government stimulus relief checks from $600 to $2,000. The House voted overwhelmingly on Monday to increase the payments, as President Trump had advocated for. Instead of voting on the House bill, however, McConnell blocked it and instead introduced a new bill tying higher stimulus payments to Section 230’s full repeal, according to Verge, which obtained a copy of the bill’s text.

It’s a tangled web, but the move is tied to Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes $740 billion in defense spending for the upcoming government fiscal year. “No one has worked harder, or approved more money for the military, than I have,” Trump said in a statement about the veto, claiming falsely that the military “was totally depleted” when he took office in 2017. “Your failure to terminate the very dangerous national security risk of Section 230 will make our intelligence virtually impossible to conduct without everyone knowing what we are doing at every step.”


So what does this have to do with McConnell’s latest political maneuvering? Think of it as a move to appease Trump with regard to Section 230, while also effectively ensuring that the $2,000 increase in stimulus checks will never pass in the Senate. “During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said in a floor statement Tuesday afternoon. “This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

McConnell is a cancer on the American body politic, but the last election cycle, the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) decided that it was more important to have an expensive candidate, who would generate lots of consultant commissions, than it would to have a good candidate.

Killing Social Security and Boosting His Reelection Chances

He is hoping to force Congress to make this a permanent tax cut, because the bill comes due in January, millions of Americans may be owing thousands of dollars in back taxes.

It will have the effect of increasing take home pay in the short term, which might give the economy a temporary boost, particularly for a tax as regressive as the Social Security tax, which cuts off at $137,700.00.

It will also have the effect of emptying the Social Security Trust Fund in about 2 years.

On the bright side, I think that many, and possibly most, of employers are going to collect the taxes anyway, because the money is still owed, just deferred, particularly since there is a cost to rewrite their payroll withholding software:

The Treasury Department began implementing President Trump’s plan to allow a payroll tax deferral, an executive action he says will help households weather the pandemic-ravaged economy but which faces significant practical hurdles and skepticism from employers.

The government’s announcement came late Friday, just four days before it is scheduled to take effect. It postpones some payroll taxes that would normally be due between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 and makes them due between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2021. Under this approach, employers who opt to stop some paycheck withholding now could withhold twice as much as usual early next year.

Mr. Trump on Aug. 8 ordered the Treasury Department to allow the tax deferrals under a law that lets the Treasury secretary postpone tax deadlines after a disaster. It still could take time for private payroll companies to reprogram their systems, and employers concerned about costs and legal exposure may not bother changing workers’ tax withholding.


The government’s action doesn’t actually change the underlying taxes, because only Congress can do that. Employees would still owe the taxes eventually. So someone making $75,000 annually could save as much as $1,550 in 2020 but would have to pay that same amount later.

Mr. Trump wants Congress to forgive that tax liability. The IRS document issued late Friday says employers must pay those taxes in the first four months of 2021 or “may make arrangements” to collect the taxes from employees.

“The guidance makes it clear the only purpose of this scheme is to give the illusion of a tax cut before the election,” said Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a group aligned with Democrats.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Chain Restaurants and other trade associations warned that it would be unfair to impose potential future costs on workers and said a system where employees could choose whether to participate would be unworkable.


One very large employer looks likely to participate—the federal government that Mr. Trump controls. The National Finance Center at the Department of Agriculture, which processes payrolls for more than 600,000 federal workers at multiple agencies, said last week it was preparing to implement the tax deferral in September.

Forcing hundreds of thousands of federal employees to take tax deferrals could put pressure on lawmakers to forgive the taxes later, as Mr. Trump wants them to do.

When a policy developed to help Republican electoral prospects runs afoul of the U.S Chamber of Commerce, you know that this policy is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

This is a Direct Result of the Pandemic

California child care providers have overwhelmingly voted to unionize.

We have seen an explosion of union activities in the United States since the start of the pandemic, and this is because employers have shown themselves to be completely disinterested in the well-being of their employees, which leaves a union as the only way that those workers can protect themselves:

Today California child care providers announced they have voted to be represented by the statewide child care provider union, Child Care Providers United. This result, which comes after providers succeeded in their 17-year battle to win authorizing legislation from the state, gives care providers the ability to bargain together for higher pay, better training, and the kind of improvements that mean their families will no longer have to struggle just to pay for necessities. With an overwhelming vote for CCPU, the 45,000 family child care providers will gain official recognition and bargaining rights with the state of California.


