This Ain’t Right: Wealth Inequality by the Numbers

  • 26 billionaires have more wealth than 3.8 billion people in the world
  • 400 richest Americans have more wealth then 64% of the country 208 million people
  • The rich are accumulating more while working class income is declining.
  • Louisiana has one of the highest income inequality rates in the country. The poorest 368,000 households (20%) have an average income of $16,900
  • Orleans Parish is the most unequal parish in the state
  • Income inequality in New Orleans between Black and white is the 2nd highest in the country

What Have Workers Won Through the Bolivarian Revolution?

  • As of 2016, the Venezuelan government allocated 73 percent of its budget to social programs. In contrast, the U.S. spends 27 times as much on its war budget than on housing subsidies.
  • More than 44,000 communal councils throughout the country decide for themselves—democratically—how to spend their tax dollars.
  • Education is now free from daycare to university. Venezuela is fifth in the world in the percentage of the population attending university. Illiteracy has been nearly eradicated while as late as the 1990’s, it measured at about 80%.
  • The Gran Misión de la Vivienda (Great Housing Mission) has built over 2.5 million homes for low-income Venezuelans since 2011. In the United States, this would be equivalent to increasing low income housing by 37 million units, given the size of the population and average household.
  • According to a report by the United Nations in 2018—even as Venezuela was enduring harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States—the country had a higher ranking for human development than the majority of the member states of the hostile Lima Group such as Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala, etc.
  • Women are guaranteed maternity leave and breastfeeding rights by law.
  • Article 88 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela recognizes that housework generates value and wealth, and that social security should be granted to homemakers.

Venezuelan Workers Mobilize to Defend Their Country

By Joseph Rosen

U.S. Supports Wealthy Few Who Want to Destroy Gains

Venezuelan workers, peasants, women, Afro-Venezuelans and Indigenous people are demonstrating and arming themselves to stop an attempted U.S./CIA coup. Over the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have poured into the streets to rally against U.S. imperialist aggression, in defense of their homeland and in support of their government. On February 27, thousands commemorated the 30th anniversary of the mass uprising called El Caracazo. Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly, addressed the assembled masses: “Thirty years ago, the Venezuelan people made their voices heard by taking to the streets. They demanded freedom. They called for imperialism and neoliberalism to stop running over them. To the imperialist powers, I say: I don’t know who you’ll have to rule over Venezuela in the event that your coup succeeds because you will face Venezuelans protesting and fighting back every day in the streets.”

150 Cities Demonstrate Against U.S. Attacks on Venezuela

People across the world are taking to the streets to call for an end to the U.S. economic war on Venezuela and to defend its people’s right to determine their own national destiny. On February 23, people rallied in at least 150 cities to reject the lies and slanders of the capitalist-owned media and to oppose another disastrous war for oil profits. The cries of the millions of Iraqis and Libyans have not gone unheard; around the world, people recognize that these countries were condemned to U.S. war because their governments, like Venezuela’s, committed no crime worse than to try to use their oil wealth for their own national development.

And the world will never forget the crimes of Trump’s henchmen: National Security Advisor John Bolton’s lies have cost hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Palestine, while U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams helped to arm and train the right-wing death squads responsible for the murder of thousands of Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran men, women, and children.

Anti-humanitarian U.S. Government refused Venezuelan aid to
New Orleans and Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Katrina and Maria.

Venezuelan workers have stepped up to the challenge posed by the anti-humanitarian U.S. sanctions by increasing their participation in the Local Production and Supply Committees which distribute government-subsidized food to about six million families every 15 days. Through this program, the Venezuelan government facilitates the distribution of about 50,000 tons of food per month. By contrast, the phony U.S. ‘humanitarian aid’ package that was the focus of the dangerous media stunt at the border amounts to only 60 tons of “food.”

