SNAP expansion helped me survive as a poor senior, but now it’s gone / by Joyce Kendrick

Seth Wenig / AP

Originally published in the People’s World on May 31, 2023

One thing I was grateful for during the pandemic was masks—and not just for safety reasons.

I’m on Medicare for disability, which unfortunately doesn’t cover dental care. At 60 years old, I’ve lost many of my teeth. It was nice hiding behind a mask for a while.

But I was grateful for another reason, too: For once, Congress actually expanded the social safety net.

With stimulus payments and extra SNAP benefits, it was so much easier to survive. Before, I had to supplement my tiny benefits at food pantries, where choices are limited. It was a challenge to get food that I could eat without my teeth.

These are things about being poor that people don’t understand until it happens to them.

I was raised in a loving family in a middle-class neighborhood. But as a child, I suffered over a decade of traumatic sexual abuse by a neighbor who kept me quiet with violent threats.

I’ve struggled with my physical and mental health ever since. It was especially hard to get a correct mental health diagnosis in the years before people understood the trauma that comes from the kind of abuse I experienced.

It was difficult to hold down a job. After two failed back surgeries, and with my mental health struggles, I was forced to rely on disability. With just $700 a month of benefits, I moved into a motel room.

That’s the life I was living before lawmakers expanded services during the pandemic.

After the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, my SNAP benefits mercifully increased to $284 per month. The stimulus payments allowed me to get back on my feet again. And at around the same time, I learned about Medicare’s Extra Help program, which got my monthly $165 Medicare premium covered by Medicaid.

At last, I could focus on more than just trying to survive.

I found housing through a family member. I received some proper mental health treatment and was finally diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I got nutritious food that I was able to eat.

But now all that’s gone. Lawmakers let the SNAP expansion and other pandemic programs expire, and I’ve been told I’m no longer eligible for Medicare’s Extra Help program. So, I’m in survival mode again.

My story is hardly unique.

The expanded SNAP benefits kept 4.2 million people out of poverty during 2021, including 14% of children out of poverty, while the expanded Child Tax Credit cut child poverty nearly in half.

Combined with the direct stimulus payments, the American Rescue Plan brought poverty down by 22%, illustrating that poverty is indeed a political choice in America. By July 2022, the unemployment level had fallen to a 50-year low of 3.5%.

With pandemic aid expired, those gains are being reversed. More of us will have to choose between paying for health care and car repairs, or between putting food on the table and seeing a dentist.

We need stronger safety net protections that won’t be torn away by lawmakers or complicated eligibility requirements. But now whenever I turn on the news, I hear politicians demanding we slash human needs programs even further so they can extend tax giveaways to the very wealthy. How is that fair?

That’s why I’ve joined the Poor People’s Campaign—a movement led by people like me, impacted by policies that harm the poor in order to help the wealthy. We know that proper social investments keep us out of poverty, drastically reduce unemployment, and give lifelong positive benefits to children. So, we’re fighting back.

In the world’s wealthiest country, we must learn this lesson and move in that direction again—not away from it. Join us.

Institute for Policy Studies / OtherWords

Joyce Kendrick is the Southwest Ohio co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She lives in Middletown, Ohio.

Chinese party congress envisions domestic growth and equality, less reliance on exports / by Roger McKenzie

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. Xinhua News Agency via AP

Chinese leader Xi Jinping opened the Communist Party’s 20th Congress Sunday promising to reinforce “a new pattern of development” focused on domestic rather than export-led growth and reducing inequality.

Vowing to continue “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” in an address to the congress’s 2,000 delegates, Xi was joined on stage by his predecessor as Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao, former prime minister Wen Jiabao, and 105-year-old communist revolutionary veteran Song Ping to emphasize the continuity of the Chinese Revolution.

“We must fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy on all fronts,” he said, referring to changed targets that emphasize “all-rounded development” rather than simply economic growth.

Reducing inequality has been a major theme of Xi’s leadership, with China celebrating the elimination of absolute poverty last year and cracking down hard on corruption in both the party and the government.

Promoting domestic demand and a higher quality of life within China rather than settling into a position as a manufacturer of goods for the developed West has also been a hallmark policy, one accelerated by U.S. economic attacks seeking to cut China out of global supply chains.

The leader attributed the progress China has made to its reliance on socialist ideology in the development of policy. “Our experience has taught us that, at the fundamental level,” he said, “we owe the success of our party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works.” 

