Nel's New Day

September 15, 2019

Immigration in the U.S.: The Center of Cruelty

Public opinion—aka outrage—about deporting approximately 1,000 seriously ill migrants, primarily children, by denying them any deferred status drew attention before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) moved Hurricane Dorian to Alabama. Families who must renew their medical deferred status every two years were notified in August that they would be automatically forced to leave the country within 33 days. After a backlash, DDT said he would reconsider the new policy that sends all these migrants to their certain death because they would lack health care, but he hasn’t provided a resolution.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, failed to appear for an emergency House hearing about the travesty, and Daniel Renaud, the associate director for field operations, said that he just follows orders. USCIS, formerly responsible for processing the deferral requests, handed all non-military requests over to ICE. ICE said it knew nothing about the change, and recipients of the deportation letters were not notified. Now ICE won’t address deferral requests until the subjects have an order of removal. The most recent information comes from American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Those people aren’t the only ones who DDT is killing. Last Thursday, ICE rushed the deportation to Cuba of Yoel Alonso Leal, an asylum-seeker with several serious medical conditions including a lung tumor. Over 100 physicians argued that he stay in the U.S. and warned that he might not even survive the flight. No matter—ICE refused to release him to his U.S. citizen wife and family for more tests and treatment. Leal said that Cuban authorities detained and assaulted him in 2016 and 2018 before he sought asylum. 

DDT already killed a man born in Greece 41 years ago, who legally came to the U.S. at less than a year of age, by deporting him to Iraq where he died without insulin for his diabetes. Jimmy Aldaoud never learned Arabic and was part of Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community, targeted in Iraq by extremists. He was sent to Iraq because Greece doesn’t recognize birthright citizenship. Other Chaldeans, a conservative group, are also targeted for deportation, one of them for a years-old marijuana conviction that was dropped from his criminal record.

ICE also plans to kill detain immigrants by not vaccinating children for the flu. Despite the claim that detainees are held for only 72 hours, they can remain in detention for over a month. At least three people in government “care” have already died of the flu.

DDT also wants to terminate a program protecting undocumented family members of active-duty troops from deportation. Currently the program allows military family members illegally entering the U.S.—for example, overstaying a visa—who cannot adjust their immigration status to temporarily stay in the U.S. The program avoids distractions coming from worries about a spouse being deported and allows the spouse to apply for a green card. Already ICE doesn’t follow its own policies by deporting former service members and breaking the tradition of giving a path to citizenships for those who serve in the military—almost 130,000 since 2001. Last year, the Pentagon discharged immigrants with special skills recruited under George W. Bush’s program.

A lawsuit against Cuccinelli purports that all his directives are “invalid” because he “lacks the authority to serve as acting director.” Cuccinelli is also unqualified to serve in this position because he describes immigrants as rats although his job is to facilitate legal immigration. His new policies include fast-tracking initial screenings of asylum-seekers from 48 hours to a “full calendar day,” blocking them from preparing for interviews of seeing legal help. Cuccinelli is serving as “acting director” because GOP senators have doubted his appointment.

In another cruel form of current government bureaucracy, 37 asylum seekers accused of illegal entry were all processed at one time and expected to answer questions in unison. Public defendants had under two hours to talk with 41 defendants in one case. Unlike other courts under the judicial branch, immigration courts are under the control of DOJ AG Bill Barr. [Right: “Justice” under the reign of Barr and DDT.]

New tent courts recently established at the southern border will hear thousands of cases for asylum-seekers in closed hearings with no court observers unlike open immigration court proceedings. Attorneys are not allowed to participate although most asylum-seekers can’t get legal representation. Over 42,000 asylum-seekers are forced to wait in Mexico where they have been assaulted, kidnapped, and extorted. Others have let Mexico bus them to the middle of the country or the border of Guatemala. The hearings in the tent court facilities are via video teleconference, a serious problem from faulty equipment with poor video and sound quality that prevent due process. 

Last week, people believing in justice breathed a sigh of relief when a federal judge ruled that DDT cannot require asylum seekers to ask another country for shelter before seeking refuge in the U.S. According to DDT’s coerced agreement with Guatemala, people coming from Central America into Mexico must try and fail to obtain asylum in Guatemala before moving on to go through the same process in Mexico before seeking asylum in the U.S. Mexico had refused DDT’s negotiations, but he still forces the “third-country” asylum rule on that country. A 9th Circuit Court ruling against DDT’s new restriction had been only for the ten states in its jurisdiction, but Jon S. Tigar made that ruling consistent for the entire country to prevent “uneven enforcement.”

