Modern slavery should need no introduction. Modern slavery already intrudes into every aspect of life, debasing all it touches. It is the underlying organizing principle for all major economic institutions east and west, north and south. Its support and defense are the unspoken but automatically-understood objects of all major – and the vast majority of the minor – social, political and cultural institutions. Its infrastructure and demands extend into the deepest levels of modern consciousness, coloring our dreams as well as our nightmares. Yet modern slavery is largely invisible.
Modern slavery is officially non-existent. It has been tossed down the memory hole. It is not spoken of in polite company. Every institutional and government functionary, from the lowest levels of bureaucratic purgatory to the upper levels of elite power, knows instinctively that any explicit mention of its name as a contemporary reality means instant social death within the hierarchy. It is a rare day when it is acknowledged in any public context, even by the most radical or reckless of iconoclasts.
Just when the Obama campaign couldn’t appear any less inspiring, Paul Ryan was put forth as the Republican vice presidential candidate. Suddenly team Obama was supplied with enough political munitions to scare every last American over the possible Ryan destruction of Medicare, Medicaid, cuts to Social Security and the various other evils inherent in his proposed national budget. Consequently, many Liberals and Leftists across the spectrum are now focused on preaching the horrors of a Republican presidential victory and thus the necessity of re-electing Obama.
But critical thinkers are immune to scare tactics. It’s no coincidence that the Obama campaign is not running on its own merits, but the lack of merit of its opponents. Many Obama supporters, such as leftists Bill Fletcher Jr. and Carl Davidson, argue that Obama’s record doesn’t matter, because this election is about defeating the right wing’s “white supremacy and political misogynism.”
For progressive economist and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton Robert Reich, Ryan’s budget represents the nightmare of “social Darwinism”, and therefore Obama must be elected.
This writer will not argue with the above points about the far right, since there obviously exists deep elements of racism and misogynism in its camp. But voting for Obama is no way to fight these evils; quite the contrary.
Voting for the Democrats does not empower working people to fight against right-wing extremism. Instead, working people are forced to give away their power to a political party that is in no way beholden to them, since the Democrats have a corporate agenda divorced from the needs of the vast majority of working people. There is no way to hold Democrats accountable once they’re in office, especially when they’ve all but stopped making campaign promises to working people.
Whether you are a Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Socialist, Tea Party member or other, here are some of many reasons to vote against Mitt Romney. Please multipost this article.
Chickenhawk and father of 5 chickenhawks, warmonger and US bankrupter, attacker of Social Security contracts government made with people, treason with Chinese government, wealth comprised of stolen pension funds and corporate assets raiding, bloater of national deficit, hider of tax records, tax evader, outsourcer, a man who banks offshore , staff having removed 12 hard drives from Massachusetts governor’s office, directed destruction of Olympics records, violated SEC rules re Bain Capital, supported LDS racism in 1968, LDS denial of women's rights supports premeditated judicial murder, opposes medical marijuana, brutal to many kinds of animals, illegal acquisition of Clear Channel, profiteering from political ads carried on Clear Channel, legally questionable foreign fundraisers, questions regarding Olympics coins minted with his image, decadent lifestyle includes 2 story garages with car elevators, Romney operative vote fraud in Maine etc., general Republican vote fraud, Dr Strangelove re use of nuclear weapons, supporter of nuclear power, opposer of wind power, supporter of offshore and ANWR drilling, and of toxic Keystone Pipeline bringing Canadian tar through US, associater with other bankster criminals, relationship of multiple sclerosis to being dominated, Mormons believe in war but are exempted as missionaries, Mormon capital funded purchase of Bain Capital etc. flipflops on prolife prochoice, on TARP, and many other issues.
1. CHICKENHAWK FATHER OF FIVE CHICKENHAWKS
Romney is a chickenhawk (someone who has never gone to war but promotes sending
others into harm's way).
A real analysis of the United State’s economic history is rarely discussed by politicians or media alike, since the conclusions that would be inevitably drawn would be out of step with what politicians are currently advocating.
