Saturday, September 23, 2017

Will America's financial vultures allow Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria? Will the big media outlets push aside their Trump & Kardashian addictions long enough to care?

Above: A lithograph of vultures perched in a tree, and flying over devastated land, by Dorothy Jenkins (1914-1995), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

America's financial attack on Puerto Rico, and the deadly results

America's financial vultures have been preying on Puerto Rico for many years now. And this year, the economically crippled island territory has filed for bankruptcy-type relief. But the financial vultures don't like that idea, so they're working hard to make sure that Puerto Ricans never escape debt, thereby creating another group of debt slaves that they can attach themselves to like leeches. Yes, they're trying to prevent Puerto Rico from getting bankruptcy relief, just like they've prevented financially-wrecked student loan debtors from getting bankruptcy relief on the mainland. 

Instead of debt relief or restructuring, the financial vultures want the Puerto Rican government to impose severe austerity on its citizens - which we know, in the modern world, means: Protections for the rich and regressive taxation and cuts in public services for everyone else. You see, America's financial elite can file for bankruptcy pretty much any time they want to (see, e.g., "Yep, Donald Trump's companies have declared bankruptcy...more than four times," PolitiFact, June 21, 2016) but they've worked very, very hard to limit bankruptcy protection for the middle-class and poor. And since the financial vultures control the federal government with their massive bribes campaign donations, they've been largely successful in instituting a two-tiered system of economic justice - just like they've instituted a two-tiered system of criminal justice (e.g., a bail system that favors the rich, a fine system that favors the rich, greater access to lawyers, and lesser or no punishment for financial crimes, even if such crimes destroy millions of lives).

The victimization of Puerto Ricans by America's financial vultures has had serious consequences. By putting them into a state of economic disability, in the hopes of squeezing out every last drop of profit, and also trying to force Puerto Rico to sell off its public goods to the financial vultures' private sector friends, the vultures have prevented Puerto Rico from properly repairing and upgrading its infrastructure. And so, the island's anemic infrastructure has just been battered by Hurricane Maria - knocking out power for perhaps months, hindering health care (e.g., the delivery of life-saving insulin to diabetic patients and the delivery of electricity to patients who need dialysis), and also flooding entire swaths of the island. The old Guajataca Dam, for example, has failed, sending huge amounts of water downstream, forcing the evacuation of 70,000 people, and it may collapse altogether. The dam was built around 1929.

The Associated Press reports that at least 7 Puerto Ricans have died from Hurricane Maria, "and the toll was likely to rise."

Above: A WPA poster, promoting travel to Puerto Rico. New Deal policymakers were very interested in building Puerto Rico up. Today's policymakers? Neh, not so much. For the most part, they're content to just sit back and let the financial vultures feast. And much of the American public is so distracted by celebrities and tech gadgetry, that they don't care much either. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Bernie Sanders and the FDR administration had much better ideas, and much greater empathy, than we do

A lot of the suffering and hardship in Puerto Rico is unnecessary, and made possible through a combination of New Deal amnesia, misplaced faith in the super-wealthy, and a cultural apathy so powerful it could swallow a black hole. We can do better. In June of last year, journalist Zach Carter of the Huffington Post reported the following about Bernie Sanders' plan to help Puerto Rico: "Sanders would cut vulture fund investors out of any benefits from a debt-reduction deal, while establishing a long-term infrastructure plan to fix the root problem of Puerto Rico's debt: a dysfunctional local economy."

To a lot of corporate Democrats and their supporters, this probably sounds like one of crazy ol' Bernie Sanders' pie-in-the-sky ideas. But, as Carter also reports (in the same article): "similarly ambitious initiatives have been successfully implemented in Puerto Rico. In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt supported an agency that pumped federal dollars into infrastructure investment in Puerto Rico, directed by local officials who understood the island's needs. Their plans helped eradicate malaria, tuberculosis and hookworm from the island, make electricity available to the island's interior and establish hurricane-proof construction using local manufacturing."

Carter is referring to the New Deal's Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA). And Puerto Rico also received help from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), Civil Works Administration (CWA), Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation (FSCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), National Youth Administration (NYA), as well as other, older federal programs that were boosted by New Deal funding, like the Army Corps of Engineers. And, with the exception of the PRRA, these agencies were engaging in thousands upon thousands of public works projects across the rest of the country too.   

But, unfortunately, here is where the amnesia and apathy I mentioned earlier kicks in. Collectively speaking, we've forgotten about the accomplishments of the New Deal and, even worse, we have no interest in learning about it. There's just too many Kardashians to keep up with to be bothered with our nation's history (see, "How much U.S. history do Americans actually know? Less than you think," Smithsonian Magazine, May 28, 2015). So, over time, we've let our infrastructure and our critical thinking skills slowly crumble away, scratching our heads and wondering how those roads, bridges, and water mains even got there in the first place. "Gosh!! Do those water mains reproduce on their own?? I mean, like, are there male and female lines, and they roll in the hay once in awhile, and make little baby water mains?? Or do we actually have to replace them from time to time??" 

Because of the greed and sociopathy of America's financial vultures, and also because of societal amnesia, misplaced faith in the super-wealthy (i.e., trickle-down economics), and cultural apathy, I don't believe Puerto Rico will have a healthy recovery. There will be many inspiring stories, of course, especially in the beginning, but over time the troubles of Puerto Rico will be largely forgotten. Think about it: On the mainland, we've already prioritized tax cuts for the rich, and military adventures abroad, over infrastructure improvement - even as lead contaminated water systems poison millions of children and causes fetal death. Do you really think we're going to show any more concern for an island that we've willfully put out-of-sight, out-of-mind, for so long? Please.

Where's the media coverage of Puerto Rico?

