Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Migrant Torture Camps

European leaders stand accused by Amnesty International of being knowingly complicit in the torture and exploitation of thousands of migrants and refugees by the EU-financed Libyan coastguard and officials running the country’s detention camps. In an attempt to stem the flow of people across the Mediterranean to Europe, the EU is financing a system that routinely acts in collusion with militia groups and people traffickers to “make money from human suffering”, a report from the human rights group claims.
Amnesty claims the coastguard and those to whom they hand over refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, are often acting in cahoots with criminal gangs and militia. Agreements between the coastguard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow specific vessels to pass through Libyan waters without interception, it is claimed. The coastguard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters. Those are who are intercepted on their way to Europe are sent to camps run by the Libyan general directorate for combating illegal migration (DCIM), where torture for the purposes of extracting money is almost routine, Amnesty reports.
After interviews with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and meetings with Libyan officials and others with knowledge of the abuses, Amnesty claims it now has sufficient evidence to take leaders of EU states to international courts over alleged abuses of human right obligations.
“You will see us in court,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe director. “Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of the Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse. European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these crimes.”
It is claimed by Amnesty that the EU member states “cannot plausibly claim to be unaware of the grave violations being committed by some of the detention officials and coastguard agents with whom they are so assiduously cooperating”.
Up to 20,000 people are currently held in what the Amnesty report, Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion, says are overcrowded, unsanitary centres, often under the control of militia and criminals. “For some time there has been concern that the price for stemming migration has been the human rights of those seeking to come to the EU,” the report says. The reports says: “The lack of any judicial oversight of the detention process and the near total impunity with which officials operate has facilitated the institutionalisation of torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres.”
In March, a review by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact said the UK role in the capacity-building programme with the Libyan coastguard was “delivering migrants back to a system that leads to indiscriminate and indefinite detention and denies refugees their right to asylum”.
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has described the suffering of migrants in Libyan camps as an “outrage to the conscience of humanity”.

Merchants of Death

A massive vote of confidence in Britain’s economy was how Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described BAE Systems’ £5bn deal to sell 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar. It’s also a massive vote of confidence in the willingness of the British to sell weapons to anyone whose money is good. Qatar is hardly a model of enlightened democracy. According to Williamson, these “formidable jets” will boost the Qatari military in its mission to “support stability in the region” and deliver “security at home”. But quite how isn’t entirely clear. 
Qatar has been isolated by Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis, all of which have accused it of sponsoring terrorism. It has responded to this by ramping up military spending. The arms deal is destined to stoke tensions in one of the world’s more dangerous regions. So where will the stability arise from?

US Poverty

In 2016 nearly 41 million Americans, or 13% of the population, were living in poverty 

  • Twice as many African American families are in poverty (22%) than white families
  • 19% of Hispanic families are in poverty
  • Women (14%) are more likely to be in poverty than men (11%)
  • Poverty rates range from 11% to 14% across large regions of the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West
  • Many counties - mainly in the Southeast and Southwest - have poverty rates of more than 25%

Monday, December 11, 2017

Being a SOCIAList Party

Friday, 15 December @ 7.30pm 
London Head Office Seasonal Social
Everyone welcome - bring a friend... and something to drink!

Manchester Branch Social 

  Friday, 15 December @ 8.30pm - Bolton
 Sweet Green Tavern, 127 Crook Street, Bolton BL3 6DD
  Across the road from Bolton rail station
 Winter social; quiz - probably no prizes but fun and comradeship with excellent beer.
 Everyone welcome - Bring a friend!

Fact of the Day

 The richest 1% Indians possess 58% of all wealth in the country

Trade in Death Rises

Arms sales are increasing around the world. Munitions, tanks, drones: The global trade in arms and military services increased again in 2016. 

It was up 1.9 percent on the previous year — and 38 percent compared to 2002.

 These new figures are from the latest report on the international arms industry by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

It says that in 2016 the world's 100 biggest armaments groups sold 374.8 billion US dollars-worth of weapons and weapons systems.

The United States' armaments groups are producing and selling more weapons. According to the report, sales from US firms rose 4 percent in 2016, totaling 217.2 billion US dollars. This was not only because of the US' own military deployments abroad: The figure was also boosted by the purchase of large weapons systems by other countries. 

The US group Lockheed Martin — the biggest weapons producer worldwide — did lucrative business selling its new F-35 to countries like Britain, Italy or Norway. Its biggest customer, though, is the United States Air Force.

 Once again, the report clearly shows that the majority of arms come from American companies — a total of 57.9 percent of all global arms sales. Western Europe takes second place in the list of the most important suppliers of arms, followed by Russia with 7.1 percent of arms sales around the world. The SIPRI researchers believe China may also be a top weapons manufacturer. The country does not, however, appear in their statistics, because the experts have no reliable data on the Chinese arms trade. "But we assume that Chinese armaments groups are among the top 20 biggest companies in the world," says Aude Fleurant.

