In case you missed it (ISYMI) or haven’t read it yet, here is the article in Rolling Stone that is causing a massive right-wing panic. It’s being talked about a lot. Be sure to read it.
Federal unemployment assistance for 1.3 million people who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks expired last Saturday, after Republicans blocked efforts to extend them. 3.6 million more people will lose these benefits over this year. Restoring these benefits is a moral, economic and political imperative.
On Monday the Senate will hold the first procedural vote on bringing back unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. The hope is to break a Republican filibuster so the extension can be passed and sent to the House (where Republicans will likely refuse to even allow it to come up for a vote).
A Moral Imperative
When the financial crisis hit the country provided assistance to (“bailed out”) the largest banks. We have a moral imperative to also help our fellow citizens. A democracy provides assistance for people who need help. A fair and just society provides assistance for people who need help. A moral society provides assistance for people who need help.
Wednesday President Obama will give a speech on his plan to grow the economy and the middle class. Thursday fast-food workers will strike in 100 cities and stage protests in 100 others to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without interference from employers. Here’s something to consider: raising the minimum wage cuts government spending on Food Stamps and other programs.
The Minimum Wage
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 1.57 million people in the United States make the minimum wage, and another 1.98 million make even less. These 3.6 million workers make up 4.7 percent of all hourly-wage workers. People who are supposedly paid tips and people under 20 can be paid less than this minimum. Some states allow businesses that are not engaged in interstate commerce (and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the federal government) to pay less. Some territories – notably American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands – also are allowed to pay less.
Martin Luther King Jr. outlined his dream 50 years ago this weekend. We made much of it happen. Let’s dream some more. Let’s dream about what we could do in the next 50 years.
Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and famously told the country “I have a dream.” Fifty years later there is progress and there are setbacks. We no longer have segregation — separate schools and bathrooms and the rest. Many states finally allow everyone to marry the person they love, but at the same time many states are returning to apartheid-era restrictions of voting rights.
One huge part of the “Jobs and Freedom” Dream that still evades us is the goal of full employment or an income until a job becomes available.
On August 16, 1967 King delivered a speech titled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” addressing the need for everyone to have a job or an income,
…our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:
The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves driven to their tasks either by the, that of a taskmaster or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished.
A Country Based On A Dream
Our country was founded on the dream that We the People can do things for each other instead of depending on the rich and powerful to throw us scraps.
If you look at our Constitution you see that our country is supposed to be for We the People. And I mean just look at it, not read it. The only words you see from any distance are the words “We the People.” The Founders were making a point.
The Constitution told the world about a dream that “We the People” would build a country that protects and empowers us, where together we do things for the common good, to make our lives better. And for a while we did that.
We have lost sight of that dream. We no longer seem to recognize who our country is for. We no longer talk about the common good.
Who is our country for? Who is our economy for? Certainly a We the People economy would at the very least guarantee that We the People have jobs and an income until a job is available.
Union and environmental leaders arrested together over immigration? What’s up? Here is what’s up: Corporate-funded conservatives … “view us as one threat, and fundamentally we are acting like that now, as one threat.”
Corporate-Conservative War On Democracy
For decades corporate-funded conservatives have gone after all branches of progressive thinking and even potential progressive thinking. Environmentalists, unions, civil rights advocates, public school supporters, Social Security supporters, consumer-rights advocates, professors, scientists, women’s-rights advocates, students, immigrants, minorities, health and nutrition advocates, good-government advocates, you name it, they have been and are being attacked by the conservative movement. You don’t even have to identify yourself as progressive-aligned to be attacked as part of the socialist/communist/terrorist/anti-American/anti-God/whatever conspiracy. You do not even have to think of yourself as progressive-aligned to suffer an attack.
These groups and individuals typically responded on their own, often staying in “silos” of their own issue-group, and always under-resourced… practically defenseless and wide open to further attacks and eventual defeat. Really, why would a consumer-rights organization — already strapped for funds and trying desperately to get our a message about credit-card fraud or whatever — spend time and scarce resources going to bat for a group that is trying to save an old-growth redwood grove? That’s not what they do.
