Monday, May 31, 2021

The Tax Cheats

  A report by  Fair Tax Foundation singled out Amazon, Facebook, Google’s owner, Alphabet, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft said they paid $96bn less in tax between 2011 and 2020 than the notional taxation figures they cite in their annual financial reports.

The six firms named handed over $149bn less to global tax authorities than would be expected if they had the paid headline rates where they operated.

Overall, they paid $219bn in income tax over the past decade, 3.6% of their total revenue of more than $6tn. Income tax is paid on profits, but the researchers said the Silicon Six companies deliberately shift income to low-tax jurisdictions to pay less tax.

The report found that Amazon, the internet retailing and cloud services provider run by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, collected $1.6tn of revenue, reported $60.5bn of profit and paid $5.9bn in income taxes this decade. Amazon would have been expected to pay $10.7bn in taxes on those profits based on international tax rates, the report said. The tax paid as a percentage of profit was just 9.8% over the period 2011-20, the lowest of the Silicon Six.

Facebook, run by Mark Zuckerberg, who has a personal fortune of $123bn, has paid just $16.8bn in income taxes this decade, despite making profits of $133bn and revenues of $328bn, according to the report. The tax paid as a percentage of profit was just 12.7%, the second-lowest of the so-called “Silicon Six” after Amazon.

Paul Monaghan, chief executive of the Fair Tax Foundation, said the group’s analysis provided “solid evidence that substantive tax avoidance is still embedded within many large multinationals and nothing less than a root-and-branch reform of international tax rules will remedy the situation”.

‘Silicon Six’ tech giants accused of inflating tax payments by almost $100bn | Tax avoidance | The Guardian

China and its Falling Birth Rate

 China, as expected, which ended its one-child rule has now relaxed its two-child policy and will permit couples to have three children.

China's population has grown at its slowest pace in decades and faces a demographic problem with an ageing population and a reduced number of working age to support the elderly.

Vaccines in short supply

 The blog has previously posted upon vaccine nationalism and how the poorer nations are suffering from shortages of Covid vaccines. Updated reports reveal little has changed. While some politicians in the developed world are boasting that they are inoculating young healthy adults who are at very little risk, in the undeveloped countries, the very vulnerable are being neglected.

“Africa needs vaccines now,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said  “Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.

Only 1% of the 1.3 billion vaccines injected around the world have been administered in Africa – and that comparative percentage has been declining in recent weeks. From Africa to Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean, the same issues have been replicated.

Only 28 million doses have been delivered across Africa so far – that’s less than 2% of the continent’s population – at a time when some wealthier countries have vaccinated well in excess of half their populations.

Africa needed at least 20 million AstraZeneca doses in the next six weeks to give second shots to all those who had received the first dose. In addition, another 200 million doses of approved vaccines are needed to enable the continent to vaccinate 10% of its population by September.

Vaccine inequality exposed by dire situation in world’s poorest nations | Africa | The Guardian


 Age is a legally protected characteristic, just like gender, ethnicity, religion and disability, but age discrimination is still widely seen as a socially acceptable form of prejudice.

Unemployment levels among workers in their 50s and 60s have soared by 48% over the last year, and redundancies among the over-50s hit an all-time high in 2020.

More than 1 million workers over the age of 50 are still on furlough, raising fears that a new wave of redundancies may be on the horizon for this age group.

The number of age discrimination claims taken to employment tribunals has increased dramatically in England and Wales since Covid lockdown, according to an analysis of Ministry of Justice data. Claims increased by 74% over the last year, with a 176% rise between October and December 2020 compared with the same period the year before.

Patrick Thomson, a senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Employment tribunals are often the last course of action for people facing discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace, and it is worrying to see so many older workers needing to pursue them...We know a third of people in their 50s and 60s feel their age disadvantages them in applying for jobs, higher than any other age group.”

Tribunal claims for ageism at work soar since Covid lockdown | Discrimination at work | The Guardian

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Will it be capitalism or survival?