 German and British groups increased their turnover. The German tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei, for example, and Rheinmetall, which makes military vehicles, profited from the demand for their products in Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. 

There is no question but that wars prompt individual states to procure weapons. When crises threaten, countries spend more money on more modern arms: They buy new warships, fighter jets and tanks, and armaments groups sell more as a result.

"Nonetheless, it's very difficult to make a direct connection between large arms purchases and ongoing wars. But of course there are links: There's a greater demand for certain types of weapon — munitions, missiles or ground vehicles, for example,” says Aude Fleurant, Director of the Arms and Military Expenditure Program at SIPRI. The rise in arms sales around the world is also a response to smoldering conflicts, she adds. "We observe that in some regions the perceived threat is increasing."

South Korea is one example of this. In 2016 South Korean firms reported huge 20.6 percent increase in arms sales. "That quite clearly has to do with the security situation in the region," Fleurant says. South Korea feels seriously threatened by the nuclear provocations of its neighbor North Korea — and is increasing its military expenditure in response. South Korean arms manufacturers, who mainly sell to their country's defense ministry, are profiting from this.

The traditional weapons importers apparently ran out of money in 2016. "The falling commodity prices for oil and gas have put such a strain on the public finances of many African and South American countries that they bought fewer weapons than planned," says SIPRI researcher Fleurant. Russia's armaments groups were also affected by the crisis.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Roma in Glasgow

In Govanhill, in Glasgow, the besmirching of another immigrant community is in full spate. A century ago, it was the poor Irish, fleeing famine and persecution by the British government, who were being demonised. Now it’s the turn of the Roma people. 
Britain’s largest concentration of Roma families resides in Glasgow, where they began to settle in numbers following the 2004 expansion of the EU.
The Roma community, mainly from Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, were among those who took advantage of free movement. They are a travelling people and are among the world’s most persecuted minorities. They have always provided an easy target for the hard right in any country where they settle. When widespread social inequality prevails, the presence of any minority provides an opportunity for reactionaries to camouflage its real causes.
The Irish immigrants were depicted as unclean, savage and given to base desires; they were regarded as something less than human. Later, Glasgow became home to thousands of Asian families. They, too, encountered discrimination, but the sullen resentment soon gave way to acceptance.
Glasgow’s Roma community in Govanhill are a people accustomed to living on the margins of society and wearily familiar with the loathing that accompanies them on their travels. This has bred in them a suspicion and resentment of authority and a spirit of stubborn self-reliance. As such, many of their children pass into adulthood without anything resembling a formal education.
In recent weeks, the Roma have been subject to a newspaper report short on fact and heavy on insinuation claimed that there was widespread evidence of Roma families selling their children into prostitution. The lurid tales fed on unsubstantiated claims from nameless individuals that have been whispered in the area for a decade or so. The police and Glasgow city council have been aware of these claims, too, but insist that they have never received any information worthy of investigation. The shocking child sex abuse claims sit at the apex of a collection of social evils, steadily escalating by degrees of luridness, which have been blamed on the Roma. These range from tenement backcourts being deployed as fly-tipping areas to tales of a crime wave caused by rampaging Roma youth.
The recent child sex abuse claims also require some scrutiny. Some of the responses accompanying stories about the Roma are utterly devoid of any compassion and replete with the language of Ukip and Britain First. This led police chiefs to warn some about the “need to be very careful about the language they are using”. Much of the outrage purports to be concerned about issues of child welfare and a sudden burst of compassion for “our own poor”, where none existed before. It ignores the fact of child welfare issues in the indigenous white communities in other parts of the city.  Certainly, the claims of child sex abuse, no matter how threadbare, need to be investigated. Let’s just hope that these are not merely being used to mask something sinister. And if true that such allegations of child exploitation have existed for a decade, we need to ask whether Roma children were afforded the same protection and resources as offered to non-Roma children. Why have people been willing to pass these stories around the community for at least 10 years now without any concerted effort to get the police or social workers involved?
For further reading on the persecution of the Roma read the Socialist Standard

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The food revolution

The Socialist Party is a political party of the working class, for the working class, for socialism, for a sustainable future and a world without profit.

