Budget

Thirsty Detroiters Demand End to Water Shut-Offs

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, home to 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, Detroit faces a crisis that is not only paradoxical; it’s complicated.

AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates
(AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates) Protesters march over the controversial water shut-offs Friday, July 18, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan. UPDATE: On Thursday, August 7, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a ten-point plan to address the water department's much despised shut-off policy. I n Michigan’s largest city, a water crisis has been raging for months. Since spring, 17,000 city residents have had their water shut off by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) for unpaid water bills. Now living in unsanitary conditions, citizens in homes without running water can’t even flush a toilet. Deemed by public health officials to be living in inadequate conditions, many parents in homes without water are sending their children to live with family or friends for fear of losing their sons and daughters to Child Protection Services . For the elderly and the ill, lack of home access to water can be fatal. Last week, after weeks of negative news coverage, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr...

This Is What Happened When I Took the MTA Bus to Pick Up Food Stamps

A response to a much-chattered-about article by an upper-middle-class white woman who was appalled to find herself judged when she applied for food stamps.

5 Towns Jewish times
M r. Brown folded his large hands and gleamed at me with a placid smile. Then, suddenly, he said, “You have to work!“ His tone was that of a father scolding an errant teenager. “If we give you money, you have to work!” I managed the seething anger brought on by this exchange, and compounded by the hunger I felt after having waited a few hours for my turn at this encounter, not to mention the set of events that led up to me applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). “I have a job,” I managed to say, “it’s part-time and I’m actively looking for a full time job.” I pointed to the printed e-mails of interview appointments, job applications and cover letters. He waved away my evidence and continued down his checklist. I could tell that he gave this speech regularly and had no interest in a rebuttal. I slumped down in the chair, defeated, feeling solidarity with the woman who was escorted out of the...

Corporate Tax Behavior So Bad Even Fortune Magazine Can’t Stomach It

These are companies that even a top cheerleader for the corporate class can’t bring itself to defend.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
AP Photo/Tony Dejak Eaton Corp. Chairman and CEO Alexander Cutler at the company headquarters at Eaton Center Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 in Cleveland. Joint ventures or acquisitions in China are also a key part of a global growth strategy. This article originally appeared at the website of the Campaign for America's Future . F ortune magazine is out with its list of “Top American corporate tax avoiders,” members of the S&P 500 that “sure seem American—except when it comes to paying taxes.” These are companies that even a top cheerleader for the corporate class can’t bring itself to defend. What’s more, the list is accompanied by a blistering article by columnist Allan Sloan that makes the progressive case against corporate tax evasion as forcefully as anything Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might say on the Senate floor. There is “a new kind of American corporate exceptionalism,” he writes: “companies that have decided to desert our country to avoid paying taxes but expect...

Shifting Tactics, Moral Monday Movement Launches a New Freedom Summer

Fifty years after the murders of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, North Carolina activists move from civil disobedience to big voter mobilization push.

©Jenny Warburg
Photos by Jenny Warburg for The American Prospect ©Jenny Warburg The North Carolina NAACP’s Moral Freedom Summer organizers, shown here at a Raleigh protest, fanned out across the state to register and educate voters in advance of the November 2014 elections. “ I normally wear cuff links,” the Rev. William Barber II told the 75 activists, black and white, who filled the pews at Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh Monday night. “But it’s time to roll up our sleeves.” With those words, the president of the North Carolina NAACP launched the next phase of the Moral Monday movement, the broad faith-based response to the state’s recent sharp-right policy turn. The movement, founded by Barber in 2013 and backed by dozens of church and advocacy groups, is temporarily shifting its attention away from the civil-disobedience protests that yielded more than 1,000 arrests. Between now and Election Day in November, Moral Monday leaders plan to concentrate on local communities and a...

Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

DVA.gov
DVA.gov The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. T he conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1 st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their...

Dear Thom Tillis: How Long Does It Take For a Black Person to Become a Traditional North Carolinian?

