There Are 80,000 Homeless Kids in New York City


It’s a disaster of epic proportions.

Like his predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to lower the staggering rate of homelessness in New York City. Unlike his predecessor, his strategy has not consisted of  hectoring the homeless for their plight while  cutting their access to housing programs.

Still, the number of homeless families in New York continues to rise, especially in traditionally middle-class neighborhoods that have seen rapid growth (e.g. gentrification), as the Daily News notes. According to a report by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 12,000 families are currently sleeping in shelters, including 24,000 kids. That’s a 250% jump in 20 years.

In reality, the city’s homelessness problem is far more dire because many homeless families don’t get into shelters. According to school records highlighted in the report, close to 80,000 kids have experienced homelessness in the past year.

“For every child in shelter, there were roughly two additional children who were homeless and living in unstable conditions,” the authors note. That could mean doubling up with another family or sleeping on the subway or in a car.

“Unless something is done to address the underlying issues driving families into extreme poverty, more children will become homeless,” the report concludes.

While New York leads the pack in horrifyingly high rates of homelessness, cities across the country continue to see increases in the number of homeless families.

A 2013 estimate by the Department of Education highlighted by the Huffington Post found an 8 percent increase in homeless  students in just one year. 

Tana Ganeva is AlterNet’s managing editor. Follow her on Twitter or email her at tana@alternet.org.

US child poverty remains at highest rate in 20 years

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By Andre Damon
27 October 2014

Nearly one in four US children lives in poverty, the highest level in 20 years, with a similar proportion not getting enough food to eat. These were among the findings of an article published last week in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, entitled Seen but Not Heard: Children and US Federal Policy on Health and Health Care.

While the Obama administration praises the “economic recovery,” the facts presented in this report show that since 2009 there has been an immense social retrogression in every measure of well-being among the most vulnerable section of the population: children.

“It shouldn’t be this hard for kids to grow and thrive in the world’s richest, most powerful nation,” said Bruce Lesley, one of the study’s co-authors and the president of the child advocacy organization First Focus.

The report listed a panoply of dangers to the health and well-being of children in the United States, including hunger, lack of health and mental health care, cutbacks in social spending, the havoc wracked on immigrant families by deportation, and others. It found, among all these, that by far the worst impact on the health and well-being of children is poverty.

The report notes that there is overwhelming popular support for government programs to fight child poverty: “82% of voters want Congress and the White House to cut child poverty in half within 10 years.” But with the upcoming midterm election only a week away, such a project could not be farther from the minds of US politicians.

The Obama administration’s 2015 budget proposal, for example, calls for slashing the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services, which funds the Head Start preschool program, and the Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, by more than five percent.

The report found that 16.1 million children, or 22 percent, live in poverty. It lists a string of adverse health impacts, including “significantly higher risks of low birth weight, injuries, lower IQ, intensive care unit admissions, and infant, condition-specific, and overall mortality.”

The impact of child poverty affects people once they grow up, and even affects their children. As the report notes, “Childhood poverty is associated with substantially higher mortality rates in adults, regardless of adult socioeconomic status (i.e., even affluent adults who were poor as children have elevated death rates), and this increased mortality risk extends across 2 generations.”

The second threat to the well-being of children listed in the report is food insecurity. The report notes that sixteen million children, or 22 percent, live in food-insecure households. An enormous number of children—one in three—rely on food stamp benefits for nutrition, and 47 percent of food stamp recipients are children. The report concludes, “Food insecurity is associated with deleterious consequences for children’s health, including elevated risks of suboptimal health and hospitalizations.”

The report noted that budget cuts that went into effect last year have had a devastating impact on anti-poverty programs for children. For example, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides food assistance to children and mothers, was cut back by more than $354 million. It added, “Some in Congress are proposing SNAP [food stamp] cuts at a time when SNAP participants already experienced benefit cuts in November 2013.”

The report also noted that seven million US children, or nine percent, have no health insurance. Despite this, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, jointly funded by the states and the federal government, is scheduled to have its funding drop by 73 percent, from $21.1 billion to $5.7 billion, in 2016.

Congressional Republicans have proposed turning CHIP, together with Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, into a block grant or impose caps on the amount of healthcare funding individual children can receive. The report noted that such proposals “devastatingly restrict or eliminate benefits, underfund Medicaid, disadvantage children with even lower caps, and ration care.”