The biggest myth is that hunger and food security are the result of food scarcity. We produce one and a half times more than enough food to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet. People go hungry because they are poor and don’t have enough money to buy the food being produced. Calls to “double food production” are half a century old. Instead of ending hunger they have indebted farmers who borrow money to buy newer, bigger, and more expensive inputs, only to see prices bottom out because of a glut of food on the market.
It’s not scarcity but overproduction that is driving hunger and getting the agrifoods corporations and their shareholders very rich. Of the billion or so hungry people in the world, most are the poor farmers who actually produce 70 percent of the world’s food, but they can’t even afford to feed themselves. They don’t need expensive inputs, they need more land, access to water, and to health, education, and welfare services.
No consumer, farmer, or activist participates in the food system without also participating in capitalism. This is a basic truth that’s too often overlooked in the struggle to change our broken food system.
In his new book, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, Eric Holt-Giménez describes these basic truths of capitalism and how they are connected to the history of our food system. Part history book, part practical guide, the book links many of the injustices associated with food to other inequities, arguing that capitalism fuels and is fueled by oppression. If we better understand “the rudiments of how capitalism operates,” he explains, “we can better grasp why our food system is the way it is, and how we can change it.”  Holt-Giménez said “I realized that many food activists—mostly in the U.S.—had no analysis of the root causes of the problems they were dealing with. Many people were genuinely surprised when I pointed out that we had a capitalist food system, and that it was going to act the way capitalism acted... I also provide some very basic concepts in political economy (use and exchange valuesurplus valuethe agrarian questionsocially necessary labor timeland rentparity, etc.) and show how they can be used to understand why the food system does what it does...”
 He concludes “We can’t change the food system in isolation from the capitalist system because they are systemically and historically connected...There are no magic small-scale projects that bring about whole-system transformation in and of themselves...Right now the global market makes our decisions for us—which just means the big corporations with the most market power will continue to put profits before people and before the environment. We need the concerted power of social movements to change that. Otherwise, we can be assured that whenever our hopeful alternatives really start working for us, they will be co-opted by capitalism. ..It is important to eat according to one’s values—organic, fair trade, local, etc.—but conscious consumption—essentially a market-based approach to transforming capitalism—comes up short because sooner or later capitalism ends up absorbing these products into the system.”



Farmers say they were experiencing increased difficulty in recruiting seasonal workers since the EU referendum. A former environment secretary suggested a return to land work for British youths, an idea shared by many. The truth is, British people are highly unlikely to fill any positions left by migrant workers. It isn't as simple as there being sufficient labour available in the UK to perform the work. The situation is far more complex.

Rural communities have been transformed due to the of locals, and people from cities moving to the country or buying second homes, pricing potential farm workers out of the local housing market. As a result, physically able unemployed people are now less likely to live anywhere near the farms requiring workers. Transport systems in rural areas are limited, and basic, temporary housing is unlikely to attract people away from comfortable, permanent housing situated close to friends and family.

The current benefits system also from engaging in any kind of seasonal work due to the inflexibility of signing on and off. Add this to the inconsistency of work availability itself, and there is little wonder why no compulsion exists to pick fruit.

The conditions of seasonal work – low pay, physically demanding, long and unsociable hours – do not help. They are far from the expectations of the typical British worker, who is now culturally tuned to a 40-hour Monday to Friday schedule. There is also a greater desire for career progression, which is unlikely to occur in the world of fruit picking. But even if conditions and incentives of picking fruit and veg were improved, British workers would still be unlikely to perform it because of how this kind of work is perceived. Among other things, the task has become negatively associated with migrant workers and slave labour. Farmers have repeatedly tried to employ locals, with a drastically low rate of return, telling stories of and even fewer returning after just several days of work.

Farmers have little power over price setting against the whim of supermarket control. This cost squeeze leaves many farmers with their hands tied in terms of increasing worker pay – the effect of which would be higher prices for the consumer. Mechanisation might one day be the answer, but due that is not yet feasible.

Global warming gets warmer

World temperatures could rise 15 percent more than expected this century, obliging governments to make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming, scientists said.

Average surface temperatures could increase up to 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) more than previously projected by 2100 in the most gloomy scenarios for warming, according to a study based on a review of scientific models of how the climate system works.The extra heat would make it harder to achieve targets set by almost 200 nations in 2015 to limit a rise in temperatures to "well below" 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times to restrict droughts, heat waves and more powerful storms.

"Our results suggest that achieving any given global temperature stabilization target will require steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than previously calculated," authors Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science wrote in the journal Nature. 

William Collins, a professor of meteorology at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study, commented, "We are now more certain about the future climate, but the bad news is that it will be warmer than we thought." 

The models that best represent the recent climate "tend to be the models that project the most global warming over the remainder of the twenty-first century," the scientists wrote. In one pessimistic scenario, under which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise until 2100, temperatures could rise by 4.8C (8.6F) against 4.3C (7.7F) estimated by a U.N. panel of experts in 2014, they said.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Private medicine