Above: This is a screen grab of the homepage of CNN.com, at about 3:07pm Eastern Time, on Saturday, September 23, 2017. You would think, with Puerto Rico's Guajataca Dam failing, 70,000 under evacuation, and the possibility of complete collapse and a large loss of life, that we'd get up-to-the-minute news, right at the top of the page. Nope... but we do get at least six stories about Trump. I've noticed that the mainstream media has (a) an addiction to Trump, and (b) a short attention span for Americans in need. Image used for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Yay, Kylie's pregnant!!! Golly gee, I'm so happy now!!! This is a screen grab a little further down the homepage (same day and time as the previous screen grab). It appears that the goings-on of the Kardashian family is more newsworthy than the possible collapse of a dam that could cause a catastrophic loss of life in Puerto Rico. This is how the mainstream media fails us time and time again. You see, I want to know how my fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico are doing, not whether there's "A new Kardashian to keep up with" (to be fair, there was a story or two about Puerto Rico--but not the dam specifically--buried down near the bottom of the web page... I had to used my browser's "find "tool to locate them). Image used for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

WPA scrubbing

Above: "Woman Scrubbing," a painting by Elizabeth Terrell (1908-1993), created while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Sheldon Museum of Art.

Above: "Scrub Woman," a ceramic sculpture by Gustave Hildebrand (1897-1950), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1942. A description for this artwork states, "By recognizing and honoring her hard work, [Hildebrand] pays tribute to all working women. Hildebrand’s work coincides with President Franklin Roosevelt passing the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a move that placed protective limits on hours and wages." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Carol M. Highsmith.

Above: Another piece titled "Scrub Woman," this one a lithograph by Isaac Soyer (1897-1981), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935. Do you ever wonder why housekeeping and domestic work pays so little? It's very hard work and it keeps us clean, which is important for disease prevention and good hygiene. Are these not valued things? It seems to me that these types of workers deserve very good wages and/or a much more generous earned income credit. Of course, the latter might require that super-wealthy Americans pay higher taxes, and many people (especially those on the political right) don't want the super-wealthy to pay higher taxes. They believe that it's better for the super-wealthy to have more money to throw on the Wall Street roulette wheel, wreck the economy, and send jobs overseas, and then pass along the ill-gotten profits to their lazy children in the form of dynastic wealth. Hmmm... call me old-fashioned, but scrubbing floors, keeping things clean, and hindering the spread of disease seems more valuable to society than that. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Sheldon Museum of Art.

Above: A woman scrubs the floor during a WPA housekeeping training program in Pittsburgh, 1936. Between 1935 and 1943, WPA housekeeping aides made 32 million visits to assist low-income Americans who were experiencing illness or emergency (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 69). Many housekeeping aides went on to secure private housekeeping employment after their time in the WPA. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Happy to graduate from a WPA housekeeping training course in Cleveland, Ohio, ca. 1935-1943. Many people claim, then and now, that the unemployed are lazy and don't want to work, or that so-called "low-skilled" workers don't deserve good pay and benefits. It's complete b.s. of course - just mean-spirited propaganda, used by the super-wealthy and their political, think tank, and talking head stooges to maintain America's vile caste system. Most people, like the formerly jobless Americans you see above, just want an opportunity to work and get fairly compensated for it. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Deal Art: "Big Dip"

Above: "Big Dip," a lithograph by Harold Faye (1910-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

WPA Flowers

Above: The description for this photograph, ca. 1935-1943, reads, "A display of 300 exotic and rare Orchids for the public, in the Volunteer Park Conservatory at Seattle, was cultivated by ten needy [i.e., unemployed] women, like the worker in the photograph, on a project of the WPA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Lincoln Park Conservatory," an oil painting by Reathel Keppen (1895-1945), created while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "For her training on a WPA project at the Public Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle, the worker in the picture [and] nine others will receive a certificate as a Gardener, with a specialty of Orchid culture. On this project, sponsored by the Parks Department, the women have raised 10,000 Orchids in addition to other rare plants." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Dahlias," an oil painting by Bumpei Usui (1898-1994), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Two other WPA workers on the orchid and rare plant project at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. The Volunteer Park Conservatory began in 1912 and still operates today. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Netherlands Still Life," an oil painting by Harold Bowler (1903-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: The description for this 1939 photograph reads, "Wishing more than anything else to see an orchid, Mrs. Helen Stagier came from frozen Fairbanks, Alaska, to Seattle, last Christmas and got her wish. Washington State Administrator, Don G. Abel beside her in the photograph..." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A WPA poster promotes a flower show in Hinsdale, Illinois, ca. 1936-1939. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Deal Storm Art (5/5): Big Blow - A Drama of Hurricane Country by Theodore Pratt

Above: One of my favorite WPA posters, a promotion for the Federal Theatre Project's production of Big BlowImage courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Artist: The poster above was created by artist Richard Halls (1906-1976). According to the website Posters for the People, Halls' "early years were spent traveling through the U.S. and Europe with his father, a sculptor whose commissions included many public monuments... Halls joined the FAP from 1936 to 1939 where he created many posters for the Federal Theatre Project... Halls began to work as a freelance illustrator, but a part-time job as an instructor at City College of New York redirected him to a career in education. From 1952 to 1976 Halls taught advertising art and design on the faculty of the State University of New York at Farmingdale. He received his B.A. from Adelphi University in 1961."

