The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual (DROM) seeks to provide widely applicable yet detailed information about debt as well as strategies for resistance. It highlights our commonalities—namely, that people are not alone in their struggles against debt—as well as our different relationships to debt. We strive to analyze debt from many different angles, always maintaining a nuanced, critical analysis that is conscious of race, gender, class, sexuality, age, ability, and their intersections. We strive to write in simple language and will work to translate the manual into languages other than English. A 120-page pamphlet version of the manual was collectively researched and written in August 2012 as a contribution to strengthening and expanding the debt resistance movement.
And there are millions of other families who enjoy the same benefits. Here is just one statistic to make this point. In 1999 as the American century came to a close the U.S. government spent $24 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for the poor. But in that same year it spend $72 billion in home ownership subsidies for the middle classes and the wealthy. Subsidies that are never considered to be welfare and there is no stigma attached to this dependency. In fact, it is seen as an entitlement. Why is this so? History matters. The America welfare stage was setup in the wake of the great depression to create a new deal of social programs. But from the very start it was divided into two channels; social insurance programs made available as entitlements and public assistants programs made available as welfare. Need I point out the race and gender dimensions of this divide? It is time for America to reconsider who is dependent on welfare. Take a listen.
For this round of cuts and consolidations, a solidarity between students and faculty had been well established, and grew and flourished under the recognition that we had shared goals in preserving the University of Maine System, not only for their jobs, or for our quality of education, but for the broader benefit of society that a liberal arts education provides, in allowing all working class people to lift themselves up into an intellectual realm that had until only recently in human history been reserved for priests and nobility. A vote of no confidence was issued forth from the Faculty Senate, and Selma Botman resigned, only to be replaced by President Theo Kalikow, who has continued forth advancing the austerity agenda on the University of Southern Maine. Selma Botman, while vacating the seat of the President, was allowed by administrators to continued to draw her salary for the duration of her term, and was in fact hired back as a consultant, and paid an additional $300,000 to write a paper, putting her annual earnings well into the realm of the top 1%. As though to thumb their noses at the student protestors, Administrators gave themselves a raise of $20,000 and upwards.
Lottery sales in America are driven by a core group of devotees, with 70 percent of national sales coming from only 20 percent of players. Who these players are is no mystery: According to Bloomberg News, households making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year spend twice as much on lottery tickets as households making upwards of $100,000, and high-school dropouts spend an average of $50 a month on lottery play, while people with graduate degrees spend $13. A lottery bill of $50 a month represents a real commitment, and in working-class households it undoubtedly pushes up against food expenses, rent, the electricity bill and other basic necessities. Thus it is a genuine challenge for states to drive lottery expenses among the poor any higher, even with the most well-executed advertising campaigns. In response, the New York state lottery has taken a new approach to advertising in the hopes of broadening its customer base.
Poverty in America is an enormous problem. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of Americans, or 46.5 million people, lived below the poverty line in 2012. And the poor are increasingly isolated across America. As Sean Reardon and Kendra Bischoff have documented, between 1970 and 2009 the proportion of poor families living in poor neighborhoods more than doubled, from 8 to 18 percent. And the trend shows no signs of abating. This increasing concentration of poverty poses a host of problems to communities. Less advantaged communities suffer not just from a lack of economic resources but from everything from higher crime and drop-out rates to higher rates of infant mortality and chronic disease.
The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller, concurred: “The guy that’s making, oh my God, he’s making $35,000 a year, why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy.” Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs.
The outstanding student loan balances increase represents an increase of $114 billion for 2013. What’s more, a closer inspection of the figures released from the report reveals a much more gloomier economic picture than first realized. According to Credit.com, that 11.5 percent figure is really closer to 23 percent because only about half of the overall debt is actually amortizing. “The 11.5% is really closer to 23% because the total amount of delinquent loans should be divided by $600 billion instead of $1.2 trillion. What’s more, these are just the loans that are 90-plus days past due. What of the debts that are 30 or 60 days late? Curiously, that data is nowhere to be found, except for a strong clue in the back of the report,” Mitchell Weiss writes.