Among the most tragic elements depicted in the report is the effect of mass deportation on children. It noted that between 2010 and 2012, under the Obama administration, more than 200,000 parents of US citizen children were deported. As a result of these deportations, more than five thousand children have been put in foster care.

The report notes that one in three US children are overweight—which it refers to as a “pandemic”—and that 17 percent are obese. It relates these health problems to insufficient access to healthy food, both as a result of poverty and cutbacks to the funding of school lunch programs.

One in five children have mental disorders, and the rates are growing. “Pediatric mental-health and substance-abuse hospitalizations increased by 24% between 2007 and 2010, and hospitalizations for mood disorders increased by 80% between 1997 and 2010.” Suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers, and rates have gone up since the start of the recession.

Despite the widespread prevalence of mental illness among children, only half of US children with mental disorders receive any form of mental-health services, according to the report. On the state level, more than $1.6 billion in funding for mental health services have been slashed between 2009 and 2012, resulting in the elimination of 4,000 psychiatric hospital beds since 2010.

Whole areas of the country simply have no mental health care available to the poor, who tend to suffer disproportionately from the effects of mental illness. The report notes “35% of US counties have no outpatient mental-health treatment facility accepting Medicaid.” Only three percent of psychiatrists who practice alone accept Medicaid.

Despite the disastrous prevalence of poverty and preventable disease in the US, funding for medical research is being slashed. The report noted that the sequester budget cuts slashed $1.57 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $289 million from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report is a devastating indictment of a society that is going backward, not forward, in every measure of social well-being. These disastrous cuts in social services, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, are accompanied by the enormous enrichment of the super-wealthy, who have doubled their net worth since 2009.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/27/chil-o27.html

The US elections and the American plutocracy

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27 October 2014

The 2014 midterm elections mark a further development in the disintegration of American democracy. Only eight days from Election Day, the general population evinces little interest in the campaigns or candidates of the two official parties. This is not because working people are satisfied or apathetic. On the contrary, there are many signs of growing concern and anger over ceaseless war overseas and relentless attacks on social conditions and democratic rights at home.

But the election process, more openly than ever, excludes any expression of the concerns or democratic will of the vast majority of the people. The issues that affect the masses—growing poverty and inequality, declining living standards, police violence and repression—are ignored by the two parties and the media. To the extent foreign policy is discussed, both sides indulge in chauvinist and militarist demagogy, seeking to outflank one another from the right.

Behind the mutual mudslinging and attack ads that insult the people’s intelligence, there is agreement on the need for more austerity, more government spying, more tax breaks for the rich, and a militarist agenda that leads inexorably to a Third World War.

It is little wonder, with none of the Democrats or Republicans proposing any policies to address the jobs crisis or the rise in hunger and homelessness, and both parties supporting savage attacks on the working class such as the bankruptcy of Detroit, that November 4 is expected to see a new record low turnout for a midterm election.

According to the most recent polls, hostility to the congressional Democratic Party is at a 20-year high, with only 30 percent approving and 67 percent disapproving. Congressional Republicans are even more unpopular, with just 25 percent of Americans approving, while 72 percent disapprove.

Popular alienation from the political system coincides with the ever more naked domination of both parties and the manipulation of elections by a handful of multi-millionaires and billionaires. A report issued last week by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) projects that the 2014 election will cost nearly $4 billion, a record for a midterm election.

Candidates and the Democratic and Republican parties will raise and spend about $2.7 billion, while outside political action committees, which have mushroomed since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, will spend another $1 billion.

Candidates and campaign committees are spending more than $100 million on the Senate races in Kentucky and North Carolina, and the governor’s race in Florida, and sums only slightly smaller in other close statewide contests, in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, Massachusetts, Louisiana and other states.

According to a chart published in this week’s Time magazine, spending on US political campaigns has risen 555 percent in the past 30 years, far more than the cost of health care or college education, and nearly four times the increase in household income. The vast sums expended have not won either party any genuine popularity—something that is impossible given their adherence to virtually identical ultra-right programs dictated by the needs of the super-rich.

