On the surface, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., was about local police using deadly force on an unarmed young man. But on a deeper level, it reflected the increasing poverty and economic decline that affects ethnic communities all over America. Despite rosy reports in the media about the end of the national foreclosure crisis and the recession that followed, all is not well in our inner cities and suburbs with largely minority populations, like Ferguson. The foreclosure crisis was hard on many Americans, but it was a disaster for communities of color, including the citizens of Ferguson. Half of Ferguson Homes Underwater In the zip code that encompasses Ferguson, half (49 percent) of homes were underwater in 2013, meaning the home’s market value was below the mortgage’s outstanding balance. This condition (also called “negative equity”) is often a first step toward loan default or foreclosure, according to the recent report, “Underwater America,” from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley.
Borrowers with federal student loans, long promoted as the safest way to borrow for college, appear to be buckling under the weight of their debt, new data show. More than half of Direct Loans, the most common type of federal student loan, aren’t being repaid on time or as expected, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly half of the loans in repayment are in plans scheduled to take longer than 10 years. The number of loans in distress is rising. The increase in troubled loans comes as the average amount of student debt has significantly outpaced wage growth. After adjusting for inflation, the average recipient of federal student loan funds owed 28 percent more in 2013 than in 2007, according to Education Department data. But the typical holder of a bachelor’s degree working full time experienced a 0.08 percent decrease in weekly earnings during that same period. For those with advanced degrees, median wages increased just 0.02 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Obama administration, mindful of borrowers’ difficulty in repaying their federal student loans, has been promoting repayment plans that cap monthly payments relative to income. An unemployed borrower with no income, for example, could pay nothing every month, yet still be considered current on the debt.
With so many homeowners and businesses making greener energy choices, private utilities – along with big oil, gas, coal, and nuclear companies – see the writing on the wall. Unlike some other denizens of the fossil-fueled set, this gang isn’t beating oil wells into solar panels, retiring nuclear reactors, or embracing wind and geothermal power. Instead, these guys are trying to coax lawmakers into rigging the rules against increasingly competitive new energy alternatives. You see, the bulwarks of conventional energy are good at math. And the math is increasingly not in their favor. Solar panels are growing so affordable, accessible, and popular that sun-powered energy accounted for 74 percent of the nation’s new electric generation capacity in the first three months of this year. Wind power comprised another 20 percent, geothermal 1 percent, and natural gas plus other sources accounted for the final 5 percent. Coal didn’t even register. OK, so that first-quarter surge was kind of an anomaly because it included the inauguration of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s largest solar-concentrating power plant. Through a vast array of seven-by-ten-foot mirrors located on federal land along the California-Nevada border, this remarkable site produces enough energy to power 140,000 homes. Another vast utility-scale project aptly called “Genesis Solar” ramped up too.
UBS, the world’s third top funder of mountaintop removal in 2011, has taken steps demonstrating its commitment to significantly reduce financing of the mining practice. Last month, the bank confirmed to environmental campaigners that it will continue backing away from mountaintop removal financing.Moreover, UBS has declined to participate in the most recent transactions with its former clients Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, which were among the top producers of mountaintop removal coal in 2013. “UBS’ statement is a step in the right direction on mountaintop removal, but it’s the bank’s actions that show they’re following through,” said Ricki Draper of Hands off Appalachia. “We have seen that grassroots organizing can make a difference in stopping the financing of this deadly form of mining that poisons coalfield communities and contributes to the destruction of Appalachia’s culture and heritage.”
Steven Rosenfeld: Your book starts with a very sober assessment of the American middle-class. It’s shrinking. It’s disappearing in our lifetime. And the reason is that most work-related income is not enough. It’s insufficient and that’s getting worse. Tell me about that. Peter Barnes: One can throw out all the numbers, but rather than do that, just think back. Some of us, like myself, are old enough to remember when there were lots of good-paying steady jobs, both in the private sector and public sector. They had benefits, covered health insurance, and provided pensions. That was what the middle-class was built on when I was growing up. Now, for a variety of reasons, including globalization, and automation, and the decline of labor unions, that is no longer the case. And most of the younger people who are entering the labor market today don’t get jobs like that. It’s kind of a “you’re on your own economy.” Everybody temps. They have more than one job. They’re always marketing themselves on LinkedIn or something like that to get the next job. They don’t get health coverage. They have to pay for their own pensions and so forth. On top of which, education costs are way up. Students have debts they have to pay. All these things are different and they are not changing. They are going down, not up, as far as the middle-class goes.
In the U.S, 38 percent of the population—88 million people—either have no bank accounts (the “unbanked”) or are at least partially dependent upon high-cost services like payday lending (the “underbanked”). These households pay dearly for basics. In 2012, the income for the average underbanked household was about $25,500, but it spent an average of nearly $2,500 solely on interest and fees for alternative financial services (AFS) like payday lending. That’s almost 10 percent of their annual income—about as much as they spent on food. Unbanked and underbanked people are a mix of working and middle-class families, students, the unemployed, and others living paycheck-to-paycheck. Yet financial exclusion is disproportionately rampant among people of color and immigrants, and especially women within those groups.
