by: Craig Wiesner on October 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off
Last week, while listening to the doom and gloom about what would happen if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t stopped dead in its tracks, and the other gloom and doom about what would happen if Congress failed to pass a “Continuing Resolution” to keep the government open, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to see what ObamaCare might do for me. Spoiler alert, there’s neither gloom nor doom in what I discovered when I visited Covered California at coveredca.com
I spent some time looking at the small business pages, because Derrick Kikuchi and I are both married AND we own a small business. We’ve been covered by a small business plan through Kaiser and can continue that coverage if we’d like. If we hire one more person we can get that same coverage, with tax credits thrown in to help us pay for it, through Covered California. Despite rhetoric from those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, there’s actually an incentive for us to hire someone as a Pa and Pa business! But, for now, with just the two of us, I needed to look at the possibilities of individual/family coverage.
by: Miki Kashtan on October 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off
As this entry is being posted, it’s Gandhi’s birthday. Given how much I have been influenced, even transformed, by learning from Gandhi about nonviolence, I wanted to write something to honor his legacy. Because I’ve recently started a mini-series on money, I decided to focus on a lesser known aspect of Gandhi’s work: his views about economics.
At first sight, many of Gandhi’s basic economic thoughts seem entirely irrelevant to our very different time, culture, and context from the one in which he operated and wrote. For example, the idea of village cottage industry, which might have been feasible in early 20th century India, is very hard to imagine now as a primary way forward for industrialized economies. Delving into it a bit deeper, I see a number of convergences between his ideas and the direction that many are advocating today, such as simplicity, localism, and decentralization. Rather than an exhaustive introduction to Gandhian economics, which can be found through a search on the web, I chose, instead, to look more deeply at two core principles that resonate deeply with me and the path I am on with regards to thinking about money and the economy. This week, I am looking at the question of what constitutes universal well-being and how we approach the conundrum of attending to human needs. Next week I plan to look at Gandhi’s notion of trusteeship and connect it with current unfolding thoughts about the Commons.
After many years as a psychotherapist studying the psychodynamics leading Americans to move to the Right, (before I became a rabbi and editor of Tikkun), I began to understand why a fringe and extremist group could be so successful in gathering support that would eventually lead to its ability to shut down the functioning of the government. If you read to the end of this letter, I promise you’ll get some new perspectives on what is happening right now in American politics.
Tea Party members protest in Washington. Credit: Creative Commons/theqspeaks.
I’m writing to you, as a reader of Tikkun Daily, because I need your help in getting a new perspective into the public arena so we can build an effective movement to counter the Tea Party before it is too late. I’ll lay that perspective out below.
That help can take two forms:
a. donating to Tikkun Magazine and/or our public education arm, the (interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming) Network of Spiritual Progressives;
b. joining our network and possibly even coming to the training we will be doing in January 2014 to prepare people for the struggle ahead to stop the plunge toward the Right before it becomes overtly fascistic both in style and content (read more about this at spiritualprogressives.org/training). If you read this letter through, it might hopefully contribute to understanding why the right-wing extremists are winning and what we could do (with your help) to change the picture dramatically.
Here’s what I learned about why right-wing extremists are on the ascendency:
by: Adam Duhan on September 26th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Every once in a while, you get the artistic perfect storm of an exceptional raconteur and brilliant teacher, an extremely talented set of technical people, and a right-on, topical subject, all coming together. Jacob Kornbluth’s latest movie, Inequality for All (starring Robert Reich), is terrific documentary cinema.
Admittedly, when they first sought to answer the question of how the United States got into this ridiculously toxic financial mess, the auteurs had little sense of where this movie would take them. What emerged is a juggernaut of easy-to-follow data, mind-blowing graphics, and engaging interviews of hard-pressed workers and students. Their stories are yours and mine. The icing is the addition of amazingly frank and revealing interviews of the Pacific Pillow Company’s CEO and Warren Buffet, representing the enlightened upper 1 percent.
