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War On The Poor; These 5 States Have Seen the Most Rapid Increases in Homelessness Over the Past Decade 

26 Feb


There’s one primary reason why homelessness is on the rise in these areas.
 Homelessness increased in the U.S. in 2017 for the first time since 2010, and advocates for homeless people are alarmed. Ten city and county governments have declared states of emergency since 2015 in response; meanwhile, Department of Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson shows ongoing disinterest in supporting local governments’ efforts. While cities like Los Angeles are facing a well-publicized crisis as they struggle to find long-term solutions, California is surprisingly not even one of the states with the five fastest increases in homelessness, according to a new survey compiled by Credit Loan.

Measuring homelessness in any city is a challenge. For one, most major cities count more homeless people in residing shelters than unsheltered people living on the street or in encampments (Los Angeles is a major exception). This survey includes both sheltered and unsheltered, but notes the frightening rise in unsheltered homeless (nationwide, about a third of the homeless lack shelter).

“Unsheltered homelessness is on the rise, and major cities are feeling it most,” said Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “As cities bear the burden of increasing unsheltered counts, it is essential that they address the affordable housing crisis, increase investments in proven housing interventions, and ensure that they have appropriate emergency shelter capacity.”

Beyond the division of sheltered versus unsheltered, experts disagree on the best methods of measuring rates of homelessness. The Credit Loan survey uses a point-in-time (PIT) count from HUD data that communities collect from physical outreach to determine how many individuals are literally homeless on a designated day. This data is pulled from PIT count numbers from 2007-2016. Other groups like the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness prefer to rely on the numbers generated through statewide data systems to measure homelessness in their states.

According to the Credit Loan survey, these are the states that saw the most significant increases and decreases in homelessness over the past 10 years:

The states vary significantly in geography and cost-of-living expenses (South Dakota, for example, is one of the least expensive states to live in, yet the same factors drive that state’s homelessness as in New York), but there is a surprisingly strong common thread explaining why so many people go without homes. In any city or state, the homeless crisis is directly tied to lack of available low-income housing.

A number of diverse factors make the situation in South Dakota unique. The state has seen the largest increase in homelessness in the past 10 years. Native American homeless rates are rising as it becomes more difficult to find affordable housing on reservations, where isolation and lack of abundant infrastructure make construction difficult. Elsewhere in the state, homeless advocates have noticed the homeless population getting younger.

Traci Jensen, homeless liaison for the Sioux Falls School District, told KSFY in December, “We do see the number of youth over the last couple years has increased.” Though a different estimate at the end of 2017 claims the homeless rate had dropped 12% in the past year in South Dakota, three shelters say that number doesn’t tell the full story. “The demand that we see for homeless services certainly hasn’t decreased,” Brett Johnson with the Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition, said. Many of the area’s homeless are living in cars or with friends, Johnson added. Local representatives are pushing for more inexpensive housing options. Rep. Kristi Noem recently wrote, “Despite South Dakota’s relatively low cost of living, finding affordable housing can still be a challenge for low- and middle-income families. That makes it no surprise that there are 120 families on the waiting list for Habitat Homes.”

In densely populated metro areas like D.C. and New York, homeless advocates are unanimous in blaming the problem on sky-high rents. “The one single thing that really has changed is the lack of affordable housing,” Michael Ferrell, the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, told the New York Times. “The housing that’s being created today in the District is not for working-class people,” he said. Gradually widening inequality is to blame: in D.C., as in many other American cities, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. In New York City, the Coalition for the Homeless similarly reports that lack of affordable housing is the main cause for the city with the highest number of homeless people. Homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression in the 1930s, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

There is some good news in the struggle to house the homeless. Though Michigan is hurting from the nationwide lack of affordable housing, the state managed to decrease its homelessness rate by 67% over the past 10 years, according to the survey. “We saw the incidence of homelessness spike during the recession and it’s been trending downward each year since in Michigan,” Eric C. Hufnagel, executive director of Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, told AlterNet. “That’s due in part to a short-term funding infusion, an improved economy and policies which have strengthened the homeless service delivery system in Michigan. Additional funding remains a key need, but there are many other barriers to ending homelessness, including the affordable housing crisis.”

