Why climate change is inherently racist / by Jeremy Williams

(Image credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty)

Climate change divides along racial lines. Could tackling it help address longstanding injustices?W

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it was the city’s black neighbourhoods that bore the brunt of the storm. Twelve years later, it was the black districts of Houston that took the full force of Hurricane Harvey. In both cases, natural disasters compounded issues in neighbourhoods that were already stretched.  

Climate change and racism are two of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century. They are also strongly intertwined. There is a stark divide between who has caused climate change and who is suffering its effects. People of colour across the Global South are those who will be most affected by the climate crisis, even though their carbon footprints are generally very low. Similar racial divides exist within nations too, due to profound structural inequalities laid down by a long legacy of unequal power relationships.

For some, it can be disconcerting to hear terms such as “racism” and “white supremacy” used in discussions about climate change. Climate change is often understood as an environmental issue, one that we are all in together, and therefore not something that could be in any way construed as racist.

Historical and present-day injustices have both left black, indigenous and people-of-colour communities exposed to far greater environmental health hazards than white communities – Veronica Mulenga

But there are many dimensions to racism. The most visible is inter-personal racism, which is ugly and all-too familiar. At its most obvious, this would include racist graffiti, online abuse, or racist chanting at football matches. Much of it is less overt than that, a matter of prejudice and stereotyping.

This is often where discussion of racism stops, with the world neatly divided into “racists” and “not racists”. With this simplistic view of the problem, as long as people can reassure themselves that nobody is being actively racist, then all is well. But there are deeper levels to racism. It can be institutional, where people of colour receive an inferior level of service or care. When dealing with institutional racism, there may not be any one specific event or person that can be identified as the problem. The difference in how people are treated is buried away in processes and systems – “racism without racists” as it is sometimes described.

It was the civil rights organisers Charles Hamilton and Kwame Ture who first coined the term “institutional racism” in the 1960s in their book Black Power. They used the example of housing. If a black family was to move into a white neighbourhood and experience abuse, the community would recognise that as racist. Perhaps they would be ashamed, and some might speak out and condemn it. But if the black family were never able to move in the first place, because they couldn’t get a mortgage or the estate agent wouldn’t show them that part of town, the racism would be invisible. It would be out of sight in the power structures of the housing sector. The white community could reassure itself that “no, there is no racism here”, even if the black family knew full well that they had been discriminated against.

Children play near oil and chemical refinery plants in Louisiana (Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty)
Children play near oil and chemical refinery plants in Louisiana (Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty)

When racism becomes structural in this way, it can operate without obvious intent. There may be no deliberate act of discrimination to find, no “racists” to identify and blame. This is certainly the case with climate change – there is no secret committee of white people plotting to impose climate disaster on the Global South. And yet people of colour still find themselves at a disadvantage, and experience differences in outcomes that are visible in the statistics.

Zambia clearly demonstrates this injustice of climate change. Average carbon footprints in Zambia are very low, coming in at just 0.36 tonnes per person per year – less than one-tenth of the UK average. Nevertheless, the country is facing environmental disaster, including a prolonged drought which left over a million people in need of food assistance in 2021.

“Zambia has been experiencing the negative impact of climate variability and change for the last three decades,” says Zambian climate scientist Mulako Kabisa. “The biggest impact has been increased temperature and reduced rainfall, resulting in climate shocks that include droughts and floods.”

These changes in rainfall and temperature have resulted in crop failure, livestock deaths and reduced the country’s GDP, she adds. “Droughts in particular have led to livelihood loss for the smallholder-dominated agricultural sector, because production is dependent on availability of adequate rain.”

While specific events are often tricky to attribute directly to climate change, the IPCC has observed all these impacts in Southern Africa already. Worse is likely to come. “Local evidence and simulated projections all indicate that rainfall will be more variable,” says Kabisa. “The production season will shift and drought incidents will be more frequent.”

A series of heat waves dried most of the vegetation surrounding the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in late 2019 (Credit: Zinyange Auntony/Getty)
A series of heat waves dried most of the vegetation surrounding the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in late 2019 (Credit: Zinyange Auntony/Getty)

These experiences of climate breakdown generally don’t make the news. In an overview of the most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2021, Zambia came in at number one.

For the Zambian climate activist Veronica Mulenga, the justice implications are clear. “The climate crisis affects some parts of the planet more than others,” she says. “Historical and present-day injustices have both left black, indigenous and people-of-colour communities exposed to far greater environmental health hazards than white communities. Those most affected by climate change are black and poor communities. As a continent we are one of the hardest hit by the impacts of climate change and we are left behind as the world progresses toward a low-carbon economy. Without taking into account those most affected, climate solutions will turn into climate exclusion.”

This exclusion extends to international negotiations, where Mulenga says her country has been marginalised. “African voices are not well represented in climate summits, leaving climate justice out of the equation,” says Mulenga. “At COP26 a lack of vaccines and funding available for African countries prevented many delegates and activists from taking part in the negotiations, including myself. Racism and white supremacy have long excluded African voices from environmental policy.”

Future Planet contacted the UK’s COP26 team about these criticisms, but had received no response at the time of publishing.

Racism can influence exposure to environmental and health risks, according to academic and 'father of environmental justice' Robert Bullard (Credit: Marvin Joseph / Getty)
Racism can influence exposure to environmental and health risks, according to academic and ‘father of environmental justice’ Robert Bullard (Credit: Marvin Joseph / Getty)

The difference between those who are causing climate change and those who are bearing the brunt of it in countries like Zambia is a large-scale version of a recurring local environmental injustice. In the early 1980s, campaigners in the US identified a repeating pattern of landfill sites or incinerators located near black neighbourhoods. Surveys of waste sites show that people of colour are still often exposed to higher levels of pollution, raising the possibility of a connection between race and environmental harm.

“Without a doubt, racism influences the likelihood of exposure to environmental and health risks,” wrote Robert Bullard in 1993, in the book Confronting Environmental Racism. “Whether by conscious design or institutional neglect, communities of colour in urban ghettos, in rural ‘poverty pockets’, or on economically impoverished Native-American reservations face some of the worst environmental devastation in the nation.”

Bullard is considered one of the founders of the environmental justice movement, which continues to fight inequality to this day. Black communities are still resisting coal power stations and chemical plants near their homes. For example, a 2021 map of exposure to coal ash pollution in the US found that “nationwide, the burden of coal ash pollution is carried disproportionately by communities of colour and low-income communities”. The increased risk of pollution is compounded by reduced access to healthcare, fewer resources for legal costs, and less political power to oppose the polluters.

Without a doubt, racism influences the likelihood of exposure to environmental and health risks – Robert Bullard

When it comes to fossil fuels, there is a double edge to environmental justice. It is often people of colour who put up with the pollution from the fossil fuel industry. Those same communities may find themselves at risk from the long-term effects of the industry, in the form of disasters caused by climate change. A study of fire risk in the US found that “wildfire vulnerability is spread unequally across race and ethnicity”, with majority black, Hispanic or Native American districts facing 50% greater vulnerability compared with other groups. Multiple forms of disadvantage are behind that finding, including less money spent on reducing the risk of fire, under-funded emergency services, and lower rates of private insurance.

These problems extend well beyond the US, and beyond racial categories too. Climate change is a multiplier of all forms of social disadvantage, with divisions along class lines, gender, age, and much else besides. In India it is the lower castes who stand to lose the most from climate change. Globally, indigenous peoples and nomadic tribes are often more vulnerable. As Mulenga notes, “climate justice, social justice and racial justice are all interconnected.”

Oil and chemical refinery plants near African American communities along the Mississippi River (Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty)
Oil and chemical refinery plants near African American communities along the Mississippi River (Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty)

For the climate justice campaigner Asad Rehman, currently executive director of the poverty and justice charity War on Want, the issue is systemic: “If you want to understand why 40 years of climate diplomacy has failed to bend the curve on temperature rises, you have to go back and understand racialised capitalism – how race is codified to justify the exploitation and subjugation of people.”

Even though some exploitative practices may be in the past, the legacy of their unjust structures remains, and carries through into decision-making about climate change today, he says. “Ultimately our economic system has at its core this notion that in the pursuit of capital accumulation and profit, some people can be sacrificed, and that has overwhelmingly been people in the Global South,” he says. “So we have to understand the connection between slavery, colonialism and racialised capitalism, which creates the conditions for the climate crisis.”

The anthropologist Jason Hickel also makes this colonial connection. As part of his work on global inequality, he has studied responsibility for climate change between the Global North (the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Japan) and the Global South (Latin America, Africa and Asia). “Our study calculated how much each nation has exceeded their fair share of the ‘safe’ planetary boundary for CO2 emissions,” he says. The results are “staggering”, he says: the study found the Global North is responsible for 92% of all excess global emissions, while the Global South is responsible for only 8%.

