Sanders Pushes Postal Banking

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has once again added his voice to a growing movement to bring banking to the United States Postal Service (USPS).

“I want to see our post office be reinvigorated,” Sanders said in a Fusion interview this week with Felix Salmon, and postal banking is “one of the ways that I think we can help not only the U.S. Postal Service, but help a lot of low-income people.”

Situation: Exploitation

Millions of Americans are “unbanked,” meaning they do not have (and cannot get) bank accounts for one reason or another. This means they cannot easily cash checks, pay bills, save a bit of money, get a small loan in an emergency and other simple and basic banking services. This leaves them vulnerable in the predatory path of payday lenders and check cashing services, where exploitative fees and incredibly high interests rates eat them alive and leave them poorer than ever.

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The Water Is Boiling Now And The Frog Still Doesn’t Know It

Thursday’s Clinton-bashing hearing in Congress carried with it that “frog in heating water” feeling. The water is boiling and the country is the frog. This is a period where the country has gone crazy.

This has been slowly building since the ascendency of the corporate-funded “conservative movement” and then the presidential election of Ronald Reagan. The 24/7/12/365 drumbeat of corporate/conservative propaganda started then. The intentional defunding of government started then. The refusal to maintain our infrastructure started then. The continuing trade deficit that has drained our economy of jobs started then. The “volunteer army” perpetual-war machine got revved up then. The privatization of publicly held wealth started then. The collapse of the middle class started then. So many things started going wrong then. And after a slow, decades-long buildup, the country is threatening to collapse like an unmaintained bridge.

The planet is heating (the strongest western-hemisphere hurricane ever is heading toward Mexico as I write this). We are on the verge of a debt-ceiling crisis that could throw the world into something far worse than 2008 or the 1930s Depression. The corporate/conservative/billionaire money is flowing so freely into elections that almost all of the Republican candidates voice the concerns of the billionaires funding their campaigns and don’t say a word about what the public needs. No wonder Republicans have turned to Donald Trump.

“Were You Alone All Night?”

The gerrymandered-into-office Republican Congress is completely dysfunctional for governing, and instead of addressing the country’s problems we got this: An 11-hour long hearing asking a former first lady, senator and Secretary of State, “Were you alone all night?”

What the country experienced Thursday is SO FAR from any kind of normal, reasonable operation of a Congress or a country that I can’t believe it could even happen. The Republicans have fallen SO FAR down into a hole of their own propaganda machine that reality is lost completely for them.

But it’s like the alcoholic in the family that no one dares talk about. The elite pundit and news media class is so mired in a “both sides do it,” and their careers are so tied to boosting Republican corporatism, that they can not scream about the situation.

Systemic collapse builds slowly and then happens very quickly. The water is boiling rapidly now. It’s clearly a question of when, not if.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Exxon’s Funding Of Climate Denial Turned Americans Against Their Own Government For Profit

Exxon and other fossil fuel companies may have committed a crime of enormous proportions, and more and more elected officials and others are demanding an investigation.

The charge is that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company’s product was helping cause our planet to warm “catastrophically,” but management responded by covering this up and disseminating disinformation – joining with other companies to commit an enormous fraud on the public for profit.

For some time, environmentalists have been warning that oil and coal companies were behind a broad campaign to deceive the public and block the government from regulating or taxing carbon pollution. Sites like ExxonSecrets, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SourceWatch and their Coal Issues portal, CoalSwarm and many others have been exposing, warning, documenting and working to get the word out.

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The Dem Debate Was Good For The Country. Let’s Have More Of Them

In contrast to the Republican clown shows they call debates, last Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate was serious and focused on policy. It let the public know that there are still adults at work trying to help deal with the country’s real problems. It helped the country move forward.

Tuesday’s debate gave the public a positive, optimistic presentation of the Democratic Party and its progressive message and how this gives hope for a positive direction for the country. For those worried about the debates helping one candidate or another one, polls tell us the debate lowered the “unfavorable ratings” of both Clinton and Sanders.