In fact, the current recession is only one more step — though a big one — along the same economic degeneration that has been underway since the end of the post war boom of 1945-1973. The Democrats and the Republicans cannot and will not be able to solve the problems of capitalism in the era of crisis that we’re stumbling through, a crisis that promises to evolve into Great Depression levels.
The post-World War II capitalist “golden age” came about from the destruction caused by the war. It was precisely this destruction that opened up big markets for reconstruction and expansion of markets for the United States. As some wag stated, “War is the health of the nation.” It was capital accumulation, mainly in the advanced capitalist countries, that provided the boom for western capitalism in an otherwise declining system.
America’s economy roughly doubled during the war, from a GNP of $88.6 billion in 1939 to $135 billion in 1944, which established its hegemonic position in the postwar system (eh.net). Now, capitalism, and capitalism alone, knows the peculiar problem of “overproduction” — too many goods produced without a market able to absorb them. The world capitalist class overcame this problem by engaging in what is now called “globalization”: Lowering tariff barriers, engaging in more world trade, increasing the world division of labor, etc., all this has allowed capitalism to overcome its problems for a period.
The following statement was produced by Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU), a progressive caucus in the San Francisco teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).
After enumerating a series of concessions recently negotiated by UESF in bargaining a tentative agreement, the EDU caucus statement correctly urges all UESF members to vote NO on the tentative agreement. In the wake of almost all unions accepting concessions without a struggle, the following statement presents an inspiring counterexample to this trend.
As is typical across the country, state and local funding for education has been reduced, and administrations are implementing cuts and demanding concessions from teachers. Meanwhile budget deficits are depicted as if they were acts of god, entirely out of the control of humans.
In reality, however, the situation is quite different thanks to endemic political corruption. For example, in 2011 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors awarded Twitter a $22 million tax break over a period of six years. Then the Board outdid itself in corporate largess by awarding Zynga a tax break that was worth “$30 million to $50 million in local taxes in the first year alone…” (The New York Times, “Lobbyists Play Outsize Role as Political Fund-Raisers in San Francisco, June 12, 2011).
How do these quite profitable corporations fare so well while education is slashed and hacked to pieces, and the public good is desecrated? The lobbyists for these corporations help almost all the members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including the most progressive member, John Avalos, raise money for their election campaigns (see The New York Times, “Lobbyists Play Outsize Role as Political Fund-Raisers in San Francisco, June 12, 2011).
Though, for most, the London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (Libor) interest rate fixing scandal appears to be distant and far too complex to understand, its potential consequences may be as economically devastating as a world war.
The Libor is used to set payments on $800 trillion worth of financial instruments. It sets the prices that people and corporations pay for loans and receive for savings. Given that the fraud impacted $10 trillion in consumer loans, the Libor scandal will likely leave a long list of previous financial scandals that contributed to the Great Recession look like child's play.
It also pulls back the curtain on the mechanisms behind the world economy, its anti-social priorities, its willingness to gamble away the future of billions of people, and the government's collusion in these operations. The Libor scandal reveals that the "invisible hand" Adam Smith spoke of in explaining how a capitalist economy regulates itself has been transformed into the trained hand of a swindler.
The Libor and its Problems
The Libor sets interest rates that banks charge one another to borrow on a daily basis. Sixteen (now eighteen) large banks submit their assessment of what they anticipate credit would cost them. The four lowest and four highest calculations are thrown out, and the interest rate is determined as the middle figure among the remaining assessments.
While the method that the banks use to determine the figure they report to Libor is largely arbitrary, it is, nevertheless, assumed that they won't take advantage of the process to game the system. This is a rather remarkable leap of faith since there are billions of dollars of profit if the banks can find a clever way to sidestep the rules. In contrast to popular knowledge, the Libor expects honor among thieves.
A fascinating shift has happened in the U.S. mainstream media: After a year of anti-Syria war propaganda and lies, glimmers of truth are making their way into the public’s view. This may be too little too late: the country is being torn at the seams into the nightmare of ethnic-religious cleansing and massacres.
After non-stop war mongering, The New York Times took a second to wipe the blood off its hands to report the true state of things in Syria. Apparently, the previous, ongoing reports about the Syrian army indiscriminately massacring citizens in the city of Homs was simply a lie, repeated over and over.
