Legendary Journalist Bill Moyers Says He Fears For The Nation For The First Time In His Life

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“Society, a democracy, can die of too many lies — and we’re getting close to that terminal moment,” he warns.

Capitalism and The Wealth Gap

When it comes to the efficient delivery of goods and services, capitalism is the proven economic model that puts people to work and products on the shelves. Whether those jobs end up paying enough money to purchase the items on those shelves is another matter, however.

The truth is that while capitalism is an excellent vehicle to promote consumption and opportunities for expression of economic freedom of choice, it is not ideally suited to ensuring that everyone has the wherewithal to avail themselves of those opportunities. With the myriad of threats facing our nation, perhaps the most dangerous is the growth of income inequality between the top one percent of the nation and the remaining 99%.

Importance of a Middle Class

As a nation we celebrate the presence of a once robust middle class, and while politicians are quick to give lip service to this critical economic segment of society, their tax and monetary policies are eating into the savings and importance of this group. This fact can be seen in the erosion of the middle class purchasing power as their influence is siphoned off in favor of upper income and corporate tax breaks.

Regrettably, the"idea" of a middle class requires more than lip service during the occasional electoral cycle to make it a viable social, political, and economic entity. The fact of the matter is, a vibrant middle class only arises when nations make the decision to foster that development.

The middle class in the United States is a little more than 70 years old. While most Americans may believe that a strong middle class has been the bedrock of our economic growth since those first rounds were fired between colonists and British Redcoats at Lexington and Concord, in reality it only emerged following the Second World War.

In 1945, the United States was the only nation who finished the war stronger than they went into the conflict. This relative strength allowed the wherewithal to foster a growing middle class. From educational grants to returning soldiers to VA home loans engineered to increase home ownership, the country had the money, political desire, and opportunity to support this growth. As such, the nation witnessed a phenomenal growth in this economic demographic in the two decades following the war.

Conservative Elite Backlash

As mentioned, the formation of a robust middle class was fostered by the political will of the nation. Tax rates on corporations and the country's richest citizens were used to pay for this expansion of this group, and they were well equipped to pay for it owing to economic success of this group during the war years. Corporate tax rates were near 90% directly following the war, and had only been scaled back to 70% by the time President Ronald Reagan assumed office in 1981.

Following the dictates of supply-side economics, Reagan slashed the tax rates on America's top earners, both personal and corporate, down to below the 30% threshold, and increasingly the burden of public expenditures have fallen on the shoulders of Middle America to bear the cost. This rising inequity has shattered the vision of the American dream for many as they find themselves increasingly priced out of sought after housing, superior education, and economic opportunities.

A Recommitment to Equality of Opportunity

For years, conservatives have championed the importance of a strong middle class in this nation while doing everything in their power to shore up their own economic position at the expense of other sectors of the economy. From slashing aid programs, designed to help society’s poorest residents, to promoting tax policies that have the effect of eviscerating the middle class, America's conservatives have adopted a short term view that buttresses their corporate bottom line, but risks the long term economic health of the nation by ensuring gross wealth inequality.

 

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The Trump Administration Is Proposing To Become One Of Just Four Countries In The World To Charge A Fee For Asylum

“This rule shows their true colors," a former US Citizenship and Immigration Services official said.

The Trump administration on Friday proposed an unprecedented series of new fees for asylum-seekers and immigrants hoping to stay in the US, aiming to become one of just four countries in the world to charge for an asylum application.

Under the proposal, a new $50 fee would be imposed on asylum applications, citizenship applications would see a $500 price hike, and a new fee would be added for certain immigrants who entered the US as children to renew protections.

The US has never before charged for asylum and, if enacted, the proposal issued Friday would make the country one of only four in the world to do so, joining Iran, Fiji, and Australia. It appears to be the latest move by the Trump administration to overhaul the asylum process and the immigration system itself, a focus of the president’s since taking office.

"This marks a dark chapter in America's history as a place of refuge," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. "It also puts us in a club of only four countries who charge the most vulnerable asylum seekers to apply for protection, which may be prohibitively expensive for certain families who have spent their entire savings just to reach our border".

The fee increases, which were first reported by BuzzFeed News, are included in a proposed rule set to be formally published in the Federal Register next week and will be subject to public comment before it is enacted, which could result in changes to the rule.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is primarily funded by immigrants’ applications, such as filing for a green card or work permit, is required to review its fee structure every two years.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already over-extended system,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS, in a statement.

Specifically, the rule would add a $50 fee for those looking to apply for affirmative asylum applications filed from within the US. There is currently no fee to enter an “affirmative asylum” application. The new fee would not apply to those who claim a fear of persecution at ports of entry or those who apply for the protections while in deportation proceedings. There would be no waiver for those who cannot afford to pay the $50 fee.

A mother and her children wait in a tent in a refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, near the US border.

“The cost to collect the fee will probably outweigh the fee itself and doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application,” said one USCIS official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “It’s another example of the Trump administration putting up punitive barriers to asylum.”

The proposed rule also aims to cut waivers for fee forms, which can cost hundreds of dollars, unless it is legally required or the agency decides to do so on a discretionary basis. Elsewhere, it looks to add a $530 price hike for an application for naturalization, and an increase of more than $200 to apply for renewals of protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

“This administration repeatedly claims it is only going after irregular migration but this rule is very specifically about legal immigration,” said Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel for USCIS, the agency that would levy the fees. “This rule shows their true colors.”

The rule includes a more than $200 million transfer to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it appears the transfer would need to be cleared by Congress before being issued. The proposal also recognizes that litigation over the future of DACA could change the proposal before it is finalized. A hearing over the administration’s efforts to end the DACA program is scheduled at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

USCIS officials said the rule was necessary to help maintain its budget.

“Furthermore, the adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request,” Cuccinelli said.

Those within the agency, however, said the proposal was unnecessary and wrong.

“This is blood money,” said one asylum officer. “Only a bully says, ‘I won't protect you unless you pay up.’”

In recent months, the administration has issued rules to deny permanent residency to immigrants in the US whom immigration officials believe would not be able to support themselves financially, and to block the entry of immigrants applying for visas who cannot prove that they will be able to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the US.

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