The Republican Party will likely win a narrow victory on November 4, maintaining its control of the House of Representatives, retaining the majority of state governorships, and winning or narrowly missing a 51-seat majority in the US Senate. This reflects, at least in part, its roughly equivalent lead in the spending race, with the CRP projecting $1.92 billion in pro-Republican campaign fundraising compared to $1.76 billion for the Democrats.

However the two parties divide control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the financial aristocracy maintains a vise-like grip on all three institutions and on the entire machinery of government.

Last week, the New York Times Magazine published a cover story on the role of billionaires backing rival candidates in the Florida gubernatorial election. This was followed by a report in the daily Times on so-called “dark money,” funds that go unreported to the Federal Election Commission that now comprise half of all outside campaign expenditures.

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” NBC journalists Chuck Todd and Luke Russert chatted about the “group of modern-day oligarchs” funding the 2014 campaigns.

These conditions make a mockery of claims that the US elections embody genuine democracy. The United States has been transformed into a plutocracy, a country where government of, by and for the wealthy is openly admitted, and in some quarters, celebrated.

American politics is being brought openly into alignment with American economics. American society has divided into two great camps: a handful of the super-rich at the top, with a layer of upper-middle-class hangers-on; and the great mass of working people, struggling from day to day to make ends meet.

Last week, social scientists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman posted an article under the headline “Exploding wealth inequality in the United States.” In documenting the massive growth of social inequality over the past four decades in the US, they noted that the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent increased from 7 percent in the late 1970s to 22 percent in 2012.

The colossal class divide between an oligarchic elite and the mass of working people underlies the collapse of democratic processes in the United States—and increasingly around the world. Democratic rights cannot be defended apart from a revolutionary struggle by the working class against the capitalist system, which is the source of inequality as well as imperialist war.

Patrick Martin and Barry Grey

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/27/pers-o27.html

7 facts that show the American dream is dead

A living wage, retirement security and a life free of debt are now only accessible to the country’s wealthiest

, AlterNet

7 facts that show the American dream is dead
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetrecent poll showed that more than half of all people in this country don’t believe that the American dream is real. Fifty-nine percent of those polled in June agreed that “the American dream has become impossible for most people to achieve.” More and more Americans believe there is “not much opportunity” to get ahead.

The public has reached this conclusion for a very simple reason: It’s true. The key elements of the American dream—a living wage, retirement security, the opportunity for one’s children to get ahead in life—are now unreachable for all but the wealthiest among us. And it’s getting worse. As inequality increases, the fundamental elements of the American dream are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the majority.

Here are seven ways the American dream is dying.

1. Most people can’t get ahead financially.

If the American dream means a reasonable rate of income growth for working people, most people can’t expect to achieve it.

As Ben Casselman observes at fivethirtyeight.com, the middle class hasn’t seen its wage rise in 15 years. In fact, the percentage of middle-class households in this nation is actually falling. Median household income has fallen since the financial crisis of 2008, while income for the wealthiest of Americans has actually risen.

Thomas Edsall wrote in the New York Timesthat “Not only has the wealth of the very rich doubled since 2000, but corporate revenues are at record levels.” Edsall also observed that, “In 2013, according to Goldman Sachs, corporate profits rose five times faster than wages.”

2. The stay-at-home parent is a thing of the past.

There was a time when middle-class families could lead a comfortable lifestyle on one person’s earnings. One parent could work while the other stayed home with the kids.



Those days are gone. As Elizabeth Warren and co-author Amelia Warren Tyagi documented in their 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, the increasing number of two-earner families was matched by rising costs in a number of areas such as education, home costs and transportation.

These cost increases, combined with wage stagnation, mean that families are struggling to make ends meet—and that neither parent has the luxury of staying home any longer. In fact, parenthood has become a financial risk. Warren and Tyagi write that “Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.” This book was written over a decade ago; things are even worse today.

3. The rich are more debt-free. Others have no choice.

Most Americans are falling behind anyway, as their salary fails to keep up with their expenses. No wonder debt is on the rise. As Joshua Freedman and Sherle R. Schwenninger observe in a paper for the New America Foundation, “American households… have become dependent on debt to maintain their standard of living in the face of stagnant wages.”

