fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sam Pizzigati

Wealth That Concentrates Kills

The weight of the wealth that sits at the top of America’s economic order isn’t just squeezing dollars out of the wallets of average Americans. That concentrated wealth is shearing years off of American lives. In 2018, according to new statistics from the Census Bureau, incomes for typical American households saw a “marked slowdown.” And mortality trends in the United States reflect similar dynamics worldwide wherever income and wealth are concentrating. The more unequal a society becomes, the less healthy the society. The nations with the narrowest gaps between rich and poor turn out to have the longest lifespans. The Government Accountability Office, an independent nonpartisan agency that services Congress, conducted its new inequality research after a request from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). He draws a simple lesson from the GAO’s sobering new numbers. “We must put an end to the obscene income and wealth inequality in our country,” Sanders noted after the GAO report’s September 9 release. “If we do not urgently act to solve the economic distress of millions of Americans, a whole generation will be condemned to early death.”

Biden Fumbles, Warren Shines In Third Debate

A night of brutal attacks and awkward moments as Biden fumbles and Warren shines. The Guardian: "In a format infamous for clamor and cacophony – throw ten politicians onstage and drill them for hours on umpteen topics – the third Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday yielded, against all odds, moments of clarity. Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke declared “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” And the crowd hooted at the intrigue when Castro, at 44 the second youngest candidate onstage, attacked the 76-year-old frontrunner, former vice-president Joe Biden, basically coming close to calling him senile. The contest has seemed to glide listlessly through the end of summer, with Biden easily on top in the polls, senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders somewhere behind him, and the rest of the field below. The preservation of that pecking order could now depend on how voters respond to Warren’s magisterial replies to questions on topics from public education to healthcare – 'I know what’s broken, I know how to fix it, and I’m going to lead the fight to get it done,' she said – versus Sanders’ peppy defense of his territory as a pioneer in advocating universal healthcare reform: 'I wrote the damn bill!' he barked (again)."

Sotomayor Warns Of SCOTUS Bias

Justice Sotomayor warns the Supreme Court is doing “extraordinary” favors for Trump. Vox: "Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a brief but pointed dissent Wednesday evening from a Supreme Court order that effectively locked nearly all Central American migrants out of the asylum process. Asylum allows foreign nationals who face certain forms of persecution to seek refuge in the United States. The Court’s order is temporary, and it only allows the asylum ban to remain in effect while the case is working its way through the courts. It stays a lower court decision that blocked the ban. Though this litigation will continue to percolate in lower courts, other judges are likely to read the Supreme Court’s order as a sign that a majority of the justices will ultimately uphold the ban. As is often the case with such temporary orders, there was no majority opinion — and thus no explanation of why the Court ruled the way it did or even how each member of the Court voted. We only know that Sotomayor voted against the stay, and that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Sotomayor’s dissent. The sharpest part of Sotomayor’s opinion may be its final paragraph, which accuses a majority of her colleagues of bypassing the Court’s ordinary procedures in order to bail out the Trump administration."

Trump Opens Arctic Wildlife Refuge To Drilling

Trump opens protected Alaskan Arctic refuge to oil drillers. The Guardian:
"The Trump administration is finalizing plans to allow oil and gas drilling in a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that has been protected for decades. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will offer leases on essentially the entire 1.6m-acre coastal plain, which includes places where threatened polar bears have dens and porcupine caribou visit for calving. Drilling operations are expected to be problematic for Indigenous populations, many of which rely on subsistence hunting and fishing. The Democrat-controlled House just hours earlier passed legislation to protect the area, but Republicans in the majority in the Senate are highly unlikely to approve the bill. The Alaska Wilderness League’s executive director Adam Kolton said that 'to no one’s surprise, the administration chose the most aggressive leasing alternative, not even pretending that this is about restraint or meaningful protection.' 'With an eye on developing the entirety of the fragile coastal plain, the administration has been riding roughshod over science, silencing dissent and shutting out entire Indigenous communities,' Kolton said. The environmentally-sensitive area of Alaska’s Arctic was forbidden for drilling until a change by Congress in an unrelated 2017 tax bill, which Kolton called a 'sham of a vote.'"

EPA Dirties Water, Wants More Deregulation

EPA makes rollback of clean water rules official. NPR: "The Trump administration is changing the definition of what qualifies as 'waters of the United States,' tossing out an Obama-era regulation that had enhanced protections for wetlands and smaller waterways. Thursday's rollback is the first step in a process that will allow the Trump administration to create its own definition of which waters deserve federal protection. A new rule is expected to be finalized this winter. 'We're delivering on the president's regulatory reform agenda,' says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist. The EPA chief unveiled the shift in U.S. water policy Thursday during an event at the National Association of Manufacturers headquarters in Washington, D.C. Wheeler spoke alongside Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James, who joined him in signing the repeal of the 2015 rule. Adding that the EPA has already finalized 46 deregulatory actions under President Trump, Wheeler says the agency has 'an additional 45 actions in development.'"

Trump Wants To Revoke CA Clean Air Standards

White House moving forward to strip California of vehicle authority: sources. Reuters: "The Trump administration is moving forward with a plan to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards and declare that states are pre-empted from setting their own vehicle rules, three people briefed on the matter said on Thursday. President Donald Trump met with senior officials on Thursday at the White House to discuss the administration’s plan to divide its August 2018 proposal to rollback Obama era standards through 2025 and revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set state requirements for vehicles, the people said. The meeting included Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Office and Management and Budget director Russell Vought, the sources said. The White House and the agencies declined to comment."

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