Thursday, October 31, 2013

Walls and fences won't work

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World Bank economist Branko Milanovic points out that the difference in gross domestic product per person between rich nations such as the US and Australia, and some of the poor countries of Africa, is about 50 to one. That's up from a ratio of 10 to one in 1960. Even in fast-growing Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, hundreds of millions of people have not benefited much from the economic changes.

A recent report by investment bank UBS that compared prices and earnings across the world showed the real hourly wage rate of a bus driver (adjusted for the cost of living) was about $US20 in Sydney but only $US3 in India's biggest city, Mumbai. The same report found the weighted hourly wage for 15 common professions in Sydney was 12 times higher than in Jakarta. The gulf in average incomes is the main motivation for migration.

Now added to the migration equation is the widespread access to information. Thirty years ago, many people in poor countries knew very little about nations such as Australia. But the forces of globalisation have delivered televisions, mobile phones and the internet to billions with relatively low incomes. Now almost everyone knows about the comfortable lifestyles and high wage rates in wealthy nations. The global income gap has become common knowledge among the world's 7 billion people and that has fuelled the motivation for migration. Surveys have found that more than 40 per cent of adults in the poorest quarter of the world's countries would like to move permanently to another country if they had the opportunity. Hundreds of millions of people see migration as their only hope of improving their economic standing. Migration pressures will exist until inequalities between countries becomes much smaller. The "big solution" to ease migration pressures is lifting the quality of life in poverty-stricken countries. Only then will people have less motivation to migrate. Milanovic puts it this way: "Either poor countries will become richer, or poor people will move to rich countries.”

British economist Paul Collier in his new book on migration, Exodus, explains that new migrants do not drive down wages, as many believe. Collier's research shows the effects of migration on wage rates in host societies are "trivial relative to the fuss that has been made about them". Nor do migrants put pressure on the welfare budget - a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found migration was "neither a significant gain nor drain for the public purse".

Progress in India?

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Back in 2008, Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram  envisaged 85 percent of India’s population eventually living in well-planned, manageable-size cities with proper access to water, health, electricity, education, etc. Based on today’s population size, which is set to continue to rise, that would mean 600 million moving to cities and around 180 million people or their families eventually being directly dependent on agriculture for a living. He stated that urbanisation constitutes ‘natural progress’.  If anyone understands history, it becomes apparent that urbanisation was not ‘natural’ and involved social engineering and deliberate policies and the unforeseen outcomes of conflicts and struggles between serfs, lords, peasants, landowners, the emerging bourgousie and class of industrialists, the state and the stealing and enclosing of land.

It is easy to fall prey to the belief that wholesale urbanisation is inevitable and should therefore be forced through by what Vandana Shiva criticises as being the biggest forced removal of people from their lands in history – and involving on the biggest illegal land grabbing since Columbus, according to a 2009 report commissioned by the rural development ministry and chaired by the then minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.

The naxalites and Maoists in India are referred to by the dominant class as left wing extremists who are exploiting the poor. How easy it is to lump legitimate protesters together as such and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of the Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows, massive profits justified on the basis of ‘investment risk’ and unaccountable cartels which aim to maximise profit by beating down labour costs and grabbing resources at the cheapest possible costs. That’s the real extremism. That’s the extremism that is regarded as anything but by the mainstream media.

The mainstream assumption is that the coal must be mined, the ore extracted, the steel produced and the rivers exploited in the name of ‘development’. But who controls this process, who benefits and just what type of development ensues? Tata, Essar and any number of wealthy corporations are handed over the rights to this process via secretive MoUs and the full military backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land… all for their own good… all to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development that not only forces folk from their lands, but strips the environment bare in the process and ultimately negatively impacts the climate and ecology. And the response: this is inevitable, this is progress, this is necessary because we have ‘the right’ to develop just as the West has and in their image and any social and environmental problems that ensue will be dealt with once we have ‘developed’… once it is too late....

It would be easy to conclude that farmers in India represent some kind of ‘problem’ to be removed from the land and a problem to be dealt with once removed. Since when did food producers, the genuine wealth producers, become a ‘problem’? The answer is when Western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own profiteering, corporate-controlled image. But this is who is really setting the agenda and constitutes part of the ‘progress’ and ‘natural’ move towards depopulating rural areas that Chidambaram spoke of. ...

The entire article can be read here

Fact of the Day

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The Office for National Statistics  said  the proportion of British families’ income accounted for by expenditure on essentials increased from 19.9 percent in 2003 to 27.3 percent in 2013.
The proportion accounted for by gas and electricity rose from 1.8 percent to 3.1 percent during the same period despite very little overall change in the volume of household energy consumption.

“Household budgets have been squeezed by recent increases in the price of household goods," the ONS said, adding that the energy price hikes “have taken a larger share of disposable incomes”.

Healthcare still comes at a premium

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Barack Obama has accepted "full responsibility" for ensuring the troubled healthcare website gets fixed. He said he was "not happy" about the glitch-laden project, but made a full-throated defence of the broader 2010 healthcare law.

Obama is party to one of the greatest scams and con-tricks that has duped the American working class.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School say the lack of medical insurance coverage can be tied to about 45,000 deaths a year in the United States — a toll that is greater than the number of people who die each year from kidney disease.

People without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance — as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The risk appears to have increased since 1993, when a similar study found the risk of death was 25 percent greater for the uninsured.

The increase in risk, according to the study, is likely to be a result of at least two factors. One is the greater difficulty the uninsured have today in finding care, as public hospitals have closed or cut back on services. The other is improvements in medical care for insured people with treatable chronic conditions like high blood pressure. The researchers also concluded individuals need the access to hospitals and specialists that comes only with adequate insurance coverage.

“As health care for the insured gets better, the gap between the insured and uninsured widens,” Dr. Woolhandler said. “Health insurance can only make you healthier if you have access to care,” she said.

 If the U.S. could improve its preventable death rate to match that of the three best-performing countries—France, Australia, and Italy—84,000 fewer people would have died each year by the end of the period studied.