“The nations of the Global North have effectively colonised the atmospheric commons. They’ve enriched themselves as a result, but with devastating consequences for the rest of the world and for all of life on Earth.”

Two women in Zambia carry food bags distributed by aid organisations in January 2020 (Credit: Guillem Sartorio / Getty)
Two women in Zambia carry food bags distributed by aid organisations in January 2020 (Credit: Guillem Sartorio / Getty)

It is the countries of the Global North that industrialised first, and here that the power base of the fossil fuel corporations emerged. Here is where energy use and resource consumption are highest – and therefore where carbon footprints are largest. People drive and fly, often eat more meat and dairy, and have fridges and gas boilers in their homes. These are countries with majority white populations. Conversely, the countries with the lowest emissions are mainly across sub-Saharan Africa and South and East Asia, with majority black and brown populations. Even accounting for the huge emissions from China, which are relatively recent, white people have had a greater cumulative impact on the climate.

“We did not analyse race,” says Hickel, “although it is not difficult to see that a racial disparity is at play here. But our results do illustrate a clear colonial dimension. The European colonial powers, and the European settler colonies, are disproportionately responsible for causing excess emissions. Meanwhile, we know that the impacts of climate breakdown fall disproportionately on the Global South. Communities in the Global South have been hit twice over: first by colonisation, and now by climate breakdown.”

According to this argument, the ongoing injustices of climate change are based in economic systems that privilege some people over others. Centuries of unequal power relationships have embedded this structural injustice, so that climate change echoes the power relationships of colonialism and empire. Independence may have brought political freedom, but many structural injustices remain. The flow of wealth is the same as it was under empire, with rich white countries extracting what they need from other countries.

Asad Rehman welcomes the new focus on intersectional climate action (Credit: Ying Tang/NurPhoto/Getty)
Asad Rehman welcomes the new focus on intersectional climate action (Credit: Ying Tang/NurPhoto/Getty)

All these imbalances of power play into climate talks. Many parts of the temperate north are less exposed to the immediate dangers of climate change, but hold far greater economic and political power. The nations of the Global North have been able to shape climate policies around their national interests first. For example, the Paris Agreement agreed to limit warming to well below 2C, with 1.5C of warming as an ambition. It is disproportionately people of colour who will pay the difference for that extra half a degree. In this way, unambitious targets or protecting fossil fuel investments perpetuates racial injustice.

The UN-led talks, including the most recent COP26 round in Glasgow, have also failed to agree compensation for the loss and damage caused to the Global South, something Hickel argues is essential: “The rich nations must compensate for the damages that their excess emissions have inflicted on other countries. Social movements in the Global South have long been calling for climate reparations and it’s time for our leaders to take this issue seriously.”

The nations of the Global North have effectively colonised the atmospheric commons – Jason Hickel

Rehman welcomes the new focus on intersectional climate action that has been demonstrated by the Fridays for Future movement, joining long standing climate justice advocates from the developing countries and indigenous communities. “We’ve made huge strides in terms of language and understanding. We’ve yet to translate that into transformational political demands.”

In order to build that shared purpose and deliver transformation, “it’s time to centre the voices of those most impacted by the climate crisis” adds Mulenga. “By combining the resources with the experience and knowledge of those most impacted by the crisis; we can build a diverse and powerful coalition for climate justice.”

The response to demands from vulnerable countries for richer countries to take responsibility will determine whether climate change becomes a problem that unites or divides humanity. It may be a moment of shared purpose. Or history may come to know it as the next chapter in a long story of racial oppression, alongside slavery, colonialism and empire.

Source: BBC Future, January 26, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220125-why-climate-change-is-inherently-racist

Historical Pact Coalition Heads for Elections in Violence-Ridden Colombia / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Campaigning in Colombia began January 15 for congressional elections on March 13, and for first-round voting for a new president on May 29. Gustavo Petro, leader of the progressive Humane Colombia movement, will likely be the Historical Pact coalition’s presidential candidate.

A former urban guerrilla, congressional representative, mayor of Bogota, and now senator, Petro ran for president in 2010 and in 2018, when he lost to current president Iván Duque in second-round voting. Duque is not running for re-election.

Petro led the opposition against former president and extreme right-winger Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) who is accused of corruption, narcotrafficking, and ties with paramilitaries. Duque is Uribe’s protégé.  As president, Uribe prioritized war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and later opposed the government’s peace agreement with the FARC.

The Historical Pact is a coalition of left-leaning and centrist parties and of “social movements, indigenous people, feminists, environmentalists,” according to Petro. Coalition partners include the Communist Party and the affiliated Patriotic Union on the left, the Alternative Democratic Pole and Humane Colombia representing social democracy, and centrist anti-Uribe groups. Joining these are politicians who backed Juan Manuel Santos, who succeeded Uribe as president and promoted the Agreement.

Observer Felipe Pineda Ruiz suggests that, “most of those voting for the Historical Pact … are more to the right than are the activists and candidates.”  Also, “as traders and small business people, they gained real economic benefits from the commodities bonanza … that sustained economic growth when Santos and Uribe were in power.”

People attend a rally for Gustavo Petro in Cali, Colombia. He has developed a following not seen in generations for a leftist candidate.
People attend a rally for Gustavo Petro in Cali, Colombia. He has developed a following not seen in generations for a leftist candidate. Photograph: Ernesto Guzmán Jr/EPA

Gustavo Petro registers 34% approval in a recent opinion poll, down from 40% in October. The favorability ratings of the other top-polling candidates range from 32% to 7%.

The Historical Pact’s election campaign follows more than two years of seesawing protests and repression. The associated turmoil has shaped the constituency Petro is appealing to and leaves an aftermath the next government will be dealing with. It has exacerbated Colombia’s longstanding rural-urban divide, a major impediment to a just society there.

On November 21, 2019 major demonstrations broke out in cities. For weeks afterwards, hundreds of thousands of students, unionists, environmentalists, pensioners, LGBT activists, workers of all sorts, and social movement activists filled streets throughout Colombia. They were demanding pension reforms, revised labor legislation, improved access to healthcare and education, income support, and no more police violence.

Along the way, 200,000 troops and riot police wounded and/or arrested, and killed, protesters. Demonstrations continued intermittently in cities well into 2020. The government’s inept handling of the Covid -19 pandemic was a new grievance.  

The Bogota police, reacting to the burning of their facilities, killed taxi-driver and law student Javier Ordoñez on September 9, 2020. Huge crowds assembled the next day. The police killed 14 young people and wounded hundreds more. Demonstrations culminating September 21 in a “national strike” would continue intermittently for the rest of the year. A government tax increase was a further provocation.

The police and protesters clashed last week in Bogotá, Colombia, at a demonstration over a proposed tax reform.
The police and protesters clashed last week in Bogotá, Colombia, at a demonstration over a proposed tax reform / Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

National strikes erupted in May, July, and August, 2021. Now indigenous groups and even sports organizations were involved. International agencies and human rights organizations weighed in against the government.  Polling in May, 2021 showed 75% of Colombians as supporting the national strikes.

Colombian historian Renán Vega Cantor notes that, “State terrorism in the Colombian style became visible to the world.” For him, the “extraordinary national strike was the most important social protest in Colombian history in terms of duration … and the diversity of social sectors that participated.”

Attitudes were changing. Before the protests, “the bombings, massacres, torturing, disappearances were of little interest for residents of middle-class districts. For the rich and powerful they simply did not exist and did not matter.” For “the urban middle classes, state and parastate violence” was faraway and “to some extent was justified to confront security threats or insurgent movements in the countryside.”

Now there was violence in the cities. Vega Cantor mentions “80 Colombians killed by agents of the state, hundreds wounded, dozens disappeared, and a score of women raped.” He describes armed civilians protected by the police showing up in districts of the wealthy and “acting as if to protect their interests from intruders, Indians, Blacks and the poor.”

Observer Fernando Dorado states that the Historical Pact campaign “has to maintain the people’s enthusiasm expressed in the social explosion … and in parallel fashion must attract sectors of the so-called ‘center’ in order to isolate and defeat recalcitrant right-wing forces.”

As the campaign looks for votes from urban population sectors, it shows no sign of attending to injustices, resistance, and longstanding repression in rural areas. That approach may end up reinforcing Colombia’s rural-urban divide.

For Petro, the politics of class struggle is for somebody else. He told an interviewer that, “I don’t divide politics between right and left … My divide is the politics of death and the politics of life. In Colombia a politics of death has governed for two centuries.”  

Historical Pact officials have fixed it so that voters are not readily exposed to class-oriented political views. The coalition is using the “closed list” voting system for the congressional elections in March. There, each candidate of a partnering group appears on a list, with preferred candidates at the top. Voters need only select the coalition of their choice; they don’t get to choose a candidate.  

