Monday, January 31, 2022

Last Call For The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't

Rent's due tomorrow, and inflation, lack of affordable housing, and massive corporate takeover of rental properties means rent is skyrocketing across the country, and millions once again face eviction into the winter cold of the omicron pandemic.

Kiara Age moved in less than a year ago and now it’s time to move again: Rent on her two-bedroom apartment in Henderson, Nev., is rising 23 percent to nearly $1,600 a month, making it impossibly out of reach for the single mother.

Age makes $15 an hour working from home as a medical biller while also caring for her 1-year-old son, because she can’t afford child care. By the time she pays rent — which takes up more than half of her salary — and buys groceries, there’s little left over.

“I am trying to figure out what I can do,” said Age, 32, who also has an 8-year-old daughter. “Rent is so high that I can’t afford anything.”

Rental prices across the country have been rising for months, but lately the increases have been sharper and more widespread, forcing millions of Americans to reassess their living situations.

Average rents rose 14 percent last year, to $1,877 a month, with cities like Austin, New York and Miami notching increases of as much as 40 percent, according to real estate firm Redfin. And Americans expect rents will continue to rise — by about 10 percent this year — according to a report released this month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At the same time, many local rent freezes and eviction moratoriums have already expired.

“Rents really shot up in the second half of 2021,” said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. “The pandemic was kind of a pause on the economy and now that things are reopening, inflation is picking up, rents are going up and people are realizing they don’t have as much disposable income as they might have thought they had.”

Higher rent prices are also expected to be a key driver of inflation in coming months. Housing costs make up a third of the U.S. consumer price index, which is calculated based on the going rate of home rentals. But economists say there is a lag of 9 to 12 months before rising rents show up in inflation measures. As a result, even if inflation were to subside for all other components of the consumer price index, rising rents alone could keep inflation levels elevated through the year, said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at real estate data firm CoreLogic.

While the Federal Reserve’s likely interest rate increases are expected to slow soaring housing costs — already mortgage rates have been trending higher, which tends to cool the real estate market — the restraint on rental prices is expected to be much less direct and take longer to filter through.

In the meantime, the Biden administration has begun reallocating unused funds from its $46.5 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program to help residents with rent and utility payments in cities such as Washington, D.C., Houston and San Diego. President Biden has also vowed to add nearly 100,000 affordable homes over the next three years by providing low-cost funding to qualifying developers, and encouraging states and local governments to reduce zoning and financing rules for affordable housing.

The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in many parts of life, and housing is no different. Homeowners benefited from rock-bottom interest rates and surging home prices, while renters have faced surging costs with little reprieve. And unlike markups in other categories — such as food or gas, where prices can waver in both directions — economists say annual leases and long-term mortgages make it unlikely that housing costs will come back down quickly once they rise.

Eleven million households, or 1 in 4 renters, spend more than half of their monthly income on rent, according to an analysis of 2018 census data by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, though experts say that figure is likely even higher now.

“The fact is, for too many Americans, housing is unaffordable,” said Dennis Shea, executive director of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “We have an inadequate supply of homes — for both rent and for sale — and of course the lowest income families are being hit hardest.”

In interviews with renters around the country, many said their monthly payments had recently risen or were set to go up in the coming weeks. Multiple people said that despite local rent freezes, their management companies had found ways to increase monthly dues by tacking on new “amenity fees” or charging for services like trash collection that had previously been included.

Many said they began looking for other rental options, only to find that everything around them had gone up in price, too. Some said they’re considering relocating altogether — from Austin to Richmond, or New York City to Dover, Del.
So millions of Americans are facing eviction, and rents that are completely unaffordable. Even with assistance from the Biden administration, state, and local programs, a whole lot of Americans are going to be out on the street in the months ahead, with nowhere to go.
We're looking at a major, fundamental shift in the labor market.  People can't afford to be near their jobs anymore, so they have to move further away or quit altogether and look for work in another city or state, which of course they can't afford.
We've managed to delay the rental disaster through 2021, but 2022 is when it all catches up with us. People can't afford rent increases of 10%, let alone 40%.
It's going to get bad, folks.  It's going to be the story of 2022.

School Of Hard-Right Knocks, Con't

Terrified public school educators are now auto-banning books from classrooms to prevent any whiff of controversy from "Critical Race Theory", which was the entire point of the exercise over the last six months. and it will continue until every last vestige of American history is whitewashed into oblivion in schools across the country.

An acclaimed MLK-themed novel was removed from a 10th-grade English class in North Carolina. Haywood County Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte told Popular Information that he pulled the book, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, in a matter of hours after receiving one parent complaint. Nolte said he did not read the book — or even obtain a copy — prior to making the decision.

