“PETITION: The U.S. Department of Justice is right to launch a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs — and should do so for other Wall Street companies who acted illegally while devastating millions of lives. Nobody on Wall Street is too big for jail.”
This petition is having a big impact on the debate!
After 140,000 petition signatures and 4,000 phone calls to Congress, we got 62 House members to join our call for a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs.
Our petition delivery to the Justice Department was covered by CNN, CNBC, and the Wall Street Journal. Two days later, the Justice Department announced they are launching an investigation!
We are now encouraging the Justice Department to launch MORE investigations of Wall Street giants who broke the law. Please sign today — and add to our momentum!
Here are the senators who voted last night to preserve Wall Street’s power.
Dodd (D-CT) <— Guess he couldn’t even bring himself to do the right thing even on his way out.
Kerry (D-MA) <—–I am So, So disappointed, I truly expected better of him.
Lieberman (ID-CT) <—-Never expected better from him so no disappointment here.
McCain (R-AZ) <—Once upon a time I had respect for him.
One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.
This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, less than a week away.
Why does this matter? Because any attempt to use booms or chemicals keep the oil away from the Gulf Coast would be completely impossible in the event of a major storm entering the Gulf. The combination of high winds, storm surges and high waves would push the oil slick way inland up the bayous and onto the shelter islands that protect 40 percent of America’s wetlands.
It could do worse, too.
The strong winds in hurricanes, sweeping across the surging waves they have created, suck up a considerable amount of surface water and blow it inland. This time, however, those winds could also end up picking up a considerable amount of the oil slick floating on the sea’s surface, which would be deposited as rain well inland, damaging croplands and forests, too.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and government scientists are warning that the well could end up turning into a gusher, releasing as much as 2 million gallons of oil a day into the Gulf–ten times the amount currently coming out of the broken well.
Why is nobody talking about this hurricane issue? A Google search for the words “hurricane season” and “BP Oil leak” turned up lots of references to the “devastation of Hurricane Katrina” but nary an article in a major news story about what effect this year’s hurricanes might have on the clean-up effort from what is likely to be a bigger oil disaster than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
So far, it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be no quick shutdown of the blown-out BP well, meaning that it could keep spewing out its contents into the Gulf, probably at an increasing rate, for several months. That would put it well into the middle of this year’s hurricane season, making it almost certain that at least one hurricane or tropical storm will pass right over the area and push that giant oil slick ashore.
And that’s not to mention what effect an untimely hurricane might have on any attempts to shut down the well. The most likely strategy is drilling several new wells that could both relieve the pressure on the current well, and also that could be used to pump mud or concrete or some other heavy, thick compound into the leaking well to try and stop it up.
A major hurricane could wreak havoc with the new drilling rigs, particularly if only smaller ones are available for the job on short notice. A hurricane could also thwart efforts to drop a large tent over the leaking well–another scheme that is being contemplated, that would presumably funnel the rising crude oil into pipes that could deliver it to tankers for removal.
So far, all the talk has been about the urgency of getting booms in place to keep the oil slick from coming ashore, which it is starting to do now. But the real urgency should be to try to shut the thing down securely before the first hurricane hits, and to get as much of the already floating oil either chemically treated, burned off or skimmed before that hurricane arrives and blows it all ashore.
If you want a real disaster scenario, imagine this: a big hurricane–say Category 4 or 5, enters the Gulf and heads straight for New Orleans again, and blows out the levees again. Last time, there was a fairly toxic stew of water covering much of the city. This time it would be water mixed with millions of gallons of crude oil.
The Katrina disaster would look like a picnic by comparison.
Hmmmm. No wonder neither BP nor the government is talking about hurricanes.
They really don’t have much they can do except cross their fingers.
The idea that the president’s expanded offshore drilling plan is still on the table is simply appalling.
Government handouts, according to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who has decried social safety nets as creating a “culture of dependence”
Social Security. Bauer says the program that pays monthly cash benefits to retirees, orphans, widows and the disabled is not considered welfare.
