Tuesday, March 2, 2021. In Iraq, protests continue (and attacks on protesters continue), the Pope gears up for this week's visit, while in the US Joe Biden bombs the hopes of a $15 an hour minimum wage.
In the US, minimum wage hasn't increased since 2009. As Trina points out in "Joe Biden is not a friend to working people," the president has no desire to make things better for working Americans. Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports on Senator Bernie Sanders' effort to force a vote in the Senate on including the $15 an hour minimum wage in the upcoming Coronavirus relief package. WORKERS WORLD points out:
Two-thirds of workers report they have been living paycheck to paycheck since COVID-19 hit U.S. shores. Nearly half were in that predicament even prior to the pandemic. This is due to extremely low wages, combined with the exorbitant costs of housing and other necessities.
Many families are one paycheck away from economic ruin, and face a crisis every month when bills come due. Millions of workers must toil at two or more jobs to make ends meet, and have to turn to government programs or community food pantries to feed their families.
The woefully inadequate federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 has not risen since 2009, while the cost of living has skyrocketed. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would now be $12 per hour. A full-time worker earning the current minimum wage cannot pay rent in most areas of the country.
In the meantime, Senator Elizabeth Warren does have a proposal:
Warren, Jayapal, Boyle Introduce Ultra-Millionaire Tax on Fortunes Over $50 Million
NEW ANALYSIS: The Ultra-Millionaire Tax would bring in at least $3 trillion in revenue over 10 years - without raising taxes on the 99.95% of American households that have net worth below $50 million
- A 2% annual tax on the net worth of households and trusts between $50 million and $1 billion
- A 1% annual surtax (3% tax overall) on the net worth of households and trusts above $1 billion
- A $100 billion investment to rebuild and strengthen the IRS, ensuring the agency has the resources to hire and train additional personnel, modernize IT systems, and implement the new asset valuation, reporting, and enforcement requirements for the Ultra-Millionaire Tax
- A 30% minimum audit rate for taxpayers subject to the Ultra-Millionaire Tax
- A 40% "exit tax" on the net worth above $50 million of any U.S. citizen who renounces their citizenship in order to escape paying their fair share in taxes
- New tools to determine the value of hard-to-value assets, enabling the IRS to tighten and expand upon existing valuation rules
- Systematic third-party reporting that builds on existing tax information exchange agreements adopted after the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and penalties for underpayment
"In the midst of a pandemic that has left millions of Americans economically devastated, the net wealth of America's billionaires has increased by over $1 trillion. Wealth inequality in the United States is out of control, with millionaires and billionaires becoming richer by the day as the American people struggle to get by with stagnant wages and a lack of adequate government support. Senator Warren's wealth tax would do more than almost any other plan to tackle this crisis of wealth inequality forcefully, directly, and effectively," said Morris Pearl, Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires.
"A tax on wealth above $50 million is very popular, and is even more popular when it funds priorities like child care, health care, and jobs in our communities. As President Biden calls for a Build Back Better plan that invests in American infrastructure and jobs, every senator should be proud to fund these investments by signing on to Senator Warren's wealth tax legislation," said Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder.
Meanwhile, protests continue in Iraq. MEMO notes security forces attacked protesters in Baghdad yesterday. They were protesting the attacks Friday on protesters in Nassiriya:
Dozens protested in Tahrir Square in a reaction to security force violence against protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya on Friday that left at least eight demonstrators dead and some 250 injured.
A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the protesters in Tahrir numbered no more than 60 and they were dispersed within half an hour.
Several hundred people also rallied in the southern port city of Basra on Monday in solidarity with the Nassiriya protesters, according to a Reuters witness.
In other news, THE WALL ST. JOURNAL notes the Pope's upcoming visit to Iraq:
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq from March 5th to March 8th. Emil Anton (VATICAN NEWS) attempts to trace the history of Christianity in Iraq in a single article and here's the opening:
Modern Iraq covers most of the area of ancient Mesopotamia, which was home to the East Semitic Assyrian and Babylonian empires.
The Old Testament records the fall of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria (612 BC), as well as the invasion of Babylon by Cyrus the Great of Persia (539 BC). After a period of Greek rule following the conquests of Alexander the Great (4th to 2nd centuries BC), Mesopotamia again fell under Persian (Parthian) rule at the time of Jesus and the Apostles.
Aramaic was the main language spoken in the entire area at the time the Son of God walked the earth. A close relative of Hebrew, Aramaic was the language of the ancient West Semitic Arameans, who brought it to Mesopotamia from what is now Syria. With its handy alphabetic writing, Aramaic gradually replaced Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform, becoming the lingua franca of the Middle East. It is still spoken today by many Iraqi Christians.
When and how did Mesopotamia become Christian?
We know that there were Parthians and Mesopotamians—ancient Iraqis—present in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:9). And it is possible, if not probable, that some knowledge or version of Christianity made its way to what is now Iraq during the lifetime of the Apostles. Tradition identifies the apostles of Mesopotamia as Addai and Mari, after whom the ancient liturgy of the Church of the East is named.