The object ostensibly is to assure an equal number of female and male candidates and allow for indigenous and African-descended candidates. Voting arrangements for Historical Pact candidates de-emphasize ideological differences among their parties such as, for example, a center-left party pitted against socialist ones like the Communist Party or the Patriotic Union. 

Partido Comunista Colombiano se une al Pacto Histórico - Infobae
Colombian Communist Party joins the Historical Pact – Infobae

Electoral politics that doesn’t involve working-class power that would challenge  plunder by oligarchs will likely be irrelevant to the realities of Colombia’s countryside.  There, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people relate in one way or another to struggle between rich and poor over the use and control of land. Vast numbers were killed in the 1950s in the wake of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán’s assassination in 1948, and again from the 1960s on as the Colombian state reacted to the founding of the FARC, an agrarian insurgency.

That phase ended with the government’s Peace Agreement with the FARC in 2016, following which a “Third Cycle of Violence” commenced. Writer Horacio Duque points to more than 1300 mainly rural community leaders and some 300 former FARC combatants killed between then and now.

Blame, he states, lies in part with the government’s failure to carry out agrarian reforms as specified in the Peace Agreement. The Historical Pact’s program mentions agrarian reform, but a Petro government’s likely priority given to cities anticipates neglect of the countryside.

Similarly, Colombia’s military will probably remain untouched, despite the coalition’s promise of “structural reform.”  With much to protect, Colombia’s landowning elites, leery of agrarian revolt, have long sought military capacity.  Now the country’s military consumes 12% of the government’s budget. With 295,000 troops, it’s the second largest military force in Latin America. With no working-class power at the center of governmental decision-making, military control over rural Colombia will likely continue.

The coalition’s statement on “New International Politics” rejects foreign intervention, but is silent on the U.S. role as the Colombian military’s senior partner. The brazen nature of current arrangements reflects the bullying power of U.S. interventionism nourished by global capitalism. An outmatched Petro government probably will acquiesce.

Current U.S. activities include: an annual monetary contribution ($461.4 million in 2021), air bases distributed throughout Colombia, U.S agents there charged with destabilizing Venezuela, and preparation of Colombian troops for special tasks. Some of these are: training the security forces of U.S.-allied nations, fighting their wars (in the Middle East, for example), and performing dirty work, such as assassinating Haiti’s president on July 7, 2021.

This note finishes on a note of tragedy. Much-needed restoration of rural life in Colombia is a distant dream. The rural poverty rate in 2019 was 34.5%, in the cities 12.3%. Learning levels between same-grade children in urban and rural areas differ by three years. Illiteracy in rural areas is more than twice that in cities.  In rural areas in 2016, stunted growth in children (as a measure of chronic malnutrition) was almost twice the rate for urban zones. The 1% of persons individually controlling the largest landholdings in Colombia together own more than 80% of all land there. Colombian inequality in land ownership is the greatest in Latin America.   

And a touch of ambiguity: We’ve been harshly critical of the Historical Pact. But the election of Gustavo Petro as president of Colombia would be good news, or at least as much as is possible now.  He would be Colombia’s first progressive head of state. That’s no small matter.

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. 

‘People feel unheard’: Lawmakers search for more answers to Maine’s housing crisis / by Dan Neumann

“It’s a horrible system that I got caught in,” said Lewiston resident Amy Sanchez, who spent three years on a waitlist for a federal Section 8 rental assistance voucher after leaving an abusive marriage. “I was on a waitlist for forever long.”

After navigating a gauntlet of means testing and twice appearing before a judge, she finally was able to secure a voucher and now pays $509 per month in rent. Sanchez also collects $1,700 per month in disability.

“In order to qualify for these programs, you need to have very little income,” she said. “For disability, you can’t work at all. So then you have to go through all of these steps to get help to pay for electricity, the cell phone, the internet, or qualify for food stamps. It’s a horrible way to help low-income people. It’s either all or nothing.”

Sanchez is just one voice in a sea of Mainers struggling to afford shelter. The state continues to grapple with a shortage of about 20,000 affordable housing units, with an estimated 27,000 Maine households on the waitlist for Section 8 vouchers.

Sanchez ran for Lewiston City Council last year and lives downtown in the Tree Streets neighborhood, where the city says 49% of residents are living in poverty. She says some of her neighbors have given up hope that skyrocketing housing costs will be addressed by elected officials at the local, state or federal level.

“I just know a lot of the people I’ve talked with, who are trying to get help with housing, the biggest thing they have to say is ‘nobody cares,’” she said. “People feel unheard.”

Even Mainers with vouchers can’t find housing

Sanchez said she has spoken to neighbors who have recently received Section 8 vouchers who can’t use them because they can’t find landlords willing to accept the vouchers. 

Activists with Housing Justice Maine drop a sign over I-95 last year calling on state lawmakers to create affordable housing. | Beacon

Maine State Housing Authority spokesperson Scott Thistle says it’s an inventory problem. He said the state has granted vouchers to more than 300 Mainers who currently cannot find an apartment to rent.

Last year, state lawmakers directed a portion of federal COVID relief funds to be spent on the housing shortage. Thistle said the state was able to clear some of the Section 8 waitlist, but new people have since been added, making little dent in the overall number of Mainers waiting for assistance. 

MaineHousing is on track to build nearly 1,000 units this year — more affordable units than any year in the past. But 1,000 new units still seems like a drop in the bucket considering the need. 

“If you do the math, it’s going to take us 20 years,” Thistle said, referring to the estimated demand for 20,000 affordable units. “The scope of the problem is enormous. Every state in the country is in a similar boat. It’s a national housing crisis and building that inventory up is a huge challenge.”

Thistle explained that another constraint is that Maine doesn’t have enough available builders to keep up with the construction projects that have been funded.

In addition to the dearth of rental units in Maine, homes for sale are also scarce, often substandard, and prices have climbed in many areas dramatically, partially spurred by a land rush by out-of-state buyers during the pandemic. Maine’s median single-family home sale price was $299,000 in December 2021, a 38% increase over the median price of $216,900 in February 2020. As a result, people are taking on more debt to buy a house. 

State Dems need to take the lead on housing 

Mainers rally at the State House in 2021 for housing funding. | Beacon

Last year, the Maine State Legislature, with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, considered about 50 bills related to the housing crisis, with several proposals being put off to this year. 

Several major housing investments have already been made using money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine in 2021. Those investments included $20 million for the construction of new units using strong labor standards, $10 million for initiatives to address the escalating issue of homelessness, and $1.5 million for providing housing navigation services to help those with rental subsidies access housing.

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that she will tap another $50 million from federal relief to build more housing. The governor’s proposal includes $10 million that is now available to MaineHousing for the construction of 150 single-family homes, with an additional $40 million becoming available later this year, when additional ARPA funds are released.

“The pandemic has put the price of homes, and the dream of home ownership, out of reach for too many hardworking families. It’s time we fixed that,” Mills said in a statement. 

While the legislature made long-needed investments in housing last year, some lawmakers are now stressing that far more action is required this session.

“27,000+ Maine households on the waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance & eviction filings in the 300-400 [per month]. What policies has the state and congressional delegation put forward?” state Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland) tweeted on Jan. 24. 

On the federal level, with Congressional Democrats’ social spending agenda stalled, some advocates are now looking to Democratic-controlled state legislatures to address the national housing crisis. State budgets were buoyed last year by $350 billion in federal ARPA money, which may be the last influx of federal support the states see in a while if Congressional Democrats lose their majorities in 2022. 

Maine revenue forecasters are predicting a $822 million surplus for the two-year budget cycle ending in mid-2023, partially as a result of the ARPA relief as well as a dramatic increase in wealth among the state’s highest earners. 

Mills has signaled a desire to try to get Republican support for her supplemental budget this session by redistributing a portion of the surplus to taxpayers. But progressive advocates say that a one-off payout would be a missed opportunity to fund longstanding needs like housing.

New construction and zoning reform will be priorities this session

Areas for further funding this session include a bill by Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) that would require higher energy efficiency standards on all new affordable housing construction.

Housing advocates are also calling for the full funding of a bill by Morales that would require the Housing Authority to establish and administer the Maine Rental Assistance and Voucher Guarantee Pilot to assist individuals with the cost of rent and incentivize landlords to work with rental assistance programs in the state. The program would require $8.5 million in funding.

Last year, Mills signed a bill sponsored by the House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford) creating a commission to address the web of various zoning and land use ordinances and state laws that are preventing new construction from coming to fruition. 

Fecteau will be introducing another bill to adopt the commission’s recommendations, which include allowing accessory dwelling units to be built in all zoning districts currently zoned for single-family homes, and prohibiting municipal growth caps on the construction of new housing.