The relief ended when DDT’s U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to that judge’s ruling until the courts settled the cases, a process taking and leaving the Supreme Court as the final decider—or “fixer” for DDT. The lower courts determined that DDT’s policy conflicts with existing immigration statutes, violates the requirements of administrative rulemaking, and completely blocks all asylum for people on the southern border unless they come from Mexico. The decision was not explained.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginzberg submitted a dissent stating that lower court decisions should be respected and a stay overturning a lower court is “extraordinary.” The Supreme Court should not be used for the government to ignore lower court litigation. DDT’s administration has made an “extraordinary” number of requests—20—to bypass normal procedures or lower court actions. In addition to procedural anomalies, the dissent pointed out that the goal of DDT’s asylum policy is acting in bad faith. Facts do not support their arguments and illustrated that the policy puts untold numbers of people in serious danger—which DDT and his co-authors know. The decision overturns a longstanding offer of safe refuge to the persecuted with no input before DDT loses on the case’s merits. The lower court determined that DDT’s new policy broke government rules, violated the law, and lacks justification by being arbitrary and capricious.

One group of immigrants that DDT wants to protect are Venezuelans. He thinks that it might help him win the state of Florida in the 2020 election.

Perhaps the worst part of immigration court is control by the DOJ instead of the judicial branch. DDT’s fixer AG, Bill Barr, promoted the six judges with higher rates of denying immigrants’ asylum to the immigration appeals court that can overturn lower court decisions. Two of them came from courts drawing complaints of unfair proceedings from attorneys and advocates, and a third denies asylum to domestic violence victims. The six comprise over one-fourth of the appellate board, and four are on the DDT-created Board of Immigration Appeals. Barr established a regulation giving himself the ability to make any appellate decision binding. DOJ sent an email to all immigration court employees with a link to an article from the white nationalist website VDare that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs.”

The DOJ also filed a petition to decertify the union of immigration judges with the claim that they are “management officials.” The Federal Labor Relations Authority refused this tactic over 20 years ago, but the new FLRA members mostly belong to DDT. Last year, the union fought the new DOJ quota system of completing 700 cases a year and “efficiency” procedures that could damage due process in court. DDT has appointed at least 43 percent of the 440 immigration judges; changing them to “management” would allow him to fire them at his whim.

While DDT torments and kills migrants, the asylum law is now at the center of his immigration battle. The law says: “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival … may apply for asylum.”

Not satisfied with detaining only immigrants, DDT wants to incarcerate the homeless in a federal facility, starting his roundup in California to rile up his base for the 2020 election.

At his speech in Baltimore, DDT used a favorite term, “goddamn,” which the evangelical community hates. Texas megachurch leader and DDT supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress said, “I can take just about everything else, except [taking the Lord’s name in vain.” For evangelicals, cruelty, corruption, killing, abuse, lying, racism all okay, but “goddamn” crosses the line.

September 3, 2019

Courts Still Help ‘We the People’

August may be a time for Congress and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to take a hiatus, but the courts keep chugging along. Here are a few highlights:

Voting:

Today, North Carolina’s state court ruled the GOP legislative gerrymandering unconstitutional and gave specific guidelines to the GOP state legislature in redrawing the lines within two weeks by September 18. Other gerrymandered states such as Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas could follow the same directions.

Mississippi shows how bad gerrymandering can be. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling forcing the legislature to redraw the 102-mile-long state Senate District 22 spanning parts of six countries. The districting, done in 2012, diluted black voter strength to re-elect a Republican. Multiple voting machines in nine counties during last week’s Mississippi election switched votes and kept voters from their choices during a gubernatorial runoff race. The machines preferred Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who won the runoff with 54 percent of the vote. At a Las Vegas convention, attendees as young as 11 were able to hack into voting machines, and at least ten states have made remote hacking easier by connecting computers to the internet. 

