Liz Berry

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Four committees that all local governments should form now

By: Liz Berry Sunday August 19, 2012 10:41 am

We should all realize by now that the leaders at the State and Federal levels are stagnated.  They are not going to help the majority of citizens to whom they are sworn to represent.  Part of the problem is due to party politics.  The Democrat and Republican parties cancel each other’s decisions out and most of us end up with a big fat zero.  Instead of voting for ideas and solutions, instead of actually evaluating the candidates on the basis of their proposed plans, many Americans vote straight party line.

Most City and County governments offer a more level playing field, although not all of them as some municipal governments are as embroiled in party politics they are at the state and national levels.  However, at the local level, particularly the level of city government, individual citizens–regardless their stature in the community– have a much better opportunity to exercise their influence on local officials and offer ideas for positive change for the community.

I encourage everyone to work with their local governments to establish the following committees:

1. FORM A COMMITTEE FOR STUDYING THE IMPACT OF THE HOUSING CRISIS ON THE LOCAL COMMUNITY - and offering solutions.  The County of San Bernardino California has already created such a citizen’s committee.

2. FORM A COMMITTEE FOR STUDYING METHODS FOR CREATING JOBS IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

I strongly suggest that this committee exclude the local Chamber of Commerce. They have have more than 30 years to represent the majority of the people in their community and most of them have failed miserably.

Note:  for at least the past 20 years the local Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs have met with representatives from Wall Street corporations to discuss how many concessions the local community can make to these corporations in order to attract these corporations to locate in their community.  In the process, many communities have sold out their people, eroded their tax base, actually increased taxes for citizens, and polluted the local environment to accommodate the demands of these Wall Street corporations for their investors’ bottom line.

As I have written elsewhere in many posts, communities should diversity the business models in their community in order to stabilize their local economies.  There are currently two primary business models in most communities:  the Wall Street Business Model with its primary benefactor being the investor–not the consumer and not the worker; and then the Mom/Pop small business shop.  Neither business model contributes to a stabilized local economy.  If the bean counters of a corporation find that the bottom line is better served by shutting down the plant, they will shut down the plant and issue pink slips.  Small businesses often have only one or two owners.  If something happens to one of these owners, then the business often folds.  While keeping both of these business models, we still need to create a third business model–employee owned, locally held (by at least 15 people) businesses.  MORE

3. FORM A COMMITTEE FOR EVALUATING THE BENEFIT OF THE CURRENT TAX INCENTIVES THAT WALL STREET CORPORATIONS IN THE COMMUNITY ARE RECEIVING.

This should be done and then action taken to re-negotiate these deals.  An April 2012 PEW study titled Evidence Counts, revealed that many states don’t even have programs in place to evaluate the effectiveness of tax incentives and other “job creation” giveaways.

This is important.  Every dollar spent on tax incentives, infrastructure or other giveaways to attract business and jobs is a dollar local and state governments can’t spend on education, health care, transportation for the rest of us and critical government services.  Most communities today don’t have any dollars to spare.  Incentive programs ought to be monitored to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal, not just giving good deals to big corporations.

These tax incentives often hit citizens from all sides.  For example, if members of the local Chamber of Commerce talk a local utility  into offering a reduction in rates to a corporation that promises to locate in their community, who do think pays for the cost of that reduction?  It’s the people in the community who will experience a rise in their utility rates.

A few years ago, I remember reading an article that calculated the cost of the minimum wage jobs that Toyota promised the taxpayers in a community in Alabama by bringing in a plant.  Each one of those minimum wage jobs cost the taxpayers $100,000.  The writer of the article proposed a sensible solution:  Instead of offering Toyota the opportunity to provide jobs for this community that the leaders of the government instead pay these workers $50,000 each (far more than the minimum wage they would be paid by Toyota) and then pass the other $50,000 per job in savings to the taxpayers .

4. FORM A COMMITTEE TO EXAMINE THE AMOUNT OF TAX DOLLARS THAT ARE BEING SPENT TO “SERVICE THE DEBT” OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY AND THEN OFFER SOLUTIONS TO RENEGOTIATE THESE FEES

Most local government today are paying a crushing amount of their budgets in fees, interest and other charges to Wall Street banks.  This information is found in the annual budget of your local government in the section titled “Expenditure” under the label of “debt” or “debt service”.