Hospitals are detaining hundreds of thousands of people against their will every year – many of them mothers and their newborn babies – simply because they are too poor to pay their medical bills, a study has found.
The practice, which is widespread across parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, sees patients chained to drainpipes, starved and abused, and forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for cash to pay off their bills, according to the paper published by Chatham House this week.
"Healthcare user fees are at the root of the problem, and this just shows how bad a privately financed health system can get. We need to do more research on this and the global health community needs to start taking this seriously,” said Robert Yates, project director at the Centre on Global Health Security. “This is a systemic problem, and the number of rights abuses is quite profound: people are being detained without trial, they’re being locked up with security guards, and women are giving birth to babies who are entering the world, in effect, as prisoners.”
Over a six-week period in 2016 in one health facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 54% of women who had given birth and were eligible for discharge were detained for nonpayment of user fees. In a Nairobi hospital in Kenya, women who had been detained post-childbirth for fees amounting to 210,000 shillings (£1,500), were having sex with doctors for as little as 300 shillings (£2.16) in order to pay off their bills.
 In some countries, the practice is so common that patients consider it “normal” for hospitals to detain those who cannot pay their bills. Politicians have used it to their advantage in the run-up to elections. Recently in Nigeria, an aspiring governor paid off a number of patients’ bills at a public hospital in Osun state, while the wife of a state governor in Abia showered nursing mothers with gifts, and paid off their bills, after visiting them in a hospital presided over by her husband.
“Healthcare really needs to be free of charge to the patient, because this is the consequence of making patients pay, and it is the worst situation in a whole range of very difficult situations: they may get the medical care they need but then they, or their belongings or their ID papers, are kept, hostage,” said Dr Mit Philips, health policy advisor at Médecins sans Frontières. “Unfortunately, because many of these health facilities don’t receive sufficient funding to provide adequate care even when patients can afford to pay, this is the kind of economic logic that results. If we’re serious about universal health coverage, then abolishing user fees would be a good place to start.”

John Lennon


Once bitten - twice shy.

'Their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it.” Oscar Wilde 

Homelessness is a degrading, dehumanising situation that would not arise in any sane society. It is also totally unnecessary in the sense that if the workers decided, once and for all, to put an end to the system that gives birth to such iniquities, it could be done quickly and finally. Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens will be the venue on the 9th to the “Sleep in the Park” charity event involving various media personalities to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. Bob Geldof will be present (Bono sent his apologies, he will be with his accountants and tax lawyers devising another off-shore evasion scheme.)

There is no good reason why sufficient homes should not be built. The "Catch 22" in capitalism is that if a million homes were built they could not be sold. We know they could be built. The materials and those skilled in the building trade exist, the only thing the homeless are short of is the money to pay rent or the mortgage.  The rent is too high, the income is too low; they cannot afford, or to use the jargon of the market, they do not constitute an effective demand. Poverty is the word, and the present increase in the number of homeless is due to just that. Compared to the complexities of capitalism socialism is a simple social system. Houses will be built for people to live in, not property portfolios for corporations to invest in and share-holders to receive dividends on.

Social Bite and Josh Littlejohn, the initiators of the 'Sleep In the Park' should heed the lesson of Shelter which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.  The homelessness 'problem' existed long before Shelter and will persist for another 50 years unless we bring an end to capitalism.  Those supporting “Sleep in the Park” should note Shelter has been on the reformist treadmill for half a century so we hope they have booked their sleeping bag for next year..and the year after...

The market system portrays itself as a dynamic, productive and creative mechanism. By incentivising the entrepreneurs (so the fairy-tale goes) capitalism liberates businesses to produce more houses and more choice. The only problem with this superficially-appealing narrative is that capitalism is not in fact geared to the production of homes per se, but rather is tailored to the production of profit. The UK homebuilding sector is under investigation because – bafflingly – they seem unable or unwilling to build sufficient homes. So what's happened? Why has the market failed? Why has the magical driving force of demand not triggered increased supply in this sector? The notion that the price mechanism is the most efficient allocator of resources took a further blow recently with the confirmation that Britain has a massive deepening housing shortage crisis. The reason is that inside a market-based system of buying and selling, wealth is not produced to meet human needs of the entire population, but instead to meet the profit expectations of the minority who monopolise ownership and control of the means of producing wealth (in this case, the housebuilding employers). For many years now it has been in their interest to keep the brake on the rate of releases of houses to the market, as this helps keep the price up: better to make 30 percent profit selling one house at £200,000, than make 20 percent profit on two houses at £150,000. And, of course, every plot of land they build on is one less house they can sell in the future, and the housebuilders don't see the price falling in years to come. In the ideal theoretical market – beloved of the apologists of capitalism – this shouldn't happen. But in the real world, the housebuilders are far from being independent economic agents and can be more co-operative than competitive. The market system itself creates nothing beyond profit and misery.

The hundreds of thousands of vacant houses and second holiday-homes plus all the empty and superfluous offices will be occupied immediately by a family at present homeless. A simple socialist solution to a problem that capitalism finds insoluble. This is the madness of capitalism - houses and buildings lying empty while people are forced to sleep in the street. The madness of the market will have to give way to a co-ordinated system of production for use, with free access to the goods, materials, and services available to society. It's time to put capitalism out of its misery and thereby help put us—the world working class—out of ours. Josh Littlejohn and Social Bite should take note that trying to patch-up capitalism is a thankless task. No sooner is one problem is fixed than another appears, often, as here, the result of the previous remedy.

