President Obama signs $8.7 billion food stamp cut into law

February 7, 2014

On Friday, President Obama added his signature to legislation that will cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years, causing 850,000 households to lose an average of $90 per month. The signing of the legislation known as the 2014 Farm Bill occurred at a public event in East Lansing, Mich.

The food stamp cuts are one component of a massive omnibus bill which also includesbillions of dollars in crop insurance and various other programs and subsidies involving American agriculture. Before he signed the legislation, President Obama praised it as an example of bipartisan problem-solving that would help create jobs and move the American economy forward.

“Congress passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that is going to make a big difference in communities across the country,” said the president.

Obama’s remarks also focused heavily on economic inequality, which he has previously called “the defining challenge of our time.” The Farm Bill, he said, would “give more Americans a shot at opportunity.”

When House Republicans originally argued for a food stamp cut of between $20.5 billion and $39 billion, the White House threatened to veto both of those proposals. During his Friday speech, the president did not say whether he was satisfied with the final $8.7 billion figure, or even mention the cuts at all. Instead, he praised the food stamp program and said that the final Farm Bill preserved much-needed benefits.

“My position has always been that any Farm Bill I sign must include protections for vulnerable Americans, and thanks to the hard work of [Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich] and others, it does just that,” he said.

Stabenow, who played a key role in Farm Bill negotiations, fully embraced the cuts in a speech delivered shortly before the president took the stage.

“This is a nutrition bill that makes sure families have a safety net just like farmers do,” she said. “The savings in food assistance came solely from addressing fraud and misuse while maintaining the important benefits for families that need temporary help.”

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One before the speech, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made much the same point, saying that the $8.7 billion cut “probably makes the program more legitimate than it was.”

In fact, the benefits reduction would eliminate the state-level “Heat and Eat” policies currently employed in 15 states and Washington, D.C. Left-wing opponents of the Farm Bill, including Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., expect the burden of burden of the cuts to fall disproportionately on the elderly and disabled.

“Poor people are getting screwed by this Republican majority [in the House] and Democrats in my opinion aren’t doing enough to push back,” he said. “I wish there had been more of a fight from the White House and others.”

McGovern also admitted to being “puzzled” by the White House’s silence on hunger and food stamp cuts. He predicted that Republicans’ success in getting a several billion dollar food stamp cut meant that they would soon try again for even more.

“They know they can’t get a $40 billion cut right off the bat, so what they’re doing is they’re chipping away at it,” he said.

Source

Rio fare protesters seize main station & let commuters travel for freeFebruary 7, 2014
After street protests, station invasions and turnstile vandalism, Rio de Janeiro’s free public transport movement finally got what it wanted for a few hours on Thursday night with a takeover of the city’s main train and bus hub.
Thousands of commuters were shepherded through demolished ticket gates at the Central do Brasil station amid a violent confrontation over proposed fare rises that resulted in fires, arrests and disruption of transport networks.
The station in downtown Rio echoed with police percussion grenades and the protesters’ celebratory samba drumming as they seized control of the main bank of ticket machines.
Close to a thousand people joined the passe livre (free pass) march, sparked by the announcement by the city mayor, Eduardo Paes, that bus fires will rise from 2.75 reais to 3 reais (£0.75/US$1.25) on Saturday.
That may seem cheap compared with London or New York. But for a daily commuter on a minimum monthly wages of 724 reais a month it leaves transport costs at more than a sixth of income. Bus price rises were the spark for massive protests that expanded to cover dozens of other issues and brought more than a million people on to the streets of 80 cities in Brazil in June 2013. At the time the ticket hikes were postponed but the issue is once again on the agenda. 
Although Thursday’s protest was far smaller than last year’s it was more focussed and the organisers’ tactics appeared to take the large ranks of police by surprise.
After marching peacefully from the Candelaria area dozens of activists from the Black Block group sprinted off and entered the station before police could close the gates. They smashed turnstiles, waved flags and entreated commuters to enter the train system without paying.
Riot police and station security temporarily regained territory with pepper spray and percussion grenades, but after a brief hiatus the demonstrators regained control of the concourse and started drumming, dancing and singing as passengers – many clutching hankerchiefs to their faces because of the pungent police gas in the terminal – passed by without paying.
“I totally support this protest,” said Fabiana Aragon, a red-faced, teary-eyed health worker who was heading home after work. The 43-year-old said she spent almost a third of her 1,000 reais income on transport fares but still had to endure long delays, dirty trains and hot, crowded carriages without air conditioning. “The situation now is absurd.”
The clashes spread to the streets outside the station. Half a dozen fires burned in the streets of the neighbouring red-light district. Firemen were called in to extinguish a blaze that reduced a bus ticket booth to embers. Hundreds of panicked commuters stampeded through the main bus station after police fired percussion grenades despite no visible sign of protesters. Two young black men with face-masks cried as they were arrested, handcuffed and put inside an armoured police vehicle.
Participants in the demonstration said there would be more protests in the run up to the World Cup, which starts on 12 June.
“Public transport is slow, dirty, hot and expensive. The government shouldn’t be talking about raising fares, it should be working to improve services,“ said Yasmin Thayna, a 21-year-old student. “When the World Cup comes there will be more demonstrations. The World Cup is worsening inequality.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether the movement can return to the scale of the 2013 protests.
Source

