Author Archives: Sonali Kolhatkar

Don’t blame government benefits for inflation—blame the modern economy

Headlines are screaming that inflation is here to stay. Consumer prices have risen by an average of 6.2 percent in the past year, the sharpest increase since 1991. Although Americans are supposedly—in the words of the New York Times—“flush with cash and jobs,” they are also deeply unhappy with the state of the economy. Continue reading

‘Build Back Better will worsen inflation’: Another lie about the Biden agenda

The drama over the Build Back Better Act has revealed the power of narrative in our political landscape. Continue reading

How a false narrative against government spending shapes legislation

The unfolding drama over a legislative battle within the Democratic Party to pass a massive bill encompassing desperately needed social services has revealed the power of narrative in our political landscape. It is not enough to put forward policy proposals that actually help people, paid for by those who can afford to pay (the wealthiest), and then try to pass those proposals into law. Relentless propaganda from conservative think tanks and their partner media outlets against the idea of government funding people’s needs has been so successful that it requires equally powerful counternarratives by progressives. Continue reading

The Texas abortion ban ensures only the privileged get access to reproductive care

For too long, politicians relied on the Supreme Court to uphold the right to an abortion. Now that the Texas law has been allowed to take effect, its prime targets are low-income people of color.

Texas, with the help of conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, has made abortion all but illegal for most pregnant people living within state borders. Republican state legislators passed a draconian and diabolically innovative bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in May ensuring that all abortions after six weeks of gestation can be subject to lawsuits brought by any individual anywhere against anyone involved in the procedure. That includes the patient, their medical provider, or even their Lyft driver. Those seeking abortions will likely need to leave Texas, effectively making the procedure out of reach of the poorest residents of the state. Continue reading

Could California end up with a Trump-like governor?

If Democratic voters fail to turn out for California’s upcoming recall election, the nation’s most populous, and arguably most liberal, state could end up with a right-wing extremist at its helm.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election that, up until recently, the Democratic Party had brushed off as a frivolous inconvenience. Now, just days before the election, vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to California’s 22 million active registered voters in a statewide off-year election that offers a bewildering array of nearly four dozen alternate choices to Newsom if he were to lose. Polls show that even in a state with a clear majority of voters identifying as Democratic, Newsom is in trouble. Continue reading

How a Black Lives Matter leader started a ‘Freedom School’ summer program for kids

Jasmine Richards views the education and empowerment of young Black and Brown children in her community to be just as important as fighting racist police brutality.

Middle- and upper-income parents know that summers are an opportunity to give one’s children the sort of well-rounded education that can enhance future college applications. Summer camp rosters fill up months in advance, and price tags for enrichment programs can run upwards of $500 a week. This is especially true in high-priced Southern California, where I live and where Jasmine Abdullah Richards started the Black Lives Matter Pasadena Freedom School, a free, three-days-a-week summer camp for children who live in her neighborhood. Continue reading

Socialism has a PR problem—one that can be solved

Even as openly socialist candidates are winning political power, the right is working hard to equate socialist governance with repressive regimes.

New York’s second-largest city, Buffalo, has essentially elected a socialist mayor. India Walton, who calls herself “very proud” to be a democratic socialist, swept past incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in Buffalo’s Democratic mayoral primary race on June 22. Walton’s victory is reminiscent of recent shocking election upsets where self-proclaimed socialists, particularly in the state of New York, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, have beaten establishment favorites. Because Buffalo residents have reliably chosen Democratic mayors for decades, Republicans didn’t even bother putting up a candidate, and Walton is expected to prevail against any write-in opponents in November’s general election. Continue reading

Making Juneteenth a holiday was the easy part—will real justice follow?

The horrors of slavery and the harms from subsequent racial injustices cannot be met with symbolic gestures like holidays. Real restitution must come in the form of reparations—which neither party seems interested in.

After the United States Senate and House in quick succession passed a federal bill to make “Juneteenth” a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, President Joe Biden wasted no time in signing the bill into law. “Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, expressing what has come to be his party’s standard performative gesturing toward historic racial injustices by a party that likes to set itself apart from Republicans via lip service to liberal ideals. Continue reading

There is no labor shortage, only labor exploitation

Conservatives and corporate employers are weaving an insidious web of myths, lies and exaggerations to justify maintaining low-wage jobs.

For the past few months, Republicans have been waging a ferocious political battle to end federal unemployment benefits, based upon stated desires of saving the U.S. economy from a serious labor shortage. The logic, in the words of Republican politicians like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, goes like this: “the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work,” and therefore, “[p]aying people not to work is not helpful.” The conservative Wall Street Journal has been beating the drum for the same argument, saying recently that it was a “terrible blunder” to pay jobless benefits to unemployed workers. Continue reading

How the Tulsa Race Massacre was a violent act of racist economic injustice

An underappreciated factor in the racist violence of the 1921 Tulsa massacre is how white supremacist forces decimated Black wealth.

One hundred years after the worst instance of racist mob violence in 20th-century America, the Tulsa Race Massacre is finally getting the attention it is due. The 1921 terrorist attack by an armed white mob against a prosperous Black community is perhaps one of the clearest and most extreme illustrations of how many African Americans were stripped of their wealth for a generation. Continue reading

Does the U.S. really need another oil pipeline?

