Donald Trump’s grotesque fraud

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When Donald Trump set up Trump University, he promised to share his “secrets of success.” He said he would tell people how they could “just copy exactly what I’ve done and get rich.” It was a fraud. Now, courtesy of the New York Times, we know for certain it could never be anything but a fraud. The only knowledge Trump can impart to anyone about wealth is an unteachable skill: have rich parents.

As the Times’s investigation revealed, Trump’s success depended on massive transfers of family wealth from his father, real estate developer Fred Trump. Ultimately, Fred Trump gave hundreds of millions of dollars to his children, a staggering amount turbocharged, as the Times reported in extensive detail, reportedly by fraud. By age 3, the Times reports, the young Donald Trump received an income that was the equivalent of $200,000 in today’s dollars from his dad. He was a millionaire before finishing elementary school. The largesse continued into adulthood. He even paid for the adult Donald’s car, and Manhattan offices — the same ones where the future president gave interviews claiming business genius.

The story Trump told on the campaign trail, about how he received only a “small” $1 million loan from his dad to build his business — and one Fred Trump made him pay back. “It has not been easy for me,” he whined. Garbage. The Times reports that the senior Trump loaned his son $60.7 million at a minimum, most of which was never repaid.

So why the pretense? Well, Americans love the myth of the self-made man. A foundational belief in our culture is that anyone can become a millionaire — or even better, a billionaire — with just the right amount of hard work, gumption and smarts. There is an idea that the person who goes out and makes himself — and it is almost always a man — a fortune is somehow a more skilled and smarter human being, capable of using his skill in one industry to master another.

Americans love this myth despite evidence that it is widely exaggerated. The United States has less class mobility than many European nations, but Americans think we enjoy more. In the United States, the quickest and easiest way to make it to the 1 percent of wealth holders and remain in that world is to be born into it.

One reason we might love this myth as much as we do: It allows us to avoid hard discussions about the reality of class in the United States. All too many Americans, the beneficiaries of what I like to call the upper-middle-class welfare state, can convince themselves that they are uniquely deserving. When Jessica Wiederspan, now a researcher studying basic income with Y Combinator, interviewed working- and middle-class families in Rust Belt states, she found many in absolute denial about what their financial backers accomplished for them. One woman, the recipient of family aid that permitted her everything from a nice home (with a mortgage in her mother-in-law’s name) to soccer lessons and summer camp for her children, told the researcher she believed the vast majority of people who did well in the United States, “are people who are willing to work for what they want.” As for the others, she sniffed, “they expect handouts to get from here to here.”

In fact, as both Wiederspan’s research and the Times story shows, it is frequently the rich and well-to-d0 who seek handouts without copping to it. It is the Trump administration that signed into law a tax-reform package that gave the typical worker a tiny and time-limited tax cut, while showering the wealthiest with a massive and permanent cut. It is the Trump administration that is seeking to make staggering cuts in social safety-net programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, which is the only help available for people who hit a rough patch or are mired in poverty. At the same time, it is the Trump family — and no doubt many other families — who seek to skip out on paying taxes, money that can be used to help those who lack their financial advantages. That too many Americans tacitly accept this reality allows frauds such as Trump to flourish.

By Helaine Olen/WAPO

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Here’s What Congress Was Doing While You Were Watching the Kavanaugh Circus The passage of tax reform 2.0 blows a huge hole in the budget, and a much-touted opioid bill might just make the crisis worse.

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While much attention was diverted by the political circus surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday and Friday, Congress passed a massive spending bill and another round of tax cuts that will combine to blow an even bigger hole in the federal budget. Lawmakers also found time to pass a bill restricting Americans’ access to prescription painkillers, something that’s likely to force people who are dependent on or addicted to opioids (a distinction seemingly lost on legislators) to seek out more dangerous alternatives.

Let’s start with the spending: Friday’s passage of the House Republican’s so-called Tax Reform 2.0 proposal will likely get heavy rotation in campaign ads over the next five weeks, even though the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. The bill does several things, but the key part of the proposal is the permanent extension of the individual and corporate income tax rate cuts enacted last year. Those lower rates are set to expire after 2025—reverting to their previous levels—but Republicans have been aiming for a permanent extension since before the final votes were cast on last year’s tax bill.