The Play: The Big Blow appears to have been an entertaining and moderately successful melodrama set in Florida, where the playwright, Theodore Pratt, was living at the time. The Internet Broadway Database lists the play as running in New York, from October 1, 1938 to February 1939, while Halliie Flanagan, the director of the Federal Theatre Project, records it as running all the way to April 1939 (Arena, 1940, p. 381 - Flanagan also writes of Big Blow performances in Boston, p. 230). Some of the players in Big Blow appear to have enjoyed reasonably successful acting careers after the production of the play, including: Kendall Clark (1912-1983), who played Wade Barnett; Dorothy Raymond (1914-2008), who played Sarah Barnett; and George Mathews (1911-1984), who played "Deefy." Mathews went on to become a prolific character actor in shows like Have Gun Will Travel, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Deal Storm Art (4/5): Thunder and Lightning

Above: "Thunder in the West," a watercolor painting by Lloyd Moylan (1893-1963), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1942. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Above: "Lightning," an oil panting by James Stovall Morris (1898-1973), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Deal Storm Art (3/5): "Marooned"

Above: "Marooned," a color woodcut print by Albert Abramovitz (1879-1963), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. According to the Brier Hill Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts, Abramovitz's "work was widely exhibited across the United States... and was distinctive both for his unusual technique and radical socio-political point of view... His works are in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Spencer Museum of Art, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Library of Congress. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Deal Storm Art (2/5): "The Gale"

Above: "The Gale," an oil painting by Charles Anton Kaeselau (1889-1972), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. According to askArt, Kaeselau was born in Stockholm, Sewden. Information on the Living New Deal, shows that Kaeselau painted murals at the post offices in Concord, Massachusetts, and Lebanon, New Hampshire. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Stanley Staniski.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

New Deal Storm Art (1/5): "Before the Storm"

Above: "Before the Storm," an oil painting by James Floyd Clymer (1893-1982), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Clymer was "known for his Regionalist style of land, sea and cityscapes, [and] created paintings with an emphasis on color and form. His works possess a clear and simple style, easily understood by the masses" ("James Floyd Clymer," Julie Heller Gallery). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Financial hookworms, furious hurricanes, and forgotten history: The wrecking of Puerto Rico

Above: "Destruction," an etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Financial Hookworms

Healthline informs us that "Hookworms are parasites. This means they live off other living things... Humans contract hookworms through roundworm eggs and larvae found in dirt contaminated by feces." 

The hookworms that feed on us today, after they've incubated in corporate feces, are debt collectors and vulture funds that buy up debt on the cheap and try to extract as much money as possible from debtors, via threats, harassment, lawsuits, and lobbying against bankruptcy relief, but for austerity - austerity that disproportionately (or exclusively) harms the non-wealthy. This has happened to the people of Puerto Rico (see, e.g., "The ironic pillage of tax haven Puerto Rico by offshore hedge funds," Tax Justice Network, January 6, 2016).

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has explained that Puerto Rico is not permitted to restructure its debt like other U.S. jurisdictions, and that vulture funds "want Puerto Rico to raise taxes [on the middle-class and poor], cut health care, fire teachers, cut pensions, sell off $4 billion worth of government buildings, privatize public ports, close neighborhood schools and cut support for the University of Puerto Rico, all so these vulture funds can squeeze out more profit."

(Also see, "Puerto Rico Declares a Form of Bankruptcy," New York Times, May 3, 2017, and "Hedge Fund Sues to Have Puerto Rico's Bankruptcy Case Thrown Out," New York Times, August 7, 2017.)

But it's not just the debt collectors and vulture funds that are to blame here, as financial analyst and professor of economics Michael Hudson explains: "A parasite cannot take anything from the host unless it takes over the brain. The brain in modern economies is the government, the educational system, and the way that governments and societies make their economic policy models... In nature, the parasite makes the host think that the free rider, the parasite, is its baby, part of its body, to convince the host to actually protect the parasite over itself." (Dr. Hudson wrote a book in 2015: Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.)  

Financial hookworms have definitely taken over the minds of many, many Americans - especially conservatives (both Democrat and Republican). Millions have been brainwashed into believing that the super-wealthy, no matter how evil their actions might be, must be pampered with tax cuts, bail outs, and protection from law enforcement. After all, they're the holy "JOB CREATORS!" And sadly, as a nation, we've probably lost the critical thinking skills that we would need to break out of such brainwashing.

Above: "Benevolence," another WPA artwork by Edward Hagedorn. Some people in America use financial & political tools to prey on their fellow citizens and scavenge off economic misery & hopelessness. We hail them as "job creators," and "innovators," instead of recognizing them for what they truly are: vultures who terrorize for profit. Journalist Nick Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens, highlights the corrupt practices of vulture funds and writes: "And these people are being lionized as the cream of high society." Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Puerto Rico is more vulnerable to natural disasters, thanks to the financial hookworms

Puerto Rico just got hit by Hurricane Irma. Thanks to its crumbling infrastructure, many hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans may be without power and running water for months. Why is their infrastructure so bad? Because they're infected with financial hookworms (a.k.a. debt collectors and vulture funds), and thus suffering from too much financial anemia to modernize it (see, e.g., "Puerto Rico's money woes 'dire' after Hurricane Irma, as Jose lurks," ABC News, September 7, 2017, and "Irma could leave Puerto Rico without electricity for months:The island's government is broke," Vox, September 6, 2017).

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. During the New Deal, huge infrastructure investments were made on the island through many programs, for example, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA). With respect to the latter, a researcher at City University of New York recently concluded: "Designed by Puerto Rican engineers and built by Puerto Rican workers, PRRA public works projects made concrete contributions to the physical security of millions of Puerto Ricans through the construction of hurricane-proof houses, schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, waterworks, and rural electrification networks." Unfortunately, we've forgotten about all that and let it crumble away.

We could reverse course if we wanted to, adopt a better ethical system, and help millions of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico with a new and even better New Deal. We could remove the financial hookworms from the body politic, we could build up the nation's infrastructure with public works programs for Puerto Rico's many unemployed citizens, and we could shake ourselves free from our apathy and remember our history. But we won't. Instead, we'll get even more drunk on free market rum, and keep worshiping financial hookworms as heroic job creators. I guarantee it.

