Lack of Housing and Overcrowding in Silicon Valley

From the early outbreaks to the economic destruction that has come after, the coronavirus pandemic has mapped itself onto America’s longstanding affordable housing problem and the gaping inequality that underlies it. To offset rising rents in a nation where one in four tenant households spend more than half of their pretax income on shelter, a multitude of low-wage service workers have piled into ever more crowded homes

San Francisco, there is a rough economic split. Cities and neighborhoods to the east, places like East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and the Belle Haven section of Menlo Park, are more overcrowded and have a larger share of low-income and Black and Latino residents, many of whom have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Towns and neighborhoods to the west, places like Hillsborough and Palo Alto, are whiter and rich.

This geography is as fundamental to how the place operates as the invention of the microchip. Every day, throngs of clerks, landscapers and elder-care workers wake up on the eastern parts and travel to homes on the western parts or to the corporate campuses of tech companies to do subcontracting work. And every night, they return to overcrowded homes.

12 People in a 3-Bedroom House, Then the Virus Entered the Equation
Overcrowding, not density, has defined many coronavirus hot spots. Service workers’ quarters skirting Silicon Valley are no exception.
Conor Dougherty
NYTIMES

Bureaucratic Complexity, Example Of

Working beneficiaries of S.S.I. generally keep their first $85 in income each month, after which they lose $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings, what amounts to a 50 percent marginal “tax rate.” Receiving food and shelter from family or friends cuts the amount of the benefit by one-third. Beneficiaries are prohibited from saving more than $2,000. This limit has been the same since 1984.

Beneficiaries can keep additional assets and income by setting up a Plan to Achieve Self Support — a written plan that must be submitted to and approved by the agency — but doing so is sufficiently complex that only 568 people in the entire country made use of this option in 2018. Nor are benefits so generous that recipients have no need to work — the monthly federal S.S.I. payment for 2020 was a mere $783. While many states supplement this, recipients still face terrible poverty.

A ‘Safety Net’ That’s a Kafkaesque Mess
The Supplemental Security Income program, on which millions of disabled Americans depend, is daunting by design.
Ari Ne’eman
NYTIMES

Cenikor, Rehab, and Forced Labor

A nationally renowned drug rehab program in Texas and Louisiana has sent patients struggling with addiction to work for free for some of the biggest companies in America, likely in violation of federal labor law.

The Cenikor Foundation has dispatched tens of thousands of patients to work without pay at more than 300 for-profit companies over the years. In the name of rehabilitation, patients have moved boxes in a sweltering warehouse for Walmart, built an oil platform for Shell and worked at an Exxon refinery along the Mississippi River.

“It’s like the closest thing to slavery,” said Logan Tullier, a former Cenikor participant who worked 10 hours per day at oil refineries, laying steel rebar in 115-degree heat. “We were making them all the money.”

They worked in sweltering heat for Exxon, Shell and Walmart. They didn’t get paid a dime
Constant work leaves little time for counseling or treatment, transforming rehab patients into a cheap, expendable labor pool for private companies.
Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter,
Reveal

See also: Debtors Prisons, Return of in Mississippi

Crises in Lebanon

A currency collapse is raising prices for everything and an overall economic collapse is making imported meat soar to about $25 a pound, driving Lebanese to the brink.

“Some people perceive bartering as a terrible thing, using it to explain how desperate we are… No, Lebanese are not poor, they are generous people who need to maintain their dignity,” “Lebanon barters” creator told Hassan Hasna.

“A Lebanese person would say: ‘Yes, the economic situation is tough, and the situation is deteriorating but it doesn’t mean I want to humiliate myself and beg. I am willing to barter a piece of clothing in exchange for bread.’ I am proud of such people. They’re doing the impossible to survive and live with dignity.”

france24.com

Lebanon Barters facebook group

Counting Tents for the Homeless in Denver

DENVER — Anyone who drives by the Capitol can see a community in crisis.

For months, tents have filled the grounds of Lincoln Park just east of the building.

“The fact that we have a moment now where our mass homelessness is visible means that we have a moment to face reality and start working on real solutions which means housing,” said Terese Howard, an activist with Denver Homeless Out Loud.