One of England's renowned judges, Lord Denning, in a case against some squatters made the following statement:
 "If homelessness were once admitted as a defence to trespass, no one's house could be safe. Necessity would open a door which no man could shut . . . So the courts, for the sake of law and order, take a firm stand. They must refuse to admit the plea of necessity to the hungry and the homeless; and trust that their distress will be relieved by the charitable and the good" (our emphasis).

The Price of Capitalism

harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.
After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.
The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.
The CDC report suggested possible causes for the high suicide rate among US farmers, including “social isolation, potential for financial losses, barriers to and unwillingness to seek mental health services (which might be limited in rural areas), and access to lethal means”.
Since 2013, net farm income for US farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. And without parity in place (essentially a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production. If your farm is struggling, you’re certainly going to be depressed and going to be worried about how to put food on the table, how to get your kids to college.
Dr Nancy Zidek says the well-being of farmers is inextricably linked to the health of rural communities. “The grain prices are low. The gas prices are high. Farmers feel the strain of ‘I’ve got to get this stuff in the field. But if I can’t sell it, I can’t pay for next year’s crop. I can’t pay my loans at the bank off.’ And that impacts the rest of us in a small community, because if the farmers can’t come into town to purchase from the grocery store, the hardware store, the pharmacy – then those people also struggle.”

USA - Land of Inequality

  • The richest 1% of families controlled almost 40% of the country’s wealth in 2016.
Part of what makes the wealth inequality issue such a tough pill to swallow is just how untouchable America’s elite seem to be. The top 1% now holds over 38% of the nation’s total wealth, an increase of 5% from 2007. In comparison, the bottom 90% holds only 22% of the country’s wealth, down from 28.5% in 2007. That’s almost double what the lower earners have.

 One in five U.S households have zero or negative net worth.

  • Most households can’t even fund a $500 emergency.
While the wealthiest 25 individuals in the United States today own $1 trillion in combined assets, other households are drowning in debt. The Billionaire Bonanza report dubs these homes as “underwater households,” meaning they have zero or negative net worth.
Unfortunately, 19% of all households fall into this category, while over 30% of black households and 27% of Latino households have nothing to fall back on. It's obvious that families with little savings endure enormous stress should they face a job loss, illness, or even unexpected car trouble. More than 60% of Americans claim they don’t have enough reserves to cover a $500 emergency, according to the report.
  • Upper-income families had 75 times the wealth of lower-income families in 2016, compared with 28 times the wealth in 1983.
To put it simply, only the wealthy have managed to fully recover from the 2007 recession. The recession was far more kind to upper-income families as they managed to gain 10% more wealth in recovery than other, less fortunate people. Pew attaches real numbers to this alarming statistic, noting upper-income families are now worth a median $810,800, up about $70,000 since 2007.
Lower-income families, on the other hand, are down about $7,000 in total assets since the recession, with the median family holding only $10,800 in assets. This lower wealth level is comparable to income levels in 1989, a telling statistic that proves a harsher divide exists between classes than we ever imagined.
  • A white family owns 35 times more wealth than a median black household and 25 times more than a median Latino family.
The typical — or median — white household holds $151,800 in wealth. But Black and Latino households own just $4,300 and $6,200. When experts crunch numbers to determine combined wealth, they consider the value of your home, your car, and your liabilities such as mortgages and student loans. Put simply, do you own more than you owe?
The Billionaire Bonanza report from Inequality.org suggests the possible reason for a large wealth gap could be tied to homeownership trends. For example, there is a racial disparity in homeownership and home equity, two prime factors that contribute to the racial wealth divide. The report found 71.8% of white Americans owned their own homes. By contrast, only 42.3% of African-Americans, and only 45.5% of Latinos owned their homes. The fact that so many people aren’t privy to substantial homeownership tax breaks such mortgage interest deductions, let alone able to afford a home in today’s pricey market, only reinforces the large wealth gap.

The U.S. has a wealth gap that’s worse than Russia and Iran

  • In cities, that gap is even worse.
The have and have-not situation here at home is even worse than in turbulent countries like Russia and Iran. This is according to urbanist, author, and professor, Richard Florida. In an interview with Fortune, he notes in the Gini coefficient — a measure of inequality where 0 is totally equal and 1 is totally unequal — the U.S. falls at about a 0.45. This rating is worse than Iran which sits at 0.37.
But the wealth inequality in our U.S. cities is even more alarming. Florida explains the inequality quotient in Los Angeles is equivalent to that in Sri Lanka and Miami may as well be Zimbabwe. New York paints the clearest picture of the wealth gap. The 95th percentile in the Big Apple makes $282,000 while the 20th percentile makes a paltry $23,000.

