Piece 64 – An Open Letter to the 116th Congress, Both the Senate & the House By. Raimondo Graziano

An Open Letter to the 116th Congress,

Both the Senate & House

By. Raimondo Graziano

     I intended for this to be an article originally to deal with exclusively local matters in the City of New York. However, on a recent walk home from a local market, running some errands for my mother, something profound occurred to me. At the sight of many of the people in my hometown, in this senate district, in this congressional district, in this city council district and so on and so forth – I have seen two things. Both pain and hope. In the former, it has manifested in the very real economic consequences of the current crises we are all collectively experiencing. It also has manifested in regards to the inaction of Congress. On many fronts, this current crisis only exacerbating the very real consequences of apathy displayed by those whom we have sent to those hallowed halls to be stewards, shepherds of the well being of the people of this country. In the latter, I do see great hope. I see members of my community rising to the occasion – taking on more responsibility in a time of crisis, persevering and overcoming challenges, and watching out for their families and their neighbors. That is the spirit of the people who live in this community, in this district, and in this city at large. We are a community of innovators, fighters and devoted Americans – devoted to an ideal – no matter how often those whom we have placed so much trust in betray that sacred honor. So these words herein are addressed to the 116th Congress, and in honor of all those who reside in our community in Queens, New York.

     For too long we have put you in office, and provided for your pensions, your salaries, and your government sponsored healthcare that you admonish us for seeking. We have received very little in return. We have been brandished by both sides of the political aisle as opposed to the very idea of America. We the people, whether Democrat or Republican have been too busy fighting each other to the benefit of your political campaign coffers. While we suffer, you all enrich yourselves and take long and frivolous recesses without accomplishing much of note. Both sides of the political aisle have made negligible overtures to the opposing sides of Congress. Instead, through your blatantly hostile rhetoric, you have turned the American people against one other and have worked to fool us into believing that our fellow man is our enemy. In reality, by the definition of such a word, you have been acting in that manner toward the broad masses of the American people. See here; “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something:,” see further; “a thing that harms or weakens something else.” That is the definition of an enemy. You have acted as an enemy to the people, in an overwhelming way as evidenced by your gross dereliction of duty, and egregious negligence toward the very basic needs of the American people. The evidence is clear:

Economically, Americans are suffering, according to reporting from The Wasington Post:

Forty percent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem or home repair.

  • Forty-three percent of households can’t afford the basics to live, meaning they aren’t earning enough to cover the combined costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cellphone, according to the United Way study. Researchers looked at the data by county to adjust for lower costs in some parts of the country.
  • More than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.
  • Twenty-two percent of adults aren’t able to pay all of their bills every month.
  • Only 38 percent of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings is “on track.”
  • Only 65 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics say they are “doing okay” financially vs. 77 percent of whites.”

American education is under siege from mismanagement, and misguided leadership – hampering our children futures.

  • Teacher quality is one of the most significant factors related to student achievement. In the U.S., 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year.
  • 1.3 million high school students don’t graduate on time yearly. States with highest rates (80-89%) are Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States with lowest (less than 60%) are Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina.
  • If the 1.3 million dropouts from the Class of 2010 had graduated, the nation would have seen $337 billion more in earnings over the course of the students’ lifetimes.

  • High schools are not preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation. Only 1 in 4 high school students graduate college-ready in the 4 core subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science.

  • In the workplace, 85% of current jobs and 90% of new jobs require some or more college or post-secondary education.”

Poverty in the nation is appalling. Our measurements of poverty as well are woefully out of date compared to the rising standard of living, or should I say burden of living. For a family of four, the Federal Poverty threshold, is $25,700. For a single individual that’s nothing, especially when you’re living in a city such as my own. In my own community, rent averages out at $3,000.00 month. That means someone living in New York City would need to allocate $36,000.00 for rent – without even factoring in utilities, groceries, healthcare, childcare and personal expenses. And the rent alone is $10,000.00 over the federal poverty threshold where nearly “One out of every five New Yorkers, 1.7 million people, lives below the federal poverty line. One out of every ten New Yorkers has a full or part-time job and still lives below the federal poverty line.” Lets dig in nationally:

  • In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty USA—that’s almost 1 in every 6 children. In 2015, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.

  • 5.3% of the population—or 17.3 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds. And 29.9% of the population—or 93.6 million—live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.

  • The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.

  • Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. In 2018, the poverty threshold—also known as the poverty line—for an individual was $12,784. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $16,247.

  • In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability—in poverty.

    So, Congress; both the House & the Senate, there is this, a small sliver of the maddening reality of living in the United States of America – the nation you are sworn to preserve, protect and defend. You have sold us on a false idea of what is actually going on – and you must do better. Do better or face the consequences of the ballot box, and an increasingly agitated American public willing, ready and able to march to Washington to make their demands, a reality.