But the Democratic Party leadership still seems to want to try to limit the Democratic candidates from public exposure. Last Tuesday’s debate was on a pay TV channel (my cable/internet/phone monopoly rent-seeking bill is closing in on $200+ a month) – not a very aware move for a party that supposedly wants to represent and get votes from low-income Americans – and still 15 million Americans tuned in. Even with that audience, this viewer-suppression strategy worked; that’s almost 10 million fewer than the first Republican debate.

While Republicans chose a Republican-right TV channel with Republican-friendly moderators, the Democratic debate was on a Republican-lite channel with semi-hostile moderators. (“Will you say anything to get elected?” “You honeymooned in the Soviet Union.” “The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest.”)

The next debate will take place November 14 – a weekend evening that many suspect was chosen so younger members of the potential audience will be out on dates, out at the clubs, at movies, and so on. (At least it will be on a broadcast network so people can tune in without paying.) The one after that, December 19, is also on a weekend evening, but on top of that it is also on the last Christmas shopping weekend. The one after that is on a Sunday night.

Not everyone pays attention to these things so far before an election. But those who do can see this for what it is. One candidate has a big lead early on, the other has low name recognition. It looks like people at the top are helping the leading candidate “sit on” that lead and “run out the clock.” Some also think that the same people do not want the other candidate’s “message” to be heard widely because it threatens entrenched interests.

What’s in it for those helping rig this primary process? Washington politics now runs on exchanges of promises – jobs, favors, and the like. We don’t know if or what the chair of the Democratic National Committee was promised to protect Clinton’s lead and keep the public from hearing Sanders’ message. If this is what happened, it might show Clinton to be just the kind of savvy D.C. power-politics player who really can get things done. Maybe the country needs someone like that right now. Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe it is an unfortunate sign that a Clinton administration will be another pay-to-play corruption operation, people inside doing favors for the powerful. Maybe the public is sick of this kind of corruption.

The first debate was great for the country, the party – and Clinton. So how about we stop the nonsense and schedule plenty of debates, in prime time on weekdays, and let the country know that there is something available besides Trump and obstruction.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Run For Congress As A Democratic Socialist

Bernie Sanders is going to give a big speech on Democratic Socialism.

I think this presents an opportunity for people to run for Congress in Democratic primaries — or as the ONLY Democrat is some districts — as Democratic Socialists. I’m looking at how to register to run in my district.

You might not win but I think it makes sense to make the case for — and get people thinking about — taxing the rich, corporations and Wall Street transactions and using the money to provide:
● Increases in Social Security
● Medicare-for-All
● Free higher education with a stipend while attending
● Low-cost child care
● Help elderly stay in homes and low-cost nursing home care
● Modern mass transit, high-speed rail, etc.
● Well-maintained modern infrastructure (and associated jobs)
● A huge push to solar, wind and other alternative energy, with a weatherization program (and associated jobs)
(The “associated jobs’ thingy is part of a full-employment program.)

Think of other things that We the People can do together to make our lives better — also known as democratic government for the people.

“A Senator is needed but missing.”

Jan 6, 2001, African-American members of the House try to object to disenfranchisement of minorities in 2000 election:

In hindsight it might be a good time to bring this up again, maybe ask some of the Democratic senators who were present at the time why they did not join with African-American members of the House.

Here is a list of Democratic senators at that time:

Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Ernest Hollings (D-SC)
Joe Biden (D-DE)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
John Breaux (D-LA)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Tom Daschle (D-SD)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bob Graham (D-FL)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Paul Wellstone[7] (D-MN)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Robert Torricelli[5] (D-NJ)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Max Cleland[5] (D-GA)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
John Edwards (D-NC)
Zell Miller (D-GA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Jean Carnahan[5] (D-MO)
Mark Dayton (D-MN)

Wait. Back Up. Sanders Only Has 650,000 Donors?

The other day it was announced with great fanfare that Bernie Sanders has received more than 1 million contributions from around 650,000 people. (Some have contributed more than once.)

But wait a minute, that really is not a large number in a country of almost 320 million people.

Let’s Do Some Math

Sanders is polling at somewhere around 26% among Democrats nationally. Barack Obama received 65.9 million votes in 2012. 26% of this is around 17 million. So there should be around 17 million current Bernie supporters. 650,000 is only 3.8% of that 17 million. This means that only about 3.8% of (according to current polls) possible current Bernie supporters have donated to his campaign.

