Monday, June 14, 2021

Last Call For Laboring Under A Misconception, Con't

If you want to know what a red state run entirely by Republicans want for America, look no further than the state's official job posting website.

There are more than 250,000 jobs available in Tennessee right now, but some lawmakers say there’s a catch with that number.

Only 3% of the jobs posted — about 8,500 as of Friday evening — pay $20,000 or more. The federal poverty line for a family of three is just under $22,000.

Senator Heidi Campbell (D-District 20) said she’s worried about Tennessee losing the federal CARES Act funds currently paying for some unemployment benefits. Governor Lee elected to stop accepting those in July, saying he didn’t want to pay people to sit at home.

“I think for the most part Tennesseans aren’t lazy and, I think it’s kind of insulting to continuously imply that they are,” Campbell said.
You read that correctly. Of the 8,500 jobs on the state of Tennessee's official job board, about 8,250 pay $10 an hour or less, which is a poverty level wage even in Tennessee. 

I’m not going to pretend that I know how to interpret the jobs and inflation data of the past few months. My view is that this is still an economy warped by the pandemic, and that the dynamics are so strange and so unstable that it will be some time before we know its true state. But the reaction to the early numbers and anecdotes has revealed something deeper and more constant in our politics.

The American economy runs on poverty, or at least the constant threat of it. Americans like their goods cheap and their services plentiful and the two of them, together, require a sprawling labor force willing to work tough jobs at crummy wages. On the right, the barest glimmer of worker power is treated as a policy emergency, and the whip of poverty, not the lure of higher wages, is the appropriate response.

Reports that low-wage employers were having trouble filling open jobs sent Republican policymakers into a tizzy and led at least 25 Republican governors — and one Democratic governor — to announce plans to cut off expanded unemployment benefits early. Chipotle said that it would increase prices by about 4 percent to cover the cost of higher wages, prompting the National Republican Congressional Committee to issue a blistering response: “Democrats’ socialist stimulus bill caused a labor shortage, and now burrito lovers everywhere are footing the bill.” The Trumpist outlet The Federalist complained, “Restaurants have had to bribe current and prospective workers with fatter paychecks to lure them off their backsides and back to work.”

But it’s not just the right. The financial press, the cable news squawkers and even many on the center-left greet news of labor shortages and price increases with an alarm they rarely bring to the ongoing agonies of poverty or low-wage toil.
Vast numbers of Americans are kept poor for a reason. Any whiff of labor organization, or worker solidarity is ruthlessly annihilated in order to maintain millions of Americans working for single-digit hourly wages, or slightly higher wages, but no benefits whatsoever. We demand it, because we know corporations will just break our backs with higher prices if we give in. Either way, we're the ones who pay, and it's never the billionaires.

Instead we tell these folks "Well this is America. If you don't like being poor, you can always do something about it, like not being poor."

And we go back to eating our dollar menu cheeseburgers and watching NFL football and thinking to ourselves "Well, I don't know anybdy *that* poor. We're not rich, but we do ok."
Except you know plenty of people that poor. Personally. And many of us want to keep it that way, just in case we someday end up rich.

Bye Bye Bibi, Baby

In a 60-59 Israeli Knesset vote on Sunday evening, the new government of Naftali Bennett and his Lapid party and partners has been sworn in to replace Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu of course is vowing to bring down the government as soon as possible.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to lead his Likud Party back to power.

Netanyahu is slated to become opposition leader later Sunday when parliament is expected to approve a vote of confidence in a new coalition formed by his opponents.

In a speech to parliament, Netanyahu made clear he has no plans on giving up leadership of the Likud Party.

He vowed to “continue the great mission of my life, ensuring the security of Israel.”

“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way,” he said.

Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years.

Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, will take over as prime minister. But if he wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of parties from the political right, left and center.

The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else. They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.

The country’s deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.

Bennett’s speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.

“Even though it has a very narrow majority, it will be very difficult to topple and replace because the opposition is not cohesive,” he said. Each party in the coalition will want to prove that it can deliver, and for that they need “time and achievements.”
I don't see how the prospect of an ugly corruption trial is going to improve Bibi's chances to return to power, either. I would expect that after a conviction, Likud will boot him, and they may do so before that happens just to clear the decks and get his baggage behind them to make a new run at the brass ring.

Ahh, but having said all this, keep your eye on Naftali Bennett. We're going to find out that not being Bibi is a bar low enough that Bennett can clear, while still keeping 99.9% of Israel's current government and military policies, particularly towards continuing Palestinian apartheid. If anything Bennett will be under immediate pressure to make a brutal and bloody crackdown this summer.

Bibi's gone. It by no means guarantees anything will be better in the Middle East, but the die has been cast nonetheless. There was zero chance of improvement under Bibi. How much of a chance exists under Naftali Bennett, we'll see.

The Return of Austerity Hysteria, Con't

As July 1 deadlines for state budget fiscal years are approaching across the country, red states are eagerly cutting pandemic benefits and GOP lawmakers are getting back to adding cruel means testing so that families fight over the scraps that remain. Ohio is a perfect example of this.

Republicans in the Ohio Senate dropped a series of last-minute changes into their version of the state budget bill that would change the rules for families who get assistance with their groceries.

Supporters say the changes would make Ohio's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, sometimes referred to as food stamps, more secure and therefore better able to serve families in need.

"Unfortunately, a lot of folks take advantage of that who don’t qualify," Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said.

But opponents argue the changes — especially the "low limit" on total assets — will have the opposite effect.

"It’s going to take food out of the mouths of hungry children and working families," Ohio Association of Foodbanks Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt said.

Here's what the changes would do.

Ohioans who receive food assistance would have 30 days to notify the program of a change in income that was more than $500. Parents would have to cooperate "with the child support enforcement program" as a condition of eligibility. And the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would have to "conduct an asset test for each SNAP recipient."

The problem, Hamler-Fugitt said, is that the Senate set the total limit at $2,250.

"Families are going to have to sell their cars to keep their SNAP benefits ...," she said. "Senior citizens who may have a modest burial insurance policy would have to liquidate that policy in order to feed themselves."

But John Fortney, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, called those analogies unfair. The Senate plan requires Ohio to verify the current federal guidelines, which sets that asset limit for people under 60 who are not disabled. And it excludes the value of homes less than $600,000 and cars used for work or those worth less than $4,650.

“This simply follows federal guidelines," Fortney said. "We want to make sure these critical funds are available to those who need them the most.”

Another issue Hamler-Fugitt had with proposed changes was child support. Requiring women — some of whom are victims of domestic violence — to seek a formal agreement is going to push them out of the system.

"These families have just cause for not pursuing a formal child support arrangement," Hamler-Fugitt said
Just like Republican love to put in as many loopholes as possible to keep the wealthy from having to pay taxes, they're adding loopholes to prevent people from getting benefits. Republicans want you to be poor, trapped in a series of low-wage jobs that don't pay a living wage, because you're easier to control then. Eventually you slip off the knife's edge and you end up in the abyss, and you're no longer worth worrying about.

We disappear thousands, if not millions of Americans each year this way, and that's exactly what the GOP wants.


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