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Archive for the ‘The Economy–Wealth & Poverty’ Category



Tikkun Exclusive: What Do the Suicides of Fifty-Year-Old Men Reveal?

May12

by: Tikkun Administration on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

What did you think of Tikkun‘s Spring 2014 print issue? We’d love to hear your responses to its lively debate about the American Left, liberalism and democracy.

Illustration by Brian Stauffer

We’re particularly curious to hear your thoughts on “What Do the Suicides of Fifty-Year-Old Men Reveal?” a provocative article by Margaret Morganroth Gullettein our current print issue.

In this sobering article, Gullette reveals how suicide has become a public health emergency for middle-aged men in the United States, exposing a deeper economic and existential crisis. Gullette explores how the American Dream, which promises not only rewards for hard work but also increased economic prosperity within one’s lifetime, is exposed as farce through the widespread phenomenon of unemployment and suicide among middle-aged men. What deeper changes to capitalism need to occur to end this suicide epidemic?

Tikkun‘s print articles are usually only available to subscribers who are logged into our website, but our publisher has agreed to make this one article freely accessible for one month! You can read it here.

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Mourning Democracy

Apr2

by: on April 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Today’s Supreme Court Ruling on McCutcheon vs. the Federal Elections Commission(FEC) is yet another nail in the coffin of U.S. democracy. The high court struck down the right of “We the People” to establish laws limiting overall campaign contributions by individuals. Such limits have been set in an attempt to create a level playing field in our democracy for rich and poor alike.

The political playing field was already unequal, since over the years the Supreme Court has increasingly granted civil rights and constitutional protections to corporations. This expansion of corporate rights culminated in the infamous 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. the FEC, which prohibits our right to limit corporate spending on elections through political action committees (PACs). The Citizens United decision resulted in the overturning of campaign finance laws at the federal level and in states across the nation. Today’s McCutcheon ruling is also disastrous for democracy.

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The Religious Left Launches Campaign for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn McCutcheon Decision and Get Money Out of Politics

Apr2

by: Network of Spiritual Progressives Press Release on April 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of the Allen Temple Baptist Church announced today a new initiative emerging from the religious left in the U.S. in response to McCutcheon vs. FEC, the Supreme Court decision from April 2,2014, that banned limits set by the Federal Election Committee on the total that could be spent by any individual in an election. The previous limit was $123,200. Now there is no limit on the total a wealthy individual can donate in a given election cycle. In response to the decision, Rabbi Lerner said:

The Supreme Court is continuing its recent turn to give the super-rich and the richest corporations unlimited power to shape American elections and the government policies that will be enacted by these candidates once in office. This can only be reversed by an amendment to the Constitution, and we’ve designed it: the ESRA – Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment. That amendment will ban all money from elections for the president, the Congress, the governors, and the legislatures of the several states except for money provided by public funding for elections.

MoveOn and other organizations have organized protests against this decision, and many ordinary citizens are outraged. But, Lerner pointed out, “this is not going to be changed by demonstrations, but only by a concerted campaign to pass a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” [Please read the ESRA at www.tikkun.org/ESRA]

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Debt Trial of the Century in the Hands of Supreme Court

Feb25

by: Andrew Hanauer on February 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Last Tuesday, Argentina appealed to the US Supreme Court in its landmark case against predatory hedge funds seeking to collect more than $1 billion in old debts. With phrases like “bondholder” and “sovereign debt restructuring” peppered throughout the news coverage of the filing, following this case may not be as easy as following some of the other high profile proceedings before the court. And that’s a shame. Because for millions of people living in extreme poverty, the implications of this case are enormous.

In 2001, Argentina defaulted on its obligations and reached agreement with around 92% of its creditors to restructure the country’s debts. Some creditors held out, however, including a number of hedge funds that had bought Argentine debt for pennies-on-the-dollar before the default, hoping to cash in later on. These funds were participating in a calculated global strategy of speculative profit seeking that threatens the ability of poor countries to emerge from the burden of high levels of debt – behavior that has earned them their colorful nickname: “vulture funds.”