Repeat: only 3.8% of what the polls tell us are current Bernie Sanders supporters have donated to his campaign.

Since Hillary Clinton has fewer donors but polls show support from 43.5% of Democrats, obviously the percentage of supporters donating to her campaign is going to be astronomically lower than Bernie’s 3.8%. I don’t want to do the math.

Get With It, People

Get with it, people. How do you think Democrats are going to win against the corporate-billionaire conservative machine, if only a few of us are donating to candidates? Seriously, if our advantage in numbers is going to override the Republican corporate-billionaire-financed financial advantage, we all have to pitch in.

If you support Bernie, send $20 today. Or more.

If you support Hillary Clinton, send $20 today. Or more.

if you support Martin O’Malley, send $20 today. Or more.

You really do have a responsibility to do this.

Not Just Candidates

And it isn’t just candidates you should be donating to. Republicans have a huge infrastructure of conservative support organizations, largely funded by corporations and billionaires. These are the outfits that spew out right-wing propaganda 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 400 days a year. How MANY times have you had to listen to things like, “Taxes take money out of the economy,” “Corporations always do things better than government,” and the rest of their anti-government, anti-democracy crap? How often do you hear a response? Hardly ever — and the reason is that YOU are not donating money to progressive organizations.

(I’m a Sr. Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future. But really, there are a number of great progressive organizations you should be supporting and I am sure that people can name several in the commerts.)

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising budget — it’s up to you. Donate, donate, donate.

Another Attack On Our Postal Service

Should we run our country for the benefit of We the People, or so that a few people can profit off of We the People? This is a question that is rising to the surface in a battle between those who want the United States Postal Service (USPS) maintained and expanded, and those who want it privatized.

There are some conservative ideologues who just can’t stand that the USPS demonstrates government doing its job of helping make our lives better. As with Social Security, they attack it relentlessly and endlessly.

The latest push to privatize the USPS came from the Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution, in “Delaying the Inevitable: Political Stalemate and the U.S. Postal Service.” Kamarck writes:

The USPS exists right now in never-never land. It is not fully public and it is not fully private. It is supposed to compete and innovate but it is stifled by law and saddled with a governance structure that impedes innovation. It is time to decide its future.

Using the old “buggy-whip” analogy, Kamarck claims that much of what the USPS does is obsolete. Paper mail is “fading away” because of the Internet (“only” 23 billion pieces of first-class mail were sent last year). UPS and FedEx compete in parcel delivery.

Kamarck’s defines USPS’ dilemma as a “stalemate” in Congress that prevents lawmakers from passing legislation that would address the postal service’s challenges. (This stalemate is really between anti-government privatizers who want FedEx and UPS to take over all mail and package delivery, and the public who rely on the USPS and want it maintained and even expanded into new services like public banking.)

The “solution” Kamarck recommends is splitting the USPS in two. One part would be a public institution that delivers mail, and only mail, to everyone nationally. (This part is a reluctant nod to the pesky fact that a Post Office is mandated in our Constitution and popular with the public.) The other would be a privatized organization for parcel delivery, a business that would compete with (or, more likely, immediately dismantled and sold to) FedEx and UPS.

Of course, for the resulting public mail-delivery institution to “make money” off of the public, mail delivery would have to be cut way back. Saturday delivery would have to end. It would have to get rid of several mail-processing facilities, even though this would slow delivery. Other steps – layoffs, along with pay and benefit cuts for the workers who remain – would make the service more “efficient.” Over time, service would degrade and eventually this would all end badly for the public and the employees. (But, of course, that’s the point.)

The paper has been promoted in various media outlets as offering partial privatization as a sensible solution to a congressional impasse. In “Should the Postal Service be sold to save it?” at The Washington Post, Lisa Rein summarizes the Brookings paper:

“… with three Congresses in a row failing to pass legislation to help stabilize its finances, some lawmakers and policy experts have reached the consensus that it’s time for the government to sell the post office.

This group was limited for a few years to conservatives and Republicans in Congress. But now a Democrat at the centrist Brookings Institution, Washington’s premier academic think tank, is joining the privatization side, arguing in a new paper that Congress’s inaction requires that something be done.

