The share of renters who pay more than 30 percent of what they make on housing, or what the study labels “cost-burdened,” rose 12 percentage points last decade, reaching 50 percent in 2010. That includes 27 percent who face a “severe burden,” or in other words, pay more than half of their income on rent, a figure that rose eight percentage points. Initial estimates show that there were a record 21.1 million renters who were cost-burdened in 2012.
The most recent data is for 2011, however, when 20.6 million people were cost-burdened and 11.3 million paid more than half what they made for housing. This problem falls heavily on low-income renters. More than 80 percent of those who made less than $15,000 in 2011 paid 30 percent of their income or more on housing, with 71 percent paying at least half. Given their tight budgets, these renters spend about $130 less on food, “a reduction of nearly 40 percent relative to those without [housing] burdens,” the authors write. “Housing affordability is thus clearly linked to the problem of hunger in America.” They also spend significantly less on health care and retirement savings.
It’s not too hard to figure out why so many struggle to afford rent. There is very little affordable housing available. These low-income renters who make $15,000 or less would have to find housing that costs less than $375 a month, yet the median monthly cost for housing that was built in the last four years is more than $1,000. Less than a third of those units rents for under $800, and a mere 5 percent go for less than $400. There were just 6.9 million housing units that these renters could afford in 2011, but there are 11.8 of these renters, and to top it off, 2.6 million of the affordable units are occupied by higher-income people. The availability of low-cost housing has been declining for decades — in 1970, there was an actual surplus of 300,000 low-cost rental units, but by 2011, there was a shortfall of 5.3 million units. MORE
The Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, center, is anchored side by side with a Russian Coast Guard ship, left, near Murmansk, Russia on Oct. 9, 2013. Thirty Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists were initially charged with piracy after protesting at an oil platform in the Arctic. (AP Photo/ Evgeny Feldman)
As climate change transforms our planet and the polar ice caps recede, new, previously inaccessible areas of the Arctic are opening up for business. Ironically, a notable amount of that business has to do with extracting and transporting the fossil fuels that drive climate change.
In September, a large freighter made it through the Northwest Passage, traveling from Vancouver, BC, to Finland. It was the first vessel of its type to ever make the journey and demonstrated the potential to cut costs and shipping times using the new route. The ship was carrying coal for use by a steel producer.
Elsewhere in the Arctic, the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a passage maintained by Russian nuclear-powered ice breakers, saw 71 vessels pass through it. According to the Russian fleet, that figure is up 50 percent from last year. As recently as 2010, only four vessels made the voyage between the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia and Western Russia, and the Bering Strait, between Siberia and Alaska. While the mandatory icebreaker escort costs, on average, $200,000 per voyage, NSR is becoming an increasingly viable shipping path from Europe to Asia — an alternative route, through the Suez Canal, would have taken two weeks longer. Supertankers carrying crude oil were among the most common vessels making the crossing. MORE
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree poses in front the department's mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, on November 13, 2013, in Queensbury, NY. The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know. In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story. Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the war in Afghanistan and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs and nuclear, biological and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans.
That MRAP came, like so much other equipment police departments are stocking up on — from tactical military vests, assault rifles and grenade launchers to actual tanks and helicopters – as a freebie via a Pentagon-organized surplus military equipment program. As it happens, police departments across the country are getting MRAPs like OSU’s, including the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. It’s received one of 18 such decommissioned military vehicles already being distributed around that state. So has Warren County which, like a number of counties in New York state, some quite rural, is now deploying Afghan War-grade vehicles. (Nationwide, rural counties have received a disproportionate percentage of the billions of dollars’ worth of surplus military equipment that has gone to the police in these years.)
When questioned on the utility of its new MRAP, Warren County Sheriff Bud York suggested, according to the Post-Star, the local newspaper, that “in an era of terrorist attacks on US soil and mass killings in schools, police agencies need to be ready for whatever comes their way… The vehicle will also serve as a deterrent to drug dealers or others who might be contemplating a show of force.” So, breathe a sigh of relief, Warren County is ready for the next Al Qaeda-style show of force and, for those fretting about how to deal with such things, there are now 165 18-ton “deterrents” in the hands of local law enforcement around the country, with hundreds of requests still pending.
You can imagine just how useful an MRAP is likely to be if the next Adam Lanza busts into a school in Warren County, assault rifle in hand, or takes over a building at Ohio State University. But keep in mind that we all love bargains and that Warren County’s vehicle cost the department less than $10. (Yes, you read that right!) A cornucopia of such Pentagon “bargains” has, in the post-9/11 years, played its part in transforming the way the police imagine their jobs and in militarizing the very idea of policing in this country.
