Originally Published: 6/2/2018
Poverty: The United Nations special rapporteur who monitors poverty, Philip Alston, “has issued a withering critique of the state of America today. Trump is steering the country towards a ‘dramatic change of direction’ that is rewarding the rich while punishing the poor by blocking access even to the most meager necessities.” He said: “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest.” He added: “This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty.” And Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said it’s “profoundly important” that international observers speak out about Trump’s impact. “This administration inherited a bad situation with inequality in the U.S. and is now fanning the flames and worsening the situation. What is so disturbing is that Trump, rather than taking measures to ameliorate the problem, is taking measures to aggravate it.” (Guardian) Kirk Anderson of The Nation gave us Trump’s 9 principles of economic mobility. It’s funny but sad.
Welfare and Racial Bias: Why is Trump doing this? Well, he’s playing to his base. A new study published in the journal Social Forces, found that opposition to welfare programs has grown among white Americans since 2008, even when controlling for political views and socioeconomic status. White Americans are more likely to favor welfare cuts when they believe that their status is threatened and that minorities are the main beneficiaries of safety net programs. This seems to be similar to the study showing Americans’ fear of losing their white privilege. (TWW, Loss of White Privilege, 4/28/18). So, it seems that efforts to cut welfare programs are driven less by conservative principles than by racial anxiety and bias.
The Trump Effect: The results of more new research have been released in a working paper titled “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy.” That’s a mouthful. The study found a correlation between white America’s intolerance and support for authoritarian rule. “In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.” The authors dubbed the phenomenon The Trump Effect. (NBC)
Hunger: May 28th was World Hunger Day and no one noticed. According to Feeding America, 41 million Americans struggle with hunger, a number nearly equal to the 40.6 million officially living in poverty. It’s all too clear that poverty and hunger go hand-in-hand. National Geographic pointed out: “Two-thirds of [households struggling with hunger] with children have at least one working adult - typically in a full-time job. . . Privately run programs like food pantries and soup kitchens have mushroomed too. In 1980 there were a few hundred emergency food programs across the country; today there are 50,000. Finding food has become a central worry for millions of Americans. One in 6 reports running out of food at least once a year.”
Jobs Report: It appears that Trump leaked the May jobs report (see below). He “broke years of presidential protocol.” Trump was briefed on the numbers on Thursday evening. (NY Times) Before the release of the information by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 Friday morning, Trump tweeted, at 7:31 am: “Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.” You think he would have tweeted that had he not known that the report would make him look good? I doubt it. “The monthly report is one of the most market sensitive pieces of economic information released by the government and is carefully guarded ahead of its release.” Remember the movie Trading Places and the deal with the commodities report? Trump’s tweet could have effected various markets - and maybe did. We don’t know and may never know. But Jason Furman, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, said that Trump should never again be given sight of the figures before their release. “And if this tweet is conveying inside information about a particularly good jobs number you should never get them in advance from the Council of Economic Advisers again.” (Guardian)
Ivanka: In addition to the speculation that Trump decided to help ZTE because of China’s funding of his project in Jakarta (TWW, Commerce Law, 5/19/18), we now know that China approved Ivanka’s 13th trademark in 3 months, along with provisional approval for another 8. (Washington Post)
Comparing Costs: The AP reported this week that Mueller’s investigation team has spent about $16.7 million so far. Sound like a lot? “Trump has been to Mar-a-Lago 17 times, for a grand total of $17 million in flight and protection costs.” This doesn’t include things like “airlifting equipment such as the presidential limousines.” Nor does it include all the costs of protection. The Coast Guard patrols the beachfront property - spending about $6.6 million last year. Then there are all the trips to his club in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Washington Post)
Tariffs: Trump announced that he will impose a tariff on aluminum and steel imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, “ending a 2-month exemption and potentially setting the stage for a trade war with some of America’s top allies.” 25% tariffs will be imposed on steel and 10% on aluminum. The measure was to go into effect at midnight on Thursday. (Reuters) Before taking effect, the EU and Mexico retaliated. The EU said it would impose duties “‘on a number of imports from the United States,’ referring to a 10-page list of targets for retaliation it published in March, which included Kentucky bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.” Mexico said it would levy a tariff on pork bellies, blueberries, apples, grapes, certain cheeses, and various types of steel. (Washington Post)
China: Trump announced he is proceeding with the $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. (TWW, China, 3/24/18) Last week he postponed imposing them. (TWW, China, 5/26/18) This week he introduced new limits on Chinese investment in U.S. high-tech industries “as part of a broad campaign to crack down on Chinese acquisition of U.S. technology.” (Washington Post)
Denmark: It has become the latest European country to pass a law banning burqas and niqabs. Those who break the law could be fined 1,000 kroner (€134). The law does allow headscarves, turbans, and Jewish skull caps to be worn.” Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen said that covering one’s face was “disrespectful” to others and “incompatible with the values in Danish society.” (Politico)
Ireland: Voters repealed the abortion ban, “sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church.” (NY Times)