At the same time, the term commonwealth is as American as Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania or Virginia, all of which call themselves commonwealths. It conveys the sense of things we hold in common, including our precious natural resources, offering a broader vision for ideas like Peter Barnes’ guaranteed national income supplement from taxes on fossil fuels. Adding to its usefulness, the idea of the Cooperative Commonwealth fits nicely with the emphasis on building new producer and consumer cooperatives in the United States, an effort Gar Alperovitz and colleagues have been promoting in Cleveland and other cities, with the success and scope of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain as an example.
Police will be allowed to clear a square in London where anti-capitalist protesters camped in 2011, following a ruling on Friday. Activists from the Occupy London movement set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square, nearby St Paul’s Cathedral, in 2011 and again in smaller actions in May 2012 – despite an earlier injuction. The group describes itself as part of a global movement which aims to “put democracy and the environment before profit”. In February 2012, police dismantled the movement’s camp following a High Court injunction by the City of London Corporation – the square’s owner. The City of London Corporation has now classified the square as a “City walkway”, meaning police can immediately close Pastnoster Square, as well as six adjoining lanes and alleys, in the event of an “imminent threat” or unforeseen events, the Evening Standard reported.
As elections get closer, Democratic Party leaders in Congress are getting the message out to inside-the-beltway activists groups that they are unifying to support giving President Obama some form of Fast Track. Recent letters from member of Congress to the President indicate support for trade with particular stipulations, but the overall message is to continue negotiating. Washington advocacy groups believe that they must also show support for Fast Track or they will find themselves without access or influence. Rather than kowtowing to the usual ‘on the table’ threat from the corrupt bi-partisan Congress, the movement needs to tell them that the only thing on the table is a complete transformation from the failed global trade that rigs profits for big business at the expense of the ecology of the planet and the necessities of the people. It is time to declare the TPP, TAFTA and the Services agreements as dead, develop a new approach to trade and begin to renegotiate past trade agreements like NAFTA that are doing ongoing damage to the economy, planet and people.
Bipartisan Letter From 140 Members Of Congress Last week 140 members of Congress signed a letter asking the White House and TPP negotiators to leave out countries that won’t fully open their markets to all U.S. agriculture products. The letter was led by Devin Nunes, R-Calif. and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the chair and ranking member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee. Farm Futures reports that the letter focused on Japan. Japan is demanding exemptions that allow the country to continue tariffs on what they call “sensitive” products. These include pork, beef, dairy, sugar, wheat, barley and rice. Reuters reports that the letter also asked that Canada be removed from TPP negotiations.
Several thousand people marched from Cobo Hall to Detroit’s Hart Plaza on July 18, decrying the destruction of democracy in Detroit. The rally, organized in part by theMoratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, took place after a week of actions against the disconnection of water service to households unable to pay their bills. People previously blockaded to keep Homrich, a private contractor employed by the city, from shutting off people’s water on July 10. Another blockade took place the day of the rally, lasting six hours before police arrested a pastor, a veteran journalist in her 70s, welfare rights organizers and others. . . . Acts of resistance and the creation of forward-looking alternatives are in their embryonic stages, and the various forms both take have implications for what democracy will mean in Detroit and elsewhere in the future. “So we have to restore democracy in order for us to be in a position where we can really control our own destiny,” she said.
“Another World” is a film about the grassroots initiatives in Greece that form another world right here and now, away from the crisis and beyond capitalism (Greek narration, English subtitles in captions). We live in an upside world. Right now in the planet there is a unjust distribution and accumulation of wealth, inflation of social injustice, restriction of basic rights and freedom, and an unprecedented depletion of natural resources. Although global GDP has quintupled since 1980, the gap between rich and poor is expanding, while also the number of people living below the poverty line constantly increases. 1% of the richest in the world holds 40% of the world productive resources, while the richest 10% owns more than 85% of global wealth. The constant economic growth of the past decades with emphasis on dirty carbon economy, proved to be unsustainable since intensified inequalities, reduced the living standard destroyed natural resources and finally transformed itself into an underdevelopment disconnected from social welfare.
The UN and world leaders have been debating what to do about climate change for two decades – and gotten nowhere. Their solutions have only gotten fuzzier as the science and impact of climate change have become clearer. Now they’re coming to New York and it’s time for our voices to be heard! Join us as we discuss real alternatives and develop action plans that transform the system, rather than accept it. We are told that technology, market mechanisms, or individual lifestyle changes are what will save the planet. They will not. Because they are all solutions that accommodate the system, not challenge it. The root of the problem is an economic system that exploits people and the planet for profit. It is a system that requires constant growth, exploitation, warfare, racism, poverty and ever-increasing ecological devastation to function.
When Germany and Argentina square off in the Word Cup Final, the whole world will be watching the culmination of what may be the most exciting FIFA World Cup Tournament ever. What most people are unaware of, however, is the brutal conditions that FIFA creates to pull off the games.
The BRICS Development Bank is expected to be officially launched on 15 July 2014, at the next BRICS summit in Brazil. The BRICS Development Bank is a proposed development bank run by the five BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a potential alternative to the US controlled institutions of the Bretton Woods system–World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The establishment of this development bank was first agreed by the leaders of the BRICS countries at the 5th BRICS summit held in Durban, South Africa, in July 2009. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are expected to sign a treaty to launch the bank in the forthcoming BRICS summit in the northern Brazilian city of Fortaleza.