The enormity of the environmental crisis means we have arrived at a turning point in human history. Human society is confronted with a most critical challenge. Our world is being poisoned by pollution and our environment degraded. The source of the problem lies in the very nature of the social system under which we are forced to live. The crisis of the environment, like other crises, has its roots in the inherent characteristics of capitalism. There is a crisis because we are dealing with the problem of the environment within an outmoded social and economic system dominated by a class whose policy is maximum private profits regardless of social costs. The drive for private profit insists on a disregard for natural resources. The threat can be erased for good only when capitalism is discarded and replaced by a social order that is motivated by the promotion of public welfare. There is a crisis because capitalism is not propelled by human need. Corporations are not going to do anything to safeguard the environment if it affects their drive for maximum profits. The insistent drive for maximum private profits by corporate interests has been and is ever more sharply in conflict with the overall general interests of society.

Capitalism has come to threaten our very civilisation on earth – through the threat of nuclear war, through the spread of new and virulent pandemics, but predominantly through the consequences of CO2 emissions creating the greenhouse effect destabilising the climate. We need to confront the system as a whole and not seek to make piecemeal reforms to it. The only solution is the creation of a planned society in which the quest for profits has been abolished and the results of our science and technology are used for the benefit of the people.  The question for the future of human society is that we want to produce a liveable environment in which to build sustainable lives.

Capitalism has never been concerned with human problems, including human life. Why should anyone think capitalism is going to change now? One can judge a social system by its history. Tens of thousands of human beings die prematurely because of malnutrition every day of the year. These deaths occur not because the human race cannot raise or produce enough, but because capitalism is geared to making private profits for the few! These thousands are daily victims of capitalism.

We endure a  deliberate, cruelly contrived and highly effective system that has been devised to extract the maximum work and productivity for the cheapest possible price. The method is exploitation. The aim is private profits. The result is starving people. The question is why should anyone expect this system and the government that represents it to seriously place a priority upon the environment?

Capitalist production is unplanned. It is anarchic. Each corporation is motivated only by how it can squeeze out the maximum profits. The environment cannot be left to the mercy of individual corporations who have no social consciousness.

Socialism corrects the flaws of capitalism. It sets human society on a new path. The means of production, factories, mines and mills become the common property of the people. They operate and produce only to fulfill human needs. They are not motivated by profits. This is the foundation for a new set of values. If a process does not serve the common good, it does not take place. A clean environment is for the common good. It is therefore pursued. Saving the environment becomes a social necessity.  Capitalism is replaced by a pressure to do only that which is in the best interests of all in society, that no process will take place that endangers a continuation of life on this planet. The capitalist rewards hunger, misery, death and the destruction of the environment. Socialists support a system based on the elimination of exploitation. Capitalist society cannot basically stop the destruction of the environment under capitalism. Socialism is the only way that makes it possible. The power of environmental control must be with the people.

Capitalism is in its very essence a system through which a small minority class exploits the majority to further enrich itself from the profits that come from exploitation.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Third World America

 Even before the pandemic, more than two in five people in this country were poor or low-income, just $400 or less away from financial ruin. 

That's 140 million

During the pandemic, it got even worse. By the fall of 2020, 8 million more Americans had been pushed into poverty.

 30 million people were put at risk of homelessness, and experts warn that the American Rescue Plan will fall short of helping them all.

Poor communities—especially Black, Latina/o, Asian and Pacific Islander communities—are more exposed to air pollution that makes COVID-19 more dangerous. And they're more likely to work the front-line jobs that expose them to the virus.

 A costly and ineffective health care system will still leave Americans with the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant and maternal mortality rates among our peer countries. 

Poor people and communities of color are much more likely to be incarcerated or abused by police. 

New laws make it harder and harder for these impacted communities to vote. Hundreds have been introduced this year alone.

Opinion | Ending Poverty in the Richest Country on Earth (

A Green Army?

  The global annual military budget is now around $2 trillion (€1.6 trillion) a year — around 12 times the annual climate budget 

Military emissions have been largely exempted from international climate treaties, starting with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Although Biden invoked a "whole-of-government" approach to his new climate action plan, he did not include a Department of Defense, The EU militaries, the world's second-largest armed forces, are often unwilling to report many of their emissions due to "national security" concerns, explains Linsey Cottrell, CEOBS' environmental policy officer and co-author of a report on the EU military carbon footprint. "If you don't measure it you can't manage it," Cottrell said.

Cottrell estimates that UK military emissions are "at least three times higher" than reported, since indirect emissions generated by the production of military equipment and weapons, for example, are not included.

