Our society is in a state of constant surveillance. While this may help solve crimes, it interferes with the privacy of individuals. Businesses are hiring private security forces to monitor the public, especially the poor. It can be crazy-making not to know when and if one is being watched.
Can a civilized nation accept the draconian cutbacks being proposed by the U.S. Congress at this very moment? Can anyone with a spark of humanity support a budget that allows the most destitute to die on the streets all over the nation, rather than helping them?
Many nonprofit service providers are working to alleviate the ever-worsening symptoms of poverty by meeting the needs for shelter, food and services. But very few go the extra mile to stand up in defense of the human rights of the poor, or to take part in protests against structural injustice.
I have a close relative who is losing all of his teeth because of the lack of available dentistry under Medi-Cal (with the exception of extractions). The policy of not covering dental was first enacted under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and now is the responsibility of Gov. Jerry Brown.
My relative is risking his health in order to retain one tooth — the last one he can use to chew food. A new lower class is being created before our eyes, one based on the ability to identify Medi-Cal recipients through their lack of teeth.
When one of the Suitcase Clinic speakers asked all those who opposed the anti-sitting law to stand up, virtually everyone in the council chambers stood up, making a very strong statement to the City Council. It had been my hope that the homeless people and street youth who actually sit on the sidewalks would have a chance to speak, but sadly they were denied.
Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that Ryan’s plan “would get about two-thirds of its more than $4 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years from programs that help people of limited means ...” The proposed cuts to Medicaid alone would harm states, individuals and health care providers and could cost nearly two million private-sector jobs, according to Ethan Pollack of the Economic Policy Institute.
Economist Dean Baker summed up the Ryan plan eloquently as “government by people who hate you.”
This impassioned cry for justice was made by Servant Brian K. Woodson at a tax day rally at the Federal Building in Oakland organized by the American Friends Service Committee as part of the April 12 Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Woodson is pastor of the Bay Area Christian Connection, an Oakland church with a women’s treatment program and a food program that this year has distributed over 453,000 pounds of food to inner-city residents.
Nearly every homeless organization in Berkeley is now united in opposition to the sitting ban before it has even been introduced at the City Council. Already, some council members that the business associations had boasted were already in the bag are evidently having second thoughts about supporting the ban.
They call them “public libraries” for a reason. In an increasingly corporatized world, public space is growing scarcer. Shopping centers have collaborated to form “business improvement districts” where “outsiders” are monitored and curtailed, often by private security forces.
Also, laws such as the sit-lie ordinance, approved by San Francisco voters in November, place further limits on where homeless people may assemble peaceably.
But before Berkeley sends another potentially pointless anti-poor ordinance through the courts, it makes sense to institute a retail vacancy fee on landlords who keep storefront locations empty for years, refusing to acknowledge the recession’s effect on merchants, generally, and the effect of empty storefronts, specifically, on a struggling commercial area.
In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of Americans earned about 9 percent of the nation’s income. By the start of the Great Recession, the rich were getting more than 23 percent of total income. Yet real income for the rest of us has remained stagnant, and the number of Americans in poverty is rising.
Congress and President Obama should join forces to put America back to work, even if investments in education and infrastructure cause short-term deficits. Money in the wallets of low-income and working-class people is the best recipe for raising demand and producing economic growth.