This powerful video by Bisbee activist Alison McLeod brought tears to my eyes.
Archive for July, 2011
It’s highly ironic that the current social and political battle over our nation’s debt and deficit is occurring this week with the 46th anniversary of the signing of Social Security Act of 1965 on Saturday, July 30.
After a long political battle dating from Harry Truman’s presidency to Lyndon Johnson’s, Johnson signed this legislation creating universal, single payer healthcare insurance for the nation’s elderly (Medicare) and indigent (Medicaid).
From The Nation…
With reporters and photographers surrounding them, Johnson took a place beside former President Harry Truman, who the sitting president thanked for “planting the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick and serenity for the fearful.” [Emphasis added.]
These healthcare reforms were part of Johnson’s Great Society, which had two primary goals: to eliminate poverty and to eliminate racial injustice. After his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, Johnson and his progressive Democratic Congress enacted forward-thinking reforms that were reminiscent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and began the full-on War on Poverty, which reduced the poverty rate significantly over the subsequent 10 years. Many important Great Society programs– aimed at improving labor, healthcare, and education for poor and working class Americans– are still in existence: Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans for college, work study, and Head Start. These programs were strengthened under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
It is so sad how far we have fallen from this level of compassion. The programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society– programs that have provided a social safety net for millions of Americans and wiped out many inequities of the past– are now facing a full-frontal attack by conservatives, bankrolled by big business.
Republican Congressmen would have you believe that the nation’s financial problems can be fixed by just cutting spending– specifically dramatically changing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (long-term spending) and dramatically cutting other discretionary (non-military) spending (ie, food stamps, children’s healthcare, food safety, pollution abatement, etc) which actually makes up less than 20 percent of the budget. Oh, yeah, and they want to protect oil subsidies, corporate tax loopholes (which allow multinational corporations like Bank of America to pay no taxes; tax loopholes for the rich; continue the Bush era tax cuts that they fought so hard for in December 2010; dismantle Social Security (so retirement funds for those under 50 can be gambled on the stock market); and offer more tax cuts (more trickle down economics).
At a time of high unemployment, high gasoline costs, high food prices, escalating college education tuition, skyrocketing healthcare expenses, a disintigrating social safety net, and soaring corporate profits– Republicans want workers, the elderly, and the indigent to “tighten their belts” to protect the profits and tax breaks of corporate jet owners, big oil, big pharma, big insurance, and Wall Street gamblers and corporate execs everywhere.
From the Associated Press (via the Arizona Daily Star)…
Two years after economists say the Great Recession ended, the recovery has been the weakest and most lopsided of any since the 1930s.
After previous recessions, people in all income groups tended to benefit. This time, ordinary Americans are struggling with job insecurity, too much debt and pay raises that haven’t kept up with prices at the grocery store and gas station. The economy’s meager gains are going mostly to the wealthiest.
Workers’ wages and benefits make up 57.5 percent of the economy, an all-time low. Until the mid-2000s, that figure had been remarkably stable – about 64 percent through boom and bust alike.
Executive pay is included in this figure, but rank-and-file workers are far more dependent on regular wages and benefits. A big chunk of the economy’s gains has gone to investors in the form of higher corporate profits.
“The spoils have really gone to capital, to the shareholders,” says David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto.
Corporate profits are up by almost half since the recession ended in June 2009. In the first two years after the recessions of 1991 and 2001, profits rose 11 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
And an Associated Press analysis found that the typical CEO of a major company earned $9 million last year, up a fourth from 2009.
Driven by higher profits, the Dow Jones industrial average has staged a breathtaking 90 percent rally since bottoming at 6,547 on March 9, 2009. Those stock market gains go disproportionately to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, who own more than 80 percent of outstanding stock, according to an analysis by Edward Wolff, an economist at Bard College.
But if the Great Recession is long gone from Wall Street and corporate boardrooms, it lingers on Main Street:
• Unemployment has never been so high – 9.1 percent – this long after any recession since World War II. At the same point after the previous three recessions, unemployment averaged just 6.8 percent.
• The average worker’s hourly wages, after accounting for inflation, were 1.6 percent lower in May than a year earlier. Rising gasoline and food prices have devoured any pay raises for most Americans.
• The jobs that are being created pay less than the ones that vanished in the recession. Higher-paying jobs in the private sector, the ones that pay roughly $19 to $31 an hour, made up 40 percent of the jobs lost from January 2008 to February 2010 but only 27 percent of the jobs created since then.