Xi said Beijing would maintain its zero-COVID policy, in which coronavirus outbreaks are quickly isolated and suppressed. China, he argued, had “protected life and health” in contrast to Western governments which let the virus rip.

Official state statistics report that China has recorded just 10.38 COVID-19 deaths per million inhabitants, a figure far lower than Britain (2,689 per million) or the U.S. (3,099 per million).

The party leader also pledged to stand up to attempts to divide China, praising his administration’s handling of anti-China protests in Hong Kong and saying it would continue to pursue peaceful reunification with Taiwan. He did emphasize, however, that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force” to settle the Taiwan question and said the nation would “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

Xi is expected to be elected to serve a third five-year term as general secretary at this congress.

Since 1993, the general secretaries of the Communist Party of China have also been elected president of the country and chair of the Central Military Commission, positions he is also likely to retain over the next five years.

Roger McKenzie is a journalist and general secretary of Liberation, a UK-based human rights organization which fights for economic and social justice, and opposes neo-colonialism, economic exploitation, and racism.

People’s World, October 17, 2022,

Canadian Elites Are Engineering a Recession to Discipline Workers / by David Moscrop

Orthodox responses to recession favor “stabilizing” the economy through punishing workers and privileging capital. (Jens Büttner / Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Economic orthodoxy blames inflation on everyone except corporations and their windfall profits. It’s time to think about responding to inflation and recessions with policies that make corporations pay, not average workers.

In some quarters, it is accepted as an article of faith that a recession is on the way — and that such an eventuality is a necessary corrective to economic imbalance. As inflation persists and central banks jack up interest rates, orthodox logic suggests short-term pain for long-term gain is the only way forward. Naturally, the pain isn’t to be spread around equitably or equally. It never is. We aren’t all in this together. We never are.

Economists and other observers warn the recession could become a global phenomenon. The World Bank warns that recession might be accompanied by a further economic shock. Stagflation — sluggish economic growth alongside soaring inflation — could follow the downturn. Canada is not immune to such risks and people know it. One survey suggests more than 80 percent of people worry a recession is coming, and many have started to behave accordingly.

Debates about whether a recession and stagflation are imminent occupy plenty of column inches and television hours. Just as important, however, is the question of who will suffer the most should the worst come about — and whether it is preordained to happen. Let’s start with who will bear the burden of recession. As Jenna Moon reports in the Toronto Star, Canadians who are carrying hefty consumer debt will be hit hard. That’s a lot of us. As Moon notes, non-mortgage consumer debt in Canada is roughly $591 billion — $1.81 for every dollar of income — with total debt resting at over $2.3 trillion.

The economic fundaments in Canada don’t look good. Debt is rising. Interest rates are increasing. High inflation is ongoing. Purchasing power is falling. More people are carrying mortgages they can’t afford. That’s a wicked brew that few can afford swallow — which is to say, it’s a prelude to bankruptcy, foreclosures, and unemployment.

Is a recession inevitable? Is it necessary?

In July, columnist Linda McQuaig called interest-rate hikes “class war.” Too many people in Canada have bought into the myth that class cleavages don’t exist in the peaceful, well-ordered north. Too many people have bought into the delusion that technocratic experts in the capital and financial centers of the country know what’s best and have the interests of Main Street at heart. That’s why so few are inclined to use the term “class,” let alone “class war.”

As McQuaig argues, unemployment stemming from an engineered recession is a tactic and not an inevitability. “High unemployment disciplines workers,” she writes. “A large pool of idle workers makes other workers insecure and reduces their leverage to demand higher wages. This tames inflation, even as it diminishes the overall bargaining power of labor, quietly advancing a class war.”

Economist Gustavo Indart makes a similar argument but highlights the gap between monetary policy designed to keep workers in their place and a lack of policy action to address corporate depredation. “The underlying intention is to increase unemployment — that is, to cause an economic recession — to prevent workers from demanding a wage hike similar to the price-increase that already took place,” writes Indart.

In other words, the intention is to avoid a wage-price spiral . . . at a cost to workers in the form of higher unemployment and lower real wages. And with almost absolute certainty, the size of [the recent] policy rate hike will achieve this goal, and real wages will remain low while corporations’ profit margins will remain high.

In the United States, critics of the Federal Reserve’s inflation strategy of aggressive rate hikes make the same point. University of Texas economist James Galbraith echoes McQuaig. He opposes interest-rate hikes as a means to restrain price increases, noting — and drawing on ideas offered by Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman — that governments have policy tools at their disposal. Those tools include “steps to prevent price gouging and unjust enrichment.” These ideas barely register within the realm of consideration, let alone likelihood, in Canada. But they should.

