Congress stepped up for food insecure people in this pandemic, boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds by 15%. But that still left hungry people in 41% of U.S. counties where SNAP benefits fall short in covering the cost of meals by nearly 50 cents per meal. The boost to the program from the COVID-19 relief bills expires on Sept. 30, when the nation presumably goes back to the status quo pre-pandemic and when the maximum benefit in SNAP will fall short of low-income meal costs in 96% of counties. That’s what a new analysis from the Urban Institute finds.
The average cost of a low-income meal, the Urban Institute estimates, is $2.41. The maximum SNAP benefit per meal is $1.97. Nationally, they find, “the maximum SNAP benefit fell short of meeting monthly low-income meal costs by $39.99 per person. Among the 10 percent of counties with the highest average meal costs, the monthly shortfall is $69.75 per person.” That’s before the pandemic boost—the status quo that we’ll return to in five weeks.
“Our findings show the maximum SNAP benefit still leaves a gap in covering the cost of food for many families with low-incomes,” Elaine Waxman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said in prepared remarks. “About 4 in 10 households receiving SNAP have zero net income—if SNAP does not cover the cost of a meal, people in such households will be at high risk of experiencing food insecurity. Additional consideration of the geographic variation in food prices when setting SNAP benefit levels is critical to the health and well-being of the most vulnerable communities.” SNAP benefits are the same across the mainland U.S., whether in New York or Huntsville, Alabama—the least expensive place to live in the U.S.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 12, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP
Texas House Democrats fled the state on Monday to block Republicans from passing a sweeping voter suppression bill and traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby their congressional counterparts to pass federal legislation protecting voting rights. “We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” Texas Democratic leaders said in a statement. “We need Congress to act now…to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”
Now they want the White House to act with the same urgency.
In a speech on Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris called voting rights “the fight of our lifetime.” President Biden plans to deliver a major speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday denouncing GOP efforts to make it harder to vote, which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.”
Yet voting rights advocates say the White House’s rhetoric about the existential threat to democracy has not been matched by action to solve the problem. Biden, they complain, has been much more engaged in trying to pass an infrastructure plan than in trying to persuade Senate Democrats to pass the For the People Act, the sweeping voting rights measure that was blocked by a GOP filibuster last month.
“Freedom is not free,” goes the old bumper sticker slogan, commonly accompanied by an image of a flag or soldiers or some other bullshit.
Freedom is not free, the saying goes, because military personnel are out there laying their lives on the line fighting for your right to do as you’re told and toil away at a meaningless job making some rich asshole even richer.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all just so much freer after murdering families on the other side of the planet for corporate profits and geostrategic domination.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all so much freer after teenagers get thrown into the gears of the imperial war machine to provide a good quarterly statement for Raytheon shareholders.
Freedom is not free, because this thing we’re calling “freedom” has been paid for with the blood, lives and limbs of millions of innocents throughout the Global South.
Freedom is not free. That’s why the only people doing as they please in our world are wealthy oligarchs.
Freedom is not free. And unless you’re wealthy enough or psychopathic enough there’s no way you’ll ever find a way to pay the price.
Freedom is not free. That’s why you don’t have any.
“Democracy versus autocracy is the battle of our time,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.
Beginning with a “massive national call-in to every U.S. senator,” the Poor People’s Campaign on Monday launched a monthlong campaign to push Congress to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster, pass the For the People Act, restore the gutted Voting Rights Act, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour—progressive goals that have been thwarted by a combination of Republican obstructionism and Democratic acquiescence.
“Democracy versus autocracy is the battle of our time,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said Monday during an address that kicked off a “season of nonviolent moral direct action to save our democracy.”
“We must engage and escalate the nonviolent moral struggle and direct action for a Third Reconstruction,” Barber said, calling for the reinvigoration of an egalitarian movement to secure liberty and justice for all by building a true political democracy as well as a social and economic democracy that benefits and empowers the nation’s vast working-class majority.
The Trump Organization and the Trump Org CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were formally indicted in Manhattan on Thursday for a variety of crimes, including a 15-year record of tax and financial crimes. Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, predicts that this is just the “tip of the iceberg”, and that many more indictments are to come, including Michael Calamari, the Trump kids and even The Former Guy himself.
Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Organization, vented to reporters outside a Manhattan courthouse about the charges brought against the Trump family business on Thursday. The company was charged with fraud and tax crimes as part of what District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s office says was a 15-year-long arrangement to compensate Allen Weisselberg off the books. Weisselberg, the company’s chief financial officer, was also charged. Prosecutors say he avoided paying taxes on $1.7 million in perks. Both the Trump Organization and Weisselberg pleaded not guilty.
Outside the courthouse, Futerfas suggested the charges are politically motivated and are designed to harm former president Donald Trump.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber delivered an assessment for the Trump Organization on the potential ramification of the charges against CFO Allen Weisselberg.
