Jon Jeter

International Relations Expert
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JON JETER is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “THIS AMERICAN LIFE.”

Jeter is a Knight Fellowship recipient – Stanford University’s highest professional journalism award — as well as author of FLAT BROKE IN THE FREE MARKET (WW Norton, 2009) and co-author of A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT (Wiley & Sons, 2010).

Jon works with both non-profit and for profit brands, utilizing his vast knowledge and experience in web, radio, and television content and production to drive communications strategies and develop stories that highlight the important work of these organizations. He is based out of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jon Jeter, USA 01/13/2018 0

Since 2008 Financial Crisis, Wall Street Is The Grinch That Keeps Stealing Christmas

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — From his post at the edge of the bus-shelter bench, James Anderson spotted the two police patrol cars heading slowly towards him and snapped briskly to attention, or at least as briskly as humanly possible for a 53-year-old man with a bad back. He reached for his cane and struggled unsteadily to his feet, shielding his eyes from the vehicle’s blinding head beams.

Hauling everything they owned in two grocery carts, Anderson and his three teenage children had put in a good 12 hours in their trek from Silicon Valley’s northern edge en route to the Promised Land, Berkeley, which was still another 14 miles away as the crow flies. Fueled only by a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets divided unevenly among the four of them, they were bone-tired by nightfall, and had decided to settle down for the evening in the Bay Area suburb of San Leandro.

It was two days before Christmas, 2014.


The sleeping arrangements were strategic, almost militaristic. James and his oldest child, 18-year-old Khalid, would man the perimeter – bus benches were preferable to park benches since they’re typically canopied and located at well-lit intersections – flanking the youngest, 13-year old Malik, and his big sister, Malika, who’d just celebrated her 15th birthday a few weeks before. “My baby girl sleeps next to me,” James insisted, “always by me.”

Uneasy since they’d been evicted from their Union City motel earlier that day, James viewed the wee hours of the morning as a sentinel might regard the graveyard shift at a watchtower, getting only a few winks here and there to keep an eye out for trouble – ”I’ll sleep when we get where we need to be; if I was gonna drop, I was gonna drop,” he would say later to describe his approach – and he and Malika were still awake when the two patrol cars materialized like a hallucination from the blue-black of a winter’s night.

Both would acknowledge later that they were a bit apprehensive in that moment. For months, cable and network television newscasts back at the motel had been preoccupied with the protests that followed the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Black teenager named Michael Brown in a St. Louis suburb, and the videotaped strangulation of a Staten Island man, Eric Garner, by a lynch mob of New York City cops, simply for selling loose cigarettes.

Concerned that police might accuse him and the kids of stealing the two grocery carts they’d found abandoned on the streets, James had earlier in the day tried, unsuccessfully, to pry the nameplate from one of the shopping carts. The cold night air seemed pregnant with menace as the San Leandro police officers unfurled from separate patrol cars.

“Good evening, officers,” James said, as disarmingly as he could, before proceeding to explain the situation to the patrolmen. But before he could finish, one of the officers held his hand up to interrupt.

“We’re not here to hassle you, sir, “ he said. “Someone saw you here and called it in because they were worried about you. We just wanted to know if you needed anything?”

Poor but proud, James thanked the officers but told them that they were fine; they just needed a little rest.

The officers, however, would have none of it. “Wait here,” said one. “We’ll be right back.”

Climbing back into their police cars, they sped off, returning a few minutes later with a coffee and three hot chocolates from Starbucks, and a 12-pack of tacos from Taco Bell. It was an unusually cold winter in Northern California, and the officers asked James to take the kids to the nearby Starbucks to eat and wait for the officers to return. Again, they raced off, and returned an hour later with four sleeping bags. Discreetly slipping $100 into James’ hand, one officer hugged James, followed by the other, and as they returned to their patrol vehicles, they both wished him and the kids a happy holiday.

From home to motel to bus shelter: the forces behind the fall

Anonymous Feed Homeless

The Anderson family Christmas three years ago was the product of the 2008 global financial meltdown. While the recession that followed is often compared to the Great Depression, African-Americans in actuality had not had it so bad since the 1873 stock market crash wiped out the Freedman’s bank. Similar to the most recent downturn, that meltdown was also triggered by easy credit, and bad investments in an overheated real estate market.

What often goes unsaid in the media’s accounting of the subprime mortgage scandal is that banks swindled black and brown borrowers with fraudulent loans at rates that were exponentially higher than those offered to Whites. And while lenders were largely made whole, their victims, overwhelmingly, were not. A 2016 study by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation For Economic Development found that the typical black household in the U.S. will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their white counterparts hold today.