The 97% CCPU yes vote also comes as child care providers are increasingly recognized for their essential role in California’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread economic fallout.


Child care providers, many over the age of 55, have continued to work daily, providing essential early learning for the children of grocery store clerks, nurses, and other frontline workers. At the same time, they’ve faced added financial pressure from reduced enrollment. Providers said winning this union election means they will have a strong platform from which to work with the state to keep their home-based child care businesses open to parents who are counting on them now more than ever. The pandemic has also revealed the need for providers to have a voice to bargain for the kind of training and protective equipment needed to keep their families and those they care for safe.

For a workforce that is mostly women and 74% people of color, succeeding in winning union representation is also a significant step forward in their fight for racial justice for their own families and the young people they educate. Last Monday, providers in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco led children in their care in art projects and discussions on the theme of racial justice as part of the Strike for Black lives, calling on the government to value each child equally, whether brown, Black, white, API or Native American. Doing so, they said, requires rebalancing the economy and creating opportunity for children of color by ensuring corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share so our communities can invest in early care and education.


Today’s vote culminates providers’ decades-long fight for union rights. Last fall, after many years of being denied the rights that other workers have — the right to form a union and bargain for higher pay, family-sustaining benefits, and other improvements — the legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed into law AB 378 (Limón) which enables child care providers to bargain for important, lasting improvements to the child care system.

The vote was a mail-in secret ballot election conducted by the American Arbitration Association under the direction of the California Public Employment Board. Family child care providers have been working to win their rights since 2003 by organizing in their communities, forming their union, and working with elected officials.

It took 15 years for the legislature to grant basic labor rights to child healthcare workers.

That’s 15 years too long.

Of Course They Are

Republicans are looking to use the next Covid-19 stimulus to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid:

A proposal by Sen. Mitt Romney to establish congressional committees with the specific goal of crafting legislative “solutions” for America’s federal trust fund programs has reportedly resurfaced in GOP talks over the next Covid-19 stimulus package, sparking alarm among progressive advocates who warn the Utah Republican’s bill is nothing but a stealth attack on Social Security and Medicare.

Politico’s Burgess Everett reported Wednesday that Romney’s TRUST Act, first introduced last October with the backing of a bipartisan group of senators, “is getting a positive reception from Senate Republicans” in coronavirus relief discussions, which are still in their early stages. The legislation, Everett noted, “could become part of the mix” for the next Covid-19 stimulus as Republicans once again claim to be concerned about the growing budget deficit.

Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), told Common Dreams in an interview that he is not at all surprised to see Romney’s bill crop up again and said it should be diligently opposed.


“Social Security is the piggy bank that Republicans seem to go to whenever it dawns on them that we’ve gotta do something about the debt,” Richtman said, “notwithstanding the fact that they passed a huge tax cut that added trillions to the debt and benefited mostly wealthy individuals and corporations.”


Richtman warned that in the near future the public is likely “going to start hearing more and more” GOP proposals to cut Social Security under the guise of “entitlement reform” as the party suddenly rediscovers its concern for the mounting deficit.

“Obviously this is a way to push in cuts to Social Security and Medicare without leaving fingerprints, or not many fingerprints,” Richtman said of the TRUST Act.


Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, said in an emailed statement to Common Dreams that “at a time when current Republican policy is to let seniors die of Covid-19 by the tens of thousands without lifting a finger to help, it is beyond shameful that Mitt Romney’s focus is to rob those same older Americans of their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

“Romney’s TRUST Act would create a fast-track, closed door commission to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Lawson said. “If Republicans cared about the American people, especially seniors, they’d be passing legislation to get PPE to essential workers, help the unemployed, and rush assistance to the nursing homes that are turning into death traps.”

“Instead,” Lawson added, “they are focused on using this pandemic as an excuse to gut our most popular and effective government programs.”

This is my Shocked Face

I am completely unsurprised that Republicans are using a national emergency to attempt to destroy Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

After all, this is pretty much what they do every time that they are confronted with an emergency and a must pass bill.

Republicans may be an unalloyed evil, but they own it.

Another Attempt to Destroy Social Security

The Trump White House is looking to propose a stimulus where people will be required to sign away a portion of their Social Security benefits for a payment now.

🚨 COVID paper alert 🚨

Excited to share a new paper with @sc_cath and @mjmill611

We show that allowing workers to access a tiny % of their future Social Security benefits today can provide the liquidity they need to weather this storm.