Paperless voting machines are another GOP way of controlling the vote, and a federal district court judge ordered Georgia to stop using paperless voting machines after 2019. For 2020, Georgia must either use paper ballots filled out with a pen and then fed into an optical scanner or voting machines that print a paper ballot record. Election officials must also fix errors in the state’s voter registration database and provide paper backups for the electronic poll books at each polling place, used to track whether a registered voter has cast a ballot or not when a voter shows up on Election Day. Employees of the firm that manufactured Georgia’s current paperless voting machines left them open to hacking by designing electronic ballots from their home offices rather than in a secure location. The ruling is the first to block use of paperless voting machines, also used in a dozen other states. Earlier this year, the state gave a $107 million contract for “ballot-marking devices,” machines that print a bar code and a text summary of individual votes. The bar code, which voters cannot read, is used for tallying votes, not the text summary. The lawsuit began when Brian Kemp, the Republican in charge of voting, was “elected” governor last year after evidence of security failings was destroyed. Like Kemp, his successor opposes paper ballots. 

The 7th Circuit Court supported a lower court in rejecting a 2017 Indiana law allowing election officials to cancel a voter’s registration without the voter’s confirmation. By using Interstate Crosscheck, faulty computer software checking a database of 24 states, the state got rid of Democratic registrations. The National Voter Registration Act requires that states cannot remove voters from rolls without a “reasonable effort.” The judge said that “the only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.”

Ohio’s aggressive voter removal process has also been temporarily settled when the state agreed that all eligible voters removed through 2019 may cast provisional ballots in any local, state, special, or federal election through 2022 which are counted. Doing this will restore voters to the rolls. Ohio failed to provide proper notice to voters whose registration was in jeopardy and now must notify non-registered eligible voters of the settlement with the deadline for registering and tell boards of elections to use motor vehicle records to determine if voters still live where they registered. After the settlement, the Ohio Democratic Party sued to keep over 200,000 voters from being removed on September 6.

With Texas facing the possibility of turning purple, emails show that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) led the effort to purge thousands of voters from state election rolls although former Secretary of State David Whitley got the blame and resigned. A federal court stopped the purge of almost 100,000 people wrongfully identified as non-citizens. Texas tries to keep Texas voters white and GOP through restrictive voter ID laws, barriers to earlier voting, and difficulties in casting ballots, efforts overturned a half-dozen times in the past few years. Texas conservatives also hire people to sit outside driver license offices and register people after screening them with the question of whether they want “less government and less taxes” or “more government and more taxes.” Last year, Democrats flipped two congressional seats, and gained 12 in the Texas House and two in the Texas Senate.

Other:

In Maryland, a district court ruled that transgender military service members have legal standing to sue for their rights. DDT cannot block judicial review of his trans military ban.  

A U.S. district court judge in Michigan permitted a challenge to DDT’s Muslim Ban that bars immigration and travel from identified predominantly Muslim countries. The judge supported the claim of unconstitutional religious discrimination, writing that “the Plaintiffs present sufficient evidence that the Proclamation is unable to be explained by anything but animus towards Muslims.”

An Oklahoma judge ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the opioid epidemic through its marketing of powerful painkillers and ordered the company to pay $572.1 million in damages. The decision is the first in approximately 2,000 state and local lawsuits against health care companies pushing opioids. Oklahoma stated that J&J was “at the root of the crisis” and created a “public nuisance.” Earlier this year, the state settled claims against Purdue for $270 million and Teva for $85 million. The wealthy Sacklers family, who made their fortune from Purdue Pharma’s oxycontin, may keep most of their money by selling the company to avoid a federal $10 billion to $12 billion settlement.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a Missouri law banning abortions after eight weeks with no exceptions for rape and incest. Courts blocked similar laws in Mississippi and Kentucky earlier this year. A federal judge also blocked Ohio’s so-called “heartbeat law” that would ban abortions as early as six weeks before women know that they are pregnant.   

Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as student government president at American University in Washington, D.C., was awarded $725,000 from a massive “troll storm” against her by Andrew Anglin, founder of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, and follower Brian Ade, who failed to appear in court. Anglin, who fled the U.S., has also been ordered to pay $14 million to Tanya Gersh, a Jewish Montana real estate agent who he harassed, and $4.1 million to Muslim comedian Dean Obeidallah after falsely accusing him of involvement in the May 2017 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Eight months ago, another defendant, Eugene (OR) actor and musician Evan McCarty, settled after an apology to Dumpson and publicly renouncing white supremacy, completing 200 hours of community service at a racial justice organization, and finishing “anti-hate” training.