According to the study's authors, the United States' poor performance and relatively slow improvement compared with other nations may be attributable to "the lack of universal coverage and high costs of care."

"Cross-national comparisons consistently find that people in the U.S. have a harder time getting and paying for the health care they need than people in other countries," said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.

A report in 2013 by the  US Health in International Perspective, documents the failure of the US health care system. In summary: "Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people: even highly advantaged Americans are in worse health than their counterparts in other, 'peer' countries."

Health insurers make their profits from charging the highest premiums they can and by restricting and denying payment for care. They want to take in as much money as they can, while paying out as little on health care as possible. They have many tools with which to do this, and they've successfully skirted regulations for decades. When they can't make a profit, they simply pull that product from the shelf and create new products. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called "Obamacare," the industries that profit from our current health care system wrote the legislation, heavily influenced the regulations and have received waivers exempting them from provisions in the law.  This has all been done to protect and enhance their profits.  the 2008 election it could not be ignored. It was a major topic of the presidential campaigns. The health industries invested heavily in  Barack Obama who in the 2008 election overwhelmingly received more in donations from health care-related industries than any of the other candidates.

Fewer people, even those with health insurance, can afford the health care they need because of out-of-pocket costs. The ACA continues that trend by pushing skimpy health plans with low coverage and restricted networks. This is what happens in a market-based system of health care. People get only the amount of health care they can afford, rather than what they need. The ACA takes our failed market-based system to a whole new level by forcing the uninsured to purchase private health plans and using the government to sell and subsidize them. The ACA required states to create new marketplaces for insurance called exchanges or else the federal government would create the exchange. In essence, the federal government is using billions of public dollars to finance the exchanges, hire people to sell insurance and subsidize the purchases.

The ACA is that it entrenches a market-based system that treats health care as a commodity and profit center for Wall Street. The big drivers of the rising cost of health care - insurance, pharmaceuticals and for-profit hospitals - continue. The wealth divide that is a major byproduct of neoliberal economics is institutionalized by law under the ACA. Health care is at the center of the conflict of our times, the battle between the people and corporate interests, the battle to put people and planet before profits.

The full story can be read at Truth Out website

The ruling class persists

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The same elite names have dominated Oxbridge as far back as the Norman Conquest– and there’s no sign that they’re about to be ousted any time soon. According to new research, old aristocratic names such as Baskerville, Darcy, Mandeville and Montgomery are still over-represented at Oxbridge and also among elite occupations such as medicine, law and politics.rolls at Oxford and Cambridge for 27 generations, with grave implications for social mobility in Britain. The study looked at rolls of students at Oxbridge dating back to 1170, and compared names featured then to names of today, in an effort to test the currently accepted theory that it takes just five generations for families to fall or rise to the middle of the social ladder.

Despite the many social and technological upheavals in the past millennium, the study found that the names which were at the top of the social pile when William the Conqueror was on the throne are still to be found amongst the social elite nowadays.What’s more, family names that were poor 150 years ago tend to remain outside society’s upper echelons today.

 Dr Neil Cummins and Professor Gregory Clark at the LSE, believe that English social mobility is not much better than it was in medieval times – and that social status is even more inheritable than height. “What is surprising is that between 1800 and 2011 there have been substantial institutional changes in England but no gain in rates of social mobility for society as a whole.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Put on hold...

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The industry ships 1.8 billion new mobile phones per year. Only 11 per cent of the devices recycled in the US.

The phonebloks concept – a vision for a modular smartphone that could be put together by consumers as if they were making it out of building blocks. There would be a standard-sized "base" or motherboard and after that it would be up to you to plug in components ('"bloks") as you chose. As the video says, if you "love to take pictures, why not upgrade your camera?" Or if you use cloud storage, why not replace your storage blok with a larger, longer-lasting battery? And if a part breaks, or you want a newer version, you need only to replace the relevant part. No need to pay for, or dispose of, a whole phone.  A system whereby people could obtain individual parts from multiple manufacturers could extend the life of phones and eliminate "built-in obsolescence".

"The phone companies are capable of building a phone that lasts for 10 years," a Dutch designer called Dave Hakkens says. "But the strategy and the economic system are not built in that way.

There will be other obstacles for Phonebloks to overcome. The handset market is dominated by Samsung and Apple. Samsung sells more than double the handsets of its Californian rival, which, in turn, sells more than three times as many as the nearest challenger. "Even companies that have been doing it for a long time with huge marketing budgets still aren't able to break through," says Lomas. "If BlackBerry can't make it work with its budget, there's no way a project like this is going to."

Natasha Lomas, a writer for the technology website TechCrunch. also adds it may be the speed at which technology is developing that scuppers Phonebloks' chances. "The pace of change in the industry is so quick, you just can't plan for a handset that far in advance," she says. "We might not even be using phones in a decade, we could be using a chip in our brains or something like that."

Sowing Seeds - US Style

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Following on from the previous post, 'When Protection Means Privatisation' here
the following post reveals another way that corporations gain from farmers even when crops fail. Accumulation at all costs is the name of the game. JS


How You Pay Farmers to Watch Their Crop Shrivel Up and Die

Today, lawmakers will at long last begin negotiations on the farm
bill. Just one of the many portions up for debate is the federal crop
insurance program, which led to a very strange turn of events last
year.

During the 2012 drought, some farmers in Texas actually earned more
money by planting seeds that they knew would fail-and then
collecting insurance-than they would have by planting no seeds
at all.

The program keeps farmers limping along through drought years so that
when the rains return they will be able to afford expensive GM seeds.
So ultimately, the program works in favor of the companies that sell
those seeds-like Monsanto.

The worst part: Economists believe that as climate change intensifies
and droughts become more common, the insurance program will likely
only become more costly to taxpayers.