Local governments have a lot of bully power to renegotiate these unbalanced and unfair (to the public) contracts.

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In closing, remember that the report issued by the committee is not the solution. Taking action is the solution.  Here is a cartoon I created to remind you.

 

Perhaps Occupy can occupy the chambers of city government all over the USA

By: Liz Berry Wednesday August 15, 2012 8:24 am

We can and must stop the Wall Street grand theft of our cities and states. We begin by attending council meetings and asking questions of those we have elected to represent us.

I’ll use my own city of Garland Texas as a specific  example if you care to follow.  $85,304,816 of our total $512,713,285 budget for the city of Garland goes to “service debt”. [Source]  Almost 1/5 of our entire budget is paid to a financial institution.  By reducing the annual payments on debt and by reducing the interest and fees paid on this debt, we would free up money for job creation and repair of the infrastructure of our community.  For example, perhaps we wouldn’t have to be closing libraries as we are now if we had a deal which was mutually beneficial instead of so horribly one-sided.

We need to start asking the real questions–the answers to which will educate and inform us regarding what steps to take next.  We the people must work with those we have elected in supporting them in finding solutions that work better for the majority.

We the people should ask for a more detailed explanation of exactly what is meant by the term:  ”service debt”.  For example, these would be questions for the city council and mayor of Garland such as:

  • How much of this $85,304,816 “debt service” is interest?
  • How much of the $85,304,816 is payment on principal?
  • How much of this $85,304,816 is for bank fees and other charges to the bank that are neither interest nor principal?
  • Who is the financial institution that is making a profit twice off the citizens of our community (once for our personal debt and then again for our public debt)?

Once we have these answers, we negotiate with these financial institutions for better terms for the people of our city and if the financial institutions are not prepared to meet us half-way, then we research what it would mean in terms of benefits for the majority of Garland if our local government exercised eminent domain over these banks–particularly in terms of bank foreclosures against our citizens.  As I mentioned previously, the city of Garland has no less than 311 homes in our city that are currently in foreclosure.  The leverage of eminent domain is a powerful leverage that even local city governments have.

And the rights of eminent domain are not limited to homes or property of private citizens.  Local city governments could exercise eminent domain against the buildings of Wall Street banks in our communities if they so desired and seize those properties.

The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are for public utilities, highways and railroads. however, property may also be taken for reasons of public safety–just ask the people of  Brownsville about their Wall.  What threatens the safety, indeed, the survival of many of our local communities now more than the unreasonable burden of debt imposed on them by Wall Street institutions with their fees, fines and usury collected as interest rates?  It’s time to fight back at the bargaining table by  representing the people first and Wall Street second.

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Look at your own city budgets now!  The city you save may be your own. Find out exactly how much of your city’s annual budget goes to “service debt” and then work with your city council to negotiate a MUCH better deal with the financial institution who is holding them hostage.  Don’t be afraid to use the leverage of eminent domain at the bargaining table and above all, don’t be afraid to use it if the financial institutions don’t meet you half-way.

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In the past, many of the municipal governments all over the USA have sold out their citizens for a nickel to Wall Street interests. Now is the time to stop that and to renegotiate these bad deals for the people.  And yes we can and we need to begin today.  Maybe instead of occupying the streets, OCCUPY needs to move into the chambers of city government.

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Against the bleak backdrop of our national economy, Wall Street continues to squeeze the majority of local government across the USA, but it is squeezing Detroit, one of America’s weakest cities for every penny it can and more.

A few years ago Detroit struck a derivatives deal with UBS and other banks that allowed it to save more than $2 million a year in interest on $800 million worth of bonds.  But the fine print carried a potentially devastating condition.  If the city’s credit rating dropped, the banks could ope out of the deal and demand a sizable breakup fee.  That is precisely what happened in January of 2009.  After years of fiscal trouble, Detroit saw its credit rating slashed to junk.  But that was only part of the cash grab from Wall Street.  Detroit was also on the hook for a $400 million tab in “breakup” fee to the USB– a breakup that USB themselves orchestrated, not the city of Detroit.