Rio fare protesters seize main station & let commuters travel for free
February 7, 2014

After street protests, station invasions and turnstile vandalism, Rio de Janeiro’s free public transport movement finally got what it wanted for a few hours on Thursday night with a takeover of the city’s main train and bus hub.

Thousands of commuters were shepherded through demolished ticket gates at the Central do Brasil station amid a violent confrontation over proposed fare rises that resulted in fires, arrests and disruption of transport networks.

The station in downtown Rio echoed with police percussion grenades and the protesters’ celebratory samba drumming as they seized control of the main bank of ticket machines.

Close to a thousand people joined the passe livre (free pass) march, sparked by the announcement by the city mayor, Eduardo Paes, that bus fires will rise from 2.75 reais to 3 reais (£0.75/US$1.25) on Saturday.

That may seem cheap compared with London or New York. But for a daily commuter on a minimum monthly wages of 724 reais a month it leaves transport costs at more than a sixth of income. 
Bus price rises were the spark for massive protests that expanded to cover dozens of other issues and brought more than a million people on to the streets of 80 cities in Brazil in June 2013. At the time the ticket hikes were postponed but the issue is once again on the agenda

Although Thursday’s protest was far smaller than last year’s it was more focussed and the organisers’ tactics appeared to take the large ranks of police by surprise.

After marching peacefully from the Candelaria area dozens of activists from the Black Block group sprinted off and entered the station before police could close the gates. They smashed turnstiles, waved flags and entreated commuters to enter the train system without paying.

Riot police and station security temporarily regained territory with pepper spray and percussion grenades, but after a brief hiatus the demonstrators regained control of the concourse and started drumming, dancing and singing as passengers – many clutching hankerchiefs to their faces because of the pungent police gas in the terminal – passed by without paying.

“I totally support this protest,” said Fabiana Aragon, a red-faced, teary-eyed health worker who was heading home after work. The 43-year-old said she spent almost a third of her 1,000 reais income on transport fares but still had to endure long delays, dirty trains and hot, crowded carriages without air conditioning. “The situation now is absurd.”

The clashes spread to the streets outside the station. Half a dozen fires burned in the streets of the neighbouring red-light district. Firemen were called in to extinguish a blaze that reduced a bus ticket booth to embers. Hundreds of panicked commuters stampeded through the main bus station after police fired percussion grenades despite no visible sign of protesters. Two young black men with face-masks cried as they were arrested, handcuffed and put inside an armoured police vehicle.

Participants in the demonstration said there would be more protests in the run up to the World Cup, which starts on 12 June.

“Public transport is slow, dirty, hot and expensive. The government shouldn’t be talking about raising fares, it should be working to improve services,“ said Yasmin Thayna, a 21-year-old student. “When the World Cup comes there will be more demonstrations. The World Cup is worsening inequality.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether the movement can return to the scale of the 2013 protests.

Source

American Public Favors Class-Warfare, Polling Indicates
January 24, 2014

New polling from USA Today and Pew on income inequality finds that the American public broadly endorses class warfare.

Voters are less persuaded that the government can do something useful to reduce inequality than they are that the government should do something useful. Could frustration mount to a boiling point seized by a class-conscious social movement like it began to in September 2011? Time will tell, but in any case, this evidence of public consciousness embracing class warfare is good news. 

Source

Re-posting with improved images. 

2013 Workers Unite Film Festival Schedule is Online!
April 15, 2013

After many months of searching out great new worker/labor films and going through the archives of historical labor films, we here at The Second Annual Workers Unite Film Festival have come up with an eight day long program plus an extra evening at one of the biggest unions in NYC, SEIU1199.

Our eight day schedule, which you can find on our website under “2013 Schedule” tab, covers many of the themes that effect working people today as the stuggle to make ends meet, or to find a new job, during this very difficult economy. We have films on being fifty and out of work, films about immigrants seeking to find a decent job in their new home - anxious to make a contribution to their new communities. Our films are as close as our own backyard, here in NYC (Cafe Wars and Judith:Portrait of a Street Vendor) to as far away as the men who tear apart de-commissioned oil tankers with their hands and simple tools in the deserts of Pakistan (Iron Slaves).