Unemployment. Bauer says the monthly payments now being paid to 264,452 jobless South Carolinians are not welfare. South Carolina has the nation’s sixth-highest jobless rate, 12.2 percent.
“Welfare.” What is commonly referred to as welfare – monthly cash payments to the poor- is now the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). It is time-limited assistance – 24 months over a 10-year period – that now requires work from able-bodied recipients. A mother with two children receives a maximum payment of $271 a month to pay for rent, utilities, clothing and all other needs except food, according to the state Department of Social Services. Bauer has decried paying for “children having children.” But minors who are parents are ineligible for aid. Guardians of minor parents can, however, get assistance.
Food stamps. The program benefits the disabled and the working poor. Roughly half of all recipients are children. Sixty-one percent of S.C. recipients are off the program within one year, according to DSS.
School lunches. Bauer compared giving poor schoolchildren free lunches to feeding stray animals. Bauer wants strings attached to the benefits, such as mandatory parent-teacher conference attendance. More than half of S.C. students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Social Services
Byon May 1st, 2010 at 1:02 pm
On Thursday, Senate Democrats, along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), unveiled sweeping campaign finance reform aimed at curbing campaign abuses in the wake of the conservative Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which struck down decades of campaign finance law. The main focus of the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) is to increase disclosure requirements on corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and nonprofit advocacy groups that spend money on ads to influence federal elections. The DISCLOSE Act forces the CEO of a corporation or head of an advocacy group to personally appear in the organization’s ads and take responsibility, and for the top funder of the ad to appear in the ad and take responsibility.
The status quo of electioneering allows corporate powers, billionaires, and even domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations to essentially manipulate American elections without ever revealing themselves. The DISCLOSE Act is a tremendous start at addressing this crisis of open democracy. But predictably, secretive right-wing power brokers are pushing back. As soon as Van Hollen’s bill was introduced, front groups funded by the most elusive conservative elite fired back, swiftly criticizing the new transparency requirements as a so-called threat to their First Amendment rights:
– U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The DISCLOSE Act “stifles free speech.” Chamber President Tom Donohue quickly issued a statement condemning the bill as an attempt to “silence constitutionally protected speech and abridge First Amendment rights.” Donohue may feel threatened because the DISCLOSE Act undermines the very purpose of the Chamber: to attack progressive reforms while concealing the corporate money behind those attacks. For instance, the Chamber is running millions of dollars of ads against Wall Street reform, but the ads only say they are paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In fact, some of the nation’s largest financial conglomerates, including banks bailed out by taxpayers like CitiGroup, are funding the Chamber and in doing so, are underwriting these ads. Last year, the Chamber ran nearly $100 million dollars in advertising against health reform, dwarfing any other group for or against the bills in Congress. However, the Chamber never revealed that health insurance companies were secretly paying for much of those ads.
– Howie Rich’s Front Group: The DISCLOSE Act is “disclosure overkill.” The Center for Competitive Politics, one of real estate tycoon Howie Rich’s many anti-government front groups, quickly slammed the bill and absurdly argued that the “stand by your ad” mandate “provid[es] no informational benefit and reduc[es] the amount of available political speech” in an ad. This laughable claim that more disclosure gives less information is a cynical cover to help Rich stay behind closed doors as he operates a massive political machine from the perch of his SoHo apartment. Rich funds the right-wing attack group, Club for Growth, as well as the Sam Adams Alliance, the libertarian group that helped Eric Odom mastermind the very first tea party protests. A PBS expose on Rich found that he had funneled $7 million dollars into anti-government state initiatives throughout the country, while carefully hiding his identity and relationship to the “movement.”