Now Detroit must use the revenues from its three casinos:  MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino, and Motor Casino to cover a $4.2 million monthly payment to the banks before a single cent can go to schools, transportation and other critical services.

Read the complete article here.

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The economies of U.S. States are sinking as well as our local governments.  A January 2011 report from THE ECONOMIST compared economies of various U.S. states to those of other nations.  It found that the economy of Mississippi compares to that of Bangladesh and the economy of Alabama to Nigeria.  In other world, those in Alabama could move to Nigeria and expect the same standard of living.  Of course, what separates Alabama from Nigeria is that Alabama is part of a UNITED states whereas Nigeria must get by without ay help.  Ironic that Southern and Western states talk of secession when in fact they are the ones who are most dependent on the Federal government.

New models and solutions are bubbling up but candidates are too focused on raising money to notice

By: Liz Berry Wednesday May 16, 2012 7:01 am

Good morning fellow Firedog-lakers.  I’ve been very busy for the past few months–working and planning my campaign for the 32nd Congressional District in Texas.    Instead of talking about myself and pretending like I have all the answers, I am forming alliances with the people in my district and working with them to forge new and workable economic solutions for our community.

Instead of asking my constituents and special interests for money, I am funding my own campaign on a very limited budget of less than $500.  Instead of inviting my constituents to $500 plate dinners where I make speeches about myself, I’m inviting constituents into my home in groups of 25 to seed the formation of no less than 4 employee-owned corporations in my 32nd U.S. Congressional District–now before the end of December 2012.  I am making things happen now in my district because 1) I know that will give me the most clout and credibility regarding my leadership when it comes to winning votes in November and 2) my model for running a campaign will, by successful example, change the continuation of the status quo in Washington D.C.  If nothing else more people like me will run for office in 2014.

But in addition to Solutions Now!  I am in this race to win in November.

My campaign model is 4x4x4x4. I will obtain the signatures of 1,000 people in my district by June 29  in order to get my name on the ballot.  If  those 1,000 people tell four more about me, that is 4,000.  If those 4,000 each tell four more people, that is 16,000.  If those 16,000 each tell four more people about me, that is 64,000. If those 64,000 each tell four more about me, that is 256,000.  Yes, of course there will be those who don’t tell four, but that’s OK because my goal overshoots the critical number of votes I need to win the race by 139,000 votes. In the last race involving a presidential election (2008) Pete Sessions won my district with 116,000 votes.  To win my district in 2012, I need only 117,000 votes.  The difference between my strategy and that of the Democrats and Republicans is that I will rarely be more than 2 degrees of separation from the people in my district and that’s a powerful position to beat–even with hate filled robo calls.

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New Ways to Crawl Out of Our Economic Hole Are Showing up Every Day.

We see new and healthier forms of leadership springing up all over the world.  For example, there is a battle raging across the world over who can better feed its people: small-scale farmers practicing sustainable agriculture, or giant agribusinesses using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

YES magazine reports that the Farmers Fresh Market program run by the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center in Rutherfordton, North Carolina created a proprietary online system to allow individuals and businesses in nearby cities to order fresh produce from growers local to Rutherfordton. In many cases, the growers pick the food the same day the buyers receive it.

In a town where the economy has largely collapsed, the project of connecting local small food producers with consumers in near-by cities is motivated more by the possibility of job creation than by the pursuit of culinary nirvana. Tim Will, executive director of Foothills Connect and the brains behind the project, said, “It has very little to do with food and everything to do with jobs.”

The prospect of restoring local economies that have been crippled by changing times or damaging recession is as valid and powerful a reason to invest in local food as many of the arguments one hears about food miles, freshness, and saving the family farm.  In Rutherfordton, Foothills Connect has not only designed a way for city dwellers to support the established farmers of the surrounding rural landscape, but is also helping local non-farmers gain income by becoming growers too.

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The Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center is one business model that will be examined in the very first discussion group of the 25 constituents who meet in my home in July.  This is a model that I think would be easy to adapt for one of the employee-owned companies that I would like for some of the people in my district to build.