Old Howard Union

69 – The Center for Popular Democracy; Leaders of A Progressive Agenda


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Old Howard Union

68 – Protecting the American Worker & American Families

It is imperative during these times of economic tumult that both the American family and the American worker be protected and that their security be secured and guaranteed by the government. We must provide security and build up the foundation of the American worker and ensure the prosperity of the American family. This country cannot afford to forget the American family.

Show Notes

  1. Will Americans Get a Second Stimulus Check Due to Covid-19? https://www.wsj.com/articles/will-americans-get-a-second-stimulus-check-due-to-covid-19-11593785685
  2. Senate Republicans Prepare to Unveil Coronavirus Relief Package https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-republicans-discuss-short-term-extension-of-jobless-aid-11595439589
  3. Republicans, Deeply Divided on Coronavirus Stimulus, Near Agreement on Opening Offer https://nyti.ms/32JB5Zt
  4. How to Save a Half-Open Economy https://nyti.ms/394HorM
  5. End of $600 Unemployment Bonus Could Push Millions Past the Brink https://nyti.ms/2WHLktD
  6. The Pandemic Isn’t Bringing Back Factory Jobs, at Least Not Yet https://nyti.ms/2CClSib
  7. Consumers Came Back in June, but for How Long? https://nyti.ms/2WrhLw2

Piece 62 – New York Strong: A Progressive Defense of Governor Cuomo By. Raimondo Graziano

New York Strong: A Progressive Defense of Governor Cuomo

By. Raimondo Graziano

    There has been a great deal of talk regarding the Governor of New York State’s response to the current crisis that has gripped the world, and has rocked this country – economically, and politically. However, New York State has come a long way in its response to the crisis. Much of the country has looked to New York State for leadership during this time. Though there have been struggles. While the rest of the country, or large portions, deal with great increases in cases, New York State has been steadily working at keeping cases down, increasing testing, and ensuring for the safety of essential workers as well as driving hospitalizations down. New York State has worked feverishly to be an example for the rest of the country. At the helm during this, providing direction, confidence, and calm – Governor Andrew Cuomo.

     However – there have been challenges. For one thing, the state’s response to the unprecedented unemployment of millions has been utterly flawed and has prohibited millions from collecting unemployment, though it has also exposed the great inefficiencies latent within our bureaucracy. But this in and of itself cannot be laid at the feet of the Governor. The Governor’s leadership during this time has been exemplary of decency and direction. This is a man who can reach across the aisle to pass legislation and push for reform – measured and with a pragmatic approach that is mostly all but lost in politics today.

     All over the country, there are loud calls for radical reforms, which in truth may not be as radical as we make them out to be. However, the pace at which we are attempting to transform society is rapid. In some cases our desire to reform that which has been wrong for so long is pushing us to make changes, the gravity of which, we may not fully comprehend. The way to reform is through pragmatism and compromise. We need not compromise our vision when we come together to debate and form consensus on issues of grave importance. We must exercise prudence and display the characteristics of statesmen when it comes to the affairs of state.

    The Governor of the State of New York has embodied these characteristics. He is indeed a progressive, he has progressed New York State forward. The Governor is perhaps one the most progressive Governors in the Union. Just because he has not pushed through more robust, and comprehensive reforms does not mean the title should be stripped of him. From bail reform and expanded workers protections, to lowering taxes for the middle class and for small businesses – the Governor has delivered. Is he the brash reformist and proponent of some of the most radical proposals on the left? No. But he has progressed New York State. That makes him a progressive in a realist’s eyes.

Old Howard Union

64 – The Economic Turmoil Today, and a Word on the Post Office.

The current crisis that has the United States and many nations around the world in a state of standstill has crippled the economic productivity of many communities. More importantly, the workers of the country are hurting in what may be one of the worst economic downturns in history. During this all, an old political rivalry between the President and the… Post Office?