The 10th-grade parent, Tim Reeves, addressed the Haywood County School Board on January 10. Reeves said that his son received Dear Martin in 10th-grade English class on January 6. Reeves learned from his son that the book contained "explicit language" including the "f-word," the "s-word," and "GD." Reeves said that he was "appalled." He said the "language" and "sexual innuendos" in the book are "concerning to me as a parent."

Reeves acknowledged that his son hears "lots of language every day" but objected to its inclusion in a "textbook." Reeves suggested that providing Dear Martin to 10th graders violated the "age of consent" because "they are still adolescents."

Dear Martin "tells the story of an Ivy League-bound African American student named Justyce who becomes a victim of racial profiling." The book covers Justyce's "experiences at his mostly White prep school and the fallout from his brief detainment." In the book, Justyce's diary includes a letter to King in which Justyce explains how he sought to emulate the civil rights icon.

Stone's book was a finalist for the American Library Association's William C. Morris Award, a New York Times #1 bestseller, and was named one of TIME Magazine's top 100 young adult books of all time. Common Sense Media, a non-profit that evaluates books and other media for children, found the book was appropriate for 14-year-olds, who are typically in 9th grade. It also awarded the book 5 out of 5 stars for "overall quality."

When Reeves arrived at the School Board at the meeting, however, Nolte told him that he had removed Dear Martin from 10th grade English class.

In an interview, Nolte told Popular Information that he first heard from Reeves about his concerns "earlier that day." According to Nolte, Reeves had previously spoken to the high school principal who offered to provide an alternative text for Reeves' son. But Reeves was not satisfied and wanted the school to remove the text from the class.

Nolte said that, before making the decision to remove the book, he did not have an opportunity to "read all of it." Instead, Nolte "talked to some people who had read different sections of it" and "looked at some of the parts of it that were published online." Nolte also said he "didn't talk to the teacher at all about why she picked that text."

Nolte then concluded that "the amount of profanity and other descriptions or images in it" made Dear Martin inappropriate for a 10th-grade English class. There is no blanket prohibition on novels with profanity but Nolte said he was concerned with the frequency. "I made the best judgment I could make I feel pretty comfortable with it," Nolte concluded.

Nolte's approach appears inconsistent with the official policies of Haywood County Public Schools. Under the policy, a parent "may submit an objection in writing to the principal regarding the use of particular instructional materials." (Reeves did email the principal about his objection.) Then the principal "may establish a committee to review the objection" or make the decision themselves. Only if the principal or committee disagrees with the parent may "the decision of the committee or principal be appealed to the superintendent." In this case, Nolte says that he made the decision himself on the same day the complaint was filed. There is no indication that the principal rejected the objection or was even given the opportunity to decide.

Nolte's decision is also part of a larger trend of removing books that deal with marginalized communities based on alleged concerns about profanity.
When you remember the point is to cripple and destroy public education for 95% of American kids, to render it useless across the country, to shutter schools, fire teachers and educators, and sell off buildings and land and telling parents "You wanted school choice, arrange your own kids' education now, we won't do it" then all of this makes sense. In the last two years alone, public education has been gutted in America.
There's no whiff of recovery anytime soon. We're looking at a generation of kids without the basics of a K-12 education, even by America's dismal standards, where the "negative" parts of America's history are obliterated, as Greg Sargent warns.

We’re seeing dozens of GOP proposals to bar whole concepts from classrooms outright. The Republican governor of Virginia has debuted a mechanism for parents to rat out teachers. Bills threatening punishment of them are proliferating. Book-banning efforts are outpacing anything in recent memory.

Amid this onslaught, a proposed bill now advancing in the New Hampshire legislature deserves renewed scrutiny. It would ban the advocacy of any “doctrine” or “theory” promoting a “negative” account of U.S. history, including the notion that the United States was “founded on racism.”

Additionally, the bill describes itself as designed to ensure teachers’ “loyalty,” while prohibiting advocacy of “subversive doctrines.”

This proposal is drawing heightened attention from teachers and their representatives. With the push for constraints on teachers intensifying, they worry that if it succeeds, it could become a model in other states.

“It’s the next step in their campaign to whitewash our history by rewriting it,” Megan Tuttle, the president of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association, told me in a statement.

If this passes, it will “stifle real discussion" in classrooms, Tuttle said, adding: “Then it’s only a matter of time before similar legislation has the same impact on classrooms around the country.”
We've already seen how easy it is to control the ignorant and weaponize them into an army of dullards, a confederacy of Confederate dunces. Imagine that being our future for decades to come.
That's where all this is headed.