These are come of the cities with the most homeless:

New York City shelters are notoriously crowded, and the city has seen an enormous increase in its shelter populations over the past 10 years. But out on the streets there are slightly fewer homeless than a decade ago. Still, the city’s $1.2 billion per year investment in curbing homelessness has not reversed the trend of a rapidly rising homeless population.

In Los Angeles, a near opposite crisis is underway. The number of unsheltered homeless in L.A., like those in the city’s widely noted encampments stretching miles across the metro area, has climbed significantly in the last few years. According to Credit Loan, “the largest increases have been among those aged 24 and younger, and a vast majority of the unsheltered homeless population are either African American or Hispanic. Like New York City, Los Angeles officials indicate rising housing costs as largely to blame for the dramatic upsurge. Between 2000 and 2015, the median rent in L.A. increased by more than 30 percent.”

In any city or state, the homeless crisis is directly tied to lack of available low-income housing and the expanding divide between rich and poor.

“Ending homelessness is a complex, long-term effort,” said Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “For several years we’ve seen homeless systems become more efficient and effective and getting people into housing. But the effectiveness of the homeless assistance efforts cannot make up for the increasing number of people who become homeless because they simply cannot afford housing.”

Megan Hustings, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, agreed, noting that the Trump administration shows no signs of prioritizing the crisis. “There is a severe shortage of decent affordable housing across the country,” Hustings told AlterNet. “Our housing infrastructure is extremely damaged, and the presidential administration’s ‘infrastructure’ plan does little to nothing to improve it. In fact, the president’s suggested FY19 budget would almost completely eliminate public housing, and cause over 200,000 families to lose their housing vouchers.”

Liz Posner is a managing editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.


The “Rigged Capitalist System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – “We will never be free & Equal while the Rich Rule Over Us ‘!  Progressive News, Book Sale in Progress – Books & Blogs –



Source: These 5 States Have Seen the Most Rapid Increases in Homelessness Over the Past Decade | Alternet


Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire 

25 Feb

Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire


“It wasn’t until the administration of Barack Obama that the deadly gaze of the United States began to really re-focus on Latin America, with Venezuela as its main target.”

Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor and columnist 21 Feb 2018

Only in the world of comic-book fantasies is the United States a friend to the oppressed in Africa or anywhere else on the planet. In the real world, the U.S. is a predator, colonial/capitalist nation. But like the imagined nation of Wakanda, in the latest cultural assault on critical mass consciousness, “American exceptionalism” and “make America great again” — two slogans representing both sides of the imperialist coin—ruling class interests are obscured and the people are reduced to working against their objective interests and being accomplices to imperial lawlessness.
In every part of the world, the United States is engaged in maniacal, criminal assaults on democracy, basic human decency and common sense. From its support for armed jihadists groups in Syria and its illegal occupation of that nation, transferring heavy military equipment to its puppet regime in Ukraine, supporting unending war in Afghanistan, to the military invasion of African, the commitment to maintaining U.S. global dominance has moved war and militarism to the center of U.S. strategy.

But nowhere is U.S. criminality more apparent and unrelenting than right here in the Americas where the Pan-European project was born in 1492. That was the year “Europe” was born, emerging from its relative cultural backwardness using with terrifying efficiency the only advantage it had over the more civilized people of the region—armor protection and steel weapons—to slaughter the people, take the land and begin the 500-hundred-year nightmare the people of the world have suffered ever since.