Read more here


When 'Protection' Means Privatisation

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  Seed laws in Latin America: the offensive continues, so does popular resistance

What is UPOV?
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization with its head office in Geneva, Switzerland. UPOV came into being with the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The Convention was adopted in Paris in 1961 and was revised in 1972, 1978, and 1991. The mission of UPOV is, according to the organization, “to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.” In UPOV-speak, “protection” means privatization.
The history of UPOV is that of an ongoing and apparently limitless expansion of seed company rights along with a concomitant shrinkage of farmers’ rights and freedoms. The original convention only granted property rights over varieties developed by the party requesting them; it granted little more than an exclusive right to market a private variety and did not establish specific sanctions. With its subsequent revisions, UPOV now grants monopoly rights over “discovered” varieties and the production, marketing, export and import thereof. In addition, it allows property owners to apply for the confiscation of crops, plantations, harvests, and products derived from the harvest. It even allows companies to file criminal complaints, which can lead to prison terms for farmers.
UPOV 91 is the version of the convention now being imposed around the world under the pretext of “protection.” However, it has been clearly demonstrated that UPOV 91 violates farmers’ individual and collective right to save seed for replanting and allows corporations to monopolize biodiversity. These provisions give the corporations total commercial control over seeds and knowledge that were once owned collectively by whole communities. A further menace represented by UPOV is that it accelerates the erosion of biodiversity by promoting varietal uniformity. This is tremendously risky because uniformity can lead to crop loss and greater food insecurity. Finally, seed privatization hinders research and the free flow of knowledge.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the following countries are UPOV members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. Of these, only Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Peru are currently applying UPOV 91.

full detailed article here

Another example of the erosion of democracy but to quote further from the article: 
' The surprising thing in a context of regional agribusiness ascendancy is that resistance to corporate control of seeds has borne fruit in nearly every country where campaigns have been mounted.'
Included is a country by country analysis of attempts to take control of the ownership of seed rights and the opposition raised by local farmers and peasants.
'But it’s also in Latin America where citizens have successfully defeated many such attempts to take away their rights. It is here that the most committed resistance has been seen.'
Power to the people!

 

Vote for Revolution

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ABOLISH THE WAGES SYSTEM
Due to the resignation (a career move to higher things) of one of the Labour councillors it is election time in the Lambeth ward of Vassalls.

The Socialist Party will be standing Danny Lambert as its candidate. We expect to distribute 5000 leaflets over the course of the campaign. We will be contesting the election under the slogan "Revolution the only solution". 

Election date will be Thursday 28th November

The campaign can be followed on our election blog here


Fact of the Day

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Almost one in three (29%) large clinical trials in the United States remain unpublished five years after they are finished, according to scientists writing in the British Medical Journal. Of those, 78% have no results at all in the public domain. Trials funded by industry were more likely not to have been published (32%) than others (18%).

The scientists calculate about 250,000 people took part in the unpublished trials and have therefore been exposed to all the risks involved in research without the benefits to society they were led to believe would ensue. 

To Remember the Roma

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With the case of the Roma child of Maria in Greece now seen as case of “mistaken identity" and a perpetuation of the gypsy child-stealing myth and the deportation of the Roma school-student Leonarda from France excused as over-zealous police diligence, no doubt the media will move on and the Roma will again become the forgotten people...until it suits the authorities to seek out a scapegoat and instigate a new witch-hunt.

This article by Mariann Dosa , a Hungarian academic and activist. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Policy at Oxford University, raises a number of pertinent points.

"...it is important to remember that forced evictions of Roma immigrants, the dismantling of their settlements and their deportation still occur on a mass scale in France and other EU countries.... Roma immigrants are forced to live in unhealthy, often disgraceful circumstances and abject poverty. This, in turn, reinforces the stigma that the Roma are essentially different, uncivilised, backward people and thus further inhibits their integration....State measures against Roma immigrants and refugees and manipulative state discourses about them further damaging stereotypes and thus contribute to their exclusion...

“...  we must not forget what Roma immigrants and refugees strive to escape from. In Central and Eastern Europe, Roma people experience chronic poverty, forced evictions, discrimination in many spheres of their lives (education, health care, employment etc.), and spatial segregation (in the worst cases fortified by physical walls). Roma children attend segregated school classes or fully segregated schools; they are over-represented in foster homes as well as in special needs schools. Furthermore, these people face ever increasing racial hatred and violence that, in extreme cases, induce racially motivated murders as it happened in Hungary in 2008-2009...”

Full article at link

Micro-banking costs an arm or a leg

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The SOYMB blog has high-lighted the many misconceptions about the so-called benefits claimed by the proponents of micro-finance in combating poverty. As of December 2011, more than 34 million Bangladeshis had accessed microcredit since 1997, when it began collecting data. Of those 34 million, more than 26 million live under the poverty line - on less than $1.25 a day. There are currently 20.65 million borrowers in Bangladesh It is estimated the sector constitutes around 3% of GDP. Microcredit was hailed as a saviour for millions, aims to break the cycle of poverty by stimulating income-generating activities through providing collateral-free loans. But its repayment structure and the apparent inability of microfinance institutions to determine whether borrowers have multiple loans with other institutions rarely come under scrutiny.

A BBC report said in Bangladesh poor people are selling their organs as a last resort to repay their microcredit debts.

“Kalai, like many other villages in Bangladesh, appears a rural idyll at first sight. But several villagers here have resorted to selling organs to pay back microcredit loans that were meant to lift them out of poverty.”

 In an attempt to alleviate poverty, countless numbers take on debt with microcredit lenders, only to find themselves in a difficult situation when they are unable to repay the loan. Some have even turned to selling their organs as a last resort to repay the loans and escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Many are caught in a web of loans in which they first borrowed money from one NGO and, when unable to pay it off, they borrowed from other NGOs.

Mohammad Akhtar Alam, 33, bears a 15-inch scar on his stomach where he had a kidney removed. The organ removal is illegal in Bangladesh unless the organ is being given to a spouse or family member.  "I agreed to sell my kidney because I couldn't return the money to the NGOs. As we are poor and helpless, that is why we are bound to do this. I regret it," he says.