The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer pleaded not guilty on Thursday after he and the company were indicted for grand larceny, falsifying business records, and a conspiracy of tax fraud. Melber joined Ayman Mohyeldin for analysis as the news was breaking, and his takeaway was “they have thrown the kitchen sink at the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg.”
“This is very bad news for the Trump Organization because the DA’s taken an aggressive tact, indicting the entire Trump Organization in reference to the payroll company and others,” Melber continued. “If you were the company hoping to pin this on the employee or get out of it as far as the DA is concerned, game over there. They’re going after the whole company. That ensures Donald Trump and others will be drawn out to fight this.”
Melber went on to catalogue the full list of charges against the Trump Organization from a 15 year period. He also noted that the indictment references an “unindicted co-conspirator number one” who facilitated Weisselberg to carry on his alleged tax fraud scheme.
“Who is unindicted co-conspirator one?” Melber asked. “Many people would like to know.”
Possible charges against the Trump Organization could reportedly be announced in just a matter of days.
On Friday, The New York Times reported that the Manhattan district attorney’s office informed former President Donald Trump’s lawyers it’s considering criminal charges against his business, the Trump Organization, related to “fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive,” Allen Weisselberg.
“If the case moves ahead,” the Times writes, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could announce the charges “as soon as next week.”
Vance has been probing the former president’s business dealings, though these would be the first charges to be brought in the case. The Times previously reported that prosecutors were examining Trump for having handed out “valuable benefits to some of his executives and whether taxes were paid on those perks,” which included school tuition, apartment rent, and car leases.
The Times reports that Trump’s lawyers met with prosecutors Thursday hoping to convince them not to charge the company, though it reportedly isn’t clear whether a final decision about whether to do so has been made. Lawyers, though, told the Times that indicting a company for not paying taxes on fringe benefits would be “highly unusual.”
Former Minneapolis police officer and convicted murderer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 270 months, or 22.5 years in prison.
In April, Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Earlier Friday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill heard impact statements from Floyd’s family, including his seven-year-old daughter, who gave a heartbreaking statement about how much she misses her dad.
“I ask about him all the time,” Gianna said via video. “I want to play with him, have fun, go on a plane ride.”
Cahill also heard from Chauvin’s mother, who did not speak at all about Floyd or his family’s grief, but tried to paint her son as being a victim of a false media narrative, as well as from Chauvin’s attorney, who urged the judge not to be swayed by “public opinion.”
When Cahill issued Chauvin’s sentence, he insisted he wasn’t being influenced by public opinion or by emotion, but by the law. And while the 22.5-year sentence is more than the state’s sentencing guidelines for offenders without prior felony convictions and also “one of the longest a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force,” according to MN Attorney General Keith Ellison, it is far less than the 30 years prosecutors and Floyd’s family were pushing for.
Even for those generally opposed to America’s overly severe prison sentences, the double standard in the judicial system is on full display here, and completely infuriating.
The World Socialist Web Site calls on Volvo workers and all autoworkers to come to the support of the nearly 3,000 striking Volvo Trucks workers at the New River Valley (NRV) plant in Dublin, Virginia.
The Volvo workers have been on strike now for more than 10 days, following their overwhelming rejection, by 90 percent, of a second tentative agreement brought back by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The workers are demanding a significant increase in wages to make up for previous concessions, a cost-of-living escalator clause to meet the soaring cost of consumer goods, an end to the multitier wage and benefit system, the preservation of the eight-hour day, and full health care for current workers and retirees.
The Volvo workers at NRV face a war on two fronts. First, they are waging a battle against a multinational corporation with more than $50 billion in annual revenue and more than $4 billion in annual profits. Volvo management, with the support of the entire capitalist state, is determined to intensify the exploitation of workers to pay for the billions of dollars it is handing out to its major shareholders.
Following Sunday’s massive repudiation of the second sellout contract negotiated by the pro-corporate United Auto Workers, 3,000 workers at the Volvo Truck North America’s New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Virginia, are back on the picket line. Inasmuch as the struggle of the Volvo truck workers has been scarcely reported on in the national media and all but ignored in the publications of the middle-class pseudo-left organizations, it is necessary to provide a concise review of the events leading up to Sunday’s vote.
The UAW’s betrayal
Volvo workers originally went out on strike on April 17, determined to reverse the concessions that had been granted by the UAW to the Sweden-based transnational corporation over the last three contracts. Two weeks later, on April 30, the union bureaucracy announced that a settlement had been reached and ended the strike, without workers either seeing or voting on the contract.
Autoworkers: Form Rank-and-File Solidarity Committees to Break the Isolation of the Strike at Volvo Trucks!
The World Socialist Web Site calls for all Volvo workers and autoworkers to form rank-and-file solidarity committees to break the isolation of the ongoing strike at Volvo Trucks in Dublin, Virginia. These committees should prepare protests, slowdowns and other solidarity actions up to and including the shutdown of Volvo and the entire auto and truck manufacturing industry.