The commitment to maintaining U.S. global dominance has moved war and militarism to the center of U.S. strategy.”
Today, the barbarism of the Pan-European project continues under the tutelage of what history will record—if humanity survives—as the most violent, racist, oppressive human experience ever to have emerged in the short span of human existence on Earth: the United States of America.
After centuries experiencing the horrors of genocide, slavery, military dictatorships, environmental destruction, and neoliberal exploitation, the people of Latin America began to slowly extract themselves from the clutches of the hegemon from the North. Social movements and peoples undeterred by coups, structural adjustment and death squads started to take back their history in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and the rest of the continent. Venezuela has led the way, proclaiming the dawn of a 21st century socialism that would create the new society and the new human in the process.
Because of imperial overreach, the same trap that has ensnared other empires in decline, the U.S. was preoccupied with attempting to manage the mess it had created for itself as a result of the disastrous belief that it could fight two major wars simultaneously. So, while it was bogged down in Western Asia and the so-called “Middle East,” the full force of the U.S. repressive apparatus was not deployed against the fledgling people’s movements and the nominal capture of the state by those movements in Latin America. Of course, the United States helped to engineer a failed coup against Hugo Chavez and it continued training police and military forces in the region. But it wasn’t until the administration of Barack Obama that the deadly gaze of the United States began to really re-focus on Latin America, with Venezuela as its main target.

“Venezuela has led the way, proclaiming the dawn of a 21st century socialism that would create the new society and the new human in the process.”
In what appears on the surface to be a ludicrous position, Barack Obama declared Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security on three different occasions. However, the United States is the enforcer for the global capitalist system and the head of the white, Western, capitalist united front. With that in mind, seeing Venezuela as a threat made sense. Venezuela has been the driving force for the nations of the Americas south of the U.S. border attempting to free themselves from the yoke of U.S. imperialism.
The Trump administration took up with enthusiasm the policy of destabilization, subversion, and economic warfare that was intensified under the Obama administration. Violent regime change is now clearly the objective of the administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for the Venezuelan military to overthrow the government while on a visit to the region and reports have surfaced of military forces from Colombia and Brazil being deployed to their respective borders with Venezuela. Another clear sign that the lives of the people of Venezuela will be sacrificed with violent regime change is the collapse of the dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the counter-revolutionary opposition that had been taking place for almost two years. Up until just a few days ago, it appeared an agreement was in place for a peaceful political resolution.



“Violent regime change is now clearly the objective of the administration.”

The move toward a violent intervention became more apparent when discussions abruptly ended as the opposition decided not to sign an agreement designed to move both parties toward an eventual political resolution.
Concerned about the general disarray among the opposition and the fact that the ruling party and government won 18 out of 23 governorships in regional elections in October 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would not recognize the results of the upcoming Presidential election to be held April 22. All the evidence points to the administration, along with the Venezuela oligarchy, opting for a strategy of regime change, even though it will result in mass slaughter and the dictatorship that the United States pretends to be opposed to in Venezuela.
The moves by the Trump administration represent an ominous re-introduction of the worst imperialist excesses of the late 20th century, where violent coups were the preferred response to any threats to the rule of capital and U.S. imperialist control. Yet, what is even more ominous about the situation unfolding in Venezuela is that unlike a few decades ago, when there was a vocal and active radical and left opposition to U.S. imperialism, the left and many radicals in the U.S. are in open class collaboration with imperialism.
The left in the United States and Western Europe has completely abandoned any idea of solidarity with the global South’s revolutionary projects. A bizarre example of the reactionary nature of the European left was the European Parliament awarding the Sakharov Freedom Prize to the Venezuelan “opposition,” a group that has openly attacked journalists and burned alive two dozen people of primarily Black or dark complexions who they assumed were probably government supporters because they were poor and black. Clearly for the representatives in the European Union’s only democratic body, the integrity of the press and “Black lives” really don’t matter!

