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07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]

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07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]

07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]

07.12 These solar panels don’t just generate power—they produce drinking water

07.12 David Attenborough: polluting planet may become as reviled as slavery [1:34 video]

07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]

07.10 Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’

07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]

07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]

07.05 Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

07.04 On reflection: how the 'albedo effect' is melting the Antarctic

07.04 US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries [As expected—and made worse by Trump—the U.S. is best at being the worst]07.03 Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn

07.03 Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’

07.03 Caravan of Americans battling diabetes heads to Canada for affordable insulin [3:36 video; Like Central Americans flee for their lives from criminal drug gangs, Americans flee for their lives for affordable pharmaceutical drugs]

07.02 American Medical Association sues North Dakota over abortion laws

07.02 'Committed' CO2 emissions jeopardize international climate goals, study finds

07.01 New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear

07.01 Freak summer hailstorm buries cars in Mexico's Guadalajara [0:50 video]

07.01 Climate Change is Devastating India With Heat Waves and Water Shortages [13:48 video]

06.30 American farmers can't afford this administration's climate apathy

06.30 The US military is a bigger polluter than more than 140 countries combined [Could a world-wide moratorium of military activity dramatically slow the climate crises?]

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07.16 Describing 'Future We Want to Live In' Scores of Groups Unveil New Blueprint for Reproductive Rights

07.16 'Do not take the bait': congresswomen denounce racist Trump attack [3:50 video]

07.16 Money Laundering Scandal Forces Puerto Rico’s Governor to Cut His Vacation Short — Just in Time for Another Scandal

07.16 Turnstile teaching [The problem is NOT the color of students skin, as our fake President reflexively thinks. The problem is the lax attitude and deficient funding by government to always do a much better job for a better future.]

07.15 Finding the Future in Radical Rural America

07.15 Sanders Accuses Biden of Parroting Pharma and Insurance Industry Script With Attacks on Medicare for All [Like Trump, Biden explains why he's unelectable every day.]

07.15 If there is an 'immigrant' who has failed to integrate in America, it's Donald Trump

07.15 Trump tells Ocasio-Cortez and other female progressives to 'go back' to 'original' countries

07.15 Trump Takes Pelosi's Side Against AOC and The Squad as Intraparty Fight Over Immigration Continues [Its about much more than immigration, its about the Corporate Dominance—by many of the same companies, even—over both major Political Parties. With too few exceptions, neither party has represented The Public since Nixon generously raised the minimum wage (Part D Medicare and ACA both became Frankenstein legislation due to excessive corporate price-fixing influence), and that has to change!]

07.14 Trump: People like Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party [Then it's too bad he didn't stay to finish the job!]

07.13 Trump's POS Labor Secretary, Acosta, Out. POS Number 2, Linked to Abramoff, to Fill Role [A willingness to perform criminal behavior seems the only competency required...]

Justice Matters

07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]

07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]

07.14 Warren vows to probe U.S. crimes on immigrants if elected [Can you imagine living in a nation with a working Justice System? How far we've fallen!]

High Crimes
Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.15 China’s Economic Growth Hits 27-Year Low as Trade War Stings

International & Futurism

07.16 Trump’s race fantasy is clear: the US as home for whites fleeing Europe [1:09 video]

07.15 India’s Terrifying Water Crisis

07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]

07.14 Kasich: The chilling effect of British ambassador's leaked memos

07.14 'Just a matter of when': the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

07.14 At least 24 Yellow Vests lost eyes in violent protests. Now they're more determined than ever [Protests of all kinds will continue until systemic inequality loses political dominance]

07.13 New Zealand Begins Gun Buyback Prompted by Mosque Attacks

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning [Since so-called modern humans evolved there have been 10,000 generations of people. It is extremely far-fetched to think anyone is racially pure. SO ALL THIS HATE IS INCREDIBLY STUPID.]

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning

07.13 Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S. [Friend of the Trumps, so we know they're all brain-dead except about near-term profits. They are clear-cutting the Amazon Rain Forest to feed-then-butcher millions of methane farting cows, over and over. Yep, that's there business plan. So therefore the rest of the world will hopefully plant billions of trees elsewhere to sequester CO2 to offset what the Bolsonaro family and investors are destroying. What's wrong with this picture?]

07.13 Trump’s Cruelty and Mexico’s Duty [Our president is immoral to his core and reacts to things like a child, not understanding that his actions are often crueler than they should be. And that cruelty will never completely be excused or forgotten—the people's hatred of Trump is growing, like the Texan's hatred when President General Santa Anna laid seige to the Alamo, which was Mexico's territory at the time...]

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  State of the Union: Obama's ''Automatic IRA'' Plan Could Make Bush's Wildest Dreams Come True

COMMENTARY:

State of the Union: Obama’s “Automatic IRA” Plan Could Make Bush’s Wildest Dreams Come True

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 27 January 2010

We could see Americans’ Social Security cut by a small percentage (remembering that raising the retirement age is, effectively, a cut), while simultaneously, a small percentage of their pay is deducted and invested in the private sector. And suddenly–presto–George W. Bush’s wildest dreams have come true.

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is expected to propose what’s generally being called an “automatic IRA.” Under this scheme, the government would help set up a system of individual retirement accounts in which workers would be automatically enrolled if their employers don’t offer their own 401Ks. A minimum amount of pre-tax earnings–under current proposals, 3 percent–would automatically be deducted from employees’ pay and direct-deposited into their accounts. Individuals could increase the amount of the automatic deposits, or they could opt-out altogether. They would also have some choice about where to place their investments; otherwise, it would automatically be placed in what planners are calling a “diversified portfolio.”

