Poverty & Wealth

Dispatch From Baltimore: A Photo Essay

Images from the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray

Juliana Vigorito
F or more than two weeks, the City of Baltimore has been reeling over the tragic death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while riding in the back of a police van. He was arrested on April 12 and died one week later. The details surrounding his death are still unclear, though Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has admitted that his officers left Gray unbuckled in the van despite being handcuffed and shackled. Batts also acknowledged that Gray’s multiple requests for medical attention were ignored. Mobile video footage from a bystander shows Gray crying out in pain before he was taken away. Peaceful demonstrations to demand justice for Freddie Gray and other victims of police brutality have been organized throughout Baltimore since Gray’s initial arrests. The movement against police brutality in the city did not start with Freddie Gray—citizens have been protesting harsh treatment by Baltimore police for years. Yet Gray’s death has been...

How Government Policies Cemented the Racism that Reigns in Baltimore

A century of federal, state, and local policies have quarantined Charm City’s black population in isolated slums.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) A boy runs from a public housing development toward the intersection where Freddie Gray was arrested, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. But the unrest that followed is as much a comment on 100 years government housing policies that continue to the present day as it is about unjust policing. This article originally appeared on the website of the Economic Policy Institute , under the title, " From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation ". I n Baltimore in 1910, a black graduate of Yale Law School purchased a home in a previously all-white neighborhood. The Baltimore city government reacted by adopting a residential segregation ordinance , restricting African Americans to designated blocks. Explaining the policy, Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed: “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of...

In Baltimore, Police Thuggery Is the Real Violence Problem

An unarmed black person is six times more likely to be killed by police than is a white person who carries a weapon.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) A s cities erupt after decades and centuries of oppression and violence at the hands of police, calls for nonviolence can be deafening. “Violence isn’t the answer,” the moralists scream. They are right. But they are telling the wrong people. On April 12, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer and ran. When he was detained, he was found in possession of a switchblade. Gray was taken into police custody where his spine was severed. One week later he was dead; by the time of his funeral on April 27, neither his family nor the community yet know what led to the fatal injury. After Gray’s family laid the 25-year-old to rest, and after days of peaceful protests, Baltimore erupted into what has become an all-too-familiar sight. Police donned riot gear as buildings and cars burned. Gray joins the infuriatingly long—and ever-growing—list of black people killed by police. Their names echo on the streets of American cities where the...

A Test for Hillary Clinton: Obama's Trade Deals

(White House photo/ Public Domain via Flickr)
(Official White House Photo via Flickr) President Barack Obama delivers remarks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue reception at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2010. O pposition to the Obama administration's proposed major trade deals is getting firmer among Democrats in Congress. Both chambers must approve trade promotion authority, better known as fast-track, in order for the deals to move forward. One Democrat who has avoided taking a position is Hillary Clinton. In the past, she has supported deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but lately she has tried to give herself some wiggle room without opposing fast-track, saying last Tuesday that any agreement has to create jobs, as well as increase prosperity, and improve security. That's pretty amorphous. Clinton, of course, does not get to vote on the measure because she is no longer a senator. But pressure is increasing from...

Pity the Purist in the GOP Primaries (A Tear for Bobby Jindal)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
I t's the season for pandering to the base, which is as good a time as any to ask whether the glorious, fascinating mess that is today's Republican Party can ever unify enough to win back the White House—or whether unity is something they should even be after. Because it may well be that a fractured, contentious GOP is the only kind that can prevail next November. You probably missed it, but over the weekend nearly all the Republican presidential candidates (with the notable exception of Jeb Bush) hotfooted it back to Iowa to participate in the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Forum, where they testified to the depths of their love for the Lord and their hatred for His enemies, particularly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The entreaties to this band of the base—important in primaries everywhere, but critically so in Iowa, where 57 percent of the attendees at the Republican caucuses in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christian—are a good reminder of the internal and...