Above: A work site for the New Deal's Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA). New Deal policymakers wanted to build up and strengthen Puerto Rico - and so they did. Today's financial hookworms, on the other hand, want to suck every bit of life blood out of it. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Deal Art: "Cold Inferno"

Above: "Cold Inferno," a lithograph by Francis Bernard Shields (1908-1990), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: Heroic rescue & relief efforts will be overpowered by merciless economics & anti-government zealotry

Above: "Hurricane #2," a lithograph by Eugene Morley (1909-1953), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

People in need vs. America's merciless economic system

Throughout the Hurricane Harvey disaster the mainstream media focused on stories of destruction and heroic rescue. With respect to the latter, we saw private citizens saving people from flooded homes, the Coast Guard plucking people from their roofs, trucks delivering donated water and, even days after the storm, roaming groups of volunteers helping homeowners pull away waterlogged drywall to preserve the structural integrity of their flood-damaged homes.

All of these efforts are fantastic, and highlight the brotherly & sisterly love that exists in millions of Americans.

But we are now beginning to see some cold economic and cultural realities set in. For example, many renters have been forced from their homes and their jobs--because of all the flooding and other damage--yet some landlords are still demanding rent payment. With so many Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, and having little or no savings, this is a problem. Apparently, Texas law heavily favors landlords and, well, you can see where this is heading (see, "'We don't have anything': landlords demand rent on flooded Houston homes," The Guardian, September 4, 2017).

These types of situations will increase in frequency as America's merciless economic system begins to respond to the disaster. Volunteers, donations, and government aid will slowly give way to neglect, blaming the poor, predatory loans, ruined credit, lost jobs, debt collection harassment, and the simple fact that most Americans don't have the financial resources to help all the people who have been pummeled by Hurricane Harvey. As a pastor in an affected area said of a man cooking meals for those in need, "He's cooking the meals, and this guy is amazing. Local people like him, we have that. But he can't rebuild a hundred homes, or whatever it is out there on the river, or a thousand homes... These people have nothing" ("In Texas, Distrust of Washington Collides With Need for Federal Aid," New York Times, September 4, 2017). 

Anti-government zealotry will hinder long-term relief efforts and reconstruction

To make matters worse, America (and especially Texas) is now controlled by anti-government zealots at the federal, state, and local level. You see, Republicans are obsessed with demonizing government, repealing regulations, and giving gargantuan tax breaks to the rich - and that doesn't bode well for middle and low-income Americans needing assistance. It's true that Texas officials have asked for a lot of federal aid, but it's only a matter of time before their hatred of government, and their tendency to blame the poor, begins to hinder the overall disaster response. Soon, bottled water will be replaced with "pull yourself up by your bootstraps!!!"

Indeed, the anti-government zealotry of the political right ensures that these types of costly disasters will be recklessly repeated. For example, the Trump Administration, in its ongoing effort to wipe out President Obama's legacy (an effort that has them swinging wildly at anything that moves) recently scrapped a rule that required infrastructure projects utilizing federal funds to be built to withstand the new realities of global warming (for example, heavier rain events). And a Republican state senator in Texas recently said (as he was searching for flood survivors... and oblivious to the irony) that the government doesn't need to tell Texans what to do. 

These types of actions and statements indicate that little or nothing will be learned from Hurricane Harvey - specifically, the perils of continued fossil fuel emissions, lackadaisical zoning regulations, excessive development, outdated infrastructure, and the anemic utilization of government-sponsored flood insurance.

And we can be sure that middle and low-income Americans will pay the steepest price for the political right's "free market" radicalism, and its desire to drown the government (i.e., We the People) "in the bathtub."

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fire, smoke, and hepatitis! California needs a new CCC and WPA... ASAP.


Above: This brief video clip shows the "La Tuna Fire," burning in and around Los Angeles this past Saturday, September 2nd. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjTP3-ayxio.

Fire

There are 19 large wildfires burning in California right now, including a wildfire "called the largest ever in Los Angeles" ("19 wildfires burning in California," USA Today, September 3, 2017). The fires have caused many evacuations, destroyed homes and property, injured firefighters, and are also threatening one of our national treasures - giant sequoia trees. The fires have been difficult to fight for a number of reasons, for example, the amount of fuel on the ground, such as dead, dry, or congested trees & vegetation (see video above, and also see "The Latest: California wildfire reaches giant sequoia grove," ABC News and The Associated Press, September 2, 2017).

Above: "Forest Fire," a wood engraving print by Paul Landacre (1893-1963), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project in Los Angeles, ca. 1935-1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Smoke

All the smoke from the wildfires is causing unhealthy air quality in various parts of California and other western states (see, e.g., "Headaches and raspy voices as wildfire smoke chokes US West," ABC News, September 2, 2017). According to the American Lung Association, small particle pollutants in wildfire smoke can enter a person's lungs and cause "asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes - and can kill. Studies of children in California found that children who breathed the smoky air during wildfires had more coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, colds, and were more likely to have to go to the doctor or to the hospital for respiratory causes, especially from asthma" ("How Wildfires Affect Our Health," American Lung Association, January 2, 2016).

And this dangerous wildfire smoke is on top of the already bad air quality we live with day-to-day, thanks largely to fossil fuel emissions. In 2013, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that "Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the U.S.," and that "California suffers the worst health impacts from air pollution, with about 21,000 early deaths annually, mostly attributed to road transportation and to commercial and residential emissions from heating and cooking."    

Above: "Tuberculosis Tests for Children," a lithograph by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Hepatitis

As if destructive & deadly wildfires and lung-clogging smoke weren't bad enough for Californians, San Diego County just "declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the liver disease hepatitis A." At least 15 people have died and hundreds have been hospitalized. And the homeless are suffering the most, of course ("San Diego County declares emergency amid hepatitis outbreak," ABC News and The Associated Press, September 1, 2017).