There was a slight decrease in overall poverty rates — which means (only) 40.6 million families were in poverty in 2016.

  • Seniors 65 and older were the only demographic to see an increase in poverty rates in 2016
The poverty rate for Americans in 2016 was 12.7%, which hardly differs from the pre-Great Recession level of 12.5% in 2007. Even though the overall poverty rate decreased for most demographics, it still represents a whopping 40.1 million people who are unable to make ends meet. But those age 65 and older were the only demographic to lose more ground to poverty in 2016. This means a vast chunk of our family households make less than $24,593 annually. In comparison, the median income for all other American family households was $75,062 in 2016 according to Pew.
The share of Americans in severe poverty – defined by the Census Bureau as those with incomes below half of their poverty threshold – reached its highest point in 20 years. It was 45.6% of all those in poverty in 2016, up from 39.5% in 1996.

About 20.6 million people make less than $10.10 an hour

  • This means 30% of hourly workers are listed as “near-minimum wage” employees, according to Pew
The current $7.25 per hour federal minimum has lost about 9.6% of its purchasing power to inflation since 2009. Some states agree that the minimum is not enough to survive on, and thus, pay their employees a higher state rate.
But even a more reasonable $10 minimum wage would do little to secure additional wealth. At that rate, workers would still earn less than $21,000 a year. It also means these low-wage hourly workers are usually without health insurance, sick days, pension plans, and other employer benefits wealthier people enjoy.
Still, companies have little incentive to offer higher wages, since their profits soar when they outsource cheap labor. Manufacturing and factory jobs, which were traditionally higher-paying union jobs, disappeared as a result. Walmart is a prime example of a company who has inadvertently contributed to America’s wealth inequality problem by outsourcing labor and paying employees a meager hourly wage.
  • American millennials have more debt than German millennials
The uphill battle millennials have been fighting is nothing new. But when it comes to wealth inequality, it seems they’re getting hit harder than most other generations. A 2017 Credit Suisse report dubs them “unlucky millennials” claiming the recession, rising student debt, higher housing prices, greater income inequality, and less job mobility has created a “perfect storm” preventing these people from accumulating any semblance of wealth.
Their data found American millennials are saddled with more debt than those in Germany. Thirty-seven percent of Americans aged 20–29 had some student debt in 2013, but only 12% of Germans in the same age group could say the same. Also, most Americans have debt ratios greater than their current income.
For some, acquiring more education in order to overcome the “millennial disadvantage” is a winning strategy. For others, it’s a debt cinderblock that foreshadows a bleak financial future.

Stolen pensions

More than a million workers in Britain’s gig economy risk losing more than £22,000 each from being wrongly labelled as self-employed, according to research that shows the dangers posed to people in fragile employment.

The insurance firm Zurich said forcing gig economy companies to classify their workers as employees rather than self-employed would mean automatic enrolment in a workplace pension. Under these rules, it estimates a typical worker aged 25 and earning £25,000 a year would receive a total of £22,200 in employer contributions by the time they retire.

Chris Atkinson at Zurich UK said: “Employment law is lagging far behind advances in working practices, which is leaving some people in the gig economy at risk of being denied basic rights.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Share of GDP going to wages


Homeless in USA

The study has found that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night this year, a 0.7% increase over last year. It suggests that despite a fizzy stock market and a burgeoning gross domestic product, the poorest Americans are still struggling to meet their most basic needs.

There was an increase of 4.1% in New York. In the west, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland all reported surges of varying sizes. Most of the increase across the country is driven by people living in doorways, tents and RVs as opposed to in shelters. People of color are dramatically overrepresented: African Americans make up over one-third of the number.

Median hourly wages in the US have barely budged for decades, from $16.74 in 1973 to $17.86 in 2016, in terms of 2016 dollars, according to the Economic Policy Institute. But in New York, for instance, the hourly wage required to comfortably rent a one-bedroom is $27.29. In Los Angeles, it is $22.98. 

The state of California estimates that 180,000 new housing units are needed each year in order to keep up with population growth. Over the last decade, however, there was an annual average of less than 80,000 units.

The US government spends more than twice as much subsidizing the tax break for affluent homeowners, who would most likely be able to afford their homes anyway, as it does on helping the poorest families pay rent and avoid homelessness – $60.1bn versus $29.9bn in 2015.  More than $10bn goes to households with incomes in the top 1%.

The 1%

How many times do we hear that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

Countries where the rich have done best for themselves, where the top 1% now hold more than 40% of the nation’s wealth, are:
 Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa and Sweden.

