I don’t know whether to cry or pull my hair out or both.
Wow…those ARE some really stressful decisions. Maybe they shouldn’t have had three kids if they couldn’t afford them. Think of it this way rich people, if you get less rich, you’ll be SO much less stressed! You’ll only have to make decisions like, should I pay for gas to get to work this week or pay for food to feed my kids?
Yesterday, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released areport chronicling the political strategies of private prison companies “working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences.” The report’s authors note that while the total number of people in prison increased less than 16 percent, the number of people held in private federal and state facilities increased by 120 and 33 percent, correspondingly. Government spending on corrections has soared since 1997 by 72 percent, up to $74 billion in 2007. And the private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue.
JPI claims the private industry hasn’t merely responded to the nation’s incarceration woes, it has actively sought to create the market conditions (ie. more prisoners) necessary to expand its business.
According to JPI, the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
The impact that the private prison industry has had is hard to deny. In Arizona, 30 of the 36 legislators who co-sponsored the state’s controversial immigration law that would undoubtedly put more immigrants behind bars received campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists or companies. Private prison businesses been involved in lobbying efforts related to a bill in Florida that would require privatizing all of the prisons in South Florida and have been heavily involved in appropriations bills on the federal level.
Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI recommends that we “take a hard look at what the cost of this influence is, both to taxpayers and to the community as a whole, in terms of the policies being lobbied for and the outcomes for people put in private prisons.”
And this is exactly why prisons should not be private. Ever.
When you set up a system where profits depend on how many people are currently incarcerated, it’s nearly impossible for them to care about rehabilitation. The way they want things can never result in a better society. They want more people in jail, more people breaking the law, less due process, less possibility of release, less possibility of someone being innocent in court.
It’s a huge slap in the face of “innocent until proven guilty,” because at the end of the day, they’d rather throw someone in jail for a quick buck.
Higher social classes more likely to act selfishly, lie, cheat, cut up other road users and not stop at pedestrian crossings, say researchers
A raft of studies into unethical behaviour across the social classes has delivered a withering verdict on the upper echelons of society.
Privileged people behaved consistently worse than others in a range of situations, with a greater tendency to lie, cheat, take things meant for others, cut up other road users, not stop for pedestrians on crossings, and endorse unethical behaviour, researchers found.
Psychologists at the University of California in Berkeley drew their unflattering conclusions after covertly observing people’s behaviour in the open and in a series of follow-up studies in the laboratory.
"If you occupy these higher echelons, you start to see yourself as more entitled, and develop a heightened self-focus," Piff told the Guardian. "Your social environment is likely more buffered against the impact of your actions, and you might not perceive the risks of your behaviour because you are better resourced, you have the money for lawyers and so on."
In the first of the studies, researchers concealed themselves close to a crossroads in the Bay Area of San Francisco and spied on drivers who were expected to stop and wait their turn before driving on. Whenever a car arrived at the junction, the scientists ranked the driver’s class on a scale of one to five according to the model, age and appearance of the car.
On average, 12.4% of the observed drivers failed to wait their turn and cut in front of other road users. Those in the less classy cars cut people up less than 10% of the time, but drivers in the most prestigious cars did so around one third of the time.
The researchers next recorded whether drivers stopped for a person who tried to walk across the junction using a pedestrian crossing. Drivers of the cheapest and oldest cars were most likely to slow down and give way, followed by those in average quality cars. But those in the most prestigious cars drove on regardless of the pedestrian around 45% of the time.
On the back of these observations, the scientists set up five laboratory studies to investigate differences in ethical behaviour among people in upper and lower classes. They found that the higher a person’s class, the more likely they were to tell lies in negotiations and cheat for money, and even pilfer sweets meant for children in a neighbouring lab.
In one study, 105 volunteers were asked to read eight stories that implicated a character in taking something that wasn’t theirs, and comment on whether they would do the same. Their endorsement of wrongdoing rose with socioeconomic class, as ranked by income, education and occupation.
Another study had volunteers play a computer game that simulated five rolls of a dice. The participants were asked to write down their total score, and told that a high score might earn them a cash prize. Even though the game was rigged to give everyone a score of 12, more upper class than lower class people reported higher scores.