It now turns out that the exact opposite was true.
In actuality, many of the refugees fleeing Homs were persecuted Christians, attacked by members of the Free Syrian Army, who have been killing religious minorities in an attempt to recruit hard-line Sunnis in Syria as they wage a religious war against the Syrian secular state.
Because the Free Syrian Army did not emerge from a popular revolution — but instead the pocketbooks and arsenal
of Saudi Arabia — the war to destroy the Syrian government had to be waged as an ethnic-religious war. Saudi Arabia has a long history of exporting its rare extremist form of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, as a political tool to help overthrow unfriendly governments.
The U.S. has a long-standing alliance with Saudi Arabia in this effort, a dynamic that, over the years, has given birth to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The U.S. refuses to stop using this strategy because it’s incredibly effective at overthrowing “unfriendly” governments, while keeping large sections of the Middle East stalled in the formative years of Islam, which keeps a good check on any political activity from working people, since in Saudi Arabia protests, labor unions, and civil rights are illegal.
Thanks to Occupy, most working people are well aware of the growing inequalities in wealth. But for those who lack the specifics, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich provides a useful overview:
“…the rich have been getting a larger and larger portion of total income. From 9 percent in 1980, the top 1 percent's take increased to 23.5 percent by 2007. CEOs who in the 1970s took home 40 times the compensation of average workers now rake in 350 times.” (“Confessions of a Class Warrior,” August 22, 2010).
During roughly the same period, however, hourly wages declined by more than 7 percent. (Robert Frank, “Income Inequality: Too Big to Ignore,” The New York Times, October 16, 2010).
In other words, not only are the rich getting richer, the rest of us are getting poorer.
What has Contributed to Increased Inequality?
Many factors have converged to produce these trends. Good-paying manufacturing jobs have migrated overseas. Technology has replaced many other good-paying jobs. More importantly, across the country many unions have demonstrated an overwhelming willingness to accept concessions without waging a struggle, thereby contributing to the growing inequalities. This willingness to give up hard won gains in turn has resulted in the continuing decline of union membership, which now stands at 8 percent. Who would want to join a union and pay dues only to make concessions? (In contrast, in the 1930s when unions were staging all-out fights for better pay and working conditions, and winning, union membership surged.) The decline of unions signifies the loss of a powerful weapon that can be used to defend the standard of living of the working class.
The U.S. media has made its intentions clear: the 'rebels' attacking Syria's government must have more support to advance Syria's "revolution.” This was the result of the much-hyped advance of Syria's rebels into the country’s two largest cities, which the western media portrayed as a defining moment in global democracy. But "journalists" like these have blood on their hands, with much more in the works.
The systematic dismantling of Syria has more to do with western media lies and geo-politics than "revolution;” and the more that the U.S. media cheers on this bloodletting, the more politicians feel enabled to spill it.
Victory Around the Corner?
The rebel attacks on the cities of Damascus and Aleppo were, in actuality, meant to convince the western media that the rebels are near victory, with the hopes of attracting more direct military support from abroad. In reality, however, the attacks in Damascus were instantly crushed by the Syrian government, but the U.S. media predicted "victory just around the corner" for the rebels.
Suddenly Syria is becoming a U.S. presidential topic of debate. Republicans have accused Obama of "outsourcing" the Syrian conflict, refusing to be involved when the rebels deserve extra support (guns mainly). But Obama is the principal cause of this humanitarian catastrophe. Middle East expert Robert Fisk explains:
"While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria...Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world."
In a recent article published on the website of Socialist Viewpoint, Chris Kinder criticized those on the left who call for raising taxes on the rich. Identifying himself as a Trotskyist, Mr. Kinder displayed particular displeasure with Trotskyists who embrace this demand. Yet, as we will argue, his arguments fundamentally deviate from the political-strategic framework established by Marx and Engels and developed by Lenin and Trotsky.
“‘Tax the rich’ is far from a transitional demand,” Mr. Kinder argued and added: “Demanding taxation of the rich presumes the continued existence of the rich! But revolutionists seek to expropriate the rich capitalists as a precursor to creating an egalitarian, socialist society.”