We have films about the African American men who fought for dignity on the job and in their union as steelworkers - one of the most dangerous jobs in America, to mothers in Bangladesh who must put their children with their own parents due to 15 hour days in the sewing factories of high fashion sweatshops. These are the same women who survived a recent “Triangle Shirtwaist” style fire in Bangladesh, where over 111 young women perished because the exit doors to the factory were padlocked shut. One hundred years plus after the deaths at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in NYC and we are still fighting the exact same battles.

Please look through the whole schedule. Find some programs that look intereseting, then go online - by next week - and buy tickets!! We have kept ticket prices as low as possible so as many of you as possible can attend at least one program, or one full day of amazing films. Tickets are $7.50 for one show (online sales may incur a service charge) $11.50 for a full day of films!! And $59.00 for a full 8 days of educational and emotional programming about the lives and struggles of workers and their unions all over the globe.

This year we are particularly honored to join with twenty other worker/labor film festivals around the world - known as The Global Labor Film and Video Festival on May 16th. On that day we will screen films on labor issues in China, Pakistan, Mexico, Slovakia, from all over the U.S. and a film about the merchant marines whose work took them from one end of the earth to the other. And that’s just one day of the festival!

We plan to have either the directors or speakers at most of these events, many of them currently engaged in the worker struggles for labor rights and dignity in the workplace. We want to put these films into context so that we all come out of the theater with both a better understanding of our places in the global fight for labor rights and the motivation to get out their and participate in whatever actions are possible to make these rights a reality.

So please take a few minutes to check out the huge list of films and pick out at least a few to come view. If you can afford it, we’d love to have you visit our homepage and make a small donation to help keep building the festival for this year and coming seasons.

Finally - on April 17th at the Gap on 34th Street

Article Source | Festival Schedule | Festival Facebook Page

Hungarians have protested by the thousands against proposed changes to their constitution that they believe will limit their democratic rights.
March 9, 2013

Opponents of the proposed constitutional changes say they fear they will curb citizens’ democratic rights. This led to two days of protests in Budapest, the first taking place on Thursday with dozens of protesters. On Saturday, thousands turned out to voice their concerns.

The parliament is to vote on the proposed amendments on Monday.

“A really worrying oppressive system is being built up here, like a dictatorship,” Milan Rozsa, a 25-year-old protester, told the AFP news agency.

Critics argue that the proposals seek to reinstate measures that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government had previously introduced, but which were struck down by the country’s constitutional court in recent months.

They say the proposed changes would have restrictive implications for higher education, by requiring students who receive state grants to stay and work in Hungary after their studies.

Another provision would restrict election campaigning to state media, something critics say would damage Hungary’s democracy. Among the other proposals is a ban on sleeping on the streets.

The changes would also curb the powers of the constitutional court by rendering any of its decisions made before the current constitution came into force last year invalid.

International concern over the upcoming vote is growing.

The European Commission, the Council of Europe and human rights organizations have expressed concern over the upcoming vote.

In a phone call on Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Prime Minister Orban that his government and the parliament should address concerns “in accordance with EU democratic principles.”

Orban responded in writing to Barroso, pledging that Hungary would conform to the norms and rules of the European Union, but he failed to offer details.

The Council of Europe, the European institution responsible for defending human rights, also weighed in on the issue last week, urging Budapest to postpone the vote. The Hungarian government rejected the request.

Saturday’s protest was organized by various human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Source

& check out that 99% sign in the background of the top picture! <3

anarcho-queer
anarcho-queer:

New York Millionaire On Trial For Keeping A Slave In Her Mansion
Millionaire socialite Annie George, 40, went on trial Tuesday for allegedly keeping an undocumented immigrant as a “slave” in her upstate New York mansion.
According to CBS 6 in Albany, Valsamma Mathai, 49, testified Tuesday that she was held in the 30,000 square foot, 26-bedroom Llenroc Mansion in Rexford, New York for six and a half years as she worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and slept in a walk-in closet.
Mathai, an undocumented immigrant from India, said she was picked up at a New York bus station by George’s late husband Mathai Kolath George, who spoke her native tongue and offered a job that would pay $1,000 per month — a significant raise over the $100 per month she was making.
When she arrived, however, Mathai claims she did not have her passport or visa, and soon discovered she wasn’t allowed to leave.
It wasn’t until the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received a tip from the woman’s son, who prosecutors said recorded a conversation with George, that agents came to her rescue. A criminal complaint was filed last March.
George is facing a charge of harboring an undocumented immigrant, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

That the worst thing they could charge this woman with is &#8216;harboring an undocumented immigrant,&#8217; &amp; that that&#8217;s a crime that carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison is baffling. This woman should face criminal prosecution, but not for giving shelter to another human being.
How &#8216;bout false imprisonment or kidnapping or torture or extortion? What does it say about our criminal justice system that HARBORING AN UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT is worse and/or more prosecutable than all those other things?

anarcho-queer:

New York Millionaire On Trial For Keeping A Slave In Her Mansion

Millionaire socialite Annie George, 40, went on trial Tuesday for allegedly keeping an undocumented immigrant as a “slave” in her upstate New York mansion.