Now all of these groups are realizing they are progressive-aligned because they are seen as the same threat by the corporate-funded conservative movement. It has become clear that the corporate-funded conservative movement is fighting a war against democracy, and every group or person that might be in a position to defend democracy is their target.
So they are doing something about it.
millions of jobs would open up. The newly-employed would be paying taxes and would not be receiving Food Stamps, etc. More people employed would mean wages in general would rise, which would mean the economy would boom, tax revenue would rise, etc.
And if we lower the Medicare age to 55 all the new people in the program would cost MUCH less because people between 55 and 64 use far less health care services than people 65 and over. AND the people 55 and over are the most expensive people on private insurance, so the cost of private policies would go way down.
How to pay for this? This is about priorities. How do we pay over a trillion a year for military? How did we pay for Iraq? How did we pay for the bank bailouts? How do we pay for tax cuts for the rich? How do we pay for letting corporations stash money in tax havens to evade (defer) taxes? How do we pay for giving subsidies to oil companies?
Who is our economy and country FOR?
I have a post over at CAF, Republicans Sabotaging, Not Governing. This Is Who They Are Now., that is gaining traction at other places.
I want to emphasize the last paragraph:
“The answer is not to threaten to withhold your vote when you don’t get everything you want. The answer is for all of us – every single alienated, ignored, disillusioned citizen – to promise to always vote. Then the people you would actually want to vote for will have some assurance they can win, and take the risk of running, even if they can’t raise a poop-load of corporate cash.”
Don’t withhold your vote. Instead pledge to always vote. It’s collective power, and we can beat the corporations if we all pledge to always vote.
“The appeal for each Moral Monday has been the same: urging legislators to govern for the good of the whole, rather than for the wealthy.”
— Rev. William Barber.
Since April, North Carolina citizens have been gathering at the state capital in Raleigh for “Moral Monday” rallies and acts of civil disobedience to protest the the cruel things Republican legislators are doing to the people of the state. This week, despite tornado warnings, more than 1,400 protesters gathered for the sixth week’s protests, and more than 80 were arrested, including one reporter clearly wearing news credentials. A week ago Monday, 151 were arrested. Arrests for this and recent Moral Mondays now total 388.
This video is from the June 3 Moral Monday rally:
All the smartest people in the executive suites just knew that the taste of Coca-Cola needed “reform.” Rival Pepsi was advertising to the “New Generation” and Coke’s executives came to believe their product wasn’t what the “cool” people wanted to drink. Everyone they talked to at the executive-level strategery seminars, and all the other executive-level geniuses they spoke with daily agreed. They were the elites, and they all knew better than their old-fashioned, uncool customers what the company needed. So they all drank the Kool-Aid and came up with “New Coke.” We all know what happened next. (Hint: it was bad.)
It couldn’t have gone better for Pepsi if Pepsi had placed those executives there themselves.
The economy is not working for We, the People. But even with $4 trillion already cut from deficit projections, a deficit drop of about 50 percent as a share of gross domestic product, and Congressional Budget Office projections that the deficit is stable for the next 10 years Washington remains focused on even more economy-killing austerity. It’s talking only about what and how to cut instead of how to meet the needs of the people of the country and grow the economy.
This fight over spending cuts led to the “sequester,” which might take us back into recession. The fight will now roll into another manufactured crisis over the continuing resolution, with a government shutdown as the hostage, and of course this will be a further drag on the recovery.
Economics 101, Europe’s austerity experiment and the experience of history all tell us that cutting government is contractionary policy. Cutting government cuts economic growth and costs jobs, which leads to to lower tax revenue and higher government expenditures. Economics 101 and the experience of history also tell us that government investment in jobs, infrastructure, education, research and the rest grows the economy, which fixes deficits. Cutting deficits and debt is important but clearly should not be done when the economy is weak. This is the time to invest, and the investment returns will pay for the investment and more.
Again: There is no real discussion or debate about what we ought to be doing to make this economy work for working people. There is only discussion of what and how to cut. This is the wrong approach to our economic problems.