This argument was further developed when he added: “Furthermore, ‘tax the rich,’ by presuming the continued existence of the exploiter class, cuts off any avenue to being a ‘bridge’ to a revolutionary program. As Trotsky explained in The Death Agony of Capitalism..., a transitional demand should help the masses to ‘find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of the revolution.’”
Mr. Kinder continues his critique by noting that taxing the rich has been promoted by liberals, and, unlike transitional demands, can be won within the framework of capitalism. By improving the lot of the working class it can then defuse their revolutionary impulses.
He also argues that “it’s not a particularly internationalist demand,” since it would only benefit the workers of a particular country.
Echoing the story of David vs. Goliath, janitors in Houston are on strike and taking on such corporate giants as JPMorganChase and Exxon Mobile in an effort to pressure the janitorial companies they employ to agree to the workers' modest demands. It is these big business behemoths that are the real powers behind cleaning contractors such as ABM, GCA, ISS etc. By striking against these contractors, and publicly targeting these contractors' employers, the janitors are using their collective power in a showdown that has great significance for not only the Labor Movement but all workers.
The janitors are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, which has a membership of 3,200 in Houston. Currently, these workers' wages top out at $8.35 per hour. On average, they make under $9,000 a year. The government defines the poverty line as an income of $22,314 for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual.
The janitors are asking for a $10.00 per hour starting wage. In response, the contractors offered a combined 50 cents an hour raise over the course of a five-year contract. With the growing cost of living over this time, these workers would sink even further into poverty if they accepted this. The contractors' proposal was nothing more than an insult.
Not content with merely insulting their employees, the contractors began to back up their position with injury. The janitors were subject to captive audience meetings where their jobs were threatened if they participated in union activity. Management warned that they would call for an immigration audit if the employees didn't quiet down. In addition, they also withheld paychecks of some union supporters. In all, 13 Unfair Labor Practices have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Akbayan Chairperson Risa Hontiveros called on the Sandiganbayan today to issue a warrant of arrest against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) in connection with the plunder charge filed against her and several others before the anti-graft court by the Office of the ombudsman.
Hontiveros said the Sandiganbayan has original jurisdiction over cases for plunder, while the Ombudsman acts as the prosecutor.
“Since the Rules of Criminal Procedure applies suppletorily to cases filed with the Sandiganbayan, Section 5, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court can be applied which states that within ten (10) days from the filing of the information for plunder, the Sandiganbayan justice shall personally evaluate the resolution of the Ombudsman and its supporting evidence. If the court finds probably cause, it shall issue a warrant of arrest,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said the Sandiganbayan already deemed the case has probable cause when it issued a hold departure order against Arroyo.
“The plunder case has probable cause. It is rock-solid. It won’t take long for Arroyo to realize that she has simply jumped from the frying pan and into the fire. The Sandiganbayan has no reason not to issue a warrant of arrest against Arroyo. We look forward that the anti-graft body will swiftly act on this issue,” Hontiveros added.
Recently, Akbayan called on the Sandiganbayan to expedite the plunder charge against her, which they said will land Arroyo in jail.
On Thursday at rush hour at five New York State store locations of the cosmetics
giant, Aveda, customers were greeted by more than the smiling make-up-caked faces
of customer service representatives. On that summer day, environmentalists rallied to
challenge the corporation’s support of Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY),
an Albany-tied organization that has taken an increasingly prominent role in the widely
disparaged industrial practice of fracking. Activists drew attention to EANY’s support for
regulated fracking (or ‘safe fracking’, as the industry has called it). EANY’s Washington,
D.C.-based parent organization, the National Wildlife Federation, also came in for some
bruising criticism for their support of this polluting practice.
“Aveda should know that consumers of its goods are being informed about their
partnering non-profit, Environmental Advocates of New York. EANY sits on Governor
Cuomo’s Hydrofracking Advisory Panel,” said Robert Jereski, an environmental
activist handing out literature outside Aveda’s swanky Flatiron District salon in New
York City. “This panel includes other promoters of ‘safe fracking’ such as the Natural
Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper. It does not represent the vast majority of
environmentalists who oppose fracking and want it banned and criminalized.”