Another proposal by House Majority Whip Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) would require municipalities to keep at least 10% of their housing stock affordable. Failure to meet that goal would trigger an expedited permitting process for affordable housing development.

The proposed zoning reforms could become a flashpoint in the legislature on the issue of local control. But Democratic leadership says the housing crisis must be addressed from all angles.

“Addressing this crisis must be multi-faceted,” Fecteau said in a public hearing in support of the zoning reform commission last year. “This is a statewide problem. There is not a single county in our state where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can afford a typical two-bedroom apartment.”

Top photo: A woman who has experienced housing insecurity speaks at a rally at the State House in June 2021. | BeaconFacebookTwitterShare

Author: Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)mainebeacon.com.

Source: Maine Beacon, January 28, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/people-feel-unheard-lawmakers-search-for-more-answers-to-maines-housing-crisis/

Covidian Musings / by Richard Rhames

… and who is society? There is no such thing!  ~ Margaret Thatcher

The 9 most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  ~ Ronald Reagan

The man said “Get out of here, I’ll tear you limb from limb.” I said, “You know they refused Jesus too.” He said, “You’re not him.”  ~ Bob Dylan (115th Dream)

It’s winter here on the farm. Nothing to do but feed the stove, thumb through seed catalogs, try to get over my Omicron infection and pan for news nuggets in the frigid, murky (main)stream of media. Last week began in holliday-mode with the rote recognition of Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King, being safely dead, was not on-hand to dispute the now conveniently cartoonish characterization of his life and struggle. He had “a dream” we are told——you know— for Negroes. For “inclusion.”  Apparently he was an early-adopter of identity politics. So, that’s cool. Right?

By the time he was assassinated, he (and the movement) were calling for an end to the barbarous war against the people of Vietnam, a universal guaranteed annual income, with  public housing and healthcare as an economic right for everybody. Feel free to check. In 1967, a year before he was struck down in Memphis supporting the striking “sanitation workers” and organizing for the Poor People’s Campaign, he gave a speech at New York’s Riverside Church: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

He announced, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘people-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He named the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

That hasn’t changed, yet we don’t talk about it in polite company. King was “a little edgy” for his times— and ours. On Holliday Monday the Guardian published a Michael Harriot column offering some useful history. He wrote, “…. For the entirety of the 39 years that King lived and breathed, there wasn’t a single day when the majority of white Americans approved of him. In 1966, Gallup measured his approval rating at 32% positive and 63% negative. That same year, a December Harris poll found that 50% of whites felt that King was ‘hurting the Negro cause of civil rights,’ while only 36% felt he was helping. By the time he died (sic) in 1968 three out of four white Americans disapproved of him. In the wake of his assassination, 31% of the country felt that he ‘brought it on himself.’ ”

Speaking against the latest war-of-opportunity, and for universal economic rights to income, housing and healthcare doesn’t always get you killed. But even today it makes the privileged “uncomfortable” and will likely even get you “a reputation” as a trouble maker.  Ouch.

Since the vampiric Reagan/ Thatcher dystopian duo officially dismissed the idea of public housing (or public anything) in the Anglo-American political realm, we’ve relied on voluntarism, charity and public subsidy to private profit as “solutions” to social problems. Government money is sluiced to private corporate types and these profit-takers theoretically provide vital stuff like housing “opportunities.”  A few days before the MLK distraction, a fire in a Bronx apartment tower killed 17 residents; injuring and displacing many more. The New York Post reported (1/13/22) that previous inspections by the New York Housing Authority had cataloged what the Post called “horrific conditions” in housing described as “decrepit.”

It was reported up here only because one of the “investor” owners was the Maine-based “Low Income Housing Corporation,” now dba LIHC Investment Group. https://lihc.com/  The corporate website reports, “Our mission is simple and straightforward: forge creative relationships that capitalize the financial needs of our clients….Over the years of working with investors and limited partners— drawing upon our extensive experience and creativity in tax consequences, regulatory issues and partnership structures——LIHC Investment Group has been able to maximize sales proceeds for our clients….”

Not too “people-oriented.”

Yes dear reader, decades post-assassination this now reflects the way “we” deal with low income housing, if “we” deal with it at all.

Preliminary to the EliteMeet at Davos, the week also featured a report from Oxfam: “Inequality Kills.” It found that during the Covid conflagration a new billionaire “has been created every 26 hours (in an increasingly) violent economy…. (where) billionaire wealth blooms, in which millions of people are killed, and billions of people are impoverished due to inequality; in which we burn the planet and our future human existence on the altar of the excesses of the rich.”

The report called for sharply higher taxes on folks like Jeff Bezos, noting his earlier “Marie Antoinette ‘let them eat cake moment’” when the world’s richest man ….”launched himself into space in his luxury rocket while millions were dying needlessly below him” without vaccines or food.

Yeah, not too “people-oriented” alright.

But, just another week that was.

Author: Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: rerhames@gmail.com

Source: CounterPunch, January 26, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/01/26/covidian-musings/

The opioid crisis: Origins and humane solutions / by Sebastiano Porcu

Images: Pills, ajay_suresh (CC BY 2.0)

The opioid crisis lies at the intersection of two public health challenges: reducing the burden of suffering from pain, and the rising toll of harms related to opioid use.
—Report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017

Decriminalization is important, because it introduces a lot of coherence in the system. If you address the problem as a health condition, it makes little sense to criminalize this kind of behavior. . . . You don’t criminalize a diabetic because he eats too much sugar, or a cigarette smoker. Even with what can be considered a self-inflicted disease, the state assumes the responsibility to contribute to a better life of its citizens.
—João Goulão, MD, architect of Portuguese drug policy and Director-General of the Service for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies, Ministry of Health

Beneath the COVID-19 pandemic lies the ongoing and worsening crisis of opioid overdose and death. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate “an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during [a] 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.” Drug overdose deaths have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This crisis has touched every corner of the United States. Demographic data vary by region, but no group has been unaffected. Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, Asian Americans, and Native Americans of all ages and income have suffered from drug use, addiction, overdose, and death. The CDC outlines three waves in the history of the opioid crisis: a first wave coinciding with an increase in prescription opioid deaths beginning in the late 1990s, a second wave of opioid deaths related to heroin overdose, and a third wave beginning in 2013 related to a rise in synthetic opioid use, particularly fentanyl.

The human toll is immense. Between 1999 and 2019 nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdose. Opioid use has been cited as a factor in at least 7 out of every 10 overdose deaths. More than 2 million cases of hepatitis C and 1 million cases of HIV/AIDS are attributed to intravenous drug use. The opioid crisis has even led to increases in human trafficking cases. Moreover, the CDC estimates that “the total ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”

Origins of the crisis

To describe the opioid crisis as a public health emergency is an understatement. It is a collective ethical failing by this country and its institutions. The opioid crisis arose and developed from multiple sources. Healthcare workers and hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies and politicians are collectively responsible for the hollowing of communities across the country.

Back pain, seoworkbuygenericpills (Pixabay)

The opioid crisis originates partly from a desire to address the burden of pain. Pain is multifaceted and has components that are physiological, emotional, social, and cultural. Moreover, chronic pain is a cause of disability and a source of substantial mental health burden. Prior to the 1990s, opioids were generally prescribed to manage acute, cancer-related pain. Beginning in the 1990s, pain management practices shifted. Opioids were increasingly being used to manage chronic, non-cancer pain. Clinical guidelines at the time cautioned the expanded use of opioids and advised that opioids be used discriminately. Pharmacologic treatment should have occurred together with behavioral and psychological care in a multidisciplinary approach. Yet, what ultimately developed was a narrow, unimodal model of care with reliance on pharmacologic solutions to pain. The fragmented landscape of health insurance and access to care in the United States together with costs generally prohibiting multidisciplinary medical practices encouraged this development.

Physicians and hospitals also faced pressure from the government to address pain. It is well documented that physicians historically under-treated pain. Additionally, evidence suggests that implicit racial bias among medical students and physicians affects both the assessment and treatment of pain. Yet, a number of regulatory interventions meant to improve the treatment of pain help set the opioid crisis in motion. Examples include the documentation of pain on health records as the “fifth vital sign,” overemphasizing pain as a quantifiable measure, and the inclusion of questions related to pain in patient satisfaction surveys that serve as a proxy for quality. Hospitals are required to submit these surveys or incur a penalty in their reimbursement by Medicare. The focus on quantifying pain and tying it to reimbursement incentivized quick and easy solutions — for example, increased prescribing of opioids.

