The 4 million women you can thank for your last meal

From the Restore Fairness blog-

They’re the backbone of our food supply. Their hands sliced the chicken breast we had for lunch. Their sweat brought the fresh tomato to our plates. Their backs bent to pick the lettuce in our salads. They are America’s undocumented workers.

Every day, on farms and factories across America, millions of women work to produce billions of dollars worth of fruit and vegetables that fill our stores and kitchens and nourish our children. At least 6 out of every 10 farm workers in this country are undocumented, and almost all of them live on the fringes of society, earning below minimum wage and facing humiliation, exploitation and sexual assault from their employers on a regular basis.

According to a new report, ‘Injustice on Our Plates,’ published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the 4.1 million undocumented women living and working in the U.S. are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our society. These women form the backbone of the agricultural system in this country, looking after their families, often working weeks without getting paid, working in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, with little or no recourse to any protection against the indignities they suffer at the workplace. They live in constant fear of being discovered and sent back to their home countries, with the looming threat of being separated from their children, many of whom are American born. It is grossly unfair that while contributing as much as $1.5 billion a year to the Medicare system and $7 billion a year to the Social Security system, undocumented immigrants will never be able to collect benefits upon retirement.

The report was compiled by SPLC researchers who conducted extensive interviews with 150 women from Mexico, Guatemala and other Latin-American countries who are or have been undocumented, and are working in the food industry, picking tomatoes, apples, green beans, lettuce, etc. in places like Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, New York and North Carolina. From a CNN article about the report-

Regardless of what sector of the food industry these women worked in, they all reported feeling like they were seen by their employers as disposable workers with no lasting value, to be squeezed of every last drop of sweat and labor before being cast aside.

Interviewed for the report, a woman called Maria reported being paid as little as 45 cents for each 32-pound bucket that she filled with tomatoes, and said that one employer did not allow his workers to go to the bathroom during their work-shifts. Olivia, a 46-year old meatpacker who came to the U.S. from Mexico to run away from her abusive husband and build a better life for herself, told the SPLC the horrific story of how she was raped by one of her supervisors after working a 12-hour shift. When she tried to report the incident to the senior management, her complaints were met with the retort, “What is so bad about that? He left you in one piece, didn’t he?” Despite extreme medical injuries and severe emotional trauma from the attack, Olivia was too scared to report the rape to the police out of fear that her immigrant status would be found out and she would be deported. Like countless women in similar circumstances, she was bound by the desperate need to work in order to look after her daughter and her parents who depended on her, and she had no option but to continue working for the man that beat her unconscious and raped her. The new report tells us that Olivia’s story is not the anomaly, but the norm-

Undocumented immigrant women are, in most cases, virtually powerless to protect themselves against such attacks…Some feel too much shame to report harassment or sexual violence, leaving them extremely vulnerable to exploitation by male co-workers or supervisors…Their abusers use their lack of legal status against them, knowing they are not likely to report sexual harassment or even violent attacks. Because of the many obstacles arrayed against them — fear, poverty, shame, lack of access to legal resources, language barriers, immigration status and cultural pressures — few immigrant women ever come forward to speak out against the wrongs committed against them. Too often, they are forced to compromise their dignity — to endure sexual harassment and exploitation — to obtain a better life and a measure of economic security for themselves and their families.

These women are economic refugees, running away from lives beneath the poverty line, hunger and desperation in their home countries, with the hope of working hard to provide their children with basic amenities like education, health and stability. The fact that such injustice and degradation is suffered by tens of thousands of hard-working women in this country on a regular basis is horrific and shameful on a number of levels. These women, responsible for putting food on our tables, are part of a systemic malady that is only getting worse. This is indicative of the sad irony of a world where high-level trade and capital move across borders with uncanny speed and ease, lining the pockets of nations and people in power, while the hands that build these “globalized” empires are forced to remain circumscribed within their lot, regardless of how unfair a lot it might be.

Deporting all 10.8 million undocumented immigrants would cost the economy over $2.6 trillion over the next ten years, not to mention the huge human rights violations that would occur as a result. Moreover, legalizing undocumented workers would raise the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over a decade. The report stresses the importance of immigration reform that would address these injustices in a way that is comprehensive, while respecting fundamental American values of dignity and justice.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

What Americans Want

Americans are known, for better of for worse, for their strong support of “capitalism” and hesitancy towards “socialism.” A recent poll by Pew Research Center confirmed this notion, although perhaps not with the intensity one would expect. When asked what their first reaction to the word “socialism” was, 59% gave a negative response and only 29% responded positively. Their reaction to the word capitalism was exactly the opposite, 52% gave a positive response, and 37% responded negatively.

