The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1088 — September 2 - 16, 2019

Federal Government Attacks the Unions

Sep 2, 2019

During the last week in August, FBI and IRS agents raided the home of current United Auto Workers (UAW) International Union President Gary Jones and the home of retired President Dennis Williams, along with other UAW locations.

These agencies gave the media just enough detail to paint a picture, rolled out over several days, of graft, and corruption. The media added flashy details – “money being counted in garages,” “pots of money!” and mixed it up with the Chrysler investigation from months ago – to make a spicy meatball.

Now, mind you, to date, there have been no charges, no indictments filed against either UAW President Jones or Williams. And there may or may not ever be. But clearly, the government had an interest to create a “guilty until proven innocent” situation.

Is it a coincidence that this was done with less than three weeks left before contract deadlines between the UAW and GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler? Not on your life. What better way to break down the union and demoralize the workers in front of a fight with the bosses?

Clearly, the U.S. government is eager to intervene in the affairs of the auto workers’ union. Perhaps they fear that the political and economic situation that workers find themselves in could lead to fights and strikes. Vicious attacks of the bosses are backing workers into a corner. There are many in the government who want to get rid of the unions completely.

When workers experience the daily insults of the work environment, all of the unfairness set up by concession contracts, and little success in mobilizing fights that lead to any, even small, victories, it really burns to hear about perks and privileges that do exist in the union, let alone allegations of real corruption and graft.

But thinking that these federal agencies are “the good guys,” believing that they have the workers’ interests in mind – now, that is a real mistake.

Past federal interventions in the unions have hurt the working class. Just over 20 years ago, Ron Carey was pulled out of the presidency of the Teamsters Union after leading a militant, successful strike of United Parcel Service (UPS) workers against the massive hiring of temps at lower wages and benefits. In a strategic move to prevent additional strike action in the hauling sectors of the Teamsters Union following the victory against UPS, the government challenged President Carey, blamed him for corruption that had occurred under the previous administration which was openly run by gangsters, and removed him from office.

Twenty-five years of federal oversight of the Teamsters Union led to the robbery and destruction of many Teamsters’ pensions. Even grander examples can be found in the labor records of the 1950s, when federal officials and representatives attacked and removed the most militant socialist and communist leadership from unions across the nation during the McCarthy witch hunt in purges that crippled the unions for decades.

This current activity of the federal agencies constitutes a real attack – against the unions, the only organizations the working class has today, and against the working class in general. These federal agencies represent the bosses, Wall Street, the capitalist class. Do we really think they want to “clean up” the unions for the workers?

Yes, of course there are problems in the union, first and foremost with the policies of partnership with the bosses. This is a real reason to be critical of leadership, and a real reason to challenge the direction of the union. Where has “partnership” gotten us but a race to the bottom; concession after concession; tiering that has torn the union apart?

But this is our problem to manage, and workers have the capacity to manage it. If we don’t do it for ourselves, it won’t get done.

We have to be strong enough to organize and straighten out our own union houses. What better time than now, and in time to focus our anger on our real enemies, the bosses!

Pages 2-3

Evicting the Elderly for Profit

Sep 2, 2019

Three elderly tenants living in Alameda, near San Francisco, are facing immediate eviction because their landlords want to charge more rent for their apartments.

One of the tenants, 87-year-old Holocaust survivor Musiy Rishin, said he began to get eviction notices from the landlords about a year ago, when his 57-year-old, terminally ill son Yaroslav lived with him. Not only were the landlords unfazed by this family’s tragedy, they even named Yaroslav in the lawsuit they filed after his death!

The rent for Mishin’s apartment, where he has lived for 17 years, is a whopping $3,200. As in other cities in the Bay Area and Southern California, rents in Alameda have soared beyond control in recent years – along with rampant homelessness, which has increased by 43 percent in Alameda in two years, according to the Alameda Renters Coalition.

One of the landlords, Margaret Tam, openly said the purpose of the eviction was “to get rid of Section 8,” the federal housing subsidy Rishin qualifies for, so that she can increase the rent even more.

I am not a monster,” said Tam, “... but I do want to make money when I am legally able to.”

Yes, it is in fact legal for a landlord to throw the sick and elderly out of their apartments, just to be able to increase an already exorbitant rent. It is the legality – and the morality – of the capitalist system, where profit trumps everything else, including human life.

The Difference between the Democrats and Republicans

Sep 2, 2019

Austin, Texas is estimated to have about 2,200 homeless adults.

