Muslims ride Wave


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The ‘Blue Wave’ Was Also a ‘Muslim Wave’

In the most Islamophobic election in history, Muslim candidates scored big wins by embracing progressive policies.

By Domenica Ghanem | November 7, 2018

With the Muslim Ban, the promotion of torturer Gina Haspel to CIA director, and increases in hate crimes, it’s been a rough year for us Muslims in the United States.

So hearing the words “Salam Alaikum” as Ilhan Omar took the national stage on Election Night to accept her win as Representative of Minnesota’s 5th District made it feel like I could finally breathe a little bit easier.

The first Somali-American elected to Congress, Omar joined Rashida Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian refugees, as the first Muslim women to be elected to U.S. Congress.

The election of these women to Congress is a direct repudiation of the domestic and foreign policies of a country that’s been hostile to migrants and refugees from a number of countries, including Somalia, and has funded Israel’s occupation and destruction of Palestine.

But even though Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the country, and Tlaib’s state of Michigan has a large population of Arab and Muslim Americans, this “Muslim wave” was about more than faith or ethnicity.

Omar and Tlaib ran on unabashadley progressive platforms, joining other successful progressives like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez in New York, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in Illinois, Veronica Escobar in Texas, and Sharice Davids — the first openly lesbian indigenous representative, who flipped a red seat in Kansas.

They’re also joined by more local progressive representatives like 26-year-old Mari Manoogian, who flipped a Michigan state house seat blue, and Sudanese immigrant Mo Seifeldein, who joined the Alexandria, Virginia city council. Both were endorsed by the Emgage PAC, which calls itself the “policy home of American Muslims.”

These candidates ran on health care for all, taking on our corporate welfare system, protecting black lives, and reversing our climate disaster. And many were unafraid to speak out against U.S. foreign policies that cause refugee crises and domestic policies that punish the desperate people feeling them.

The progressive Muslim wave, with the most Muslims running for office since 9/11, thrived even as it faced one of the most Islamophobic elections of our time.

A report by Muslim Advocates called Running On Hate outlined how, though anti-Muslim politicians have been lurking on the fringe for decades, “Trump’s presidency emboldened a new wave of anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists to run for office nationwide and at all levels of government.”

Anti-Muslim hate groups falsely attacked Omar and Tlaib as anti-Semites supporting terrorism. Groups supporting Dave Brat, a Republican candidate from Virginia, attacked his opponent for serving as a substitute teacher at a Muslim school, calling it “terror high.” Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach brought Trump a proposal to question “high-risk immigrants over support for Sharia Law.” Joe Kaufman, the head of anti-Muslim group Americans Against Hate, ran in Florida’s 23rd District.

But what many of those candidates have since learned the hard way is that smearing Muslims is not a successful campaign strategy. They all lost to Democrats, with Brat’s race flipping a Virginia seat blue.

And even some Islamophobes who did make it, like Reps. Steve King and Duncan Hunter, won by smaller margins in part because voters soured on their anti-Muslim, white supremacist rhetoric.

What all of this tells me about the U.S. electorate is that they care about issues like raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicare, and funding for education at the same time that they reject racist Muslim and immigrant-bashing.

And I have a feeling this is just a drop in the bucket of an even bigger progressive, young, woman, Muslim wave to come.

Domenica Ghanem is the media manager at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

6 Reasons to Add Compost to Your Yard Before Winter

EarthTalk Q&A

Adding compost to your lawn is an essential part of supporting the soil of your yard. Compost not only adds a vital energy source for the grass but is a great way to help your backyard environment naturally. Check out these reasons to add compost to your yard before winter arrives:

It’s Called Black Gold for A Reason

Gardeners have nicknamed compost “black gold” because of its high energy qualities and rich nutrient color. Compost provides so much energy to the soil that it is a coveted part of every successful garden. The natural characteristics of compost help to secure this nickname in its ability to support the yard’s soil conditions adequately.

Helps Keep Lawns Strong

This added source of energy contributes to support the root system of the lawn during the dormant winter season. Grassroots will use the surrounding nutrients that compost adds to the soil as well as benefit from a slow release fertilizer. Both of these practices will help in providing a boost of energy to the lawn once warmer temperatures arrive in the spring.

Cool Seasons Help Absorption

Adding compost to your yard before the first freeze arrives in your area is essential. Fall and early winter conditions mean that your yard is probably seeing much less use than during the busy spring and summer seasons. This reduction of consumption means that your yard has ample time to slowly absorb the compost and allow the microorganisms to do their work in mixing the compost with the underlying soil.

