Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life Or Debt

62% of bankruptcies are linked to medical debt. Over 75% of those driven to bankruptcy had health insurance when they incurred those bills. 

From Detroit to Cyprus, Banksters in Search of Prey

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From Nicosia, Cyprus, to Detroit, Michigan, the global financial octopus is squeezing the life out of society, stripping away public and individual assets in a vain attempt to fend off its own, inevitable collapse. The bankers “troika” that effectively rules Europe prepares to reach into the individual accounts of ordinary depositors on the island nation of Cyprus to fund the bailout of their local banking brethren. Across the Atlantic, a corporate henchman makes arrangements to seize the assets and abolish the political rights of a Black metropolis. The local colorations may vary, but the crisis is the same: massed capital is devouring its social and natural environment. Either we liquidate the banksters, or Wall Street will liquidate us.

The proposed seizure of a big chunk of every ordinary Cypriot depositors’ accounts, in the guise of a one-time “tax,” was shocking even by the standards of the Euro Zone’s overlords: the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission. The original diktat to finance new lines of credit for Cyprus’s over-extended banks called for snatching 6.75 percent of the cash of customers with balances below 100,000 euros ($129,500), and 9.9 percent above that threshold. When the public went berserk, it was proposed that depositors with 20,000 euros or less be spared – but Cypriot lawmakers balked. The banks are now closed, to prevent people from withdrawing their money. But Europe’s ruling triumvirate at the bankers’ lair in Brussels continues to demand that the public-at-large pay to keep the global criminal financial enterprise humming, or be starved out. “In the absence of this measure, Cyprus would have faced scenarios that would have left deposit-holders significantly worse off,” they said – disaster banksterism.

A rapscallion Black lawyer for the notorious corporate law firm Jones Day delivered the bankers’ ultimatum to Detroit. Emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr, anointed by Michigan’s Republican governor, is a bankruptcy specialist whose mission is to liquidate the assets of the 82 percent Black city, especially the revenue-producing Water and Sewerage Department. Orr’s firm’s clients – which, according to their website, include “more than half of the Fortune 500 companies” – have plenty of experience at liquidating in Detroit. Butch Hollowell, general counsel for the local NAACP, says Wells Fargo has “done more foreclosures in Detroit and the state of Michigan than any other firm,” and is Detroit’s number one property tax scofflaw. Jones Day also represents Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and CitiGroup.

“These are firms that not only got billions in TARP bailouts, but they’re also the same ones that defrauded people into signing these predatory leases which cause the crash of the housing market,” said Hollowell. “Detroit has been hit harder than anyplace in the country on that score” – hugely aggravating the city’s money problems. Financial manager Kevyn Orr’s job is to extract more booty from Detroit for the bankers’ vaults.

To facilitate the theft of the city’s property, its citizens must first be stripped of their political and civil rights, through the neutering of their elected officials. Orr looks forward to the project. “While I understand there’s a lot of concern and emotion behind the concept that I’m depriving people of certain rights,” he said, “actually it’s very consistent with both the history of this country and specifically in this state.” What he’s about to do “is democracy in action."

This corporate concept of democracy has already devalued the franchise of the 49 percent of Michigan’s Black population that live in municipalities and school districts under the thumb of outside financial managers, a violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the one man-one vote rule embodied in the 14th Amendment, says the NAACP’s Hollowell.

Black Baptist pastors and the AFSCME and UAW unions will join the NAACP’s planned legal action against the “hostile takeover” of Detroit – which is fine, as a civil rights response. But this is a much bigger battle.

Detroit and the people of Cyprus share the same enemy, a class that is beyond the reach of simple civil rights suits. The Lords of Capital on Wall Street and the City of London and the Federal Reserve in Washington and in the “troika” at Brussels confront their own existential crisis, which compels them to liquidate the public sector so that it can eventually be transferred to their own balance sheets. There are many ways to accomplish this, through privatization of existing public institutions, or by simply blowing a hole in public services and allowing privateers to fill the void, subsidized by public funds. However, nothing can save the banksters from inevitable, and increasingly imminent, collapse. Ever-increasing profit margins must be achieved, somehow, or the system implodes. Hundreds of trillions of notional dollars in derivatives must be serviced and fed by a class that makes nothing and can only survive by chicanery and coercion by governments under their control.

In Cyprus, they are prepared to brazenly snatch euros directly from working and retired people’s accounts to fund a bank bailout, without even bothering to construct a convoluted pathway from the victims’ accounts to their own. They have reached the point of outright confiscation, and will not stop until they have stripped society of the potential to save itself from the ruins.

We have no choice but to confiscate them – to destroy them utterly as a class.

Poverty hits America's suburbs

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Like many Americans who move to the suburbs, Tara Simons came to West Hartford because she wanted her daughter to grow up in a nice, safe place with good schools.
Her fall from a more financially secure suburban life to one among the working poor also happened for the same reason it’s happened to so many others. She had a bout of unemployment and couldn’t find a new job that paid very well.
As a single mother, that’s made it hard to hold on to the suburban life that is, in her mind, key to making sure her daughter gets off to the right start.
“I’m basically paying to say I live in West Hartford,” she said. “It is worth it.”
It’s a struggle that many Americans bruised by the weak economy can relate to.
The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.
“I think we have an outdated perception of where poverty is and who it is affecting,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the research. “We tend to think of it as a very urban and a very rural phenomenon, but it is increasingly suburban.”
Simons’ situation is complicated by the fact she’s a single mom. Poverty and financial insecurity among single moms is far higher than for households headed by single dads or two parents.
The rate of poverty among single mothers actually improved dramatically through the 1990s, thanks to a strong economy, more favorable tax breaks and the success of so-called welfare-to-work programs. But two recessions and years of high unemployment erased many of those gains.
Moving for a better life
Simons and her daughter Alexis moved from Massachusetts to West Hartford eight years ago because Simons had a job with a local rug retailer.
Alexis, now 14, made friends, became an avid lacrosse player and is now a high school freshman.
The picturesque suburb, with its well-kept homes and an upscale town center, has a median household income of $80,061, more than double that of Hartford itself, which is $29,107 according to the Census Bureau.
And yet the number of people needing help has skyrocketed in recent years, said Susan Huleatt, the human services manager for West Hartford.
About five years ago, Huleatt said a mobile van began coming to town once a month to distribute fresh produce to people in need. Now, four vans come each month, and more than 200 people sometimes line up for the food. That’s in addition to the city’s own food pantry.
Simons expected to work for the rug retailer until retirement, but about a year ago she quit after disputes with one of the two owners. She had never had trouble finding a new job and was unprepared for how hard it would be.
“I know that part of it is my fault and I absolutely take responsibility for that, but I never in a million years thought that I would (be in this position),” she said.
Simons went without work or unemployment benefits for five months before she got her current job about six months ago. The position, as a customer service representative for a local health products company, pays $14 an hour. That leaves her with take-home pay of about $460 to $480 a week, plus about $127 a week in child support. Simons has full custody of her daughter.
She is behind on her electric and gas bills and owes nearly $400 to her daughter’s club lacrosse team, which has her worried that her daughter won’t be able to play this spring.
Like many working poor people, she has fallen into a debt spiral. She took out an $800 payday loan, and she estimates that it will end up costing her $1,600 to pay it back. She also has several hundred dollars in credit card debt and has worked to pay off hundreds of dollars in bank overdraft fees. She’s sold jewelry for cash.
She and Alexis had to leave the house they were renting after she lost her job and a roommate. She got one-time aid from the city’s crisis fund to help with the down payment for her new, cheaper apartment. Still, the $1125 rent eats up more than half of her monthly take-home pay.
She went on Medicaid after being unable to afford health insurance.
Simons said it’s been hard, and sometimes embarrassing, to accept help.
“The thing is, I don’t want it,” she said. “I want to pay my bills.”
Hoping for a break 
Simons has continued to apply for jobs daily, hoping to land a higher-paying position with health insurance she can afford.
One morning in early March, she got a break.  A rug retailer about 40 miles from West Hartford offered her a job interview.
Excited and anxious, Simons carefully picked out her clothes and fretted about her hair. She was too nervous to eat.
A few hours before the interview, her boyfriend Phil Volonis stopped by to give Simons some gas money. Her 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier had broken down the day before, so he had lent her a car.
Later that evening, Simons walked out of the interview confident that she had done well, but still not sure if she had gotten the job.
Driving home in the pouring rain, Simons said that while living in West Hartford has been good for her and her daughter, she dreams of moving somewhere warmer.
She mused that perhaps Alexis will go to University of Florida – which has a good women’s lacrosse team - and she could move down there, too.
But for now, she said, she would do almost anything to keep her daughter in this town.
“The kid’s been through enough,” Simons said. “So, I just want her to feel as safe and settled as possible, and I want her to know that she can count on her mom to keep her where she is and keep promises.”