A judge invalidated the Treasury Department’s permission to IRS to conceal the identity of donors who contributed over $5,000 to nonprofits during one year. The IRS violated the law by not having the required notice and comment period.

In Arizona, a state court of appeals ruled that people in the state have a constitutional right to online privacy from police who don’t have a warrant based on appearance of criminal activity because Internet users have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” for information about themselves furnished to internet providers based on the state constitution. The decision conflicts with federal court rulings that people give up privacy when they give information to third parties and are no longer protected against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment.

Despite federal attempts to open all public land to mining, drilling, and housing developments, a federal judge blocked construction of a huge open-pit copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest considered ancestral sacred burial sites for the Hopi, Tohono O’odham, and Pascua Yaqui tribes. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, former lobbyist for the copper company, wanted to give his friends this land as well as another place near the border for a 70,000-person housing development destroying the San Pedro, one of the Southwest’s last free-flowing rivers. The current project, near Benson, is back on after the federal government issued permits. People are waiting to see if the government will close a uranium mine near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon contaminating groundwater with radioactive waste.

The 11th Circuit Court ruled that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment” and sent a lawsuit back to a lower court to see if a city ordinance violates those rights. In 2014, after Fort Lauderdale (FL) required a permit to share food in public parks, police arrested a 90-year-old man (left) and two ministers who gave food to homeless people. 

A federal judge dismissed a $250-million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann after he received negative media attention from his behavior in Washington, DC while attending a pro-life march. The filing called the reporting false and defamatory; the judge called it constitutionally protected. Sandmann’s dad, Ted, plans to appeal.

After New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold killed the unarmed Eric Garner in 2014 while other police officers watched, was exonerated last summer, outrage built, and a police administrative judge found Pantaleo guilty of violating a department ban on chokeholds. The tragedy was resolved with Pantaleo was fired and stripped of his pension benefits. Garner had cried out “I can’t breathe” eleven times until he stopped breathing. Garner had been accused of selling untaxed cigarettes.

One recent decision is questionable and could throw the nation into chaos. The 10th Circuit Court has ruled that representatives for the Electoral College are not required to vote in accord with the popular vote of their states. The lawsuit came after seven of the electors went “rogue” in the 2016 election. If that decision were left to stand, 538 individual people would be the only ones to vote for the president of the United States. The ruling covers six Western states unless it is overturned by an en banc decision or the Supreme Court. 

July 7, 2015

Who Do Conservatives—and Fox Hate?

 

The Homeless (and Bill DeBlasio): A Bill O’Reilly segment used Jesse Watters to wander around Penn Station asking homeless people where they slept and whether they had drinking problems. After five minutes of this, he asked mostly white commuters about how scary homeless people are, going so far as to repeatedly asking a young child because she initially expressed some compassion for the homeless. Watters blames New York Mayor DeBlasio because, as O’Reilly and Watters agreed, the homeless knew their place under Giuliani and Bloomberg. 

Black People (ala Geraldo Rivera): After criticism of Kendrick Lamar and hip hop, Rivera concluded that black people’s clothing styles and art forms are responsible for racism and excessive police violence against blacks. Hoodies and sagging pants kill. Peter Johnson, legal analyst for Fox, called people who fight against racism “cultural cousins” of the Charleston killer. Hearing that the anti-racism group Disarm NYPD was to hold a rally against the Confederate flag on July 1, he agreed with Fox and Friends commentators that the rally could be a “precursor” to a terrorist attack and called them “the essence of anarchist values that seek to destroy the country.”

Immigrants: Following Donald Trump’s accusations that undocumented immigrants are largely rapists and other criminals, Megyn Kelly cited Ann Coulter’s “whole book right now that makes this point….  She cites data that does support the fact that some, obvious, immigrants who come across the borders do turn out to be criminals.” Rivera’s statement that “undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the citizen population of the United States” didn’t faze her.

Looking at Donald Trump’s amazing popularity in the polls, Rick Santorum decided to follow the presidential candidate in bashing immigrants. Sunday he told CBS John Dickerson, “People who are coming illegally obviously are coming with a bad intent. Let’s just be honest, they coming with the clear intent of breaking the law.” Trump has support from other GOP candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX).

In Dublin (Ireland), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told an audience that immigration reform is on the top of his agenda. He told people in the United States the same thing two years ago but hasn’t made a move on the issue.