The solution offered by the Democrat-controlled city government? Allow “public camping,” so homeless people can legally sleep on the street or in makeshift tent cities.

The Republican Party says this hurts business, and demands that Austin cops push homeless people out of downtown.

Of course, neither party has an answer for the causes of homelessness: unaffordable rents, low wages, lack of mental health care, and disappearing jobs. They’d rather limit the discussion to where on the streets the homeless can legally sleep!

Oklahoma Opioid Verdict:
Good for the Big Pushers

Sep 2, 2019

An Oklahoma judge fined Johnson & Johnson, the giant drug maker, 572 million dollars for its role in pushing highly addictive painkillers, known as opioids, on the state’s population.

As soon as the judge’s decision was announced, Johnson & Johnson stock went up – by 1.4 percent at the end of the day, on a day when the market itself went down. Stocks of other opioid companies went up as well.

That’s because the fine, 572 million dollars, amounts to only about two weeks of profits for Johnson & Johnson, which made more than 15 billion dollars in profit last year alone. And this fine is only a fraction of the 17 billion dollars the state of Oklahoma said would be required to deal with the consequences of the devastating opioid epidemic for decades to come.

In Oklahoma alone, about 6,000 people are known to have died from opioid overdoses since 2000. And the rate of addiction is increasing, along with the number of deaths. In the U.S. overall, 47,600 deaths were attributed to opioids in 2017, up from about 17,000 in 2000.

The judge, Thad Balkman, said that Johnson & Johnson and other companies intentionally misled doctors and other medical professionals to flood Oklahoma with more than 326 million opioid pills, or 110 pills for every adult in the state in 2015. He wrote that Johnson & Johnson had run “false and dangerous marketing campaigns, which caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths.”

But then, this same judge turned around and announced a fine which, he said, would allow Oklahoma to fight the opioid epidemic for just one year!

This is all we can expect from a court system that is at the beck and call of big capital.

The Rich Live 30 Years Longer

Sep 2, 2019

On average, people in richer neighborhoods can expect to live 20 or 30 years longer than their neighbors a few miles away, according to a new report from New York University.

In the Chicago lakefront neighborhood of Streeterville, residents live 90 years on average, whereas in Englewood, located only eight miles away, life expectancy is just 60 years. In Washington, D.C., New York City and New Orleans, the study also found gaps of more than 25 years in life expectancy between richer and poorer neighborhoods.

This stark gap in life expectancy is produced by class divisions and racism. Streeterville, which is mostly white, has a median income of nearly $100,000 a year, while Englewood, which is mostly black, has an average income of just $25,000 a year.

Starting in the 1980s, Englewood residents lost jobs at places like Sears and Nabisco, increasing unemployment. All the problems of poverty followed, including violence and poor health. Grocery stores closed, so that residents had to buy at corner stores, where the prices are high and there’s no fresh fruit or vegetables.

For decades, Englewood residents also suffered one of the highest rates of residential lead contamination, which is known to cause irreversible brain damage, especially in children.

By contrast, Streeterville has farmers’ markets, nice parks and safe streets.

Every city has neighborhoods with the same contrast. This is what it really means to live and die in a racist, class society like ours.

Big Pharma:
Pay or Die!

Sep 2, 2019

One of every three Americans puts off taking a medication due to cost, according to AARP. Drug prices have no cap on them at all, thanks to Congress backing their friends in Big Pharma. For example, diabetes drug prices have tripled between 2002 and 2013.

Another example: asthma is a chronic disease affecting 25 million people in the country, and one of every 12 children. Ten people a day die from asthma, a disease that makes it hard to breathe.

Ten years ago, the government changed regulations on propellants, an ingredient used with albuterol in the best-selling asthma medication, Advair, manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline. At the time, pharmaceutical companies said they could find another propellant, and that prices for asthma drugs would not increase very much. Today, a medication that sold for $15 a month ten years ago has been replaced by an asthma treatment for which some companies charge more than $600 a month.

Even though those with insurance pay much less than the rate charged to insurers, the cost of asthma medications to Medicare alone, not counting any other insurance programs, was more than four billion dollars a year. And those without insurance are just screwed.

A professor at an asthma center pointed out, “These inhaled steroids have been available since the mid-60s, and here we are 50 years later and there is no low-cost, generic steroid inhaler on the market. And it seems like a crime.”