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Why Are So Many White Men So Angry and What Can We Do About It

Feb21

by: on February 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Michael Kimmel’s popular new book Angry White Men, describes the rage of American men who have been cast out of their dominant roles within the economy, the family and personal life. The book does not discuss mass murder, but the fact that men are killing large numbers of people in America indicates a level of rage with no socially constructive outlet. Kimmel correctly notes the way white men are demoted from the economic and social dominance they once had. He blames white men’s now lowered position on two developments. One is a vaguely referenced “neo-liberal agenda”. The second is the movements for economic, political and civil rights for women and minorities. The civil rights and the feminist movements permitted more minorities and women to compete for jobs formerly reserved for white males.

The book explores a wide range of white male attempts to recoup their lost hegemony. One is “hate radio” where voices like Rush Limbaugh’s channel men’s confusion over their changed roles into hatred for “feminazis” and minorities who take “their” jobs.

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Four Years After the Earthquake, Lessons in Debt and Development

Feb6

by: Andrew Hanauer on February 6th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Timothy Fadek/Polaris

Last month marked the fourth anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, an event CBS News labeled the “worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere.” The extent of the devastation is well chronicled at this point, as is the fact that Haiti was hardly a prosperous nation before the ground shook in 2010. After the quake, aid money and help of all kinds flowed in to the country from caring people and institutions around the world.

But even as money flowed in, other money flowed out. At the time of the earthquake, Haiti owed roughly one billion dollars to international creditors despite having just received roughly an equivalent amount in debt relief prior to the quake. This meant that in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was sending money in debt payments each month that could have been spent rebuilding the country, providing clean water, and mitigating the cholera epidemic that followed soon after. Today, a sadly similar situation has presented itself in the Philippines, which has now sent almost $2 billion in debt payments to creditors in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Much of the Philippines’ debt is derived from the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which spent borrowed funds on repressive instruments of the state, a nuclear power plant built on an earthquake fault at the foot of a volcano that did not produce a single unit of energy for the country, and, of course, on a spectacular collection of shoes.

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Keystone XL has a Job for You! (video satire)

Feb5

by: on February 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

When Keystone XL’s top job recruiter comes to town, he reveals just what types of jobs the controversial oil pipeline would really create.

Oil executives like to claim that the Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs. But in a project fueling so many environmental and health risks, only one man is honest enough to say exactly what those jobs would be. Hint: they’re not in construction.

It’s true, Keystone XL has a job for you! But the question is: do you really want it?

[Note to readers: This is a satirical video. Please do not call Keystone XL about these job openings. Do not send in any applications or letters of recommendation. Instead, we recommend asking the good folks at Keystone XL one question. How's the wig business going?]

Snapping to the SNAP Challenge

Jan30

by: Sharon Goldman on January 30th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons/Paul Sableman

Jacob is being groomed for empathy. So said Rabbi David Ingber of Congregation Romemu in New York City during a Friday night D’var Torah last November. It was the week of Parsha Vayetzei, the Parsha in which Jacob, with only a rock as a pillow, dreams of angels ascending the ladder. So begins Jacob’s solo journey, one marked by a series of perfidies, betrayals, and disappointments. By the end of Genesis, having experienced both ends of these dynamics multiple times, he has sown the seeds of humility and compassion. Empathy for the patriarch Israel, is a painstaking development. Empathy was also the theme of that particular Shabbas, not only with the focus of the Rabbi’s D’var, but also with the community potluck dinner after evening services, acknowledging the participants of the SNAP Challenge.

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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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Size Matters

Jan24

by: on January 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

  • In 1964, Joe Namath signed a $400,000 contract.  Today, $100 million plus contracts, for second tier sports stars, are commonplace.
  • In 1960, America’s 5 largest companies had, on average, $498 million in profits.  By 2010, that number had grown to $12.2 billion.
  • In 1982 – its first year – the average net worth of Forbes’ list of the 400 wealthiest Americans was $285 million.  By 2008: Almost $4 billion.

Wrapping our brains around the true dimensions of this explosion of private wealth is an extraordinarily difficult task.

Equally hard to understand is a similar explosion in the size and reach of the mainstream culture’s propaganda and reality molding machine; the de-centralized but highly coherent set of values-based messages and cultural cues – compete and win, dominate and control – in which we are immersed.

These are the issues I discuss in this blog.


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