If Republicans still cared about deficits, Tax Reform 2.0 would be a non-starter. Having last year’s tax cuts expire in the middle of the next decade was a maneuver (or a gimmick, if you prefer) designed to limit the impact of tax reform on future deficits and the national debt.

Unsurprisingly, then, extending those tax cuts will add to the deficit. According to an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan number-crunching agency within Congress, the bill will add $631 billion to the deficit over a decade. While the JCT says an extension of the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow by about 0.5 percent in the years immediately after 2025, additional revenue from that growth will cancel out a mere $86 billion of the tax cut’s impact on the deficit. Other analyses of the bill by the left-leaning Tax Policy Center and the right-leaning Tax Foundation make similar estimates about the long-term effect on revenue.

The bottom line? Even when accounting for increased economic growth, Tax Reform 2.0 comes with a price tag of more than $500 billion added to the deficit—an amount future taxpayers will have to cover.

The bill is not without its charms. A proposal to created so-called universal savings accounts would allow Americans to create tax-advantaged savings accounts where they could stash up to $5,000 annually without having to deal with all the restrictions and limitations that come with similarly structured 401(k) and IRA plans now. Encouraging savings—especially savings that are partially sheltered from the tax man—would be a positive step that helps families plan for the future.

But if you needed further evidence that Congress doesn’t give a damn about planning for the country’s future, look no further than the passage this week, in both houses, of a $853 billion spending bill. About $600 million of the spending is directed towards the Pentagon—boosting the military budget to levels not seen since the height of the Iraq War.

The bill is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk. He must sign it before October 1 to avoid a government shutdown, which might be complicated by the lack of funding for his border wall.

The spending bill has raised the ire of the few fiscally conservative Republicans who sit in Congress. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) encouraged Trump not to sign the bill and blasted his fellow lawmakers for being “far worse than the politicians they once derided.”

Justin Amash

This gigantic, wasteful, pathetic spending bill passed the House and Senate. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump said, “I will never sign another bill like this again,” about the last bill like this, the omnibus. He’ll now be put to the test.

$850 BILLION of spending in one year in one bill—and Republican leaders have been bragging to everyone about this massive spending increase. Vote is TODAY. The same Republicans who used to blast GWB’s spendthrift GOP have become far worse than the politicians they once derided.

While the Kavanaugh hearings devolved into partisan acrimony, Congress was also serving up reminders of what happens when nearly everyone agrees. The Tax Reform 2.0 vote went mostly party line, but spending an obscene amount of money was, once again, a bipartisan affair in both the House and Senate.

So, too, was the passage of the Support for Patients and Communities Act, a much-touted bipartisan effort to address the opioid crisis in the most congressional of ways: by throwing money and more prohibition at the problem.

The final version of the bill, which passed the House 393-8 on Friday and now heads to the Senate, will spend about $8 billion on state-run opioid treatment centers and research into non-opioid pain killers. It also beefed up border security in the name of stopping the importation of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other lab-made drugs.

But the bill may unintentionally increase demand for fentanyl and other drugs used by opioid addicts who can’t get a legal fix. Several provisions in the proposal would restrict access to prescription painkillers; other aspects of the legislation would increase penalties for drug manufacturers and doctors deemed to have over-sold and over-prescribed opioids.

As J.J. Rich, a policy analyst for the Reason Foundation (which publishes this blog) notes in the November issue of Reason, previous crackdowns on prescription drugs have actually made the opioid crisis worse.

“It’s clear that the black market has claimed the economy ceded by restrictions on the legal market,” Rich notes, citing Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that pain reliever abuse rates have been flat since 2002. “When government restricts access to something people want, it drives demand to the black market. In this case, as opioids have become increasingly difficult to obtain legally in the last decade, users have switched to “diverted” prescription medications and illicit alternatives, including heroin. And just as Prohibition pushed bootleggers to switch from beer to potent bathtub gin, traffickers are increasingly adulterating their narcotics with potent synthetic opioids such as sufentanil—a substance that can be up to 500 times stronger than morphine.”

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Peter Schiff: The Latest Jobs Report Was Anything But Strong

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The August jobs report came out last Friday. Mike Maharrey offered a little bit of analysis during the Friday Gold Wrap podcast, saying he was skeptical that the actual employment situation is as great as the mainstream seems to think. Peter Schiff offered a more in-depth breakdown of the employment report in his latest podcast, saying it was “anything but strong.”