As it happens, that’s nearly the size of the aid package that Bush turned away when the Venezuelan government attempted to deliver aid to New Orleanians after Katrina. The Venezuelan people understand perfectly well that the same U.S. government that is attempting to strangle them by economic blockade has no interest in relieving their suffering with supposed shipments of food. The “aid” ploy was only designed to break the territorial sovereignty of Venezuela so that U.S. and Colombian arms and military personnel could be brought in.

Venezuela Will Not Bend to U.S.

The attempted U.S./CIA coup has failed, and yet the right-wing Venezuelan opposition continue to clamor for war. More than 80% of Venezuelans oppose a U.S. military intervention regardless of their stance on the government. The fact that the would-be puppet Juan Guaido would risk the lives of thousands of his fellow Venezuelans clearly demonstrates that he’s merely a pawn of the Pentagon with no concern for his people.

The government of Maduro has the loyalty of the armed forces, which include 1.6 million Venezuelans who are trained by the government to head up citizen militias. These armed workers and peasants have an enormous stake in the defense of their country and the gains on power they’ve made in the twenty years since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution. Describing the Venezuelan people’s will to win, Maduro has invoked the heroic example of the Vietnamese people who fought to defeat the U.S.

A U.S. war would be extremely costly. The Venezuelan people are willing to accept the ultimate cost to defend their freedom from imperialist domination. Workers in the U.S. will also pay if Trump and his gang make war. We can’t afford another rich man’s war. For all the misery that another war would bring, we certainly have nothing to gain. But we have the world to gain when we realize that, like our sisters and brothers in Venezuela, we have the power to stand up to the gangsters who think that their tanks and their bombs entitle them to the wealth that we create.

Hands Off Venezuela! End the U.S. Sanctions Now!

 

Take Em Down NOLA Confronts Zulu Club’s Use of Blackface

Take Em Down NOLA (TEDN) exists for the purpose of removing ALL symbols to white supremacy from the landscape of New Orleans, as a very necessary part of the struggle toward racial and economic justice. This has been our consistent stance since we began this leg of the long historical journey to remove symbols that honor, celebrate, and perpetuate white supremacy. These symbols support a white economic power structure—a SYSTEM—designed to exploit and oppress Black working class people.

TEDN has continued this work by taking a clear stance against blackface. On Thursday, February 21, during a press conference outside ZULU headquarters, we issued an appeal to their members to end this practice, which originates in the degrading caricature of Black people.

ZULU has completely lied about its Blackface tradition claiming that there is a difference between black face and black makeup. This explanation is a disrespectful dismissal of the actual history and an exploitation of those who don’t know it. ZULU also pretends that their wearing of blackface, grass skirts and tightly curled fro wigs pays tribute to the proud ZULU nation in South Africa. Actual South Africans and other people from Africa have called the practice offensive and confusing.

The sad truth is that ZULU’s use of blackface has its origins in the minstrel tradition, which was created to mock, degrade and stereotype Black people as lazy, oversexed and of low intelligence. No pride can be generated from such a white supremacist beginning.

Many have expressed confusion about our agenda or tactics since our confrontation of ZULU. Below we address some of those questions and concerns:

“TEDN is mostly comprised of transplants.”

This is false. Half of our leadership are natives to New Orleans. Two who were born elsewhere, have lived here for a collective 50 plus years, one of whom has direct family ties that go back 8 generations. Even if we were transplants, that shouldn’t matter. The legendary Civil Rights Activist Rev. Avery Alexander wasn’t born in Orleans, yet it didn’t stop him from fighting on behalf of his people. Nor did it stop the people from benefiting from his fight; holding both white and Black people accountable. Charles Deslondes was a Haitian transplant after the Haitian Revolution, and he helped lead the 1811 Enslaved People’s Revolt in New Orleans. If Black working class people around the world are to ever achieve collective liberation, we must learn to think, act and build with one another beyond the mental and physical limitations of colonial borders and parish lines. We must be as united as the white supremacist force that oppresses us.

“The issue is petty. Why does it even matter?”