Mohammad Moqarram Hossen, is another victim. said "I took the decision to return the money I borrowed from NGOs"

Professor Monir Moniruzzaman from the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University has been researching the organ trade in Bangladesh for 12 years says "A lot of people's debt from NGOs has spiralled out of control. Because they cannot repay the loans, there is only one way for people to get out and that is to sell their kidney." He alleges that NGO officials, from organisations such as Grameen Bank and BRAC, among others, pressure people into repaying loans by sitting all day long at the defaulter's house, verbal harassment and threatening to file a police case. "The social and economic pressures from NGOs was unbearable so he decided to sell his kidney to pay off his loan."

First spotted here

Scientists become revolutionaries

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The following is an abridged and slightly edited version of a Naomi Klein article found on the Common Dreams website.

"In December 2012, the  complex systems researcher  Brad Werner addressed scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  His session was titled: “Is Earth Fucked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”

He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response.

When asked  by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we fucked” question, Werner replied, “More or less."

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

 He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. This work should be of particular interest because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new, and perhaps, with lots of work, better, no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly; blockading fracking activity; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters ; taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s a start and it might just buy us enough time to figure out a way to live on this planet that is distinctly less fucked.”

Full article here

The Socialist Party can certainly understand Klein’s position but our approach is to draw attention to the only solution and do our best to use our limited resources to convince people that the root cause of the environmental destruction of our world is not just a global capitalism as if there is an alternative capitalist system to be achieved,  but the abolition of capitalism in all its guises. We should be very careful not to divert attention from that fact. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poverty In America - Deep Cuts To Food Stamps

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Benefit payments from the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, will be slashed drastically on November 1, the first across-the-board cut in food stamp benefits in US history.
The cuts will amount to $5 billion per year, and a total of $11 billion through 2016. The average household of three will receive a benefit cut of $29 a month, or $319 per year.
“The depth and breadth of the SNAP cuts that take effect in November are unprecedented,” wrote Dottie Rosenbaum and Brynne Keith-Jennings of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “Past cuts have affected specific states or groups, but they have not affected all participants nor been as large as these cuts.”

The CBPP noted, “The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s ‘Thrifty Food Plan.’” Once the cuts go through, SNAP assistance will amount to less than $1.40 per person per meal, according to the CBPP.
One in seven Americans receives food stamp assistance, up from 9 percent of the population in 2008 to nearly 15 percent in 2012. The program helps feed 48 million people, up from 26 million in 2007.
The cuts are the result of the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary increase in food stamp assistance, which neither the Democrats nor Republicans seriously proposed to prevent. The expiration of the extension was not scheduled to take place till 2015, when SNAP benefits are slated to increase. But congressional Democrats used $14 billion that was set aside for food stamps to fund other legislation. In 2010 the Democrats promised to restore the funding before the aid extension expired.

The Democrats have largely kept silent about the slated cut to food stamp aid, and the White House has made no official mention of the benefit cuts in the past week. The media has likewise blacked out the issue, with neither the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal carrying stories on the scheduled cut to food stamp aid during the same period.

Over 80 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the federal poverty line, an abysmally low $19,530 annually for a family of three, and 40 percent of recipients live in deep poverty, defined as below $9,765 annually for a family of three.

The share of food stamp recipients who are working has risen significantly. Nearly one third of SNAP recipients were working in 2010, up from less than 20 percent two decades before. Of those who do not work, the vast majority are disabled, elderly or under age. The number of people who receive food stamps will continue to rise through 2014, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office and three quarters of households who receive SNAP benefits “included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person.”

The typical household receiving SNAP had an income of $731 per month, or about $8,800 per year, not counting SNAP benefits, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The average SNAP payment per household that year was $287, or $4.30 per person per day. Over 21 million children—more than 1 in 4—live in a household that receives SNAP benefits, according to the CBPP report, and nine million people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

more here

Fact of the Day

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More than half of all poor children in the UK are living in homes that are too cold, and around a quarter said their home suffered from damp or mould, a survey published by the Children's Society indicates.

Children surveyed who said their family was "not well off at all", 76% said they "often worried" about how much money the family had. More than 53% said their home was too cold last winter and 24% said it was "much colder" than they would have liked, while 26% said their home suffered from damp or mould.

Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "For millions of children up and down the country, poverty is a grinding reality – and it is getting worse. Many families are facing stark and unacceptable choices, like heat or eat. This is disgraceful in any country, especially in one of the world's richest."

To Add To Your Socialist Library

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Now out is the World Socialist Review, an anthology (224 pages) of socialist writings from the archives of the World Socialist Party of the United States.


http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Socialist-Review-1-10-1986-1993/dp/1291473750

Available USA $9.05
UK £6.60

“A RISE SIR STUART”?!

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“A RISE SIR STUART”?!

(The Queen’s annual allowance raised from
£31 m. to £36.1 m. as Crown Estate head,
Sir Stuart Hampson, reveals record profits.)

Our country’s bankrupt so let’s weep,
A crocodile-type tear;
That we could only give The Queen,
Five Million more this year!
The millions of unemployed,      
Would certainly donate;             
A Tenner from their Benefits,   
To ease her parlous state.         

The Bankers too, undoubtedly,      
Would pay some extra tax;                 
Another five per cent would help,       
Her live life to the max.                      
Meanwhile, her son, The Prince of Wales;            
Who’s stuck in Queer Street too;     
Wails daily to his Pansies that,              
He hasn’t got a sou!                              

Perhaps the Food Banks, being flush,
Will send some 3-star nosh;
As being quite superfluous,
Their shelving is awash!
The Plebs could beat the bedroom tax,
By giving Royals a bed;
So that our betters have a place,
To lay their weary head.

It’s really shameful how we treat,
Our Royal kith and kin;
Reducing Liz to penury,
Because the state we’re in.
So let’s start a collection soon,
To ease her worried mind;
Sixteen Per Cent’s a lousy rise,
And really most unkind!

© Richard Layton 

Some Poor Statistics

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1. According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people receiving means-tested welfare benefits is greater than the number of full-time workers in the United States.