Thread: pic.twitter.com/Jmu7VeH0FH

— Natasha Sarin (@NatashaRSarin) May 5, 2020

This is a transparent strategy to cut social security benefits to reduce its popularity, so that the money can be shoveled out to private accounts where Wall Street will profit from egregious fees and the like.

As an aside, it turns out that a senior Biden Advisor Larry Summers’ protege and sometime co-author Natasha Sarin supports the same death of a thousand cuts to social security. (See the embedded Tweet)

The Trump administration is casting this idea as a way to keep the deficit down, but considering the fact that they are trying to cut more taxes, and there is always money for more war, it’s clear that they want to destroy the most popular federal program one bit at the time:


Senior White House economic officials also are exploring a proposal floated by two conservative scholars that would allow Americans to choose to receive checks of up to $5,000 in exchange for a delay of their Social Security benefits, according to three people familiar with the internal matter. That plan was written by Andrew Biggs of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and Joshua Rauh of the right-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Senior administration officials have discussed the “Eagle Plan,” a 29-page memo that called for an overhaul of federal retirement programs in exchange for upfront payments to some workers, but the White House has already rejected it, according to three administration officials. A copy of the plan was obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposal calls for giving Americans $10,000 upfront in exchange for curbing their federal retirement benefits, such as Social Security, the report says. Art Laffer, a conservative economist who is advising the White House on its economic response, said in an interview he reviewed the presentation and supports it.

Of course Laffer likes it.

Laffer has been an idiot ideologue has been arguing that cutting taxes to basically nothing will generate more revenues, which failed so abysmally with Sam Brownback in Kansas.

There is, of course a point where higher taxes reduce revenues, but the best evidence puts this at 75%±15%, not the less than 20% that Laffer argues for on things like corporate and capital gains taxes.

Social security is a system which by any metric is more efficient and more effective than the private sector, but the Randroid free market mousketeers believe that government programs are an ineluctable evil, so even if 80% of the benefits line the pockets of Wall Street, they support killing it.

They hate Social Security because it works, not because it doesn’t.

Blaming Poor People, Just Because

Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is blaming impoverished meat packing workers for their dying, saying that they are the ones who are causing the Covid-19 spread through the home and social aspects of their home lives.

Basically, he’s saying, “F%$# the poors, because they are evil. If they weren’t evil, they wouldn’t be poors.”

The country’s top health official downplayed concerns over the public health conditions inside meatpacking plants, suggesting on a call with lawmakers that workers were more likely to catch coronavirus based on their social interactions and group living situations, three participants said.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar told a bipartisan group that he believed infected employees were bringing the virus into processing plants where a rash of cases have killed at least 20 workers and forced nearly two-dozen plants to close, according to three people on the April 28 call.

Those infections, he said, were linked more to the “home and social” aspects of workers’ lives rather than the conditions inside the facilities, alarming some on the call who interpreted his remarks as faulting workers for the outbreaks, the people said.

“He was essentially turning it around, blaming the victim and implying that their lifestyle was the problem,” said Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), who told POLITICO that Azar’s comments left her deeply concerned about the administration’s priorities in fighting the pandemic. “Their theory of the case is that they are not becoming infected in the meat processing plant, they’re becoming infected because of the way they live in their home.”

Azar emphasized the need to keep the plants open, according to the three people on the call. He also theorized that workers were largely not becoming infected at the meatpacking plants, and were instead contracting the coronavirus from their communities.

Azar noted in particular that many meatpacking workers live in congregate housing, allowing that more testing at facilities would help but that the bigger issue was employees’ home environments. One possible solution was to send more law enforcement to those communities to better enforce social distancing rules, he added, according to two of the lawmakers on the call.

Basically, he wants to send the Pinkertons into to break the strikes by breaking heads.

“Law enforcement is not going to solve the problem,” Kuster said. “It was so far off base.”

An HHS spokesperson on Wednesday declined to offer any evidence supporting Azar’s assertions and said the department doesn’t comment on specifics of conversations with members of Congress, but contended that “this is an inaccurate representation of Secretary’s Azar’s comments during the discussion.”

What should be noted here is that this attitude is very much mainstream Republican dogma:  Poor people suffer because they deserve to, and they deserve it even more because of their dark complexions.