Yes, it is a crime – a crime that Congress refuses legislation to put a cap on drug prices, and a crime that Big Pharma blows prices up on medicines people need every day – all for the sake of obscene profits!

The “Injustice System” at Work Again

Sep 2, 2019

Leon Haughton was returning home to Bowie, Maryland after visiting relatives in Jamaica. That’s when drug-sniffing dogs at BWI airport supposedly “identified” three bottles in his luggage as containing drugs. An initial field test indicated that the bottles contained methamphetamines. Only one problem – the three bottles actually contained honey!

But there was nothing sweet about what happened to Haughton. Police took him immediately to a detention center. It took a whole 20 days for a lab to finally confirm that the bottles weren’t drugs. Then due to bureaucratic “hurdles,” he was forced to wait another 62 days before they finally released him, after 82 days. No surprise that he lost his two jobs, as a cleaner and a construction worker.

Haughton said to reporters, “I just want the world to know that the system is not right.”

Pages 4-5

Amazon Forest Fires and Our Survival

Sep 2, 2019

Nearly 40,000 fires are incinerating Brazil's Amazon rainforest. These fires have already charred approximately one million acres of the rainforest only this year. Because of such fires over the past twenty years 12 percent, or about 93 million acres, of Amazonian forest has disappeared.

Almost all the Amazon fires result from human actions, either on purpose or by accident, according to the scientists tracking these fires. This deforestation is largely due to land clearing for agricultural purposes, particularly cattle-ranching but also soybean production. Since big farmers need a massive amount of land for grazing and farming, they continuously clear forests to expand the pastureland for their cattle and crops.

Agriculture has been the strongest performing business sector of Brazil’s economy in recent years. In addition to cattle-ranching, soybean exports, particularly to China, play a crucial role in this modernized and mechanized agribusiness. Because of the U.S.-China trade war, China raised tariffs for U.S. soybeans. That gave Brazil incentive to further increase the level of its soybean growth, which could make it the world’s biggest soybean exporter, surpassing the U.S. In turn, this increasing soybean demand has created additional pressure to rapidly clear forests and plants.

When criticized for allowing such profit-driven charring of forests, Brazil’s president Bolsonaro said, “The Amazon is ours,” and added, “No country in the world has the moral right to talk about the Amazon. You destroyed your own ecosystems.”

Bolsonaro’s narrow-minded blurt is not an excuse to consciously and intentionally destroy the Amazon for profit. But, such destruction is not limited to the Amazon rainforests. Last year, the world lost about 30 million acres of tree cover, including 8.9 million acres of primary rain forest, an area the size of Belgium, according to data from the University of Maryland. Once agribusinesses clear the forest land by torching, the mining of the underground resources becomes another target, further fueling the destruction of forests.

Such a narrow, self-centered and greedy mindset, agreed among and propagated by the corporations and their defenders like the Bolsonaros of this world, provides further fuel and provides an incentive for destroying the world’s natural resources, on which our survival depends.

The Amazon is called the ‘lungs of the world’ because it produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. If these lungs stop functioning, we are dead. Thus, the Amazon belongs to the world and its working people, not to only one country or solely to the rich.

El Salvador:
Woman Put in Jail for Miscarriage

Sep 2, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Evelyn Hernandez of El Salvador was charged with homicide after her baby was stillborn. Under the laws criminalizing abortion in El Salvador, she faced 40 years in prison.

She was finally acquitted on August 19. One hundred women came to support her and chanted, “Attention, the feminist struggle is on the move in Latin America!”

The country's laws and officials are among the most repressive in Central America against abortion. Since 1998, abortion is illegal under all circumstances and punishable by two to eight years in prison. Judges often charge women with aggravated homicide and sentence them to 30 or even 50 years in prison. Women who miscarry are accused of aborting, especially in the working class.

Evelyn Hernandez was raped by a gang at age 17 and didn't even know she was pregnant until she lost her fetus in a bathroom in 2016. She was sentenced to 30 years and held behind bars for 33 months before El Salvador's Supreme Court overturned her conviction in February.

The public prosecutor charged her again, demanding 40 years in prison. But thanks to the mobilization of people in her support, he lost.

Oil Industry Profits Trump the Climate

Sep 2, 2019

On August 29, the Trump administration announced plans to end the requirement that oil and gas companies track and fix methane leaks from their operations.