An open letter to the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is prompted by his comments about the Republican Party's demographics.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton In this May 6, 2014, photo Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. D ear Thom: I hope I can call you Thom; you may certainly call me Cynthia. Given the circumstances—given how far the policies you've supported since becoming Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives have reached into my home and even my vagina —I feel we are on intimate terms that make surnames superfluous. In your 2012 comments to Carolina Business Review , unearthed by TPM last week, you talked about how Republicans need to reach out to communities of color, the type of GOP hand-wringing we've heard since Mitt Romney went down in flames. I believe your specific comment was this: The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population...

Photo Essay: Moral Mondays' Potent Symbols and Creative Actions

So far in the 2014 North Carolina legislative session, lawmakers have witnessed weekly actions: a silent protest, a sit-in in the Speaker's office, and prayerful bread-breaking by the activists of the Moral Monday movement, chronicled here in a photo essay.

©Jenny Warburg
N orth Carolina’s 2014 legislative session, which began May 14, is now in full swing. So is the Moral Monday movement, the NAACP-led, faith-based opposition to the state’s recent dismantling of voting rights, civil liberties, and the social safety net. The movement, now in its second year, has built a solid foundation of support from a wide array of churches and issue-based organizations, including labor, immigrant, and women’s groups. This spring, as legislators have tried to limit protests and sometimes even avoid the building on Mondays, organizers have grown adept at surprising lawmakers with unannounced, targeted, and sometimes colorful actions. These photographs by Jenny Warburg chronicle the action in and around the state legislative building. --Barry Yeoman Click here to read Barry Yeoman's full account of this year's Moral Monday protests. Yeoman also built the slideshow of Warburg's photographs and wrote the captions. North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Holding Ground in...

The Brothers Koch: Family Drama and Disdain for Democracy

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes N ot long ago, a pal of mine asked whether I’d heard the latest scoop about Charles and David Koch, the right-wing billionaires currently overseeing capitalism’s final solution to the democracy problem. Did I know—did I know!?—their grandmother had been none other than Ilse Koch, the human-lampshade-loving wife of Buchenwald’s commandant? Cazart, as Hunter S. Thompson used to say. Overseeing final solutions just runs in the family. My friend looked distinctly chagrined when I told her it wasn’t so. Like many liberal Americans, she hates the Kochs so much that no calumny strikes her as too far-fetched. But as it happened, I was midway through Daniel Schulman’s first-rate Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty , and I felt reasonably sure that Schulman wasn’t saving Ilse and her apocryphal lampshades for a Harry Potter gotcha toward the end. Considering that Charles and David are worth more than $80 billion...

Every Great American City Deserves a Shot—Including Detroit

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio A major American city teeters on the brink of financial ruin. Garbage goes uncollected. Crime is rampant. Municipal officials are so desperate for cash to pay creditors that they have to beg the local teachers union for financial assistance. If this sounds like Detroit, think again. The city was New York. The year was 1975. Thanks to sensible assistance from federal and state government and a focus on economic growth rather than just reckless cuts, the Big Apple emerged from insolvency in the mid-1970s to become the most prosperous urban center in the modern world. As Motown navigates its current fiscal crisis, policymakers should remember the core lesson from New York's experience: The key to recovery is investment. There is no doubt that Detroit’s current situation is difficult. The fragile municipal tax base was decimated in the Great Recession, and the city now has thousands of abandoned properties, unacceptably slow emergency response rates, and painful...

Moral Monday Movement Gears Up for Round Two

2013 ©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP, leads a Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, N.C., in 2013. This article has been corrected. O n Wednesday afternoon, the North Carolina legislature will open its 2014 session. It will be hard for the Republican majority to top last year’s performance, which shattered the final vestiges of the state’s 50-year reputation for moderate governance. With the help of newly elected GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, lawmakers in 2013 slashed both public education and unemployment benefits. They rejected an expansion of Medicaid, paid for almost entirely by the federal government, that would have covered at least 300,000 low-income North Carolinians. They cut corporate taxes and eliminated the earned-income credit for low-wage workers. And they rewrote the state’s election laws in a way that will make registration and voting harder, particularly for African-American, blue-collar, and younger voters. They might have...