This has been the case as far back as when Gerald Ford was President, and called for people to be forced to sell their cars before getting unemployment compensation.

A Feature, Not a Bug

What a surprise. It turns out our political establishment with extensive and invasive meains testing is sabotaging providing aid to people who are suffering as a result of the Corona Virus shutdown.

There is a reason for this. Both the right and the left of the political elite are members of the Professional Managerial Class, (PMC) and want to ensure that there are jobs, even if they are fundamentally parasitic in nature, for them and theirs, and employing people to function as a barrier to the smooth functions of government means that they do not have to get honest work, something like restocking grocery shelves, that would actually be productive.

The fascination with “Fraud” and “Means Testing” is a charity for the overprivileged.

Sometimes a little fraud is perfectly OK.

Particularly if it means helping millions of Americans, whose lives have been upended by the pandemic, as quickly as possible.

For anyone who’s ever had to sign up for food stamps or jobless benefits in the U.S., the onerous enrollment procedures and frequent ID verification checks are a well-known, and often, disheartening reality. Ostensibly, the safeguards are meant to ensure only those who need help get it. But according to Georgetown University’s Pamela Herd, they often end up doing more harm than good.

“We need to be just as concerned about those not getting benefits as we are with fraud and abuse statistics,” said Herd, who’s written extensively on the concept of “administrative burden,” which describes the red tape we encounter when we need public assistance.

The insistence to pose an “Administrative Burden” is not about saving the taxpayer money.  It’s about helping a class of people, the PMC a gravy train.

In fact, it is the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) more than the Republicans who favor this.

This is why when someone offers a solution to a dire crisis that is easily and quickly implemented, people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer insist creating a massively complex process which makes a dog’s breakfast of the program.

The Return of the Mafia State

With Italy in crisis over its Covid-19 epidemic and the EU offering little help, the state lacks the resources to help ordinary people.

Rather unsurprisingly, the Mafia is stepping in to help the people, which is a sound investment for them, because if they have the goodwill of the population, then they will be able to function without interference from the local and national law enforcement.

This is going to set back progress against organized crime in Italy by years, if not decades, and their activities will cross borders into the rest of the EU:

As Italy struggles to pull its economy through the coronavirus crisis, the Mafia is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash, authorities have warned.


“For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed,” Nicola Gratteri, antimafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, told the Guardian. “Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work. The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people. If the state doesn’t step in soon to help these families, the mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people’s lives.”

The ramifications of the lockdown in Italy are affecting the estimated 3.3 million people in Italy who work off the books. Of those, more than 1 million live in the south, according to the most recent figures from CGIA Mestre, a Venice-based small business association. There have been reports of small shop owners being pressured to give food for free, while police are patrolling supermarkets in some areas to stop thefts. Videos of people in Sicily protesting against the government’s stalled response, or people beating their fists outside banks in Bari for a €50 (£44) loan are going viral and throwing fuel on the crisis; a fire the mafia is more than willing to stoke.

From the first signals of mounting social unrest, the Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese, said ‘‘the mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation’’. Or simply stepping in to distribute free food parcels of pasta, water, flour and milk.


“Mafias are not just criminal organisations,’’ Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, said. “They are organisations that aspire to govern territories and markets. Commentators often focus on the financial aspect of mafias but they tend to forget that their strength comes from having a local base from which to operate.”

This is the bitter fruit of EU mandated austerity.

Macron Caves

Emmanuel Macron was elected in France because he was seen as a change from a system that delivered nothing for the the ordinary Frenchman while serving the transnational banks and corporations.

To the horror of the voters, Macron is even more the minion of a bloated and corrupt financial sector than were his predecessors.

So he has proposed increases in taxes on ordinary people, more austerity, tax cuts for the wealthy, and, finally, a roll-back of pension rights.

Now, following massive protests,  Macron has abandoned his plans to change pensions:

With tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators once again coursing through the streets of Paris and other cities and clouds of tear gas and smashed store windows punctuating the urban landscape, the French government made a major concession on Saturday to unions protesting its pension reform plan.

It agreed to scrap, for now at least, a proposal to raise the full-benefits retirement age from 62 to 64. Unlike in the United States, the French government plays a huge role in the retirement plans of individuals in France, both as a source of funds and as overseer and guarantor of the pension system.