2. According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

3.  The number of public school students in the US that are homeless is at an all-time record high.  1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

4. One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.  57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

5. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty.  The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.

6. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at an all-time record high.

7. The “working poor” is one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population.  At this point, approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

8.  one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

9. Median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

10.  According to a Gallup poll that was recently released, 20.0% of all Americans did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point over the past year.

11. The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain or the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

12. One out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program. It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 18.

13. The average food stamp benefit breaks down to approximately $4 per person per day.

14.  17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity.  In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”

15. The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million.  That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

16. In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty. In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty. 60 percent of all children in Detroit are living in poverty.

17. 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

18. 4 out of every 5 adults in the United States struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.

These poverty numbers keep getting worse year after year no matter what our politicians do. The U.S. government has spent 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years. So is there anyone out there that would still like to argue that there is an “economic recovery”?

Capitalism - The unhealthy system

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  Poverty causes more death and illness than plague, pestilence or famine. Diseases of poverty kill approximately 14 million people annually.  Gastroenteritis with its associated diarrhoea results in about 1.8 million deaths in children yearly with most of these in the world’s poorest nations. According to the UNICEF 3,000 children die every day worldwide due to contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation.  783 million people rely on unimproved water sources.

At the global level, the three primary poverty-related diseases (PRDs) are AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Developing countries account for 95 per cent of the global AIDS prevalence and 98 per cent of active tuberculosis infections. Furthermore, 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, these three diseases account for 10 per cent of global mortality. Three other diseases, measles, pneumonia and diarrhea diseases, are also closely associated with poverty, and are often included with AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in broader definitions and discussions of diseases of poverty.

Many diseases that primarily affect the poor serve to also deepen poverty and worsen conditions.  Poverty also significantly reduces people’s capabilities making it more difficult to avoid poverty related diseases. The majority of diseases and related mortality in poor countries is due to preventable, treatable diseases for which medicines and treatment regimes are readily available. For many environmental and social reasons, including crowded living and working conditions, inadequate sanitation, and disproportionate occupation as sex workers, the poor are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases. Malnutrition, stress, overwork, and inadequate, inaccessible, or non-existent health care can hinder recovery and exacerbate the disease. Malnutrition is associated with 54 per cent of childhood deaths from diseases of poverty and lack of skilled attendants during childbirth is primarily responsible for the high maternal and infant death rates among the poor.

From here

No fence-sitting for Hedges

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WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE
The insightful Chris Hedges has once again written another rousing article proclaiming his affinity with anarchists that is worth quoting from, particularly in light of Russell Brand’s recent call for revolution.

“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden...

...Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming.

“Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ‘make’ a real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,” Berkman wrote. “It is the fire underneath that makes it boil: how quickly it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is.”

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth. The articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny—as attempted by the book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and the website Popular Resistance—is, for me, paramount. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.

An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself. This, at its core, is why I disagree with some elements of the Black Bloc anarchists. I believe in strategy. And so did many anarchists, including Berkman, Emma Goldman, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin...

..... I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left...

...Violent revolutions are always tragic. I, and many other activists, seek to keep our uprising nonviolent. We seek to spare the country the savagery of domestic violence by both the state and its opponents. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, especially with the corporate state controlling a vast internal security apparatus and militarized police forces. But we must try..."

The entire essay can be read at this website

The Socialist Party do have our differences with Hedges but many of his sentiments over-lap and are shared by ourselves, and he is an expressive spokesperson for aspects of the working class movement that we also strive to bring to peoples’ attention.

We also perhaps can take issue with the viability of socialism in one country, contrary to the hopes of the authors of book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” but they too advocate a society which we aspire towards:
  “Law in America is sold as an impartial force for justice and equality. The frauds of formal equality of rights and the apparent neutrality of judges was brilliantly pierced by Anatole France’s oft-quoted remark that the law in all its majesty forbids all persons, whether rich or poor, from sleeping under bridges. With socialism in America, the people will own the bridges, and they’ll sleep peacefully and contentedly with a roof over their heads knowing full well that they have created a society where the law won’t work against them and in the words of that great manifesto ‘where the full development of each is the condition of the full development of all.’” (quoted here)

Monday, October 28, 2013

California: Official Poverty Rate v True Poverty Rate

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Researchers updated the federal tool for measuring poverty and found more Californians can't afford a basic standard of living.

More than 2.2 million people in California live in poverty but are not included in the official federal count of poverty estimates. That’s one of several findings in an October report by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank based in San Francisco. The institute’s researchers updated and modified the official federal poverty measure in an effort to better reflect the number of Californians in poverty.
The official measure, developed in the early 1960s, is widely considered outdated, in part because it assumes that the minimum level of income needed to get by would be three times the cost of food. That made sense in the 1960s, when food accounted for a third of a household budget, but now food is less than one-seventh of household costs.
“It’s better than nothing,” says Laura Speer, an associate director of policy advocacy reform for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “But from the standpoint of wanting to have evidence-based policies, [alternative measurement] is pretty necessary. It’s important for government to see the impact of policy and how much need there really is.”
California isn’t the first state or local government to calculate an alternative poverty measure. New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity published its own measure in 2008, as did researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Today’s efforts to create alternative poverty measures originate with a 1995 report by the National Academy of Sciences. Even 18 years ago, poverty researchers within government agreed that the historical way of counting the poor was, in the report’s own words, “demonstrably flawed judged by today's knowledge; it needs to be replaced.” The report’s authors recommended that a new measure should include a broader range of income sources and a more nuanced picture of expenses. That meant calculating the value of public assistance benefits, such as food stamps and low-income home energy assistance; it also meant tallying the cost of child-support payments, out-of-pocket medical expenses and transportation. Unlike the official measure, the alternative would adjust for geographical differences in the cost of housing. The new California poverty measure is a descendant of those recommendations.