Symbols reflect systems. They are a way of telling us what our roles are supposed to be in daily life in New Orleans. White supremacist monuments hover over us to tell us who’s still in charge. Blackface tells us that we are still minstrel servants of the rich white ruling class, as we entertain them joyfully. If the symbols didn’t matter, why would the rich white ruling class spend millions to build and maintain them in the first place? Why would they fight so hard to keep them up?

Think: what your oppressor proactively supports is 9 times out of 10 not good for you.

“TEDN doesn’t tend to anything but statues and symbols.”

False. TEDN is mostly comprised of black educators who have taught black students for a collective 4 to 5 decades in New Orleans. TEDN organizers actively work in support of abundant issues. TEDN organizers fight for hospitality workers’ rights, jobs for youth, education equity, protection against police terror, and the long-overdue fully-funded relocation of the Residents of Gordon Plaza off toxic soil. TEDN fights against environment racism, militarism, and the dysfunction of the Sewerage and Water Board, supporting the moratorium on water shut offs, and much more.

“Why didn’t TEDN go after Rex?”

We did. Our 2016 campaign “Racism at Mardi Gras” was a direct shot at ALL the racist symbolism reflected at Mardi Gras every year, from Rex’s KKK-like regalia to Zulu’s blackface. Also, when we took on the monuments, we were confronting the real life version of Rex. The people that put those monuments up generations ago are the ancestors of the rich white ruling class that masks as Rex every year and controls our city’s economy to this day. And it is that same class that fought so viciously to keep the monuments up.

“Why take to the streets like that?”

We wrote a letter to Zulu requesting a meeting. When no response came, we called the leadership. All was ignored, as these types of requests are by the petty bourgeois class. So we were forced to take to the streets as we always do when those in power ignore us. The history of organizing shows that only direct action will bring direct social change. Now that the global and national consciousness has risen to contend with the issue of blackface—as they should—the city of New Orleans can finally confront our own symbolic and systemic value of Black lives.

Jewish Supporters of Palestinians Stand with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Nazi-loving Trump Is the Problem

The government of Israel is based on killing Palestinians and stealing their land. Israel was set up by Britain after World War II, and now the US pays for Israel’s military to bully other countries in the Middle East and steal oil and land from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and even Egypt. Before Israel was “founded,” the area was known as historic Palestine and many Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in the area, sharing the land. But for decades the U.S. has given Israel billions in taxpayer money so that Israel can help the US also steal land and oil from innocent, working class people.

One of the ways the U.S. and Israel work together to take taxpayer money out of healthcare, education and even our ability to drink clean water from our pipes is through lobbying and special interest groups. One of the most powerful lobby groups in the U.S. is called the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC was recently called out by Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar. Congresswoman Omar was attacked right away by Republicans and Democrats and called anti-Jewish. In the U.S., anytime someone speaks out about Israel, politicians on both sides will try shut people up by calling them anti-Jewish. This includes criminalizing the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement which simply says if you disagree with Israel, don’t buy or invest in Israeli products or companies.

As a person of Jewish descent, I condemn the racist government of Israel, and alongside me stand thousands of Jews who do so as well. But the media never allows Jewish people who do not agree with Israel to tell our story. We stand with Congresswoman Omar. She is criticizing a government and never said anything hateful about Jewish people, unlike Trump and his allies. Trump called Nazis who chanted “Jews Out” in Charlottesville “fine individuals.” Their support for Israel is still about imperialism and taking over other countries so that rich American politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, can profit at any cost.

Long live Palestine! Down with Zionism!

Banks, U.S. Military Are the Real Drug Dealers, Not Migrants

Banks are the biggest profiteers from the drug trade. But bank owners are never jailed. HSBC, Western Union, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, Wachovia among many others have allegedly failed to comply with American anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

While some poor youth has to spend 20 years of their life in Angola for possession, Wachovia Bank only has to pay a fine for laundering $378 billion in drug money over three years.