“Anti-imperialists must support national independence, especially when a nation is in the cross hairs.”
The courageous struggle of the Venezuelan people to defend their national sovereignty and dignity in the face of the murderous intentions of their North American neighbors and the racist obsequious Venezuelan oligarchy deserves the support of all true anti-imperialists. Whatever failure or internal contradiction we see in the Bolivarian process does not outweigh the principle that anti-imperialists must support national independence, especially when a nation is in the cross hairs of the greatest gangster nation on the planet.
For those of us who inhibit the colonized Black and Brown zones of non-being, as Fanon referred to them, to not resist the white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy at the center of the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination is moral and political suicide.
When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson orders the Venezuelan opposition to undermine the agreement to stabilize the situation in Venezuela while simultaneously undermining the internal Korea efforts toward de-escalating the tensions between North and South Korea, we see the familiar hand of classic European colonialist divide-and-rule tactics that propelled them to global dominance and continues to give Western imperialism a leash (lease?) on life.
But for James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and all the Mad Dogs of empire, the people of the world have seen behind the curtain and are not impressed with the diversionary smoke and fire of your weapons and bellicosity. The people know they have the cure for the virus that affects you, but you will not be happy with their treatment plan.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch. His latest publications include contributions to “Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. 


Source: Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire | Black Agenda Report


The “Rigged Capitalist System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – “We will never be free & Equal while the Rich Rule Over Us ‘!  Progressive News, Book Sale in Progress – Books & Blogs –


Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

24 Feb


Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

The Cold War displaced the legacies of the New Deal. Time and Trump are now displacing Cold War legacies. Where capitalism was questioned and challenged in the 1930s and into the 1940s, doing that became taboo after 1948. Yet in the wake of the 2008 crash, critical thought about capitalism resumed. In particular one argument is gaining traction: capitalism is not the means to realize economic equality and democracy, it is rather the great obstacle to their realization.

The New Deal, forced on the FDR regime from below by a coalition of unionists (CIO) and the political left (two socialist parties and one communist party), reversed the traditional direction (to greater inequality) of income and wealth distributions in the US. They shifted toward greater equality. US history thus illustrates Thomas Piketty’s argument in his 2014 Capital in the 21st Century about long-term deepening of inequality that can be punctuated by interruptions. Indeed, the New Deal reversal was such an interruption and featured just the sorts of taxation of corporations and the rich that Piketty favors now to correct/reverse capitalist inequalities.

Yet, after World War Two the resumption of capitalist accumulation undid the New Deal and has since returned modern global capitalism to new depths of inequality. What Piketty proposes now again as a remedy proved then to be merely temporary. The reversal was itself reversed. After 1945, corporations and the rich devoted their profits and their high incomes/wealth to buy even further control of the two major political parties. That extra control enabled them to undo the New Deal and to keep it undone.

US history thus exemplifies more than capitalism’s tendency to deepening inequality and the use of taxation to reverse that inequality. It also teaches us how and why that reversal was unable to be more than temporary. That lesson implies skepticism about whether tax-based – or indeed, any – reversals can be more than temporary given capitalism’s proven success in undoing them. Such skepticism hardens when parallel evidence emerges from other capitalist countries’ likewise merely temporary reversals of basic tendencies to deepening inequalities.

The conclusion to be drawn from the US story is not that efforts to reverse deepening inequality are foredoomed to failure. It is to face the fact that mere reforms such as tax law changes are inadequate to the task. To make reforms stick – to overcome temporariness across so many histories – requires going further to basic system change. Because capitalism tends toward deepening inequality and can defeat reversals by keeping them temporary, it is capitalism that must be overcome to solve its inherent inequality problem.



Capitalism presents a parallel problem in its structural contradiction to democracy. The “democracy” label that so many modern nations use to describe themselves has always been a misnomer. The political sphere was indeed, at least formally, a place where governmental decisions were made by persons accountable eventually to a one-person-one-vote election. In that precise sense, those required to live with a decision exercised the democratic right to participate in making that decision via the accountability of governmental officials.