The raised age had infuriated moderate unions that the government of President Emmanuel Macron badly needs on its side. Mr. Macron has insisted the French need to work longer to strengthen a generous retirement system that is one of the world’s most generous but may be heading toward a $19 billion deficit.

On Saturday, with a crippling transport strike already in its sixth week, Mr. Macron’s government backed down, announcing that it would “withdraw” the new age limit, and put off decisions on financing the system until it gets a report on the money problem “between now and the end of April.”

Macron’s definition of meaningful reform is robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

The argument is that, in the long run, everyone benefits, but in the long term, as Keynes observed, “In the long run we are all dead.”

Europe does seem to dedicated to repeating the failures that led to the rise of Fascism and World War II.

Totally F%$#ing Evil

The Trump administration’s plan to reduce poverty in the United States is to redefine poverty so far down that starvation won’t count as poverty:

In early May, the Office of Management and Budget announced that it was seeking public comments on a proposal to change how inflation and the consumer price index are calculated, and, by extension, how poverty rates in the United States are estimated.


Now, however, the Trump administration looks set to head off in the exact opposite direction. It has come up with a proposal to measure inflation by a “chained consumer price index,” which will most likely take millions of people who were previously considered by the government to be living in poverty, and declare that suddenly, magically, they are no longer poor.

The chained consumer price index is a particularly cautious way of measuring inflation: On a monthly basis, it tries to factor in how people change their consumption patterns in response to price spikes or changes in technology. If, for example, car prices significantly increased, but in response, vastly more people used public transport and thus weren’t as impacted by the industry-specific inflation, it would factor that in and reduce the price increase’s overall impact on the inflation rate.

In theory, that’s all well and good — except for the fact that poor people tend to be less flexible in their spending patterns than more affluent Americans. In recent years, economists have found that poor people actually experience higher rates of inflation than do those with more disposable income. If gas prices go up, for example, a middle-class American might choose to counter that impact by purchasing a hybrid or electric car; a poor person likely won’t have the down-payment or the monthly income needed to purchase a new vehicle and will thus be stuck with the old gas guzzler.

Of course, this is also something that the Obama administration proposed, only to retreat when  opposition to this scheme exploded, so while it’s completely evil, it’s by no means unprecedented.

Ineluctable Evil

Just when I thought that Trump and his Evil Minions could not get any more evil, they propose charging grocery stores for the privilege of accepting food stamps.

It’s pretty clear what is going on here: They want to push SNAP out of food deserts, so as to reduce enrollment, so that they can eventually force people to starve.

Impeach now:

The White House proposal to overhaul the U.S. food stamp program — and the deep cuts it would make to benefits for the poorest households — has sparked public outrage on both sides of the aisle. But there’s another change tucked into the proposal that businesses say caught them off guard — and could wind up costing them more than $2 billion.

That provision is a new fee that the White House wants to charge retailers that accept food stamps, which is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


Beyond the new fee, the Trump administration is proposing $191 billion in cuts over the next decade to the food stamp program. The U.S. budget office said the reductions would come from tightening the work requirement to qualify for the benefits, but said the details would be left up to individual states. The administration also expects states to make up some of the lost funding.

These folks should have been drowned at birth.

Portugal’s Solution to Right Wing Populism

Portugal’s solution is much like Iceland’s solution.

Specifically, they have eschewed German economics and German austerity, and instead have chosen to build up their society, and their societal protections:

Considering the booming economy, dropping unemployment numbers and the return of many once-emigrated young Portuguese citizens, it seems Portugal is on the rise. Facing the policies of socialist Prime Minister António Costa, which include properly supporting the welfare state and investing in the public sector instead of austerity measures, right wing populists don’t stand a chance.

Not too long ago, Portugal stood on the brink of catastrophe: harsh austerity policies and the erosion of labour rights pushed by the conservative government lead to significant rises in poverty and unemployment. The economy dwindled due to the lack of peoples’ spending power.

Today, everything has changed:

“Nowadays, Portugal is considered a prime example among European countries: the economy is booming, unemployment is dropping and investments are rising.”


The first major change occurred during the general election 2015. This was time when the right wing conservative government dismantled the social welfare state piece by piece, which resulted in a furious population voicing their dissatisfaction in the voting booth – causing the conservatives to lose 11 percent of their previous electoral votes.


Costa succeeded in uniting the severely split left wing in Portugal, who now support the minority government led by him. At first, observers were pessimistic about the potential of this constellation, predicting a collapse after a few months. Moreover, both the EU and German minister of finances saw a grave mistake in the departure from austerity.

