Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Rich Get Rich and the Poor Get Poorer

Hunger and Homelessness in America

"There's n
othing surer; the rich get rich and the poor get poorer," was a slogan of the roaring 20s. The famous phrase was adapted from “Ain’t We Got Fun,” a popular song recorded in 1921. So what’s new in America in the first decade of the 2000s?

Nothing! America’s top 72 wage earners averaged 84 million
ollars each in income in 2009, according to Social Security Administration data. The richest 1 percent of us earned 24 % of the nation's total income, the highest since 1928, just before the Great Depression. On the other hand, 14.3 % were living in poverty in 2009, according to the U. S Census Bureau. 50 million people from 17.4 million families are so poor they couldn’t buy sufficient food last year. About one million children from more than a third of these households missed meals regularly according to a recent study by the Department of Agriculture. At dinner, families gather to share together. But for the children, dinner time can be the cruelest part of the day. Almost 1 in 4 of them doesn’t know when they will have their next meal.

Because there is a high turnover and many homeless people stay hidden, homeless and hunger counts are only estimates. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a count of 643,067 homeless persons nationwide on a single night in January 2008. 1.6 million used emergency shelters or transitional housing during 2007/2008, suggesting that 1 in every 50 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point. 170,000 families lived in homeless shelters.

With home foreclosures at record highs and continuing unemployment, homelessness is increasing.

Republicans in the U.S. House have blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season. About 2 million people will lose their benefits if they are not extended, according to the National Employment Law Project. The blocked benefits would save the jobless from hunger and homelessness during the most severe recession since the 1930s and boost spending in the economy that will generate more jobs. Long-term unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits right away on rent, food and other necessities, and create jobs in our economy. The Congressional Budget office estimates the "multiplier" effect of spending $65 billion on unemployment insurance extensions will increase gross domestic product $104.7 billion which translates into 488,000 payroll jobs.

The plutocrats controlling our government with campaign cont
ributions and slick lobbyists oppose extending benefits to unemployed people. They fight to keep their unjust tax cuts and sit on the billions in bailout cash they received that we were told would save the economy and create jobs for poor and unemployed people. U. S. companies reported after-tax profits of $1.22 trillion last quarter, the highest on record dating back to 1947, according to the Department of Commerce.
When will some of their government bailout welfare for the rich trickle down to poor and working people?

My wife, Judy and I are sponsors of an organization called Homeless Helping Homeless and volunteer at the local winter shelter. And, along with about 35 other people from diverse backgrounds, we have fed an average of 150 mostly homeless and hungry people every Sunday afternoon for the past 7 years at Finlay Park in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. . Each server brings a dish or two--turnip greens, mac and cheese, fresh fruit, banana pudding. Pastries are donated by local super markets. Our picnic provides a nutritious and tasty meal for the homeless and many of the servers.We are known as Food Not Bombs, a national organization that encourages feeding hungry people rather than supporting military madness.

Our a-frame sign, set up near the entrance to our picnic, has a famous quote from a speech by former General and President Dwight Eisenhower that describes the military industrial complex:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

The U.S.
defense budget is $720 billion, which includes the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy nuclear weapons activities and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We far outstrip the rest of the world in defense spending, surpassing the next closest country by more than eight times. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that the U.S. military budget accounts for 43% of the world’s total military spending.
If we heed the words of Eisenhower and stop the madness we call war, if we require the wealthiest to pay their fair share, then perhaps we can end hunger and homelessness in America. There will be food, not bombs, and we will no longer destroy the hopes of our children.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tea Partiers Prefer Secession

Rather Than Health Care For The Poor

Tea Party oriented Republicans who will control the US House of Representatives want to repeal “Obama Care”. Southern Republicans like Governor Rick Perry of Texas and US Representative Zack Wamp of Tennessee have threatened Secession from the Union because of federal mandates in “Obama Care”.