In 2011, California’s official poverty rate was 16.2 percent. But the state’s true poverty rate was about 22 percent, according to the Public Policy Institute. There were other differences. The official poverty rate among adults 65 and older was 9.6 percent, but almost twice as high -- 18.9 percent -- under the alternative measure. The group’s analysis also took into account the combined effect of safety net programs -- such as food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and family cash assistance -- and found that the state’s overall poverty rate would be even higher, about 30 percent, in the absence of those public supports.

from here plus interview with the report's lead author Sarah Bohn

The real solution to poverty - world socialism - has still to be understood by the world's majority. The same system (and its controllers) that causes poverty and homelessness - capitalism - also deliberately broadcasts misinformation about this alternative system in order to stay in control, retain the divisive class system and keep the profits flowing in the right direction - theirs. 
JS

 

Brasil’s Black Bloc

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Coelho was one of thousands of teachers marching through central Rio de Janeiro to demand better wages and school conditions when police decided to disperse the demonstration.

"It was the Black Bloc that protected me in that protest," Coelho, 47, said at the beginning of a march last week that again descended into fighting between anarchists and police. "The police came in firing tear gas, hitting us with clubs. A young Black Bloc stepped right in between me and the police. If it weren't for them, the police would have destroyed us."

In the interviews with Black Bloc adherents, all repeated what's been heard in the U.S. and Europe before: They have no leaders, they operate in anonymity; there are no lists of demands for the government to meet. Their aim is to use action like destroying the property of multinational companies and confronting riot police to disrupt a political system they say doesn't allow for their participation and only represents entrenched economic interests. But as in Egypt [ see SOYMB earlier post here] and elsewhere, the Black Bloc in Brazil says it also exists to protect other protesters from heavy-handed police tactics.

The demonstrations in Brasil have lessened in size but not frequency since masses took to the streets in June, fed up with a litany of problems that mostly center on corruption, woeful public services, and big spending on the upcoming World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Fact of the Day

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The CEO-to-average-worker pay ratio of the 250 largest companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index ranges from 1,795 to 1 (J.C. Penney's Ron Johnson) to 173 to 1 (Agilent Technologies' William Sullivan).

Do those figures reflect the two CEOs' relative value to their companies? Agilent shares have risen 49% over the last year, while J.C. Penney's have fallen 73%. 

Quote of the Day

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"We have sacrificed the old immaterial Gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organises our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness. It seems that we have been born only to consume, and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto marginalised." - Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica

Joining the Brandwagon

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An interesting observation from here

“Paxman, defender of the status quo, engages in an argumentative strategy that many other defenders of the status quo like to employ. Namely, they claim a monopoly on realism about politics, political systems, and political solutions – it is either their way, or an anti-democratic utopian vision that is likely to end in destruction and violence. This plain false dichotomy is what keeps many people who understand there is a problem rationalizing their inaction by viewing their apathy or belief in the status quo as a settlement for the ‘lesser evil’. In other words, the logic goes as follows: yes, I understand that there is a fundamental problem in the current constitution of society, but those radical lefties are too naïve, and their ideas will never work.

But it is precisely that logic that should be conceptualized as utopian. Demanding a change because our current system for distributing burdens, benefits, and resources is not working and will lead us into economic and ecological disaster is not a utopian position. My view is that this prospect for disaster is not a ‘fixable’ outgrowth, but a structural problem necessitated by our current political and economic system. It is this view that underpins the call for radical change, the urgency of this radical call, and the refusal to ‘compromise’ within our current paradigm. If that is revolutionary, so be it. But it is not utopian.

It’s a shame that Brand plays into this by at one point calling his vision ‘a global utopian system’. Actually, what the radical left is calling for is not the unachievable, but a solution that will satisfactorily deal with the impending crises in accordance with principles of fairness and justice. What we want is the recognition of the idea that another way is possible and desirable, and we need to figure it out together. That is not too much to ask”

An Acceptable Price for Profits

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There are fears that 200 people a day could die as temperatures fall and heating prices rise

Three million elderly people fear they will not be able to stay warm in their own homes this winter, following the recent steep increases in the cost of heating, according to research.  Age UK found that 28 per cent of pensioners said their main concern for the coming cold months was ensuring they could heat their homes.

 Age UK also raised the alarm over the health dangers to the elderly people, warning that cold weather and poorly heated homes increased the risk not only of influenza but also of heart attack and stroke. There are about 24,000 excess deaths in a typical British winter, many of them preventable.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fast Food. Low Pay

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Benevolent patriarchs McDonald's like to tout their McResources hotline - "Getting Help Is Easy!" "Free help when you need it!" - for employees inexplicably having trouble making ends meet on their lavish $8.25 an hour wages. So when they got a distressed call from Nancy, a Chicago woman with two kids who's worked there ten years without a raise, they naturally offered her a living wage and health benefits. Ha ha, not. Actually, the nice lady told Nancy she should check out food pantries, food stamps and Medicaid - the kinds of benefits that over half of fast food workers have to get to survive. Because it's job-creating McDonald's, not whining mooching Nancy, that really needs help here.

From Low Pay Is Not OK.

The Ultimate In Super Luxury

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The folks at Rolls-Royce have just opened a brand-new dealership — in the poverty-stricken Philippines.
This nation of nearly 100 million people now hosts 334 deep pockets worth at least $50 million, more than enough, the Rolls-Royce CEO noted earlier this month in Manila, to guarantee a robust market “for the ultimate in super luxury.”
One stab at that “ultimate”: The Rolls Ghost model will retail to Filipinos of means at $602,000 to start. That’s over $600,000 more than the $1,879 personal net worth of the median, or most typical, Filipino adult.

In the Philippines today, says the newly released Global Wealth Report 2013 from the Credit Suisse Research Institute in Switzerland, 88 percent of adults have less than $10,000 to their name. Just 0.9 percent have over $100,000.
In our deeply unequal world, maldistributions of wealth this stark have become almost standard economic operating procedure.
The latest Credit Suisse numbers put the world’s total personal wealth, as of this past June, at $241 trillion, an all-time record. The world’s richest 1 percent currently holds 46 percent of global assets. The poorest half of global adults holds less than 1 percent.