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Instead of talking about change in my district, I look forward to meeting with my constituents and assisting in its birth.  Remember, we don’t have to participate in the world of the insane.  We don’t have to get caught up in their insane models. We can build our own models side by side and crowd them out.  Instead of doing battle with them, don’t participate.  Ignore them and create your own reality.  Believe me, it’s very empowering to say no to them.

Yesterday a breathless caller from President Obama’s campaign called me asking for a $500 contribution because “it looks like Mitt Romney may raise a billion dollars.”   “That,” I said, “is the best argument right there that I can think of to not give President Obama a dime.  Stop the insanity and let it begin with me.”

The insanity must end.  As long as we participate in it by voting for Democrat or Republican candidates, it will never end and things will continue to get worse.  Additionally, we will be so caught up in their craziness that we will not be left with needed time to forge real solutions.  A Democrat or a Republican could never do what I will be doing during my campaign for the people of my district because their insane model for running a campaign leaves no time for it.  The candidates are too busy begging money from their constituents and special interest groups to do the work that needs to be done now.

VISIT ME AT EMMA BERRY .ORG

State sponsored violence against young people, the poor, minorities, immigrants and women is on the rise.

By: Liz Berry Thursday March 15, 2012 8:42 am

Crosspost from IfLizWereQueen

And those who give a damn about democracy should care enough to speak up.

In an article written by Henry A. Giroux, he writes: “Young people are demonstrating all over the world against a variety of issues ranging from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in education and public services. At the moment, these demonstrations are being met with state-sanctioned violence and insults in the mainstream media rather than with informed dialogue, critical engagement and reformed policies. In the United States, the state monopoly on the use of violence has intensified since the 1980s and, in the process, has been increasingly directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and increasingly women.  . . ”  Source

I agree with Mr. Giroux, a writer I admire, however, while state sponsored violence against young people, the poor, minorities, immigrants and women may be on the rise, we need to remember that it has always been firmly in place and the investor class as well as at least 95% of Congress and the media (who belong to the same class) have nurtured this violence against people from the majority who get in the way of their greed since the foundation of this nation.  And state sponsored violence and the willful blindness of those we send to Washington is not only manifested by police in riot gear shooting our young people as they did at Kent State and as they continue to do so today.  it is also manifested in other ways–ways that we often don’t hear of until years later.  Medical experiments conducted on human beings–American citizens without their knowledge, much less permission–that’s another form of state-sponsored violence against the majority.  Deliberately setting up conditions with their globalization schemes whereby the only hope for a job for young people is to join the repressive military who carry out the missions of the investor class.  There, like Pavlovian dogs, they are stripped of any shred of humanity and turned into killing machines.

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Yes, We should all be concerned and the most significant thing that we can do about it is to stop voting for the rich investor class that we send to Washington year after year because they are the ones who profit from this corrupt evil crony system. They have no motivation to change it.  In fact, as long as we continue to vote for them, we can expect more of the same and it makes little difference if they are democrats or republicans–a fact that most Americans still don’t seem to grasp.

Turn your backs on them all, America–all of them–as they have turned their backs on us.  Don’t even try to compete in their arena.  If you do, then you will either lose, or worse, become one of them.

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A NO-MONEY CAMPAIGN FOR U.S. CONGRESS

Please start the buzz now and perhaps other people will follow.  There is currently one candidate for the US Congress who is not fashioning her campaign after any other candidate in the USA.  Her name is Emma Berry.  She is running for US Congress to represent the people of the 32nd District of Texas–a district where over 200,000 children live below the poverty line while their current US Representative, Pete Sessions, holds fundraisers in expensive ski resorts in Park City Utah–just like all the other members of Congress and even the President and those who would be President with their $5,000 plate dinners and $250 cocktail parties.  Who among the majority can afford that?   They should all be ashamed of themselves for what they do.  They have all lost sight of the how the majority of us live.