Angela Merkel described the prospect of a radical anti-austerity coalition in Portugal as “very negative”. The president of Portugal went further, calling non-conservative economic policies a “danger to national security” and attempting to keep the old government in power.


The Portuguese economy has been booming for 4 years. 2017 marked the largest national economic growth of the century.

The Portuguese are not only showing the feasibility of socially conscious policies, but demonstrating the significant potential for success.

“The budget deficit has dropped to its lowest ever since the change to a democratic system in 1974 – simply because the government re-established and strengthened the social welfare state, leading to the Portuguese people having more money to spend.”

The socialists raised the once slashed wages and pensions, reintroduced paid vacations and retracted many tax raises, all while raising wealth taxes which affect only the rich parts of the population. The government also introduced a property and real estate tax designed not to target the homes of average citizens. Costa’s socialists also put an end to the catastrophic privatizations that were once instructed by the EU and resulted in selling state assets at absurdly low prices.

The Germans have been f%$#ing up Europe with their need to run things since 1914.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

Over at The Nation, the observe how DNC professional staff has systematically sabotaged attempts to understand and address poverty, and wonder, “Why Does the Democratic Party Refuse to Address Poverty?

This is because, as Yves Smith notes, the Democratic Party establishment sees itself as, “The party of credentialed professionals, who tend not to be poor.”

South Carolina: Slavery, Sedition, and Now State Sanctioned Anti-Semitism

The Trump administration is considering whether to grant a South Carolina request that would effectively allow faith-based foster care agencies in the state the ability to deny Jewish parents from fostering children in its network. The argument, from the state and from the agency, is that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not force a Protestant group to work with Jewish people if it violates a tenet of their faith.

The case being made by South Carolina is an extension of the debate around RFRA, which is more commonly associated with discrimination against LGBTQ people, but by no means applies exclusively to that group.

If granted, the exemption would allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant social service agency working in the state’s northwest region, to continue receiving federal dollars while “recruiting Christian foster families,” which it has been doing since 1988, according to its website. That discrimination would apply not just to Jewish parents, but also to parents who are Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic or other some other non-Protestant Christian denomination.

I’ve really had enough with how the local, state, and federal government coddle these Talibaptist whack-a-doodles.

This is the Sort of Thing that Takes Down Authoritarian Regimes

Vladimir Putin is experiencing significant political blow-back for cuts to pensions and an increase in the retirement age.

It’s part of the standard neoliberal playbook, and it is the sort of thing, rather than foreign adventurism or crack-downs on political rivals, that frequently result in major political shakeups:

Pension reform is genocide!” “You deprive us of our pension – we deprive you of your authority!” “We don’t want to die working!”

These were only some of the slogans shouted by Russian protesters during mass rallies last weekend, held in response to a new reform that will rise the retirement age in Russia. From Moscow to St Petersburg to Siberia to the country’s Far East, the rallies were a nationwide phenomenon across the world’s biggest country.

For Vladimir Putin, the situation represents a rare mis-step. The tough-guy president has, for years, presented himself as a national defender, fully in synch with the concerns of the Russian street.

The media were not beating about the bush. Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets defined the protests as the “most dangerous and risky reform of President Putin’s 20-year rule.”

More than three million Russian citizens have already signed an online petition against the pension reform which, starting from 2019, is due to gradually increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women.


However, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has stated clearly that reform is necessary to save Russia’s pension system, which relies on state budget subsidies to stay afloat. Despite brave talk of sanctions resistance, a rising Russian economy, apparently successful overseas military adventures and the warm afterglow of the World Cup, low oil prices and Western sanctions continue to erode Moscow’s finances.


Regardless of whether it is essential or not, the reform is colossally unpopular – about 90% of Russians oppose it. Naturally, it is having a deep impact on the approval rating of the United Russia party.


As a result, Putin’s popularity rate has been already affected by the reform, falling sharply from 80% in May to 64% in late July, according to the VTsIOM state pollster. This is problematic for Putin, considering that a great deal of Russian trust in him depends on his reputation as “protector of the Russian people” against foreign threats and as guarantor of national stability, particularly after the chaos of the Yeltsin years.

I expect to see some sort of partial walk back from Putin, as well as long term political consequences.