Rein gives a nod to that pesky “We the People” part of this, writing,

The idea of selling off any part of the government agency for which Benjamin Franklin first served as postmaster general has drawn fierce opposition from Democrats in Congress and the still-powerful postal unions. Others say it would be politically untenable.

That’s another way of saying:
1) The postal service is mandated in the Constitution (“Ben Franklin”) because of its importance to democracy and commerce.
2) A lot of people who work there (“still-powerful unions”) would be forced into low-wage jobs if it is privatized, damaging communities and the economy.
3) The public wants it and they can still vote (“politically untenable”) – for now.

(Mentioning that Kamarck is “a Democrat” imbues bipartisan “credibility” on the privatization argument.)

Competes With Private Sector

The meat of Kamarck’s argument is not really “stalemate.” The real argument arrives on page 8: The USPS competes with “the private sector.” In our current economic system We the People providing things that make all of our lives better is not desirable because this competes with the ability of a few already wealthy people to profit by providing those same things (but only to those who can afford it). So in our system We the People are prevented from providing for ourselves, saying this “unfairly competes” with the private sector.

Here is what Kamarck writes about this competition:

Some argue that the Post Office should get into more new lines of business – from delivering groceries to teaming up with retailers to deliver packages on the same day they are ordered. But this raises the thorny question of subsidies. To what extent do the U.S. government subsidies for the USPS create an unfair playing field for all those who are already in the private market place delivering everything from groceries to clothing?

The monopoly the USPS enjoys in the areas of mail delivery and mailboxes, as well as a host of other advantages, including tax subsidies, preferential interest rates on borrowing, and extensive real estate, means that when the USPS competes with the private sector, it enjoys an unfair subsidy. According to a recent study, these monopoly rights and privileges add up to an estimated $18 billion dollars in special annual savings and subsidies for the postal system.

Why yes, We the People could do a great job of providing these things for ourselves, if we were allowed to. But that would “unfairly compete” with those who want to profit of off doing those things, while only doing them for people who have enough money to pay for them.

USPS Hobbled

The USPS is financially hobbled. It is essential public infrastructure, but does not receive appropriations from Congress and is required to “make money” off of serving the public. But it also has to pre-fund the benefits of employees so far into the future that it is setting aside money for possible employees who are not even born yet.

The USPS is also hobbled by preventing it from doing things it could be doing to serve the public. With offices in almost every community in the country the USPS could offer public banking to serve the millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts and cannot cash and write checks or use ATMs. (Here’s an idea for serving the public: This bank could even offer insured retirement savings accounts, perhaps up to $250,000, and with some money from Congress could pay maybe 3% above market interest rates.)

The USPS could also serve the public by providing low-priced, super-fast fiber internet — and even cell service. It could even provide low-price cable TV services. But currently it is prevented from doing these things because it would “unfairly compete” with the private Internet and cell and cable providers who as we all can see are serving the public so well by delivering super-fast and low-cost (and fee-free) internet and cell and cable — all with absolutely first-class customer service! (HA!)

USPS A Major Employer, Providing Benefits

Here is an important part of this whole equation: The USPS is a major, major employer – the second largest employer in the United States after Walmart. The USPS should serve as a model employer, pay great wages, provide great benefits and be a great place to work. This is what We the People of the United States would want everyone to have at their job and what We the People should provide when it is up to us.

But corporate-funded, anti-government politicians again and again “save money” by forcing “efficiency” in the number, pay and benefits of public employees, or by just outsourcing their jobs. The outsourced companies hire at near-or-minimum wage with few-or-no benefits (so they can pay a few at the top astonishing amounts). This loss of good-paying jobs combined with the low wages of the replacements creates a strain on local communities that often have to provide assistance. Then, of course, the anti-government ideologues complain that government is providing “handouts.”

Never mind the subsidies private employers like Walmart get from us because they pay so little that the public has to provide public assistance to make up the difference so their employees can even eat. (Meanwhile the Walton family has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.)