Here is Emma Berry’s idea of fund raising and campaign strategy.  It is called “Common Decency and Compassion for the People I Promise to Represent in Washington DC.”  It is called:  ”Coming together to stop them.”  It is called “All for One and One for All”–not “Me First” or “Money First.”  It is called “Reach out to your neighbor.”  It’s called “Do the right thing.”  But it’s not called “Give me money so I can beat the ‘bad’ guy.”

Unlike the rest of them, I will not be taking a cent from anyone for my campaign, not do I have some vast personal fortune that I will be pouring into my campaign.  I may be asking for volunteers to walk my district with me in May to gather signatures on my petition to get my name on the ballot as an Independent candidate for the 32nd District of Texas, and I will be asking this of the people in my district  as I walk through my district asking for signatures on my petition for ballot:

If you want me for your representative then this is what you must do:

1. Make two homemade yard signs that say:  ”I stand with Emma Berry for the 32nd District” or whatever you want to say about voting for Emma Berry.

2. Put one in your yard and then tell your neighbor about me and give them a sign to put in their yard.  Tell them to pass it on.

3. Instead of donating money to my campaign, do something to improve the 32nd district.  it doesn’t have to be donating money.  You can pick up trash in a local park.  You can visit a nursing home and cheer up a lonely person.  You can volunteer in a homeless shelter.  And don’t just do it once, make that a daily weekly or monthly part of your life ongoing for our district.

4. Write to me and tell me what you have done.  Tell me your story of how you have made the 32nd district better.

AND ABOVE ALL ELSE:  BELIEVE!  IMAGINE THAT IS POSSIBLE!   BECAUSE IT IS.  Yes you can send a candidate to the US Congress who does not play their money game.  All it takes is your vote–not your money or anyone’s money.  Just your vote.

 

Murders of Afghan Villagers. I’m not surprised.

By: Liz Berry Monday March 12, 2012 7:43 am

CrossPost from IfLizWere Queen

Why should anyone be surprised?  If there is any surprise, it would only be that it doesn’t happen more often.  Furthermore the leadership of the military and the leadership of Congress don’t give a damn.  They even cover up the deeds of these trained murderers.  They call people “traitors” who dare to have the courage to speak out against the crimes committed by the US military.  American soldiers going berserk and killing people? Does no one remember history?  Does no one remember Mai Lai? Then there is the Afghanistan container massacre–another huge coverup by  members of Congress, the White House and the US military.

The WhiteHouse wives and Congress might work to see that the DOD changes their definition of “abuse.”  The Department of Defense divides abuse into three categories:  severe physical abuse, moderate physical abuse and mild physical abuse.  The DoD characterizations are inconsistent with the commonly held characterizations of domestic violence. A Dod prerequisite to be characterized as severe physical abuse is major physical injury requiring inpatient medical treatment or causing temporary or permanent physical disability or disfigurement. A strangulation case in the civilian community is considered very dangerous whereas in the military it might be defined as “mild” or “moderate” abuse. As a result, 69% of military domestic violence cases were reported in 1999 were “mild” and only 6% were reported as “severe”.

Since 2001, thousands of wives and girlfriends have been assaulted at the hands of the soldiers they loved.   In January of 2009 Katie Couricinvestigated a growing crisis in the U.S. military: the staggering numbers of military wives who have been beaten, raped or even killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. And behind those statistics are the faces of many survivors. Katie spoke with one military wife, Jessacia Patton, about how her husband changed in Iraq, the ensuing abuse … and how the military failed to help.

The military takes citizens, strips them of their humanity, and teaches them to be killing machines.  John Steinbeck described the process chillingly well over 50 years ago in his novel East of Eden:

The Best Description of “Soldiering” that you’ll ever read as a father explains to his son about the process of “soldering.”

“Cyrus explained softly to Adam the nature of a soldier.  Look now–in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced.  Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is the worst sin we know.  And them we take a soldier and put murder in his hands and we say to him, “Use it wisely.”  We put no check on him.  Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can.  And we will reward you for it. , , ,You’ll go in soon now–you’ve come of age.”

“I don’t want to,” Adam said quickly.