The movie is loosely based on the content of Secretary Reich’s legendarily popular University of California, Berkeley course “Wealth and Poverty,” and on his 2012 book, After Shock. It takes us through the lascivious coupling of “too large to fail” banks’ mortgage and investment divisions, the death of Glass-Stiegel, and the Congress-for-sale reality created by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
by: David Harris-Gershon on September 22nd, 2013 | Comments Off
Michael Bloomberg’s legacy was written this week by Mireya Navarro of The New York Times. Her painful profile of New York City residents who are both employed (some with multiple jobs) and living in homeless shelters revealed the narrative, human costs of the nation’s worst income inequality gap.
Navarro begins her piece with a heartbreaking snapshot of this human toll:
On many days, Alpha Manzueta gets off from one job at 7 a.m., only to start her second at noon. In between she goes to a place she’s called home for the last three years – a homeless shelter.
“I feel stuck,” said Ms. Manzueta, 37, who has a 2 ½-year-old daughter and who, on a recent Wednesday, looked crisp in her security guard uniform, waving traffic away from the curb at Kennedy International Airport. “You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. I’m still in the shelter.”
You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. This could very easily encapsulate the American economic experience for a majority of U.S. citizens. And not just during the last ten years.
by: Lita Kurth on September 1st, 2013 | Comments Off
Even a year ago, was anyone predicting that fast food workers would be on strike? Struggling, disrespected, mostly working in small franchises without the support of large numbers, they are among the hardest workers to unionize, and as a result, organized labor has, for the most part, ignored them. Each franchise requires a separate campaign but owners have access to the big-gun union-busting lawyers of giant corporations.
And many workers don’t know their rights. Where would they find out about them? One worker who acknowledged she wanted better conditions said, “If you walk out on your job, that’s grounds for dismissal.” Wal-Mart, for example, “illegally confiscated union literature, prohibited discussions of unions and retaliated against union supporters.” Supposedly, American workers have the right to form unions and go on strike. But Amy Traub pointed out on the website Demos that, “while many workers wish to join unions, they often change their minds after an intimidating one-on-one anti-union meeting with their direct supervisor once a week or more leading up to a union election (a tactic employers used in 66 percent of organizing campaigns), after their boss threatens to close down the workplace if workers decide to unionize (57 percent of organizing campaigns), or after those co-workers who most openly support the union are fired (34 percent of organizing campaigns).”
Photo Credit: L.A. Kurth.
It seemed impossible that they would even try.
But it happened and has been happening since last November. At McDonald’s, at Wendy’s, at Wal-Mart. And it wasn’t only in New York City. Far from it. Very far from it. Workers in Indianapolis and yes, the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin walked off the job in protest and picketed, while many coworkers supported them in their hearts without daring to go out themselves.
by: James Petras on August 15th, 2013 | Comments Off
On July 16, 2013, Goldman Sachs, the fifth largest US bank by assets announced its second quarter profits doubled the previous year to $1.93 billion. J. P. Morgan, the largest bank made $6.1 billion in the second quarter up 32% over the year before and expects to make $25 billion in profits in 2013. Wells Fargo, the fourth largest bank, reaped $5.27 billion, up 20%. Citigroup’s profits topped $4.18 billion, up 42% over the previous year.
The ruling elite, the financial CEOs pay is soaring: John Stumpf of Wells Fargo received $19.3 million in 2012; Jamie Dimon of J. P. Morgan Chase pocketed $18.7 million and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs took $13.3 million.
The Bush-Obama Wall Street bailout has resulted in the deepening financialization of the US economy: Finance has displaced the technology industry as the profitable sector of the US economy. While the US economy stagnates and the European Union wallows in recession and with over 50 million unemployed, US financial corporations in the Standard and Poor 500 index earned aggregate profits of $49 billion in the second quarter of 2013, while the tech sector reported $41.5 billion. For 2013, Wall Street is projected to earn $198.5 billion in profits, while tech companies are expected to earn $183.1 billion. Within the financial sector, the most ‘speculative sectors’, i.e. investment banks and brokerage houses, are dominant and dynamic growing 40% in 2013. Over 20% of the S and P 500 corporate profits are concentrated in the financial sector.
by: James Vrettos and Douglas Thompkins on August 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Two decisions on Monday August 12th have offered possible game-changing and historic opportunities to begin a swing away from the tough-on-crime policies that have dominated the American criminal justice system since at least the late 1960s. One was by a federal judge ruling that The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been carrying on unconstitutional and systematic racial profiling in its stop and frisk policies and the other was Attorney General Holder’s unveiling that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentence laws for low-level drug offenses.