"The US military did not want to limit its supremacy by being constrained," explained Neta C. Crawford, professor of political science at Boston University and co-director of the Costs of War project. Crawford’s paper on "Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War"  is one of a growing body of work that has recently revealed the out-sized carbon emissions of the global military system. 

If the US military was a nation, it would be one of the top 50 largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world, putting it above Sweden or Denmark. A 2019 study by Lancaster and Durham University researchers shows that the US military, the world's largest war machine, is itself the single biggest institutional consumer of hydrocarbons on the planet, a war machine that uses some 270,000 barrels of oil a day. The upcoming 2022 US military budget will include commissions for new petrol-fueled jets and warships that will "invariably" run on carbon-heavy bunker fuel.

How can top militaries decarbonize when fossil-fuel guzzlers will be in service for the next decades with long-term contracts for weapons such as a new fleet of F35 fighter jets said to consume near 6,000 liters of fuel (1,585 gallons) per flight hour.  

Crawford said of the US  navy is already insulating itself from sea level rise by raising up its bases in ports and harbours from Virginia to Florida.

Not only have war emissions been excused from national carbon calculations: Militaries also enjoy exemptions from some chemical and waste management standards.

The military around the world have been expressing concern that a growing climate crisis will be the key trigger of future conflict, they have done little to address their role in exacerbating this climate change. Crawford explains their willingness to prepare for conflict caused by displacement and resources scarcity linked to increased drought and flooding, for example, has ironically failed to incorporate strategies to mitigate the root cause of this crisis.

Armed forces have been pioneers in utilizing solar energy, hybrid-powered vehicles and bio-fuels, especially in combat zones like Afghanistan, to reduce reliance on diesel fuel power that can be attacked during transportation. Too often, however, climate adaptation initiatives have a purely military end, says Patrick Bigger, a lecturer at the Lancaster University Environment Centre and an expert on US military emissions.

"Any green impacts are an added bonus to the main goal of increasing force readiness," he said of US military climate adaption strategies that do not address the carbon "footprint".

Doug Weir, research and policy director at The Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), says the military needs to move beyond "energy security" motivations and instead look to the "broader benefits" for the climate.

But even if armies shifted to renewables to reduce their massive carbon emissions, war exacerbates the climate crisis.

After the decades-long Colombia conflict, deforestation occurred on a much wider scale due to the governance vacuum left in territory held by the FARC rebels, notes Weir. "You've seen huge increases in deforestation," he said of these "ungoverned spaces" where former carbon sinks are now "contributing to emissions as well as impacting biodiversity."

"Awareness and coverage of this topic is more or less absent from the climate debate," said Deborah Burton, co-founder of Tipping Point North South (TPNS), a UK climate justice cooperative that is advocating for a "transform defense" concept that will align military strategies to climate mitigation. One answer will be "to shut down the military machine in a way, to slow it down and shrink it," said Benjamin Neimark, senior lecturer at the Lancaster University Environment Centre — including shutting some of the 800 US military bases maintained in over 70 countries.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) urged member states of its massive army to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Cottrell says that NATO's net-zero rhetoric will be meaningless unless "state members follow through and provide meaningful pledges." 

Scorched earth: The climate impact of conflict | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 28.05.2021

Abbas and the PA, friend or foe?

 It appears that the Palestinian Authority is doing the dirty work of the Israeli's by cracking down on militants in the demonstrations against the occupation. The campaign of arrests as a fear tactic, which is taking place at the same time as Israel’s “law and order” operation within the 1948 territories where hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have been rounded up, is in line with how authoritarian governments behave.

Tarqi al-Khudeiri was charged with “stirring up strife”, “incitement” and “insulting symbolic leaders”.

“Palestinians need to hold on to this unity that we’ve witnessed has been forged over the recent events in Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of Jerusalem, in Gaza, and in 1948 Palestine,” he said. “We need to remain united under one flag to fight the Israeli normalisation, occupation and security coordination as a way of burying the so-called peace process, which is as dead as it gets. At the end of the day, what we are doing in the streets is so that our people can thrive and live honourably and in freedom.”

Al-Khudeiri’s case is one of the dozens of recent arrests of Palestinian activists and university students by Palestinian Authority security forces in the occupied West Bank. Other detainees include Mahdi Abu Awwad, Mustafa Al-Khawaja, Akram Salamah, Anas Qazzaz and Hussam Amareen, a medical student at al-Quds University. 

