Main Street skeptical of the debt deal?

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Debt Ceiling Deal a Blow to Women’s Economic Security Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

NOW Press Release:

August 1, 2011

The debt ceiling agreement reached by the White House and congressional leaders over the weekend deals a serious blow to women’s economic security. If approved by both houses of Congress, the agreement will impose $1 trillion in cuts to programs such as family planning clinics, food stamps, college tuition assistance, child care and a host of other programs that disproportionately serve and employ women. But that is just the first part of the agreement.

This initial set of cuts is to be followed by an even more ambitious deficit-reduction package designed by a “super committee” composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress. The super committee’s proposal would be put to an up-or-down vote later this year — thus relieving elected officials from doing their job of crafting legislation through a deliberative, committee-based process. So-called triggers in the super committee’s charter are designed to make it more likely than not that the ultimate product will include cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and possibly Social Security (and possibly military spending), but not meaningful taxes on the wealthiest or corporations.

This two-step plan attempts to balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country — disproportionately women and especially women of color. And for what? Not for a balanced budget. Sadly, this punishing “deal” will not actually solve our deficit problem, which was caused by Bush-era tax cuts for top income earners, unfunded and ill-conceived wars, and reduced federal income tax revenue due to high unemployment. Those are the root causes that must be addressed.

In addition, this deal is sure to further depress the economy, lead to higher unemployment and further limit consumer spending, which is the reason the economy is not growing. This phony crisis — forced by conservatives in Congress — robs middle- and lower-income families in order to give a free pass to multi-millionaires and big corporations. It is a right-wing, anti-government solution that will lead to even more serious economic problems for the U.S. and will disproportionately impact women.

We call on Congress to reject any deal that fails to require the wealthiest to pay their fair share in taxes, cut wasteful military spending, and protect programs that women rely on in these tough economic times. The Obama administration and allies in Congress must stand up to conservatives and Tea Party activists, who are threatening the economic well-being of this country and apparently do not care if millions suffer thanks to un-called for cuts to vital government programs.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Latoya Veal w. 202-628-8669, ext. 116, c. 301-660-3447

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8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

From Alternet:

The ruling elite has created social institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance.

By Bruce E. Levine
July 31, 2011

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

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How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
August 1, 2011

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters.  Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer).  Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse.  There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights.  If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics.  But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis.

Despite the recent coinage of the term “Tea Party,” what we call the Tea Party has been around under different names forever.  It’s basically right-wing populism, and has been the thorn in the side of democracies for at least the past century.  The modern form of it in the United States really formed in the sixties, in response to two major social changes: desegregation and the sexual revolution/feminism. (Yes, I realize feminism and the sexual revolution are separate things, but for the right wing, they may as well be one thing, since it’s women’s sexual liberation that really gets them going.)  You had this huge group of socially conservative people who were wound up about these social changes, but not a lot of direction for their anger and hate.  Outside of glowering at Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King Jr., what are you supposed to do to stop widespread social change? They needed direction.

The genius of conservative leadership was that they were able to take all this anger about sexual freedom and desegregation and put the blame on two enemies: Democrats and the federal government.  Democrats were blamed for society getting “out of control” and the federal government’s role in enforcing women’s rights and desegregation made them an easy target.  Once these villains were established, all this right-wing populist anger could be pointed towards generic goals of big business Republicans.  If you hate the federal government for enforcing the Civil Rights Act, it’s easy enough to start hating them for levying taxes, especially if you can be convinced those taxes are going to welfare to pay for what you believe is immoral behavior, such as single motherhood.  If you hate the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade, it’s easy to get you to support putting more conservative justices up there who will routinely vote for business interests.

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Don’t Let Extortion Beat Democracy

From Campaign for America’s Future:

By Dave Johnson
August 1, 2011

The country has been held at gunpoint: a faction of the Congress, in service to a wealthy elite, were able to get away with threatening us, saying “give us everything we want or we will kill your economy.” The other side, inured now to one-dollar-one-vote “market” rule over one-person-one-vote We-the-People democracy, capitulated to the demands. Moreover, they agreed to cede budget-rule to a 12-member “Super Congress.” If it passes, this elite-enriching deal will slow the economy, kill even more jobs, and make it even harder to pay our bills. The deal is announced at the last minute forcing Congress to vote before public opposition can rally. This is not how our system is supposed to work! This is not an America that any of us recognize.

A Pattern

A terrible pattern of naked aggression against democracy has emerged. It began with financial crisis when Congress was stampeded by the threat of complete economic meltdown into a huge taxpayer bailout protecting the fortunes of Wall Street and too-big-to-fail bankers. The “emergency” vote occurred before opposition could rally. Then the obstruction of democracy following the 2008 elections with a Republican majority filibustering … almost everything We, the People tried to do for each other. This unprecedented disruption of the functioning of government frustrated people’s faith and trust in our system and weakened the barely-recovering economy.