664 tents counted in homeless camps across Denver ‘shows a picture of just how massive our homelessness crisis is’
Noel Brennan
9News.com

Strike For Black Lives

From Boston to San Francisco, essential workers in cities around the U.S. walked off their jobs and took to the streets Monday to demand racial and economic justice as part of a nationwide “Strike for Black Lives.”

The planned day of strikes and protests was organized by 60 different labor unions and racial and social justice organizations, from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to the Movement for Black Lives to the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Coalition.

In Chicago, fast food workers marched to a local McDonald’s where multiple workers had tested positive for the virus. Fast food workers in Florida walked off the job. In Durham, N.C., crowds observed a moment of silence before breaking into chants calling for $15 an hour. They also painted “Strike For Black Lives” in block letters on the street.

In Detroit, workers at five nursing homes participated in a walkout to protest low wages and poor working conditions, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. And in San Francisco, 1,500 janitors walked off the job.

NPR

“I can afford to stay alive a little while longer” – Paying for Insulin in the US

"I can afford to stay alive a little while longer" from ABoringDystopia

Negatoris_Wrecks My cousin needs a kidney. He has a volunteer match. Donor’s insurance wont cover it.

TechnicallyHuman But fuck is our health care system broken. I went to a new hospital WITH insurance that’s with in my network and bam. 300$ new patient fee. Never mentioned. Fucking racket.

Straight men of Reddit, what is the strangest thing you have been told not to do because “that’s gay”?


Straight men of Reddit, what is the strangest thing you have been told not to do because "that’s gay"? from AskReddit

TheDeadGunslinger
I said I like it when it rains.

omgitzrick
Raining men?

justinduderino
Putting on sunscreen.

rubbleone
Somebody called me gay for doing that before too. I didn’t realize as a hetero I was supposed to die of skin cancer.

kindredflame
I’m gay and I wear sunscreen because skin cancer is for straight men.

mybustersword
One time a girl thought I was gay because I was attentive during sex. I’m not even joking

LoloXIV
Loving your girlfriend / wife and wanting her to feel good?
What kind of gay shit is this?

random_username_94
Eating at a sushi restaurant with another guy

irishamerican
At work I once complimented another man on his outfit. My male co-workers looked at me as if I had asked if he had naked photos of himself I could see.

Grumpel-Stiltskin
Broke a guy’s jaw in high school, sent him a get well card while he was in the hospital. He called me gay for sending the card

Collucin
80s kid here. Anything involving showing emotion is gay. Wearing any clothing that isn’t muted is gay. Stating that something is cute is gay. Getting excited about hobbies is gay. Calling your guy friends to talk is gay. Crying is gay. Airing grievances of everyday life is gay. Washing your butthole is gay. Using lotion other than jacking off is gay. Shaving anything other than your face and neck is gay.

beencaughtbuttering
I grew up in the 80’s too. My teenage son came along with me once to a get-together of some old high school friends of mine. I had a great time shooting the shit, playing cards, and having beers with those guys. Afterwards, my son remarked that it seemed like we didn’t actually like each other all that much – like there was an undertone of aggression to the whole night. I didn’t notice it at all, but watching him and his friends interact, it became clear to me why he would think that. He and his friends seem to always be genuinely kind to each other and supportive of one another and don’t make “jokes” at each other’s expense. That’s actually pretty cool. Kinda gay, but cool.

When Essential Workers Earn Less Than The Jobless – NPR

When the government shut down the U.S. economy in a bid to tame the spread of the coronavirus, Congress scrambled to help tens of millions of people who lost jobs. The government rushed one-time relief checks to all families that qualified and tacked an extra $600 onto weekly unemployment benefits, which are usually less than regular pay and vary by state.

But so far, lawmakers have not passed any measure to increase pay for workers who were asked to keep going to work during a highly contagious health crisis. Some companies did create hazard, or “hero,” pay — typically around $2 extra an hour or a one-time bonus. Most have since ended it.

ALINA SELYUKH
NPR

American Workers – Lost Ground

Long before the pandemic, U.S. workers’ productivity and their median pay, which once rose in tandem, went through an acrimonious divorce. Compensation, especially in some of the country’s fastest-growing industries, has stagnated, while the costs of housing, health care, and education decidedly have not. The federal minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 since 2009, is worth 70% of what it was in 1968, and about a third of what it would be had it kept pace with productivity.