This “debt-dependent economy,” as Freedman and Schwenninger call it, has negative implications for the nation as a whole. But individual families are suffering too.

Rani Molla of the Wall Street Journal notes that “Over the past 20 years the average increase in spending on some items has exceeded the growth of incomes. The gap is especially poignant for those under 25 years old.”

There are increasingly two classes of Americans: Those who are taking on additional debt, and the rich.

4. Student debt is crushing a generation of non-wealthy Americans.

Education for every American who wants to get ahead? Forget about it. Nowadays you have to be rich to get a college education; that is, unless you want to begin your career with a mountain of debt. Once you get out of college, you’ll quickly discover that the gap between spending and income is greatest for people under 25 years of age.

Education, as Forbescolumnist Steve Odland put it in 2012, is “the great equalizer… the facilitator of the American dream.” But at that point college costs had risen 500 percent since 1985, while the overall consumer price index rose by 115 percent. As of 2013, tuition at a private university was projected to cost nearly $130,000 on average over four years, and that’s not counting food, lodging, books, or other expenses.

Public colleges and universities have long been viewed as the get-ahead option for all Americans, including the poorest among us. Not anymore. The University of California was once considered a national model for free, high-quality public education, but today tuition at UC Berkeley is $12,972 per year. (It was tuition-free until Ronald Reagan became governor.) Room and board is $14,414. The total cost of on-campus attendance at Berkeley, including books and other items, is estimated to be $32,168.

The California story has been repeated across the country, as state cutbacks in the wake of the financial crisis caused the cost of public higher education to soar by 15 percent in a two-year period. With a median national household income of $51,000, even public colleges are quickly becoming unaffordable

Sure, there are still some scholarships and grants available. But even as college costs rise, the availability of those programs is falling, leaving middle-class and lower-income students further in debt as out-of-pocket costs rise.

5. Vacations aren’t for the likes of you anymore.

Think you’d like to have a nice vacation? Think again. According to a 2012 American Express survey, Americans who were planning vacations expected to spend an average of $1,180 per person. That’s $4,720 for a family of four. But then, why worry about paying for that vacation? If you’re unemployed, you can’t afford it. And even if you have a job, there’s a good chance you won’t get the time off anyway.

As the Center for Economic and Policy Research found in 2013, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not require employers to offer paid vacations to their workers. The number of paid holidays and vacation days received by the average worker in this country (16) would not meet the statutory minimum requirements in 19 other developed countries, according to the CEPR. Thirty-one percent of workers in smaller businesses had no paid vacation days at all.

The CEPR also found that 14 percent of employees at larger corporations also received no paid vacation days. Overall, roughly one in four working Americans gets no vacation time at all.

Rep. Alan Grayson, who has introduced the Paid Vacation Act, correctly notes that the average working American now spends 176 hours more per year on the job than was the case in 1976.

Between the pressure to work more hours and the cost of vacation, even people who do get vacation time—at least on paper—are hard-pressed to take any time off. That’s why 175 million vacation days go unclaimed each year.

6. Even with health insurance, medical care is increasingly unaffordable for most people.

Medical care when you need it? That’s for the wealthy.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to increase the number of Americans who are covered by health insurance. But health coverage in this country is the worst of any highly developed nation—and that’s for people who have health insurance.

Every year the Milliman actuarial firm analyzes the average costs of medical care, including the household’s share of insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, for a family of four with the kind of insurance that is considered higher quality coverage in this country: a PPO plan which allows them to use a wider range of healthcare providers.

Even as overall wealth in this country has shifted upward, away from middle-class families, the cost of medical care is increasingly being borne by the families themselves. As the Milliman study shows, the employer-funded portion of healthcare costs has risen 52 percent since 2007, the first year of the recession. But household costs have risen by a staggering 73 percent, or 8 percent per year, and now average $9,144. In the same time period, Census Bureau figures show that median household income has fallen 8 percent.

That means that household healthcare costs are skyrocketing even as income falls dramatically.

The recent claims of “lowered healthcare costs” are misleading. While the rate of increase is slowing down, healthcare costs are continuing to increase. And the actual cost to working Americans is increasing even faster, as corporations continue to maximize their record profits by shifting healthcare costs onto consumers. This shift is expected to accelerate as the result of a misguided provision in the Affordable Care Act which will tax higher-cost plans.

According to an OECD survey, the number of Americans who report going without needed healthcare in the past year because of cost was higher than in 10 comparable countries. This was true for both lower-income and higher-income Americans, suggesting that insured Americans are also feeling the pinch when it comes to getting medical treatment.

As inequality worsens, wages continue to stagnate, and more healthcare costs are placed on the backs of working families, more and more Americans will find medical care unaffordable.

7. Americans can no longer look forward to a secure retirement.

Want to retire when you get older, as earlier generations did, and enjoy a secure life after a lifetime of hard work? You’ll get to… if you’re rich.

There was a time when most middle-class Americans could work until they were 65 and then look forward to a financially secure retirement. Corporate pensions guaranteed a minimum income for the remainder of their life. Those pensions, coupled with Social Security income and a lifetime’s savings, assured that these ordinary Americans could spend their senior years in modest comfort.

No longer. As we have already seen, rising expenses means most Americans are buried in debt rather than able to accumulate modest savings. That’s the main reason why 20 percent of Americans who are nearing retirement age haven’t saved for their post-working years.

Meanwhile, corporations are gutting these pension plans in favor of far less general programs. The financial crisis of 2008, driven by the greed of Wall Street one percenters, robbed most American household of their primary assets. And right-wing “centrists” of both parties, not satisfied with the rising retirement age which has already cut the program’s benefits, continue to press for even deeper cuts to the program.

One group, Natixis Global Asset Management, ranks the United States 19th among developed countries when it comes to retirement security. The principal reasons the US ranks so poorly are 1) the weakness of our pension programs; and 2) the stinginess of our healthcare system, which even with Medicare for the elderly, is far weaker than that of nations such as Austria.

Economists used to speak of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Pensions were one leg of the stool, savings were another and Social Security was the third. Today two legs of the stool have been shattered, and anti-Social Security advocates are sawing away at the third.

Conclusion

Vacations; an education; staying home to raise your kids; a life without crushing debt; seeing the doctor when you don’t feel well; a chance to retire: one by one, these mainstays of middle-class life are disappearing for most Americans. Until we demand political leadership that will do something about it, they’re not coming back.

Can the American dream be restored? Yes, but it will take concerted effort to address two underlying problems. First, we must end the domination of our electoral process by wealthy and powerful elites. At the same time, we must begin to address the problem of growing economic inequality. Without a national movement to call for change, change simply isn’t going to happen.

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a writer and policy analyst. He is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future and is host and managing editor of The Zero Hour on We Act Radio.

 

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/25/7_facts_that_show_the_american_dream_is_dead_partner/?source=newsletter

After Gezi: Erdoğan and political struggle in Turkey

by Global Uprisings on October 24, 2014

Post image for After Gezi: Erdoğan and political struggle in TurkeyThe latest Global Uprisings film chronicles a year of resistance and repression that has left Turkey profoundly divided in the wake of the Gezi uprising.

Political struggles over the future of Turkey have left the country profoundly divided. Former Prime Minister, now President, Tayyip Erdogan, has fueled growing polarization through his authoritarian response to protests, his large-scale urban development projects, his religious social conservatism, and most recently, through his complicity in the Islamic State’s war against the Kurdish people in Northern Syria.

In the year after the Gezi uprising, protests continue against the government’s urban redevelopment plans, against police repression, in response to repression of the Kurdish and Alevi populations, and in honor of the martyrs that lost their lives in the uprising. Most recently, angry protests and riots have spread across the country in solidarity with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units fighting against the Islamic State in Kobanê, Rojava. This film chronicles a year of uprisings, resistance and repression since the Gezi uprising in Turkey.

After Gezi: Erdoğan And Political Struggle In Turkey from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.

Autopsy shows St. Louis teenager Vonderrit Myers was gunned down by police while fleeing

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By Thomas Gaist
25 October 2014

The results of a private autopsy indicate that St. Louis teenager Vonderrit D. Myers, who was gunned down earlier this month by an off-duty cop, was running away when he was shot, then subsequently killed execution-style with a bullet to the head, attorneys for his family said Friday.

Myers was killed on October 8, two months after the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked mass protests that were met by a militarized police crackdown.