Hollywood “Elite”: Sen. Rand Paul is making a name for himself by railing against the $25,000 seed money that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Academy of Motion Pictures Films and Sciences a $25,000 grant to aid in the planning of exhibits for a privately funded $300 million museum in Los Angeles. The man who opposes raising the minimum wage, pay for women, and spending on infrastructure calls the $25,000 the “equivalent of the tax burdens of four Americans.” He also wants to give big oil money while taxing the poor with a regressive flat tax. I call the $25,000 the equivalent of 15 percent that the country gives a member of Congress to do nothing but block progress.

Workers: Objecting to President Obama’s proposal to extend overtime protections to 5 million workers, Ainsley Earhardt explained that this was a bad idea: “I was making 20-some-odd-thousand dollars with my first job as a reporter, and I always said yes to everything that they asked me to do.” Co-host Sandra Smith agreed because former McDonald CEO Ed Rensi told Fox that “these jobs are not careers.”At this time, only workers who make less than $23,660 are eligible for overtime pay. The new rules would extend those protections to workers making as much as $50,440 a year. 

Same-gender couples Who Marry: Crazy Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin state representative, claimed that legalized marriage equality is an offense to those killed in the Civil War, “a strong religious war to further a Christian lifestyle by getting rid of slavery.” According to Grothman, people who died in the Civil War would be “shocked” to learn that the recent Supreme Court ruling used the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. According to GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, marriage equality is “an attack on Christians and their religious liberty is a hate crime that must be prosecuted.” In Colorado, the hatred is pointed at “almost all people who want to marry” because the ballot initiative for a state constitutional amendment would allow the rejection of almost any marriage.

The Supreme Court: The solution to progressive rulings at the end of June is to have “retention elections” by the “American people,” according to GOP presidential candidate Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX). He wants a majority by the U.S. population and majorities in at least half the states to agree that justices are fit for retention. He said, “Who in their right mind would design a system where every major public policy issue of the day is decided not by the people, not by the Constitution, not by the elected representatives, but by nine elite lawyers in Washington, D.C.?” He forgets that the Founding Fathers put that into the Constitution that conservatives claim to revere.

Everyone in the U.S. Who Uses Any Infrastructure: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) to terminate the gas tax that funds federal transportation projects and turn the responsibility of maintaining the interstates over to the states. Congress is trashing the country’s valuable infrastructure by refusing to increase the 18.4 cents per gallon put into effect 22 years ago. Just one example is the Arlington Memorial Bridge linking the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River where several bridge lanes were closed in May and the weight limit eliminated the use of thousands of tour buses.

Recently, eight more states—seven of them Republican—are increasing gas taxes to provide vital repairs to falling bridges and crumbling roads. Nebraska even overrode the governor’s veto. Eight years ago, the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis killed 13 people and injured another 145. The same problems are evident at thousands of other bridges. The man responsible for this devastation is Grover Norquist who has blackmailed almost all GOP candidates into signing a “no-tax” pledge through his Americans for Tax Reform.

Presidential campaigning affects the way that states look at the infrastructure problem. In an attempt to avoid being known as a “tax-and-spend” candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed $1.3 million in transportation bonds. GOP legislators are not happy about his idea, and Walker has pushed back his official candidacy announcement because of the ensuing battles.

Marijuana-Businesses-Donate-Big-Bucks-To-Clean-Up-Highways-In-Colorado

In Colorado, legalized marijuana is helping save the infrastructure. “Pot shops” are putting money into roads and highways, one of them as much as $100,000, beyond the 28-percent taxes that they pay. Republicans have had no comment thus far.

Human Rights Advocates: After the Human Rights Council of the UN condemned Israel for violating human rights of innocent Palestinians last summer, Cruz called for the U.S. to drop its membership in the council. The UN action was pretty tame, considering that Israel emulated the Nazis during World War II by officially calling for genocide against the Palestinians. Cruz has accused the UN of being anti-Semitic—but then he also thinks that UN is trying to close the golf courses in the United States.