But we should not expect these rulings and decisions to magically transform America’s political, economic and spiritual culture overnight to a non-racist world of caring, love and a society free of want and violence. For that to occur we need to sustain the momentum and begin a broad-based movement at least partly rooted in electoral politics led by the people most affected by the policies now being questioned. Our strategy begins with the realization that America’s political, economic and moral elites will be of limited use in this struggle and will have to be cajoled, pushed, educated and pressured to see and act beyond their privileged and entitled positions.
In a July 22, 2013 interview on Democracy Now, Cornel West responded to an Amy Goodman question concerning President Obama’s first public remarks following the George Zimmerman acquittal by acknowledging that they were moving, sentimental stories. Relating the case to his own life experience as an Afro-American male–”Trayvon Martin could have been me”–West commented that our president certainly made a beautiful identification with the fallen young man.
At a time when too many people are out of work and too many others are holding down two or three jobs just to survive, it might seem a bit frivolous to lament the lost art of leisure. But leisure – restorative time – is a basic human need. And fewer people are getting the benefit of it, apparently even when they’re on paid vacations.
A new Harris survey finds that more than half of all U.S. employees planned to work during their summer vacations this year – up six percent from the previous year. (Email is a prime suspect in this crime against leisure.) Soon enough, all of us will be taking presidential-style vacations like the one starting tomorrow. That’s when the Obamas arrive on Martha’s Vineyard, no doubt just in time for the president’s first briefing on national security.
In my mind, no one has gone to the philosophical and theological heart of this matter more tellingly than the German American thinker Josef Pieper in his 1952 classic, Leisure: the Basis of Culture.
by: Amy Dean on August 2nd, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Hannah Gelder is moving into a new office. Since she has to pack boxes, keep her appointments with seniors concerned about their Medicare benefits and attend community meetings on how to make sure companies doing business in Illinois are paying their fair share of taxes, the only time she has for an interview is on the train on her way in to work.
AVODAH service corps members Lizzy Scheinkopf, Aaron Simmons, Bailey Hanselman, Rachel Sumekh, Kerry Bowen, Dena Goldstein, and Laura Landau are nearing the end of their service year in Chicago. Credit: AVODAH.
Gelder is one of about 600 alumni of the AVODAH Jewish service corps, having entered the corps alongside other freshly minted college graduates. Now, at age twenty-seven, she is a full-time community organizer at Lakeview Action Coalition, the nonprofit Chicago neighborhood organization where she completed her year-long AVODAH service placement. “AVODAH helped me understand the Jewish teaching of tikkun olam,” says Gelder. “I think it’s especially important that we look out and see who is having the hardest time in our society and work to make the world better for everyone.”
Avodahniks, as the corps members call themselves, have slowly bloomed in numbers since Rabbi David Rosenn founded the group in 1998. For the 2012-2013 service year, AVODAH has had seventy-four corps members working in community-based organizations in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and New Orleans. But their commitment to service differs from the more secular approach of past generations of Jews that worked in the civil rights movement or as union organizers. Avodahniks approach their work as Jews – their Jewish faith and values are infused in their activism and they choose to do community based work as an expression of their Jewish faith.
Avodahniks live communally in small groups during their year of service, bringing principles of intentional Jewish community to their work and drawing sustenance from shared spiritual practice and discussion with each other. Gelder says that this sense of shared experience and spirituality has had a profound effect on her: “It started me off in Chicago with a really strong community of people that are committed to justice,” she says. “After a difficult day at work, it helps to go to Shabbat and light candles and take a deep breath.”