Shaker Tameiza, a lawyer with the Addameer prisoners’ rights group, the campaign of arrests began following the end of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, and after the West Bank witnessed popular protests expressing their support and solidarity.

“According to the testimonies we’ve heard, the arrested were subjected to torture in the form of shabah, verbal abuse, and physical beating,” he said. All of the arrests are based on the violation of freedom of expression, such as social media posts and chants during protests. “Most of the charges the activists are accused of are more or less the same, such as ‘stirring up sectarian and racial strife’ – which is taken to mean insulting the PA,” Tameiza said.

The crackdown on activists is not new, and is rooted in what political analyst Khalil Shaheen described as the PA’s “survival policy”. The PA is hanging on to its legitimacy from the international community by solely adopting the two-state solution discourse and the so-called peace process negotiations, he explained.

“That means that it sees any other policy, even if it is rooted in popular protests, as a threat against it. Any deviation from this PA strategy results in the government cracking down on activists, as it is not in the PA’s interest to see protests turn into an Intifada. The PA is worried that armed confrontation with Israel will spread to the occupied West Bank.” 

Shaheen went on to say, “On top of that, there’s a new generation of activists coming out that are not politicised according to party membership, and therefore cannot be co-opted. These youth have been at the forefront of confrontations with Israeli forces, either in Jerusalem or in Haifa, and are not traditionally known to the PA.”

Shaheen continued, “The PA rules with fear because it is desperate to maintain its authority,” he said. “This is why they have postponed elections because they knew it would be an embarrassing defeat for the dominant party Fatah.”

Why is the Palestinian Authority arresting West Bank activists? | Israel-Palestine conflict News | Al Jazeera

Shared Sacrifice


The median pay package for a CEO at an S&P 500 company hit $12.7 million in 2020.

 That means half the CEOs in the survey made more, and half made less. It’s 5% more than the median pay for that same group of CEOs in 2019 and an acceleration from the 4.1% climb in last year’s survey. Meanwhile, regular workers also saw gains, but not at the same rate as their bosses. And millions of others lost their jobs.

Advance Auto Parts, CEO Tom Greco’s pay for 2020 was in line to take a hit because of a mountain of pandemic-related costs. Extended sick-pay benefits and expenses for hand sanitizer and other safety equipment totaling $60 million dragged on two key measurements that help set his performance pay. But because the board’s compensation committee saw these costs as extraordinary and unanticipated, it excluded them from its calculations. That helped Greco’s total compensation rise 4.7% last year to $8.1 million.

Carnival, the cruise operator gave stock grants to executives, in part to encourage its leaders to stick with the company as the pandemic forced it to halt sailings and furlough workers. For CEO Arnold Donald’s 2020 compensation, those grants were valued at $5.2 million, though their full value will ultimately depend on how the company performs on carbon reductions and other measures in coming years. That helped Donald receive total compensation valued at $13.3 million for the year, up 19% from a year earlier, even as Carnival swung to a $10.2 billion loss for the fiscal year.

Wages and benefits for all workers outside the government rose just 2.6% last year. That’s according to U.S. government data that ignore the effect of workers shifting between different industries. It’s an important distinction because more lower-wage earners lost their jobs as the economy shut down than professionals who could work from home.

Sarah Anderson, who directs the global economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies, said, “This should have been a year for shared sacrifice. Instead it became a year of shielding CEOs from risk while it was the frontline employees who paid the price.”

CEO pay rises to $12.7M even as pandemic ravages economy (

America's Population Problem

 The United States of America is ageing rapidly, and the workforce is not growing.

20.5% of the U.S. population would be 65 or older by 2030, compared with about 16.8% at the start of this decade. 

And the labor force participation rate, which at 61.7% is now roughly where it was in the 1970s.

Biden’s big budget comes with a modest growth outlook for an aging country | Reuters

Friday, May 28, 2021

Vaccine for All

  For $25 billion dollars (3% of the U.S. annual military budget) the world could establish regional manufacturing hubs to produce eight billion coronavirus vaccine doses in less than a year.

The report compiled by Dr. Zoltán Kis, a research associate at the Centre for Process Systems Engineering at Imperial College London, and Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher in Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program, shows that with minimal investment by the wealthiest nations, enough vaccine supply could be produced to inoculate 80% of the population in low- and middle-income countries by May 2022.  If present trends continue, impoverished nations in the Global South won't be vaccinated until 2024, experts say.