Native American communities living alongside the route of the Line 3 pipeline project in northern Minnesota are asking all activists to join them in solidarity this June.

A decades-old pipeline called Line 3, run by the Canadian company Enbridge, is in the midst of a controversial upgrade sparking fierce resistance from Indigenous communities living along the route. Line 3 is being replaced in order to enable the transport of nearly 800,000 barrels of dirty tar sands crude oil per day from Calgary, Canada, to Wisconsin. The majority of the pipeline cuts across northern Minnesota through the heart of lands where the Anishinaabe people have treaty rights to hunt, fish and harvest wild rice and maple syrup. Continue reading

It’s past time to end U.S. funding of Israeli violence

What else could billions of American tax dollars buy instead of innocent deaths?

At the end of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was continuing to ravage the populations of many nations, Israel stood out as a success story, administering more doses of vaccines to its modest-sized 9-million-strong population than any other country after China, the U.S., and the UK. Today, more than 60 percent of Israelis are vaccinated, which is 20 percentage points higher than the United States—a nation that happens to give more foreign aid to Israel than to any other country in the world. Continue reading

Why Big Pharma’s arguments against patent waivers don’t add up

While President Biden is backing the temporary lifting of COVID-19 vaccine patents, drugmakers are making dire predictions of stifled innovation and eroded public trust. What they really fear is losing profits.

Days after he publicly opposed the waiving of patents for lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates had a change of heart. He released a statement saying, “No barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, which is why we are supportive of a narrow waiver during the pandemic.” His statement came after President Joe Biden, in a surprising move, and in contrast to his European allies, backed a temporary waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai released a statement saying, “extraordinary circumstances… call for extraordinary measures.” Immediately, the big drugmakers’ share prices fell, and they shot back in anger with a litany of dire predictions. Continue reading

Why the PRO Act is a game-changer for labor and the economy

Among the many reasons behind the recent failure of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, to form a union was their employer’s intimidation tactics about what a union would mean for workers. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in its response to the disappointing vote against unionization released a statement saying, “Amazon interfered with the right of its Bessemer, Alabama, employees to vote in a free and fair election.” RWDSU Union head Stuart Appelbaum claimed that the retail giant “required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies, where workers had to listen to the company demand they oppose the union.” Continue reading

Modi is singularly responsible for India’s pandemic disaster

As infections and deaths mount at a terrifying pace in India, the prime minister’s culpability for the crisis has become startlingly clear.

India has become the new global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with daily infections surpassing 300,000 per day and the official death toll—likely a massive underestimate—nearing a quarter of a million people. Hospitals are being overrun with patients, and the crisis is exacerbated by a devastating shortage of oxygen. The Indian judiciary has gone as far as threatening capital punishment for anyone caught trying to divert shipments of oxygen from around the country to affected areas. There have been dozens of deaths documented directly tied to a lack of oxygen. Continue reading

Almost everything Biden Said about ending the Afghanistan war was a lie

While Americans hailed the announcement that the U.S. would withdraw troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war, President Biden left out the most important details about the war and how it will in fact continue.

President Joe Biden, in announcing an ostensible end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, is continuing his streak of paying eloquent lip service to progressive causes while maintaining the implied status quo. In a televised address from the White House on April 14, Biden said, “it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.” But just a day later, the New York Times reported without a hint of irony that “the Pentagon, American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region.” This means we are ending the war, but not really. Continue reading

Universal health care is a popular idea in America—will Biden keep enriching private insurance or ‘go big’?

If Biden really wants to go big and bold, he could start by pushing for a truly universal health care system, instead of pouring tax dollars into private insurance companies.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on people’s lives, President Joe Biden has been on a victory tour to promote the American Rescue Plan, a hefty $1.9 trillion spending package that not only sends direct stimulus payments to struggling Americans, but also greatly expands health care options through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We’re becoming a nation where health care is a right and not for the privileged few,” said Biden in his remarks at a hospital on the campus of Ohio State University. Eleven years after the ACA was first passed into law as President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform, it has survived relentless Republican attacks in the form of legal challenges and defunding attempts. Preserving and expanding it under Democratic leadership certainly constitutes a win against Republican obstructionism and a refusal to offer better alternatives. But this latest strengthening of the ACA is first and foremost a victory for the health insurance industry. Continue reading

How a guaranteed income can actually solve inequality

Poverty in America disproportionately affects women and people of color, and that is precisely what hinders political action to address it—even when solutions abound.

An ongoing study conducted in Stockton, California, examines how the lives of low-income Americans can improve if they are simply given money—a modest, but reliable source of income with no strings attached. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) randomly chose 125 participants from poverty-stricken residential areas and gave them $500 per month to simply use for whatever they wanted over the last two years. A majority of the participants were women (69 percent) and people of color (53 percent). Preliminary results from the first year are tantalizing for anyone interested in solutions to address rising inequality in the United States, especially as they manifest along racial and gender lines. Within the first year, the study’s participants obtained jobs at twice the rate of the control group. At the beginning of the study, 28 percent of the participants had full-time employment, and after the first year, that number rose to 40 percent. Continue reading