According to CBS 6 in Albany, Valsamma Mathai, 49, testified Tuesday that she was held in the 30,000 square foot, 26-bedroom Llenroc Mansion in Rexford, New York for six and a half years as she worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and slept in a walk-in closet.

Mathai, an undocumented immigrant from India, said she was picked up at a New York bus station by George’s late husband Mathai Kolath George, who spoke her native tongue and offered a job that would pay $1,000 per month — a significant raise over the $100 per month she was making.

When she arrived, however, Mathai claims she did not have her passport or visa, and soon discovered she wasn’t allowed to leave.

It wasn’t until the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received a tip from the woman’s son, who prosecutors said recorded a conversation with George, that agents came to her rescue. A criminal complaint was filed last March.

George is facing a charge of harboring an undocumented immigrant, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

That the worst thing they could charge this woman with is ‘harboring an undocumented immigrant,’ & that that’s a crime that carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison is baffling. This woman should face criminal prosecution, but not for giving shelter to another human being.

How ‘bout false imprisonment or kidnapping or torture or extortion? What does it say about our criminal justice system that HARBORING AN UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT is worse and/or more prosecutable than all those other things?

The issue of wealth inequality across the United States is well known, but this video shows you the extent of that imbalance in dramatic and graphic fashion.

The video, which started going viral on Friday and whose traffic continues to climb on YouTube— reflects the facts as seen from many different sources. 

These types of statistics and unbalanced realities are important to remember/recall when austerity has been implemented, a set of policies that says the poorest & most-cheated in society should bare the weight of the mistakes of the richest & most-powerful. And as the graphics in this video clearly demonstrate, it all adds up to the wealthiest getting wealthier and the poorest getting the bare minimum that the wealth owners can get by with paying the working class.

Thousands march in Portugal to protest austerity
March 3, 2013

"If the government pays attention to what is happening and understands that the people are against them, they should get out," said Serafin Lobato, 65. "If not, this won’t stop."

Portugal is expected to endure a third straight year of recession in 2013, with a 2 percent contraction. The overall jobless rate has grown to a record 17.6 percent.

The marches were powered mostly by young people. Unemployment among people under 25 is close to 40 percent.

The country’s largest trade union, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, with some 600,000 members, also supported the marches and swelled numbers.

After several years of tax increases and welfare cuts, austerity is poised to deepen as the government looks for another €4 billion ($5.2 billion) to cut over the next two years, with the national health service, education, pensioners and government workers likely to be the hardest hit.

"There is no future without education, there is no future without culture," said student Ana Julia, 23. "We have to protest to get back what they are trying to take away from us."

The government is locked into debt-cutting measures in return for the €78 billion ($102 billion) financial rescue set up in 2011. More tax hikes this year sliced another chunk off wages.

Source

We live in a world capable, in principle, of providing a diverse and healthy diet for all, and yet one quarter of its people suffer from frequent hunger and ill health generated by a diet that is poor in quantity or quality or both. Another quarter of the world’s population eats too much food, food that is often heavy with calories and low on nutrients (colloquially called ‘junk food’). This quarter of the world’s population risks diabetes and all of the other chronic illnesses generated by obesity. In Mexico, for example, 14 per cent of the population have diabetes, and in India, 11 per cent of city-dwellers over 15. In the US it has been estimated that one-third of the children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes—a truly sad prospect, given that most of this is entirely preventable. Study after study in recent years has come to the conclusion that the single most important factor in human health is diet, and diet is something we can shape.

Cheap food is important to capitalism because it allows wages to be lower (and thus profits to be higher) and yet leave workers with more disposable income available to buy other commodities. For these and other reasons, early in the history of capitalism, the food system became tied to colonialism, where various forms of forced or semi-forced labour were common. After the civil war ended slavery in the US, the domestically-produced food system came to rest primarily on the family farm. But after the Second World War the increasing mechanization and chemicalisation of agriculture favoured larger farms. In the early 1970s the US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz got Congress to pass a programme of subsidies that rewarded high yields. As a result, the larger the farm and the higher the yield, the larger became the subsidy. Nearly all the subsidies went to large farms, and for a few basic crops: tobacco, cotton, corn, wheat, and eventually soy. Moreover the large farms that could benefit the most from mechanization and chemicalisation became increasingly subservient to the gigantic corporations that supplied the inputs and bought the outputs of these factory farms.