The headline number was the 201,000 jobs employers added last month. That came in above expectations, and as Peter noted, people tend to get excited when the number pushes north of 200K.

“For an economy the size of the United States, this is really not a lot of jobs, even if we were creating 200,000 jobs a month.”

Peter said that lost in all the breathless reporting about that August number was the fact that the labor department revised the previous two months downward. It came to a net loss of 50,000 jobs. Analysts took 10,000 jobs away from the July number and 40,000 off the June estimate.

“So, it was a weaker report than probably what everybody was looking for, yet it was spun positive by the media because the current month was better than estimates.”

And when you look at the types of jobs the economy is generating, the picture becomes even less impressive. Not only did the labor department revise down the number of manufacturing jobs created in July, the economy actually lost manufacturing jobs in August, according to the report.

“So, we actually fired people in the month of August from manufacturing. So much for the manufacturing revolution. So much for how the tariffs are working and we’re bringing our jobs back and American manufacturers are bringing back the jobs. Three thousand pink slips sent out in the month of August. So, this is bad news. If you’re trying to hang your hat on the revival of American industry, of American manufacturing, we lost 3,000 jobs.”

Peter also looked at the labor participation rate. It was at 62.9 in July and had been ticking up. People in the Trump administration were even saying, “See, people are coming in off the sidelines.” Well, in the latest report, labor force participation came in at 62.7. The payroll-to-population ratio also dropped from 60.5 to 60.3.

This means fewer people are in the workforce. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.9%, but more people simply dropped out of the labor force.

“So, had people not left the labor force then the unemployment rate might have gone up, because maybe some of the people who left the labor force, well, now they’re no longer looking for jobs because they’re no longer part of the labor force. And so if you’re not in the labor force, you can’t be unemployed even though you’re not working.”

The gain in average hourly earnings got the most attention from the mainstream. It came in at 0.4 – higher than expected. The year-over-year number also came in higher than expected at 2.9%.

“Is a 2.9% year-over-year gain in wages really indicative of a strong economy, or is it indicative of inflation? See, I think it’s the latter. I think it’s inflation that is the reason wages are going up. Remember, wages are prices. They’re the price that you pay to hire labor. So, the price of labor is wages… The price of goods and the price of labor are both affected by inflation. So, because we have all this inflation, prices are rising. They’re rising for goods and they’re rising for labor.”

Peter noted the CPI is currently at 2.9%, exactly the same as the growth in hourly wages. And he said he thinks the real cost of living is rising far faster than 2.9%.

“If all you’ve done with your increased wages is keep pace with higher prices, there’s nothing to brag about.”

Peter went on to talk about how the markets reacted to the jobs report. Of course, it continued to buoy expectations that the Fed will keep pushing forward with interest rate hikes. That made Peter wonder what investors are smoking. You’ll want to listen to the rest of the podcast to get his breakdown of what all of this really means for the markets. One thing he pointed out is that people should be buying gold.

“Gold is an inflation hedge! It’s the absence of inflation that might be bad for gold. As inflation rears its ugly head, that makes gold look prettier and prettier. So, people should be buying gold when the inflation numbers are higher. Now, eventually, they will, once people realize no matter how hot the inflation fire burns, the Fed’s not going to put it out.”

By SchiffGold

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Myth of Job Creation

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This is an old article but a relevant one.

The headlines from the last presidential debate focused on President Obama challenging Mitt Romney on issue after issue. There was a less noticed, but no less remarkable, moment when Mr. Obama agreed with Mr. Romney on something — and both were entirely wrong.

The exchange began with a question about the offshoring of American jobs. Part of Mr. Obama’s answer was that federal investments in education, science and research would help to ensure that companies invest and hire in the United States. Mr. Romney interrupted. “Government does not create jobs,” he said. “Government does not create jobs.”

It was a decidedly crabbed response to a seemingly uncontroversial observation, and yet Mr. Obama took the bait. He said his political opponents had long harped on “this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.” He went on to praise free enterprise and to say that government’s role is to create the conditions for everyone to have a fair shot at success.

So, they agree. Government does not create jobs.