Compost Fights Against Thatch

Many yards are prone to thatch build up in the fall. This build-up means that the underlying grassroots system of your lawn can sometimes become so much that it begins to choke out the plant itself. Adding compost to your yard will help decompose thatch making it a healthier environment to support the overall lawn.

Deters Soil Compaction

One of the most common ways that a lawn suffers is by being in compacted soil that is too hard to support adequate growing conditions. Tight soil conditions are hard environments for grassroots to thrive and compost can help provide a more hospitable soil environment. Compost works with the soil and is slowly mixed into the soil to produce natural energy.

Naturally Supports the Environment

One of the biggest reasons to add compost to your yard before winter is that it’s an eco-friendly way to care for your lawn and garden. Compost piles are a continuous gardening practice that many gardeners use. Compost typically contains grass clippings, fallen leaves, and food scraps from your home and yard, adding another energy source for the soil. Compost is a natural and effective way to support not only the local environment but your mini backyard environment with good gardening practices.

Choosing to add compost to your yard before winter is essential in providing your soil with enough energy to withstand the cooler temperatures. The slower fall season allows the lawn to properly absorb the compost without too much foot traffic as well. Being a natural fighter against thatch and soil compaction also makes adding compost a logical choice for a healthy lawn. Naturally supporting the environment is also one of the other reasons to add compost to your yard before winter arrives.

Kelly Holland is a gardening and landscape design writer who loves experimenting in her kitchen. Her quirky nature loves a bright color palette so naturally, her coveted garden is covered in a rainbow of fruits, vegetable, and flowers.

Stopping Future Wars by Saving Water at Home

Allie Garnham October 25, 2018

Almost 2 billion people will be living in countries with a water shortage by 2025, according to the UN. However, there is hope that if people change the way they use water, the world can avoid that grim future. By just making a few alterations, changing some habits or installing new fixtures, you can save water and money. Your home can be your main battle ground against climate change and water shortage.

You Use Lots of Water Everyday

saving waterIn drier parts of the U.S. people use more water compared to people in other much cooler wetter regions. Generally, a family of four uses about 400 gallons of water every day, which means that each person in a home uses 100 gallons of water. Roughly 70 percent of water is used indoors while outdoor use accounts for 30 percent according to the EPA. It may sound ridiculous if you put in numbers, but the fact that each individual in a home flushes the toilet five times a day makes this easier to believe.

Old Habits Die Hard

Simply changing the way you use water in the house is enough to make a difference. For example, you can use a cup of water to brush your teeth instead of brushing while the faucet is running. Instead of taking a bath every day, you can limit that activity to the weekends and take showers the rest of the week.

Apart from that, depending on your local laws, you can use grey water to clean your home and water plants outdoors. If everyone did this, a lot of water and energy used to pump that water would be saved. Less fossil fuel burned to produce energy means less pollution.

Replace or Retrofit the Faucet

The kitchen faucet is used more than any other faucet in your home and it accounts for 20% of indoor water use. Your old kitchen faucet uses 5 gallons per minute but a water efficient faucet only uses 1.3 gallons per minute. To enjoy these savings, you may need to replace your existing kitchen faucet.

However, retrofits like aerators are a practical alternative to replacing your faucet. An aerator reduces the amount of water coming out of a faucet by mixing that water with air. It separates a single flow of water into many smaller streams just like a sieve would. This reduces the space water can flow through, which results in lower water flow. The aerator does this without reducing water pressure. You also do not need to spend any money on a plumber because aerators are very easy to install

Toilet Flushing Is A Culprit Too

Install high-efficiency toilets that use less than 1 gallon of water per flush. With a high-efficiency toilet, a family of four can save 20,000 gallons of water a year. After you have installed your new toilet or new retrofit for your toilet and faucet, check them regularly to make sure there are no leaks. We do not have to sit down and watch the world dry up because we are all capable of doing something about climate change.

Opinion: America’s Wealth Dynasties Are Getting Even Bigger

By Josh Hoxie

InsideSources.com

Most people work hard to provide for their family hoping to generate enough money to afford the basics. Their only chance at vast fortune is a lottery ticket.

For other families, they need only wait patiently for their fortunes to come — the result of a genetic lottery they were lucky enough to win.

No family is wealthier than the Waltons of Wal-Mart.

Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in 1962 in Arkansas after a 20-year career managing stores. Twenty years later, Walton’s fortune had grown to $690 million, according to the first Forbes 400 listing of the wealthiest individuals in the country in 1982. Adjusting for inflation, that figure rises to $1.81 billion in 2018 dollars.

A generation later, Sam Walton has long since passed, while the Walton family fortune has ballooned. It now boasts not one, but seven members of the Forbes 400, with a combined family worth of $169.7 billion.

In other words, the Walton family saw their wealth rise by more than 9,000 percent over the course of a generation. And for the heirs of Sam Walton, their only real contribution to generating this fortune has been hard waiting, not hard working.

That was just one finding in a new report I co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies. We found that wealth dynasties like the Waltons now loom more dramatically over ordinary Americans than ever.

The report finds that dynastic wealthiest families with multiple members of the Forbes 400 — the Walton, the Koch and the Mars families — have seen their wealth increase nearly 6,000 percent since 1982. Meanwhile, median household wealth over the same period went down by 3 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

These three wealth dynasties own a combined fortune of $348.7 billion. That’s more than 4 million times the median wealth of U.S. families, about $80,000.

Despite massive increases in productivity and economic growth, just generating enough money to afford a house, health care, children’s education, food and maybe an occasional vacation is no small feat for middle earners in the United States. One in five families has zero or negative wealth. Two in five Americans couldn’t come up with $400 if they needed it in an emergency.

And that’s just the middle. After a tour of the United States last year, U.N. extreme poverty rapporteur Philip Alston reported: “About 40 million (Americans) live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”

Meanwhile, the ultra-wealthy break new records year after year. In just the past year, the global wealth of billionaires jumped 20 percent, according to a new report from the Swiss bank UBS.

We can’t separate the ever-concentrating wealth of the ultra-rich from the declining economic realities of the rest of us. Each year a greater part of our collective treasure finds its way into a smaller and smaller number of hands.

This isn’t news to the Wal-Mart employees who struggle to get by on wages below the cost of living, which often requires them to rely on public assistance programs despite working full time.

It’s also not lost on Amazon employees who, even at their recently increased wage of $15 an hour, would need to toil for 2.5 million years to make what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — the richest man in the world — made last year alone.

The United State is in desperate need of public policy to address the growing crisis of wealth inequality. With a billionaire in the White House, whose wealth depended on a massive family inheritance no less, it’s unlikely such solutions will come from the top.

However, the policies exist. A smart step forward would be instituting federal wealth tax. A modest 1 percent tax on assets above $20 million would raise an estimated $1.9 trillion over 10 years, which could be invested in generating economic opportunities for low-wealth families. Another good idea is to tax large inheritances — genetic lottery winnings, really — as ordinary income.

Why should heirs and heiresses like Paris Hilton pay less taxes than workers? Why shouldn’t we as a country demand an end to skyrocketing inequality — and take action to bring about that end?

ABOUT THE WRITER

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

How Aristocracies Are Born

Our country is on track to be run by the children of billionaires. Our ancestors recognized this and took action. We can too.

By Josh Hoxie | November 7, 2018

This year’s stock market saw high returns for month after month, as retirees and stock runners alike saw their portfolios rise. Then one day this fall, the market took a turn, and all of the increases of the past several months vanished.

That’s how it goes for the market. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.

For the three wealthiest families in the country, however, the market only ever shoots skyward. The Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Kochs of Koch Industries, and the Mars of Mars chocolate own a combined $348.7 billion. Since 1982, their wealth has skyrocketed nearly 6,000 percent.

None of the living members of these families founded the companies from which their fortunes come — all were started by earlier generations.

In fact, more than a third of the Forbes 400 inherited the businesses that generated their wealth. These modern wealth dynasties exercise significant economic power in our current gilded age of extreme inequality.

A new report I co-authored with my colleague Chuck Collins at the Institute for Policy Studies, Billionaire Bonanza 2018, looks at the rise of these wealth dynasties. The Forbes 400 combined own $2.89 trillion, we found. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 64 percent of the United States.

The median family in the United States owns just over $80,000 in household wealth. The richest person in the United States (and the world), Jeff Bezos, has accumulated a fortune nearly 2 million times that amount.

These pictures paint a grim picture of wealth inequality in the United States in 2018.

Wealth is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands while the rest of the country struggles to get by. One in five families has zero or negative wealth. Two in five Americans couldn’t come up with $400 if they needed it in an emergency.