The introduction of well-intentioned measures to try and correct a shortcoming of medicine should be contrasted to the entirely profit-driven motive of the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry encouraged and manipulated the desire of physicians and other medical professionals to address patients’ pain. For example, Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, spent millions of dollars reassuring physicians, elected representatives, and the public that oxycontin was safe and non-addictive. The company also purposefully manipulated and misrepresented research to boost their sales. This “commercial strategy” continued even after Purdue Pharma was convicted of misleading regulators and physicians in 2007. Earlier this year Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to fraud and giving illegal payments to prescribers.


The alarming rise in opioid deaths demanded solutions. One popular solution was the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs to track the number of prescriptions written and filled. While successful in decreasing the total number of opioid prescriptions and identifying “pill mill” doctors, a consequence of these programs was shifting opioid use from prescription drugs to heroin. Heroin — and, later, synthetic opioids like fentanyl — became cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids partly as a consequence of these regulations.

Methadone clinic, USDA, Flikr (public domain)

A wealth of evidence highlights the efficacy of medication-assisted treatment, which combines pharmacologic treatment to address the physiological manifestations of withdrawal with behavioral therapy to address the psychological components of addiction. Heightened scrutiny of prescribing practices also limited physician autonomy and discouraged medication-assisted treatment (MAT, or MOUD — Medications for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorders). Physicians justifiably worried of being flagged and disciplined for prescribing opioids used in MAT, such as methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine, by prescription drug monitoring programs.

There are success stories from which we can draw lessons. Throughout the 1990s Lisbon, Portugal, was known as the heroin capital of Europe, with hundreds dying from opioid overdose each year. Typical repressive policies did not stem the spread of Portugal’s drug crisis. Rather, changes in societal attitudes toward drug use and addiction are ultimately credited with solving the country’s drug crisis more than legislative reforms. Addiction was treated as a complex medical and social challenge rather than an individual moral failing requiring police repression and incarceration as deterrents. “Junkies” became known as “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders.” Proper funding and public support for treatment options and harm reduction approaches resulted in dramatic declines in HIV and hepatitis infection rates and drug-related crime rates. Portugal’s success in turning its own opioid crisis around demonstrates the efficacy of public health measures focused on decriminalization, harm reduction, and multidisciplinary healthcare.

Unfortunately, policymakers here in the United States have not fully embraced this view. Legislative efforts have been uneven and half-hearted, and they have not fulfilled their promise. For example, the Affordable Care Act does not mandate coverage of all treatment options for drug addiction. Some health insurance plans graciously cover it, while others do not. Also, health insurance plans often require prior authorization, place limits on treatment duration, or require proof of failure using other treatments before covering the cost of medication-assisted treatment. More recent legislation, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the 21st Century Cures Act, and the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act provided funding for grants, education, and clinician training, as well as increased access to treatment options.

These are welcome but insufficient advances. The epidemic has worsened despite recent legislation. Throwing money into a system fueled by profit is not a solution. A concerted and deliberate effort must be made to build interconnected institutions capable of providing comprehensive medical, psychological, and social support. Proper funding and adequate staffing with trained healthcare professionals and civil servants are also required. Moreover, solutions to the opioid crisis must address the social challenges faced by those struggling with addiction. Structural racism, white supremacy, and prejudice against rural Americans poison our institutions and our ability to enact better solutions.

Race and class

Media coverage of the opioid crisis highlights the interplay of race, class, and geography.  Reminiscent of the racialized difference between crack and powder cocaine, contemporary media reports of the opioid crisis often distinguish between suburban and rural (read: white) and urban (read: Black and brown) drug use and addiction. White non-medical opioid users are often portrayed as victims (of “dirty” doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, or of anxieties surrounding deindustrialization), whereas Black and brown opioid users are portrayed as addicts. Cases of suburban and rural drug use highlight the spoiling of otherwise pristine communities, while examples of urban drug use demonstrate the inherent criminality of these communities. Motivations and social context are often explored in the former and not in the latter.

Cocaine user, Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0).

Class is also a factor in narratives of the opioid crisis. Descriptions of working-class drug use denigrate these communities. Poverty and dependence on “handouts” are linked to deficiencies in character, echoing narratives of the innate faults of urban drug users. Furthermore, white supremacy causes harm to poor rural white communities because it equates whiteness with affluence and innocence. The complex phenomenon of drug use and addiction in rural communities throughout Appalachia, for example, is simplified down to the use of “hillbilly heroin” that fuels crime and drug-seeking behavior.

Consequently, very different policy prescriptions are forwarded. Punitive measures tackle only one aspect of the crisis and are reactive rather than proactive. Mass incarceration for drug convictions, denial of meaningful employment, and lack of knowledge of treatment for substance use disorders reinforce the view that drug use, dependence, and addiction are individual problems. But the opioid crisis is not an example of individual moral failing. The ongoing opioid crisis demands not just a medical, but a social revolution in how we view, define, treat, and support those struggling with addiction.

Portugal’s success was multifaceted. It demonstrated the efficacy of multidisciplinary treatment focused on addressing individual medical needs together with social challenges. Combatting stigma against drug use and addiction also helped define Portugal’s public health measures. Cities and states here in the U.S. have begun this process, but more is needed.

The present COVID-19 pandemic only strengthens the need originally felt throughout the opioid crisis for universal health care. Solving drug use and addiction is difficult when individuals are burdened with navigating a disjointed, labyrinthine health-care system and extortionate insurance plans. Moreover, speaking of “access” to health care means little when communities have no hospital, clinic, or treatment facility nearby, and workers cannot take time off to seek or maintain treatment. Incentives are misaligned when employment is denied to those struggling with drug use and addiction, or treatment is shortened due to concerns of financial instability.

We need to struggle for a just, equitable, and empathetic health-care system. We must also fight against the purposeful starving of social safety net spending. Reliance on current institutions is inadequate. Judicial accountability, for example, is imperfect at best and not at all a deterrent of corporate greed. Lack of leadership and any semblance of compassion from the ruling class leaves workers the task of organizing themselves to implement systemic changes. We have the capacity to bring about radical transformation. The opioid crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can be solved. In the face of bourgeois callousness, the working class can mobilize hope and a brighter future. Lenin’s words ring true, “Disunited, the workers are nothing. United, they are everything.”

A special thanks to the comrades of Virginia for their feedback and support.

Source: Communist Party USA, January 25, 2022, https://cpusa.org/article/the-opioid-crisis-origins-and-humane-solutions/

Maine shattered its annual record for overdose deaths in 2021 / by Randy Billings

Image credit: WMTW Fentanyl driving record drug overdose deaths in Maine

The 636 deaths, a 23% increase over 2020, are largely the result of fentanyl being added to other drugs. Increased isolation and other pandemic challenges also were factors.

Shortly before Christmas, Catherine Ryder received news that no mother wants to hear. Her son, Colin Gallagher, a 35-year-old Iraq War veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities, had died from a drug overdose.

Gallagher was one of an estimated 636 people to die from a drug overdoses in 2021 – a new record for Maine and a 23 percent increase from the record set in 2020. The rise in deaths stems from fentanyl being laced into other drugs without the users’ knowledge, along with increased isolation and other challenges stemming from the pandemic, researchers told lawmakers this week.

Ryder said her son began using substances as a teenager, before graduating high school and signing up for the U.S. Army. He served three years in the infantry, she said, including an 18-month deployment to Baghdad, where he experienced combat. When he returned home, he turned to substance use to self-medicate, she said. He had been in and out of recovery since then.

Catherine Ryder pets her son Colin Gallagher’s therapy dog, Doe, at her home in Windham on Wednesday. Colin Gallagher, who was 35, died Dec. 21 of an overdose. A photo of him sits above her on the mantel.
Catherine Ryder pets her son Colin Gallagher’s therapy dog, Doe, at her home in Windham on Wednesday. Colin Gallagher, who was 35, died Dec. 21 of an overdose. A photo of him sits above her on the mantel. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“He struggled greatly when he returned home,” she said. “He was an amazing human being. My son was so much more than his addiction. He touched a lot of lives that we did not know about.”

As CEO of Tri-County Mental Health Services, Ryder said she has spent decades building programs to fight addiction. She did everything she could to help her son, including warning him about the dangers of fentanyl, which he promised never to use. He lived with his mother for the past three years, seeking to recover so he could be reunited with his 12-year-old daughter.

But in the end, addiction won. The last time she saw her son was when he smiled and told her that he loved her, before heading out the door to go to a friend’s house to watch movies.

“It’s so hard,” Ryder said. “You never know when that day was going to come. Our family has known that for years that this was a possibility and you think you’re ready but you’re just never ready to say goodbye to someone you love.”

Marcella Sorg, a researcher with the University of Maine, told lawmakers this week that researchers are still waiting for toxicology results, which can take 10 weeks, before finalizing the numbers.