Methane is the second most important “greenhouse gas” contributing to climate change, after carbon dioxide. While human activity releases much less methane into the atmosphere, methane has 80 times the heat trapping power of carbon dioxide over a twenty-year period. And a large share of the methane released in the U.S. comes from the oil and gas industry. The rollback of this rule threatens to increase the emission of methane, and the warming of the planet.

In fact, this rule change was backed only by the smaller oil and natural gas producers. For them, putting in the necessary machinery can be a big expense. But for the industry as a whole, the cost is tiny – the Trump EPA estimates that this rollback will save the oil and natural gas industries about 17 to 19 million dollars a year – or about one one-hundredth of one percent of oil industry income in the U.S. alone.

The big oil companies, including Exxon- Mobil, Shell, and BP, actually oppose Trump’s rollback and favor limited methane regulation. This is because they are trying to sell natural gas – the essential component of which is methane – as a “green” energy source. They fear that Trump’s rollback will undercut their attempts to “green-wash” their product.

Because of its low cost, natural gas has been replacing coal for the production of electricity in the U.S. for years, to the point that it is now the largest electricity source in the country. Burning natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide as coal, but it’s not an answer to global warming. According to a 2012 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, if the U.S. continues to switch its electricity production largely from coal to natural gas, carbon emissions from electricity production in the U.S. will barely change at all – from 2,036 million metric tons in 2012, to 1,972 by 2050. And on top of that, even with the old regulations in place, natural gas production and distribution still leaks a significant amount of methane.

So even if these regulations are restored – either by the courts or by the next Democratic administration – they will only serve to help the big oil companies retain control over U.S. energy production, and continue to emit gases that will heat up the planet!

The climate already appears to be at a crisis point, with the hottest June and July on record, enormous melting in the Arctic, floods in many places and drying out of farmland in others, bigger storms, and a rising sea level.

In any rational society, we would collectively decide how to change our production of energy to limit the effects of this looming catastrophe, starting right now. But under capitalism, humanity’s future is held hostage to the competing interests of different oil companies.

Mediterranean Migrants:
Murderous Policies of the European Governments

Sep 2, 2019

This article is translated from the August 23rd edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Fight), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France. It illustrates how the crisis of migrants fleeing Central America to come to the U.S. is part of a broader crisis of refugees fleeing the increasingly unlivable situations imperialism has created in poor countries across the world, and how brutal anti-immigrant politics are growing throughout the rich countries.

On August 20, Italian courts finally forced the government to allow 107 migrants to leave the boat Open Arms, where they had been detained for 19 days at the Italian island of Lampedusa. Another boat operated by a non-profit, Ocean Viking, is itself still being kept at sea. Designed to hold 200 people, it has taken on 356, and their conditions are more and more precarious.

The far-right Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, banned the Open Arms from access to Italian territorial waters. Despite an original decision by an Italian judge overturning that order, Salvini maintained the ban. So far, the Open Arms has only managed to land 27 unaccompanied children, but more than 100 people remain stuck on board, with just two toilets and less than 2,000 square feet in total. The situation is getting out of control, with desperate migrants jumping in the water to try to swim to the island.

Perhaps Salvini’s demand for an agreement dividing the migrants among the different European countries will in the end be met. But this demagogue uses the question of migrants like a stepping stone to get into power. For him, the affair of the Open Arms is just an opportunity to cynically double down on his anti-immigrant stance.

The other European governments are just as responsible as Italy. Spain started by refusing the Open Arms the right to land on its shores and rejected a demand to give asylum to 31 underage migrants. It finally agreed to open one port. But the spokesperson for the ship announced: “We cannot go to the Spanish port because we are in an extreme humanitarian state of emergency. It is impossible for us to navigate for six days, the time it would take for us to get to Algesiras.” France agreed to welcome 40 migrants from the Open Arms, but it avoided a decision about those on the Ocean Viking and banned access to its ports.

The ships of these non-profits are the only ones right now offering aid to the migrants who risk drowning in the Mediterranean. According to the U.N., 2,262 people died just in 2018. The European Union has stopped all aid operations and contents itself with signaling the presence of migrants preparing to leave to the Libyan coast guard, which takes them to camps where they are tortured and enslaved. At the same time that it demanded Italy allow the landing of the people on the Open Arms, the Italian court ordered the seizure of the ship itself. One more non-profit boat driven from its humanitarian patrols from now on.

Far from being the social and cultural model that it pretends to be, the European Union shows an increasingly inhuman face.

Pages 6-7

David Koch:
The Poisonous Measure of Modern American Capitalism

Sep 2, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of Aug. 26, 2019.

