Are We In the Process of Creating a New and Enduring American Underclass?

From Alternet:

Will this bleak economy become “the new normal,” consigning millions to an emerging American underclass?

By Joshua Holland
April 15, 2011

Corporate America appears to be prospering with far fewer workers than it employed before the crash. Wages are down, the stock market is up and firms are expanding their operations overseas. Meanwhile, Congress is suffering from the delusion that our greatest problem is the deficit, rather than the extreme economic insecurity so many Americans are suffering from today. And that focus will only exacerbate the crisis on “Main Street.”

The question is whether these trends will become “the new normal,” consigning millions to an emerging American underclass. Is our notably cruel brand of capitalism ultimately leading to something that looks more like feudalism – with low-paid serfs feeling fortunate just to have an opportunity to toil for their lords’ enrichment?

Consider a bleak snapshot of our ailing economy: Real corporate profits are now near an all-time high, yet one out of six working people are either out of a job or have no choice but to work part-time.

We just saw a huge two-year gain in productivity – the amount of goods and services produced per worker. In 2009, it rose by 3.5 percent, and last year we saw a 3.6 percent increase, the largest in eight years.

At the same time, labor costs – the value of wages and benefits – have seen their steepest decline since 1962-’63.

This is the result of companies putting the big squeeze on their workers – threatening to cast them into a sea of unemployed Americans if they don’t produce more for the same wages. These numbers tell us that an economy that now employs seven million fewer workers than it did in 2008 can produce the same amount of stuff, albeit at a great social cost.

Lower Wages, Fewer Jobs

According to an analysis of Census data by USA Today, just 45 percent of the population now holds a job, the lowest share since 1983. Over the past decade, the number of non-working adults in the U.S. has increased by 27 million.

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US Uncut: The New Movement against Austerity and Corporate Tax Cheats

From Common Dreams:

by Brian Tierney

By Monday April 18th most Americans will have finished filing their taxes, helping to boost government revenue at a time when the only thing most politicians care to discuss is how to cut the deficit.

But a large pack of corporate citizens will probably not be worrying about paying their dues; tax day, like any other day for them, will be strictly devoted to growing their bloated profit margins.

Recent reporting that some of the largest U.S. corporations have paid little to nothing in federal income taxes in the past few years hasn’t stopped the upside-down debate in Washington. The beltway budget battle remains focused on one blunt question: how much of a beating should be given to workers and the poor in order to bring down the deficit while leaving the corporate bottom line unscathed?

Beyond Capitol Hill, however, the scope of corporate tax-dodging during a period of devastating budget cuts has inspired the ire of thousands of Americans and given birth to a new people-powered movement to hold big business and their mouthpieces in Washington accountable for the cuts. It’s called US Uncut, a campaign that has produced hundreds of direct actions targeting notorious tax cheats like Bank of America and Verizon while agitating around other major offenders like General Electric and Citigroup.

Thanks to tax breaks, creative accounting schemes, loopholes and off-shore havens, these companies are raking in billions and getting away with systematic tax-evading operations that would land ordinary people in jail.

Launched back in February, US Uncut has so far made Bank of America and Verizon the primary targets of its actions. According to US Uncut, Bank of America’s 2009 pre-tax income was $4.4 billion. As the fifth largest corporation in the world, Bank of America received $45 billion in bailout funds in 2008 and 2009 but didn’t pay a single dime in federal income taxes in 2009. In the same year, Bank of America received up to $1.9 billion in tax refunds.

How did they get away with it? Bank of America has 115 foreign tax-havens where it keeps its income in order to avoid taxes. And Bank of America is not alone. Roughly 25 percent of the largest U.S. corporations don’t pay any federal income taxes.

US Uncut has adopted a model of organizing first used in the U.K. where an organization called UK Uncut has been using hundreds of creatively-themed, non-violent direct actions targeting companies that flout their duty to pay taxes while budget crises are crippling social programs. The “flash mob”-style actions are meant to both pressure companies and galvanize the broader population through attention-grabbing and highly publicized direct actions.

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A New Tool for Treating Transgender People

From Huffington Post:

Joanne Herman

Reposted with permission

Last week saw the release of a very important new resource for medical providers serving transsexual and gender-variant patients. The Primary Care Protocol for Transgender Patient Care is a web-based resource that goes beyond hormone treatment and surgery options to cover important topics such as sexual health and fertility, cancer and cardiovascular disease, patient intake and insurance issues, and harm reduction.

The Protocol is the creation of The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco. The Center’s aim is to increase access to comprehensive, effective and affirming health care services for trans and gender-variant communities.

Since 1979 we have had guidelines to qualify transsexual people for treatment, but little to help medical providers care for those who qualify. The Standards of Care document (SoC), published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, articulates the qualifications for hormone treatment and surgery and the steps along the way of a gender transition, but is not a clinical practice guide.

This has left medical providers somewhat on their own to learn how to treat those who qualify. And, because of this, transsexual people have come to expect that their medical provider will know less about transsexualism than the patient.

This situation began to change in 2009 with the issuance by The Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. For the first time, medical professionals had professional guidance for the endocrine treatment of transsexual persons.

The issuance of the new Primary Care Protocol is another big step forward. It gives medical professionals easy access to the consensus of eight physicians with extensive experience treating transsexual patients. The Protocol also gives doctors a credible source which can be helpful in responding to inaccurate information patients may receive through community grapevines or other non-medical sources.

The Protocol comes online at a time of increased focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health. As researcher Dr. Judy Bradford noted on April 11 in The Huffington Post:

Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a set of recommendations calling for a major, well-funded effort to include LGBT people in its research, and address the health care disparities that exist throughout our population. The day before, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People, that finally provides a comprehensive picture of the state of our community’s health, and of the challenges we face in pursuing comprehensive treatment and medical care of every portion of the LGBT population. It is about time — because on multiple levels, those disparities are too significant to ignore.

What’s significant is that both reports don’t include transgender people as an afterthought, something other LGBT reports had been gulty of in the past. With this increased national focus on LGBT health, one can be hopeful that additional tools for medical providers serving transgender patients will soon be available.

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