Italy: Political machinations “appeared to tip the country back towards repeat elections and triggered a dramatic speculative attack on Italian financial markets.” (Reuters) Then markets plunged “as investors worried that a growing political crisis in Italy could lead to its withdrawal from the Eurozone in a replay of Britain’s vote to exit 2 years ago.” (Washington Post) Why would political turmoil in Italy cause financial angst elsewhere? According to the NY Times, Italy’s “convulsions” have raised fears about the future of the euro. “The possibility, however remote, that a populist Italian government would renounce the euro and revive the lira currency has unnerved many bankers and investors.” A frightened Italy doubled down on its efforts to form a government, something they’ve been fighting over since March. (Reuters) But by Thursday, they’d managed to form a government of populist parties “that would put Europe’s 4th largest economy into the hands of leaders deeply antagonistic to the European Union, its currency, and illegal migrants.” (NY Times)
Lithuania and Romania: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said that both countries violated the European prohibition on torture when they operated CIA “black sites” under the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. They were ordered to pay €100,000 (£88,000; $117,000) in damages each to Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, respectively. (BBC)
Nicaragua: The government has instituted a policy of “shoot to kill” to deal with protests. According to a 34-page report issued by Amnesty International, the government “has violated citizens’ human rights and not only used ‘excessive force in the context of the protests, but possibly carried out extrajudicial executions in conjunction with pro-government armed groups.’” (CNN)
North Korea: Trump announced that the meeting with Kim Jong-un, previously cancelled (TWW, North Korea, 5/26/18), is now back on. (NY Times)
Spain: Mariano Rajoy has been ousted as prime minister in a vote of no confidence “after several former members of his party were convicted of corruption in a case that proved a scandal too far.” He’ll be replaced by Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s opposition socialist PSOE party. (Guardian)
Arkansas: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take an appeal of the Arkansas law that “requires doctors who provide medication abortions to have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges.” Abortion providers say the requirement is burdensome and unnecessary. (Washington Post)
New York: New York City lawmakers introduced a bill banning plastic straws in all bars and restaurants. When purchasing a drink, forego the straw. Demand restaurants replace them with compostable straws or buy your own reusable bamboo, metal, glass, or silicone straws. (EcoWatch)
Puerto Rico: According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 4,600 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, but the official government number is 64. The study included the parameters of what can be classified as being attributed to a tropical cyclone - as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “flying debris, unsafe or unhealthy conditions resulting in injury, illness, or loss of necessary medical services.” It also includes “indirect deaths resulting from worsening of chronic conditions or from delayed medical treatments [which] may not be captured on death certificates.”
Virginia: The General Assembly finally (finally) approved Medicaid expansion to 400,000 low-income residents. The GOP has been fighting this since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). (Washington Post)
Privacy Protection: The U.S. Supreme Court “extended” the Constitution’s privacy protection to include vehicles that are parked on a home’s driveway or carport, “ruling that police need a search warrant before they may inspect them.” The Court disagreed with the legal position that the vehicle was fair game since it was in plain site. The decision was 8 to 1 with Justice Samuel Alito dissenting, “saying the search was reasonable because ‘the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.” (LA Times)
Migrant Children: Trump’s “zero tolerance” process at the border is causing child shelters to fill up quickly. “The number of migrant children held in U.S. government custody without their parents has surged 21% in the past month.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed that it had 10,773 migrant children in its custody, up from 8,886 on April 29th.” (Washington Post)
Fred Fleitz: National Security Adviser John Bolton named him as his new chief of staff. Fleitz served as Bolton’s undersecretary of state in Dubya’s administration. Recently he has been a senior staffer at the Center for Security Policy, a rightwing, anti-Muslim think tank. “The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the organization an anti-Muslim extremist group.” (Democracy Now!)
Sales Receipts: Your sales receipts are coated in chemicals meant to highlight the information but which are hormone-disrupting: Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS). (Polycarbonate Plastics) According to Healthy Stuff, “these chemicals are quickly and efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream through your skin.” Green America encourages people to “skip the slip,” but also proposes possible solutions.
Climate Change Deniers: Newly released emails show that John Konkus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) deputy associate administrator for public affairs, has “repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, a conservative group of climate change deniers.” (Denver Post)
Disaster Places: The NY Times has an interesting piece about where disasters strike over and over again in the U.S. If you like maps, you’re gonna love this article. About 90% of the total losses occurred in zip codes “that contain less than 20% of the population.” But the federal government (read: taxpayers) pay for rebuilding and the costs are increasing. From 1980 to 2005 the greatest amount spent was about $60 billion. But in 2005 we spent more than $200 billion and in 2017 we went to more than $300 billion. Ya think we maybe out to do better planning? It’ll get worse due to climate change. Since 1993 the sea level has increased by 3.5 inches.
Unemployment: Job growth “accelerated” in May, reducing unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8%. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 223,000 jobs in May. (Reuters)
Volcker Rule: Federal bank regulators have a plan to “soften” the Volcker Rule (TWW, Volcker Rule, 12/14/13), opening the door for banks to resume some trading activities restricted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. The changes would give the largest banks significant freedom to engage in more complicated - and possibly riskier - activities by allowing Wall Street firms to determine which trading they view as permissible under the rule. (NY Times)