Environmental activists rallied outside of Aveda stores in 5 locations across New York
State including in New York City and issued the following demands to Aveda:
Demand that EANY resign from and publicly denounce Governor Cuomo’s ‘safe
fracking’ Advisory Panel, which is tasked with “developing proper regulations”
(for ‘safe fracking’);
Portland based conscious hip hop artist Jeremy, and the band Profane sass, had an encounter with the park city, utah police. While playing their set on the street, the police arrived and ordered them to stop. The band finished up the song they were on, and this enraged the po-pos, who called in for an additional 8 officers. The crowd booed and chanted free speech slogans. The police singled out Jeremy, and Tomas, who were both snatched away, and are charged with inciting a riot. Bail was set for $5,700 for each, an exhorbitant fee that they need help with. The judge will not be in for arraignment until next tuesday! The popular underground band has a lengthy tour schedule that they are on, and this majorly disrupts and jeopardizes their remaining dates, several of which are in Colorado. If you can help with bail,please do so by calling Eric or Roger at 970-245-3720. Jeremy and Tomas are prisoners because their rights to free speech and assembly have been grossly violated. Any probono lawyers are especially sought after. This is a clear case of judicial overreach, and cannot stand. More information will follow as we get it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYEMRyqrXSc
The House passed Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation 297-127. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act now heads to the US Senate for approval.
"The bill was a compromise and it's encouraging that Republicans and Democrats came together to pass this bill," said Eric LeCompte, who testified to Congress on the legislation and who is the executive director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA. "We were grateful to see unanimous support to pass our amendment to address child poverty on the island."
An amendment sponsored by Representatives Jolly [R-FL] and Curbelo [R-FL] to recommend policies to end child poverty on the island passed unanimously by a voice vote. The child poverty amendment was supported by Jubilee USA, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the Union of Reform Judaism and the Church of the Brethren. The House also approved an amendment to allow a Puerto Rico commission to continue auditing the territory's debt.
"The House took a powerful action by protecting the continuing investigative work of the debt audit commission." shared LeCompte. "I'm glad that Representatives Serrano and Velázquez won approval for their amendment to support the Puerto Rico debt audit."
The Senate version of the bill is poised to pass with a similar level of bipartisan support.
"Speaker Ryan, Chair Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva and Representatives Duffy, Velázquez, Serrano, Pierluisi and Young deserve credit for shaping and passing this bill," stated LeCompte. "Because a group of Republicans and Democrats put Puerto Rico's people first and special interests second, we have a meaningful bill."
Ahead of a likely House vote this week, San Juan's Roman Catholic Archbishop, Roberto González Nieves OFM, announced his support for Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation in an op-ed to The Hill.
"I support the current legislation because it gives Puerto Rico breathing space – so the payment of pensions and social services are made first, before debt payments," the Archbishop wrote in his op-ed about the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act's debt restructuring provisions. "The legislation stops exploitative behavior of so-called vulture funds and has a process to bring our debt back to sustainable levels."
While supporting the legislation as "protecting the common good," González expressed concern about the economic oversight board that the Congressional action establishes. In The Hill, he noted the roots of the crisis are found in Puerto Rico's political status and the religious leader called on Puerto Rico's people to "see this visitation of a control board on our island as a wake-up call."
"Fundamentally, Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States," wrote González. "Before our island faces the next crisis, we must self-determine who we want to be and our relationship with the United States."
González encouraged creditors and Puerto Rico's government to work together and resolve the debt crisis through direct negotiations. In his article, he related that he has met many of the creditors.
The island's senior Catholic leader also heralded and named Congressional leadership from both major parties for working together and "putting Puerto Rico's people first."
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau releases new rules governing "payday" lending - high interest loans that impact low-income communities. Payday loans often carry interest rates over 300% and give lenders direct access to a borrower's bank account. The new regulations would require lenders to assess a borrower's ability to repay loans and meet basic living expenses. The rules are open for public comment until September 14.
"Nobody should take out high-interest loans that can make a bad economic situation even worse. These new payday rules mark an important step forward for responsible lending and borrowing." stated Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty coalition Jubilee USA. "We also need strong state laws and we need Congress to support these rules."