Hard times have made Americans more dependent than ever on social programs, which accounted for a record 18 percent of personal income in the last three months of 2010 before coming down a bit this year. Almost 45 million Americans are on food stamps, another record…
Federal Reserve numbers crunched by Haver Analytics suggest that Americans have a long way to go before their finances will be strong enough to support robust spending: Despite cutting what they owe the past three years, the average household’s debts equal 119 percent of annual after-tax income. At the same point after the 1981-82 recession, debts were at 66 percent; after the 1990-91 recession, 85 percent; and after the 2001 recession, 114 percent. [Emphasis added.]
At a time when Americans can least afford it and the income gap between the richest 1 percent and the rest of us is larger than the Grand Canyon, Republicans are asking for even further financial sacrifices from Main Street Americans AND they are willing to throw the world into financial crisis as they cling to their trickle down ideology of protecting the rich while casting the rest of us aside. If they want to “fix” Social Security, they should put Americans back to work at good-paying jobs. According to 2009 figures from the US Census, 14.3 percent of Americans (and 20.7 percent of American children) are living in poverty; 43 million Americans– the largest number ever.
What can you do about it?
Call your Congressional Representatives today and tell them to vote to:
- raise the debt ceiling (and stop the grandstanding),
- raise revenues (by cutting military spending, eliminating corporate loopholes that allow them to avoid paying taxes, eliminate Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.),
- protect the programs that benefit millions of Americans: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment, college tuition grants, etc.
- solve the deficit problem by putting Americans back to work.
Here are the numbers:
CD8 Gabrielle Giffords: 520-881-3588 (local) or 202-225-2542 (DC)
CD7 Raul Grijalva: 520-622-6788 (local) or 202-225-2435 (DC)
CD6 Jeff Flake from Mesa (We need to lean on this guy who wants to be our next Senator.):
480-833-0092 (in Mesa) or 202-225-2635 (DC)
Senator Jon Kyl 520-575-8633 (local) or 202-224-4521 (DC)
Senator John McCain 520-670-6334 (local) or 202-224-2245 (DC)
What else can you do?
Progressive Democrats of America’s Tucson Chapter is holding a demonstration to show support for protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on Saturday, July 30 from 10 a.m. – noon at the corner of Speedway and Campbell.
MoveOn.org is calling on us– all of us– to visit our Congressional representatives’ offices today, July 26, at noon and tell them to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Don’t let extremist Teapublicans destroy our economy and our country’s social safety net– as they play chicken with President Obama and the world financial markets over raising the debt ceiling. (If you know anyone who lives in John Boehner’s Ohio district, forward it to him.)
From Move On…
This weekend, it became 100% clear that Republicans would rather see America default, Social Security checks stop going out, the stock market plummet, and unemployment soar than give one inch on their position: that the very richest people and most profitable corporations shouldn’t pay one penny more in taxes.
Even after the president offered Republicans a debt-ceiling deal most MoveOn members probably consider unconscionable—with trillions in cuts, even to Medicare and Social Security—speaker Boehner still walked away from the table.
Republicans hope the threat of default will be enough to force Democrats to sacrifice and compromise even more.
But Democrats like Raul Grijalva are standing strong. Rep. Grijalva is one of 80 Democrats who have joined Leader Pelosi in saying that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits are off the table. Over the next few days, Rep. Grijalva will face extreme pressure to cave into every Republican demand and let irresponsible threats drive terrible decisions in Washington.
That’s why, with other leaders of the American Dream movement, we’re putting out an urgent call for every patriotic American to show up outside progressive congressional offices on Tuesday at noon to deliver a crucial message of support: “Thank you for protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Keep standing strong.”
Can you deliver the message to Rep. Grijalva at his office on Tuesday at noon?
We’ll follow up with all the details and a link to print your own “Keep standing strong” signs to bring to Rep. Grijalva.
Then you just have to show up on Tuesday here:
738 North 5th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705
We need to show as much public support as possible, so please pass this along to anyone else you know who could join in on Tuesday. This is a moment when we need to bring the progressive movement together to show our strength and show our boldest leaders that we’re with them.
Let’s get out there on Tuesday and let leaders like Rep. Grijalva know how important it is to keep standing up to Republican threats. We can’t let Republicans crash the American economy to protect tax giveaways for the rich.
As someone who lives in CD8– Gabrielle Giffords’ district– I received a different version of this MoveOn letter urging CD8 residents to go to her office (3945 E. Fort Lowell Road, Suite 211) to encourage her to support the position that Pelosi and Grijalva have taken. I don’t know how many people will show up at Giffords’ office, but I think it’s a good idea because it emphasizes that CD8 residents need to have a dog in this fight.
Raising the debit ceiling and reducing the deficit by cutting corporate subsidies and tax loopholes for the rich– while protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid– are crucial issues. If you can’t go to your Congressional representative’s office today in person, contact them. Here is their contact information: Raul and Gabby.
