fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sam Pizzigati

Are America’s Rich Getting Tired of Winning?

The obituaries for Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chair who died December 8 at age 92, almost all echoed a noble, even heroic narrative. Between 1979 and 1987, Volcker’s bold and sweeping interest rate hikes shocked “the U.S. economy out of a cycle of inflation and malaise and so set the stage for a generation of prosperity.” But prosperity for who? Economist Gabriel Zucman has just delivered the most telling answer yet. The University of California at Berkeley scholar has compared current average American incomes — in six different income ranges — to average incomes at the start of every decade since 1970. America’s very richest — the top one-hundredth of our top 1 percent — have on average added about $427,000 to their incomes every year since 1970. The bottom 50 percent of Americans have added to their incomes, too — on average, a measly $167 a year. Social scientists have a phrase for the sociological dynamic at play here. They see poverty as “social exclusion,” the incapacity to lead the life that most of society considers minimally decent. If you can’t afford that life, you stand excluded, always on the outside looking in, with all the stress that falls upon those with outsider status. Most households on the economic edge do everything they can to avoid that exclusion. And that often means — in the United States — going deeply into debt because incomes for the bottom 90 percent have simply not kept pace with the growing financial burdens of modern life.

Congress To Limit Trump's War Powers

Pelosi announces war powers resolution as tensions with Iran escalate. NBC: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the House will vote soon on a war powers resolution to limit President Donald Trump's military actions after he ordered the killing of a top Iranian general last week, escalating tensions with Tehran. 'Last week, the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials,' Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues Sunday. 'This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.' 'As members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe,' she continued. 'For this reason, we are concerned that the administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.'"

Iran Crisis Diverts Attention From Impeachment

Iran uncertainty grips Congress as impeachment looms. NYT: "As Congress reconvenes on Monday, the specter of escalating hostilities with Iran and a searing debate over the justification behind Mr. Trump’s action will take center stage on Capitol Hill. The unexpected turn of events has added a volatile new element to the pitched fight over Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. For Republicans, the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, fueled a new line of defense of the president, as they argued that Democrats’ effort to oust Mr. Trump while he tended to matters of national security was irresponsible. Democratic leaders insisted the two issues must not be interwoven, and said that lawmakers were obligated to follow through with the impeachment process even as they debated the way forward on Iran. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday evening told Democratic lawmakers in a letter that the House would act swiftly and vote later in the week on a resolution to limit the scope of the president’s war-making powers in Iran. Many of their rank and file have charged that Mr. Trump authorized the strike precisely to distract attention from the charges at the center of his impeachment."

CPB Targets Iranian-Americans At Borders

CPB Detains Iranian families. The Intercept: "Dozens of Iranian families, some including U.S. citizens, were detained and questioned at the U.S.-Canada border over the weekend, heightening concerns that the Trump administration’s recent actions in the Middle East could have serious consequences for Iranians living in the United States. Among those swept up in the ordeal, trapped in the no man’s land of a U.S. border office, was a young medical student and her family. In an interview with The Intercept Sunday, Crystal, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation, described how she and her family were held for nearly half a day while being subjected to questions about their relationship to Iran. Crystal and her brother are American citizens, born and raised in the U.S. Their parents are dual citizens of the U.S. and Iran. The family had driven to Vancouver for vacation and were on their way back to the states Saturday afternoon when their trouble began. It was approximately 2 p.m. when they pulled up to a port of entry near Blaine, Washington. “We go frequently,” Crystal explained. “It’s never been a huge problem.” This time was different. While still in their vehicle, Crystal said a CBP officer began asking her parents if they were born in Iran. 'Did you immigrate or are you a refugee?' she recalled the officer asking. 'What is your occupation? When is the last time you went to Iran?' The officer picked up a phone and made a call. 'Why are you pulling us aside? Is it just because we’re from Iran?' 'At that point we knew we were going to get pulled over,' Crystal said. The officer handed the family their passports and directed them to pull into a parking area. 'Why are you pulling us aside?' Crystal’s mother asked. 'Is it just because we’re from Iran?' According to Crystal, the officer’s reply was both apologetic and ominous. 'I’m sorry,' she recalled him saying. 'It’s just a really bad time for you guys right now. Go ahead and pull to the side.'"

Census, DHS To Share Citizenship Data

To produce citizenship data, Homeland Security to share records with census. NPR: "The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to share certain government records from its databases to help the Census Bureau produce data about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country. DHS quietly announced the data-sharing agreement in a regulatory document posted on its website on Dec. 27. It marks the latest development in the Trump administration's ongoing effort to carry out the executive order President Trump issued in July after courts blocked the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year to keep the citizenship question off, President Trump said in the executive order that releasing citizenship data based on existing records would allow states to redraw voting districts using the number of eligible voters rather than all residents in an area — a method of redistricting that a prominent GOP strategist concluded would politically benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic white people. According to the DHS document, which was first reported by Federal Computer Week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is sharing personal information about naturalized U.S. citizens and green card holders from records going back to as early as 1973. More recent records dating to 2013 from Customs and Border Protection, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will provide the Census Bureau with data such as noncitizens' full names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and alien registration numbers. CBP is also sharing the travel histories of visitors to the U.S., including those who have overstayed their visas."

Trump Tax Cuts Deepen Inequality

The Trump tax cuts in action: Socialism for the rich. WaPo: "It’s 2020 — the year of seeing clearly — and we’re only 306 days away from an election with the potential to determine the future of democracy as we know it. Separating fact from fiction in the service of understanding who’s really fighting for whom couldn’t be more important. let’s start with the 2017 tax cut, the singular legislative achievement for President Trump and Republicans in Congress. Skeptics of the deal believed that, contrary to claims that it would “pay for itself” and lift the middle class, it would rob the treasury of much-needed revenue and, by tilting its gains toward the already rich, exacerbate our economy’s already high levels of inequality. That would make it Exhibit A in the case against Trump’s faux populism. The evidence is in, and the skeptics were right: Revenue is way down, and, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, after-tax inequality is heading up. not only did the tax cut break the linkage between economic growth and revenue flows, but it also significantly damaged the inequality-reducing function of our tax and transfer system. Other attacks on the safety net by the Trump administration, including cuts to SNAP (nutritional support) and Medicaid eligibility, only serve to exacerbate that problem. The inescapable motivation of these policies is to use the tax and transfer systems to redistribute income from the bottom of the income scale to the top. So, the next time you hear Trump or any other conservatives whine about the creeping socialism of the left, be aware the right is already deeply engaged in their own socialist project. It’s socialism for the rich. And the evidence shows that it’s working exactly as they planned it."

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