The Supreme Court would likely decide by the summer whether or not it will actually hear the case. In a separate case currently before the Supreme Court, Argentina sought review of a lower court decision allowing NML Capital to target assets outside of Argentina. The United States filed an amicus brief in support of Argentina, arguing that Argentina’s assets are immune from seizure under federal sovereign immunity law. These cases go back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on roughly $81 billion in debt. Multiple hedge funds purchased debt for pennies on the dollar. These hedge funds are called “vulture” funds because they prey on countries in financial distress and target assets that benefit poor populations.
What if you could receive a guaranteed basic yearly income with no strings attached? Didn’t matter how much money you made now, or in the future. Nobody would ask about your job status or how many kids you have. The check would arrive in the mailbox, no matter what. Sounds like a far-fetched idea, right? Wrong. All over the world, people are talking guaranteeing basic incomes for citizens as a viable policy. Half of all Canadians want it. The Swiss have had a referendum on it. The American media is all over it: The New York Times’ Annie Lowrey considered basic income as an answer to an economy that leaves too many people behind, while Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker of the Atlantic wrote about it as a way to reduce poverty.
“Those at the top have never done better,” President Obama ruefully acknowledged in his January 28 State of the Union speech. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened.” Yet, moments later, Obama heartily endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which as drafted directly reflects the demands of “those at the top” and would, if passed, severely intensify the very inequality spotlighted by the president. The TPP would provide transnational corporations with easier access to cheap labor in Pacific Rim nations and new power to trump public-interest protections—on labor, food safety, drug prices, financial regulation, domestic procurement laws, and a host of others—established over the last century by democratic governments.
Meanwhile, it’s increasingly clear that the economic struggles students face during school follow them long past graduation. A major new report from the Pew Research Center, “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked With Friends,” notes that people between 18 and 33 are the first generation in the modern era to have “higher levels ofstudent loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.” This, even though they are the “best-educated cohort of young adults in American history.”
Fast food strikers in Detroit rally on Tuesday in support of a Michigan-based class action suit filed this week alleging systematic wage theft by McDonalds. The protest is part of a nationwide day of action raising awareness about the problem of wage theft. Community supporter at St. Louis rally. “I was living in my car in a McDonalds parking lot – the McDonalds where I work”, said a disabled worker. “My two children were staying with my parents, but I could barely afford to keep them fed. And the whole time, I believe my boss was robbing me.” Workers from NYC-based Fast Food Forward make a citizen’s arrest of Ronald McDonald for alleged wage theft. In a 2013 poll, over 80 percent of New York City fast food workers reported being victims of wage theft.
Although there are abuses of power and problems with the rule of law in Venezuela – as there are throughout the hemisphere – it is far from the authoritarian state that most consumers of western media are led to believe. Opposition leaders currently aim to topple the democratically elected government – their stated goal – by portraying it as a repressive dictatorship that is cracking down on peaceful protest. This is a standard “regime change” strategy, which often includes violent demonstrations in order to provoke state violence. The latest official numbers have eight confirmed deaths of opposition protesters, but no evidence that these were a result of efforts by the government to crush dissent. At least two pro-government people have also been killed, and two people on motorcycles were killed (one beheaded) by wires allegedly set up by protesters. Eleven of the 55 people currently detained for alleged crimes during protests are security officers.
The pilot episode of the new one-hour format for the Resistance Report by Dennis Trainor, Jr. will premiere tonight on PopularResistance.org and Acronym TV. It will also air on Free Speech TV later this week. Trainor describes the new format as “What Meet the Press would look like if it wasn’t dominated by corporate advertising bias.” Trainor is a commentator, activist and filmmaker. He is the writer and director of AMERICAN AUTUMN: an occudoc, the documentary about the occupy movement hailed by The New York Times as “calm and smart, offsetting its stridency with discussion, music, even humor, while issuing a call to arms.” His first documentary, released in January 2011, was MANIFEST DESTINY’S CHILD on US foreign policy. The program was filmed in the Bond Street Studio in Brooklyn, New York on February 28. There are six segments.