This situation remains essentially unchanged today. In 2005 alone the US government spent over $20 billion in agricultural subsidies (46 per cent of this went for corn production, 23 per cent for cotton, 10 per cent for wheat, and 6 per cent for soybeans). The largest 10 per cent of the farms got 72 per cent of the subsidies and 60 per cent of all farms got no subsidy at all. For the most part, fruit and vegetable crops received no subsidies, and the same could be said for most small and medium sized farms. In short, the subsidy program rewards the large yields that result from very large, highly industrialized farms.

Today, while there are still many family farms in the US, the older mixed family farm that utilized manure from its animals to fertilize the land, and practised crop rotation and other techniques to control pests, has been largely wiped out. The giant capitalist farm of today is dependent on cheap oil and government subsidies. David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University and a globally recognized expert on food systems and energy, has argued that if the entire world adopted the American food system, all known sources of fossil fuel would be exhausted in seven years. At the same time, utilizing such huge amounts of petroleum-based chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) would not only contribute enormously to global warming, but also would make our toxic environment even more toxic.

In this short essay most of my examples come from the US, because, as the most hegemonic capitalist power in the world, it has done the most to shape the global food system. But I don’t want to give the impression that there is one tightly integrated capitalist world food system. Even in the US, capitalism has not entirely subsumed the whole food system, and while there are few places in the world untouched by capitalism, its degree of hegemony may vary a great deal. Still, up to the present, capitalism has been the single strongest force shaping the global food system, and much of that shaping power has flowed outward from the US.

It is scandalous that in the academic world many professors of economics still teach the doctrine of consumer sovereignty when it is so clear that on the contrary, corporations are the far greater sovereign force.

More from: Between obesity & hunger: the capitalist food industry

Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.… You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?
Helen Keller in a letter published in the Manchester Advertiser (3 March 1911), quoted in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) page 345.
New Congress even wealthier with new millionaire freshman Congresspeople joining the United States legislative bodyJanuary 17, 2013 
The 113th Congress has become wealthier than the last, with incoming freshmen bringing in a median net worth of $1,066,515 each &#8212; about $1 million more than that of the average American.
While US citizens are getting poorer and increasingly applying for food stamps, the nation’s legislators are getting richer. Freshmen members of the 113th Congress have a median net worth that is about $100,000 higher than the net worth of all congressional members combined. All 535 members of Congress are worth an average $966,001 each, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
A typical American household has a net worth of about $66,740 – a value that has been declining since the start of the most recent recession. Between 2007 and 2010, the median net worth of American households sank 47.1 percent. Food stamp enrollment increased by 15.5 million since 2009 and recent job creation figures show that low-paying jobs have largely replaced higher paying ones.
At a time when the majority is struggling financially, the nation’s leaders are accumulating more wealth.
“What’s [hard] to measure is whether these new legislators appreciate the financial pain people face and can effectively represent them despite the fact that they themselves are well off,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Open Secrets.
Almost 50 percent (last Congress was 47% millionaires and this group is even wealthier) of the lawmakers have a net worth of more than $1 million, the wealthiest of which, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), was worth more than $500 million in 2011 and could be worth more than that today.
"Often people focus on who&#8217;s up, who&#8217;s down and the number of millionaires in Congress. And of course we should monitor how representative our legislature is and whether someone is getting rich while in public office – and why,"Krumholz said, adding that many of these legislators invest in companies and could therefore also have conflicts of interests.
Adding the average net worth of each member of Congress comes out to about $4.5 billion. With many of its members being in the nation&#8217;s top &#8220;one percent&#8221;, the legislators&#8217; rising incomes illustrate the increasing income gap during a time of economic struggles.
Americans living below the poverty line rose to 49.7 million last year – a record high which equates to 16 percent of the population. A recent study also shows that the US income gap is worse today than it was in 1774.
“The era when Washington economists and politicians could dismiss inequality as a second or third-tier issue may be ending,” wrote National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch. “And progressives, potentially, have a case against inequality that might put accusations of ‘class warfare’ and ‘politics of envy’ behind them.”
Source

New Congress even wealthier with new millionaire freshman Congresspeople joining the United States legislative body
January 17, 2013 

The 113th Congress has become wealthier than the last, with incoming freshmen bringing in a median net worth of $1,066,515 each — about $1 million more than that of the average American.

While US citizens are getting poorer and increasingly applying for food stamps, the nation’s legislators are getting richer. Freshmen members of the 113th Congress have a median net worth that is about $100,000 higher than the net worth of all congressional members combined. All 535 members of Congress are worth an average $966,001 each, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

A typical American household has a net worth of about $66,740 – a value that has been declining since the start of the most recent recession. Between 2007 and 2010, the median net worth of American households sank 47.1 percent. Food stamp enrollment increased by 15.5 million since 2009 and recent job creation figures show that low-paying jobs have largely replaced higher paying ones.