On the surface, it sounds like a sensible plan. AARP is supporting it, and says it could help some 50 million of the 75 million Americans whose employers offer no retirement plan. It’s being touted as a “third way” or “common sense” approach to the retirement crisis–a rare bipartisan initiative, developed through a rapprochement between left and right. The idea emanates from a group called the Retirement Security Project (RSP), led by David John of the Heritage Foundation, who hammered out a joint scheme with William Gale of the Brookings Institution. It’s supported by the White House, and expected to breeze through Congress. The publication Life and Pensions reported earlier this week:

John, who is a senior research fellow with Washington, DC-based think-tank the Heritage Foundation, as well as holding a position on the RSP, said he welcomed the initiative’s inclusion in the state of the union address. Having the President speak about it on Wednesday will give it a far higher profile than it would otherwise get,” he said.

John said he expected the bill to have a fairly easy passage, given the lack of opposition. It was included in the 2009 budget, but the time taken over the controversial healthcare reform bill meant it slipped off the legislative agenda.

The presence of David John as the proposal’s spokesperson and primary architect ought to be enough to make progressives take a closer look at a proposal that’s promoted as an obvious no-brainer. With the exception of the automatic IRA, John is a sharp critic of Obama’s economic approach, including all of the other proposals the president is expected to outline tonight. “He’s basically giving tax money to people regardless [if] they have actually paid any taxes or not,” John said yesterday. “And many of these [proposals] sound much better as they’re intended to than they would actually work in practice — so I think that some of those are going to have some severe handicaps.”

In addition–as a quick glance at his writing on the Heritage Foundation web site reveals–John was a huge booster of privatizing Social Security. The idea of privatizing this New Deal program, and turning over its billions to Wall Street, has been the fondest hope of the right since the days of the Reagan administration. Remember that it was just five years ago, in 2005, that George W. Bush made privatizing a portion of Social Security a centerpiece of his State of the Union address. Conservatives fought hard for this initiative, which would have diverted 2.5 % of Social Security withholdings into individual retirement accounts similar to those now proposed, and invested the funds in a similar ”diversified portfolio” of Wall Street products. But the pubic, wisely, distrusted Bush’s motives, and by the end of the year, it was clear that he would never win broad support for the privatization plan. In the early months of 2006, the Retirement Security Project, under John’s leadership, began actively promoting the automatic IRA scheme.

Is it paranoid to see the automatic IRA as a back door attack on Social Security–a foot in the door in the quest to cut entitlements? Maybe not. Unlike Bush’s plan, the automatic IRA would not take funds out of Social Security, but rather directly out of workers’ paychecks. But imagine, if you will, that at the same time, cuts are made to Social Security. Tonight Obama is expected to pitch his version of the fast-track “deficit reduction commission” recently proposed (and defeated) in the Senate, which clearly would set its sights largely on entitlements, including Social Security. So we could see Americans’ Social Security cut by a small percentage (remembering that raising the retirement age is, effectively, a cut), while simultaneously, a small percentage of their pay is deducted and invested in the private sector. And suddenly–presto–George W. Bush’s wildest dreams have come true.

There’s yet another facet to the automatic IRA plan, which would effectively channel not only worker earnings but also government funds into private retirement accounts. On Monday, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Middle Class Task Force set up a year ago. Biden pitched the automatic IRA proposal, saying “It’s a simple proposition, but it’s a big deal,” and then outlined the plan for a government “match” of individual savings:

It also means simplifying and expanding the saver’s credit, which helped working families save for retirement by providing a 50 percent match on the first $1,000 of retirement savings. So if you put a thousand bucks into a retirement account, your government is going to add even more — another $500. It’s an incentive, but long term it saves the government a lot more money than the 500 hundred bucks put in if in fact we find we have a generation that’s able to care for themselves and not have to look to the government to provide some basic needs they need. This will not only help build up a nest egg for existing savers, but it’s going to encourage workers who currently have no retirement accounts to start to save.

The matching tax credit, too, might sound like a nice plan, until you think about what it actually means: Instead of going into the U.S. Treasury, this money, too, will go straight to Wall Street, in the form of IRA investments in private retirement funds. And suddenly–presto–it’s yet another government handout to Wall Street. Even without the tax credit, there’s no doubt that the automatic IRA could be the best thing to happen to Wall Street since the creation of the pre-tax 401K.

It’s hard to fathom why Americans would want to dump more money into an IRA that will end up in unguaranteed mutual funds, so soon after seeing our private retirement investments take a beating in the recession. Just a year ago, we were all kicking ourselves for trusting Wall Street with our nest egss, and thanking our lucky stars that at least we hadn’t privatized Social Security.

Nonetheless, the automatic IRA plan seems destined to forge ahead, steamrolling over other, more secure options. One such proposal was made by pension expert Teresa Ghilarducci, who suggested setting up accounts that would have a guaranteed government return and be run by the Social Security administration. (I outline her plan in my recent Mother Jones article on 401Ks.) But once again, the American government prefers to skirt direct responsibility for looking after its elders, and instead pass us off into the greedy, grasping hands of Wall Street–which will no doubt be laughing all the way to the bank.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found at JamesRidgeway.net and at his newest web site, Solitary Watch.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on January 27, 2010.
 

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