Just thinking about that MRAP at OSU makes me feel like I grew up in Neolithic America. After all, when I went to college in the early 1960s, campus cops were mooks in suits. Gun-less, they were there to enforce such crucial matters as “parietal hours.” (If you’re too young to know what they were, look it up.) At their worst, they faced what in those still civilianized (and sexist) days were called “panty raids,” but today would undoubtedly be seen as potential manifestations of a terrorist mentality. Now, if there is a sit-in or sit-down on campus, as infamously at the University of California, Davis, during the Occupy movement, expect that the demonstrators will be treated like enemies of the state and pepper-sprayed or perhaps immobilized with a stun gun. And if there’s a bona fide student riot in town, the cops will now roll out an armored vehicle (as they did recently in Seattle).
By the way, don’t think it’s just the weaponry that’s militarizing the police. It’s a mentality as well that, like those weapons, is migrating home from our distant wars. It’s a sense that the US, too, is a “battlefield” and that, for instance, those highly militarized SWAT teams spreading to just about any community you want to mention are made up of “operators” (a “term of art” from the special operations community) ready to deal with threats to American life.
Embedding itself chillingly in our civilian world, that battlefield is proving mobile indeed. As Chase Madar wrote for TomDispatch the last time around, it leads now to the repeated handcuffing of six- and seven-year-olds in our schools as mini-criminals for offenses that once would have been dealt with by a teacher or principal, not a cop, and at school, not in jail or court. Today, Madar returns to explain just how this particular nightmare is spreading into every crevice of American life. Tom
Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading as we gear up for the new week…
Litigious –> Tim Murphy reports for MoJo that Republican lawmakers are increasingly turning to the courts in their battles with the Obama administration.
Not over yet –> And at TNR, Jeffrey Rosen runs down the basics of three legal challenges to Obamacare.
We’ve only just begun –> NYT’s Dealbook blog reports that as five federal agencies prepare to vote Tuesday on the Volcker Rule, Wall Street and the US Chamber of Commerce are already making noises about challenging it in court if it passes.
TPP Disagreement–> HuffPo’s Zach Carter reports that there’s little international support for the special corporate rights the US is pushing for in the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Odd source –> A libertarian in Montana is proposing a constitutional amendment that would require gender balance in the state legislature. Lauren Rankin reports for Salon.
Oops! –> Conservatives in Oklahoma thought allowing religious displays on public property was a swell idea. A Satanic church agrees and is now pushing for a statue of its own, according to the Associated Press.
What else is going on? You can let us know in the comments.
Even though it had been expected, I was jolted when I got the phone call with the news that after many long decades the defiant fire of resistance had gone out and Nelson Mandela had died. He was the only truly great public figure I’d ever covered, an authentic revolutionary who refused to cower in the face of the most malignant of evils.
I knew that the tributes would be pouring in immediately from around the world, and I also knew that most of them would try to do to Mandela what has been done to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: turn him into a lovable, platitudinous cardboard character whose commitment to peace and willingness to embrace enemies could make everybody feel good. This practice is a deliberate misreading of history guaranteed to miss the point of the man.
The primary significance of Mandela and King was not their willingness to lock arms or hold hands with their enemies. It was their unshakable resolve to do whatever was necessary to bring those enemies to their knees. Their goal was nothing short of freeing their people from the murderous yoke of racial oppression. They were not the sweet, empty, inoffensive personalities of ad agencies or greeting cards or public service messages. Mandela and King were firebrands, liberators, truth-tellers – above all they were warriors. That they weren’t haters doesn’t for a moment minimize the fierceness of their militancy. MORE
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), right, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), left, and other farm bill negotiators wrap up a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On the same day that President Obama eloquently described his vision of an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps (SNAP), according to a source close to the negotiations.
“One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.”
There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72 percent are in families with children and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line and 55 percent to households below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 annually for a family of three). MORE
Dirty Wars has been selected as one of 15 finalists for best documentary by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill as he uncovers America’s covert wars on battlefields in countries including Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield (read an excerpt), spoke with Bill Moyers in 2009 about what he described as the “dangerous US foreign policies” President Obama adopted from the Bush administration — themes explored in the film. See the trailer for Dirty Wars as well as two clips Scahill and his team made available to billmoyers.com. MORE
The sun rises behind the Washington Monument on a cloudy day in Washington, Friday Sep 13, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Not long after the release of This Town last summer people started asking me about writing a sequel: This Town: Continued or This Town: It’s Even Worse Now, or some such. It was of course gratifying to hear this from people, or at least be humored by them, but the reality was more depressing. This Town was pretty much updating itself every week, the modern story of our gilded capital unfurling in a mania of self-parody and soul-crushing sameness. The book writes itself, in other words.
In late 2012, after I had finished most of the This Town manuscript, I was interviewing Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat, for a brief Q and A that would appear in the front of The New York Times Magazine. Feeling a bit jaded — maybe more than usual after three years’ immersion in the Washington political class — my sarcasm flowed:
“You’re retiring after serving 24 years in the Senate,” I asked Lieberman. “What lobbying firm are you going to join now? MORE
Are they serious? –> As Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan try to hammer out a budget deal, Sahil Kapur reports for TPM that some House conservatives are balking, which could lead to yet another government shutdown.