– David and Charles Koch’s Front Group: The DISCLOSE Act is a “gambit to chill speech.” John Samples, a staffer at the Cato Institute — an anti-government think-tank founded by Charles Koch and funded still by David Koch — wrote an op-ed decrying the bill for curbing the speech of foreign-owned companies and for exposing the corporate backers of ads. David Koch funds Americans for Prosperity, which runs millions of dollars of attack ads against clean energy and health reform. But Americans for Prosperity bills itself as a grassroots citizens group, and never reveals that the Kochs founded the group and continues to finance it. The Koch brothers also fund a network of other secretive front groups and think tanks, but almost none of these right-wing groups openly bare the Koch name.
Notably, the Cato Institute, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Center for Competitive Politics filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court to help knock down campaign finance laws in the Citizens United case.
The legislation also bars foreign corporations with domestic subsidiaries, federal contractors, and TARP recipients who have not repaid their funds from spending their money on politics.
And just last week, Colorado state legislator Spencer Swalm said poor people in single-family homes are “dysfunctional.”
Both statements riled some Americans from the Piedmont to the Rockies and underscored a widely held belief: In tough times, people are tough on the poor.
In an April 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington, 72 percent agreed with the statement that “poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs.” That’s up from 69 percent in 2007.
“The economic downturn has made the middle class less generous toward others,” said Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates, a Washington firm that researches attitudes toward the poor. “People are less supportive of the government helping the poor, because they feel they’re not getting enough help themselves.
“It’s a divided country, splitting on a fault line: those who think the poor are poor because they don’t try enough, and those who think the poor simply need help.”
Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University, agreed: “Hatred of the poor is fueled by the middle class’s fear of falling during hard times.”
Americans don’t understand how the poor are victimized by a lack of jobs, inefficient schools, and unsafe neighborhoods, experts say.
“People ignore the structural issues – jobs leaving, industry becoming more mechanized,” said Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, renowned for his study of the Philadelphia poor. “Then they point to the poor and ask, ‘Why aren’t you making it?’ “
Americans tend to blame the victim, according to Angela Sutton, 33, of Northeast Philadelphia. “People think we like mooching off the system, and don’t see the circumstances that put us here,” said Sutton, who was shot in the stomach at 14 and raped by a relative the next year while growing up in North Philadelphia.
A former welfare recipient, Sutton is an unmarried mother of two children living on disability insurance and food stamps. “They think we’re lazy and want a free ride.”
Talk radio has especially galvanized against the poor.
With “food care,” as Limbaugh put it, the “obese” poor “buy Twinkies, Milk Duds, potato chips, six-packs of Bud, then head home to watch the NFL on one of two color TVs and turn off their cell phones, and that’s poverty in the U.S.” (What he didn’t say is that food stamps can’t be used to buy alcoholic beverages.)
Underlying negative attitudes toward the poor, experts say, are prejudices toward minorities, who are disproportionately among the indigent.
Twenty-five percent of African Americans, 23 percent of Latinos, and 9 percent of whites live in poverty. Overall, 13 percent of the U.S. population is poor. In Philadelphia, it’s closer to 25 percent.
The United States “is very heterogeneous with very little ability to empathize with groups that are poor,” said Washington economist Isabel Sawhill. That general lack of empathy can inspire anger toward the poor, especially from the right, experts say.
“It’s easier to send money to Haiti because you don’t have to relate to them directly,” said Mariana Chilton, hunger expert and professor of public health at Drexel University.
To be sure, several conservatives decried Bauer’s “stray animals” statement. “Many Republicans get the messaging wrong and fail to sound compassionate toward the poor,” said Jeff Coleman, a former Republican Pennsylvania state representative who now runs Churchill Strategies, a Harrisburg firm that represents conservative causes. “What Bauer said was shameful.”
The central issue for many conservatives, Coleman said, is that churches and not government should be caring for the poor.
Locally, people often respond with vitriol when stories about the poor appear in the media, Chilton said. In e-mail responses to her anti-hunger project, Witnesses to Hunger, Chilton said she often sees the word breeders used to describe unwed mothers on welfare.