“. . . And I want to tell you so you won’t be surprised.  They’ll first strip off your clothes, but they’ll go deeper than that.  They’ll shuck off any little dignity you have–you’ll lose what you think of as your decent right to live and to be let alone to live.  They’ll make you live and eat and sleep and shit close to other men.  And when they dress you up again you’ll not be able to tell yourself from the others.  You can’t even wear a scrap or pin a note on your breast to say, ‘This is me–separate from the rest.’ . . .After a while, you’ll thin no thought the others do not think.  You’ll know no word the others can’t say.  And you’ll do things because the others do them.  You’ll feel the danger in any difference whatever–a danger to the whole crowd of like-thinking, like-acting men.”

“What if I don’t?” Adam demanded.

” Yes,” Cyrus said, “sometimes that happens.  Once in a while there is a man who own’t do what is demanded of him, and do you know what happens?  The whole machine devotes itself coldly to the destruction of his difference.  They’ll beat your spirit and your nerves, your body and your mind, with iron rods until the dangerous difference goes out of you.  and if you can’t finally given in, they’ll vomit you up and leave you stinking up outside–neither part of themselves nor yet free.  It’s better to fall in with them.  A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it.”

It’s time more people started telling the truth about the military and who they are really defending–the investments of the investor class.

The neoliberal policies admired and followed by the investor class leadership of the USA have failed the people

By: Liz Berry Monday March 5, 2012 8:10 am

Crosspost from IfLizWereQueen  1

The neolibral policies followed by the leadership of the Democrat and Republicans alike have led to the economic ruin not only of the USA, but the world..  These principles were put into place over 50 years ago by a jerk from Chicago by the name of Milton Friedman.  Today a foundation of his and his wife still lives after him to fund the end of public education.  You see, the rich don’t give a damn about public education because they can afford to send their children to schools with tuitions that exceed the annual income of many Americans.  Just ask President Obama and his wife.

But frankly, I don’t expect too much to change at the presidential levels of most countries.  Look at Russia.  Just yesterday Putin was re-elected.  The world revolution that is on its way will come from the bottom up–in local governments, in state legislatures and even in the USA at the national level of the House of Representatives.–the one office where it is still feasible for an ordinary citizen to win.

Mexico is a great example of the severe failure of US neo-liberal policies.  Remember how NAFTA was going to “level” the playing field?  The only thing that NAFTA leveled was the majority of the people in Mexico.  According to the OECD, Mexico’s considerable income gap is widening while CONEVAL reports that 3.2 million more Mexicans have been plunged into poverty in the last three years; a striking commentary on the economic policies of right-wing, pro-US President Felipe Calderón.

Mexico makes the Republican/Democrat leaderships with their ongoing sideshow of  two sides of the same corrupted coin look amateurish by comparison.  Like the USA, in Mexico its a game  that both parties play against the majority of “heads the rich win and tails you lost (and the rich still win).

According to an article from The Upside Down World ”,  . . .the favorite to win this year’s crucial election in Mexico is still Enrique Peña Nieto, the much-hyped fresh face of the country’s former ruling dynasty; the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The party is often called  “the dinosaur” for the way it clung to power for 71 years, the PRI was notorious for corruption and political repression but has gained significantly from the National Action Party (PAN)’s tumble in popularity. It’s widely acknowledged, however, that the man really pulling the strings of Peña Nieto’s bid is Carlos Salinas de Gortari; the much-maligned former president (1988-1994) who signed the NAFTA agreement and was repeatedly linked to organized crime.

Felipe Calderón’s PAN will attempt to retain power through Josefina Vázquez Mota, the first ever female candidate for a major Mexican party. She then ran in the primary, held on February 5, 2012 and won with 55%.  During Calderon’s time in office, he appointed her as Secretary of Public education.  The PAN is a socially-conservative outfit with links to extreme right-wing elements of the Mexican Catholic Church. Poverty and unemployment have increased during its twelve years in charge, although its enduring legacy will be the tragically misjudged “Drug War”, which has left over 50,000 victims in its wake.”

Josefina Vazquez Mota has about as zero chance to win.  But even if she does, it makes little difference because Mota and Nieto are merely different sides of the same corrupted coin–no different from President Obama and Mitt Romney.  The one would give us crumbs to keep us pacified while the other would wold take much more.  It’s only a difference in degree–not kind.  Both Obama and Romney are elitists who represent the investor class to the exclusion of the majority.