"The global vaccine apartheid is a policy choice," the People's Vaccine Alliance tweeted. "We have the means to end it." 

Africa and Latin America have 0.17% and 2% of global vaccine production capacity, respectively, but Kis and Rizvi noted that the WHO has said: "19 manufacturers from more than a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have expressed interest in ramping up mRNA vaccine production."

Peter Maybarduk, Public Citizen's Access to Medicines director, said in a statement, "It will require resources and coordination, but we know this can be done. The sooner we start, the more lives we will save and the faster our world will stop unravelling."

Rich Nations Could 'Make Enough Vaccine for the World' With Just $25 Billion: Analysis | Common Dreams News

Filling their pockets

 The owner of JD Sports, Millets and Black Leisure, and a string of overseas sportswear chains,  Peter Cowgill, has been handed almost £6m in bonuses since February last year despite the company accepting more than £100m in government support.

The retailer has already been criticised for restarting dividend payments to shareholders while retaining the government pandemic financial support. In April, after revealing that it was paying out £14m to shareholders.

JD Group paid its boss £6m after government support of £100m | Executive pay and bonuses | The Guardian

The Other Death Industry

 The Lancet said efforts to curb the habit had been outstripped by population growth with 150 million more people smoking in the nine years from 1990, reaching an all-time high of 1.1 billion.

Smoking killed almost 8 million people in 2019 and the number of smokers rose as the habit was picked up by young people around the world.

89% of new smokers were addicted by the age of 25 but beyond that age were unlikely to start.

Just 10 countries made up two-thirds of the world’s smoking population: China, India, Indonesia, the US, Russia, Bangladesh, Japan, Turkey, Vietnam and the Philippines.

 One in three tobacco smokers (341 million) live in China.

Number of smokers has reached all-time high of 1.1 billion, study finds | Smoking | The Guardian

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Pets Not Kids

 As Japan's population continues to drop, with just 14.93 million children aged 14 or younger on April 1, a decline of 190,000 on the same date a year ago and the lowest annual figure since 1950, household pets are on the rise.

There are some 20 million cats and dogs registered across the country, and an additional 60,000 pets joined households in 2020.

"They are willing to spend money on giving them the best food available," Chris Dunn, an executive of the Japan branch of the Pet Planet food company said.

Many pet owners in Japan come from middle-to-high-income households, so the surge in pet sales has been followed by the emergence of a bewildering array of accessories for animals.  Pet shops in Japan often stock a diverse range of clothing for dogs, from rainwear to fancy dress outfits. In addition to leashes, collars, toys and animal beds, the most popular products are strollers for taking pets to the park. 

Dunn believes that the biggest reason why people in Japan are buying pets is for psychological support, whether they are doing so consciously or not.

Japan: Are pets replacing children during the pandemic? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 26.05.2021

Socialist Sonnet No. 35



The tyrant broods in his distant castle,

Plucking adversaries out of the air

To languish in the dungeons of his lair;

Every man, woman and child his vassal.

Yet, even at the zenith of his power,

Despots abroad with critical tongues

Will conceal their own by speaking his wrongs,

Each hoping to baulk their reckoning hour.

And secure they are while people can’t see

The chains that bind them to separate lands

Are being forged and re-forged by their own hands:

If they saw the links they might set themselves free.


What holds in thrall all working folk et al

Is the despotism of capital.


Selling death and destruction to Israel


It is well known that the United States provides substantial aid to Israel, the degree to which the Israeli military relies on U.S. planes, bombs, and missiles is not fully appreciated. 

According to statistics compiled by the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, the United States has provided Israel with $63 billion in security assistance over the past two decades, more than 90 percent of it through the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing, which provides funds to buy U.S. weaponry.  

But Washington’s support for the Israeli state goes back much further. Total U.S. military and economic aid to Israel exceeds $236 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars) since its founding — nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.

Selling Death – Consortiumnews

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Ethnic-Cleansing in Italy

 In 2008, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped up the state’s mistreatment of the Roma minority by declaring a so-called “Nomad Emergency” defining the presence of Roma in Italy as a threat to public security which created powers to conduct censuses in Roma settlements, as well as to close down informal Roma camps in derogation of laws that protect human rights.