Consequently, the U.S. today is experiencing a binary, best-of-times, worst-of-times narrative, in which finance capital, like the pharaohs of old, feasts on the land’s finest wines, meats and cheeses, while families like the Andersons strike out on a long journey, looking for a better life.

James Anderson was born in San Francisco’s storied Fillmore neighborhood, known as the “Harlem of the West” — a showcase for entertainers and public figures as diverse as Etta James and Malcolm X. James’ birth also coincided with an effort by the San Francisco Redevelopment Authority to raze thousands of “blighted” homes in the neighborhood, forcing nearly 10,000 mostly black households to relocate, just as it had the Japanese a generation before, and transforming Geary Street into an eight-lane monstrosity that sealed off the Fillmore from whiter and wealthier Pacific Heights.

“They told us they were just going to make some improvements and we could come back when everything was ready,” said Anderson. “We never got the call to come back. “

Working as a municipal bus driver in 1996, a few months after Khalid’s birth, James drove over some railroad tracks and a searing pain thundered through his entire body from the base of his skull to the heels of his feet. He tried surgery and rehab to repair the three ruptured discs but nothing took.

Medically retired and unable to work, James had only a monthly SSI check to support a wife and three children in the most expensive metropolitan area in the country. The Andersons were evicted from their suburban Oakland apartment in October of 2014 when their landlord raised the rent. Estranged from his wife, James moved the kids to a Union City motel near her job, where the four of them squeezed into a single room that cost $400 per week.

That endured for two months. James’ wife had been helping pay for the motel but decided, abruptly, to stop just days before Christmas unless he relinquished custody of their children. Believing that her lifestyle had grown increasingly volatile, James told her, essentially, that if she wanted to kill her fool self, she could go right ahead, but the kids stayed with him.

That meant no more room at the inn — or, more accurately, the Islander Motel on the border of Union City and Hayward — with only two days left before Christmas. Checkout was at 11 a.m. and so, in the morning, James had the kids stuff everything that would fit – crockpot, an electric skillet, shoes, clothes, everything – into two suitcases and a green duffel bag for the journey to Berkeley, a college town that James remembered from his youth as the hub of Bay Area liberalism, and a place relatively hospitable to the homeless. Already thinking ahead, Malika days earlier had spotted a discarded shopping cart lying on its side in a shallow ditch along a nearby frontage road and made a mental note that it might come in handy should they need to relocate. She and Malik ran to retrieve it, wiping it down with some of their clothes that they couldn’t manage to squeeze in the luggage.

And then, some time before noon, the Anderson family headed north.

James had $20 in his pocket.



This far by faith


“Can I buy you a coffee?”

James was a bit startled by the middle-aged white woman who approached him – in broad daylight no less – as the family trudged up a major thoroughfare, Hesperian Boulevard, in Hayward. They had only left their hotel hours earlier.

“Uh, no, I’m okay, thank you,” James said. But much like the two police officers in San Leandro later that day, the woman simply wouldn’t entertain the notion. With her well-coiffed hair and natty attire, Malika sized her up as a professional, perhaps in the growing tech sector that was again firing on all cylinders by late 2014. The woman returned minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee, and clasped James’ hand in both of hers as she handed him the Starbucks cup, discreetly slipping him two $20 bills.

“Can I hug you?” she asked and no sooner had James gotten the word out of his mouth, she had pulled his towering 6-foot-3 inch frame close to hers for an embrace so deep and sincere that the kids started to wonder if they wouldn’t need a crowbar to extricate their father.

As they continued on, a pickup truck approached not three minutes later.

“Can I help you?” the man asked.

Unsure of his meaning, James politely replied that they were okay. Undeterred, the man stepped from the car, handed James two $20 bills, and wished them well.

“We never asked anybody for anything,” James said. “Some of it was people saying ‘we’re so glad to see a father with his kids doing this,’ and some people just wanted a hug or to wish us well. But we got a lot of help. I hadn’t counted on that.”

The only asset the Andersons had, he said, was each other. Of all his children, James says that Malika’s antenna is the most sensitive; she would know almost immediately when her father’s mood had darkened, and she would just encourage him, reassure him that they would be okay as long as they stuck together, or engage him in banalities such as wondering aloud about the odd green flash of light that flickered in the night sky, whether it was a flare or a UFO.