Homelessness is a public health hazard because of disease transmission in unsanitary, close quarters; and also because the homeless receive even less adequate medical care than other low-income Americans. Sadly, we're not likely to significantly address the problem of homelessness anytime soon because, after decades of free market fairy tales, much of the country believes that the unemployed, the poor, and the homeless are simply lazy people who get what they deserve. And no matter how much financial fraud is perpetrated on the American public, and no matter how many jobs are outsourced, and no matter how many people are struck down my medical emergencies they couldn't foresee, millions of Americans remain unshakable in their belief that "personal responsibility" is the overriding (if not only) factor that determines the outcome of one's life - unless something happens to them, of course, and then they want government aid.

One of these days, our neglect of the homeless and poor is going to come back and haunt us, on a massive scale. A disease will spread, unchecked, because the people who have it will try to ride it out (fearful of medical bills or medicines they can't afford) and pray it's just a really bad cold. And then the disease will spread to the middle-class, the rich, and the super-rich, and many of these people will scratch their heads and wonder what the heck happened (see "Hepatitis A scare: shame on city, county of San Diego," The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 1, 2017).

Above: The description for this 1933 photograph reads, "CCC cutting out dead wood, Sequoia National Park. Camp Wolverton, California." Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

A new CCC and WPA is needed

During the 1930s and 40s, millions of men in the CCC fought fires, removed dead trees & vegetation, made firebreaks, and planted new trees where they were needed. They also built many forest access roads to aid firefighting in remote areas.The WPA engaged in similar activities and also, among many other types of projects, ran immunization campaigns, built & staffed medical clinics, and sent nurses & housekeepers to the homes of ill Americans. Various New Deal programs (including the CCC and WPA) also provided housing and work opportunities for the homeless and near-homeless, in the form of CCC barracks, transient worker camps, and low-cost housing.

New Deal work programs were highly effective. For example, today we're still utilizing many of their creations - state parks, wildlife refuges, airports, bridges, and roads. The Living New Deal documents the many thousands of New Deal sites, structures, and works of art that we still use and enjoy today.

So, now that we've established that (a) there are serious environmental & public health problems in California (problems that are, of course, shared by the rest of the country, to one degree or another), and (b) that the CCC and WPA were effective programs that helped solve or mitigate these types of problems in the 1930s and 40s, we're going to create a new CCC and WPA, right? I mean, it's just common sense.

Nope, that's not how we do things today. Instead, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, and other right-wing groups are trying to cut as much funding for government programs as possible, so that they can deliver more tax cuts to their wealthy gods & donors. The wealthy donors, in turn, will funnel a portion of that money back to their marionettes, in the form of political campaign contributions. It's a grand kick-back scheme, disguised as "job creation" and "fuel for economic growth." And millions will buy it, just as they did before, even though their jobs and retirements get crappier with each successive round of tax cuts for the rich, and even though the nation's economic growth remains pathetic compared to decades ago when taxes on the rich were much higher.

Yes, believe it or not, right-wingers want corporate tax cuts, even though "Corporations Are Raking In Record Profits, But Workers Aren’t Seeing Much of It." And right-wingers want top marginal and capital gains taxes cut for the super-rich, even though the super-rich are enjoying record wealth while millions of children drink lead out of old water mains, old connecting pipes, and old plumbing. And right-wingers want the estate tax--a tax that only affects the rich--eliminated altogether, so that our caste system and apartheid culture solidifies even more.

Make no mistake about it, we're living in illogical and rabid times - and paying a horrible price for it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

America's rejection of a new WPA made the devastation and misery in Texas worse; and our inability to process information ensures that we'll learn little-to-nothing from Harvey's wrath

"They need to stop patting each other on the back while these poor people are out here waiting to get rescued."

--Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore (ret.), on the response of officials to Hurricane Harvey's destruction, August 30, 2017 (YouTube link)

Above: "After the Storm," a lithograph by Jack Markow (1905-1983), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The role of human error in Hurricane Harvey's devastation & misery

We've heard and read many stories about the human errors that made Hurricane Harvey worse than it had to be, for example: lackadaisical zoning regulations & laissez faire development, which led to a great paving-over of water-absorbing land; the placement of housing developments next to old reservoirs and other dangerous water hazards (often, it appears, without mandatory flood insurance!); a rejection of climate change science, which has led to increasing sea temperatures (and thus greater evaporation, more air moisture, and larger rain events); neglected and crumbling infrastructure, more susceptible to extreme weather damage; a refusal to properly regulate chemical plants, leading to several explosions and toxins in the flood waters; a lack of personnel to respond to the emergency, causing a desperate plea for volunteers - thus putting untrained (but very brave and kind) Good Samaritans at risk; and much, much more.

The WPA's disaster preparation & response

Another problem, related to the list above, is America's rejection of a new and permanent WPA. Among the many hundreds of thousands of projects the WPA engaged in from 1935 to 1943 were disaster preparation and response activities. The Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43 (1946) explains just how extensive and useful these activities were:

"The WPA was of extraordinary value in meeting disaster emergencies. Its organization and methods made possible the quick assembling of men and materials; it had at its command adequate supervision, ample and suitable equipment, and transportation facilities; and it had the authority to supplement all these in meeting emergency situations... The projects were set up in advance [emphasis added] to provide for necessary emergency work when danger to life or grave risk of property was brought about by flood, thaw, storm, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, drought, or similar cause... The principle types of disaster emergency work included furnishing personnel and such equipment as was needed; construction of dykes and strengthening of levees; evacuation of persons and property from zones of danger; temporary reestablishment of water, sewer, gas, and electric services; temporary emergency repairs to bridges and streets; operations incident to cleaning up after disaster, for reasons of health; and employment of labor for shipment of foodstuffs, bedding, and clothing to affected areas" (pp. 54-55).