If the USPS is partially or completely privatized, employees will be moved into low-wage positions with little or no benefits, working longer hours. Their communities would suffer as they cut back from spending and paying taxes, homes are foreclosed, public assistance is needed and problems of poverty start to appear. This is not what We the People want for our society, but this is what would occur.

Privatizer’s Playbook

Here is the privatizer’s playbook: Create a crisis and then offer “solutions” that fit their agenda. Make government not work and then say that because government doesn’t work we should get rid of it. In USPS’ case, engineer a requirement that the USPS “make money” instead of receiving government appropriations. Then hobble its ability to do that. When service is cut back, complain that it isn’t doing a very good job and complain that it should be privatized because it is “going broke.” (You may have also heard that Social Security is “going broke.” However you may not have heard that the military is not “making money” and is “going broke.”)

When a full-on frontal assault fails, offer incremental steps that lead to eventual total privatization or dismantlement. Break it into pieces, leaving guaranteed failure behind.

Of course, never, never mention that Congress could just appropriate money as needed for the USPS, and that the USPS could take advantage of its impressive national infrastructure to expand into new areas that serve public needs.

These obvious and simple solutions do not fit the privatization agenda. Instead, define the problem in other ways that lead to the desired solution. This is what they do, and this is what we are seeing here.

Note that FedEx is in the “Honor Roll of Contributors” to the Brookings Institution. Meanwhile another Brookings item calls the USPS “a hopelessly retrograde enterprise.” Writes Kevin R. Kosar, “To be clear, the Postal Service cannot be abolished; at least, not immediately. … But a day of reckoning must come.”

When that so-called “day of reckoning” comes, will We the People who benefit from all of the services that the USPS does provide and could provide end up being delivered a bill of goods?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

VW Case Shows Need For More And Bigger Government

Again and again we hear about corporations doing bad things so they can make more money: polluting, selling contaminated food or otherwise harming people’s health, selling products that injure people or just don’t do what they advertise, tricking and scamming people out of their money, selling banned goods or providing financial services for terrorists or drug cartels, and so many other things that are not good for people or society.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some entity that was more powerful than these corporations, whose purpose is to protect us, reign these corporations in, make and enforce rules, prosecute offenders and put a stop to this stuff?

This Week: VW

This week we are hearing about Volkswagen (VW). For years the company claimed they were selling “clean diesel” engines, but they were tricking their customers, the public and governments around the world. Their cars are really a public health threat, putting out up to 40 times the legal limit of pollutants that cause asthma and other disease.

VW built a “defeat mechanism” into as many as 11 million cars. This mechanism let the cars pass government tests, even though they were polluting like crazy when driven in the real world. The mechanism made the engine run clean during government tests, then when it detected that the tests were finished it set the engine to start polluting again.

For years these cars have been harming people and until now VW was getting away with (and making big profits from) this. They were finally caught, and we will see whether executives are prosecuted, or if this will be one more case of weak (or corrupted) government issuing a fine that lets a company make its shareholders pay the cost instead of holding the executives that did it accountable.

The Fix For The VW Cars

This is huge. Up to 11 million cars have these “defeat” mechanisms in them. These cars have to be fixed because their emissions can cause people to develop asthma and other respiratory diseases. But fixing this is a big problem.

According to Wired, in “VW Owners Aren’t Going to Like the Fixes for Their Diesels,” there are two choices for fixing these cars – and either choice means the car owners end up losing a lot of what they thought they had paid for.

The first is to update the software so the cars always run in the “test mode” that defeated the emissions tests. But the changes the software made to the engines to get them to operate within the legal emissions limits while being tested will cause the car to either have poor acceleration or poor gas mileage.

The second is to actually fix the problem that causes the engines to pollute. According to Wired, VW would have to add a “urea” tank and the means to inject this into the catalytic converter:

The standard way of making a diesel run cleanly is to use selective catalytic reduction, a chemical process that breaks NOx [mono-nitrogen oxides] down into nitrogen and water. Part of that process includes adding urea to the mix. The super effective system can eliminate 70 to 90 percent of NOx emissions, and is used by other diesel manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW. The downside is that it adds complication to the system, and cost — $5,000 to $8,000 per car. And you need to periodically add the urea-based solution to your car to keep it working.