In a crucial last experiment, the scientists primed volunteers into seeing greed as good. They asked them to write down three ways in which it was beneficial, before answering questions on their likelihood of performing unethical acts. This time, the lower and higher classes scored the same, because those on the lower social rungs behaved worse after being primed.
"Upper and lower class individuals do not necessarily differ in terms of their capacity for unethical behaviour, but rather in terms of their default tendencies toward it," the authors write.
I'm doing a school project on the Occupy movement, and I was looking to find out why people were occupying, what they would change if they could, and to describe the Occupy movement in five words or less. Or any of the three, really (I am asking the people at my local Occupy site as well, but I figure why not vary the sources?). Could you please send this out to your followers? Answers can be submitted to my ask, which is just my url/ask. Thank you so much!
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard someone call Occupiers entitled students just wanting their student loans paid for. Read below if you want to understand the real reason why students are upset. I can guarantee that the vast majority of students would be willing to pay a fair and practicable sum for their educations. The problem is that cost of education as it currently stands in comparison to potential wages is outrageously imbalanced. Our educated citizens are entering the workforce terrified and unlike a homeowner or a credit card debtor, students can’t sell an asset to recoup losses, declare bankruptcy or walk away from their bad investment (that’s right, education has become a bad investment). It the market really free if people are immediately indebted to and forced into certain labor markets out of necessity of survival? is society really benefiting from the talents and potential contributions of its citizens if those citizens are forced into money-driven labor rather than talent or interest-driven labor?
In 2010 something unthinkable happened – student debt surpassed credit card debt as the largest form of debt in this country, passing $800 billion dollars. In 2012 more history will be made as the amount of unpaid student debt climbs to $1 trillion dollars, with an additional $1 million dollars added to that number every 6 minutes.
The ripple effect that this has on our economy is crushing: students and recent graduates are forced into low-wage jobs in order to immediately start making payments back to banks and lenders; instead of stimulating the economy by spending millions of dollars, students and graduates are pinching pennies to just try to keep up with the interest on their loans; and the privatization of colleges and universities are expedited as the same loan agencies use the profit off of students to lobby for lower tax rates, forcing budget cuts to higher education in an economy where recent graduates struggle to find jobs.
Imagine students not working two part-time minimum wage jobs as they struggle to get through school, allowing them more time to participate in civic engagement. Imagine recent graduates not being pushed into a job market where they are forced to intentionally keep wages stagnant, allowing them the ability to work for non-profits or local businesses.
If we do not solve the student debt crisis the students of today will suffer, but the students of tomorrow may never have the opportunity to a college education. A generation of students will pay the hefty price of their student loans; but we must not forget that we will also pay the debt of an entire country ignoring the burden placed on those working to better their lives and communities by obtaining a college degree.
Defiance of labor law and movement support yield a union victory in Washington state
Earlier this month longshore workers in Washington state reached a contract with a boss that has spent the past year fighting to keep their union out. That company, the multinational EGT, sought to run its new grain terminal in the town of Longview, as the only facility on the West Coast without the famously militant International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). A victory by EGT would have emboldened employers up and down the coast to seek to free themselves of ILWU influence. And if the union — with the help of the Occupy movement — had not defied the law, EGT would have succeeded.
The Longview struggle began last March when, after initial discussions with ILWU Local 21, EGT announced its intention to run its new grain terminal without them. The ILWU held protest rallies, and joined the Port of Longview’s lawsuit charging that EGT was bound by the union’s contract with the publicly owned port. The union may have had a good legal case. But so did Washington’s Boeing workers when their boss blamed their strikes for its decision to take new work to South Carolina. Boeing mostly got away with it anyway.
Rather than putting all their faith in the law while EGT did its work without them, ILWU members chose to get in the company’s way. Literally. Beginning in July, union members blocked railroad tracks to prevent grain shipments from passing. According to media reports, workers also tore down fencing and dumped grain. Police charged that workers threw rocks at them; labor denied members were violent, and charged that police beat and pepper-sprayed workers without justification. The ILWU did not formally endorse its members’ actions, but its international president was among the dozens arrested. In September, 200 union members and supporters lined up outside the building housing the sheriff’s office and announced they had arrived to turn themselves in for nonviolently defending their jobs.