The Final Report then goes on to give some specific examples:

"In all disaster emergencies, large and small, during the existence of the WPA, it was usually the first organization to be on the scene with equipment, tools, and men. In many instances during the widespread Mississippi-Ohio flood, WPA engineering or other officials took immediate and decisive action... For example, a WPA engineer in one town which was partly above the flood level accomplished the removal of all persons in the lower part of the town to safety before their homes were flooded... The damage from hurricane and floods in New England in 1938 might have been much greater but for the preventive measures taken when flood dangers became imminent and for the flood control work of previous years" (p. 55).


Above: "WPA workers help fight fires and recover bodies it Gainesville, Georgia, after the city was destroyed by two massive tornadoes on April 6, 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Why has America consistently rejected a new and permanent WPA?

As I've written on my blog many times before, America has routinely rejected the idea of a large public works program for the unemployed, even though the experience of the WPA shows us that it can be highly effective (for example, our continued use & enjoyment of many WPA projects - parks, airports, bridges, genealogy tools, artwork, etc.).

Most recently, during the recession years, when unemployment was destroying millions of people's lives, President Obama flatly refused to consider a new WPA, and a 2011 bill to create a new WPA was ignored in Congress until it died in committee. In 2012, Senate Republicans shot down legislation that would have created a public works program for unemployed veterans. Not only would the program have provided jobs for veterans in need, it would have addressed the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog that exists in our national parks.

Given the WPA's track record of success (it was not without occasional fault too, of course), and given that a new WPA would help millions of people with jobs, infrastructure improvement, and disaster preparation & response, why is the idea consistently rejected (or not brought up at all)? Well, for many reasons. For example: apathy; historical amnesia; celebrity distraction; corporate control of the media; the preference of many politicians to use the poor & unemployed as political punching bags; political weakness (think Obama); a right-wing propaganda industry that constantly demonizes the unemployed; the political influence of the wealthy - a class of people who, collectively speaking, prefer the perpetual existence of a large pool of jobless and financially devastated workers (this keeps wages down and investment returns up); and, of course, the free market fairy tales we're constantly fed - fairy tales that convince us that millionaires & billionaires, through the power of the holy market, will make life better for us - all the evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Intertwined with most of the reasons I've listed above, is the inability of tens of millions of Americans to think logically. We see the dots, but we can't connect them. That's why we're willing to pay more for health care, and die younger, than our counterparts in other developed countries. That's why we're willing to pay more for Internet service, even though it's slower and crappier, than citizens in other advanced nations. That's why we're about to let our politicians give massive tax breaks to the rich, even though the rich have proven, time and time again, that they're not going to improve our lives with their greater after-tax income; even right-wing icon Ann Coulter knows this, recently tweeting about the upcoming Republican tax cuts for the rich: "Bush cut taxes! Did it create millions of jobs? Nope. The rich pocketed their tax cut & sent jobs abroad, hired guest workers. F– them." 

For once, I agree with Coulter. F-- them. Why can't you be more lucid and rational all the time Ann?

Above: Survivors of the Gainesville double tornado event receive plenty of emergency food & clothing from a WPA supply station, April 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

As a nation, do we have the capacity to learn from Hurricane Harvey?

Last year, Dr. Sophia McClennen of Penn State University wrote about the sorry state of our politics and our inability to think straight, and, inadvertently, also explained why Americans will learn little-to-nothing from the current devastation & misery in Texas: "It's not just that we don't have our facts straight. It's that we have collectively lost our ability to process information and make good judgments" ("I'm With Stupid: The Entire 2016 Election Has Been an Insult to Our Intelligence," Alternet, November 1, 2016).

Something dreadful has happened to the American citizenry. Our ability to diagnose and solve problems has been greatly diminished after years and years of hate radio, Reality TV, the scaling back of social studies in K-12 education, etc. We're in a very scary place in our nation's history; we watch our children drink lead from old pipes & plumbing, scratch our heads in confusion, and then vote for politicians who seek to fund infrastructure less, and pamper the wealthy more. It's an unbelievable, astonishing spectacle to witness. If I didn't see it with my own two eyes I wouldn't believe it.

Mark my words: We'll continue pumping filth into the atmosphere, believing it has no effect on anything; we'll continue ignoring our infrastructure, in order to give tax cuts to the rich; we'll continue demonizing government, safety regulations, planning, and the "liberal agenda"; and we'll never create a new WPA, no matter how needed or beneficial it would be.  

It's clear that Hurricane Harvey is just one of the many devastating rain events that we'll be dealing with again and again (these rain events have already increased in frequency, and they're going to be increasing even more soon).

It's also clear that these cataclysmic events are unstoppable... because of our lack of preparation, our creation of more and more evaporative fuel, and, most importantly, our post-event head-scratching - in other words, our collective inability to process information.

Above: The WPA was very proactive in its infrastructure work - it wasn't just about rescue and clean up, it was also about prevention. The flood walls you see above were built in Western Maryland, ca. 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Deal Tugboat Art (5/5): "Beginning of the Day"

Above: "Beginning of the Day," a drypoint on paper by Louis Lozowick (1892-1973), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1940. After his death, Lozowick's wife said, "He always did what he wanted to do. He didn't care about prevalent styles, nor about the market. He was doing abstractions when others were doing realist work, and when others were doing abstract things, he was doing realist pieces" ("The Urban Legacy of Louis Lozowick," New York Times, November 15, 1981). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Deal Tugboat Art (4/5): "Tugboats, Pier 17 East River"

Above: "Tugboats, Pier 17 East River," a photograph by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Abbott took this photograph while preparing for the 1939 book Changing New York, a work sponsored by the WPA's Federal Art Project. Photo courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Ackland Art Museum.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Deal Tugboat Art (3/5): "Tug Boat" by Max Kahn