“One of the world’s richest people,” “a socially prominent patron of the arts,” and “the man who reshaped American politics” – these were just some of the terms used to describe David Koch, who died last week.

In fact, he is the very measure of what American capitalism is today.

Like most of his class, he and his three brothers inherited wealth. Their father, Fred Koch, made his first money in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. He ran oil refineries in Nazi Germany and the Middle East during the Great Depression and World War II. He passed a company worth the equivalent of six billion dollars on to his sons.

David Koch, along with his brother Charles, used the enormous profits rolling in from oil refining to move into other industries: chemicals, pipelines, fertilizers, cattle, lumber, consumer goods, paper products, textiles, auto parts. The total income of the Koch Industries conglomerate is larger than the combined incomes of Facebook, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Steel. It has production facilities in 60 countries, and 100,000 workers around the world – most, extremely low paid.

Exploitation of labor around the world – this is what made David Koch one of the “world’s richest people.”

“Patron of the arts”? Yes, his name is engraved on the facade of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and at the Metropolitan Museum. He paid to have it put there.

His wealth also carved his name into the stones of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as well as the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

That his name is on these two institutions dedicated to science is the biggest irony of all.

David Koch and his brother Charles used their enormous wealth to carry out a concerted attack on one of the most important findings of modern science: the fact that the earth is measurably warming, and that this climate change, which endangers all of humanity, is tied to human activity, specifically to the release of carbon into the atmosphere.

The very center of the Koch brothers’ economic empire, the oil industry, is among those most responsible for spewing out carbon.

For four decades, while the earth continued to heat up, while carbon emissions continued to pollute the atmosphere, while polar ice caps retreated and glaciers disappeared, and while weather became more violent, the Koch brothers used their wealth coming from oil profits to obscure the findings of science on climate change.

The Koch brothers may have been more brazen in using wealth to further their own narrow interests. But they could do it with impunity because their whole class acts the same way. Every capitalist pushes his specific interests at the expense of all of humanity. The Rockefellers did it, so did the Morgans, so did the duPonts, so did the Fords ... and so did all the others.

To put the needs of this earth and of humanity first, we have to have clear goals. It’s not enough to expose one venal capitalist, not enough to dump one self-serving politician. They’ll only be replaced by others like themselves – or even worse. It’s necessary to replace the capitalist system with a society that the working class has the capacity to build.

The goal of working people has to be to take over the whole economy: to reorganize production together. Working people can organize a society that meets everyone’s needs and protects our planet by getting rid of the waste endemic to capitalism.

Working people, because we sit in the very heart of the economy, doing the work necessary to make it run, have the possibility to build a collective society – one where special interests will be considered a relic of a past barbaric age, one where our decisions can be based on the most advanced findings of a truly dispassionate science.

JUUL, the Latest Addiction

Sep 2, 2019

A Congressional committee is investigating JUUL and similar products, the e-cigarettes accused of getting kids hooked on smoking.

These products are small, only the size of a USB; they produce no smoke; they contain nicotine; they come in fruity flavors. In other words, JUUL and others like it are perfect for teens who want to pretend to parents that they are not smoking when they are.

The makers of JUUL claimed the product would “improve the lives of a billion adults who would no longer smoke cigarettes.” But if people use JUUL, they take nicotine into their lungs. With every puff, they take in a poison that has helped kill millions who smoked cigarettes.

Can we expect Congress to do anything? Not if history tells us anything. Big Tobacco companies paid millions of dollars every year for decades in order to lobby politicians and successfully avoid regulations addressing the dangers of smoking.

Now Philip Morris, a cigarette manufacturer for 150 years, has an answer for Congress. Is JUUL like cigarettes? Yes. Is it likely to addict people? Yes. Is it going to make money for tobacco companies? Yes.

How do we know? Philip Morris just bought one third of JUUL’s stock.

Semi-Truck Vehicle Fees and Raggedy Roads

Sep 2, 2019

Do Michigan Secretary of State vehicle registration fees go toward fixing crumbling roads? Not nearly enough.

A series in the Detroit Free Press brought to light a Michigan law passed in 1988 that directs millions of dollars away from road repair and toward the Michigan Trucking Association, a lobbying group.

A nonprofit agency called the Michigan Center for Truck Safety – housed INSIDE the trucking lobby building and sharing employees with the lobbyists – gets millions in state grant money!

Is it any wonder the roads are in such bad shape?