As a result, government-built Roma-only camps became Italy’s main solution to its imagined “nomad problem”. The emergency turned Roma into a security issue, and the policies put in place then set the template for how authorities have been dealing with Roma ever since. The Italian government officially committed to stopping constructing new Roma-only camps in 2017, but there are at least 119 segregated camps and shelters still operated by authorities in Italy.

Living conditions in these camps deteriorated significantly. The number of people living in most camps ballooned way beyond capacity. In response, rather than providing adequate, permanent housing to camp residents, the Italian government started issuing eviction orders and kicking out residents who have nowhere else to go. The majority of people who have been evicted from these government-built camps ended up living in informal camps elsewhere.

Others have been relocated by the authorities into other formal camps, shelters, or temporary housing solutions. In any case, all are just living on borrowed time until the cycle of eviction and re-eviction begins again. In the past four years, there have been 187 such evictions of Romani families, making 3,156 people homeless. 

There has been a steady trickle of forced evictions (almost one per week) going on for years across Italy. Taken as a whole, these evictions constitute a large-scale human rights crisis and show that for Roma, the “Nomad Emergency” never really ended, it just became invisible. Many of these evictions are illegal under national and international law. They are often carried out without proper consultation, without a reasonable notice period, and usually without adequate alternative accommodation being offered (usually only temporary shelter). Italian authorities do not seem to be losing any sleep over the illegality of their actions towards Roma.

In 2018, authorities in Rome ignored an order by the European Court of Human Rights to halt the evacuation of the Camping River formal camp and evicted more than 300 Roma living there. More than half of the evicted Roma ended up living on the streets: under bridges, in cars, or in makeshift informal camps. A further 99 people were transferred to reception centres or temporary facilities, rather than integrated social housing.

Most of the evictions over the last four years have involved relatively small numbers of people – several families at a time, evicted from small informal camps. But the frequency of the evictions is concerning. In recent months there have been several per week, and last year evictions took place even during the strict COVID-19 lockdowns.

 Despite the continued existence of ethnically segregated government camps, despite the discriminatory harassment of Romani families through repeated forced evictions, the European Commission continues to defer any action against Italy. Increasingly it seems that there is one rule for member states in the East and another for those in the West when it comes to legal action over discrimination against Roma. While the European Commission has opened infringement procedures against the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and more recently Bulgaria, for discrimination against Roma, it is yet to take any action at all against more powerful member states such as Italy.

Many activists would argue that it is not simply a question of an ineffective mechanism, but of a fundamental lack of political will in Brussels to take a strong stance on racism that goes beyond conferences and unenforceable “action plans”. The European Commission has a duty to implement its Racial Equality Directive in a way that ensures Italy provides equal access to social housing for all, not just dump Roma in segregated camps or evict them from their homes. 

Italy’s Roma forced eviction crisis demands EU action | European Union | Al Jazeera

Ethnic-Cleansing in the USA

 For more than 50 years, Interstate 81 has cut through the heart of hard-luck Syracuse, New York, raining vehicle exhaust on its Southside neighborhood, where most residents are Black and poor. Road builders at the time were largely free to ignore environmental, historical, social or other factors, allowing them to focus on the most direct route from one point to another. More often than not, that meant routing those freeways through Black neighborhoods, where land was cheap and political opposition low. 

"When they put that highway up they destroyed this community," said David Rufus, a lifelong Southside resident who is now an organizer for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). 

Black neighborhoods were targeted even when more logical routes were available, research by the late urban historian Raymond Mohl shows. Existing long-distance highways, like the New York State Thruway, largely skirted city centers. The new interstates were built right through them.

Syracuse wasn't the only city where Black residents were displaced by the U.S. freeway-building boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Across the country, local officials saw the proposed interstate system as a convenient way to demolish what they regarded as "slum" neighborhoods near their downtown business districts, historians say. With the federal government picking up 90% of the cost, freeway construction made it easier for politicians and business leaders to pursue their own "urban renewal" projects after residents were evicted.

University of California, Irvine law professor Joseph DiMento, an expert in the policies of the freeway-building era, explains, "The reasons they were built were heavily for removal of Blacks from certain areas."

*In Miami, Interstate 95 was routed through Overtown, a Black neighborhood known as the "Harlem of the South," rather than a nearby abandoned rail corridor.