Freed –> Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi reports that a batch of Wall Street crooks who had been convicted for fraud were quietly freed last week on a technicality.
Stink-tanks –> The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg continue their excellent reporting on dark money groups with a story about the State Policy Network’s concerted effort to undermine workers’ rights, public education and health care one state at a time.
Not so smart –> Jonathan Turley writes that the Mexican thieves who stole several barrels of highly radioactive Cobalt-60 are probably going to die from exposure. Mexican authorities are recovering the toxic substance.
No, you’re out of order! –> Democratic Rep. Jared Polis flipped out on the House floor during an impassioned speech about how our broken immigration system is tearing families apart. Pete Kasperowicz reports for The Hill.
Gun-nuts go on offense –> TNR‘s Adam Winkler reports that they’re up in arms after the NFL upheld its policy of not accepting advertising from weapons manufacturers.
What else is going on? Let us know in the comments!
A refinery in Norco, LA. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
For decades, environmentalists have called for a tax on climate-changing CO2 emissions, arguing that it would be one of the most effective ways to reduce our country’s sizable carbon footprint. With such a tax, businesses would pay a fee for polluting, and, with the bottom line in mind, executives would quickly shift to low-carbon ways of operating. The market would find it’s own path to sustainability.
But Republicans in Congress largely oppose this idea, which many see as an infringement on the free market — a lurch to the right from when a similar system was first used by George H.W. Bush to combat pollution. The 1990 Clean Air Act included provisions, proposed by Bush, to use a cap-and-trade system to reduce sulfur emissions from power plants that were causing acid rain. At the time, Bush said, “By employing a system that generates the most environmental protection for every dollar spent, the trading system lays the groundwork for a new era of smarter government regulation; one that is more compatible with economic growth than using only the command and control approaches of the past.”
Today’s GOP rhetoric stands in stark contrast. “A national carbon tax would devastate an already struggling American economy, force the cost of gas at the pump to jump even higher and kill millions more jobs here at home,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) said last spring.
Scalise’s opinion is shared by many in his party, and with Republicans dominating the House, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a carbon tax in America anytime soon.
But Coral Davenport reports in The New York Times that many large corporations see such a tax as inevitable. From ConAgra Foods to Wal-Mart, Duke Energy to Google, companies are factoring a tax on carbon into their long-term financial planning. ExxonMobil, Davenport writes, is one such company, and “is representative of Big Oil’s slow evolution on climate change policy.” MORE
South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 95. Mandela, who was a symbol of the struggle against racial oppression and embodied the ability to forgive and reconcile, spoke with Bill Moyers in 1991 for a documentary Beyond Hate, about the historical, philosophical and psychological roots of hatred.
In this clip from the film, Mandela talks about his personal ability to rise above hatred and cruelty during his 27 years in prison.
As fast food workers protest in cities around the country calling for higher pay and an increase in the federal minimum wage, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gives context to the conditions leading some workers to walk off the job and join the picket line. In this video from the activist group Low Pay Is Not OK, Reich says higher pay could actually boost the bottom line at chains like McDonald’s and encourages all Americans to support the movement. (Be sure to check out the cranky dollar clad “Ronald McDonald” at the end.)
Today, Reich also wrote about Obama’s speech on Wednesday addressing inequality in America on his blog, which we are publishing here with his permission.
One Answer to Low-Wage Work: Redistributing the Gains
The president’s speech yesterday on inequality avoided the “R” word. No politician wants to mention “redistribution” because it conjures up images of worthy “makers” forced to hand over hard-earned income to undeserving “takers.” MORE
Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Demonstrations planned in 100 cities are part of push by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Workers at fast food restaurants around the country went on strike Thursday demanding higher pay and better working conditions. Their primary demand is an increase in their base hourly wages to $15 an hour.
Here are 12 things you should know about Thursday’s action. MORE
Voters enter the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on the last day of early voting in Ohio Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
In 2004, Ohio had the longest lines in the country on Election Day, with some voters — particularly in large urban areas — waiting as long as seven hours to vote. A DNC survey estimated that 174,000 Ohioans — 3 percent of the state’s electorate – left without voting. George W. Bush won the state by just 118,000 votes.
In response to the long lines, Ohio adopted 35 days of early voting in 2008, including on nights and weekends, to make voting more convenient. But following the large Democratic turnout in 2008, Ohio Republicans drastically curtailed early voting in 2012 from 35 to 11 days, with no voting on the Sunday before the election, when African-American churches historically rally their congregants to go to the polls. Voting rights activists subsequently gathered enough signatures to block the new voting restrictions and force a referendum on Election Day. In reaction, Ohio Republicans repealed their own bill in the state legislature, but kept a ban on early voting three days before Election Day (when 98,000 Ohioans voted in 2008), adding an exception for active duty members of the military, who tend to lean Republican. MORE