Cutting Public Funding

Grind for September 6th, 2018
“The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Not For You

The Headline

Trump Administration withholds funding from Palestinian refugees

The Grind

The White House this week announced it would halt $300 million in annual funds to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an organization that helps educate, feed, and provide health care for Palestinian refugees throughout the Arab world.

The move is part of a broader strategy to pressure Palestinians back into peace negotiations with Israel and to cut back on the UNRWA’s influence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UNRWA, which was founded in 1949 to serve the 700,000+ Palestinians who were forced from their homes during the war to create Israel, has been accused of demonizing Israel and turning a blind eye to the activity of terror groups.

“We already have great-great-grandchildren of refugees who are not refugees,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I suggest a gradual conversion of all funds going to UNRWA to other agencies.”

The Implication

The US was by far the UNRWA’s largest donor, and critics worry the funding cuts will force thousands of children out of UN-funded schools.

“The political instrumentalization of humanitarian assistance in the context of the Middle East may well have widespread dramatic and unpredictable consequences,” argues agency spokesperson Chris Gunness.

The Trump Administration, which describes the UNRWA as “irredeemably flawed,” has also threatened to limit the number of Palestinians able to qualify for refugee status. This could leave millions of people without a state.

International officials have also warned Trump that withholding funds from the UNRWA could also make it even harder to broker a peace deal between Israeli and Palestinian leaders – especially after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Palestinian officials have condemned Trump’s decision, with one official describing it as a “flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions” that will “strengthen terrorism in the region.”

Washington suggested the UNRWA could get its funding back if it made reforms, but did not provide details. It also encouraged the Palestinians to engage in peace talks with Israel.

I’ve Heard This Before

The Headline

Bernie Sanders on income inequality: Amazon’s wages are “absurd”

The Grind

“We have one person whose wealth is increasing by $250 million every single day, while he pays thousands of his workers wages that are so low that they are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday.

“The reality is that the average American worker is still seeing a decline in his and her wages,” continued Sanders. “People continue to work longer hours for low wages. Here in Vermont, folks are working two or three jobs to put food on the table and pay bills.”

Earlier in the week, Sanders claimed Amazon’s employees were paid “well below” a living wage. “Bottom line: the taxpayers of this country should not have to subsidize employees at a company owned by Mr. Bezos who is worth $155 billion. That is absurd.”

The Details

Sanders’s complaints about Amazon are ironic in light of his push to expand the same safety net programs he insists shouldn’t be needed by Amazon employees.

According to independent salary websites, the average Amazon warehouse worker earns $13 per hour (about the same as an entry-level employee at Walmart). Amazon says its median pay for US workers is $34,123 and that any employees receiving federal assistance do so because they only work part-time.

“Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits,” wrote Amazon in a blog post. “Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone.”

The fact that Amazon responded to Sanders suggests a fear that his rhetoric could turn shoppers against the company – or that Sanders will push for legislation that could harm its business.

Sanders is currently working on a bill that would require large corporations to cover the cost of any federal assistance received by its employees.

Did you know… Ants have tiny magnetic compasses in their antennae which help them navigate.