The second tier, where the top 1% hold between 30% and 40%, comprises:
 Austria, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Poland, Singapore and the USA.
Countries where the top 1% hold between 20% and 30% are:
 Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Only in Hungary, Belgium and Japan, among the 36 countries for which data is available, do the mega rich hold less than 20% of all wealth.
Of the 28 countries for which Credit Suisse has data going back five years, 14 have seen the top 1% increase their share over that period. In order of gain, they are:
China (up 15.0%), Sweden (11.3%), Finland (11.2%), Denmark (10.6%), Singapore (9.1%), Chile and Germany (both up 5.0%), Ireland (3.9%), South Africa (3.5%), Australia (2.4%), Norway (2.3%), Italy (2.2%) Brazil and the United Kingdom (both 2.1%).
The rich keep getting richer because we keep voting for them

My Friend Jones (1909 Short Story)


My Friend Jones (1909)

A Short Story from the July 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Like the printer in Ibsen’s “Enemy of Society," I am a man of discreet moderation and of moderate discretion. I disclaim and abhor violence. I am one who is prepared to compromise with the enemy to obtain part of what I desire. When agitating for a specific loaf l am ready to accept either half the loaf or the promise of a quarter at some early future. Society is not composed of blacks and whites, or clear-cut classes of workers and shirkers, like my friend Jones imagines. I once thought that as he grew out of youth he would cast aside his perverse, impossible spirit. Society is an organism, a growth, a whole of which we humans are interdependent cells; and my politics and economics are not rigid, cut and dried doctrines, but flexible and fluid habits of mind. Let me give you a few examples of his ridiculous rigidity.

Our town boasts a successful debating society. Many of my Labour comrades entered this society with the avowed aim of cunningly permeating the debaters with a moderate, calm Socialism. Whatever the subject matter of the debate was we astutely endeavoured to show its relation to Socialism. Especially when the orthodox subject of State Socialism was dealt with by the enemy in the orthodox manner did we try our level best to show the society that the essayist was attacking a noxious and antiquated chimera. We were slowly compelling by superior logic, even our opponents to see that the old, rigid, unemotional, cataclysmic, class-struggle Socialism was un-English—Continental, in fact—and is now entirely discredited. I personally played a prominent part in showing how we attain Socialism step by step, now by the abolition of barmaids, now by Sunday closing of drinking dens, now by finite but ever increasing taxes on the value of land. The old view of the coming of Socialism, the expropriation of the expropriators, the stubborn opposition of the plutocracy, the determined democracy, the blood-red dawn of the Socialist Monday morning—all this I ruthlessly exposed by explaining how all successful modern exponents of Socialism believed in such a peaceful, pellucid transition to Socialism that no one would be able to say that here at a definite stage capitalism capitulated, and here the Socialist Commonwealth was born.

Then up rose my friend Jones and to the very evident glee of the enemy attacked my moderate, permeating Socialism after the manner of his kind, brazenly, vigourously, and with the self- confidence peculiar to him. He poked fun at my “organic social movements” and substituted his hair-raising class war; he declared that the fantastic analogies of all the “philosophers" from Spencer to Macdonald were no adequate equivalent for the clear-drawn illustrations of the Marxian class struggle. He had no faith in the crux of our creed, that the social instincts of the plutocracy will prove more powerful than their class interests. He attacked bluntly every institution of any note whether political, charitable, or charitable-theological, from the Fabian Society to the Emigration Army. The Liberal leaders who would meet us half way were humbugs, the Labour leaders had been humbugged. Palliatives postponed Socialism. Socialism spelt revolution, the deliberate, conscious overthrow of capitalism; the working class organised politically, with their representatives in Parliament, economically, in enlightened Socialist Trade Unions. In short, the work of months was undone. The society no longer accepts our assertion that revolutionary Socialism is cremated. We have, through the impulsive Jones, the onerous task of defending not simply a minimum wage, a minimum of education, a minimum of leisure and the conduct of the Labour Party, but even now Socialism itself. I am afraid that we shall be compelled to cancel Jones’ speaking engagements with our local Labour Representation Committee.

But the climax of my friend’s political career came when he was our candidate at a municipal election. His election address was unpractical and doctrinaire; it lacked constructional spirit; it was brusque in dealing with some of the chief planks on our programme, viz., that we should have better railway facilities in one of our wards, and that the recreation ground was in want of repairs. And when but three days from the poll he rashly alienated the Nonconformist and Salvation Army votes. “General” Booth had just previously passed through the town on a tour, and Jones took advantage of the occasion to make a badly timed attack on what he termed “Salvation Syrup.’’ But the Nonconformist incident was typical of the impossibilist spirit. My friend’s election committee had invited a very popular and influential dissenting minister to address a meeting for the people’s cause. At the great risk of offending his congregation the minister accepted. He was a new convert to Socialism. I just forget the particular organisation of which he was a member—a “League of Progressive Thought’’ or something of that kind. But certainly it was a Socialistic organisation. Jones.was glum and saturnine when informed about his new comrade, but nothing he said prepared us for his unwise and precipitate action at the meeting.