 

Why does the investor class hate labor? Labor is a cost that reduces ROI for the investor class.

By: Liz Berry Sunday March 4, 2012 1:33 pm


Dinner time at St. Pancras Poorhouse, London, – Wiki Commons

[NOTE:  If you want to see what the investor class did to the poor in the mid to late 19th century, read the addendum at the end of this post.]

The investor class, which happens to include just about all of the officials that we elect to Congress and the White House, hate labor.  Why?  Labor from the investor’s point of view = cost and cost = reduced dividends and reduced dividends =less money in the pocket of the investor.

And that is why we went 10 years without Congress raising the minimum wage.  Of course that didn’t stop them from giving themselves several raises to their already bloated salaries over this same time period.

Currently the minimum wage at the federal level is $7.25 an hour.  Now here is the hitch in that giddy-up:  A person living in most major cities in the USA, working 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour earns $1,120.00 a month before taxes cannot even pay the rent for a one-bedroom apartment on that income, much less provide for their food, clothing, etc.  A single parent?  Forget it.

AVERAGE APARTMENT PRICES FOR ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENTS IN THREE MAJOR USA CITIES

New York – $2,901
Los Angeles – $1,872
Chicago – $1,598

Even Miami with its average one-bedroom apartment rent of $919 and Houston and Dallas with their average one-bedroom apartment rents of $750 still yield the same conclusion:  Minimum wage is not a living wage.  A living wage is one that enables a person working 40 hours a week to afford a roof over their head, sufficient purchase of food to sustain a life; enough money for clothes; enough money for travel to and from work; enough money for health insurance.

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HUNGER STRIKE FOR LIVING WAGE AT UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

On March 1, 2012, a hunger strike consisting of 26 students at the University of Virginia came to a close. The Living Wage Campaign made an unprecedented decision to initiate a hunger strike to achieve its goals of raising worker wages from the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr to to $13/hr. Though the University has a minimum rate of $10.65, this official ratedoes not apply to contracted workers that fall outside of this stipulated minimum. Contracted workers imply temp laborers supplied by staffing agencies such as those run by Schneider Logistics who coordinates manual moving labor for Wal-Mart’s supply chain. It’s a clever way of getting around regulatory mechanisms established for humanitarian purposes.  Read the entire article here

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Note:  the Hunger strike at the University of Virginia is over, but not their fight for justice as the University officials continue, like the investor class of Washington, to resist the notion of a living wage.  ”So to this administration, which has so far failed to provide moral leadership to our University, we have only this to say: get ready, because we are already here. We will hold you accountable for your promises. This spring, we will be organizing teach-ins to train and educate people on this issue. We call on all people of conscience to come and learn more, and to get involved. We never thought this struggle would end quickly and the plan for our next steps is what it has always been: organize, escalate and fight.” [Source]

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ADDENDUM TO POST:  Criminalizing Poverty

The photo above is Dinner time at St. Pancras Poorhouse, London,  from The Kings  Empire, 1911. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. In 1850, at the height of his fame, Dickens paid a visit to a London workhouse where as many as 2000 paupers resided. In a grim piece of non-fiction writing entitled “A Walk in a Workhouse,” he later described the experience.

“Groves of babies in arms; groves of mothers and other sick women in bed; groves of lunatics; jungles of men in stone-paved down-stairs day-rooms, waiting for their dinners; longer and longer groves of old people, in up-stairs Infirmary wards, wearing out life, . . .A sullen or lethargic indifference to what was asked, a blunted sensibility to everything but warmth and food, a moody absence of complaint as being of no use, a dogged silence and resentful desire to be left alone again, I thought were generally apparent. . . On the whole, it was the dragon, Pauperism, in a very weak and impotent condition:  toothless, fangless, drawing his breath heavily enough and hardly wort chaining up. . .”

Institutions Designed for Breaking the Human Spirit

Like any other prison, or military service for that matter, dehumanization began in the PoorHouses from the moment of induction and  the relentless efforts an removing all evidence of a human spirit continued until death or in rare cases, release of human beings who were even more damaged than they were prior to induction into the system.