How does this translate into what Americans want from the government now? Another poll by Pew Research Center asked how much a certain solution, such as cutting taxes or additional government spending, would help to improve the current job situation. Additional spending on roads, bridges, and other public works projects scored the highest with 37% of respondents agreeing that it would “help a lot.” On the flip side, 29% asserted that cutting personal income taxes would “not help at all.” This seems rather contradictory to what capitalism would dictate to do in an economic recovery.

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Deficit Politics In A Nutshell

Republican economists like to quote Milton Friedman:

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

I submit that the following is more truthful:

Government deficits are always and everywhere a political phenomenon.

Depending on which interests control the debate in a particular society, conventional wisdom will hold that deficits are either benign or apocalyptic.  In the United States, the corporate media takes its cues on this issue from the Republican Party. 

The corporate right-wing wants to roll back the New Deal in order to make it easier for economic elites to run the country as they see fit.  Republican politicians are their employees.  Fear of the deficit is used to manipulate voters into supporting policies designed to dismantle the government programs that mitigate the inequities of unchecked capitalism.

Thus endeth the lesson.

(From my blog http://partisandawn.wordpress.com/)

 

 

Bi-weekly Public Opinion Roundup - Health Care and Capitalism

As expected, there are plenty of new public opinion polls on health care and health care reform.  Though some people may already be tired of the topic, it is more important now than ever that we understand where the public stands on health care, how the trends in opinion are changing, and why.  Indirectly related to issues of healthcare is a new public opinion poll on capitalism, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

HEALTH CARE
Health Care: the Individual Mandate and a Public Option
The October Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll found that 66% of those surveyed report that they are in favor of requiring all Americans to have health insurance (provided there is financial help for those who need it).  A majority of those surveyed (57%) also expressed support for the creation of a government-administered public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers.  In addition, a majority expressed that “it is more important than ever to take on health care reform now” (55%).

Who will be better Off with Health Care Reform?

According to the above Kaiser poll, a majority asserted that the country as a whole would be better off if Congress passed health care reform (53%).  A plurality (41%) expressed that individually, they or their families would be better off if Congress passed health care reform, with 27% expressing that they would be worse off.

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Socialist Health Care

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

Some of the Obama's more incoherent detractors have labeled his health care plan as "socialized medicine." It is assumed, naturally, that socialism is Bad (with a big B).

While socialism may be less effective in many industries and fields (just look at the Soviet Union's fate, after all), the insurance industry as a whole is rather different. Think for a moment - how is capitalism supposed to work? The company that makes the most profit wins. Companies make profit by selling goods and services to consumers; the better the product, the more consumers buy it, the more money said company makes, and the more effort said company puts into making an even better product. Society as a whole benefits from this invisible hand.

With insurance, on the other hand, companies don't make profit by selling consumers the best product. Instead, they make money by denying insurance claims from consumers. The incentive is perverted; the insurance company that does the best denies the most claims. And because one has to begin with a lot of preexisting money to start an insurance company, it is very difficult for competition to emerge. Meanwhile, the customer is trying to make insurance companies pay for something (a medical crisis, for instance) he or she could not afford on his or her own. It is as if both sides are continually trying to rob the other.

Obviously, this is Bad (with a big B) for society. Partly as a result of the above problem, the United States spends far more than its peers on health care and gets far less for its cash.

Does this mean that the United States ought to switch to a socialist health care system? Doing so would certainly constitute a wretching change. Terrible mistakes could be made with implementation; moreover, other failings of the U.S. system (e.g. malpractice lawsuit costs) are just as or even more responsible for its high costs.

Yet nations with socialist systems, such as Britain and France, tend to have far "healthier" health care by most measurements - especially cost per capita. As even the most persistent free-market advocates acknowledge, some fields  (e.g. the financial industry) are simply not suited to capitalism. Health insurance seems like one such domain.

To switch or not to switch? At the very least, it's worth considering.

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