… So it seems the logical way to get those cars to perform like their diesel cousins is to add a urea. VW’s unlikely to embrace that option, because adding hardware to half a million cars would be far more expensive than a computer update. It wouldn’t be any fun for the TDI owner, either. Not only do you have to spend an afternoon with your local dealer, you have to make room for the tank. That could mean sacrificing cargo space or giving up the spare tire.

The cost to VW will be huge, and the customers lose either way. Never mind all the people suffering asthma and lung disease resulting from the pollution these cars were emitting.

VW Not An Isolated Case

The New York Times reports, in “Volkswagen Test Rigging Follows a Long Auto Industry Pattern,” that,

For decades, car companies found ways to rig mileage and emissions testing data. In Europe, some automakers have taped up test cars’ doors and grilles to bolster their aerodynamics. Others have used “superlubricants” to reduce friction in the car’s engine to a degree that would be impossible in real-world driving conditions.

Automakers have even been known to make test vehicles lighter by removing the back seats.
… [In 1973 the EPA] fined Volkswagen $120,000 after finding that the company had installed devices intended specifically to shut down a vehicle’s pollution control systems. In 1974, Chrysler had to recall more than 800,000 cars because similar devices were found in the radiators of its cars.

[. . .] Beyond emissions, the industry has long been contemptuous of regulation. Henry Ford II called airbags “a lot of baloney,” and executives have bristled at rules requiring higher mileage per gallon.

VW might not even be the only company that is scamming government testing labs with “defeat mechanisms’ right now. From the report,

“We call it the tip of the iceberg,” said Jos Dings, the director of Transport and Environment. “We don’t think this will be limited to Volkswagen. If you look at the testing numbers for the other manufacturers, they are just as bad.”

The Times report lists several examples of the auto industry engaging in profit-making by endangering their customers. There was the “unexploded Pinto” problem of gas tanks blowing up. There were 271 deaths from the Ford-Firestone tire scandal. There were the Takata airbags that either don’t work or injure people. There was Chrysler selling as new cars that had been driven for 60,000 miles with the odometers disconnected. Click through, there’s plenty… But no one has been put in jail.

So what VW was caught doing is “not an isolated incident” and, in fact, VW had already been caught doing the same thing in the 1970s.

Not Just Auto Industry

VW is hardly the only company in the auto industry engaged in these practices, and the auto industry is hardly the only industry engaging in this kind of activity.

● Of course, tobacco still kills over 480,000 Americans each year and no one even talks about doing anything about it. Everyone understands this is because of the great wealth and power of the tobacco companies as well as their influence over a certain political party. More than 480,000 terrible, painful deaths each year!

● The “Obamacare” health reform was written the way it was because it was understood from the start that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies had enough power to block anything they didn’t like. So we didn’t get Medicare for All or even a “public option.” These industries had already blocked the administration of President Bill Clinton from reforming the health care system, leading to more decades of deaths, untreated illness and bankruptcies.

● In 2000, The Nation reported, in “The Secret History of Lead,” that the lead industry knew and kept secret for decades that they were poisoning people with lead in gasoline, paint and other products, and instead of doing something about it they protected their profits by covering this up and attacking government efforts to do something.

The leaded gas adventurers have profitably polluted the world on a grand scale and, in the process, have provided a model for the asbestos, tobacco, pesticide and nuclear power industries, and other twentieth-century corporate bad actors, for evading clear evidence that their products are harmful by hiding behind the mantle of scientific uncertainty.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum reported on just one of the societal consequences of this decades-long crime, in “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.” His investigative report concluded that lead may be “the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic.” That whole put-millions-in-prison thing that has ruined so many lives? Oops, it might have been the lead industry’s doing. Are any lead industry executives in jail for that?

● The fossil-fuel industry is notorious for polluting and for causing climate change. The industry has captured an entire political party and has them fight the development of alternative energy sources, taxes on carbon, fuel-saving public transportation initiatives, other energy-saving efforts, etc. The industry funds a climate denial cult that threatens the entire planet.

These are just a few of so many examples.