Under the new regulations, payday lenders would be prevented from directly withdrawing funds from a borrower's bank account under certain circumstances. The Bureau estimates that one-sixth of borrowers who had funds directly removed from their bank account lose that account due to overdraft violations and shortage of funds.
"Some borrowers lose their bank accounts because of overdrafts when payday lenders directly extract funds," noted LeCompte.
According to the Bureau, about half of the 12 million Americans who borrow from payday lenders have to take out a second loan to pay off the initial loan. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to delay the new regulations. Consumer advocates and the payday lending industry continue to debate proposed laws at the state level, with 24 states passing significant restrictions.
"Some payday lending is actually predatory lending," remarked LeCompte. "Predatory practices must be discouraged and these rules are a good first step."
About six months ago I contacted a man by the name of "Federico Machon" in San Jose de Peten Guatemala, on couchsurfing.com. We discussed nothing with each other online, other than going fishing; little did I know what he really meant. When I arrived at his home in San Jose, Guat, He immediately started telling me about "everything" I had watched on "YouTube and NetFlix" for the last six months and asking questions about it. I noticed immediately that Mr. Machon's nose had been broken; and he said it had been broken twice; clearly a man of violence. In my presence he admitted to another guest that he could kill without remorse; clearly not the most desirable host. He also explained to me how someone could be given throat cancer as a form of asassination. I did not solicit this explanation. I stayed with him from Feb 27 - Feb 29th and the questioning became more intense and threatening. Most of his questions were about politics, finance and technology. He even went so far as tell me that I had watched videos on Nicola Tesla, The US ecomonmic decline, fiat currency and Jacob Rothschild.
There was a Vietnamese-American couple staying there, who were from the Washington DC area. They were both graduates with degrees in International Relations and History. This is the exact background that the CIA hires from. Not only did the two of them deliberately disturb my sleep; but the male became threatening when I tried to leave on the morning of February 29th. I made an excuse that I was going to get something from the store; and he finally let me pass. I think I was lucky to have escaped with my life. The FBI and apparently the CIA spent six months researching me and debreifing this person on what to question me about. IMO he is an absolute threat to honest American tourists, living outside of the country.
A religious development organization is running radio spots focused on resolving Puerto Rico's debt crisis on 238 stations across Florida. The ads air in Spanish and English continuously ahead of the state's March 15th presidential primary. More than 1 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida and their turnout could sway important presidential contests.
"There are counties in Florida that decide presidential races," noted Eric LeCompte, head of Jubilee USA, the organization airing the radio placements in Florida. "The turnout of Puerto Ricans living in Florida could decide not only who wins the primaries but also who wins in November."
Both parties held debates in Miami this week - the Democratic debate was hosted by the Spanish language Univision network.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio won Puerto Rico's March 6 Republican primary. The election itself highlighted the island's economic troubles. Partly due to lack of funds, officials reduced the number of polling locations for the territory's GOP primary from 3,226 in 2012 to just 110 in 2016. Roughly 25,000 voters participated this year, compared to approximately 130,000 in 2012.
Puerto Rico owes $72 billion in debt and is cutting education, health, law enforcement and pension funding to pay its debt. Congress is debating solutions to the crisis ahead of a March 31 House deadline set by Speaker Paul Ryan.
"The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and they should have the rights as citizens living on the mainland," stated LeCompte. "Puerto Ricans are voting in key swing states and will make their voices heard."
In a meeting overshadowed by the Paris terrorist attacks, G20 Heads of State finished their annual meetings in Antalya, Turkey. The leaders focused on a range of issues focused around "economic inclusion."
"G20 leaders endorsed important policies to address corporate tax avoidance," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group, Jubilee USA Network.
The package of tax reforms supported at the meeting is called the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measure. Tax and transparency issues have been a focus of G20 meetings over the last four years.
In recent years, the G20 has also urged support for "quota" reforms to give developing countries greater voting shares at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These reforms are held-up because the US Congress has yet to enact the new rules. The G20 stated they were "deeply disappointed with the continued delay" in implementing reforms agreed on during the 2010 G20 summit.