Sorg estimated that 636 people died of drug overdoses last year, a 23 percent increase over the 515 deaths recorded in 2020. Fentanyl, a fast-acting synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, is driving the deaths, she said. Long mixed with opioids, it is now showing up in cocaine and methamphetamine.

Sorg said Maine’s crisis reflects the national trend.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were roughly 101,000 fatal overdoses for the 12-month period ending in June – a nearly 21 percent increase over the previous 12 months.


Fentanyl caused 77 percent of the total overdose deaths in Maine, up 10 percent over the previous year, Sorg said. And toxicology reports cite an average of three different substances involved in fatal overdoses.

“It really is a fentanyl storm here,” Sorg said. “The drug supply is spiked with fentanyl and users might not know that fentanyl is going to be in it.”

Roy McKinney, the director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, told lawmakers that seizures of fentanyl, cocaine and meth have doubled and in some cases tripled in the last two years. The state is beginning to see an increase in crystal meth that’s produced in Mexico and smuggled across the border, he said.

“The stimulant market has just exploded,” McKinney said.

While 7 percent of all known overdoses were fatal, syringe exchange programs report that as many as 75 percent of non-fatal overdoses are not reported, Sorg said. She also sees a glimmer of hope in the state’s distribution of naloxone, which can reverse an overdose and prevent death if someone administers it in time.

Sorg believes the pandemic also has helped spur the increase in fatal overdoses. She said more people are using fentanyl-laced drugs in isolation, which means bystanders are less able to intervene with naloxone, which goes by the brand name Narcan.

Kari Morrissette, executive director of the Church of Safe Injection, said the overdose deaths highlight the need for better harm-reduction policies, including broadening the Good Samaritan law, which protects people who report overdoses from criminal charges. The Church of Safe Injection is a syringe exchange operating in the Westbrook, Lewiston, Rumford, Dixfield and Bethel. It plans to open its first brick-and-mortar exchange in Lewiston next month to compliment its mobile services.


“I think I speak for myself as well as other community organizers when I say that we’re just angry and frustrated,” she said. “Even though times are getting a lot more progressive as far as implementing harm reduction into a lot of places we’re still lacking in much-needed areas and a lot of these deaths are preventable.”

Ryder said her agency, Tri-County Mental Health Services, has teams that respond to overdose sites with law enforcement in hopes of getting people who survive an overdose into treatment. They, too, have reported more cases of fentanyl showing up in a variety of drugs.

Ryder is still waiting for toxicology report on her son’s death, but says she was told by law enforcement that fentanyl was found at the scene.

She had noticed a change in her son over the last year.

“I think COVID had a lot do with how my son sort of slipped away,” Ryder said. “He had been receiving services at the (Veterans Affairs clinic) in Portland was very happy with those services. He was doing OK. He was using here and there, but was pretty stable. Over the past year in particular he was telling me how lonely he felt, even though he was living with me.”

Her son’s death has made Ryder more committed to her work. And she’s less likely to mute her support for safe consumption sites, where people can use drugs under medical supervision. Such sites are touted as a way to reduce overdose deaths and help get people into treatment programs.

“I’m going to be doubling down on the work that I’m doing,” she said. “It’s (impacting) everybody from all walks of life. We are burying people with Ph.D.s who are living in mansions and we are burying people who are poor and homeless.”

Author: Randy Billings is a government watchdog and political reporter who has been covering Portland City Hall for the Press Herald since 2012. His beat touches on a wide range of topics, including immigration, homelessness, education, tourism, real estate development and the economy in Maine’s largest city. He has been a Portland-based journalist since 2005. A life-long Mainer who loves the outdoors, Randy is also a bassist who brews his own beer at his North Yarmouth home, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Source: Portland Press Herald, January 19, 2022, https://www.pressherald.com/2022/01/19/maine-shatters-annual-record-for-overdose-deaths/

Report: Only a third of PPP money went to the workers it was intended for / by Dan Neumann

new report shows that only about one-third of the money distributed to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), co-authored by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, actually went to workers who would have otherwise lost jobs. 

The study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that instead most of the PPP money went to business owners, shareholders, creditors or suppliers.

Keeping in line with previously released data that demonstrated that PPP loans overwhelmingly went to big businesses, the new study found that the loans were inefficient in their stated purpose: Keeping workers on the payrolls of small businesses impacted by the pandemic. 

“Another paper (consistent with others) showing that Susan Collins’s Paycheck Protection Program was flawed and inefficient,” tweeted James Myall, a policy analyst with the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

PPP was co-sponsored by Collins and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act in March 2020. 

The emergency program, which Collins described as a “resounding success,” secured $800 billion for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to grant forgivable loans to businesses to keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.

However, the program produced substantial inequalities. The report’s authors, a research team of 10 economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, found that only between 23% and 34% of PPP money went to workers who would have been out of a job without government aid. 

Additionally, they found that of the $510 billion in PPP loans granted in 2020, nearly three-quarters went to people in the top-fifth of households, or those with an annual average household income of about $255,000.

PPP has been criticized for relying on banks to distribute the loans. The SBA issued the loan guarantees, while the loans were processed and delivered through the nation’s banking system.

This meant the program did not primarily benefit those businesses most in need, but rather the “well-banked” and “well-lawyered” businesses with which large national banks had existing lending relationships.

This created waste. The researchers found that PPP spent between $69,000 and $258,000 per job-year saved. A job-year is defined as one person working for one year. 

“The program was deeply flawed, but in a way, that was by design,” said MIT economics professor David Autor, one of the report’s authors. “The people designing it understood the flaws and didn’t see a way around them because of the woeful state of the U.S. government infrastructure.”

ProPublica reporter Lydia DePillis, who has reported extensively on waste and abuse in the PPP rollout, said the study underscored the poor state of America’s administrative infrastructure, compared to European countries that were more efficient in understanding which businesses were the most at risk.

“America made up for its lack of sophistication with a firehose of money, which other countries might not have been able to afford. That saved some businesses, but also probably exacerbated inequality,” DePillis tweeted

Maine People’s Resource Center, which is a Beacon supporter, received a PPP loan in 2020.

Photo: Sen. Susan Collins | Getty Images

Author: Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)mainebeacon.com.

Source: Maine Beacon, January 26, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/report-only-a-third-of-ppp-money-went-to-the-workers-it-was-intended-for/

U.S. government pays big money for bad news about Cuba / by W.T. Whitney, Jr.

Viral propaganda: In the social media age, the U.S.’ anti-Cuba efforts have to keep up with the way people get their information (and disinformation). Here, protesters in Key West, Fla., use their phones to photograph and video a flag reading ‘SOS Cuba’ from atop the Southernmost Point buoy, July 13, 2021. | Rob O’Neal/The Key West Citizen via AP

The cruder U.S. methods for destroying Cuba’s revolutionary government—military attacks, bombings of hotels and a fully-loaded airplane, violent attacks on officials, biological warfare—did not work. Nor has economic blockade, which of course continues. A more subtle approach also exists. Like the blockade, its purpose is to cause despair and then dissent.

U.S. officials pay for the collection of bad news about Cuba’s revolutionary government and for its dissemination within Cuba and to news outlets abroad. U.S. paymasters provide money to agents for delivery to opponents of Cuba’s government, real or imagined, in Cuba and elsewhere. The recipients find or devise information unfavorable to Cuba’s image and spread it. Cubans’ well-founded complaints about shortages, bureaucracy, low wages, and living with the pandemic become news items.

The groups transferring the money from the United States to disgruntled elements in Cuba and elsewhere are key to the entire operation. One recalls the “bagman” who in certain U.S. cities deliver pay-offs from point to point within a criminal network. These groups transferring money—as authorized by the Helms Burton law of 1996—are bagmen for imperialism.

An odor of criminality is sensed. To interfere with Cuba’s conduct of its own affairs violates norms of international law relating to national sovereignty. And it turns out that, as of 2011, “Accusations of fraud, reckless distribution of funds, and diversion of monies to stateside anti-Cuban groups have prompted temporary stays in disbursement of funds.”

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is one of two big U.S. paymasters. Founded in 1983, it’s a non-governmental organization funded exclusively by the U.S. Congress. The projects funded by the NED are similar to those formerly undertaken by the CIA.

The Cuban Communist Party’s Granma newspaper on Jan. 18, 2022 presented a list published on the NED website on Feb. 23, 2021. Groups are named “which received funding to intervene in Cuba during the year 2020, with sums ranging from 20,000 to 650,000 dollars.”

The list includes 42 groups; the total amount dispensed was $5,077,788. Below appears a short list. It contains the names of groups receiving $146,360 or more, the amount of money each one did receive, its home base, and the supposed shortcoming in Cuba needing to be fixed.