Previous generations tried to warn us about economic inequality. Former President Teddy Roosevelt said in 1913, “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.”

A generation later, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned in 1941, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

And for a time, we heeded these warnings. Wealth and income inequality peaked in the 1920s before the passage of high personal income tax rates on the rich, a federal estate tax, and other inequality-fighting public policy measures took hold. Americans enjoyed a general flattening of the economic pyramid up until the 1980s when the modern period of tax cuts for the rich and austerity for the rest of us begun.

It’s safe to say that a country in which three individuals own more wealth than half the country — as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett do now — is not what Brandeis or Roosevelt hoped for the direction of the country.

Without action, French economist Thomas Piketty warns, the United States will devolve into a “patrimonial capitalism” where the heirs of today’s billionaires dominate our politics, culture, and economy.

The good news is we have solutions to avoid this.

A smart step forward would be instituting a federal wealth tax on assets above $20 million, which would raise an estimated $1.9 trillion over 10 years that could be invested in generating economic opportunities for low-wealth families. Another good idea is to tax large inheritances — people’s genetic lottery winnings — as ordinary income.

There’s nothing natural or inevitable about wealth dynasties. Our ancestors recognized this and took action. We can too.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

An Honest Look at Poverty in the Heartland

Hardship is a lot more widespread in the Badger State than the official numbers would have you believe.

By Saurav Sarkar | November 7, 2018

A few weeks before the election, a roomful of Wisconsinites gathered to share some of the stories that are often left out of political campaigns. At a Racine gathering of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, visitors shared real-life stories about poverty in the state.

Solo Little John of Kenosha, Wisconsin was one of those who testified. He’s a fast food worker at Wendy’s and a leader of the Fight for $15 living wage campaign. “My voice represents the voices of the voiceless,” he said, “those who live in poverty and are directly impacted by low wages because we can’t form unions.”

“I only make $8.75 an hour,” he added. “You can probably imagine that day in day out, this is very hard for me, that it makes it a very difficult time for me to pay my bills, my light bills, my gas, the necessities.”

Some 1.2 million Wisconsin workers make under $15 an hour — that’s 44 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce.

In a story familiar across the country, many folks in Wisconsin struggle a lot harder than official poverty figures would have you believe. About 40 percent of people in Wisconsin are either poor or low-income — a total of about 2.3 million residents. This includes 51 percent of children, 41 percent of women, over a third of white people, and nearly two thirds of people of color in the state.

For immigrant Wisconsinites, the challenges can be even starker.

“Some are killed at the border, but we don’t see this,” said Maria Morales, a second generation Mexican immigrant. “It’s happening here in our own neighborhoods. Our own community members are being whisked away by the immigration department, by ICE, an agency that we do not need.”

She added, “We should abolish ICE. We don’t have to have an agency that’s out to destroy families… We’re tired of them tearing our families apart.”

Migrants aren’t the only Wisconsin residents feeling the impact of systemic racism.

Wisconsin has passed several voter suppression measures in recent years, including a photo ID law, that disproportionately affect voters of color. And of the 23,377 people imprisoned in the state, about 55 percent are people of color. Black residents are incarcerated at nearly 12 times the rate of white residents, the second highest disparity in the country.

The federal money spent in Wisconsin shows these skewed priorities.

Some $2.3 billion was spent on defense in the state in 2015, even while over a quarter of Wisconsin’s veteran population lives on under $35,000 a year. Around 415,000 people are uninsured, and nearly a quarter of the state’s census tracts are at-risk for water affordability.

The Trump tax overhaul will make these inequities worse. The richest 1 percent of Wisconsin residents are expected to receive 28 percent of the benefits of the new federal tax law. Their average tax cut in 2027 is expected to be $7,740, while the poorest 20 percent are expected to have to pay $180 more.

It’s not like we don’t have the money to do better for working people in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s contribution to the country’s endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond totals $73 billion since 2001. That same money could have created around 58,000 jobs a year in clean energy — every year for the last 17 years. It could have also placed every Wisconsin child in Head Start early childhood education programs, or covered health care for 1.6 million low-income adults each year since 2001.

After these elections, it’s time to chart a better future for the Badger State and others like it. Wisconsin’s lawmakers — and all of those in Congress — need to invest in good jobs and a green economy, not tax cuts for rich people and war.

Saurav Sarkar is the research coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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