The Teaching of Addai, an important document from around 400 AD, suggests that miracles (such as healings), reasoned arguments (against polytheism), and new ethical standards laid the groundwork for the spread of Christianity throughout Mesopotamia. As happened in the West, the blood of martyrs also proved to be the seed of the Church in this region.
The visit of Pope Francis to Iraq this week will send a message of “consolation and hope” to those who have suffered so much in the country, according to the archbishop who revolutionized the Vatican’s communications.
Claudio Maria Celli, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 2007 to 2016, worked closely with Pope Francis after helping convert Catholic leaders to social media to deliver their message to followers around the world.
As a result, the pope’s historic Iraq visit will be relayed through the various social media accounts, including @Pontifex, the account of Pope Francis.
“With this trip, the pope intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis. He doesn’t want to talk just to the Christians who live in that country and who’ve suffered so much from war and persecution by Daesh,” said Celli. “He wants to bring his closeness … to the people, no matter what their faith.”
Among those awaiting Pope Francis’ planned March 5-8 visit to Iraq are the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a community in the Nineveh plain that is still rebuilding after Islamic State fighters invaded the area some six years ago.
Sr. Luma Khudher, a member of the group, described how they received warning of the approaching fighters near midnight on Aug. 3, 2014, and fled from their motherhouse in Mosul right away.
The community found safety near Irbil in Iraqi’s Kurdistan region, but was not able to return home for two years.
“We need the world to know what ISIS have done to us, how we have suffered in these years,” Khudher told NCR. “For some time, the media focused on Iraq and then, all of a sudden, they forgot us.”
“The pope’s visit will place the world’s eyes on us, on our story and our struggle to survive,” she said, adding that she expects Francis will bring with him “a message of peace and coexistence.”
“We are confident that his visit will bring balance to our country,” said Khudher.
The Dominican sister was born and raised in Qaraqosh, an area home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. She said that before the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq she was able to travel around freely in Iraq, without any fear about being a Christian in a Muslim-majority country.
The Pope is on a spiritual mission and the bulk of the press in the US seems unaware of that. I don't know how you avoid religious purposes while reporting on a religious leader but the US corporate press manages to. A risk, we're told, that's what the Pope's taking. I would assume every Pope has taken risks. That is the job.
The skittish US press -- as well as so-called experts -- are in dismay over the Pope visiting Iraq. But they weren't concerned about campaigning in 2020 -- for the House, for the Senate, for the presidency. The Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church and he has duties and obligations and a role.
His job isn't my job, his role isn't my role.
I don't pretend to understand it but I do respect it. And it really doesn't seem the US corporate media is even able to acknowledge these duties and roles.
Or maybe they're just opposed to any move towards peace when it comes to Iraq. Again, I'm sure the Pope has given deep thought about the visit and seriously prayed over it and I cannot say the same about the US corporate press in the lead up to the Iraq War.
I hope the trip goes well, I hope those eager to see the Pope are able to. I will be thrilled with any aspects of peace that the visit inspires or encourages.
Iraqi Christians had been waiting for the Pope for twenty-two years. It was in 1999 when St John Paul II planned a short but significant pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldees, the first stage of the Jubilee journey to the places of salvation. He wanted to start with Abraham, the common father recognised by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Many advised the elderly Polish pontiff against making a journey which could have run the risk of strengthening Saddam Hussein, who was still in power after the first Gulf War. Pope John Paul II went forward, despite attempts to dissuade him, particularly by the United States. But at the end of the day that whirlwind trip of an exclusively religious nature did not take place, due to the opposition of the Iraqi president.
In 1999, the country was already on its knees because of the bloody war with Iran (1980-1988) and the international sanctions that followed the invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War. The number of Christians in Iraq at the time was more than three times higher than it is today. John Paul II’s missed trip remained an open wound. The Polish Pope raised his voice against the second Western military expedition to the country, the lightning war of 2003, which ended with the overthrow of Saddam’s government. At the Angelus of 16 March he said: “I would like to remind the member countries of the United Nations, and especially those who make up the Security Council, that the use of force represents the last recourse, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, in keeping with the well-known principles of the UN Charter.” Then, in the post-Angelus, he pleaded: “I belong to that generation that lived through World War II and, thanks be to God, survived it. I have the duty to say to all young people, to those who are younger than I, who have not had this experience: ‘No more war’ as Paul VI said during his first visit to the United Nations. We must do everything possible.”
He remained unheard by those “young people” who made war and were incapable of building peace. Iraq was hit by terrorism, with attacks, bombs and devastation. The social fabric disintegrated. And in 2014, the country saw the rise of the so-called Islamic State, proclaimed by ISIS. Devastation, persecution and violence continued, with regional and international powers fighting on Iraqi soil, with the multiplication of out-of-control militias. The defenceless population, divided by ethnic and religious allegiances, is paying the price, at a high cost in human lives. Looking at the Iraqi situation, one can see for oneself the concreteness and realism of the words that Francis wanted to hammer home in his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti: “We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war!... Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.”
The following sites updated: