Trump calls for $1.7 trillion in social cuts

23 May 2017

The Trump administration will unveil a fiscal year 2018 budget today that includes $1.7 trillion in cuts to major social programs. The plan marks a new stage in a bipartisan social counterrevolution aimed at eviscerating what remains of programs to fight poverty and hunger and provide health care for millions of workers.

The unveiling of the budget underscores the reactionary character of the Democrats’ response to a gangster government headed by a fascistic-minded billionaire and composed of Wall Street bankers, far-right ideologues and generals. The Democratic Party has chosen to base its opposition to Trump not on his assault on working and poor people, his attacks on democratic rights, or his reckless militarism, but on his supposed “softness” toward Russia.

In the political warfare in Washington, the Democrats are aligned with those sections of the intelligence apparatus and the “deep state” that are determined to compel Trump to abandon any notion of easing relations, and instead continue the Obama administration’s policy of escalating confrontation with Russia. As the Democrats and the so-called “liberal” media pursue their anti-Russia campaign, the Trump administration continues to advance its brutal domestic agenda.

Trump’s budget is the opening shot in a stage-managed tussle between the two big business parties over social cuts that will end with the most massive attack on core social programs in US history.

The budget includes a cut of $800 billion over a decade in Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people jointly administered by the federal government and the states. More than 74 million Americans, or one in five, are currently enrolled in Medicaid, including pregnant women, children and seniors with disabilities.

Like the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed earlier this month by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Trump’s budget plan would put an end to Medicaid as a guaranteed benefit based on need, replacing it with per capita funding or block grants to the states.

The AHCA would also end the expansion of Medicaid benefits under Obamacare and allow states to impose work requirements for beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of the Republican plan would result in 10 million people being stripped of Medicaid benefits.

Trump’s budget would also cut $193 billion over a decade from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, a 25 percent reduction to be achieved in part by limiting eligibility and imposing work requirements.

Welfare benefits, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, would be cut by $21 billion. Spending on the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which benefit mainly low- and middle-income families, would be reduced by $40 billion.

The budget reportedly includes changes in funding for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program, which provides cash benefits to the poor and disabled.

While gutting social programs, Trump proposes to sharply reduce taxes for the wealthy. In addition to slashing income tax rates for the rich, he is proposing to dramatically cut estate, capital gains and business tax rates. At the same time, he is demanding a huge increase in military spending.

While Democrats will make rhetorical criticisms of the Trump budget, the fact is that the administration is escalating a decades-long assault on the working class overseen by both big business parties.

The outcome can be seen in the reality of social life in America:

Poverty

More than 13 percent—some 43.1 million Americans—were living in poverty in 2015. Of these, 19.4 million were living in extreme poverty, which means their family’s cash income was less than half of the poverty line, or about $10,000 a year for a family of four. The poverty rate for children under 18 was 19.7 percent.

These are the official poverty rates, based on absurdly low income baselines. In reality, at least half of the population is living in or on the edge of poverty. These are precisely the people targeted by Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicaid, welfare and food stamps.

Hunger

Almost one in eight US households, 15.8 million, were food insecure in 2015, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members. Five percent of households had very low food security, meaning the food intake of household members was cut. Three million households were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.

Lack of health care

In 2016 under Obamacare, 28.6 million people of all ages, or about 9 percent of the US population, remained uninsured. Many of those insured under plans purchased from private insurers on the Obamacare exchanges were unable to use their insurance because of prohibitively high deductibles and co-pays. Many who gained insurance under Obamacare did so as a result of the expansion of Medicaid. Trump plans to reverse this, throwing millions of people back into the ranks of the uninsured.

A bipartisan assault

In the wake of Trump’s budget proposal, the Democrats have responded with their standard empty rhetoric. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer—one of Congress’ biggest recipients of Wall Street campaign money—decried Trump’s “hard-right policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle-class.” Just three weeks ago, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were hailing the passage of a bipartisan fiscal 2017 budget that cut food stamps by $2.4 billion, slashed funding for education and the environment, and added billions more for the military and border control.

Obamacare paved the way for the present assault on Medicaid and the coming attacks on Medicare and Social Security by further subordinating health care to the profit demands of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and imposing higher costs for reduced benefits on millions of workers.

Nothing less than a mass movement of the working class will prevent the destruction of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, public education and every other social gain won by the working class. But this movement must be completely independent of the Democratic Party, the historic graveyard of social protest in America. That includes left-talking demagogues like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

It is not a matter of appealing to or seeking to pressure the Democrats or any other section of the political establishment. They are all in the pocket of Wall Street.

The working class needs its own program to secure its basic social rights—a decent-paying job, education, health care, a secure retirement. These rights are not compatible with a capitalist system that is lurching inexorably toward world war and dictatorship.

Workers and youth must intervene in this crisis with a socialist and revolutionary program geared to the needs of the vast majority, not the interests of an obscenely rich and corrupt financial oligarchy.

Kate Randall

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/23/pers-m23.html

US children’s suicide-related hospital admissions double in last decade

By George Gallanis
11 May 2017

New research indicates a devastating development amongst the most vulnerable section of society. The number of children and teens ages 5 to 17 hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or self-harm in the United States has doubled since 2008.

The finding are based on a study abstract titled, “Trends in Suicidality and Serious Self-Harm for Children 5-17 Years at 32 U.S. Children’s Hospitals, 2008-2015” prepared for presentation at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco May 7.

Researchers sifted through administrative data from 32 children’s hospitals from around the country. All discharge diagnoses for suicidality or serious self-harm from emergency department and inpatient intakes were indexed between the years 2008 and 2015 for children between ages 5 and 17.

The results are staggering. Researchers tallied a total of 118,363 diagnoses for suicidality or self-harm from the 32 hospitals. They concluded that a doubling of such diagnoses took place over the study period, an increase from 0.67 percent in 2008 of all intakes to 1.79 percent in 2015.

Over half of those tallied, 59,631 patients, were 15- to 17-year-olds, with 43,682 patients, or 36.9 percent, comprising 12- to 14-year-olds. Moreover, 15,050 patients, amounting to 12.7 percent of the total, were children between ages 5 and 11.

The study also noted that the time of year could also affect when children felt suicidal or inflicted self-harm. The lowest occurrences for both diagnoses occurred during the summer months of June through August, with the highest happening during the spring, March through May, and the fall, September through November.

Dr. Gregory Plemmons, a leading researcher of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee, told CNN: “We noticed over the last two, three years that an increasing number of our hospital beds are not being used for kids with pneumonia or diabetes; they were being used for kids awaiting placement because they were suicidal. And it confirmed what we were feeling: that the rates have doubled over the last decade.”

As to why children commit or think about suicide, Plemmons said it was the “million-dollar question,” adding, “Family history of depression or suicide, family violence, child abuse, gay and lesbian youth, history of bullying—those are all risk factors that have been reported. We didn’t look at any of those specific factors in our study.”

While such factors undoubtedly play a significant role in the development of mental illness among America’s youth, they are further exacerbated by the capitalist system, which exploits the working class and savagely tears society apart into the haves and haves-nots.

For today’s youth, having been born in the past two decades means being raised in a world in which war has been waged on a daily basis. The study shows that young people are among the most vulnerable to this social crisis—facing an uncertain educational future and bleak job prospects—and are increasingly expressing their despair through suicidal thoughts and actions.

A CDC report published last fall found that US children ages 10 to 14 are now more likely to die from suicide than from auto accidents.

The desperation felt by youth is pervasive throughout American society. Recent research reveals swaths of the US population are plagued by mental illness and psychological distress. One report from the Psychiatrics Journal found that 3.4 percent of American adults, a total of 8.3 million people, suffer from “severe psychological distress” (SPD).

Another report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 52,404 people in the US died from drug overdoses in 2015, stemming in part from psychological distress.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/11/suic-m11.html

Life expectancy study shows 20-year gap between richest and poorest US counties

By Naomi Spencer
10 May 2017

The growth of social inequality is manifested in every facet of American life, including the health and lifespans of individuals. Inequality in life expectancy has grown substantially since 1980, a new study published May 8 in the American Medical Association’s JAMA: Internal Medicine confirms. The study documents “large—and increasing—geographic disparities among counties in life expectancy over the past 35 years.”

Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Erasmus University in the Netherlands analyzed death records and population counts from all US counties.

Their study, “Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014: Temporal Trends and Key Drivers,” drew data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), along with population counts from the US Census Bureau, NCHS, and the Human Mortality Database. This data set allows for a fuller picture of the scale of inequality in life expectancy that other recent research has shown. (The IHME maintains an interactive county-level map)

The study found that in 2014 life expectancy at birth for both sexes at the national level was 79.1 years (76.7 years for men and 81.5 years for women). The combined average amounts to a 5.3-year growth in life expectancy over the 1980 average of 73.8 years.

Life expectancy at birth

Behind this overall growth in lifespan, however, the study found a staggering 20.1-year gap between the lowest and highest life expectancy among all US counties.

Three wealthy counties in central Colorado—Summit, Eagle, and Pitkin—recorded the longest life expectancies in the country, at 86 years on average. At the other end of the spectrum, several counties in South and North Dakota had the lowest life expectancy, along with “counties along the lower half of the Mississippi [the Delta region] and in eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia,” the study found. These areas “saw little, if any, improvement” since 1980. Thirteen counties registered a decline in life expectancy.

In the Dakotas, several of the shortest-lived counties encompass Native American reservations. Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota, home to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation, had the lowest life expectancy in the country in 2014, at just 66.8 years. In a press release, the IHME researchers noted that this was lower than the life expectancies of Sudan and Iraq—countries that have been torn apart by brutal wars over the course of decades.

“Looking at life expectancy on a national level masks the massive differences that exist at the local level, especially in a country as diverse as the United States,” lead author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren of IHME explained. “Risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and smoking explain a large portion of the variation in lifespans, but so do socioeconomic factors like race, education, and income.”

The study found that all counties saw a decline in the risk of dying before age 5 since 1980, attributable to improvements in health programs for infants and children. At the same time, the data showed an increased risk of death for adults aged 25-45 in 11.5 percent of counties, a phenomenon partially explained by the rise in suicides and drug addiction.

Although the research points to “a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors” to account for the disparities in life expectancy, all of the factors intersect with poverty. It is not a coincidence that the poorest areas recorded the shortest life expectancies and the wealthiest areas recorded the longest lifespans.

Risk factors like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and physical inactivity are highly correlated to poverty, unemployment and lack of education. In areas where the population lacks access to preventive care or they cannot afford basic health care, chronic conditions become debilitating. Cancers go undetected, mental illness is undiagnosed, pregnancies are carried without adequate prenatal care, heart disease is untreated, and work-related injuries are managed with highly addictive pain medications instead of physical therapy and rest.

Of the 10 counties where lifespans fell the most since 1980, eight are in the coalfields region of eastern Kentucky: Owsley (-3 percent); Lee (-2 percent); Leslie (-1.9 percent); Breathitt (-1.4 percent); Clay (-1.3 percent); Powell (-1.1 percent); Estill (-1 percent); Perry County, Kentucky (-0.8 percent). Kiowa County, Oklahoma, (-0.7 percent), and Perry County, Alabama, (-0.6 percent) round out the list of counties where life expectancy declined the most.

Change in life expectancy at birth

Residents of Owsley County, Kentucky saw a decline in life expectancy from 72.4 in 1980 to 70.2 in 2014—comparable to the life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan or North Korea.

Owsley County was found by a 2016 Al Jazeera analysis to be the poorest white-majority county in the US. Some 45 percent of the county’s 4,500 residents, and 56.3 percent of children, live below the poverty threshold. Official unemployment stands at 10 percent, but with only 35 percent of the working age population included in the labor force, real unemployment is approaching 75 percent. Per capita income as of 2015 stands at $15,158, according to federal Census Bureau data.

As with the rest of the Appalachian coalfields region, the counties where life expectancy has dropped have seen every metric of economic and social well-being decline over the past several decades. Coal mining employment in eastern Kentucky has fallen to levels not seen in a century. With hundreds of mines shuttered, counties have lost so-called coal-severance tax revenue paid by companies per ton of coal extracted. Thousands of families have left in search of work, triggering a further collapse in the tax base for local governments, school districts, and social programs. The elimination of thousands of coal mining jobs has left mostly low-wage occupations for residents.

Lee County, second to Owsley in terms of the decline in life expectancy, is home to “America’s poorest white town”—Beattyville, Kentucky, the county seat. Beattyville has seen an explosion of opioid addiction since the closure of its few coalmines and decline of the oil and timber industries. The median household income in the town stands at $14,871, less than a third of the national median. Like its measure of life expectancy, Lee County’s household income is lower today than it was in 1980.

Kentucky and neighboring West Virginia have among the highest opioid overdose rates in the country, with the coalfields counties especially hard-hit. In 2013, drug overdoses accounted for 56 percent of all accidental deaths in Kentucky; the state’s death rate for overdoses is 29.9 per 100,000. In the eastern counties, emergency services are less able to reach and save overdose victims and health providers have struggled to afford lifesaving anti-opioid treatments like Narcan.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/10/life-m10.html

Trump on Jackson and the Civil War: Historical ignorance and the decline of the American presidency

By Tom Mackaman
4 May 2017

In recent comments on American history, President Donald Trump conflated the era of Andrew Jackson with the Civil War and insisted that the latter, known then and since as the “irrepressible conflict,” could have been avoided.

“Why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” Trump asked in his May 1 interview on Sirius satellite radio. He went on to assert that the Civil War upset his hero Andrew Jackson—who had been dead for 16 years at the war’s outbreak.

Trump said: “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been [president] a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War…. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’”

It hardly seems necessary to correct Trump’s false statements, which follow February 1 remarks revealing that the president does not know who the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was. As for his assertion that the Civil War was a calamitous error—in other words, that there was nothing historically necessary about the bloodiest war in American history, the “Second American Revolution” that ended slavery—this is a reactionary and discredited interpretation with its own sordid history.

There is a more salient point: The president of the United States is completely ignorant of the basic facts and chronology of his own country’s history, including its most significant event, the Civil War.

From this troubling fact other inescapable conclusions must be drawn. It is clearly impossible for Trump to draw, in any meaningful way, on the experience of history. He cannot possibly place current events in any broader political and historical context. And if American history is so foreign to him, one can be certain he knows nothing of the history of the countries he menaces with trade war or military attack: Mexico, Germany, North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, etc.

In a narrow sense, Trump’s ignorance is unsurprising. Like the billionaire and multi-millionaire investors and “entrepreneurs” he represents, and for whom money-making is the true and only God, the real estate swindler and reality television personality-turned commander in chief surely sees little use for the past. To the extent that he turns to history, it is transactional. Much like the sale or purchase of a hotel, to Trump every historical event is a unique episode to be selected and interpreted impressionistically from the standpoint of immediate gain.

In a broader sense, however, Trump only epitomizes the long-term decline of historical knowledge in the American ruling class. Consider his predecessor in the White House. While it may be true that Barack Obama did not make such clamorous factual errors as Trump, one will search his speeches in vain for a single memorable or profound reference to the past.

Obama’s knowledge of history was hardly less superficial or dishonest than Trump’s. How could it be otherwise? How could the president who, in the bailout of Wall Street, oversaw history’s greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the wealthy honestly equate himself to Lincoln, who, in the emancipation of the slaves, carried out the largest seizure of private property in world history prior to the Russian Revolution? How could a president who proclaimed his “right” to assassinate without trial those he alone claimed to be terrorists appeal to the democratic legacy of Jefferson and Madison, the authors of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, respectively?

To put such names in the same paragraph—Trump and Obama on one side; Lincoln, Jefferson and Madison on the other—is to be reminded of the breathtaking decline in the personnel of the American presidency. Lincoln, though largely self-taught, was an assiduous student of Shakespeare, mathematics and history. Jefferson and Madison ranked among the great thinkers of their day, their huge and well-used libraries filled with volumes on science, philosophy and classical antiquity.

The decline after Lincoln has been steep and protracted. There has not been a real student of history in the White House in the half century since the truncated administration of John Kennedy (1961-1963), who, like Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945) twenty years before him, was at least able to convey the appearance of an individual at ease speaking about the past. Before them, in the Progressive Era, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) and the professor-turned-president Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) wrote volumes on history and were named presidents of the American Historical Association after their years in the White House.

These presidents’ use of history was always in the service of an American ruling class, whose revolutionary days had died with Lincoln. For example, Wilson, in his historical scholarship, promoted the myth that the Civil War was a mistake—a false interpretation that Donald Trump now embraces. Wilson did so as part of a larger academic project that sought to bury the revolutionary and egalitarian significance of the Civil War. This was done in the context of the emergence of the US as an imperialist power waging bloody colonial wars abroad while conducting industrial warfare against the working class at home.

Even so, Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt sought to promote the idea that their policies were the outcome of the progressive development of US and world history, a process in which they imagined American capitalism and its governmental forms would go on playing a special, even messianic role. They mustered their idealistic interpretations to contend with scientific socialism, whose materialist approach to history, discovered by Karl Marx, attracted intellectuals, artists and growing numbers of workers and youth.

For these and other reasons, presidents in an earlier period promoted the study of history in the classroom. Not so today. It is not just that the White House in more recent decades has been occupied by individuals ignorant of history, including some whose ignorance was of historical dimensions. The presidency is now a “bully pulpit” in the attack on the teaching of history, as well as art and music, in the elementary and high schools, colleges and universities.

Compare Theodore Roosevelt’s remarks on teaching history and art, delivered at the American Historical Association annual conference in 1912, to Obama’s insipid comment on the same subject, delivered in 2014.

Roosevelt: “History, taught for a directly and immediately useful purpose to pupils and the teachers of pupils, is one of the necessary features of a sound education in democratic citizenship… few inscriptions teach us as much history as certain forms of literature that do not consciously aim at teaching history at all. The inscriptions of Hellenistic Greece in the third century before our era do not, all told, give us so lifelike a view of the ordinary life of the ordinary men and women who dwelt in the great Hellenistic cities of the time as does the fifteenth idyll of Theocritus.”

Obama: “[A] lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree… I’m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need.”

It is not that Roosevelt overlooked the necessity of industrial work. But he paid lip service to the ideal, and backed it up with a degree of government funding, that broad access to history and culture was a positive good. In word and in deed, the recent presidents—Trump, Obama, George W. Bush, etc.— attack the teaching of history and the idea of a liberal education. Educational “reforms” such as Obama’s “Race to the Top” have brought layoffs for tens of thousands of social studies teachers and blocked a generation of history, literature, music and art majors from finding work.

Here it must be added that the attack on history has also been waged from within the walls of the Ivory Tower. Highly paid practitioners of postmodernism and identity politics, many of them the leading “theorists” and most highly compensated professors at elite universities—not only in the US, but also in Great Britain, France and Germany—insist that there is no objectively understandable history at all. It is all simply a “narrative” that one creates or discards for present purposes. The archival record left behind by past generations is treated in the most cavalier manner and the pursuit in history of objectivity, facts and truth—terms that are inevitably placed within quotation marks in postmodern texts—is treated with contempt.

If the postmodernist premise about history is true, then why should Trump’s deeply false “narrative” of American history be less valid than any other? Or, for that matter, German historian Jörg Baberowski’s “narrative” of twentieth century history, which relativizes the crimes of the Third Reich? How is Trump’s argument that the Civil War was all a big mistake fundamentally different from that of the advocates of identity politics, such as Michael Eric Dyson, who view American history as a story of unchanging and unending “white racism?”

It might appear ironic that as history closes in on the ruling class, its understanding of its own history erodes, a process embodied in the American presidency itself.

It is not at all ironic. History is a most unwelcome guest at the lavish banquet where the rich gorge themselves at the expense of the working masses. Its most basic lessons must fill the billionaires and their politicians with dread: That times change and at certain points the oppressed revolutionize their times, that masses of people can learn from history and assimilate its strategic experiences, and that the richest and seemingly most timeless oligarchies have fallen—among them the Capetian Dynasty of the ancien regime in France, the Romanov Dynasty of Tsarist Russia, and, of course, the old slave-owning elite with which Trump so identifies.

 

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/04/trum-m04.html

Democrats agree to increase military and border spending while cutting food stamps

By Barry Grey
2 May 2017

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders announced an agreement late Sunday on a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year, which ends September 30. The measure is expected to be passed later this week by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, averting the threat of a government shutdown at midnight Friday.

Despite Republican control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump and the Republicans are dependent on the Democrats to supply the margin needed to pass the measure, particularly in the narrowly divided Senate, where it would take eight Democratic votes to end debate and bring the measure to the floor for a final ballot.

This underscores the reactionary role of the Democrats in backing a bill that grants Trump’s demands for a significant increase in military spending as well as funds to further militarize the US-Mexico border, while slashing the food stamp program and the Department of Education.

Last week the Democrats made a show of opposition to Trump by refusing to include in the bill $1 billion to go toward the construction of his border wall, while making it clear they supported additional funds to strengthen existing border barriers and increase surveillance, including by means of drones. The administration withdrew its demand for funds earmarked for the border wall in return for an agreement from the Democrats to support $1.52 billion in additional border funding as well as $15 billion more in military spending.

A bipartisan stop-gap measure was passed on Friday to extend funding of the government for one week so as to provide sufficient time to work out the details of the final 2017 budget agreement. Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees negotiated throughout the weekend and announced a deal late Sunday.

To secure passage, Trump dropped his demand for money earmarked for the border wall as well as $18 billion in non-defense domestic cuts. These include a wish list of reactionary measures such as cuts to so-called “sanctuary cities” (cities that refuse to allow their police to function as de facto immigration police), massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and defunding of Planned Parenthood. Trump also dropped his demand for funds to establish a new deportation force.

He agreed to include $295 million to prevent the Medicaid program in Puerto Rico from going bankrupt. Republican as well as Democratic leaders agreed to allocate $4.6 billion to permanently extend health benefits to 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families, who faced the immediate termination of their benefits. The deal also includes an additional $2 billion in disaster money for states.

However, the Democrats accepted a 1 percent cut to the EPA, reducing the agency’s budget by $80 million. They also agreed to cut the Education Department by $1.2 billion.

Most cruel of all is a cut of $2.4 billion to the food stamp program, which was already heavily cut during the Obama administration. The justification given for slashing the program, relied upon by more than 45 million Americans, one in seven, was “declining enrollment.”

Other reactionary provisions include an extension through 2019 of a private school voucher program in Washington, D.C.’s school system and a continued ban on federal funding for abortions as part of the federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Republicans hailed the agreement as a down payment on Trump’s demands, incorporated into his proposal for fiscal year 2018, which begins October 1, for a massive $54 billion increase in the Pentagon budget to be paid for with brutal cuts in domestic social programs.

Vice President Mike Pence praised the deal in an interview Monday on “CBS This Morning,” saying, “It will avert a government shutdown, but more important than that, it’s going to be a significant increase in military spending.”

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill “acts on President Trump’s commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation’s border security to protect our homeland.”

Democratic leaders presented the deal as a victory over the Trump administration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi congratulated the Democrats for eliminating “more than 160 Republican poison pill riders” and temporarily blocking funding for Trump’s “immoral and unwise border wall.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer issued a statement Sunday night declaring the budget deal to be “a good agreement for the American people” and touting the fact that it excludes funding for an “ineffective” border wall.

“Early on in this debate,” he added, “Democrats clearly laid out our principles. At the end of the day, this is an agreement that reflects those principles.”

And so it does. These principles support a $137 million increase for Customs and Border Enforcement, bringing funding for the Gestapo-like border police to $11.4 billion. It includes money for 100 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and 5,000 more detention beds. It also pays for 10 more federal immigration judges to speed up the deportation of undocumented workers.

The Democrats’ principles also sanction eight-figure funding increases for the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

For the US war machine, the Democrats have sanctioned an immediate increase of $12.5 billion, to be followed by an additional $2.5 billion once the administration presents to Congress its plan to fight ISIS.

Included in the bill’s allocations for military hardware are:

* $21.2 billion to procure 13 Navy ships

* $8.2 billion for 74 F-35 aircraft

* $1.1 billion for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft

* $1.2 billion doe 62 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters

* $702 million for 145 Patriot MSE missiles

* $1.8 billion for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft

* $2.6 billion for 15 KC-46 air tankers

* $1.3 billion for 17 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/02/fund-m02.html

Will This Be the Biggest May Day Ever in the U.S.?

Los Angeles and New York lead the way as diverse communities of workers and immigrants fight for their rights against the Trump administration.

Photo Credit: Kunal Mehta / Shutterstock.com

May Day, falling on the weekend of Donald Trump’s destructive first 100 days, makes for much symbolism in the struggle for justice and the soul of America. While Trump and his administration arbitrarily and ineptly attack immigrants from all over the world—especially Muslims—and the administration works to undermine labor rights across the board, hundreds of thousands of people will be pushing back, striking and protesting Monday in what is shaping up to be the biggest May Day demonstrations in at least 40 years.

The biggest and one of the most unified actions will be in Los Angles, a Democratic stronghold and sanctuary city with a vibrant labor movement and home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, many of them undocumented.

Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center and a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers, explains that this May Day “is being spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, representing more than 800,000 union members. Some of the most dynamic labor organizing campaigns in Los Angeles have been led by immigrant workers, including janitors, hotel workers, home care workers, food workers, and car wash workers.”

The massive show of strength and solidarity by the labor movement in L.A. and elsewhere is a relatively new development. Wong explains: “Although May Day grew out of the struggle for the eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886, for generations the U.S. labor movement had refused to stand in solidarity with global worker celebrations on May Day. One of the largest May Day demonstrations in U.S. history occurred in 2006, in opposition to draconian anti-immigrant policies being proposed by U.S. Congress.”

Now according to Wong, 120 years after the first May Day in Chicago, “the spirit of May Day has returned to the U.S. led by a new generation of immigrant workers.“

There is large-scale mobilizing in Los Angeles for May Day, with labor unions joining workers’ centers, immigrant rights groups, faith-based networks, and community organizations. Wong says, “Many unions are encouraging their workers to engage in a one-day strike. The broad-based coalition has united with leaders of the women’s march, which mobilized the largest women’s demonstration in history the day after the inauguration. This growing labor and community alliance is also credited with the recent victory of the campaign for the $15 minimum wage in Los Angeles and California.”

On the national level, the hope of many is that May Day 2017 will build lasting alliances for immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights and social justice, to lead the resistance against Trump and to build a broad-based movement for change. Much of the energy for change is coming from the immigrant community.

Wong explains: “While fear of deportations in immigrant communities is high, there is also tremendous courage and resilience. Immigrant youth led walks-outs on college and high school campuses throughout California the days after the Trump election. The campaign to advance sanctuary for immigrants is spreading throughout the country. People of conscience are repulsed by the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump administration.”

Push for Freedom Cities in NY

Among the activities in New York on May Day is the push for Freedom Cities, a vision that goes beyond sanctuary cities. According to organizers, the goal is “to live in cities without fear, where communities control the resources they need to thrive. Freedom Cities is an intersectional movement that seeks to redefine safety, making entire cities, towns, and communities safe for immigrants, black people, workers, Muslims, trans and gender nonconforming people, and all oppressed communities.”

“I am going out on May Day for all of us workers,” says Lydia Tomlin, member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the New York Worker Center Federation. She continued, “We are immigrants, women, LGBTQ, people of color, and we work in industries across the city. Without our labor, who will serve New Yorkers their coffee, stock their shelves, clean their houses, construct their buildings? Who will make NYC run?”

Marchers from Freedom Cities, including the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Beyond the Moment, New York Worker Center Federation, and other allies will join the 6th Annual Immigrant Worker Justice Tour, which highlights the struggles of over a dozen social justice campaigns across NYC and elsewhere, with stops throughout downtown Manhattan calling out police and corporate abuse.

The Immigrant Worker Justice tour convenes at 1pm with a rally at Washington Square Park. March begins at 2pm (preview video).

Incredible Diversity of Cultures 

Especially noteworthy about the May Day activities in New York and across the country is the amazing diversity of cultures and of workers, many with common cause provoked by threats from the Trump administration, ICE and security and police forces looming over many communities.

This May Day, according to Zoe West, an organizer with the New York Worker Center Federation (NYWCF), the Freedom Cities effort is “particularly focusing on the issues of economic justice and criminalization with a focus on redefining safety as being about investing in communities rather than investing in more policing.”

She continues, “The NYWCF members are very diverse and experience threats as Mexican street vendors, Bangladeshi restaurant workers, day laborers, African-American retail workers, taxi drivers, immigrants facing the looming threat of ICE, all different folks living in over-policed communities, etc.”

West adds, “Through the growing Freedom Cities coalition, there has been increasing focus on how criminalization is an issue affecting people across a range of communities: immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, low-wage workers and more.”

In Atlanta, Georgiaracial justice organizers will join in solidarity with The Majority, a new coalition of more than 50 social and racial justice organizations across the country, in leading May Day actions “to put forth a truly collective vision of economic justice and worker justice that centers black people, women, LGBTQIA people, immigrants and undocumented people and those that live at the intersections of multiple identities.”

The planned May Day rally and city council speakout will “demand justice for workers, immigrants, women, LGBTQI, formerly incarcerated people, artists and activists.”

A Look Back at May Day in the 1970s

While at this point an historical footnote, May Day celebrations in 1970 and 1971 were watershed protest events in a different era when there was a raging fight to stop the war in Vietnam and rein in corporate power. The invasion of neutral Cambodia by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was the spark that produced a massive outpouring of anger, with large-scale protests In May Day 1970 on hundreds of campuses and in many cities.

Protests led to the shooting of Kent State College students by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970, leaving four dead and nine wounded. In the public mind, this still ranks as one of the most startling examples of excessive police abuse in U.S. history. Shockingly, 11 days later, at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi, a group of students were confronted by city and state police. Shortly after midnight, the police opened fire, killing two students and injuring 12.

On May Day in 1971, people didn’t just march on Washington, they shut it down. Roughly 25,000 protestors calling themselves the May Day Tribe blocked roads with cars, trash cans and their own bodies in order to prevent government employees from getting to work across Washington and at the major bridges and roadways leading into the city. Seven thousand or more were arrested (including yours truly), probably the most ever at a U.S. protest.

So May Day, which is a national holiday in much of the world, has a long complex history, starting from the protests in Chicago for the eight-hour week in 1886, which led to the Haymarket massacre, when a bomb was thrown at police by a never identified individual and the police retaliated by shooting protestors. Overall, seven police officers were killed and 60 wounded, an estimated eight civilians dead, and another 40 injured.

As Kent Wong reminds us: “One of the most powerful slogans that emerged from 2006 May Day is, “Hoy marchamos, manana votamos!” “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!”

The alliance between labor, immigrants, and communities of color in California and elsewhere has resulted in powerful progressive political victories that have rejected Trumpism and the right-wing Republican machine over the last 10 years. This is a movement that must spread throughout the country to embrace a progressive vision for the future.

Let’s hope that May Day 2017 is the biggest yet and keeps building the movement against Trump and the right-wing forces in this country.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

 

http://www.alternet.org/will-be-biggest-may-day-ever-us?akid=15494.265072.X3WwHE&rd=1&src=newsletter1076231&t=2

What’s in store at John Waters’ offbeat summer camp?

The idyllic Connecticut woods with a touch of Waters’ wacky additions

What's in store at John Waters' offbeat summer camp?

Ah, the sights and sounds of summer camp.

Remember the smell of a bonfire? The ring of the dinner bell in the mess hall? The refreshing sensation of jumping into a lake on a hot day? The burlesque lessons taught by notorious film director and writer John Waters while getting drunk on scotch and puffing down stogies? The endless games of capture the, wait, what was that last one?

Ok, so maybe getting taught how to perform variety shows with a buzz by the film guru of hits like Pink Flamingos and Polyester doesn’t register in the memory banks of most people’s summer camp experiences, but it will be for 300 lucky campers.

Waters will host an adult summer camp weekend experience full of filthy fun at Club Getaway in Kent, Conn. this September. The camp will be complete with all the traditional camp essentials like cabins and canoes, as well as activities like arts and crafts, paddleboarding and rock climbing, but will also feature Hairspray Karaoke, John Waters reading a John Waters’ book and a costume contest judged by the Prince of Puke himself and other wacky and weird Waters-like things for campers to enjoy.

The excursion started at $499, plus alcohol, and is already sold out, but there is a waiting list for people interested if spots open up and more wacky weekend excursions could be in the making due to the popularity of the first one.

Each camper will be given a signed copy of Waters’ new book “Make Trouble,” which is based on a commencement speech he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design where he told the class of 2015 to “get a job and fuck it up and then go to the next place and fuck it up.”

Waters stopped into Salon to talk about “Make Trouble” with Salon’s Amanda Marcotte. “I mean, wreck things in a good way,” Waters said. He explained that he did not want to offer a “Hallmark greeting kind of way that really means nothing and you can’t take the advice and do anything with it.” Instead, he said, he wanted to remind the students that wrecking the world is their responsibility.

“That’s youth’s responsibility. Every new movement comes from ending the movement that came before. So I say, don’t try to get on your parents’ nerves. Try to get on the coolest people one year ahead of you in school’s nerves. Then you can change things, right?

What’s in store at John Waters’ offbeat summer camp?

Watch the Salon Talks interview with John Waters to hear more.

Jason Stormer is a Salon intern in the video department.