Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mary O'Hara reviews Daniel Hatcher's new book on the U.S.' poverty industry which seeks to exploit public supports for private gain:
(A) new book published last week by law professor and advocate Daniel L Hatcher, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens, exposes a largely unrecognised yet deeply disturbing additional dimension to the issue: the vast scale of disadvantaged people being fleeced for profit. In this meticulously researched book Hatcher, who has represented vulnerable people in court for years, including children in foster care, lifts the lid on a system that rather than helping the needy, systematically turns them into “a source of revenue”.

His summary of what he has coined the “poverty industry” is: “the private sector partnering with the state and local governments to use the vulnerable as a resource for extracting funds … strip-mining billions in federal aid and other funds from impoverished families, abused and neglected children, the disabled and elderly poor”.
(T)the book cites multiple incidences of children in care and older people in care homes, as well as young people in juvenile detention, being drugged to save money in staffing costs. In one state, 40% of all foster children were sedated using psychotropic drugs.

The resurgence of debtors’ prisons in some states, which trap the poor in a cycle of debt, is also featured. “Low-income defendants are first saddled with unmanageable court fines and fees, then the courts hire private collection agencies, probation companies … all tacking on more and more fees to the debts of the poor,” Hatcher says. One judge in Alabama told litigants to sell their blood to pay fines, or end up in jail.

As the book so clearly points out, if there wasn’t money to be made from the poor, there wouldn’t be so many companies vying for contracts and lobbying for a piece of the pie.

Hatcher’s analysis is a cautionary tale. Some companies chasing lucrative contracts in the US do the same in the UK. Private does not equal better, or more efficient. The only thing that matters is the welfare of the most vulnerable.
- And Ryan Moore points out that the Harper Cons' dumb-on-crime policies continue to push marginalized populations into a vicious and costly cycle - and there's little apparent indication that the Libs plan to change course.

- Louis-Philippe Rochon sees the Brexit vote as a working-class response to being neglected by governments of multiple political configurations, while the Resolution Foundation notes that most of the British public is facing at best a stagnant standard of living. And Mariana Mazzucato observes that austerity is the main culprit in limiting opportunities for all but the privileged few.

- Brent Patterson makes a case against selling off Canada's commonwealth - whether or not under some new label such as "asset recycling".

- Finally, Stefani Langenegger reports on the massive cost of the Saskatchewan Party's carbon capture and storage schemes compared to other forms of power. And David Suzuki examines the broken records linked to our climate crisis - as new highs in renewable energy development are still falling far short of what's needed to slow the rise of equally unprecedented climate conditions.

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