Steve Raiken, 45, a former mechanic who fell on hard times and is now on welfare with his wife and two children in Gloucester City, said harsh talk against the poor “doesn’t bother me a bit. I don’t worry what people say. I’ve got enough problems.”
But Raiken, who spends his days volunteering at a local food pantry, did say he believed that those who criticize welfare might not fully understand it.
Welfare rolls are down around 60 percent since the mid-1990s, when welfare was switched from an entitlement to a work program that requires recipients to have jobs, said Ron Haskins, who drafted the so-called welfare-reform bill of 1996 as the Republican staff director of the U.S. House Ways and Means committee.
In Pennsylvania, enrollment in welfare (now known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) dropped from 486,985 in 1996 to 217,820 last December, with 75 percent of the recipients children, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. In New Jersey, TANF rolls fell from 91,364 in 1997 to 36,738 in 2009, state officials said. Throughout the country, around 4 million people are on welfare, government figures show.
“It’s not a way of life,” said Kathryn Edin, a Harvard University poverty expert who lived two years in Camden.
Despite belief to the contrary, welfare is a small payout that’s difficult to attain, experts say. “You only get TANF if you’re poor, poor, poor,” said Linda Blanchette, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. “A mother and two kids get around $403 a month. You have to work or be in job training 30 hours a week, and there’s a five-year limit. Who wants this?”
There is, some say, a deep American anger toward the poor for violating the near-sacred belief that all people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It’s connected to a notion, rooted in Puritanism, “that the poor must have done something wrong because they weren’t blessed by the heavens, as the prosperous are,” Blanchette said.
Michael Geer, president of the conservative Pennsylvania Family Institute in Harrisburg, doesn’t disagree: “Taxpayers who have money taken from them end up with a sense of disgust with people receiving the help,” he said.
Some also believe that many welfare recipients cheat.
“The myth of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen” who defrauds the system lingers even though there’s no proof of it, said Erin O’Brien, a poverty expert at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
In fact, welfare fraud among Philadelphia’s 95,456 recipients is “minute,” according to Peter Berson, assistant chief of the government fraud unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
The 200 to 400 cases of welfare fraud in the city each year – down 50 percent since 2002 because of better enforcement and fewer recipients – are not nonworking women having babies to game the government, but working women receiving welfare and working at other jobs without reporting the income, Berson said.
Pennsylvania receives a $719 million federal block grant for TANF cash assistance and related programs; New Jersey gets around $200 million, government figures show.
Some lawmakers are attempting to codify the anti-poor sentiment. Pennsylvania State Rep. Garth Everett (R., Lycoming) has tried for a year to pass a law that would have TANF recipients drug-tested and fingerprinted, a practice in some states. “People’s wallets are tighter these days, and they don’t want funds going to folks with drug problems,” he said.
Asked to back up his claims, Everett said, “I don’t have evidence that people are using it [TANF money] to buy drugs. I do get feedback from a significant part of my constituency that they have the feeling that folks on welfare are using drugs.” He added that his proposed bill “is not going anywhere” because Democrats oppose it.
Attendant to complaints about people on welfare are criticisms of unwed women having babies.
“Unplanned childbearing contributes to poverty,” said Sawhill, the economist. Others disagree. “Having a kid is not the problem,” O’Brien said. “Growing up in poverty is.”
Regardless, many people say they cannot understand why women in poverty have children out of wedlock.
For women living in a depressing world of severely limited means and hopelessness, a child “makes you feel loved and wanted,” said Sutton, the Northeast mother of two. “Mostly, we don’t love ourselves and make bad choices.”
Ashley Ortiz, 24, a currently employed, formerly impoverished single mother with a 3-year-old son in Northern Liberties, said young women often “don’t have the building blocks others have to make an easier life, and what do you do when all you know is the example given you?”
Interestingly, said Edin of Harvard, 72 percent do eventually marry by their 30s.
While hostility toward the poor may be on the rise, there is a growing sense that a dismal economy will move even the middle class toward poverty. Some ask: Will Americans hate them as well?