For two years now, only a handful of Tucson’s public swimming pools have been opened to the public, thanks to budget cuts.
Last summer, I wrote about access to public pools and complained that only people who could afford fitness club memberships or who lived in communities with their own pools could enjoy the luxuries of cooling off in the water during the hot summer months.
This spring–not happy with the sad state of public pools in Tucson– Jim Hannley, president of the El Rio Neighborhood Association and a life-long swimmer, started a one-man crusade to open at least one pool on Tucson’s west side for the 2011 season. He met with one of the top Parks and Recreation administrators, along with Ward One Councilwoman Regina Romero, the West Side Coalition, and public health researchers at the University of Arizona. He even considered starting a fund-raising campaign to open at least one pool. The West Side Coalition of eight neighborhoods passed a resolution to appeal to the Tucson Mayor and Council to open more pools but to no avail. Hannley was told that each pool costs the city $50,000 for the season– not an extraordinary amount of cash– but his crusade to provide swimming and swimming lessons for children and families in some of Tucson’s poorer neighborhoods was thwarted by bureaucracy and lack of resources.
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, When Did Swimming Become a Privilege in the United States?, Tucson is not the only major city to cut swimming pools and swimming lessons to save money.
… cities and counties all over the country are closing their public swimming pools. In this summer of sweltering heat, with our nation in three overseas conflicts and oil companies reaping windfall profits from high gas prices and Republican politicians fighting to protect the riches of millionaires and billionaires, we cannot seem to find enough resources to keep the pools open for our kids.
“From New York City to Sacramento, Calif.,” the Associated Press writes, “pools now considered costly extravagances are being shuttered.”
Sacramento, according to the story, had 13 pools a decade ago for its nearly half-million residents but will have only three by next summer. Search Google and you’ll find report after report of communities padlocking their pools. Pasco County, Florida, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States with 471,000 residents, is debating whether to close its last two county-run pools. Johnston County, North Carolina… Goodlettsville, Tennessee… Beverly, West Virginia… Utica, New York… Austin, Texas… cities and towns around the country are closing their pools or proposing to do so.
Ours is the wealthiest nation in human history. But we are obviously not all sharing in the wealth.
The top 150,000 families in the United States — meaning the top 0.1 percent of all earners — earn over 10 percent of our nation’s income. From the World War II years through 1980, the top 0.01 percent of all American families earned about 180 times more income than what the bottom 90 percent averaged; today it’s close to 1,000 times more. While income for America’s high earners has soared, it has flatlined for almost everyone else.
In terms of wealth, the top 10 percent of Americans control over 70 percent of our wealth, while the bottom 50 percent holds just 2.5 percent, and in fact the richest 1 percent possess more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of Americans.
Yes, the wealthiest Americans may have their own pools, and pricey swim clubs dot affluent suburban communities whose well-heeled residents can afford a membership and annual dues.
And in those grand backyards of Greenwich, Connecticut or McLean, Virginia — as well as those well-maintained suburban pool clubs — you will hear the squeals of children splashing in water and letting their summer imaginations flow and playing impromptu pool games with foam footballs and noodles. Teenagers will preen themselves for one another or lie in the sun procrastinating about their summer reading. Kids having summer fun, making friends, creating lifelong memories — good for them.
But in the rest of the country, where families have fewer and fewer summer options, childhood will lose yet another of its vivid narratives. There will be no poolside memories for those unlucky kids. Public pools used to be magnets for people of all backgrounds to mingle and splash, but that too will be lost as poolside hobnobbing will be reserved only for those able to afford the privilege.
When our country looks at public spaces simply as expenditures to be cut, we lose a lot more than just a line in the budget. [Emphasis added.]
According to the Tucson Parks and Recreation website, 11 pools are open this swimming season, which ends this Friday, July 29. First of all, it is unconscionable to have 11 pools open in a metropolitan area of nearly 1 million people. Second of all, it is ludicrous in a city that regularly sees temperatures over 100 degrees to have a swimming season that goes from June 6 through July 29. According to the schedule, some pools will have an extended season through November 15, and three pools– Sunnyside, Clements, and Catalina will be open all year. A neighbor of mine went to the Catalina pool in midtown recently and had to wait in line to swim laps because the pool was so busy on a week day. Too bad the Himmel Park pool has been closed for two years.
Providing safe and affordable recreational facilities for all of its citizens is an important, cost-effective role for local government. Swimming pools, recreation centers, and parks foster good health habits through exercise, reduce long-term public health costs by decreasing the obesity rate, provide activities for teens, improve quality of life, build community and in the case of swimming lessons– directly save lives.