Jerryl Christmas, an attorney for Myers’s family, said the findings contradicted claims by police that Myers had engaged in a shootout with the officer. “The evidence shows that the story we’ve been given by the Police Department does not match up. There’s no evidence that there was a gun battle going on,” Christmas said.

Jermaine Wooten, another attorney for Myers’s family, said that according to eyewitness testimony, Myers was “screaming on the ground…begging this officer to stop.”

“The officer then runs up the hill, approaches Vonderrit, and then we hear one single shot. Vonderrit is not screaming anymore,” the attorney concluded.

The officer, whose name has not been made public, remains on paid administrative leave.

The autopsy, conducted by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht at the request of Myers’s family, showed that the 18-year-old, who family insists was unarmed, was shot six times in the back of his legs, once in the front of the leg, and once in the head.

“Six of the eight gunshot wounds were directed posteriorly. They struck Mister Myers on the rear part of his body,” Wecht said. The numerous hits to Myers’ legs strongly suggested that the teenager was running away when the shots were fired, he added.

In addition to the six shots to Myer’s back, the still-unnamed St Louis police officer fired a downward, execution-style shot to the head, which passed through the youth’s left cheek, and was lodged in his body, Wecht found. “The head wound would have rendered Vonderrit immediately unconscious,” Wecht said.

Myers’ wounds indicated that the shots to his legs traveled a “significant upward direction,” Wecht said, suggesting that they were fired at the youth’s back as he ran uphill away from the officer.

“With Vonderrit running up the hill away from the officer and the officer shooting then from a lower down position, that would fit in perfectly and explain how you have bullets that appear to move upward in the body,” Wecht noted.

Preliminary results from a separate autopsy conducted by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham similarly found that Myers “was shot six to seven times in the lower extremities, with the fatal shot entering the right cheek.” Dr. Graham is currently preparing a final report.

The St Louis police department has repeatedly altered its account of events that day, eventually settling on a convoluted narrative in which Myers initially fled from the officer, then entered into a “physical confrontation” with the officer, and finally fled again up a hill before firing three shots at the officer.

Seeking to square this account with the latest autopsy results, a lawyer representing the officer involved claimed that Myers was shot as he fell forward onto the ground, while pointing his weapon at the officer 180 degrees behind him.

“He was propped up on his left elbow, and his legs were facing out at the policeman as he went down, but he was still holding the gun and pointing it at the policeman,” the lawyer said.

To substantiate their version of events, the police are pointing to a forensic report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol asserting the presence of gunpowder residue on Myers’ body and clothing. The same report acknowledges, however, that such residue could stem from any number of causes, such as being shot at close range.

“The presence of gunshot residue on a person’s hands could mean the individual discharged a firearm, was near a firearm when it was discharged or touched an object with gunshot residue on it. Individuals shot at close range can have gunshot residue deposited onto their hands,” the report states.

The St. Louis police department claims to have possession of the weapon allegedly used by Myers, but has not made it available for public scrutiny. No DNA matching samples taken from Myers’s body have been found on Myers’ alleged weapon, according to comments made by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham reported in the St Louis American. “If he had been carrying the gun, it would have had his DNA,” Wooten said.

The shooting of Myers follows the August 20 police killing of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, a mentally disturbed man who died in a barrage of a dozen shots from two police officers, including several while he was motionless on the ground. A cell phone video subsequently showed that police misled the public about important circumstances of the killing.

Despite working as a private security contractor for Hi-Tek Security Services, the officer who killed Myers was reportedly wearing official police gear and wielding a police-issued weapon.

A local store manager, who saw Myers just before the incident, described Myers as “relaxed, regular, no worries or nothing” as he walked out onto the street carrying a sandwich. Myers’ aunt and guardian similarly said that the young man had a sandwich in his hands minutes before he was shot, a claim substantiated by surveillance videos.

Defending the use of an entire clip of ammunition against Myers, a lawyer for the St Louis Police Officers’ Association stated that whenever an officer uses deadly force, “he uses deadly force until the threat is gone.”

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/25/myer-o25.html

Democratic Senate candidates sound right-wing themes in pre-election debates

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By Patrick Martin
24 October 2014

The November 4 election will decide whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party has a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, but it will not change the basic political direction of the United States, since both corporate-controlled parties are committed to programs of militarism, attacks on democratic rights, and slashing spending on domestic social programs.