What We Know Now

Twenty-five years later, the world has changed in crucial ways that factor into our thinking.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Victor Juhasz This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . I n 1990, when the two of us started this magazine with Robert Reich, we saw a need and an opportunity. The Democrats had lost three presidential elections in a row, national policy had moved sharply to the right, and liberalism was in dire need of new ideas about the direction of the country. Some of the publications that we once looked to (and wrote for) had grown ambivalent about liberal politics or uninterested in engaging practical choices and no longer provided intellectual leadership. But the Reagan era was waning, and a new generation of writers and intellectuals was ready to pick up the challenge to think through alternatives. We saw the Prospect as bridging the usual divides between journalism and the academic world, and between policy and politics—and as a way to...

Greece on the Razor's Edge

Bailing out Greece is politically impossible—it's also increasingly necessary. 

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis A pedestrian passes anti-austerity graffiti in front of Athens Academy on Thursday, January 29, 2015. T he morning after Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza coalition won the Greek elections in late January, an old friend called from Athens. He’d been a senior figure in the Papandreou government that had struggled for nearly two years to stave off the collapse of the Greek economy, so he knew firsthand just how deadly the chalice now about to be passed to Tsipras was. He also knew Tsipras personally—Greece is a small country—as well as Yanis Varoufakis and other key figures who would be appointed to the new government. And he clearly understood what Tsipras aimed to do to quickly and decisively break “the golden shackles” that had bound Greeks in a crushing web of debt: face down the creditors. But my friend also knew firsthand the stubbornly conservative and judgmental consensus that had steadily solidified, not just among European elites but among a broader European...

Obama's Trade Agreements Are a Gift to Corporations

Trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about dismantling critical regulations on health, safety, labor, and the environment. 

(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Protesters gathered outside the Smith Center to speak out against the fast-track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Portland, Oregon, on January 31, 2014. This article originally appeared at The Boston Globe . L ate last week, legislation moved forward that would give President Obama authority to negotiate two contentious trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But for the most part, these aren’t trade agreements at all. They’re a gift to corporations, here and in partner countries that view purely domestic regulations as restraints of trade. If these deals pass, the pharmaceutical industry could get new leverage to undermine regulations requiring the use of generic drugs. The tobacco industry has used similar “trade” provisions to challenge package label warnings. A provision in both deals, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would allow...

Faculty Join Fast Food in the Fight for $15

On campuses across the country, adjunct professors are starting to organize against rock-bottom pay and tenuous job security. 

Faculty Forward USC
Faculty Forward USC Adjunct faculty march for better pay and working conditions at the University of Southern California on April 15, 2015. A s yesterday’s Fight for $15 protests wound to a close across the country, it’s become clear that this movement is not a fleeting effort—it’s here to stay. The focal point has primarily been on the most visible low-wage workers: fast food and retail workers whose pay perpetually hovers around minimum wage. And their employers seem to be taking a small, yet encouraging, step in the right direction as both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart recently announced increases to their respective minimum wages. However, another employment sector that’s not typically associated with low wages was prominent yesterday as well: the American professoriate. Higher education institutions in the United States employ more than a million adjunct professors. This new faculty majority, about 70 percent of the faculty workforce , is doing the heavy lifting of academic instruction...

Calls From Home

In a region dominated by coal companies and privatized prisons, activist Amelia Kirby charts a new path for her community. 

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) In this Oct. 17, 2014 photo, an unreclaimed strip mine just across the state line from Kentucky's Harlan County stands in Virginia as seen from the Kentucky side of Black Mountain in Lynch, Ky. A melia Kirby was driving in a particularly beautiful part of her home county in the late 1990s when she noticed the construction. She thought it was yet another strip mine, taking off the tops of mountains to extract the coal beneath. But instead, it was the beginnings of a prison. Amelia’s double-take was indicative of a general shift in central Appalachia, an area roughly spanning eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia, and southern West Virginia. As the coal industry has declined in an area long synonymous with it, states have turned to prisons as an alternative form of economic development. Since 1992, central Appalachia has seen the construction of four federal, three state, and one private prison, with another federal prison potentially on the way...

Federal Contract Workers and the Fight For a Living Wage

How your tax dollars are creating millions of underpaid jobs—and how workers are fighting back. 