Stellantis workers in Detroit support striking Volvo workers (WSWS Media)
The nearly 3,000 workers at Volvo’s New River Valley (NRV) assembly plant are in the third week of their second walkout this year. Workers have rebelled against two attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to force through a concessionary contract, rejecting both deals by an overwhelming 90-91 percent.
The Volvo workers have taken a heroic stand for the entire working class. They are fighting to reverse the pattern of endless givebacks and concessions, the establishment of multiple tiers, ten-hour workdays, and the attack on the health care of workers and retirees. They are demanding significant pay raises and a cost-of-living escalator clause to meet the soaring cost of consumer goods.
An Open Letter to UAW International President Rory Gamble, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry and UAW Local 2069 President Matt Blondino
June 14, 2021
To Rory Gamble, Ray Curry and Matt Blondino:
On Monday, June 7, the UAW International called us, the workers of the Volvo Trucks New River Valley plant, out on strike for the second time in two months. The strike followed our rejection of the second tentative agreement with Volvo that you brought back for a vote. We rejected both the first and second tentative agreements by an overwhelming margin—90 to 91 percent.
We have now been on the picket lines for one week, but you have not told rank-and-file workers what the union is fighting for, how the next agreement will differ from the previous two and how the UAW intends to win this strike.
A decades-old pipeline called Line 3, run by the Canadian company Enbridge, is in the midst of a controversial upgrade sparking fierce resistance from Indigenous communities living along the route. Line 3 is being replaced in order to enable the transport of nearly 800,000 barrels of dirty tar sands crude oil per day from Calgary, Canada, to Wisconsin. The majority of the pipeline cuts across northern Minnesota through the heart of lands where the Anishinaabe people have treaty rights to hunt, fish and harvest wild rice and maple syrup.
Indigenous leaders, embodying the spirit of Standing Rock five years ago, have been resisting the Line 3 replacement project and are now calling on all Americans, including those who are not Indigenous, to join them for what is being called a “Treaty People Gathering” from June 5 through 8 to demand an end to the project. One of them is Nancy Beaulieu, co-founder of the Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engaging (RISE) Coalition, and the northern Minnesota organizer for 350.org. Beaulieu explained to me in an interview that, “as Indigenous people, we have the inherent responsibility to protect the waters and all that is sacred. And as settlers—people who signed those treaties with our ancestors—they have an obligation to uphold those treaties.” In other words,“everyone has a responsibility to the treaties” signed with tribal nations.
Non-Indigenous Americans have largely forgotten not only that we have treaty obligations, but also that we live in a nation with a bloody history of settler colonialism. Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum demonstrated that ignorance in his tone-deaf comments on CNN—which later got him fired—when he said, “We birthed a nation from nothing. Yes, there were Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
Demonstrators hold up signs as the Declaration for American Democracy coalition hosts a rally calling on the Senate to pass the For the People Act, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 9, 2021. | Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call via AP
WASHINGTON—It is no surprise that despite a spate of endorsements and a rally of backers Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the Senate sponsor of the For The People Act expects it’ll hit a Republican rock in a Senate vote to bring it up for debate.
Democratic President Joe Biden calls the For The People Act (S1/HR1) the most vital legislation of his presidency, in terms of preserving democracy in the U.S. But in another repeat of the GOP’s all-out assault on freedom, voting rights, and the U.S. Constitution, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky plans to have his entire caucus block it. That will be enough to block a vote from taking place Tuesday but will do nothing to prevent a firestorm of protest to spread across the country in what will be an epic battle to preserve democracy.
Labor and all of its allies, often led by groups like Indivisible, will make July a month of misery for cowardly Republicans who, afraid to separate themselves from Donald Trump and the Big Lie, and now afraid to buck McConnell in his attack on voting rights, will have to face the people they represent during the July Senate break.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, admitting it will be tough, says he is determined to use the power of the Justice Department to fight for the voting rights of the American people. Drew Angerer/Associated Press
WASHINGTON (PAI)—Not waiting for the Republican-clogged U.S. Senate to act, the Democratic Biden administration’s Justice Department will step up voting rights enforcement, big time. And it’ll concentrate its resources—and its lawyers’ talents–on states like Florida and Texas that are the biggest threats to voters, especially voters of color but also working-class voters in general.
And organized labor, led by the AFL-CIO, and 86 other unions, civil rights, and civic groups, all organized by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, is cheering Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, on.
“Barriers to the ballot box are antithetical to our democracy and must be torn down,” they declared.
Garland’s June 11 speech came as the Senate prepares to vote on the For The People Act (HR1/S1), and as progressive groups, including the Poor People’s Campaign and Our Revolution—the Bernie Sanders supporters—step up their lobbying for it. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to bring it to the floor the week of June 21, even without the votes to pass it.
And he doesn’t have them. In the 50-50 Senate, GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has united almost his entire caucus against it. And Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., the most conservative Senate Democrat has proposed a stripped-down alternative which, he hopes, will bring along the ten Republicans needed to halt the GOP filibuster.