The fundamental agreement between the Democrats and Republicans was on display last week in a series of debates between Senate candidates in five southern states: North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky. The five races are closely contested, with polls showing the outcome too close to call or with small leads for one party or the other.

Given the current 55-45 edge for the Democrats in the Senate, with the Republican Party needing a net gain of six seats to take control, the results in these five southern races could well decide the outcome. (Three seats being vacated by longtime Democratic senators, in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, are already projected to be won by the Republicans).

The five debates reviewed here included the following:

• GEORGIA, Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of longtime former senator Sam Nunn, vs. Republican millionaire CEO David Perdue.

• NORTH CAROLINA, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan vs. the Republican speaker of the state legislature Thom Tillis.

• LOUISIANA, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu vs. Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy.

• ARKANSAS, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor vs. Republican Congressman Tom Cotton.

• KENTUCKY, Democratic state secretary of state Allison Lundergan Grimes vs. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who would become Majority Leader if the Republicans take control November 4.

Videos and transcripts of the debates are available on C-Span. The transcripts have the following oddity: while giving a verbatim account of what each candidate said, they do not identify candidates themselves by name, only as “unidentified speaker.” Given the similarity in content, it is frequently difficult to tell when the Democrat or the Republican is speaking. The constant references to Obama (from the Republicans), and the non-mention of Obama (from the Democrats) are the clearest indication of which party’s candidate is speaking.

One of the most remarkable aspects of these debates was their sheer narrowness and parochialism. The Obama administration last month launched a major war in the Middle East, bombing targets in Syria in addition to those already under attack in Iraq. Yet in two of the five Senate debates, there was no discussion of the war: in Arkansas, foreign policy was discussed only from the standpoint of the need to keep open local military bases, while in Kentucky, the subject did not come up at all.

In Georgia and North Carolina, the Democratic candidates fervently supported US military intervention and attacked their Republican opponents from the right, for being more reluctant to back such action.

Michelle Nunn in Georgia is the daughter of a former senator who played a hawkish role in US military and foreign policy in the 1980s and 1990s. She called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) an “incredibly dangerous threat,” and then went on to attack her opponent as insufficiently militaristic. “One year ago David Perdue said to do nothing about Syria, and I said we needed to intervene,” she argued. “It was not the popular thing to do then, but now it is.”

Senator Kay Hagan in North Carolina described herself as someone who would “fight for the military” in her role on the Armed Services Committee. She said of ISIS, “These individuals are terrorists. They have attacked Americans. Our mission should be to eradicate these terrorists.”

She went on to attack her opponent Tillis, saying, “What I have seen Speaker Tillis has done is he is waffling on these issues. I have been clear. I have been decisive. I think we need to hear from Speaker Tillis as far as what he would do.”

In response to criticism by Tillis of her performance on the Armed Services Committee, she placed herself in the vanguard of pro-intervention senators, saying, “Please note a year ago this past spring I actually asked about arming and training moderate Syrian rebels at the time. That was before we knew what ISIS was. I really think if we had taken that step we would not have seen the proliferation of these barbaric terrorists.”

In Louisiana, Senator Landrieu embraced the Obama administration’s policy in the Middle East, saying of ISIS, “We need to do everything we can to eliminate it. It’s a serious threat not only against the United States but the region, which is an important region of our interests. Secondly I do support the airstrikes against ISIS and believe that all presidents should have the authority to act when they believe America is in danger. Thirdly I would support the use of force. I think I would stop short at this point for boots on the ground.”

Republican Congressman Cassidy denounced the administration furiously but agreed with its policy in substance. “I support the plan because it’s the only plan out there,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be adequate.” But he went on to suggest he would back the use of ground troops as part of a larger strategy.

On domestic policy, both Democrats and Republicans backed further cuts in public spending. Michelle Nunn said of the federal budget deficit, “We both agree this is a huge issue. We disagree in that I believe in a bipartisan effort. It has to be done in a collaboration. Cut spending, cut medical expenses.” She went on to say, “I believe the only way to craft good legislation is with Republican support.”