And James would return the favor when he felt the kids’ energy ebb. One night, with the family hunkered down on a bus bench, an Asian man walked by and James pretended to greet him in Chinese with a nonsensical “phong chow yong fat”  that cracked the kids up with raucous laughter. The man smiled as he walked by, Malika would say later, and seemed to understand that the greeting wasn’t intended as a racist taunt.

By midday on Christmas Eve, the Andersons had reached Emeryville and were closing in on Oakland just south of Berkeley. The only food available was the chips and sodas they managed to round up from an off-brand convenience store. As if on cue, food began to just appear out of thin air: motorists dropped off sandwiches and drinks, and homeowners who lived within view of Telegraph Avenue began pouring out of their homes to deliver big platters of food. One woman even delivered a plate of her jambalaya.

The family arrived at Wall Peace Park in downtown Berkeley on Christmas Day with nearly $300 in donations.

Berkeley was no longer the accommodating college town that James remembered, however. Indeed the police harassed the Andersons almost daily and it would be more than two months before the family could get into a shelter.

Still, the family has done remarkably well, considering. Both Malik and Malika are honor-roll students at one of the better area high schools and Khalid has enrolled in college courses. At the homeless shelter, Malika will often wake her brother for school by playing tunes from The Sound of Music, one of her favorite movies.

“I tell them all the time,” James Anderson said 18 months after their ordeal, “that we’re going to get through this, that we’re going to be okay. And we will. I really and truly believe that. The only thing I need them to do is believe it as well.

Because when you get right down to it, what choice do we have?”

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Jon Jeter, USA 12/19/2017 0

As Trump and GOP Further Eviscerate US Public Sector, Canada Stops Imitating

OTTAWA, CANADA — While U.S. lawmakers debate a Trump administration tax cut that will inexorably deepen the bone-deep budget cuts that have been eroding American living standards for nearly 40 years, Canadians are going on a bit of a spending spree.

Quebec’s Premier this week proposed a guaranteed minimum income of $14,000 annually for disabled adults as part of the provincial government’s $2.4 billion effort to combat poverty. Last week, Ontario’s transportation minister said his agency would double public spending on new bike lanes from $35 million to $70 million. And last month, the leader of Ontario’s conservatives said that if his party, the Progressive Conservatives, is elected next June, lawmakers will provide parents with an annual subsidy of $5,256 per child to offset soaring childcare costs.

Just the day before the Tories unveiled their campaign platform, the Liberal Party’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau announced that his administration would invest $8.72 billion to build or repair 400,000 units of affordable rental housing over the next decade, as part of the federal government’s initiative to ultimately reduce Canada’s homeless population by half.


In September, provincial leaders in British Columbia called a press conference to gleefully correct earlier forecasts of $2.4 billion in new social spending on health care, K-12 education and affordable housing.  The finance minister was happy to inform reporters that the province was actually on course to spend $1.5 billion more than initially anticipated.

“It’s a budget that puts people first,” said the minister, Carole James. Not to worry, however, as the expenditures are to be fully funded with a tax increase on personal incomes of more than $117,000 annually, from 14.7 to 16.8 percent, and on corporations, which will see their rate inch up from 11 to 12 percent.


An end to economic mimicry

What’s happening here in Canada is the phasing out of a ruinous national experiment in austerity that took its cue from the default position of the political class in the United States for two generations and counting. The GOP’s tax proposal is merely the last of a thousand deadly cuts inflicted by both Republicans and Democrats since Wall Street effectively organized a coup and assumed responsibility for New York City’s budget in 1975.

Conversely, Canada didn’t abandon the consensus that shaped North America’s postwar prosperity until 1995 in the aftermath of a deep recession. In his 1994 budget speech, the Finance Minister Paul Martin — who would go on to succeed Jean Chretien as Prime Minister in 2003 — introduced a landmark budget that mirrored the Clinton Administration’s own deficit hawkishness:

It is now time for government to get its fiscal house in order. For years, governments have been promising more than they can deliver, and delivering more than they can afford. That has to end. We are ending it . . . Over the next three years, for every one dollar raised in new revenues we will cut five dollars in government expenditures.”

Canada’s Liberal Party went on to slash the spending of virtually every federal department over a three-year span, reducing government expenditures by more than $19 billion – including nearly $6 billion in federal transfers to the provinces for health and education — and eliminating 45,000 public-service jobs. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed the Liberals’ 13-year deficit-reduction scheme with nine years of his own.