Show Notes

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1. House Democrats Close In on New Stimulus Proposal https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-democrats-close-in-on-new-stimulus-proposal-11588851736
• The bill being drafted by Democratic leadership is expected to include more than $750 billion in aid to state and local governments, as well as another round of direct support to Americans, according to interviews with lawmakers and aides. Leaders also say they are interested in extending enhanced unemployment benefits, but haven’t provided specifics.
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has taken a wait-and-see approach on new funding, after Congress passed more than $3 trillion in aid in a matter of months, responding to deep layoffs across the economy. He has called liability protections for businesses his central demand in new talks. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is seeking payroll-tax cuts and other tax relief, an idea panned by members of both parties in Congress.
• She is calling for guaranteeing workers’ wages for three months, up to an annual salary of $100,000 a worker.
2. Claims Data Point to Record Wave of Unemployment https://www.wsj.com/articles/unemployment-benefits-weekly-jobless-claims-coronavirus-05-07-2020-11588813872
• WASHINGTON—U.S. workers have filed nearly 33.5 million applications for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks since closures were put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic, showing a wave of layoffs that likely pushed April job losses to record levels.
• Recent layoffs are expected to cause nonfarm payrolls to fall by 21.5 million and the unemployment rate to climb to 16% in the April jobs report
• Thursday’s unemployment benefits data raise the possibility that the worst of virus-related layoffs are in the past, and that job losses will ease in May. Benefits applications filed for the week ended May 2 were less than half the peak of 6.9 million touched in late March. Before March, fewer than 700,000 claims were filed weekly in records back to 1967.
3. The Daily Shot: Nearly a Decade Worth of Job Gains Wiped Out in a Month https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-daily-shot-nearly-a-decade-worth-of-job-gains-wiped-out-in-a-month-01588844292
• According to the ADP private payrolls report, nearly a decade worth of job gains have been wiped out in a month.
• As we saw last week (#6 here), the US fiscal response to the pandemic has been much larger and faster than it was after the financial crisis.
4. North Carolina Businessman Tapped to Head the Postal Service https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-carolina-businessman-tapped-to-head-the-postal-service-11588818025
• The U.S. Postal Service’s governance board tapped a North Carolina businessman and Republican donor to be the next postmaster general, as President Trump seeks to push the organization to raise rates for package delivery.
• The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in plummeting mail volumes and the Postal Service recently predicted that the pandemic will add $22 billion to the agency’s continuing operating losses over the next 18 months.
• stimulus package authorizes the Postal Service to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury Department to fund operating expenses, and the group is currently in discussions with the administration over the terms of the loan.
• Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t want to authorize any lending to the Postal Service unless it charges more to deliver packages. The president has long complained that the Postal Service isn’t charging Amazon.com Inc. enough to deliver the products it sells to people all over the country. He has proposed that the Postal Service quadruple its delivery charges.
5. Unemployment Numbers: 3.2 Million New Claims as Layoffs Persist During Pandemic https://nyti.ms/3dmPk8L
• Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher — a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.
• Many businesses, particularly small ones, may not survive, while others are likely to operate with reduced hours and staff. The job search site Indeed reports that postings are down nearly 40 percent from a year ago.
• Most Americans remain uneasy about reopening, with 67 percent saying they would be uncomfortable going into a store and 78 percent saying they would be uncomfortable eating at a restaurant, according to a survey that The Washington Post and the University of Maryland released Tuesday.
• So far, only 43 percent of the more than one million Floridians filing verified claims have begun to receive benefits.
6. Trump Says His Administration Is Talking to Republican Senators About Work Visa Issue https://nyti.ms/2yA9TzG
• Four Republican senators sent a letter earlier in the day urging Trump to suspend all new guest worker visas for 60 days and certain categories of new guest work visas for at least a year, until unemployment returns to normal levels.
1. US Consumer Borrowing Fell for First Time Since 2011 https://nyti.ms/2SMU1AK
• U.S. consumer borrowing fell in March for the first time in more than eight years, with the category covering credit cards dropping by the largest amount in over three decades, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.
• Consumer borrowing declined by $12 billion in March, the first time overall debt has fallen since August 2011, according to the central bank. The decline in percentage terms was 3.4%.
• Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards dropped by $28.2 billion or 30.9%, the biggest percentage decline since January 1989.Borrowing in the category that covers auto loans and student loans was up $16.1 billion or 6.2%.
7. US G.D.P. Declined in First Quarter, With Worse Economy to Come https://nyti.ms/3aPRXhM
• U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services output, fell at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter of the year, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That is the first decline since 2014, and the worst quarterly contraction since 2008, when the country was in a deep recession.
• Widespread layoffs and business closings didn’t hit until late March in most of the country. Economists expect figures from the current quarter, which will capture the shutdown’s impact more fully, to show that G.D.P. contracted at an annual rate of 30 percent or more, a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
• The Congressional Budget Office last week released projections indicating that the economy will begin growing again in the second half of the year but that the G.D.P. won’t return to its pre-pandemic level until 2022 at the earliest.
• With each month of unpaid bills and rock-bottom sales, more businesses will go bankrupt or decide not to reopen. More workers will drift away from their employers, turning temporary layoffs into permanent job losses. More loans will lapse into delinquency, endangering banks and the broader financial system.
• Those consequences have led President Trump and other elected officials — particularly Republican governors in states with relatively few coronavirus cases — to push to reopen the economy as quickly as possible. Several states have started to do so, and others, including large ones like Texas and Florida, will begin to at the end of the month.
• But economists and epidemiologists say moving too quickly threatens both public health and economic growth.