Tucson should start now to develop a plan to open more pools next year.
Flor de Muertos, a locally produced and filmed documentary about life and death on the Arizona-Mexico border, premiered last night at the Rialto Theater. More than 100 people attended the screening– including would-be mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Flor de Muertos is a beautifully filmed work of art with high-key daylight scenes from Tucson and Nogales, Sonora cemeteries decorated for the Day of the Dead and eerie night scenes of the 2009 All Souls Processions in Tucson and Nogales. These images of homage for the dead are juxtaposed with the gritty reality of life and death along the Arizona-Mexico border. Interviews with local border journalists Charles Bowden and Margaret Regan and music by Calexico tie the film together.
This film is a “must see” for all Tucsonans who take pride in the cultural significance and unique flavor of the All Souls Procession and enjoy the creativity of our most-famous hometown band, Calexico. For me, it was a trip down memory lane, since we participated in the 2009 procession and attended the post-procession Calexico concert at the Rialto, which was featured prominently in Flor.
Prior to the Friday evening screening, musician and artist Salvador Duran entertained movie-goers on the Rialto’s new patio. (Watch out, Hotel Congress and Maynard’s, there’s a new patio venue for those of us who enjoy the night air while sipping adult beverages and listening to live music. We loved the street scene, the moderately priced drinks, and the vintage Latin music on the patio after the film.)
There are three more screenings of Flor this weekend; Saturday night’s event includes live music. A percentage of the proceeds from Flor will go to Many Mouths, One Stomach (organizers of the All Souls Procession), the Rialto Theater Foundation, and the Loft Cinema. Click here for the movie trailer.
Additional Flor de Muertos screenings this weekend:
Saturday, July 23
Doors open at 2 pm
Matinee screening at 2:30 pm
Tickets are $6, $3 children under 12
Doors open at 7 pm
Patio open at 5 pm with food available from Martin’s Comida Chingona
Screening at 8 pm
Tickets are $15
Special concert following the screening by special guests
Patio after-party from 11-1 with DJS
Sunday, July 24
Doors at 2 pm
Matinee screening at 2:30 pm
Tickets $6, $3 children under 12
The featured speakers at a recent deficit reduction town hall in Tucson– David Walker from the Comeback America Initiative and Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition– were well-versed in how bad the US economy is, the dangers of out-of-control spending, revisionist history on how we got here, and the right-wing solutions for fixing our financial problems.
The ideas covered in the talks (eg, government is too big; we need to cut spending; entitlement programs are burying us economically; healthcare reform costs too much; corporations are taxed too much; Washington is in gridlock) were almost as disturbing as the budget-balancing ideas that were left out (eg, end the wars; drop our inefficient and costly, capitalism-based healthcare system for single-payer national healthcare; put people to work at good-paying jobs, so they can fuel the economy and contribute to Social Security; end the Bush era tax cuts; raise the Social Security contribution cap; close corporate tax loopholes; disincentivize sending US jobs to other countries; end the war on drugs, legalize marijuana and tax it; invest in research to create new good jobs going forward; invest in public education and subsidize college to grow our next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs; end our love affair with trickle-down economics).
Walker repeatedly said that both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the out-of-control spending that has increased the deficit and the debt. Ironically, Walked never mentioned trickle-down economics or Presidents Ronald Reagan or George Bush #2– two people whose failed economic policies did more to bury our country in debt than anyone else. He said that the deficit and debt were under control until 1982, when magically everything went south– with no mention of who was elected in 1982 and what he [Reagan] did to destroy the economy.
Walker did give Presidents George Bush #1 and Bill Clinton credit for being fiscally responsible and reducing the deficit but didn’t mention that they both raised taxes (something Republicans in Congress refuse to do now). He also never mentioned that after Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich and controlled spending, he oversaw the longest economic boom in US history and handed George Bush #2 a budget surplus. In fact, when Walker mentioned the recent 10-year period where all hell broke loose financially, he left out the role of Bush #2 and his Republican-controlled Congress, who cut taxes, started multiple unfunded wars, spent money we didn’t have, handed pharmaceutical companies a blank check with the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and oversaw the largest economic collapse since the Great Depression. This is revisionist history at its best… or worst.
The evening ended with small-group, interactive deficit-reduction roundtable discussions where people could share ideas. Check out this post which includes a link to the New York Times’ deficit reduction exercise if you want to try your hand at reducing the deficit and debt.
This town hall was awash right-wing ideals. So, why was it sponsored by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ staff? And, why was Giffords’ staff overtly suppressing free speech at the event? It should have been sponsored by the Tucson Tea Party. Check out the video for clips of the speeches and discussion.