At a time when the majority is struggling financially, the nation’s leaders are accumulating more wealth.

“What’s [hard] to measure is whether these new legislators appreciate the financial pain people face and can effectively represent them despite the fact that they themselves are well off,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Open Secrets.

Almost 50 percent (last Congress was 47% millionaires and this group is even wealthier) of the lawmakers have a net worth of more than $1 million, the wealthiest of which, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), was worth more than $500 million in 2011 and could be worth more than that today.

"Often people focus on who’s up, who’s down and the number of millionaires in Congress. And of course we should monitor how representative our legislature is and whether someone is getting rich while in public office – and why,"Krumholz said, adding that many of these legislators invest in companies and could therefore also have conflicts of interests.

Adding the average net worth of each member of Congress comes out to about $4.5 billion. With many of its members being in the nation’s top “one percent”, the legislators’ rising incomes illustrate the increasing income gap during a time of economic struggles.

Americans living below the poverty line rose to 49.7 million last year – a record high which equates to 16 percent of the population. A recent study also shows that the US income gap is worse today than it was in 1774.

“The era when Washington economists and politicians could dismiss inequality as a second or third-tier issue may be ending,” wrote National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch. “And progressives, potentially, have a case against inequality that might put accusations of ‘class warfare’ and ‘politics of envy’ behind them.”

Source

Greece hit by public sector strikeDecember 19, 2012
Greek transport systems have been disrupted and schools and tax offices shut after public sector workers walked off the job in protest at new austerity measures and lay-offs demanded by foreign lenders.
The 24-hour strike is the latest in a series of protests since September against a package of wage cuts and tax hikes demanded by Greece&#8217;s European Union and International Monetory Fund lenders as the price for bailout loans to keep the country afloat.
The measures, which include earmarking 27,000 civil servants for eventual dismissal, remain unpopular among Greeks who say society is crumbling under the weight of spending cuts and tax hikes that hurt mostly the middle class.
'Enough is enough'
On Wednesday, striking teachers, doctors and municipal workers started gathering in central Athens as part of the walkout called by the ADEDY union, which represents about half a million public sector workers or roughly a quarter of the country&#8217;s workforce.
"We want to tell the government enough is enough! Enough with layoffs, wage and pension cuts, the collapse of the public sector, enough with these tax hikes," said Adedy unionist Despina Spanou.
Greece&#8217;s other major union, the private sector union GSEE, said it would hold a three-hour stoppage in solidarity and join the march through the streets of central Athens.
The Communist-affiliated PAME group was expected to hold a separate rally.
Some domestic flights were grounded and about 100 workers occupied the headquarters of Athens&#8217; city train company on Wednesday in protest at planned wage cuts.
Train workers also started a 48-hour strike against the conservative-led coalition&#8217;s plans to privatise Greece&#8217;s national railways.
Metro and tram workers walked off the job for a few hours on Wednesday and plan a 24-hour strike on Thursday.
Thousands were expected to march to the administrative reform ministry which oversees public sector reform, however unionists expected a smaller turnout that previous strikes.
Unions said that some Greeks, although fed up with austerity, could no longer afford to lose a day&#8217;s wages.
Police deployed about 2,000 officers in central Athens.
Source

Greece hit by public sector strike
December 19, 2012

Greek transport systems have been disrupted and schools and tax offices shut after public sector workers walked off the job in protest at new austerity measures and lay-offs demanded by foreign lenders.

The 24-hour strike is the latest in a series of protests since September against a package of wage cuts and tax hikes demanded by Greece’s European Union and International Monetory Fund lenders as the price for bailout loans to keep the country afloat.

The measures, which include earmarking 27,000 civil servants for eventual dismissal, remain unpopular among Greeks who say society is crumbling under the weight of spending cuts and tax hikes that hurt mostly the middle class.

'Enough is enough'

On Wednesday, striking teachers, doctors and municipal workers started gathering in central Athens as part of the walkout called by the ADEDY union, which represents about half a million public sector workers or roughly a quarter of the country’s workforce.

"We want to tell the government enough is enough! Enough with layoffs, wage and pension cuts, the collapse of the public sector, enough with these tax hikes," said Adedy unionist Despina Spanou.

Greece’s other major union, the private sector union GSEE, said it would hold a three-hour stoppage in solidarity and join the march through the streets of central Athens.

The Communist-affiliated PAME group was expected to hold a separate rally.

Some domestic flights were grounded and about 100 workers occupied the headquarters of Athens’ city train company on Wednesday in protest at planned wage cuts.

Train workers also started a 48-hour strike against the conservative-led coalition’s plans to privatise Greece’s national railways.