Except that it does, millions of them — including teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, astronauts, epidemiologists, antiterrorism agents, park rangers, diplomats, governors (Mr. Romney’s old job) and congressmen (like Paul Ryan).

First, the basics. At last count, government at all levels — federal, state and local — employed 22 million Americans, with the largest segment working in public education. Is that too many? No. Since the late 1980s, the number of public-sector workers has averaged about 7.3 for every 100 people. With the loss of 569,000 government jobs since June 2009, that ratio now stands at about 7 per 100.

Public-sector job loss means trouble for everyone. Government jobs are crucial to education, public health and safety, environmental protection, defense, homeland security and myriad other functions that the private sector cannot fulfill. They are also critical for private-sector job growth in two fundamental ways. First, the government gets its supplies from private-sector companies, which is why Republican senators like John McCain have been frantically warning about the dire effects on job creation if Congress moves ahead with planned military spending cuts. (Republicans insisted upon the cuts as part of their ill-advised showdown over the debt ceiling.) Second, government spending on supplies and salaries reverberates strongly through the economy, increasing demand and with it, employment.

That means the economy suffers when government cuts back. A report by the Economic Policy Institute examined the effect of recent cutbacks at the state and local level — including direct loss of government jobs and indirect loss of suppliers’ jobs; the jobs that should have been added to keep up with population growth; and the reduction in purchasing power from other cutbacks. If not for state and local budget austerity, the report found, the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs today, half of which would be in the private sector.

The government does not create jobs? It most certainly does. And at this time of state budgetary hardship, a dose of federal fiscal aid to states and localities could create more jobs, in both the public and private sectors.

From NYT Opinion

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Robert Reich: Trump Keeps Telling These 4 Lies About Economy

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Donald Trump is putting out four big whoppers about today’s economy. Here’s what he’s saying, and here’s the truth:
1. “Best job growth ever.” Wrong. Job growth has actually slowed. In the last 19 months of the Obama administration the economy created 3.96 million jobs. In the first 19 months of Trump’s, 3.58 million.
2. “Lowest unemployment rate ever.” Rubbish. The unemployment rate is now down to 3.9 percent. That’s good. But it doesn’t measure how many people are still too discouraged to look for work or are working part time who’d rather be working full time. The labor participation rate (percent of prime working age work who actually have jobs) has been stuck at 88.9 percent for over a year.
And the current 3.9 percent rate is hardly better than ever in history. It was 3.4 percent in 1968 under Johnson, and below 3.9 percent for much of 1951, 1952, and 1953, under Eisenhower.

The practical question is always how low the Fed will allow unemployment to fall before raising rates, for fear of inflation. In 1996, unemployment fell to 4.4 percent, but Fed Chair Alan Greenspan then raised rates. This time around, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her successor Jerome Powell have been quite accommodating, but Powell is starting to raise rates again.
3. “Fastest economic growth in history.” Wrong again. The economy is now growing at annualized rate of 4.2 percent (that’s for the 2nd quarter). That’s not as good as the 5.1 percent and 4.9 percent achieved in 2 quarters in 2014, or the 4.7 percent in one quarter in 2011. During the Clinton years of 1997-1999, it grew by over 4.5 percent annually. Under Reagan, the recovery averaged 4.4 percent a year. Under Eisenhower, even faster.
4. “Best wages, ever.” Not even close. Today’s hourly wage has less purchasing power than it did over four decades years ago. Adjusted for inflation, the average hourly wage in January 1973 would be $23.68 today. Yet today’s actual average hourly wage is $22.73. And, of course, the lion’s share is going to the top.
Trump is having only one positive impact on the economy: His continuous P.T. Barnum lies about how good it is have improved consumer confidence. Which I suppose is good – until, like the character in the road-runner cartoons, consumers look down and realize there’s nothing under them.

By Robert Reich/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Elections and the Illusion of Political Control

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As if on special at Metaphors-R-Us, and just in time for the primary elections, CNN published an article on fake buttons that are provided to give people the illusion of control. It seems psychologists determined that fake buttons at crosswalks, in elevators and in other public and quasi-public places convey a sense of control without the power of control. In the space between upcoming elections and the creeping realization that connected capitalists still control the country, the question is of what reform candidates can really accomplish?