Interview Excerpt: Phylicia Rashad on Occupy Wall Street
Are the cuts in education one of our country’s main problems at the moment? What our country looks at right now — there is this insidious greed and apathy. We are told there is not enough money for education, but somehow there is enough money for people to raise billions of dollars to defeat somebody in an election? Oh! Okay! Does that make sense?
We really don’t stop to think about it until we’re posed the question. No, you don’t because you don’t read between the lines and beneath the surface. It doesn’t make sense. So, with all of the things we could do to make life better for other people, as well as for ourselves because we’re all affected by this, I think that everybody who really loves our country should stand and protest to these cuts in education. Without an educated populist, democracy cannot sustain itself. It will not be sustained. Not only that, education is the key to innovation, and that is what has kept this country in the forefront.
And what about those who are educated and can’t find jobs? Okay, let’s go further, and I don’t want anybody to get mad, but I’ve got to say it because it’s true. Young people are usually at the forefront of change. Young people are not dumb. Young people are not stupid, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of occupy movements.
What do you think of the occupy movements? At the core of those were some well organized and thoughtful people. Let’s just look at the price of oil. Let’s just take one thing. When did the price of oil begin to soar? Just go back. Just go back. Most of us would never guess that it would have something to do with the stock exchange.
That’s your opinion. Historically, let’s just look at it. Go look at it. And gold, which has always been so valuable, which was devalued, and now, what happened? Just go look at it. We are capable of so much greatness, but we really have to look deeper within ourselves and be willing to uncover it and not be afraid of it. This is a lovely film [Good Deeds], but it’s really a model for something even greater.
Which is? What happens when we look inside to find what’s really speaking to our hearts? How many times do we miss the opportunities to do that?
Let’s continue with looking deeper. It appears you are saying these issues we are facing go further than just what the president has done or could do. Oh, baby, it’s not about one man. It’s about all of us. Let’s go back a few years ago where in secondary education civics and economics were taken out of the curriculum. Without instructions in civics, do you really understand the nature of your government and how it’s structured and how it works and your responsibility as a citizen? Not at all, dear! When you hear about the soaring costs of political campaigns, this makes my mind say, “Are votes bought?” This also makes me wonder, is this what we’re extending to the world when we say, “Let’s extend democracy in this corner of the world?” Is this what we mean? You know, those men who trudged across the Delaware with George Washington had rags tied around their feet. Now, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.
What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.
This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.
On a global scale, the consolidation of our food system has meant devastation for farmers, forests and the climate. Take the controversial food additive palm oil. In the past decade, palm oil has become the most widely traded vegetable oil in the world and is now found in half of all packaged goods on U.S. grocery store shelves. But the large-scale production of palm oil — driven by agribusiness demand for the relatively cheap ingredient — has come at a cost: palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are razing rainforests, releasing massive quantities of greenhouse gases and displacing Indigenous communities.
We know how the super PACs have come to dominate the presidential campaign, but a closer look at financial-disclosure numbers shows how just a tiny handful of billionaires are dominating those super PACs. An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors. That select group gave $19 million to various super PACs, often in support of more than one Republican candidate. Those numbers come from both The Washington Post and USA Today, though neither gives a complete list of those five top donors of 2012.
If you want to extend the circle out to, say, 200 people, a report from Demos shows that about that many have contributed 80% of all SuperPAC money. These are the SuperPACs that have been a major determining factor in the GOP primary, and which swung many Congressional elections in 2010. This equals .000063 of the electorate.
I respect the arguments that Citizens United didn’t cause this all by itself. We had a messed-up election system before that Supreme Court ruling. But there has unquestionably been a cultural shift in recent years, with far more outright purchases of elections, using massive numbers. I would argue that the rise follows the rise in political economy of a select few. As the 1% spends to write the laws, they gain more power and a certain invincibility. So they can use that power on elections with relative impunity. One hand washes the other.