Metro and tram workers walked off the job for a few hours on Wednesday and plan a 24-hour strike on Thursday.

Thousands were expected to march to the administrative reform ministry which oversees public sector reform, however unionists expected a smaller turnout that previous strikes.

Unions said that some Greeks, although fed up with austerity, could no longer afford to lose a day’s wages.

Police deployed about 2,000 officers in central Athens.

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Suicide is a class issue!
Take a look at which occupations are high risk for suicide in the 2000s (as compared to in previous decades), as the working class experiences lower living standards, and is expected to work more hours for less money. Every aspect of our life has been under siege and this is the direct result. I&#8217;d be very interested to see numbers for the last seven years as well. 

Several occupations with the highest suicide rates (per 100 000 population) during 1979-1980 and 1982-1983, including veterinarians (ranked first), pharmacists (fourth), dentists (sixth), doctors (tenth) and farmers (thirteenth), have easy occupational access to a method of suicide (pharmaceuticals or guns). By 2001-2005, there had been large significant reductions in suicide rates for each of these occupations, so that none ranked in the top 30 occupations. Occupations with significant increases over time in suicide rates were all manual occupations whereas occupations with suicide rates that decreased were mainly professional or non-manual. Variation in suicide rates that was explained by socio-economic group almost doubled over time from 11.4% in 1979-1980 and 1982-1983 to 20.7% in 2001-2005.

By the time you get to the second chart, there are literally 0 &#8220;professionals&#8221; on the suicidal professions list. It&#8217;s 100% working-class jobs. 
Source

Suicide is a class issue!

Take a look at which occupations are high risk for suicide in the 2000s (as compared to in previous decades), as the working class experiences lower living standards, and is expected to work more hours for less money. Every aspect of our life has been under siege and this is the direct result. I’d be very interested to see numbers for the last seven years as well. 

Several occupations with the highest suicide rates (per 100 000 population) during 1979-1980 and 1982-1983, including veterinarians (ranked first), pharmacists (fourth), dentists (sixth), doctors (tenth) and farmers (thirteenth), have easy occupational access to a method of suicide (pharmaceuticals or guns). By 2001-2005, there had been large significant reductions in suicide rates for each of these occupations, so that none ranked in the top 30 occupations. Occupations with significant increases over time in suicide rates were all manual occupations whereas occupations with suicide rates that decreased were mainly professional or non-manual. Variation in suicide rates that was explained by socio-economic group almost doubled over time from 11.4% in 1979-1980 and 1982-1983 to 20.7% in 2001-2005.

By the time you get to the second chart, there are literally 0 “professionals” on the suicidal professions list. It’s 100% working-class jobs. 

Source

People of Spain &amp; Portugal pour into the streets to protest austerity
September 16, 2012
Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain rallied in the capital on Saturday against punishing austerity measures enacted by the government, which is trying to save the country from financial collapse.
Large protests against austerity measures also took place in neighboring Portugal. Demonstrators in Lisbon threw tomatoes and fireworks at the Portuguese headquarters of the International Monetary Fund. Two protesters were arrested, but otherwise the rally was peaceful.
Spain is stuck in a double-dip recession with unemployment close to 25 percent. The conservative government of the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has introduced sharp cuts and raised taxes in a move to reduce the deficit and to reassure investors and officials from the 17-nation euro zone.
The marchers in Madrid unfurled banners with slogans like “Let’s go! They are ruining the country and we have to stop them.”
“This government’s policies are causing too much pain,” said a union leader, Ignacio Fernández Toxo. “It’s a lie that there isn’t another way to restore the economy.”
The situation looks to get worse. At a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Cyprus, Spain announced that it would present a new set of economic reforms by the end of the month. The move raised expectations that Spain might soon ask for financial help.
The economic plan will be unveiled by Sept. 27, and it is expected to be the starting point for Spain’s tapping of a new European Central Bank bond-buying plan.
Just before Saturday’s march began, buses transporting protesters blocked several major roads in the Spanish capital. The main organizers were Social Summit, an association of more than 150 organizations, and the Workers’ Commissions and General Workers trade unions.
The Interior Ministry’s regional office said it had expected more than 500,000 people to reach a central Madrid square, but it later said that 65,000 had attended to listen to speeches made by protest leaders.
Mr. Toxo called for a referendum on the government’s austerity and bailout plans, saying the measures were so different from the ruling Popular Party’s election pledges that Spaniards should have the right to express an opinion on them.
The Madrid protest comes four days after another antigovernment gathering in Barcelona that attracted about 1.5 million demonstrators, according to estimates by the police.
“We’ve had our pay cut. We don’t get the firefighting training and equipment we need. There are more students and fewer teachers in our children’s classrooms, and health care is also being cut,” said a firefighter, Carlos Melgaves, while marching in a group of about 50 firefighters. “We can’t take it anymore.”
The prime minister has accepted a loan of up to 100 billion euros, or about $130 billion, to help ailing banks hurt by a collapse of the country’s real estate and construction industries. The government also has faced punishingly high interest rates while raising money on bond markets to keep the economy in liquidity.
The country is widely expected to ask to sell its bonds to the European Central Bank, but the conditions attached have been the subject of continuing negotiations.
In Portugal, another package of recently announced government austerity measures could turn the nation’s sullen acceptance of belt-tightening into an explosion of anger similar to that seen in Greece over the past two years.
More than 50,000 people said on Facebook they would attend a large protest in Lisbon, and organizers called smaller demonstrations in 40 other Portuguese cities.
Last week, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal announced an increase in workers’ social security contributions to 18 percent of their monthly salary from 11 percent. The cut is equivalent to a net monthly wage.
The country’s finance minister, Vitor Gaspar, said income taxes would go up next year and public employees would lose either their Christmas or vacation bonus, roughly equivalent to a month’s income. Many pensioners will lose both.
A protester, Magda Alves, said the austerity measures being applied to overcome the financial crisis were not working.
“What is being done in Portugal now was done in Greece, it is being done in Spain, and was also applied in other countries on other continents,” Ms. Alves said. “The result was always the same: disaster.”
Source