Above: "Tug Boat," a crayon, brush, and tusche lithograph, by Max Kahn (1902-2005), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Max Kahn met his future wife Eleanor Coen (1916-2010) while the two were at the Art Institute of Chicago and also while they worked in the WPA. They married in 1942 and went on to become two of the world's most renown lithographers. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Monday, August 28, 2017

New Deal Tugboat Art (2/5): "Tug Boats" by Shizu Utsunomiya

Above: "Tug Boats," a watercolor by Shizu Utsunomiya, created while the artist was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1938. I didn't find any information on Utsunomiya on the Internet, however a December 3rd, 1939 edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper (Ogden, Utah) discussed an exhibit of art at the Utah Art Center in Salt Lake City, consisting of watercolor paintings and photographs, called "Scenes of San Francisco." One of Shizu Utsunomiya's paintings of San Francisco, "Cityscape," was part of the exhibit. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Deal Tugboat Art (1/5): "B-20, Tugboats in San Francisco Bay"

Above: "B-20, Tugboats in San Francisco Bay," a watercolor by Dong Kingman (1911-2000) created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1942. While studying art and improving his skills in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Kingman "worked at various jobs, from factory work to employment as a houseboy for a San Francisco family." The WPA offered Kingman one of his earliest opportunities to excel, and he went on to become a prolific artist. His work was eventually sought out by Hollywood and popular magazines (see Kingman's biography here). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thanks to trickle-down economics, senior citizens will now pay 700% more for a lifetime national park pass

Above: "Grand Canyon," an oil painting by George Peter (1859-1950), created while he was in one of the New Deal art programs, ca. 1933-1942. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Page Conservation, Inc.

Our plutocratic federal government, based on the principles of trickle-down economics, punches grandpa and grandma in the gut

This Monday, August 28, the cost of a senior citizen lifetime pass to our national parks will jump from $10 to $80 - a 700% increase. The fee increase will go towards our national parks' maintenance backlog which, as of 2015, was about twelve thousand million dollars.

We could increase taxes on the super-wealthy, create a new Civilian Conservation Corps and/or Works Progress Administration, and handle the maintenance backlog that way... but no, we'll just make grandpa and grandma pay more. And since fees are regressive, the less grandpa and grandma make, the higher percentage of their income we'll take! Yippee! That's some good ol' fashion plutocratic morality for ya! 

Of course, fee increases are not bad per se, but why did this park fee have have to go up so dramatically? Why not a more reasonable increase, for example, from $10 to $20 (that would still be a 100% increase)? 

The Culprit: Trickle-down economics.

Trickle-down economics, promoted or facilitated by Republicans, Libertarians, Tea Partiers, Corporate Democrats, and other conservatives, has a very simple philosophy: Transfer burdens, e.g., revenue and pollution costs, from the rich to the middle-class & poor. The rich, in turn (we are told), will then be free to use their magical investment powers to create an endless fountain of great jobs.

Above: WPA poster. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A short history of America's trickle-down con job... and the disastrous results

Trickle-down economics started, modestly, under JFK and his declaration that a rising tide lifts all boats. It then accelerated dramatically under Ronald Reagan, when he convinced millions of Americans that governments (i.e, We the People) are the problem, and private sector heroes (i.e., millionaires & billionaires) are the solution. The masses bought it, hook, line, and sinker. And so we looked on stupidly, as Reaganomics handed out gargantuan tax cuts to the people who needed them the least - and then we waited, like giddy schoolchildren, for the jobs to flow down upon us.

Not a whole lot happened though, unless you think credit card-based economic growth, tech-only jobs, and a ballooning national debt are wonderful things... so millions of Americans were told again, under the Bush Jr. administration, that, "Hey, you know what, we need another round of tax cuts for the rich; and then, their magical investments will... well... you know the rest!" And the American people bought it again, hook, line, and sinker.

And so here we are today, and what do we have to show for decades of trickle-down economics? Stagnant wages, outsourced jobs, worse jobs, a huge national debt, a colossal student loan debt, children drinking lead out of crumbling infrastructure & plumbing, more precarious retirements, mass incarceration, tax evasion & avoidance by the rich, and a never-ending series of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates being imposed on us, at the state & local level, so that now, "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families" ("Who Pays, 5th Edition," Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, January 2015). 

But the con job on the American people isn't over yet. Republicans are preparing us for yet another round of tax cuts for the rich, falsely marketed as tax cuts for "hard workin', God-fearin', American families - Hallelujah!!" Conservatives want top-marginal and capital gains taxes reduced, and they want the estate tax eliminated altogether. And when they do this, watch, yet again, as your sales taxes go up, your road & bridge tolls increase, your DMV fees double and triple (see my recent blog post, "West Virginia votes right-wing... and gets duly clobbered at the Department of Motor Vehicles (among other places)"), your police officers pull you over more often, and your water bill skyrockets.

And all the while, the super-wealthy, who are already enjoying record wealth, will rake in more, and more, and more. 

And the rich will, understandably, laugh at us, giggling to each other with wide eyes, "Oh my God, they just made their grandparents pay 700% more to get into the national parks, so we could have billions more to buy private islands, artwork, $15,000 outfits, and gold bathtubs! What a bunch of freakin' IDIOTS!"

Will the middle-class and poor be upset about being fleeced, and being made fun of again? Some will. But others will probably just keep chanting, "Trump, Trump, Trump!" And still others will throw up their hands in surrender and refuse to vote or get involved at all.

Will we ever learn, or are we destined to be the village idiots forever?

So, when will the people learn? Well, after throwing so much support behind two of the nation's most prominent plutocrats--Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump--and shunning Bernie Sanders' advocacy for more economic opportunity & fairness, the answer is, quite obviously, probably not for decades, and perhaps never.