The Trudeau government’s gradual restoration of government infrastructure investments — combined with the Conservatives’ embrace of increased government spending — represents a political response to cost-cutting measures that have proven deeply unpopular with Canada’s electorate, and a blunt acknowledgement that budget cuts, far from energizing an economy, sap it of the buying power it needs to grow.

“Our government will not repeat the ideological cuts of the former Conservative government,” a spokesman for Canada’s Treasury Secretary told reporters, to defend adding more than 3,700 new workers to the government payroll this year.


Political traditions driving economic policy

Family members are helped into Canada by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (Canadian Press via AP)

Family members are helped into Canada by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (Canadian Press via AP)

Polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s tax proposal, which will surely double down on the Reagan Administration’s discredited trickle-down economic theory. So why is it that political support for austerity measures in the U.S. remains impregnable while their governmental counterparts just across the northern border are denouncing laissez-faire economics like the plague?

The answer can be found in the differing political traditions of the two neighboring nation states, said Bryan Evans, director for the Centre for Policy Innovation and Public Engagement at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

Ask any indigenous or Caribbean person living here and they will surely tell you that Canada is no racial utopia. But neither is it as deeply invested as is the United States in polarizing tribal narratives that undermine working-class solidarity, and allow the country’s wealthiest one percent to divide, and conquer, everyone else.

Take the province of Ontario for example. Of a total workforce of roughly 8 million people, 1 million are employed in the public sector. Inevitably, said Evans, few households are untouched by government layoffs.  “That’s my daughter, that’s my nephew, that’s my wife,” said Evans, describing Canadians’ typical response to provincial budget cuts.

While genocide of Native Americans was central to Canada’s colonial enterprise, the country’s relatively small population — 37 million people, according to the most recent Census figures — and abundant land meant that white settlers never relied on the triangular slave trade as much as did other colonial enterprises in the New World, such as Brazil or Haiti or, of course, the U.S. Consequently, Blacks never represented much of a threat to the landowning elite, either through violent slave revolts or as the most consistently liberal voting bloc in elections in which whites are often evenly split.

The banks’ takeover of New York City’s finances in 1975 is a case in point. As the historian Kim Phillips-Fein and others have noted, New York’s fiscal crisis, which began in 1973, was largely the result of exuberant real estate speculation and crony capitalism that awarded increasingly lucrative contracts to political donors. Wages were high, especially in the public sector, causing inflation to spike, but workers and their employers tend to view rising prices in sharply different ways. Economists say that moderate levels of inflation don’t impact economic growth, but an annual inflation of 5 percent means that a $100 loan this year is worth only $95 next year. Unsurprisingly, borrowers are unbothered by such a prospect while creditors often view price instability as a type of fraud.


“Donald Trump wouldn’t be possible here”

Yet, in making their case to white labor leaders and Democratic politicians, financiers portrayed African-Americans and Latinos in the public sector trade unions as reckless, selfish, and unpatriotic. Repeated endlessly as if on a tape loop — in vehicles such as the 1915 classic film, Birth of a Nation; the political consultant Lee Atwater’s campaign ads stoking fears of the black sexual menace; or Hillary Clinton’s depiction of the “super-predator” — such racist appeals have been seen to drive U.S. politics but simply don’t go over in Canada.

“Donald Trump wouldn’t be possible here,” said Evans. “In Canada we’ve had that tradition where government is not a dirty word. We do have our moments where we lurch to the right to fix a crisis but then everyone gets over their anger and says, ‘what have we done here?’”

The result is that Africans, Arabs and Asians tend to regard Canada far more favorably than they do other countries governed by European settlers. A 30-year-old South African refugee who fled political violence in Cape Town’s taxi industry and lived for awhile in North Carolina, before arriving in Toronto earlier this year, told me that “there is racism here, but the white settler in Canada is a better class of white settler than you’ll find either in America or South Africa.”

That said, there is a feeling among Canadians of a certain age that the damage done by neoliberalism is irreversible, even if not as severe as that done to the United States. The role of the financial sector in the economy is as outsized in Canada as it is in the U.S. and — while efforts to privatize education or shortchange the country’s famed universal health care system seem unlikely — labor is being increasingly casualized.

“I have a nephew who has a college degree and has done everything right, and his big ambition is to be part-time permanent,” said Evans. “There is a feeling in Canada that our best days are behind us.”

Top photo | President Donald Trump walks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along the Colonnade to the Oval Office at the White House on Oct. 11, 2017. (AP Photo)

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