The number of authoritarian governments that have been brought down by implementing these sorts of neoliberal remedies, frequently at the hands of the IMF, is legion.

The Problem is Not that it is Excessive, But that it is insufficient

The Danes, no doubt in response to political pressure from the racist Dansk Folkeparti (DF, also called DPP) in parliament, have adopted a law mandating that families on public assistance Muslim ghettos must place their children in government run preschools.

It’s supposed to teach them the language, and inculcate them in Danish culture.

The problem here is not that they are requiring this of Muslims on the dole, it’s that they are not requiring every child whose family needs public aren’t in these schools together, in integrated classrooms, learning that their backwards bigoted parents on both sides of this religious divide are wrong:

When Rokhaia Naassan gives birth in the coming days, she and her baby boy will enter a new category in the eyes of Danish law. Because she lives in a low-income immigrant neighborhood described by the government as a “ghetto,” Rokhaia will be what the Danish newspapers call a “ghetto parent” and he will be a “ghetto child.”

Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.

Denmark’s government is introducing a new set of laws to regulate life in 25 low-income and heavily Muslim enclaves, saying that if families there do not willingly merge into the country’s mainstream, they should be compelled.

For decades, integrating immigrants has posed a thorny challenge to the Danish model, intended to serve a small, homogeneous population. Leaders are focusing their ire on urban neighborhoods where immigrants, some of them placed there by the government, live in dense concentrations with high rates of unemployment and gang violence.

Politicians’ description of the ghettos has become increasingly sinister. In his annual New Year’s speech, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen warned that ghettos could “reach out their tentacles onto the streets” by spreading violence, and that because of ghettos, “cracks have appeared on the map of Denmark.” Politicians who once used the word “integration” now call frankly for “assimilation.”

That tough approach is embodied in the “ghetto package.” Of 22 proposals presented by the government in early March, most have been agreed upon by a parliamentary majority, and more will be subject to a vote in the fall.

Let’s be clear, there are additional parts of these statutes are really horrible, things like arbitrary increases in penalties in Muslim ghettos, but the bulk of outrage is directed at tying preschool to welfare payments.

Not only would this be applied across Denmark, it should be applied across the United States.

It’s called mandatory schooling, and universal Pre-K.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

I Love This

It appears that the denizens of Silicon Valley are experiencing some butt hurt because a popular pastor in the area has described their world as an, “Elitist den of hate.”

Truth hurts, don’t it?

These are people who make their money from regulatory arbitrage and government subsidies (patent, copyright, not having to pay sales tax, etc), collude to hold down worker wages, bust unions, etc.

No sympathy from me:

A Silicon Valley pastor has resigned from his church after calling the city of Palo Alto an “elitist sh%$t den of hate” and criticizing the hypocrisy of “social justice” activism in the region.

Gregory Stevens confirmed on Monday that he had stepped down from the First Baptist church of Palo Alto, an LGBT-inclusive congregation, after his personal tweets calling out the contradictions of wealthy liberals in northern California surfaced at a recent council hearing.

In emails to the Guardian, the 28-year-old minister detailed his “exasperation” with Palo Alto, a city in the heart of the technology industry, surrounded by severe income inequality and poverty.

“I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote, lamenting that it was impossible for low-income people to live in the city. “The insane wealth inequality and the ignorance toward actual social justice is absolutely terrifying.” He later added: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world.”


The underlying messages to Stevens’ tweets, however, touched on continuing tension in Silicon Valley, where some of the world’s wealthiest companies and entrepreneurs have pledged to better the world through innovations, yet working-class families and poor residents struggle to afford the most basic necessities. The region has one of the worst homelessness crises in the country and a huge shortage of affordable housing, forcing tens of thousands of low-income workers to commute more than 50 miles to work.


He argued that the church’s rich neighbors could afford to “feed and house” all the homeless people in Palo Alto and surrounding cities, but instead focused on passing laws that further criminalized this population, encouraging police to harass those sleeping outside or in cars. The city had also made it hard for the church to provide meals for the homeless by requiring costly permits, he said.


But Palo Alto, he said, “wanted nothing to do with actual justice and was more interested in guarding their enclave of power and wealth”, adding: “If the wealth inequalities are not addressed, any talk about climate change, homelessness, and migrant rights is in vain.”

I agree with him completely, and I would apply it more generally to the hyper-wealthy throughout the west, particularly the US.

The world has become an increasingly brutal and hypocritical place.