Tommy Wells/Flickr
Tommy Wells/Flickr Public employees at a 2013 Good Jobs Nation rally in Washington, D.C. T oday, workers in hundreds of cities across the United States will take to the streets to protest meager minimum wages that are keeping them in poverty. Fight For 15 organizers and activists are speaking out against low wages. McDonald’s, Walmart, and other mega-corporations employ a good number of those workers, but the biggest creator of low-wage jobs in the United States is none other than the federal government through federal contracting. In 2013, a coalition of labor groups started Good Jobs Nation (GJN) to fight to increase and recover wages for government contract employees. On April 9 of this year, GJN released a report, “ The Return of Federal Sweatshops? How America’s Broken Contract Wage Laws Fail Workers ,” which details how the federal government creates poverty-wage jobs and how workers on federal contract routinely don’t receive their fair amount of pay. Alongside the report, the...

Why California's Drought Is the Nation's Problem

Rising food prices, unsafe drinking water—climate change will only make things worse unless stronger measures are taken.

(Photo: Governor's Press Office, California)
View image | gettyimages.com I t was the worst kind of photo op. California Governor Jerry Brown and other state employees assembled in the Sierra Nevada mountain community of Phillips Station two weeks ago for the annual snow survey. Every year since 1941, April 1 has been the day of reckoning—a time to take stock of the winter’s accumulation and plan for how much spring runoff may help fill the state’s reservoirs, feed its rivers and streams, and be available for irrigated agriculture. This year was grim. The area, at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation, usually has about five feet or more of snow at this time of year. But this year, there was no snow on the ground. Brown launched a press conference in the middle of a field of brown grass and announced mandatory drought restrictions for the state as part of an executive order that aims to restrict urban water use by 25 percent in the next year, spur the replacement of lawns with drought tolerant plants, and increase efficiency and...

Today's GOP: The Party of Jefferson Davis -- Not Lincoln

(Photo: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, as captured by photographer Mathew Brady in 1861. This essay originally appeared in The Washington Post . O ne hundred and fifty years ago Thursday, after Union infantry effectively encircled the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee sent a note to Ulysses S. Grant proposing a meeting to discuss terms of surrender. With that, the Civil War began to end. And at some point in the future, it may yet. The emancipation of the slaves that accompanied the North’s victory ushered in, as Abraham Lincoln had hoped, a new birth of freedom, but the old order also managed to adapt itself to the new circumstances. The subjugation of and violence against African Americans continued apace, particularly after U.S. Army troops withdrew from the South at the end of Reconstruction. Black voting was suppressed. The Southern labor system retained, in altered form, its most distinctive...

The Opportunity Dodge

It's an empty promise—because the chance to thrive will never be good amid great inequalities.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) Conservative politicians like Jeb Bush, shown here speaking at the Economic Club of Detroit in February, avoid addressing inequality and focus instead on what they call "the opportunity gap." This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. And click here for a free PDF of this 25th Anniversary Issue of the Prospect . W e think of America as the land of opportunity, but the United States actually has low rates of upward mobility relative to other advanced nations, and there has been no improvement in decades. Creating more opportunity is therefore a worthy goal. However, when the goal of more opportunity is offered instead of addressing income inequality, it’s a dodge and an empty promise—because opportunity does not thrive amid great inequalities. It is important to distinguish between opportunity (or mobility) and income inequality. Concerns about mobility relate to strengthening the chances that children who grow up with...

Brewing Human Rights Crisis in Baltimore as City Threatens Mass Water Shutoffs

Residents warn move is part of global trend towards the 'commodification of our basic needs.'

Davide Restivo
Davide Restivo/Wikimedia Commons This article originally appeared at Common Dreams . I n what residents warn is a mounting human rights crisis, the city of Baltimore has commenced sending 25,000 notices, the vast majority to city and county residents, threatening to shut off water if delinquent bills are not paid within ten days. The organization Food & Water Watch estimates that 75,000 residents are under immediate threat of having their taps turned off, in a city beset with rising water rates and housing costs, where nearly one out of four people live below the federal poverty line. Jessica Lewis, co-founder of the Right to Housing Alliance, a human rights organization led by people most affected by the affordable housing crisis in Baltimore, told Common Dreams that local communities are in the process of assessing the impact and getting organized. "A lot of renters we work with are angry but also tired, because they see more and more of the costs of having a place to live...

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