Charles A. Intriago, president of the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists, observed, “If you’re an individual, and get caught, you get hammered. But if you’re a big bank, and you’re caught moving money for a drug dealer, you don’t have to worry. You just fork over a monetary penalty, and then raise your fees to make up for it.”

“Until we see bankers walking off in handcuffs to face charges in these cases, nothing is going to change,” Intriago adds. “These monetary penalties are just a cost of doing business to them, like paying for a new corporate jet.”

U.S. Military Protects Drug Profits

Afghanistan—while occupied by the U.S. military—increased poppy production by 50% according to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey by the United Nations. The U.S.’s only friends there are the opium producers, so the U.S protects them.

The head of the NRA, Oliver North, used military planes to bring in drugs to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua. The U.S. military and CIA were well known as a source of drugs during the Vietnam War era. Now they hide it better.

Pharmaceutical Companies Make a Killing from Addiction

The super wealthy Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma plead guilty to federal criminal charges for misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the addictiveness of Oxycontin yet the company continues to rake in billions every year. Opioids like Oxy kill an average of 200 people every day across the U.S. More than 400,000 people have died from overdoses in the last 20 years.

PUT THE BANKERS, MILITARY AND DRUG COMPANY OWNERS IN JAIL AND SEIZE THEIR MONEY!

 

Women Deserve the Right to Self-Defense

Michele Benjamin (courtesy of Loyola Law Clinic)

25 years ago, as Michelle Benjamin was walking in the French Quarter, a man solicited her for sex and she refused. Despite saying no, she was attacked and fought back. In the struggle, her attacker died. For that, she was sentenced to life in prison. Michelle was only 16 at the time.

Like Cyntoia Brown, who defended herself against a man who had kidnapped, raped, and abused her, Michelle Benjamin was acting in self-defense. And like Cyntoia Brown, she spent decades in prison being punished for this “crime.”

This capitalist system treats women like slaves—to be used, controlled, kept quiet and submissive. We are supposed to submit to assault from partners or strangers. Killing someone in self-defense is often legal, but for women those protections rarely apply. Of the 219,000 women in prison, up to 30,000 are in prison for killing someone who attacked, abused, or raped them. Racist men like George Zimmerman hide behind “Stand Your Ground” laws for murdering innocent black children while women who protect themselves or their children from real harm are jailed.

Like Cyntoia Brown, Michelle Benjamin wasn’t found innocent. Her case wasn’t accepted as self-defense. She was only granted parole after 25 years of fighting for freedom. In the eyes of the state, she is still a murderer, not someone legally entitled to defend herself. Like Cyntoia Brown, she was not pardoned but was instead given a commuted sentence after a major pushback from the public.

Justice has been denied to Michelle Benjamin and Cyntoia Brown. They won their freedom despite the racist incarceration system because the people rose up with them. After decades of struggle, they won a concession, but justice still eludes them and the tens of thousands of others who have fought back.

Women deserve the right to self-defense & the resources to leave their abusers.

Cyntoia Brown was kidnapped into sex slavery. Michelle Benjamin was attacked for refusing solicitation for sex. Their cases mirror the thousands of women who have had to kill to survive in domestic or stranger abuse situations. Even when their lives are threatened or they are beaten, women who earn their living by selling sex are deemed criminal for fighting back. Even when a wife or partner’s life is threatened or she is being beaten, she is deemed the criminal. According to this unjust system, women are the property of men and have no right to protect their own lives.

Meanwhile, the billionaire class has continued its attack on women by refusing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, stripping what few legal protections exist for women who try to escape abuse or seek protection from it. While there are many women fighting to push a renewal through, this still leaves many more vulnerable than before.

Many women have no choice but to defend their own lives. Women are 75% more likely to be killed by their abuser when they try to escape. There is no effective protection from the state for those who seek to escape domestic violence, sexual abuse, kidnappers, or dangers to their children.