However, the economic sphere was never organized in a parallel democratic manner. The leaders of enterprises – the owners, shareholders, and the directors they chose – made all the basic enterprise decisions. These included deciding what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues (or surplus or profits) of the enterprise. The leaders were not at all accountable to the people – all the other employees – who had to live with the results of those basic enterprise decisions. The latter were excluded from participating in key economic decisions affecting and shaping their lives. In short, “democracy” has been applied to societies whose political/residential sphere was at least formally democratic but whose economic sphere was decidedly not.

The ideological rigidity of most brands of anti-stat-ism across US history served nicely to keep the focus forever on state/public versus individual/private in thinking and acting about social change. Democracy was redefined in practical terms as the liberty of the individual/private from the intrusion of the state/public. The democratic quality of the individual/private enterprise – the central structure of the economy – was exempted from analysis or even from view in terms of its structural incompatibility with democracy. Legalistic equations of capitalist corporations with individual person-hood also helped to distract attention away from the undemocratic structure of the corporation. Likewise, the US government’s commitment to a “democratic foreign policy” fostered the reproduction elsewhere of the same undemocratic economic structure that characterized the US.




The right wing of US politics has long understood and responded to social movements for equality and democracy as threats to capitalism. Its leaders built their coalitions by working to mobilize public opinion against those movements as threats to the “American way of life.” It built its ideology on the notion that democracy meant a state kept from intruding on the lives and activities of persons and enterprises rendered as equivalently “individuals.” Equality to them meant equality of opportunity, not outcomes: and then only if opportunity was strictly disconnected from the wealth, income and social position each individual was born into.

The left wing of US politics has always tried hard to sustain the notion that capitalism was not only compatible with egalitarianism and democracy. It would also be strengthened, not threatened, by moving capitalist society closer to equality and democracy. In practical terms it contested against the right wing by insisting that the mass of people – the workers in capitalist enterprises – would become disaffected from and disloyal to capitalism if it indulged its anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies. Capitalism, it argued and argues, will be strengthened not threatened by less inequality and more democracy.

Both left and right – and their expressions in the leaderships of the Republican and Democratic Parties – live in fear, conscious or otherwise, that the mass of people, the working class, will become disaffected from capitalism. “Populist” is the currently popular epithet that expresses this fear.  Both parties contest for the support of the leaders of capitalism – major shareholders and the corporate boards of directors they select – by offering their alternative strategies for avoiding, controlling, or safely channeling mass disaffection with capitalism.



The GOP offers a mix of (1) repression for egalitarian and democratic (i.e., populist) social movements, (2) support and subsidy for capitalists, and (3) symbolic gestures and policies pandering to certain sectors of public opinion (fundamentalist religion, patriotism, nationalism-anti-immigration, and so on). The Democratic Party offers a mix of limited, gradualist support for movements toward less inequality and more political democracy. It offers itself as the means to bring marginalized groups into full participation in capitalism, thereby keeping them from populism. Each party leadership deplores populists and tries to associate them with the other party. Democrats especially see populism in Trump; Republicans and quite a few centrist Democrats see it especially in Bernie Sanders. Both parties rarely refer to “capitalism” per se. Both proceed as if no critique of or alternative to capitalism exists or makes any sense.

Not only the Republican Party, but also the Democratic Party support, serve and reinforce the capitalism that stands as a basic obstacle to economic equality and democracy. Because those goals are never achieved they have long served as objectives to which both Parties offer lip service. The absurd contradiction of their shared position is now giving way to the recognition that the necessity for system change is the lesson of US history. If, in place of capitalist enterprise structures, a transition occurred to worker cooperatives with democratic organizations and procedures – likely to distribute net revenues far less unequally among enterprise participants than capitalist structures did – it would have removed a key obstacle to a broader social movement toward equality and democracy.

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Richard Wolff is the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan and Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens. He is founder of Democracy at Work.


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Source: Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

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