People Who Use National Parks and Other Public Lands: The Koch brothers, through its executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), is calling for no more national parks. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Reed Watson said that the government doesn’t need to care for lands because “true conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have.” He calls for the end to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a budget-neutral program using funds from offshore oil and gas development fees for federal, state, and local outdoor projects across the country—such as ones at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. PERC’s goal is to sell off public lands to the highest bidder so that they can be used for mining, oil drilling, and cutting down trees.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), GOP presidential candidate, supports the Koch brothers plan to turn land back to states to use in any way that conservatives wish. Cliven Bundy, the man who succeeded in not paying the federal government for grazing by calling in renegade gun groups, met with Paul and said that they are “in tune with each other.”

And lots more hatred from conservatives later!

October 14, 2012

Conservatives Erase the American Dream

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:36 PM
Tags: , , ,

One of the most important times of my days is “tea-time,” an occasion that my partner and I set aside before dinner when we talk about the past 24 hours. (“Tea-time” might be a misnomer because our “tea” varies from juice to the harder stuff, but it’s symbolic of sharing and focus.) Part of our conversation surrounds what makes us feel good about recent events and what makes us feel grateful. As always, I’m grateful for my partner, our pets, our home, and our security, however temporary it might be.

Yesterday one of the topics was the “American Dream”—what it is now, what it used to be, and why it changed. When I grew up, the dream was owning one’s own house, however small it might be, and having a secure job. But today more and more people are far away from this dream because the wealthy wants to possess the country’s entire resources even if it eradicates the dream for the majority of people in the United States.

How much money is enough? The Koch brothers are worth $62,000,000,000. The Walton family was worth $89.5 billion in 2010, the same as the bottom 41.5 percent of all U.S. families combined. That’s 48.8 million American households. That means that these eight people are worth more than the 47 percent that Mitt Romney says are mooching freeloaders. Yet these eight people aren’t satisfied with how much money they make. They’re working to elect Republicans who will lower their taxes to give them billions more.

Romney is much poorer at only $250,000,000, but he’s working to get more. With his tax shelters and his covert participation in Bain Capital, he gets more and more millions every year. He supposedly lives modestly (if you discount all his huge homes with the car elevators). If so, why does he need that much more money? When presented with these statistics, conservatives say that these people deserve this money because they work hard. But do they truly put in millions and billions of extra effort?

As most people know, the separation between the wealthy and the other 90 percent increases each year. The average net worth of a member of the Forbes 400 hit $4.2 billion, the highest level it’s been in at least a decade and up from $3.8 billion last year. After taking the government to the brink of shutdown and default in 2011, the House GOP voted to give the rich and corporations more than $3 trillion in tax breaks in its budget this year. If Republicans take over the Senate and presidency, they will succeed in doing this.

Income for the top fifth of American households rose by 1.6 percent last year, driven by even larger increases for the top 5 percent of households, said David Johnson, a Census Bureau official.  Yet median household income after inflation fell to $50,054, a level that was 8 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the recession took hold. There were 46.2 million people, 15 percent of the population, in poverty in the United States last year. That’s because most of the country’s resources go to the top 5 percent, wealthy people who do nothing to create jobs for those in poverty.

A major reason that the wealthy get wealthier is that they get the vast majority of tax breaks in this country. Romney criticizes the 47 percent because they are freeloaders on the other 53 percent. In fact, the other 53 percent receive their own form of government assistance in disproportionately benefiting from the federal government’s $1.08 trillion annual allocation for tax breaks. 

The top 1 percent of tax filers earning over $400,000 collected 23.9 percent (about $258 billion) in reduced taxes through deductions and exclusions. The top 10 percent of filers took in 40.3 percent (more than $435 billion). On the other hand, the bottom 60 percent of tax filers got just 20.1 percent of the tax reductions from deductions and exclusions, $217 billion or half of what was claimed by far fewer top earners in the U.S.

Between 1989 and 2010, the top 1 percent of the population went from holding 30.1 percent of the wealth to 34.5 percent, while the bottom 50 percent went from having 3 percent of the wealth to having just 1.1 percent. The share of wealth held by the next 40 percent of people, up to the 90th percentile, had also dropped, from 29.9 percent to 24.3 percent. Ten percent of people have 74.5 percent of the wealth.

And that’s why many people live like the ones in these photographs by Ann Hubard. And they will be joined by many more if people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get their way.

Every afternoon when my partner and I have tea-time, I say how grateful that I am for achieving my American dream. Conservatives may also be grateful, but they want to take away the dreams from other people in the country.

This quote of the week comes from Janis Lane, president of the Central Mississippi Tea Party: “Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person.”

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