In South Carolina, Republican State Senator Glenn McConnell is President Pro-Tem of the South Carolina Senate and one of our most powerful politicians. He also opposes Medicaid mandates. Recently, officials of South Carolina Health and Human Services asked McConnell to help continue funding health care for poor people. He replied, “ When the money provided by the state for Medicaid is gone, the insurance program for the poor must simply stop providing services.” “Your obligation under the constitution … is to the taxpayer of this state and not to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.” South Carolinians pay both state and federal taxes that fund Medicaid, but by refusing to allocate $1 billion of our state tax revenue for this program over the next decade, South Carolina will lose $ 4 billion from the federal government for health care for 656,000 poor people, who are disproportionately black and children.

Tea Party states’ rights activists say their struggle against health care continues the struggle of Jefferson Davis and the secessionists in 1860. Rev. Cecil Fayard, chaplain in chief for the national Sons of Confederate Veterans, said “The War Between the States was fought for the same reasons that the tea party movement today is voicing their opinion.”

Senator McConnell opposed removing the Confederate flag from atop the South Carolina State House in 2000 and finally brokered a compromise that placed the rebel flag in front of the state capitol at the Confederate soldier’s memorial monument. McConnell is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Secession Camp #4, and a Civil War re-enactor who owned a Confederate memorabilia store in Charleston.

He founded and Chairs the Hunley Commission that raised a Confederate submarine from Charleston harbor. The Commission is restoring the sub for the Hunley Museum in Charleston with $22 million that is coming from state and federal funds according to their fund-raising organization.

McConnell was recently photographed in Civil War military regalia with two African- Americans dressed as slaves at a

meeting of the National Federation of Republican Women in Charleston. The Sons of Confederate Veterans work closely with the Confederate Heritage Trust.

The Confederate Heritage Trust is putting on a play and grand ball in Charleston on December 20th, celebrating the Secession of South Carolina from the United States in 1860. Neo-Confederates claim that secession was an issue of states’ rights rather than slavery but William Preston, a secessionist leader in South Carolina, said, “Slavery is our King; slavery is our Truth; slavery is our Divine Right.” South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession refers to Northern States; “Those States…have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery…They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.” Several thousands of those slaves from South Carolina served in the Union army in the Civil War that was started in Charleston by South Carolinians when they bombarded Fort Sumter in April, 1861. At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War.

I was also a champion of the lost cause of Dixie. In 1964-65, I became the first Executive Director of the South Carolina Independent Schools Association. Now emphasizing academic and athletic excellence, originally the private schools were created to allow white children to avoid racial desegregation in public schools in counties with large populations of blacks. Several were named for Confederate figures like Stonewall Jackson,

Robert E. . Lee,

Jefferson Davis,

and Wade Hampton.

I was an aide to George Wallace and then his National Campaign Director (1967-1971).

Confederate flags were waved and racial slurs shouted at Wallace rallies throughout the country. My great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier and my grandfather was a Klan member. I named my only son Jefferson Davis Turnipseed. I was a racist who used my Confederate heritage to deny my racism.

I returned to South Carolina in 1972 and helped organize a coalition to reform electrical utility regulation that included African Americans. Electric rates for low volume residential users were 5 ½ times higher than for industrial users and a disproportionate number of the mostly poor low volume users were black. The rate hike hearings offered an opportunity to bridge the divide between poor blacks and whites. Our successful coalition helped me realize how prejudiced I had been against black people. I became an anti-racist activist and was elected to the SC Senate by an interracial coalition of everyday people. I am a life member of the NAACP, and was a leader in the effort to remove the rebel flag from our State House.

Our law firm was co-counsel in a successful suit against the Klan for burning a black Baptist Church in South Carolina in 1998. These terrorist Klansmen waved the Confederate flag as they destroyed the church.

If a prejudiced devotee of Dixie like me could change, maybe there is hope for Secessionist Tea Partiers to change and allow poor black and white folks to have adequate health care.