How the American Worker Got Fleeced
Over the years, bosses have held down wages, cut benefits, and stomped on employees’ rights. Covid-19 may change that.
Story by Josh Eidelson
Data analysis and graphics by Christopher Cannon
bloomberg.com

Two Janitors – Their Prospects and Compensation, 35 Years Ago Vs. Now

The $16.60 per hour Ms. Ramos earns as a janitor at Apple works out to about the same in inflation-adjusted terms as what Ms. Evans earned 35 years ago. But that’s where the similarities end.

Ms. Evans was a full-time employee of Kodak. She received more than four weeks of paid vacation per year, reimbursement of some tuition costs to go to college part time, and a bonus payment every March. When the facility she cleaned was shut down, the company found another job for her: cutting film.

Ms. Ramos is an employee of a contractor that Apple uses to keep its facilities clean. She hasn’t taken a vacation in years, because she can’t afford the lost wages. Going back to school is similarly out of reach. There are certainly no bonuses, nor even a remote possibility of being transferred to some other role at Apple.

Yet the biggest difference between their two experiences is in the opportunities they created. A manager learned that Ms. Evans was taking computer classes while she was working as a janitor and asked her to teach some other employees how to use spreadsheet software to track inventory. When she eventually finished her college degree in 1987, she was promoted to a professional-track job in information technology.

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now
Neil Irwin
NYTIMES

Girls who took notes using 50 different colored pens, where are you now? Do you still continue to write using all those colors?

Girls who took notes using 50 different colored pens, where are you now? Do you still continue to write using all those colors? from r/AskReddit

Novachey
Unfortunately not allowed in the line of work i chose. So now i use 50 different colored Post-It notes. Improvise, adapt and overcome.

SixtySaints
If I may ask, what line of work are you in that prohibits the choice to use different colored pens?

Novachey
I work in an office, so it’s sort of a silly rule. However, it does look more professional, and blue/black ink is just better for scanning/printing purposes.

whtbrd
I used to work for a CPA/professional auditor who advised me to keep purple pens on hand for original signatures. She did.
She said you’ll always be able to tell at a glance if you’re really the one who signed it, since almost no-one will have a purple pen around to fudge your signature. and no-one will kick up a fuss since it’s basically a blue pen.

Boob-on-Boob-Action
Unless my grandma decides to go on a fraud spree. Purple’s her favorite color and the ONLY color she ever writes with.. so beware

A Place at the Table – Food Insecurity in the United States


A documentary that investigates incidents of hunger experienced by millions of Americans, and proposed solutions to the problem.
Directors: Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Tom Colicchio, Ken Cook

SNAP is one of the most effective and efficient federal programs, as well as one of the most responsive, providing additional assistance to needy families during economic downturns. It’s also one of the most-needed: 46 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits to buy food each month, according to the USDA. Two-thirds of these benefits go to households with children.

1 in 7 kids in the United States face hunger, and 20 million of those children are in families who rely on the food they get from SNAP.

https://www.nokidhungry.org/who-we-are/hunger-facts

2 Covid Tests, Same Place, Same Result – One cost X, One Cost Y

The two got drive-through tests at Austin Emergency Center in Austin. …

The emergency room charged Mr. Harvey $199 in cash. Ms. LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408.

“I assumed, like an idiot, it would be cheaper to use my insurance than pay cash right there,” Ms. LeBlanc said. “This is 32 times the cost of what my friend paid for the exact same thing.”

Ms. LeBlanc’s health insurer negotiated the total bill down to $1,128. The plan said she was responsible for $928 of that.

Two Friends in Texas Were Tested for Coronavirus. One Bill Was $199. The Other? $6,408.
It’s an example of the unpredictable way health prices can vary for patients who receive identical care.
Sarah Kliff
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/upshot/coronavirus-tests-unpredictable-prices.html

Wes Moore Interview, Fresh Air

Moore says the deaths of Freddie Gray and George Floyd highlight injustices that go beyond police brutality.

“The justice that’s also being sought must be an economic justice. It must be health justice. It must be housing justice,” Moore says. “If we permit these tragedies to recede from our memory, we will risk the opportunity to change the systems that are ultimately responsible for all of these injustices.”

Fresh Air