It was certainly a great meeting. The council school was full and cheers greeted the plucky young minister when he arose to give hie address—or sermon, as Jones said. I thought his speech splendid. He declared himself in favour of an eight hours day for railway workers, endowment of motherhood, and a Minister of Labour. He also spoke well in an appeal for the cultivation of the best sort of Socialism, the improvement of individual character, the care of the Soul: for was not the regeneration of the individual the aim alike of the Church and of Socialism ? He showed how Martin Luther and John Wesley each had dim but unmistakable premonitions of the Socialist idea; and with his fine tenor voice moved his audience to tears by an earnest condemnation of contemporary society as a mingling of blank and blatant Atheism and the most unrighteous materialism.

Then Jones spoke. He almost sneered at the minister's vivid denunciation of the slum. Flat and plain he said that had he been aware of the minister's ideas he would never have occupied a platform by his side, and that if the reverend gentleman wanted regeneration and abolition of blatant Atheism he would discover suitable allies amongst the Primitive Methodists.

The election was not won. Jones is not yet councillor or member of Parliament. His latest freak is to join a small and noisy gang of impossibilists. These men are such a body of troublesome revolutionaries, that the cultured and elegant editor of the Socialist Review tells us that they are driving our sensitive Labour leaders into the arms of the Liberal party. They heckle our lecturers, demand debating engagements, and frighten the life out of our young speakers. They forget that the English working man is not built after the fashion of bis French and German compeers: he is definitely conservative, with a defendable love for venerable traditions and ancient institutions. So we must humour him and organise a Labour party without a programme, for as our comrade Wardle, who is a member of Parliament — a body which is the Will of All, the general active Will of the nation — as our comrade has shown, a programme was the means of wrecking the historic Liberal party, and will be the destruction of the Labour Party if it is so forgetful of its constructive spirit as to adopt one.

John A. Dawson

Not so green energy

A group of 177 scientists in the Netherlands have written an open letter to try to stop biofuels made from food crops being included in the EU’s sustainable development agenda.The scientists come from across all Dutch universities, including Wageningen University which focuses on agriculture.

The use of crop-based biofuels is a ‘false solution’ to climate problems, the scientists say, adding that: ‘we urgently implore you to acknowledge that blending food crops into fuel causes severe damage to climate, nature and communities.’

The bio-fuel mixture leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions and that biodiesel from food crops emits on average 1.8 times as much carbon dioxide as fossil fuels. This increases to three times more in the case of biodiesel made from palm oil.

‘Moreover, European policy leads to an increased demand for vegetable oils from food crops and therefore also to increasing demand for agricultural soil for these crops,’ they say. ‘To meet this demand, vulnerable ecosystems like tropical forests, wetlands, and grasslands are being converted into vast monocultures. ‘This leads to biodiversity losses and increased vulnerability to droughts, floods, land degradation, surface water pollution, blurring of coastal waters and degradation of coral reefs, and also contributes to local climate extremes

Using crops for fuel is also forcing up food prices and pressuring local food production as small farmers become dependent on multinationals.


Ireland's Unequal Education

Children born to highly-educated parents in affluent areas have a head start in life long before they reach the school gate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the annual feeder school league tables which show the progression of school-leavers into higher education.
Latest figures show the true depth of the social divide in Dublin, with pupils in schools in the most affluent areas up to five times more likely to go to third-level than those in the poorest areas. This is a scandalously unequal state of affairs.
Our system is replicating privilege. In recent years, pupils from private schools have tightened their grip on the top university places. Half of the top 20 schools that sent the most students to third level education this year were fee-paying. Yet private schools account for just 7 per cent of pupils nationally. A parent’s ability to pay should not pre-determine a child’s level of educational achievement. Parents choose to pay for private education because they believe it confers an advantage on their children.
Ireland has only 55 fee-paying schools, with about 25,000 students between them, but their graduates have a disproportionate influence in society. A recent report in this newspaper noted that more than half of the Cabinet attended private schools.
Kevin Denny, an economics lecturer at University College Dublin has written extensively about education. Denny believes that fee-paying schools also facilitate a sort of class consolidation. “The people who send their kids to Gonzaga or Blackrock, it’s not just for Leaving Cert results. It’s for their social circle and whether you want them to play rugby and want them to grow up with certain groups of people,” says Denny. “It’s hard to justify why kids are so dependent on the lottery of birth,” he says. 
 Kim Bartley, the maker of the RTÉ documentary series, The Scholarship, explains" They will have a network of friends born into families of lawyers or doctors . . . It’s completely over their heads now, but some of the kids they are in the same year as have well-known or wealthy parents in positions of power in society. That’s the reality.” 
Derry Amphlett, principal of Our Lady Immaculate primary school in Darndale says: “There is a question of social justice there. Just because a child is born and grows up in Darndale, should they not have the same possibilities and access to opportunity as children born and brought up in other areas?”