Asked for more specifics, she hailed the outgoing Republican senator she is running to succeed, Saxby Chambliss, in his effort to draft a bipartisan spending and tax bill with Democrat Mark Warner. “We need to cut spending and reform taxes to settle the deficit,” she concluded.

Kay Hagan likewise backed reactionary bipartisan measures including the immigration legislation proposed by Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which would have established a 17-year process for immigrants to become citizens. She also backed Republican calls for a ban on travelers from the three countries in West Africa now devastated by Ebola.

Her plan for deficit reduction centered on a massive tax cut for giant US corporations that have parked $1 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid paying US corporate income taxes. The current tax rate is 35 percent, but Hagan boasted, “My bill would allow that money to come in at eight percent. They can bring that to five if they hire American workers.” In other words, corporate America would enjoy a windfall of $300 billion, courtesy of the US taxpayer.

In the Arkansas debate, Senator Pryor, the Democratic incumbent, portrayed himself as a veteran budget-cutter. “You all know me and you know I am serious about this. People in Washington know—I watch this closely and we have to get spending under control. That is why I voted to cut spending by $4 trillion in the last three years.”

As always in a US election, the Democrats portrayed the Republicans as committed to slashing Medicare and Social Security, while the Republicans piously proclaimed their dedication to these programs—only one, Cassidy in Louisiana, declaring his support for raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 70 years.

For the most part, the actual differences between the Democrats and Republicans boiled down to the following, in state after state: the Democrats backed an increase in the minimum wage, declared climate change to be a reality, supported gay marriage, and opposed repeal of Obamacare. The Republicans took the opposite stand on each question.

While the climate change issue reveals the grip of Christian fundamentalists (and oil companies) on the Republican Party, the differences in ideology have no real practical implications. Democratic candidate Grimes in Kentucky pledged her loyalty to the coal industry and Senator Landrieu in Louisiana did the same for the oil and gas producers.

On Obamacare, the Republicans continue to point to its most reactionary features, such as cuts in Medicare funding, even while they themselves support even deeper cuts. The Arkansas debate was held just after Arkansas-based Walmart announced it was ending health care benefits for tens of thousands of part-time workers, dumping these workers into the exchanges set up under Obamacare.

The minimum wage increase is an empty promise that even if fulfilled would not lift millions of low-paid workers out of poverty. With a Republican-controlled House, there is no possibility of such an increase passing, so Democratic Senate candidates are happy to make the promise knowing they won’t have to do anything.

This issue has been highlighted is several states by the introduction of referendum measures which will be on the ballot November 4, whose major purpose is to persuade poor and working-class voters to go to the polls despite their deep aversion to both parties.

In only one of the five debates was a Republican placed at a disadvantage on the economic issue, and that by his own doing. In the Georgia debate, David Perdue was asked about outsourcing at several corporations he had headed, particularly the textile manufacturer Pillowtex and he proceeded to boast about his record. In the aftermath of the debate, his poll numbers began to plunge.

Because the policies of the Obama administration have so clearly favored the wealthy and Wall Street, however, it was impossible for the Democratic candidates to sustain the pretense that they defended the interests of working people. This was demonstrated in the Arkansas debate, where Senator Pryor, the Democratic incumbent, denounced his Republican opponent Cotton for his ties to billionaires like the Koch brothers.

At one point Pryor was asked how he defined middle class, and the senator, himself the son of former senator David Pryor, and thus an epitome of inherited privilege, said that $200,000 a year was a middle-class income. This is a state which ranks 49th out of the 50 states in nearly every socioeconomic indicator, with a median income of barely $40,000.

A lengthy wrangle over the economy then ensued, with Cotton concluding, “Over the last six years of the economy, if you make a living off of assets or investments like stocks or bonds, the top five percent of all income earners, you are doing OK. If you make a living by working, if labor is your means of putting food on your table, your incomes are down… That is because Mark Pryor is a rubberstamp for Barack Obama’s policies.”

Cotton is perhaps the most extreme right-winger running as a major-party Senate candidate this year, calling for the gutting of food stamps and other forms of government support to the poor. That this diehard reactionary can posture as a defender of those who “make a living by working” only testifies to the utter bankruptcy of the Democratic Party, and of the two-party system as a whole.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/24/elec-o24.html