The World Bank has set a goal for ending this extreme poverty — by the year 2030. Need the world wait that long?
Actually, no, as World Bank analysts readily acknowledge in their new study. The investment needed to bring everyone in the world now living on less than $1.25 a day up out of extreme poverty turns out to be surprisingly modest.
“If we had a magic wand and could perfectly target every extremely poor individual,” World Bank researchers note, the world would need “approximately $169 billion per year” to end extreme poverty.
That sum, the World Bank points out, equals about 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the world’s developing nations.
But the numbers in the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report suggest a more politically daring perspective.
In the world today, the 32 million adults worth over $1 million collectively hold $98.7 trillion in personal wealth. This affluent cohort makes up 0.7 percent of the world’s adult population and holds 41 percent of the world’s wealth.
A graduated wealth tax that averaged 0.5 percent on all personal wealth over $1 million would raise about $500 billion annually, nearly triple the $169 billion needed to lift every soul on the planet out of extreme poverty.
The Credit Suisse analysts don’t raise this tax-the-rich option. They observe only that “the world economy remains conducive to the acquisition and preservation of large and medium-sized fortunes.”
That may be a bit of an understatement. In the last year alone, the number of global million-dollar fortunes has jumped by 6.1 percent. The number of “ultra high net worth” fortunes — over $50 million — has jumped by over 10 percent.
Nearly 100,000 people worldwide, 98,663 to be exact, now enjoy this over $50-million “ultra high net worth” status.
Rolls-Royce dealers everywhere are no doubt gleefully applauding.

by Sam Pizzigati from here

Neither do socialists raise the 'tax-the-rich' option. As this blog continuously points out the road of reforms leads nowhere fast. The global problem of poverty and inequality is fast-rooted within the capitalist system. Socialists maintain that the only way to bring about an egalitarian world is through a revolution for a classless, moneyless world of common ownership with neither rich nor poor.
JS 
 

Bin Capitalism Not Food

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Despite huge productivity increases, the number of hungry and malnourished in the world isn't dropping.

As much as 80 percent of all the rice produced in developing countries in Southeast Asia -- totaling about 180 million tons -- is wasted annually, representing not only a loss of food, but also the waste of land, energy and water resources, even as food security continues to be a distant goal for several countries in the region, a report published on Friday by Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a U.K.-based group said.

The staggering level of wasted food in Southeast Asia is much higher than the worldwide level of wasted food -- up to 50 percent of the 4 billion tons of food produced worlwide every year goes to waste, according to the report. In China, which has been relatively successful in attaining food security compared to the rest of the region, about 45 percent of rice is wasted, while in less-developed Vietnam, about 80 percent of rice is lost. In India, about 20 million tons of wheat is wasted annually, and up to 40 percent of the country’s fruit and vegetable production is lost due to lack of cold storage and refrigerated trucks, and poor roads.

Currently, the global human population uses about 3.8 trillion cubic meters of water a year, and about 70 percent of this goes into the agriculture sector, of which about 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted in growing crops that never not make it to the consumer

“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through sales promotion offers,” Tim Fox, head of Energy and Environment at the organization, said in a statement.

The report noted that, globally, there is the potential to provide 60 percent to 100 percent more food by eliminating waste, apart from conserving land, energy and water resources.

Yemi AkinBamijo, the executive director for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), said up to 60 per cent of the crops produced in Africa doesn't reach the marketplace.

Frances Moore Lappé, author of  Diet for a Small Planet which pioneered the notion of ethical eating, explained three companies control 53 per cent of the global commercial seed market. "So concentrating power that is disempowering billions inevitably creates the experience of scarcity, no matter how much we grow."

This year's World Food Prize went to three pioneers of genetically modified seed technology, including representatives of Monsanto and Syngenta. That drew protests, which some biotechnology proponents labelled an anti-science backlash. Lappé disagreed. "For me, genetically modified organisms not only fail to address hunger, but they contribute to the concentration of power that is at the root of hunger," Lappé said. "The protest over this year's prize, it is not just about the seed, it is about the system." 

This land is your land, this land is my land

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As I went walking I saw a sign there 
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." 
But on the other side it didn't say nothing, 
That side was made for you and me.
Nobody living can ever stop me, 
As I go walking that freedom highway; 
Nobody living can ever make me turn back 
This land was made for you and me.

So sang Woody Guthrie. Not so. 
San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled this week that billionaire Vinod Khosla may block the only road to Martins Beach south of Half Moon Bay. According to the ruling, beachgoers will still technically have access to the 200-acre beach if they can get there from the ocean .

 Khosla bought the property for $37.5 million in 2008. The group Friends of Martins Beach plans to appeal the ruling, arguing that it violates beach access rights under the California Constitution.

The World's Wealthy

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 Globally, 0.7 percent of the people control 41 percent of the world’s wealth.

Who are the 0.7 percent?

Credit Suisse in its 2013 Wealth Report divides the 0.7 percent into two groups: High net worth individuals whose asset holdings are between $1 million and $50 million; and ultra-high net worth individuals ranging from $50 million upward.

Worldwide 28 million people are worth $1 million to $5 million. Another 2.2 million people are worth $5 million to $10 million. And over another million people are worth $10 million to $50 million.n45,000 Americans worth over $50 million.

America is home to 42 percent of the 0.7 percent, that’s 14.4 million Americans who are millionaires in a nation of 314 million people in 2012.

7.7 percent of the global population that’s worth $100,000 to $999,000. They hold around 42 percent of global wealth.

The rest of humanity, 91.6 percent of the worlds population has a share in the remaining  17 percent of the wealth.

The estimated average wealth per adult in the U.S. and Canada was $296,004. In Europe, it was $130,712. In Asia-Pacific, it was $43,445. In Latin America, it was $23,365. In China, it was $22,230. In Africa, it was $4,929. In India, it was a mere $4,706. 