Staying with the metaphor for a minute, of relevance is that these buttons are engineered illusions— they are intended to deceive. The modes of existing they are designed to facilitate— office dwelling, high-rise living and urban traffic, preceded the psychologists’ additions. The fake controls are a response to adverse reactions to these modes of living. The question left unasked is: why are people having adverse reactions to the absence of control? The follow-on question is: what are the human consequences of the distance between the illusion and real control?

The progressives running in upcoming elections seem to be decent enough people. And reflexive cynicism— say about the plausibility of reform politics, only passes for knowledge in some particularly deplorable circle of hell. With apologies, welcome to hell. National Democrat Nancy Pelosi is promising to preclude all of the irresponsible social spending on progressive programs with ‘pay-go,’ the national Democrats’ austerity-in-a-can. And the New York Times is endorsing Andrew Cuomo over Cynthia Nixon because (corrupt machine politician) Cuomo can better ‘stop Trump.’

Graph: Given the relationship of economic distribution to political power, it is a good proxy for the distribution of political power. Since the 1980s a rising proportion of national product has been shifted from working class workers to the very rich. This is the result of specific policies designed to accomplish this outcome, not nature. When national Democrats proclaim themselves to be capitalists, this is the economic distribution they support. Source: LA Times / World Inequality Database.

‘New’ Democrat Cuomo, who has governed as a Republican, would seem an odd choice to stop Trump if that were the goal. With Wall Street downstate from the governor’s mansion and Manhattan real estate serving as a money-laundering mechanism for the global looting class, Mr. Cuomo is Donald Trump’s ex-bootlick / errand person running New York’s patronage system. It is this intersection of real estate and global money laundering that made Donald Trump the titan of inheritance capitalism he is. Alas, promoting otherwise unelectable Democrats has long seemed the subtext of the ‘stop Trump’ campaign.

Economic austerity, the mantra and clarified butter of the national Democrats, is the claim that the only legitimate expenditures by the Federal government are for unnecessary wars, Wall Street bailouts and prisons. Other expenditures— for housing, education, health care, food and retirement, are burdens on our children and grandchildren. If this reads like the program of the radical right, you might be on to something. And if you don’t understand the implications for bottom-up political reform, please read on.

The institutional backdrop is that the Federal government (‘public’) and banks (‘private’) create money. State and local governments can borrow, but they are otherwise constrained by the revenues they collect. Why then would Ms. Pelosi suggest that Federal spending is constrained by revenues (via the Federal budget) when it isn’t? More broadly, why has this been Democratic Party dogma since Bill Clinton assumed office? Don’t they want for their constituents to be fed, housed, educated, healthy and retired in security? Phrased more plainly, why do they hate their constituents?

Graph: When Bill Clinton entered office as president in 1993 he immediately reneged on his campaign promise to increase social spending citing the budget deficit as the reason. Shortly thereafter (non-financial) private debt (as a percent of GDP) began to rise rapidly as government spending was replaced with bank loans. This increased profits for Wall Street until excessive private debt killed the economy in 2007.  National Democrats favor economic austerity because it increases profits for Wall Street. Source: Worldbank.

Money creation is politically important because it is a control device for social spending. How far is democratic socialism likely to get if the Federal purse strings are controlled by committed capitalists in the Federal government? Is it incidental that Ms. Pelosi is restating the national Democrats’ commitment to fiscal probity while single-payer healthcare, federally funded college education and a Federal job guarantee are being put forward as components of the progressives’ program? Lest this remain unclear, the national Democrats are telling progressives to take a hike.

Missing from progressive consciousness appears to be a plausible explanation for the national Democrats’ fiscal obsession. In olden times banks earned profits by making loans. Government spending funds public investment that could otherwise be financed through bank loans. Additionally, inflation— the alleged result of ‘excess’ public investment and / or household income, reduces the purchasing power of bank loans when they are repaid. Wall Street hates public investment almost as much as it hates inflation. National Democrats are the Party of Wall Street. Ergo, national Democrats hate public investment almost as much as they hate inflation.

Is it incidental then that the first modern President of Wall Street, Bill Clinton, introduced economic austerity to the national Democrats’ canon? It was ex-Goldman Sachs Co-Chair Robert Rubin who, as Mr. Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, explained the ‘tyranny of the bond market’ to Mr. Clinton. At the time economist John Kenneth Galbraith explained that the New Democrats’ patrons-to-be thrived on human misery. To close the circle. Wall Street thrives on human misery, national Democrats are the Party of Wall Street, ergo national Democrats thrive on human misery.