Big Government Prosecutions Can Make A Difference

Corporations save money by cutting corners. Dumping carbon into the air. Putting lead in gasoline. You name it. They price the potential fines into the product as a cost of doing business. And company shareholders pay those fines. The executives who commit the actual wrongdoing are rarely if ever held accountable themselves.

Many companies can safely assume that the government isn’t even going to catch them or do anything if they do. Government cowed by intense anti-government propaganda. We hear that “government can’t do anything as well as business can,” that “big government threatens us,” and “government takes money out of the economy.” We hear about “burdensome government regulations” that “kill jobs” on a 24/7/365 basis. Government and democracy do not have an advertising budget to counter this relentless propaganda.

Government is underfunded because the propaganda elects corporate-backed anti-government politicians who convince people to allow tax cuts (on the corporations and their owners) paid for by cutting back on government. And especially cutting back on government regulation and enforcement. The result is government enforcement is backing down all the time.

Industry executives revolve through the door into government and then back into plush corporate offices where they collect rewards for protecting their industries. Our “captured” government notoriously refuses to bring corporate criminals to justice. Not one banker, for example, was prosecuted for obvious crimes leading to the 2008 financial crash.

However last week we saw one rare instance of a prosecution of individuals for corporate crime. The people running Peanut Corporation of America, a Georgia peanut company, were prosecuted after a salmonella outbreak that sickened and hospitalized hundreds of people and killed 9 of them. Company executives knew for years their product was made in unsafe ways that were causing contamination — but instead of spending what was needed to fix the problem they covered this up. So the owner was sentenced to 28 years in prison and other executives were sentenced to 20 years.

Thanks to an actual prosecution resulting in prison terms for company executives it is likely that the public will suffer fewer food-safety problems, at least for a while.

Our government supposedly exists to protect We the People from wealthy and powerful interests, including other countries. Our revolution against the wealthy British aristocracy and the King’s corporations testify to this. A government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” should be big enough, strong enough and funded enough to reign in companies and billionaires, and protect We the People from the kind of corporate misbehavior we saw from Volkswagen — long, long, long before it involves 11 million cars all spewing out serious threats to public health.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Bernie Sanders Describes Socialism

Here is Bernie describing “socialism”

Free college, free nursing homes, free child care, free health care, 5-6 weeks vacation, fewer working hours, good pensions, great transportation, cleaner environment, other things. They also have low govt debt compared to countries that are run to channel $$ to the corporations and billionaires.

This is what happens when a government is run for its people — “socialism” — instead of a few wealthy people — “capitalism”.

Still No Democratic Debates. What’s Going On?

The second Republican Presidential candidate debate was last night. The ratings for the first one (24 million viewers) were through the roof and last night’s (20 million) was also a ratings blockbuster. People are interested and tuning in to the campaign and the Republicans are getting all the “eyeballs.”

Meanwhile there hasn’t been even a hint of a Democratic candidate debate. What’s going on? Why are the Democrats letting Republicans have the attention and audience? Do they feel the party has nothing to offer – or worse, something to hide?

“Just spell my name right.” It is basic marketing that any publicity is good publicity.

The Last Time, Debate After Debate

As of this date in 2007 there had already been several Democratic debates.

The first debate was April 26, 2007, at South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina. Present were Senator Joesph Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Senator Barack Obama, Governor William Richardson and the debate was moderated by Brian Williams. Afterward Democrats debated at these events:

● June 3, 2007 at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, New Hampshire.
● June 28, 2007 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
● July 12, 2007 at the NAACP convention, Detroit.
● July 23, 2007 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.
● August 4, 2007 at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago.
● August 7, 2007 in Chicago, sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
● August 9, 2007 in Los Angeles, an LGBT debate sponsored by the LOGO cable channel.
● August 19, 2007 in Des Moines, the Iowa Democratic Party/ABC debate.
● September 9, 2007 at University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, broadcast by Univision and simultaneously translated to Spanish.

So that is 10 debates up to now in the 2008 “cycle,” 11 if you count a September 12 “mashup” debate comprised of individual candidate interviews conducted for Yahoo News and The Huffington Post.

This Time, Silence

This time the Democratic Party has disappeared entirely from the 2016 presidential campaign – at least as far as prime-time, televised, mass-audience, attention-grabbing, awareness-driving, conversation-starting, media-triggering debates are concerned. The party has taken itself out of the game, and more and more people are asking why.