Page 8

Founded on Slavery

Sep 2, 2019

Four hundred years ago in 1619, the first African slaves were brought to Virginia. For the next 246 years, enslaved people lived through a nightmare of torture, rape, and dehumanization. These enslaved people did the work to make this a rich country, in both the North and the South.

They cleared forests and swamps in the South to make room for farms, and built homes, tools, wagons, and everything else needed for the plantation economy. Most of all, they grew the crops that made this country rich.

Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina developed as colonies based on the production of tobacco. Most people did not grow tobacco – but tobacco was the main commodity these colonies sold abroad. It’s what made their rich people rich, and it is what allowed the colonies to import the necessary items they could not make themselves. From 1619 on, that tobacco was increasingly grown by enslaved people brought from Africa, and their descendants.

Sugar was the most valuable product grown by slaves in the early years. Not very much sugar was produced in this country, but South Carolina and Georgia grew rich in their early years by growing rice to feed the slaves who were growing sugar cane on islands in the Caribbean like Jamaica. Not only did slaves grow the rice, they had brought the knowledge of how to do so with them from Africa.

The industrial revolution started in England in the late 1700s and accelerated through the 1800s. It was based on producing cloth made from cotton. This cotton was grown by enslaved people in the Southern states of the U.S.

Slave children were ripped from their mothers in the old slave states and sold south, to work on cotton plantations in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The Virginia and Maryland slave owners got even richer from selling human beings. The cotton plantation owners got rich from the cotton enslaved people grew.

Northerners got rich off slavery too. They operated slave ships. Their banking system loaned money to the plantation economy, and made interest. They sold insurance on slaves – not life insurance, for people’s loved ones, but insurance for a person’s “owner” to get paid if that person died!

On top of that, for this country’s first 80 years, the federal government was largely funded by tariffs on foreign trade, driven by trade in goods slaves produced.

Slavery was the beating heart of U.S. capitalist development in its first centuries.

But there is another side of the story. Enslaved people fought back in many ways, ultimately playing a big role in overthrowing slavery. They helped turn the Civil War into a revolution, when almost 200,000 black people fought for the North. This tradition of fighting back remains a great resource for the working class when we fight to overthrow this capitalist system that was born out of slavery.

DeVos Attacks Education for Workers Yet Again

Sep 2, 2019

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, announced a new policy to make it harder for students who were defrauded by for-profit schools to have their student loan debts forgiven. In so doing, DeVos is overturning an Obama-era policy.

DeVos’ new policy forces students to prove their colleges intentionally deceived them “with reckless disregard for the truth” and that the student relied on their claims when deciding to enroll at the school. They would have to show that the school’s deception harmed them financially, and must make a claim within three years. There previously was no time-limit on submitting claims.

The students who attend these types of schools, rather than more established colleges and universities, most often come from working class backgrounds. This policy is an attack on them and favors the banks and other lenders working hand-in-hand with these schools.

Of course, attacks on poor and working class students’ access to higher education didn’t start with Trump or DeVos. College tuition costs have skyrocketed in recent decades, quadrupling over and above the pace of overall inflation. Education for poor and working class students at the lower grades has also been eroded by the growth of charter schools, making it more difficult for them to attend more established colleges and universities.

The politicians of both parties have accepted and participated in the attacks that have created the current situation. DeVos’ policies are just one more nail in the coffin.

Stealing Food from Kids and Grandparents

Sep 2, 2019

A 79-year-old Baltimore resident wondered why the federal government would “have the audacity to take our food” and put children in jeopardy. Indeed!

What used to be called food stamps, now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), faces new cuts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to cut three million kids and seniors off food stamps.

A proposed rule change will hit kids the hardest. Currently, family eligibility for SNAP plays a role in student eligibility for free school lunches. The two federal programs – food stamps and school lunches – are automatically linked. The USDA wants separate applications – more red tape!

Right now, poverty is so bad at some schools that 40 to 60 percent of kids get food stamps at home. Currently, in these situations, the school district is informed. The school can then get free breakfast AND lunch for every kid at the school. When nutrition is better, kids have a fighting chance to learn!

The USDA calculates this rule change will mean half a million school children will be cut from the free lunch program. They estimate two billion dollars in “savings!”

This country’s wealthiest – who likely never missed a meal – benefitted from 1.5 trillion dollars in federal tax cuts since 2017. THEIR government wants to pay for THAT by stealing food from kids and the elderly. This truly turns the stomach!