The top recipients of NED funds were:

  • Cubalex: $150,000 – Memphis, Tenn. (human rights)
  • National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI): $500,000 – Washington, D.C. (gender rights)
  • Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos: $150,000 – Madrid (human rights)
  • Asociacion Diario de Cuba: $215,000 – Madrid (access to information)
  • Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresion y Prensa: $146,360 – Hialeah, Fla. (access to information)
  • Cuban Democratic Directorate: $650,000 – Miami (access to information)
  • Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE): $309,766 – Washington, D.C. (private sector needing support)
  • Clovek v tisni, o.p.s. (People in Need): $150,882 – Prague (access to information)
  • Grupo Internacional para la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa en Cuba: $230,000 – Miami (labor rights)

The State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is another paymaster. On Oct. 23, 2021, journalist Tracey Eaton’s “Cuba Money Project” website reported on disbursements USAID announced during the previous month. The total being delivered to 12 organizations was $6,669,000. The list, constructed like the list above, includes:

  • International Republican Institute: $1,006,895 – Washington, D.C. (human rights)
  • Pan American Development Foundation: $800,000 – Washington, D.C. (labor exploitation)
  • Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: $717,000 – Miami (medical workers exploited)
  • Digital News Association: $604,920 (military abuse)
  • Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia: $625,000 – Miami (political prisoners)
  • International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights: $546,00 – Washington, D.C. (human rights and racism)
  • Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation: $545,573 – Washington, D.C. (democracy)
  • Directorio Democrático Cubano: $520,179 – Miami (tourist workers exploited)
  • Outreach Aid to the Americas: $500,000 – Miami (humanitarian crisis)
  • Cubanet News: $408,003 – Coral Gables (tourist workers exploited)
  • Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos: $250,000 – Madrid (political prisoners)
  • Libertatis: $166,430 – Houston, Texas (human rights)

Cubans in many cities, predominantly young people, took to the streets on July 11, 2021. They were protesting shortages of medical supplies, food, and other goods; the failure of remittances from abroad to arrive; and, in some instances, racial discrimination. Arrests and detentions followed and, more recently, trials and prison sentences. Social media played a major role in mobilizing the protesters and subsequently in disseminating news of arrests, injuries, property damage, and reaction from abroad.

As with social media trial runs in earlier anti-Cuban propaganda campaigns, some of the U.S. government funds delivered by the intermediaries were undoubtedly earmarked for expanding the role of social media in recruiting protesters and in publicizing adverse fallout.

The U.S. has expanded its anti-Cuba information offensive, spreading the dollars around to groups that stretch well beyond the older means like Radio and TV Marti, whose studio is seen here in 2007. | Alan Diaz / AP

As bad news from Cuba makes its way to anti-Cuban politicians in the United States and Europe, it takes on added value. New pretexts crop up for administrative actions and legislation that, aimed at destabilization in Cuba, imposes sanctions and tightens blockade rules. These in turn generate reports of new grief in Cuba.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently responded to the trials of some of the July 11 protest leaders and the resulting prison terms by announcing visa restrictions against eight Cuban officials. A legislative proposal recently introduced by South Florida congresspersons calls upon President Joe Biden to urge the United Nations to issue sanctions against Cuba. The bill’s title is “Atrocities and Genocide in Cuba.”

The story here is about siege socialism. In his Blackshirts and Reds, Michael Parenti shows Russian revolutionaries under Lenin cutting back on their aspirations due to pressures of civil war and invasion by capitalist nations: “[I]n May 1921, the same Lenin who had encouraged the practice of internal party democracy and struggled…to give the trade unions a greater measure of autonomy, now called for an end to the Workers’ Opposition and other factional groups within the party.”

Fidel Castro once offered a vivid characterization of a socialist society faltering under enemy attacks while being advertised, by those enemies, as the best that socialists can do—as if peaceful circumstances did prevail. He declared that, “For 40 years you try to strangle us. And then you criticize us for the way we breathe.”

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Source: People’s World, January 25, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/u-s-government-pays-big-money-for-bad-news-about-cuba/

Biden and NATO raise the stakes in deadly Ukraine war gamble / by C.J. Atkins

Two Ukrainian soldiers carry a recoilless rifle after conducting an air assault mission training in conjunction with the U.S. Army. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr

The war danger in Ukraine is escalating, and once more it is Washington and the NATO military alliance it controls which are raising the stakes in this deadly gamble.

President Joe Biden ratcheted up tensions this weekend with the revelation that he plans to possibly dispatch as many as 50,000 troops—along with tanks, missiles, aircraft, and warships—to NATO military allies in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe.

The U.S. has also issued marching orders to other NATO members. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Biden administration’s top propaganda chief on the Ukraine matter, said Sunday that “NATO will continue to be reinforced…if Russia commits renewed acts of aggression.”

Ukrainian soldiers stand at their U.S.-supplied Humvee military vehicle on the line of separation, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 20, 2022. | Andriy Dubchak / AP

Already, there are F-16 warplanes from Denmark on the way to Lithuania, Spanish fighter jets and naval forces en route to the Black Sea, French troops airlifting to Romania, and Dutch F-35 fighters joining the patrols in the skies over Bulgaria. These military moves were paired with diplomatic theatrics, as the U.S. and Britain began “evacuations” of some embassy staff in Kiev.

But what are the new supposed threats from Russia that merit kicking the U.S.-led war machine into high gear?

Biden insists Russia could “move in” on its neighbor at any minute but offers no information about anything new when it comes to Russian military developments. It’s been public knowledge for weeks that Russian forces have taken up positions at the country’s western borders, but the government of President Vladimir Putin continues to deny it has any intention of invading Ukraine.

Instead, it points the finger back at NATO, saying the accusations against Russia are a cover for the military alliance’s own provocations—those already underway and those still planned. Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for the Kremlin, told the media this weekend, “All this is happening not because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing.”

One doesn’t have to be a fan of the authoritarian and oligarchic state run by Putin to see that Russia’s claims have some merit. The current crisis is underpinned by major issues that stretch back over the past 30 years—from the end of the Cold War to the present—and which are receiving little to no attention in the mainstream press.

Facts and fiction

First is the prolonged instability that has defined Russian-Ukrainian relations since the dismantling of the socialist Soviet Union in 1990-91. For hundreds of years, Russia and Ukraine have been tied together—socially, culturally, politically, and in every other imaginable way. The two Slavic countries even share an origin point in the Kievan Rus state that came into existence in the area around modern Kiev more than a millennium ago. Over centuries, their people intermarried, fought off Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler together, and built an advanced modern industrial economy.

Those connections were severed by the fall of the USSR. In other regions, the destruction of the Soviet Union saw the outbreak of violent ethnic and religious conflicts when communities were suddenly split apart or forced together by nationalist regimes. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan last year is only the most recent example.

For Ukraine, the current downward spiral in relations with Russia started in 2014 when a coup by U.S.-and European Union-backed ultra-nationalist and fascist forces overthrew the elected (but undeniably corrupt) government of supposedly pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The U.S. and its allies claim it was Moscow’s man Yanukovych who forced the turn toward violence and confrontation when his security forces opened fire on protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square in February that year, killing 50 people.

This photo taken on Feb. 20, 2014, shows Maidan Square in Kiev. Sniper fire tore through crowds of protesters there on that day, killing more than 50 people. The U.S.-backed opposition claimed it was the work of government security forces, but evidence now shows it was fascist snipers who opened fire in hopes of pushing the overthrow of the Ukrainian state. They succeeded, and the event became a key point in launching a violent conflict that has so far taken 13,000 lives. | Efrem Lukatsky / AP

The so-called “sniper’s massacre” has been held up as the trigger for everything that followed, including Yanukovych’s removal from power, the “civil war” in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian “annexation” of Crimea. However bad Yanukovych may have been, as more evidence comes to light, the “sniper’s massacre” is looking more and more like a fascist frame-up rather than the desperate act of a soon-to-be-deposed dictator.

Extensive research from University of Ottawa Professor Ivan Katchanovski is upsetting the narrative pushed by the West and its allied regime in Kiev. Looking at the testimony of over 100 wounded demonstrators, dozens of prosecution witnesses, the examinations of the Ukrainian government’s own forensic and ballistic experts, and hours of videotapes, Katchanovski has concluded that the massacre of the “absolute majority of protesters and police” at the Maidan was perpetrated by “members of the Maidan opposition, specifically it’s far-right element.”

In simpler terms: It was the fascist forces supported by the West, not the Russian-backed Yanukovych, who fired the opening shots in the violence that has since killed more than 13,000 people. The truth about the “sniper’s massacre,” according to Katchanovski, has been repeatedly “misrepresented, omitted, or even covered up by Western governments and…the mainstream media.”

If the very first line in the Western powers’ story about Ukraine is a lie, it becomes prudent to look at everything they’ve said since with a skeptical eye. That includes everything they’re saying now.