*In Nashville, Interstate 40 took a noticeable swerve, bisecting the Black community of North Nashville.

*In Montgomery, Alabama, the state highway director, a high-level officer of the Ku Klux Klan, routed Interstate 85 through a neighborhood where many Black civil rights leaders lived, rather than choosing an alternate route on vacant land.

*In New Orleans and Kansas City, officials re-routed freeways from white neighborhoods to integrated or predominantly Black areas.

The road-building program ultimately displaced more than 1 million Americans, most of them low-income minorities, according to Anthony Foxx, former transportation secretary under Obama.

U.S. freeways flattened Black neighborhoods nationwide (

Working Families Impoverished


The IPPR thinktank shows the UK’s poverty rate among working households last year reached a record high for this century.

Working people have come under increasing financial pressure during the last 25 years from soaring property prices, private sector rent hikes and crippling childcare costs.

An increase in relative poverty from 13% in 1996 to 17.4% of working households in the year to March 2020 illustrates the combination of low wage rises and the spiralling cost of living.  Since 2010 the situation has deteriorated steadily to leave working families at the highest risk of falling into poverty since the welfare system was at its most adequate in 2004.

 The report said four factors lay behind the growth in poverty:

  • Spiralling housing costs among low-income households.

  • Low wages and modest pay rises.

  • A social security system that has failed to keep up with rental costs.

  • A lack of flexible and affordable childcare.

Families unable to buy a home who rent from private landlords are among the worst affected following reforms to the benefits system that rewards private landlords, the IPPR said. House price growth was a key factor in driving poverty higher as more families came to rely on renting privately. Housing costs for private tenants have jumped by almost 50% above the general rate of inflation over the last 25 years.  By 2025, one in four households will rent their home from a private landlord. 

“Much of the multibillion pound benefits bill supports housing costs in the private sector, with any increase effectively channelled into the pockets of private landlords,” the report said, adding that £11.1bn of housing welfare payments went to private landlords last year.

Black, Asian and disabled tenants are disproportionately likely to face discrimination looking for a home, and to end up inhabiting shoddy, unsafe and unsuitable accommodation, according to the housing charity Shelter. High housing costs – and the failure of housing allowances to keep pace with rents – meant that for a fifth of people housing was a source of stress, while 14% admitted they cut back on food or fuel to prioritise paying the rent or mortgage. Shelter said the pandemic had shone a stark light on the state of Britain’s housing, with poverty and poor and overcrowded accommodation recognised as a key factor in many areas where Covid infections and deaths were highest.

Shelter’s survey found:

Black and Asian people were almost five times more likely to experience discrimination when looking for a safe, secure and affordable home than white people (14% versus 3%). More than one in 10 disabled people, and 7% of those earning under £20,000 a year, found it hard to find a safe and secure home.

Twelve per cent of black people and 14% of Asian people reported safety hazards in their homes, such as faulty wiring and fire risks – compared with 6% of white people. Fourteen per cent of black people and 16% of Asian people reported living in a property with significant defects with walls or roof, compared with 8% of white people.

Overall, 56% of black people were affected by the housing emergency, compared with 49% of Asian people and 33% of white people. More than half (54%) of disabled people were affected (compared with 30% of non-disabled people) and 58% of single parents.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said: “Decades of neglect have left Britain’s housing system on its knees. A safe home is everything, yet millions don’t have one. Lives are being ruined by benefit cuts, blatant discrimination and the total failure to build social homes.”

Working poverty rates among families with three or more children were the worst of any family group, up more than two-thirds over the past decade to reach 42%, though single parents and couples with a single earner also suffered sharply declining disposable incomes.

Clare McNeil, the head of the IPPR’s Future Welfare State programme, said, “It has trapped us in a vicious circle which, unless broken, will condemn us either to a constantly rising social security bill or to ever-increasing poverty among working households.”

The children’s commissioners of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have written to the UK government calling on it to scrap the controversial two-child limit restricting the amount that larger families can receive in social security benefits.

In the joint letter to the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, the three commissioners – respectively Sally Holland, Bruce Adamson and Koulla Yiasouma – argue the policy is a “clear breach of children’s human rights”.

“The tax and benefits system is harming children’s lives and prospects and that immediate action is required to significantly reduce rates of child poverty.”