Children were separated from their parents and housed in single sex schools: husbands were taken away from their wives and shown to single sex quarters. But this was just the beginning of classification and segregation. The staff sent newly out-of-work adults to quarters by the front entrance of the workhouse; they dispatched the chronically unemployed to wards deeper inside the institution. And finally they segregated the old, the insane, the physically disabled and the diseased and contagious and placed them in wards in the dark heart of the institution. More ominous still was the heavy level of surveillance. The staff occupied the center of each wing, allowing them to observe everything that was going on in both the female and male wards.  The poor rarely enjoyed a moment of privacy: the institution housing them acted as a panopticon*, a 24-hour surveillance machine.

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*Panopticon

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.

The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the managers or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, poorhouses, and madhouses, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.

Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” [Source: Wiki]

About the Twisted USA Monetary System

By: Liz Berry Sunday March 4, 2012 9:04 am

Cross Post from IfLizWereQueen

The Rich should pay higher interest rates than the poor.

The US monetary system is set up to perpetuate the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. This will never end until we remove most members of Congress who continue to support this system because it works for them. That is fact. Overall, this means stop voting for Democrats or Republicans. Realize that they are merely two heads of the same counterfeit coin.

Most of us know by now that the way money is created is by extending credit. The government and banks are the ones endowed with the power to create money. The rich don’t need credit. They can afford to pay for whatever they want. It’s the poor who need credit/money. However, you can only get credit if you have assets to post as collateral. But you only have assets if you are rich. Therefore, the rich get cheap money (loans at low interest rates) while the poor, when they can obtain a loan, often pay in interest many times the value of the loan. In other words, those who can least afford it pay the most. It would make much more business sense, not only for the poor, but for all of us, if the wealthy paid higher interest rates for their loans and the poor paid lower rates.

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More on the Monetary System in the USA

Many Americans knew what was coming down the pike with the creation of the Federal Reserve and they didn’t like it.  The cartoon below was created a year or so before the signing of the Federal Reserve Act. The Plan originally called for the establishment of a National Reserve Association with 15 regional district branches and 46 geographically dispersed directors primarily from the banking profession. The Reserve Association would make emergency loans to member banks, print money, and act as the fiscal agent for the U.S. government. State and nationally chartered banks would have the option of subscribing to specified stock in their local association branch. The plan was proposed by a Republican by the name of Aldrich. Since the Aldrich Plan essentially gave full control of this system to private bankers, there was strong opposition to it from rural and western states because of fears that it would become a tool of certain rich and powerful financiers in New York City, referred to as the “Money Trust”.

Typical with their hand-in-glove side show, the Democrats stepped in and worked out a compromise to the Republican proposal (private sector take all) and proposed a compromise.  The Glass-Owen bill was created by two Democrat Senators.  However, unlike the Aldrich plan, which gave controlling interest to private bankers with only a small public presence, the new plan gave an important role to a public entity, the Federal Reserve Board, while establishing a substantial measure of autonomy for the (regional) Reserve Banks which, at that time, were allowed to set their own discount rates. Also, instead of the proposed currency being an obligation of the private banks, the new Federal Reserve note was to be an obligation of the U.S.

If you haven’t noticed, that’s how the Democrat and Republican leaderships for the rich have been working for over a hundred years.  First the Republican propose an outrageous scheme that is so one-sided for the rich that public outrage arises from the people.  Then the Democrat leadership steps in and proposes a “compromise”.  And we feel better because “it could be so much worse.”    In the end, the majority of the people get the shaft–only instead of the full shaft, we only get 2/3′s of it.  A recent example of this is the Obama Administration’s compromise for health care.  A few Americans, as long as they can afford to pay the premiums, get a few breaks on coverage.  However, the bill did nothing to bring down the over all cost for insurance premiums that Americans must pay AND it mandated that all Americans currently without insurance purchase it in 2016 from the very crooks who are currently ripping them off–50 million new customers for the crooks who are already ripping us off.  This is a solution?  You bet it is–for Wall Street and for the members of Congress–most of who own stock in these health insurance companies.