"IMF quota reform is long overdue and Congress should pass it immediately," said LeCompte, who serves on expert working groups in the United Nations that focuses on global finance policy. "The G20 is united on the need for these reforms."
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 400 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org
"With so many countries facing debt crises, we urgently need solutions to protect investors and poor people," noted Eric LeCompte, who is participating in the UN meetings. LeCompte is the executive director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. "The UN's work is a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want a legally binding process."
Synagogues and churches held prayer services for students as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined Discover Bank $18.5 million for illegal student lending practices. The bank must repay students $16 million, pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and reform its lending practices. The Bureau accused Discover of overstating the minimum amount due in billing statements, misrepresenting students' total interest payments and engaging in illegal debt collection practices. The penalty is the first of its kind by the Bureau against a student loan company.
"This fine sends a strong message to companies that take advantage of students," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty coalition Jubilee USA Network, which advocates for responsible student lending policies. "Predatory lending traps students in debt."
This past weekend, 64 faith communities from 26 states prayed and acted for fair student lending policies as part of Jubilee USA's national interfaith "Jubilee for Students" prayer event. In 2012 and 2013, the event pushed congressional legislation to stop federal student loan interest rate increases.
"Unfair lending practices put our young people at risk," said Rabbi Barnett Brickner of Temple Israel in Alameda, Calif. "It's important we protect our students and ensure they can graduate college without mountains of debt."
As a part of religious services, communities collected students' stories as part of a national campaign to highlight predatory lending practices.
Pope Francis called for an international bankruptcy process in a news conference as he left Latin America on Monday. According to the Associated Press, when asked about the Greek debt crisis, Francis stated, "if a company can declare bankruptcy, why can't a country do so and we go to the aid of others?" Francis offered further comments noting that too many countries are struggling with high debts and he suggested a United Nations bankruptcy proposal could be the solution.
“Pope Francis knows that heavy debt loads cause poverty and inequality,” said Eric LeCompte, who consulted the Vatican on its position. LeCompte is the head of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. “The Pope's statement is a logical extension of the Catholic Church's strong support of debt relief for struggling countries."
Last year, LeCompte led a delegation of global Jubilee organizations to advise Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on the need for a bankruptcy process to address inequality. The Catholic Church is a founder of Jubilee USA and supports its efforts to win debt relief for struggling countries.
In September of 2014, the United Nations General Assembly voted 124-11 to develop the bankruptcy process that Pope Francis referenced. LeCompte addressed the UN earlier this year on the creation of the process. This Fall, the United Nations is set to review progress on the proposal. Because International Monetary Fund (IMF) studies point to debt as a cause of inequality, the IMF is exploring aspects of a bankruptcy process based on an April 2013 paper. In addition to the debt crisis in Greece, nearly 50 countries face worrying levels of debt distress according to World Bank statistics.
At a United Nations development summit, world leaders, the International Monetary Fund and development organizations recommend the elimination of a type of hedge fund that preys on countries in financial crisis. So called “vulture funds” are featured in a global agreement to be signed this week at the Financing for Development Conference.
“These predatory funds undermine development and can destabilize a country’s economy,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. “From Zambia to Peru, they target, litigate and collect aid monies that should be building schools and hospitals.”
When countries face economic hardship, "vulture funds" buy a country's debt cheaply and then sue for full repayment. After Zambia received international debt relief in 2006, a hedge fund called Donegal International sued Zambia to collect $55 million on a $15 million debt the fund purchased for $3.3 million on the secondary market. NML Capital sued Argentina over debt holdings and refused to participate in Argentina's debt restructuring. The Argentina case put a broader spotlight on this type of litigation.
“World leaders are saying enough is enough,” stated LeCompte who is attending the summit and participated in agreement negotiations. “The final agreement recommends changing contracts to prevent the behavior or legislating the funds out of existence.”
On July 1st, Belgium was the latest country to pass a law restricting this behavior. Three of the ten paragraphs in the United Nations agreement that focus on debt, state concern or recommend ways to stop these hedge funds. Two additional paragraphs promote aspects of global bankruptcy and responsible lending and borrowing which further deter this behavior.