Over 80% of women who are in shelters escaping abuse state that affordable housing is one of their top needs. Often, abusive men use money to control their victims. Even when a woman has a paying job, the wages are often too low to cover the costs of moving on.

Killing in self-defense is the only way for most women to survive once they find themselves in a violent domestic partnership or other situation. We must stand with women in this situation.

After the revolution in China, when men would abuse their wives, the women in the village gathered together and went in a large group to confront the abuser. They stripped him naked and marched him down the street often giving him the same beating he inflicted on his wife. Domestic violence dropped dramatically.

Bosses Beware: Women Are Organizing!

Honor International Working Women’s Day

Moira Casados Cassidy—teacher in Denver who is leading the local teachers’ union fight for better wages and against for-profit charter schools. Teachers in Denver went on strike during the week of February 11th to demand a livable wage.

Zenei Cortez—Registered Nurse and co-president of California Nurses Association. Cortez worked as a nurse for over 40 years, has been leading the CNA’s fight for Medicare for All, and has fought her entire life for the rights of working women of color.

Marie Jacob—United Airlines catering worker. Jacob was a key figure in unionizing 2,700 United Airlines catering workers in Denver, Houston, Newark, Honolulu, and Cleveland. Thanks to her relentless hard work, the union won a $15/hour base pay for herself and thousands of other DIA (Denver International Airport) workers.

Pamela Bourgeois—cafeteria worker and member of the New Orleans chapter of Service Employees International Union. Bourgeois played a key role in securing $15/hour minimum wage for 66 cafeteria workers in New Orleans. She showed up persistently at school board meetings and spoke up against the unjust working conditions that she and many other cafeteria workers face. Speaking at the September OPSB meeting, Bourgeois said: “We should not have to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. We should not have to max out our credit cards to provide for our families. We should not have to rely on our family members for assistance. We need to know that we are contributing to our households.”

Be Marston (left, with coworker)—union bartender active in UNITE HERE Local 8. Be helped win a contract at the Oregon Convention Center which expanded workers’ healthcare coverage. As local president of the Oregon chapter of Pride At Work, the AFL-CIO’s organization for LGBT union members, she focuses on advocacy for trans and gender non-conforming union members.

3 Richest Americans Have More Wealth Than 50% of U.S. Population

By Gavrielle Gemma

Charles Koch, a right-wing oil baron who hates workers, is the seventh wealthiest person on the planet. When once accused of stealing crude oil from members of the Osage nation of the Great Plains, Koch responded, “I want my fair share and that’s all of it.” Koch runs a bag man operation called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) which gives money to politicians in exchange for legislation that benefits them. Most of the Baton Rouge legislators are recipients of these bribes.

Koch paid Louisiana politicians to oppose a raise in the unlivable $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Why? Like he said, the rich want all the money for themselves.

No one should be fooled into thinking that the super-rich have “earned” their wealth through superhuman powers.

Every penny they hoard comes from the labor of the workers. The ultra-rich are a band of crooks, thieves and murderers, using inherited money to starve people for their profits.

We should be perfectly clear: they are stealing from us. Yet when we get anything—even a modest wage increase—they claim that we are stealing from them. Enough is never enough for them.

The head of the World Bank, representing the U.S. bankers mainly, has said that wages must be driven down even further. We workers don’t have the purchasing power we had 50 years ago. Younger generations of workers struggle with widespread job insecurity and a lack of benefits, accessible housing and affordable education. The rich want to impoverish all workers—technical, manual, and service workers alike.

The filthy rich feel entitled to every luxury. The lives of our children mean nothing to them.

The increasing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands shows that the capitalist  system is an utter failure.

It’s our labor that runs the world. We vastly outnumber them. Ask yourself this question: Can New Orleans run without sanitation workers? No. Can it run without real estate developers? Yes! We can do without them; they cannot profit without us.

Wealth should belong collectively to the working class and our families. We are entitled to a good life. But we must free our minds and organize to get it!