Underlying critiques raised by McQuaig, Indart, Bowman, and Galbraith is the point that inflation is being driven by producers and what Indart calls the “pervasive exploitation of their market power.” The leverage producers and the wealthy class who backs them enjoy isn’t new. Indeed, it’s as old as the free market itself. What’s changed is that we are living through a series of overlapping crises — including the pandemic and supply-chain shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — that have caused the simmering exploitation of workers to boil over.

Odds are that orthodoxy will win the day. Central banks will get the recession they believe they need, producers will get the kneecapping of workers they want, right-wing Margaret Thatcher cosplayers will get a chance to preach — and introduce — austerity, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor will grow.

Eventually, things will stabilize, assuming some other catastrophe (for instance, of the nuclear variety) doesn’t render the classic cycle moot. But by “stabilizing” the economy through punishing workers and privileging capital, we’ll sink further into the mire. Not only will this hurt the vulnerable among us — a much greater cohort than one might think — it will also swell the ranks of right-wing populists. The prescriptions peddled by the likes of Pierre Poilievre are useless, but his rhetoric is tailor-made for moments like this one.

If, by some miracle, politicians in Canada and elsewhere decide to use public policy to break the cycle of recession orthodoxy, the worst of what may be coming might be moderated — or even largely avoided. But that won’t happen unless we collectively demand concessions from power, including the rejection of the same old ideas that continue to reproduce the same miserable outcomes. Instead, we must defeat the doctrinaire hydra as Hercules did the mythological one: by cauterizing the source of our despair. In our case, we must cauterize wounds made by elite economic orthodoxy with accurate analyses and new policy approaches.

David Moscrop is a writer and political commentator. He hosts the podcast Open to Debate and is the author of Too Dumb For Democracy? Why We Make Bad Political Decisions and How We Can Make Better Ones.

Jacobin, October 8, 2022,

New website celebrates the legacy of Marxist economist and activist Art Perlo / Special to the People’s World

Visit the “Art Perlo Presente” site at:

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—An exciting website was launched this week carrying forward the legacy of lifelong activist and Marxist economist Art Perlo, making available his decades of contributions to the struggle for “People, Peace, and Planet before Profits.” The project is designed to guide, inform, and inspire grassroots organizers for social change.

Titled “Art Perlo Presente,” the website is filled with writings, videos, and analysis, along with an array of recipes to test out, photos to enjoy, current articles and classes, and an invitation for visitors to participate by sharing reflections and strategies toward a just society.

Art Perlo’s articles on a wide range of subjects published in People’s World are featured on the site, including many that reflect his own organizing experiences.

As a founding member of Local 34 Unite Here at Yale, he produced a video on the union’s 30th anniversary, which is featured along with a number of other video productions. He was an early proponent of restructuring Yale’s hiring practices to open job opportunities for Black and Latino New Haven residents.

Especially relevant are his consistent writings, videos, and organizing for economic, social, and racial equality.

Included in the website is a PowerPoint from the 2006 Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut. Art’s presentation was shown across the state as part of a campaign for a wealth tax dedicated to ending child poverty, a forerunner of today’s child tax credit, and the movement to tax the rich.

In recognition of his research connecting the lack of youth jobs to youth violence in 2011 which laid the foundation for the Jobs for Youth – Jobs for All campaign, the Young Communist League in Connecticut dedicated their Black History Month march this year to Art Perlo. The video and testimonies are included in the website.

Art gave various lectures locally and nationally. The website includes a video of his popular analysis “An Activist’s View of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century,” presented at the New Haven Free Public Library in 2014 which exposes capitalism and projects the need and possibility for socialism.

Art was instrumental in educating and encouraging new generations of activists in his union, community, and in the Communist Party.

During the 2020 presidential election, he led a strong voter registration and “Dump Trump“ get-out-the-vote effort in New Haven’s Ward 24. Alder Evette Hamilton called him a “gentle giant” for his kindness, commitment, humor, and broad knowledge that touched the lives of so many in the city, state, and around the country.

A number of his reports to the Connecticut and national Communist Party are included on the website, most recently addressing the economics of the coronavirus crisis. His 2012 report on the U.S. Economic Situation and the 2012 Elections anticipates the rise of the extreme right wing and white supremacy and the need for broad unity and solidarity to protect and expand democratic rights.

The website is colorfully designed, reflecting the iconic artwork of Jahmal Henderson’s depiction of Art, which is used as the logo and also available as a button. It includes Art’s life story and tributes.

Art moved to New Haven in 1974 to join life partner Joelle Fishman’s history-making People Before Profits campaigns for Congress and mayor on the Communist Party ticket. They shared 46 years of marriage and joy in the struggle, during which Art gave full support to Joelle’s leadership role in the community and the Communist Party in Connecticut and nationally.

Art was deeply respected for his willingness to take on any task, no matter how small, in the community or the union, and for his courage and unwavering commitment to equality, peace, environmental justice, and an end to exploitation to make the world a better place

The website was initiated by the People’s World Amistad Awards Committee in response to Art’s passing just a week after the December 2021 event and is sponsored by the Connecticut People’s World Committee.

Visitors to the site are encouraged to share their strategies and experiences in the “Add A Post” section.

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

People’s World, June 2, 2022,

It’s not just inflation — it’s price gouging / by Lindsay Owens

From food to gas to clothing, the price of everything is going up. Manufacturers and retailers say it’s the inevitable result of the pandemic and the war, but data from Wall Street prove there’s a lot of outright price-gouging going on, too. | LM Otero | AP

If you’ve been slammed lately by higher prices on everything from groceries to rental cars and gas prices, you’re probably wondering what on earth is behind these skyrocketing costs.

Corporations are quick to blame this new reality on the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, but another major culprit is hiding in plain sight: their own profiteering.

Four times a year, corporations are required by law to update their investors on how they’re doing in terms of sales and profits. These are called “earnings reports,” and the companies will usually hold calls with the investors to walk them through the latest report.

My organization, Groundwork Collaborative, recently got our hands on the transcripts from hundreds of these earnings calls. And you won’t believe what CEOs are boasting about.

Knowing that the current inflation frenzy is a convenient scapegoat, these companies are charging customers even more to pad their profit margins. They aren’t just admitting it—they’re openly bragging to investors about how well it’s working.

“I think we’ve done a great job with our pricing,” boasted the CFO of Hormel, a maker of popular grocery brands. “I think it’s been very effective.” As prices went up, the company improved its operating income by 19% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 2021.

Constellation Brands, the parent company of popular beers Modelo and Corona, is also engaging in bald-faced profiteering. On its January call, Constellation’s CFO admitted that its consumer base “skews a bit more Hispanic” and the company wants to “take as much as [we] can” from them.

And now, the conflict in Ukraine is providing yet another opportunity for oil and gas companies to pad their bottom lines. “It’s tragic what’s going on in Eastern Europe,” said one oil executive in late February. “But if anything, these high prices, the volatility, drive even more energy security and long-term contracting.”

This pandemic profiteering is taking a massive toll on consumers, workers, and small businesses.

Low-income Americans are pinching pennies to feed their families and pay their bills. And while mega-companies can use their market power to raise prices and generate record profits, small businesses and independent retailers are struggling to keep their doors open.

The appalling price gouging and monopolistic behavior we’re monitoring come on top of decades of disinvestment in our workers and supply chain, excessive corporate power, and financial markets maximizing short-term profits. This broken system left us wholly unprepared to accommodate increases in demand.

But make no mistake: Next time you experience sticker shock in the checkout line, it’s a safe bet that corporate executives and shareholders are reaping the rewards.

People are catching on: A new poll from Data for Progress and Groundwork finds that 63% of voters believe that “large corporations are taking advantage of the pandemic to raise prices unfairly on consumers and increase profits.”

Policymakers are taking notice, too. The New York Attorney General’s office just announced new price gouging rules, paving the way for other states to follow suit.

And days after President Joe Biden promised action on pandemic price gouging, congressional oversight panels opened investigations into the three major ocean shipping alliances. These outfits control about 80% of seaborne cargo and have seen their profits increase seven-fold from the previous year.

Finally, a recently-introduced bill, the COVID-19 Price Gouging Prevention Act, would help the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General protect people across the country from pandemic profiteering.

Without competition and robust regulation to keep them in check, big corporations have gotten away with using the pandemic to push up prices and fatten their profit margins—and if they aren’t reined in, high prices could be here to stay.

Lindsay Owens, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of Groundwork Collaborative. Owens has deep expertise in economic inequality, poverty, housing policy, and labor markets. In addition to serving as a senior economic policy adviser to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Owens worked as deputy chief of staff and legislative director to then Congressman Keith Ellison and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal.

People’s World, March 14, 2022,