Eight years ago the first debate was in April, 2007. This time the first debate is not scheduled until October 13 – a seven-month difference. (A seven-month media vacuum.) October 13 is the day after a three-day weekend for many people. Is this an intentional attempt to limit the audience?

That first debate will be a CNN/Salem Radio event in Las Vegas. CNN? Who watches CNN anymore? And Salem Radio is a conservative Christian network. WTF? Is this an intentional attempt to limit the audience and force hostile questions?

So far there have been seven months and 10 or 11 debates-worth of lost opportunity and visibility for Democratic ideas and candidates. But wait, there’s more. In the 2008 cycle there were two more Democratic candidate debates between now and the time of the first scheduled debate on October 13: a September 20, 2007 PBS “health care” debate in Davenport, Iowa, and a September 26, 2007 MSNBC debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The second Republican debate is tonight, with a huge audience expected. The second 2016-cycle Democratic candidate debate is not scheduled until November 14, with CBS/Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. Then the third Democratic debate is not scheduled until just before the holidays on December 19, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The fourth debate will take place January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina with NBC News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Like the October 13 debate, this debate is scheduled on a holiday weekend.

After that there are only two more debates, not yet scheduled, one with Univision (Spanish language.)

What’s Going On?

Why are the Democrats hiding their candidates? What’s going on? Even when they are having a rare debate, the schedule appears to be designed to limit the potential audience.

This is basic marketing, people. Exposure is good. Repetition is good. If you want to reach the public, you have to reach the public.

Instead the Democratic Party is hiding their candidates from the public. Why?

One candidate being hurt by the restriction on debates is Hillary Clinton. (You may have heard that name somewhere – but not in a 2016-cycle debate.) Clinton has offered a very strong set of policy proposals. (Click through, really, she has.) But in the absence of any events to distract the media and bring attention to the positions of the Democratic candidates Clinton is hounded by the email pseudo-scandal. (By the way, like the Benghazi pseudo-scandal, can anyone explain what she is supposed to have done that is wrong?) With no debates to move the conversation along to the issues the media has almost no choice but to focus on this weird non-story.

Candidate Martin O’Malley also wants to know why the Democratic Party leadership is limiting the number of debates. O’Malley has a lot to offer. For example, in August he offered a very strong plan to expand retirement security – at a time when so many Americans need exactly that. O’Malley has also offered a very strong (and badly needed) criminal justice reform plan. Take a look at his “vision” page. Bet you didn’t know he was offering such a good set of proposals – and you won’t know because the Democratic Party has limited the debate schedule.

And then there’s Bernie Sanders. Sanders would also benefit from the exposure an expanded debate schedule would offer. His biggest problem is still name recognition. As Democrats hear his ideas they largely support his ideas. (Some people think this is why the party leadership is limiting debates.)

(P.S. take a look at Bernie’s DemocracyDaily.)

(I’m told there are two other people running. If there were lots of debates the public would get a chance to know this, too.)

The Democratic Party Would Benefit From More Debates

Overall the entire Democratic Party would benefit from having many, many more televised debates. This time the Democrats have a strong message that resonates with the majority of the public. (Click here to see for yourself.) This time they have strong candidates. This time they have the moral high ground.

And this time they aren’t letting the public know these things.

Why is the Democratic Party being so undemocratic? Why are they limiting the number of debates? Why are they trying to keep their candidates hidden from the public and letting the Republicans set the narrative?

Meanwhile, while we’re on the subject of strangling the debates, The Onion from 2008: “New Debate Rules Allow For One 15-Second Strangulation“:

“Both candidates will receive two minutes to answer each question, five minutes for discussion, and a one-time-only option to walk over to their opponent’s podium and cut off his oxygen supply for up to 15 seconds,” a statement from the Commission on Presidential Debates read in part, also specifying that debate moderator Jim Lehrer can exercise his own discretion in determining whether or not the strangulations go over time. “After being choked, the candidate, if still standing, may counter with one of his two allotted empty beer bottles to the head.”

That would draw ratings.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.