You see, the wealthy--as well as their media, think tank, and political marionettes--have learned that all they have to do is cast a little "job creator" or "taxes are theft" bait out there, and millions will bite into it, completely unable to see that it will lead to their own financial demise (as it already has for so many).

And so now we have a situation where fixed-income grandpa and grandma have to pay 700% more for their park passes, so that the billionaire Koch brothers can pay less. Yes, that's the "wisdom" that guides America's public policy today.

But let's give credit where credit is due: Trickle-down tricksters have proven themselves to be master brain-washers. They market, fail to deliver, market again, fail to deliver, and still the people want more of their snake oil. Wow! Eat your heart out Jim Jones!

"There are two ways of viewing the Government's duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin promotes tax cuts for the rich, his wife brags about her $13,000 outfit, and millions of Americans can't afford diapers for their children. Welcome to plutocracy.

Above: These two girls are wearing clothes made on a WPA sewing project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ca. 1935-1943. Though the quality was perhaps not as good as Roland Mouret, Hermes, Tom Ford, and Valentino attire (see below), WPA clothes were well made and helped a lot of struggling, low-income families. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Tax cuts for the super-wealthy, rich braggarts, and the little people

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who made a bundle of money kicking middle and low-income Americans out of their homes during the recession years, was in Kentucky recently to push for more tax cuts for the rich, for example, himself. He's worth several hundred million dollars, but that just isn't enough - he wants more cash for himself and his super-wealthy friends.  

And while Mnuchin was contemplating the best way to secure himself a tax cut, his wife, Louise Linton, decided to give the world a little taste of how rich she is. During the trip, Linton, who was born into wealth and grew up in a castle, put a photo on Instagram showing her and her husband stepping down from a U.S. government plane. She was decked out in the latest fashions, and tagged her Instagram post to highlight her Roland Mouret pants, Tom Ford sunglasses, Hermes scarf, and Valentino heels (no mention of her blouse though... perhaps that was just Fruit of the Loom?). Her entire costume for the day was probably worth about $13,000.

When a woman criticized Linton's post, Linton got upset, reviewed the woman's Instagram account, and made sure the plebeian got a diamond-encrusted tongue-lashing. Linton wrote: "Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband?... I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day 'trip' than you did... You're adorably out of touch... Your kids look very cute. Your life looks cute... Sending me passive aggressive Instagram comments isn't going to make life feel better..."

I plugged Linton's comments into a translator I have (it translates silver spoon language to commoner language) and the translation came back as: "You don't get to talk to me like that, you low-income little sh&t! My purse costs as much as your house! My husband's socks have a better life than you! I'm wearing Valentino heels!!!"

But we shouldn't be too hard on Linton. After all, she only verbalized what most super-wealthy people are thinking anyway, which is, "I'm superior to you, and you're lucky to be on the same planet as me." And every once in a while, the contempt for the commoners accidentally spills out, for example, when Reese Witherspoon asked a police officer, during a traffic stop, "Do you know my name? You're about to find out who I am," or when Donald Trump said, "I just don't want a poor person" running the economy (which means, of course, anyone who isn't a multi-millionaire), or when Leona Helmsley famously said, "Only the little people pay taxes."

Above: A mother in New Orleans uses bathing skills taught by a WPA nurse to make sure her infant is thoroughly clean, ca. 1935-1943. During the New Deal, there was an intense effort to improve the lives of infants and children, through better hygiene, better medical care, better nutrition, and better clothing. Today, we've abandoned a lot of that, in favor of tax cuts for the 1% - so the 1% can have Hermes scarves and Valentino heels for every day of the month; anything less than that would be a tragedy. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Why do so many Americans have trouble affording diapers? Where are the job creators? Where are their charitable foundations? 

While all this snobbery and wealth-hoarding is going on among the 1%, millions of Americans are having a hard time buying enough diapers for their kids, thanks to all the pathetic jobs that the holy "JOB CREATORS" (like Trump and Mnuchin) have provided us since their last round of gargantuan tax cuts (see "Almost all the US jobs created since 2005 are temporary," Quartz, December 5, 2016), and also thanks to decades of Republican and neoliberal attacks on the social safety net (see, "Bad Jobs And No Welfare Give Rise To A New Type Of Charity: The Diaper Bank: A network of diaper banks now alleviates some of the suffering caused by the 1996 gutting of welfare," Huffington Post, August 20, 2017).

During the New Deal, WPA sewing room workers produced 29 million diapers for low-income families. Tax hikes on the rich helped pay for it. We could do the same today, of course (and more), but we won't because born-into-wealth brats need their Roland Mouret pants - like this pair for $1,365.00 (but don't worry... shipping is free!) - and also because millions of Americans let them get away with it, bowing in submission and mindlessly repeating the talking points they've been fed by the rich for decades: "taxes are theft," "other people's money," "we can't tax the job creators."  

Louise Linton eventually apologized for her comments, saying: "I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive." Fair enough; but it's not just her post that was inappropriate and highly insensitive - her entire lifestyle is inappropriate and highly insensitive, as are the lifestyles of all those like her. The super-wealthy are hoarding and flaunting wealth, while their investments are funding unnecessary mass incarceration and perpetual war. Their political bribes and tax evasion are causing children to drink leaded water through deteriorating infrastructure and plumbing. Their purposeful failure to create well-paying jobs (focusing instead on stock buybacks and vanity purchases) is fueling poverty, hatred, crime, racism, and higher rates of suicide. Their impotent charitable foundations fortify their god fantasies, but do little to mitigate the constant financial terror they impose on the middle-class & poor through usury, fraud, shipping jobs overseas, and blitzkriegs against the social safety net.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer recently said, "There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people... We're seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families'] future by really rich people."

Indeed. Welcome to plutocratic America... your life looks cute.