The Big Lie, Con't

As Will Bunch points out, over the weekend in Texas, Trump all but promised a violent uprising across America if any of the state cases against him in New York, Georgia, or anywhere else result in indictments against him or his family.
Amid the predictable reiterations of the Big Lie that Biden’s legitimate 2020 election was stolen and his other narcissistic blather, Trump’s lengthy speech in Conroe contained three elements that marked a dangerous escalation of his post-presidential, post-Jan. 6 rhetoric. Let’s digest and analyze each of them:

For the first time, Trump — if somehow elected again in 2024 and upon returning to the White House in January 2025 — dangled pardons before people convicted of crimes in the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. “If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” he told the rally, adding: “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.” The statement raises as many questions as it answers — for example, was he including many or all of the more than 700 mostly low-level insurrectionists, or sending a message to his higher-up friends like Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows and others who could be subject to criminal probes?

But two things are clear. The first is that Trump — facing probes over Jan. 6 in Georgia and possibly from the U.S. Justice Department — is committing a form of obstruction of justice in full public view, since the future possibility of a pardon offers an incentive to stay on the ex-president’s good side and not testify against him. The other is that abusing the constitutional power of a presidential pardon — intended by the framers for grace and true clemency — to clear the jails of his political allies is banana republic-type stuff, the ultimate rock bottom made inevitable when Trump was allowed to abuse his pardon powers while in office 2017-21.

— In a sign that Trump is increasingly worried about the overlapping probes — the remarkable evidence uncovered by the House Jan. 6 Committee that will likely be referred to the Justice Department, the Fulton County grand jury investigation into Georgia election tampering, and the unrelated probe into dodgy Trump family finances in New York, he explicitly called for mob action if charges are lodged in any of these jurisdictions. Said Trump: “If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had ... in Washington D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

Of course, the last time that Trump used his megaphone to summon a large crowd (”Will be wild!” he famously tweeted) was last Jan. 6, and we all remember how that “protest” turned out. Experts call Trump’s practices here “stochastic terrorism” — broad statements in the media that are meant to stoke spontaneous acts of violence, in this case to intimidate the prosecutors or even the grand jurors who are weighing charges against Trump. While his Jan. 6 exhortations were the prelude to an attempted coup, Trump’s incendiary remarks in Conroe sound like a call for a new civil war — naming both the locales and the casus belli.

— But let’s take a step back and drill down on arguably the most important and alarming word in Trump’s statement: “Racist.” At first blush, it seems to come out of left field, in the sense of what could be racist about looking into a white man’s role in an attempted coup or his cooked financial books? Except that it happens that three of the key prosecutors investigating Trump — the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney, Fani Willis, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and new Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg — as well as the chair of the House committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, are all Black.

Thus, it’s both alarming and yet utterly predictable that Trump would toss the gasoline of racial allegations onto his flaming pile of grievances, knowing how that will play with the Confederate flag aficionados within the ex-president’s cult. In tying skin color into his call for mobs in Atlanta or New York, Trump is seeking to start a race war — no different, really, from Dylann Roof. Roof used a .45-caliber Glock handgun, while Trump uses a podium and the services of fawning right-wing cable TV networks. Sadly, the latter method could prove more effective.

What happened in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday night was not politics
. A politician seeking to regain the White House might craft a narrative around Biden’s struggles with inflation or with COVID-19 and make a case — no matter how absurd, given Trump’s failings on the pandemic and elsewhere — that he could do better for the voters. But increasingly Trump is less a politician and more the leader of a politics-adjacent cult. He does not want to make America great again so much as he wants to keep Donald Trump out of prison, and the most narcissistic POTUS of all time is willing to rip the United States in two to make this happen.

Trump’s chief weapons are fear and intimidation. To save American democracy, the people tasked with getting to the bottom of a former president’s high crimes and misdemeanors — on Capitol Hill and in those key courthouses — must be ready for the violence that Trump is inciting, and must summon the courage to finish their job. My fear is that Trump’s speech in Conroe will live in infamy — but the only reason it happened at all is because we have not held Trump to account for attempting to wreck American democracy on Jan. 6 ... not yet. Now, Trump has told us in no uncertain terms how he plans to break the nation this time. We can act forcefully to stop his new insurrection and punish his past crimes — or we can sit back and let the comet of autocracy strike.
I've said this before. Indictments against Trump mean that the local and state prosecutors have to be ready to defend themselves from lethal violence, targeting prosecutors, judges, court staff, jails and more. It means that the law enforcement agencies attached to defend these institutions will be called upon to do so, but it also means the law enforcement agents, individually, will be called upon by Trump to allow the violence to happen.
Trump is straight up telling people if they are involved in the violence, that he will pardon them when President. 
Trump needs to be in prison, right now, for obstruction of justice. It was witnessed by the world.
It'll never happen, of course.
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