Three Cheers for Taxes

Flickr/Tobias Scheck
Tomorrow is tax day, when millions upon millions of Americans find themselves saying, "Grumble grumble govmint taxes grumble grumble" as they stand in a slow-moving line at the post office to mail their returns off to the tyrants in Washington. Every year at this time, I feel it's my duty to remind everyone of a few important facts about taxes, the most important of which comes at the end, so you'll have to wait for the payoff. But here we go: Taxes in the United States are extremely low by international standards . How low? Really low. We're near the bottom of comparable countries. The good folks at the Center for Tax Justice have put together some informative charts which I'll be using for the rest of this post; here's the first one , showing where we stand compared to the other countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Only Chile and Mexico have lower total taxes than we do, and over time we've been moving down that list. In 1979 we ranked 16th out of...

In Shocker, GOP Proposes Cutting Taxes For the Wealthy

Perhaps the world's only caricature of Dave Camp, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. (Flickr/Donkey Hotey)
For some time, I've been saying , perhaps naively, that we ought to have a real debate about tax reform, and maybe actually accompish something. Sure, Democrats and Republicans have different goals when it comes to this issue—Democrats would like to see the elimination of loopholes and greater revenue, while Republicans want to reduce taxes on the wealthy—but there may be a few things they could agree on somewhere in there. You never know. So today, Representative Dave Camp, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is releasing the latest incarnation of Republican tax reform. And it's...exactly what you'd expect. Unfortunately. In fact, though we're waiting for details, it looks almost exactly like the plan Republicans released two years ago. The centerpiece is an elimination of most tax brackets, leaving only two, at 10 percent and 25 percent. In a total shocker, that means a huge tax break for the wealthy! I know—I too am amazed that Republicans would propose such a thing...

How Big Banks Are Cashing In On Food Stamps

AP Images/Rich Pedroncelli
AP Images/Rich Pedroncelli T he Agricultural Act of 2014 , signed into law by President Obama last Friday, includes $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade. One way the bill proposes to accomplish these savings is by reducing food stamp fraud. When the new farm bill is enacted, many of America’s hardest working families will experience cuts in services and have trouble putting food on their family’s table. But there will be major gains for an industry that most Americans might not expect: banking. Banks reap hefty profits helping governments make payments to individuals, business that only got better when agencies switch from making payments on paper—checks and vouchers—to electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. EBT cards look and work like debit cards, and by 2002, had entirely replaced the stamp booklets that gave the food stamp program its name. SNAP is the most well-known program delivered via EBT, but they also carry...

Shocking Moment of Sanity Occurs in Congress

A much prettier ceiling. (Flickr/Richard Carter)
If you aren't a political junkie, you may have missed the rather remarkable thing that occurred yesterday in Congress, when the House of Representatives—home of nutbars and nincompoops, extremists, and obstructors—actually passed an increase in the debt ceiling. And it was clean as a whistle, without any spending cuts or other provisions inserted to soothe the savage Tea Party beast. After debt ceiling crises in 2011 and 2013, we now have over a year before we have to tempt fate and default again. How could such a thing have happened? The simplest explanation is that John Boehner put a clean increase up for a vote, and it passed, with mostly Democratic votes (even Boehner himself voted against it, as did the entire Republican leadership). This is something he could have done in the prior crises, but chose not to. The more complete explanation is that Boehner finally felt secure enough to anger some of his caucus's most conservative members, if that was the price of saving his party...

Republicans Are Really, Really Bad at Hostage Negotiations

For some time, I've been arguing that we should not just extend the debt ceiling but get rid of it altogether. It's a weird historical anomaly that serves no practical purpose other than allowing the opposition party, should it be sufficiently reckless, to threaten global economic catastrophe if it doesn't get its way. I assumed that your average Washington Democrat would share this view, but now I'm beginning to think that if you're someone like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama, the debt ceiling is actually quite helpful, and you'd be sorry to see it go. Because here's what keeps happening: The debt ceiling approaches. Republicans begin making threats to torpedo the country's economy by not raising it, and thereby sending the United States government into default, if their demands aren't met. We then have a couple of weeks of debate, disagreement, and hand-wringing. Republican infighting grows more intense, and their reputation as a bunch of radicals who are willing to burn down the...

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