A weltanschauung was demonstrated when Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street and quickly followed up with calls for economic austerity. His quest to ‘get the banks lending again’ in the face of excessive private debt was to favor bank loans over public expenditures. The ‘lesson’ of the Great Depression was that the public expenditures of the New Deal revivified American capitalism. But why piss-off Wall Street patrons and counter IMF prognostications for ‘lesser’ countries when Wall Street can make debt-slaves of the entire populace? There is an economic logic to manufacturing human misery.

The predictable result, that a few already rich people were made richer to the outer bounds of human avarice while everyone else was stuck in a public-private partnership of engineered downward mobility, is the program that Ms. Pelosi and the national Democrats intend to move forward. The apparent calculation is that Donald Trump is so widely loathed that they can run on an austerity program and counter the reformers and democratic socialists through control of the public purse. Republicans certainly aren’t going to come to their aid by advocating public spending on social programs.

As has been commented on quite effectively elsewhere, the irony of the Democratic establishment’s support for largely white, largely male establishment candidates— see Andrew Cuomo above, against their identity-politics dream-team challengers— Ms. Nixon is female and lesbian, exposes the tactic as a fraud. The prevalent explanation— that the political stakes are too high, begs the question of why they are so high? This isn’t to claim they aren’t, but rather to ask why austerity economics is still central to the Democrats’ program given the electoral losses that have followed its implementation?

With not much implied beyond what is written, a difference between Occupy Wall Street and the #Resistance is the choice of targets. As the center of American finance capitalism, Wall Street controls American political economy. Bringing Wall Street to heel would solve a lot of social iniquities. The #Resistance poses one person, Donald Trump, as ‘the problem’ implying that getting him out of office would solve everything that needs to be solved. In fact, Wall Street and the American ruling class would still control most of what matters.

The question regarding elections is: do they change the distribution of power? Again, the Federal government and banks can create financing giving them fundamentally different levers of social control than state and local governments possess. This is a problem for bottom-up electoral strategies— the purse strings are controlled by people and groups with contrary interests and the economic power to get their way. Running on platforms that suggest otherwise is a recipe for one-term ‘insurgencies.’

It is ironic, and perhaps wholly coincidental, that insurgent groups as diverse as Occupy Wall Street and the Black Panthers were shut down when they began demonstrating that they could build (small scale, ultimately utopian) alternative institutions. Elections are intended to change the cast of characters without challenging existing institutions. This is what Nancy Pelosi is making clear through her re-statement of the Democrat’s commitment to economic austerity. And it would seem to imply that the greatest impediment to progressive programs comes from establishment Democrats.

Without changing the distribution of power, elections are the fake buttons of politics— they provide the illusion of political control without its fact. This is a central reason why I have resisted the #Resistance assertion that Donald Trump is ‘the problem’— underlying political economy is little changed between administrations. Current problems were set in motion with the ascendance of finance capitalism beginning in the 1970s. I plan to vote for the ‘insurgents’ and hope they are successful with their stated programs. Otherwise, building alternative institutions seems the more promising path.

By Rob Urie/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Slaves Rebel

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The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.

But they also know that no prison can function without the forced labor of many among America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Prisoners do nearly all the jobs in the prisons, including laundry, maintenance, cleaning and food preparation. Some prisoners earn as little as a dollar for a full day of work; in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, the figure drops to zero.

Corporations, at the same time, exploit a million prisoners who work in prison sweatshops where they staff call centers or make office furniture, shoes or clothing or who run slaughterhouses or fish farms.

If prisoners earned the minimum wage set by federal, state or local laws, the costs of the world’s largest prison system would be unsustainable. The prison population would have to be dramatically reduced. Work stoppages are the only prison reform method that has any chance of success. Demonstrations of public support, especially near prisons where strikes are underway, along with supporting the prisoners who have formed Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which began the nationwide protest, are vital. Prison authorities seek to mute the voices of these incarcerated protesters. They seek to hide the horrific conditions inside prisons from public view. We must amplify these voices and build a popular movement to end mass incarceration.

Rest of story from Chris Hedges/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

 

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