Next was the series of “hostage-taking” acts of extortion. The first was the threat to cut off assistance for the unemployed unless the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy were extended. Then the “government shutdown” threat, forcing cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. The latest, this “debt-ceiling” threat to take down the entire economy forcing more cuts, demanding a process that locks them in before people can wake up from the shock and fight back, all occurring outside of the processes of democracy.

Each time the manufactured “crisis” negotiations are stalled until the last minute, the deal is “announced,” and the vote occurs, “locking in” the demage before public opposition can rally.

Again and again, bailouts or tax cuts or favors for the wealthy paid for by cutbacks in the entitlements democracy brings to the public — good wages, pensions, education, health care, infrastructure, environmental protections – or your economy collapses. Again and again the lesson is taught: raw extortion beats democracy.

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A Last Night Among the Spirits at the Chelsea Hotel

A part of old New York dies. When I went to the Village in the 1960s I used to stay at the Hotel Albert on 10th St. It was where so many bands and musicians stayed when in NYC. Like the Chelsea, the Albert was home to musicians, artists and unique people.

Patti Smith writes about living at the Chelsea in her memoir “Just Kids”

From the New York Times:

Published: July 31, 2011

Her head was shaved on both sides, her Mohawk bleached and dyed blond and blue. As she leaned over the front desk of the Chelsea Hotel on Saturday night, her lower lip pierced with a ring and her Doc Martens tapping the floor, Kitty Ramona, a bass player from Baltimore, was every bit the nostalgic punk girl seeking refuge in a place dripping with history and on the verge of being swallowed by time.

Saturday night was, by all indications, the last night that the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street would be open to guests, though the duration of the closing, the first in its history, was unknown.

The building is to be sold for over $80 million to the developer Joseph Chetrit, though the deal had not closed as of Sunday, according to someone close to the matter, who asked not to be named because the negotiations were confidential. Extensive renovations are expected to take at least a year. The hotel’s 100 permanent residents will be allowed to stay, but they have been told nothing beyond what the startled hotel workers learned late last week: that all reservations after Saturday were canceled.

“Where are all the punk kids? Maybe they don’t know,” said Ms. Ramona, an adrenaline-fueled, self-described “forever teenager” (in her early 30s) who had booked a room, hopped in her car and gunned it to New York City as soon as she heard the news. For a decade, Ms. Ramona has journeyed to the hotel several times a year, drawn by two of its famous guests from decades past. “Sid Vicious in caps, and Dee Dee Ramone,” she said. “If I could be anywhere tonight, this is the place to be.”

Mr. Chetrit, who did not return calls for comment, is said to want to keep the Chelsea as a hotel, but the plans are unclear. The building, a looming Queen Anne that opened as a co-op in 1884, is landmarked.

Gene Kaufman, an architect hired to oversee the renovations, said the plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems and the lobby all had to be overhauled, but added that much of the hotel’s original charm, including the wrought-iron interior stairwell and the art, would be preserved. “People should not be nervous about that,” he said.

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People should not be nervious, the bones will remain long after the soul is departed as per the  letter of the preservation of historic sites laws.

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NOW Urges HHS: No Refusal Clauses on Contraception

Now Press Release:

August 1, 2011

The National Organization for Women commends the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for issuing new guidelines for insurance plans to cover women’s preventive health services under the Affordable Care Act. Among those guidelines, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine, is one that requires provision of contraceptive services without co-pays and deductibles. NOW had just sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for the adoption of these recommendations and urging the department not to allow so-called refusal or conscience clauses to undermine women’s access to birth control.

An Aug. 1 HHS press release indicates that the guidelines do allow religious institutions the option of not covering contraception services when offering insurance to their employees, noting that “this is the most common accommodation for churches available in a majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception.”

NOW President Terry O’Neill stated that no woman should be denied health care as basic as contraception, not even a woman who happens to work for a religious institution. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom from being forced to observe any particular religious dictate. This so-called conscience clause is bad enough — but even worse, we’ve heard that a more expansive refusal clause may be included in the final regulation. That’s unacceptable. It would be a tragedy if millions of women were denied affordable access to contraception because HHS is ready to give in to a tiny minority of religious extremists who oppose birth control,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill also expressed disappointment that HHS will not require insurers to implement this change immediately, allowing them to wait a full year before providing women’s preventive health care services without co-pays or deductibles. “There is no good reason for further delay,” O’Neill said. “Women need preventive health services now, especially as they are economically squeezed by unemployment or underemployment.”

Read NOW’s full letter (PDF) to Secretary Sebelius

More information on the HHS guidelines

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