People of Spain & Portugal pour into the streets to protest austerity

September 16, 2012

Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain rallied in the capital on Saturday against punishing austerity measures enacted by the government, which is trying to save the country from financial collapse.

Large protests against austerity measures also took place in neighboring Portugal. Demonstrators in Lisbon threw tomatoes and fireworks at the Portuguese headquarters of the International Monetary Fund. Two protesters were arrested, but otherwise the rally was peaceful.

Spain is stuck in a double-dip recession with unemployment close to 25 percent. The conservative government of the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has introduced sharp cuts and raised taxes in a move to reduce the deficit and to reassure investors and officials from the 17-nation euro zone.

The marchers in Madrid unfurled banners with slogans like “Let’s go! They are ruining the country and we have to stop them.”

“This government’s policies are causing too much pain,” said a union leader, Ignacio Fernández Toxo. “It’s a lie that there isn’t another way to restore the economy.”

The situation looks to get worse. At a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Cyprus, Spain announced that it would present a new set of economic reforms by the end of the month. The move raised expectations that Spain might soon ask for financial help.

The economic plan will be unveiled by Sept. 27, and it is expected to be the starting point for Spain’s tapping of a new European Central Bank bond-buying plan.

Just before Saturday’s march began, buses transporting protesters blocked several major roads in the Spanish capital. The main organizers were Social Summit, an association of more than 150 organizations, and the Workers’ Commissions and General Workers trade unions.

The Interior Ministry’s regional office said it had expected more than 500,000 people to reach a central Madrid square, but it later said that 65,000 had attended to listen to speeches made by protest leaders.

Mr. Toxo called for a referendum on the government’s austerity and bailout plans, saying the measures were so different from the ruling Popular Party’s election pledges that Spaniards should have the right to express an opinion on them.

The Madrid protest comes four days after another antigovernment gathering in Barcelona that attracted about 1.5 million demonstrators, according to estimates by the police.

“We’ve had our pay cut. We don’t get the firefighting training and equipment we need. There are more students and fewer teachers in our children’s classrooms, and health care is also being cut,” said a firefighter, Carlos Melgaves, while marching in a group of about 50 firefighters. “We can’t take it anymore.”

The prime minister has accepted a loan of up to 100 billion euros, or about $130 billion, to help ailing banks hurt by a collapse of the country’s real estate and construction industries. The government also has faced punishingly high interest rates while raising money on bond markets to keep the economy in liquidity.

The country is widely expected to ask to sell its bonds to the European Central Bank, but the conditions attached have been the subject of continuing negotiations.

In Portugal, another package of recently announced government austerity measures could turn the nation’s sullen acceptance of belt-tightening into an explosion of anger similar to that seen in Greece over the past two years.

More than 50,000 people said on Facebook they would attend a large protest in Lisbon, and organizers called smaller demonstrations in 40 other Portuguese cities.

Last week, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal announced an increase in workers’ social security contributions to 18 percent of their monthly salary from 11 percent. The cut is equivalent to a net monthly wage.

The country’s finance minister, Vitor Gaspar, said income taxes would go up next year and public employees would lose either their Christmas or vacation bonus, roughly equivalent to a month’s income. Many pensioners will lose both.

A protester, Magda Alves, said the austerity measures being applied to overcome the financial crisis were not working.

“What is being done in Portugal now was done in Greece, it is being done in Spain, and was also applied in other countries on other continents,” Ms. Alves said. “The result was always the same: disaster.”

Source