For instance, the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—which is on the ropes at home and could fall at any time—claimed on Saturday that Moscow was plotting to install a “pro-Russian” leader in Ukraine. Conveniently, the figure Putin allegedly plans to tap to run a puppet regime is Yevgeniy Murayev—a former MP who opposed the fascist-backed coup of 2014, has long been an ally of Ukrainian trade unions, and is now a leading voice speaking out against the war danger.

Murayev believes the Ukrainian government is selling the country’s future to the U.S., whose weapons makers he said are whipping up the war hysteria to reap whirlwind profits. “The hawks are looking forward to a feast,” he wrote. Biden’s big troop and armaments deployments seem to fit the bill. It’s little wonder then that London and Washington are trying to link Murayev to Putin and derail his anti-war party from gaining public support.

Like the “sniper’s massacre,” the claims about the planned installation of a pro-Kremlin puppet start to look suspiciously like the Western powers accusing Russia and its friends of exactly the things they themselves have done and are doing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Kiev, Ukraine, Oct. 31, 2019. The U.S.-led military alliance continues to hold out the prospect it will pull Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, into its ranks. | Mykola Lazarenko / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

Who is the true aggressor?

Beyond the disputes internal to Ukraine, there are also the international roots of the conflict. Way back in 1991—more than three decades ago—the administration of President George H.W. Bush made a pledge to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that when the military forces of the USSR withdrew from Eastern Europe, NATO would not seek to add countries there to its ranks.

If the West had truly been interested in creating the conditions for a lasting peace in that moment when the Cold War was ending, it would have dissolved NATO completely. The Soviet-led Warsaw Pact was liquidated, but the U.S. and its allies didn’t respond in kind.

In fact, they barely wasted a minute to prove that Bush’s promise was a lie—not only expanding into former Warsaw Pact countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania but actually gobbling up nations that were formerly part of the USSR itself, like Latvia and Lithuania.

With the excuse of being a “defensive” alliance against the Soviet Union gone, NATO was openly refashioned into a direct instrument of U.S. military priorities. NATO helped tear the country of Yugoslavia into pieces, bombarded Afghanistan after Sept. 11th, assisted in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and assisted in pushing Libya into a civil war.

Given this history, Russia’s fear of NATO pulling Ukraine into its sphere and creeping directly up to the Russian border is far from absurd. It is little wonder that Putin demands the U.S. and NATO remove all weapons from Ukraine, that a guarantee be issued Ukraine will not join the alliance and the security of all former Soviet nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. Any Russian leader—left, right, or center—would ask the same.

Negotiation is the only way back from the brink in the current crisis, and the U.S. must guarantee that NATO will not seek to add Ukraine to the anti-Russian military alliance. Here, the two meet in 2015 when Biden was vice president. | Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Negotiation is the only way out

Unless the Biden administration wants to force an open military conflict, it must accept that a negotiated settlement is the only solution—and that settlement has to include no NATO membership for Ukraine.

The war hawks in the military-industrial complex and their political spokespersons in Congress are of course pushing for further escalation. The threat of war alone has already been enough to bring the cash rolling in for the weapons makers.

Even if Biden is not inclined to listen to the advice of an anti-war outlet like People’s World, he should at least heed the advice of the so-called foreign policy “realists” of establishment think tanks such as the Quincy Institute. Its working group of “former American and British ambassadors and experts on Russia and Ukraine” says an actual Russian invasion of Ukraine is not in the cards, despite the screaming of the media, and that Washington has to issue a “moratorium on further NATO expansion” for at least the next few decades.

Lyle Goldstein, an analyst at the military think tank Defense Priorities, has given the administration similar counsel. U.S. intervention would have “deleterious and even catastrophic consequences,” he argues. Even indirect interference, such as providing more weapons to the Ukrainian government, Goldstein says, would “further cement the ‘New Cold War,’ prolong the war and the killing” and push Russia to look for other ways of protecting itself militarily.

Acknowledging the necessity of halting NATO expansion into Ukraine does not represent a concession to Putin; it is a concession to common sense. Nor does it compromise the self-determination of the Ukrainian people. The truth is that the West compromised on that in 2014 when it helped install a fascist-backed government in Kiev.

It’s now up to President Biden and his NATO allies to bring us all back from the precipice of war.

Author: C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

Source: People’s World, January 24, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/biden-and-nato-raise-the-stakes-in-deadly-ukraine-war-gamble/

Maine governor supports agribusiness, vetoes farmworkers’ rights bill / by Audrey Huff

Photo: Activists with Migrant Justice protest outside a Hannaford supermarket. | Terry Allen via Migrant Justice, Facebook

On Jan. 7, Maine’s governor, Janet Mills started off the year by vetoing LD 1711, a bill that would have granted farmworkers the ability to bargain for better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. It would also have given workers more opportunities for recourse if they experienced sexual harassment or wage theft while on the job.

Mills, who works closely with the Maine Potato Board and the Maine Farm Bureau, organizations run by industry bosses, said in a statement that the bill would increase the spending burden on the agricultural sector and that she would not “subject our farmers to a complicated new set of laws that would require them to hire lawyers just to understand.” After delaying action on the bill for nearly six months, Mills made the decision to sacrifice the rights and safety of farmworkers in favor of preserving Maine’s agriculture profits.

In response, the Maine AFL-CIO said, “If a worker steals from their boss you can bet they will suffer consequences, but employers too often get away with stealing from workers. Without this bill, more Maine workers will find they have no recourse when they are stolen from or abused in the workplace.”

Farm workers face wage theft, bad conditions 

Farmworkers are numbered among the professions most vulnerable to wage theft, thanks to lack of access to the legal system attributed to language barriers, fear of retribution and poverty. Around 75 percent of farmworkers make less than $10,000 a year – starvation wages – all while they feed the country. Intense efforts rooted in this capitalist system have been made by the ruling class for over a century to try to keep farmworkers unorganized, expendable, and replaceable.

For these reasons, farmworkers, along with domestic laborers, do not have the same rights as other workers in the United States. They were excluded from receiving the right to organize their workplaces in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. Both these industries have been occupied primarily by Black and Latino workers, many of whom are undocumented.

Only 24% of farmworkers report being comfortable speaking English, and at least 50 percent are undocumented. Farmworkers’ statuses can be jeopardized by their employer when they speak out about poor wages and working conditions. Providing a pathway to citizenship also continues to be a key demand of farm workers.

Amadeo, a farmworker from California stated that “We work from sunup to sundown to put food on America’s tables. We work hard to support our families. We are part of the community.  We deserve not to live in fear of being separated. We have earned legalization.” (United Farm Workers on Twitter @UFWUpdates)

Despite this multiplicity of oppression, the struggle to organize the agriculture industry continues to grow, and farmworkers in both California and Maine have pushed forward legislation that would allow them to organize which could give them a pathway to fight for better pay and conditions.

Mills followed California governors’ footsteps in crushing farmworker rights

Mills is actually following the precedent set by other Democratic governors in California. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have protected the integrity of union elections by stopping the intimidation of workers by their bosses. In September 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom of California vetoed a similar law that would have expanded farmworkers’ abilities to unionize their workplaces by allowing mail-in ballots.

Newsom condemned the “strong-arm organizing tactics” being used by farmworkers, saying they “have no place in California agriculture,” and highlighted supposed inconsistencies in the bill. But Teresa Romero, the president of the United Farm Workers, said that he brought up no specific issues in talks about the bill. The UFW organized a 260-mile march in September 2021, beginning in Farmersville and ending in Sacramento, to urge Newsom to allow the bill to pass. But their pleas were disregarded, as Newsom accepted the narrative promoted by his million-dollar donors in agribusiness and chose to veto the bill. 

California workers face especially difficult working conditions, as fires and freezing storms caused by climate change ravage the state each year, and hundreds of thousands are forced to work in inhospitable conditions. Lourdes Cárdenas, a 58-year-old farmworker from California has spent years working in inhumane conditions and expressed anger about the government’s disregard for their safety. While marching with UFW, she said, “Without that law, we’re going to continue to be humiliated and harmed.” (United Farm Workers on Twitter @UFWUpdates)

Both Democrat Governors made shallow comments in support of farmworkers generally, calling such bills “well-intentioned,” but their words cannot make up for the intense hardship they’ve caused the thousands of farmworkers in the United States by vetoing these bills. Their actions show us that both the Democrat and Republican parties have greater interests in protecting the profits of the rich agricultural companies than defending farm workers rights.

Yet despite the setbacks caused by Mills and Newsom, farm workers have made it clear that their struggle to unionize and fight for citizenship will continue.

Source: Liberation, January 23, 2022, https://www.liberationnews.org/maine-governor-supports-agribusiness-vetoes-farmworkers-rights-bill/