The Roma - Just like ourselves

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 There are approximately 12,000,000 Roma in Europe, mostly in Romania (where they were used as slaves until the 19th Century) and Bulgaria, descendants of emigrants from India in the Middle Ages.

The popular image is that they are lazy, thieving, begging, drunks. There are relatively few Roma in France, just an estimated 17,000 of almost 70 million.

“... life is much worse in Romania,"Sever Covaciu  says. "In France, the children can go to school for free. They can eat at school for free. In Romania, we must pay for school. In Romania, our children die of hunger. In Romania, Roma children die every day."

 The French interior minister, Manuel Valls  he says, they are "different from us", incapable of integrating in French society. Their fate, if Valls has his way, is to be return to Eastern Europe.

Roselyne Mabille, a campaigner for the homeless in Le Havre explains “There are some Roma who beg and steal, but you can't smear a whole people the way Valls does. Most of the Roma are doing what you or I would do and what immigrants have always done. They are looking for a better life."

Madelin Miron, 21, a young Roma man with two children, insists that he too wants to stand on his own feet. "I want to work. I want to make a life for my children," he said. "I don't beg. I don't steal."

Aurélie, a head of the parents' association at the local school "All I can say is that the Roma kids always come to school on time. They are always well turned out. They study hard. They get on fine with the other kids."

The Independent says “The real problem, the unspoken fear, may be that the Roma, if not actively discouraged, could be perfectly capable of integration.”


Saturday, October 26, 2013

US - More On Benefits Than Employed Full-Time

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The Census Bureau released some interesting data in October.  One of the pieces of data that we knew was coming was the continuing decline of household income.  This decline is in line with the growing income disparity that is occurring in the US.

Another piece of data made this trend abundantly clear.  The comprehensive data showed for the 2011 year that more Americans received means-tested government benefits than actually were employed.  As usual, we can only examine data after the fact and the Census is releasing this data in October of this year.  Yet it gives us a better perspective on what kind of recovery this is. 

This information only confirms other trends like the 1 out of 6 Americans on food stamps.  Hard to believe?  Only if you keep your eyes closed to the real status of the economy.


Means-tested benefits surpasses Americans employed

This is not a threshold that you want to cross.  According to the Census Bureau 108,592,000 Americans in the fourth quarter of 2011 were recipients of one or more means-tested benefit programs:

means-tested benefits














Source:   US Census Bureau
At the same time, there were 101,716,000 Americans working full-time.

taken from here

Another Failed Reform

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Nearly a quarter of those on the national minimum wage have been stuck on the rate for at least five years, suggesting the minimum wage is danger of becoming a permanent rate for some, rather than a floor as first envisaged by its founders.

The Resolution Foundation think-tank found that people – mainly women (73% of all those who have only held minimum wage jobs in the past five years are women)  – who are finding the minimum wage turns into a job for life rather than the first rung on the career ladder.

There are also signs that more people are being clustered close to the minimum wage. A new briefing paper by the think-tank says that 1.9 million people (7.6% of all employees) earned within 25p of the minimum wage in 2012, twice the proportion in 2002.

The Resolution Foundation suggests that 320,000 people have been in the UK's minimum wage labour market for at least five years, only ever having held minimum wage jobs in that period. This is equivalent to 17% of all employees who are paid at the minimum rate. Viewed over a longer time period, 140,000 people or 7% of all current minimum wage earners have been in the labour market for at least 10 years. About 90,000 people have been earning close to the legal minimum since the policy was introduced in 2002. This means that 5% of minimum wage earners have been unable to move above the first rung of the earnings ladder in the preceding 13 years.

This is apparent support for the admission by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that working parents aren't earning enough to escape poverty. 

Car For Sale

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Thinking of a new car? Probably not at any of your local dealerships will be the Mercedes-Benz M-Guard, or Audi A8 L W12 Security, or  QX70 Infiniti.  They are armoured bullet-proof vehicles for the rich and famous.

The M-Guard is able to withstand shots fired from a .44 Magnum and blasts from hand grenades. Its windows are made of special laminated glazing with a polycarbonate layer, form-fitted steel is hidden inside the body structure to create a safety-cell cocoon, and run-flat tyres capable of 80km/h even with no air are fitted to normal AMG light alloy wheels.

The Audi can withstand Nato hard-core ammunition and a hand grenade attack achieved by using the most advanced tough, resistant materials – hot-formed armoured steel, aramide fabric, ceramics, special alloyed aluminium and multilayer windows made of special glass with a polycarbonate coating on the inside to prevent shattering.

The bullet-proof Infiniti QX70 offers protection against handgun calibres up to .44 Magnum. It’s clad in  by International Armouring Corporation/Armormax.lightweight armour.

In these days of rising discontent and talk of revolution, the wealthy are indeed watching their backs and making preparations. 

New Zealand Inequality

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"Poverty is the parent of revolution" - Aristotle 

Over 20 years from 1988 to 2008, the incomes of the world's top 1 per cent grew by 60 per cent while the bottom 5 per cent saw no change in their income.  Eight per cent of people worldwide take home 50 per cent of global income. The top 1 per cent takes home 15 per cent.

A New Zealand household in the top 10 per cent now has nine times the income of a household in the bottom 10 per cent. The top 1 per cent own 16 per cent of New Zealand's wealth while the bottom 50 per cent has just over 5 per cent.

270,000 New Zealand children live in poverty

The UK's New Economics Foundation estimated that highly-paid investment bankers destroy £7 of wider social, economic and environmental value for every £1 of value they create. But low-paid childcare workers generate between £7 and £9.50 in value for every £1 they are paid.

Discrimination and deprivation are not figures, they are realities stunting generations of people. Many factors favor the rich getting richer while the poor stagnate. The wealthy benefit from economies of scale, as the best prices and lowest interest rates are more readily available to those who least need them. The poor are perpetually in reactive mode, lurching from one crisis to another. The wealthy, on the other hand, can act proactively, spending smaller sums in advance to prevent costly crises later.