CAF is presenting job-creating and economy-growing ideas that ought to be debated so we can begin to turn this economy around and make it work for all of us instead of just a few of us. Jobs and growth fix deficits.
The Vast Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy And Jobs
Recently the 2012 U.S. international trade deficit in goods and services was announced. It fell slightly in 2012 (due in part to a decline in petroleum imports), to $540.4 billion from $560 billion in 2011. But 2012 saw a record trade deficit of $315 billion with China – approaching $1 billion a day. That is $540 billion a year drained from our economy, $315 billion of that just to China.
This vast trade deficit represents the loss of millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories and entire industries. It hits at our ability to fix our economic problems. In particular, this problem affects our manufacturing companies, which provide solid, middle-class jobs and exports that strengthen the country.
Instead of the current focus on budget deficits, Washington should be talking about how to fix this vast trade deficit. Here are some of the things they should be talking about — and doing.
Countries manipulate their currency rates because a “weak” currency means products made there are much more price-competitive. China’s currency is still estimated to be at least 20 percent below “market” rate, meaning goods made in China cost at least 20 percent less than goods made here, even before you factor in other things China does to give itself a trade advantage.
Confronting currency manipulation offers the biggest “bang for the buck,” requiring no tax dollars and reaping huge returns, shrinking the federal budget deficit by between $78.8 billion and $165.8 billion over three years.
Fixing this one problem could create between 2.2 million and 4.7 million jobs and increase GDP between 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent, helping manufacturers in particular, gaining between 620,000 and 1.3 million of those jobs. It would reduce the U.S. trade goods deficit by at least $190 billion and as much as $400 billion over three years.
Reform Trade Agreements
A $540 billion trade deficit doesn’t come from balanced trade; it is the result of one-sided trade agreements we have entered into. These trade agreements exposed America’s companies, workers, factories and tax base to direct competition with non-democracies, impoverished and exploited workers and countries that do not protect the environment. That could only go one way.
We have a democracy, in which people have a say. So they say they want good wages, safe workplaces and a clean environment. When we open that system up to direct, unregulated competition from places where people have no say and are told they can’t have those things, we put our democratic system at a competitive disadvantage in world markets. We make it a disadvantage to protect the environment, pay well, provide benefits, protect worker safety and the other things that we do and others do not do. Those become just “costs” to be eliminated.
Those trade agreements could have had different terms that lead to different results that lifted working people on both sides of the trade border instead of pushing terrible and increasing worldwide inequality. They could have lifted environmental protections on both sides of trade borders. They could have increased worker and consumer protections. They still can.
Our country’s trade agreements can still be reformed to do these things, rebalancing trade and lifting people and the environment. Future trade agreements should learn the lessons.
Bring Back The Bring Jobs Home Act
Last year Senate Republicans filibustered the Bring Jobs Home Act, but the bill had tremendous public support. It should be revived.
The Bring Jobs Home Act would have cut taxes for U.S. companies that move jobs and business operations to the United States, and ended tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. The bill would have allowed companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. It would have closed a loophole allowing a company moving jobs overseas to deduct various relocation costs.
Additionally, any new bill should tax the overseas income of U.S. corporations the same way domestic income income is taxed, so there would be no tax advantage to them from shifting income and jobs overseas.
Strengthen Buy America In Federal And State Procurement
There is no reason our own government should be undermining American manufacturers. “Buy America” provisions should be a mandate on federal, state and local government purchases, consistent with our trade laws. To accomplish this, our bottom line should be:
- All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first shot at procurement contracts.
- New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
- Our military equipment, technology and supply purchases should have increased domestic content requirements.
- Renewable and traditional energy projects should use American materials in construction. State-level spending should have similar requirements, as well as strategies for getting them in place.
Many state-level procurement laws are very weak. As a result, a lot of tax dollars go to purchase goods made overseas instead of goods made in the USA. States should also strengthen their procurement policies to promote buying American-made materials.
The Invest in American Jobs Act of 2013, announced Tuesday, is a good start and deserves support and discussion. The Act strengthens Buy America preferences, closes loopholes and improves transparency in the federal waiver process.
These are a few examples of the things that Washington should be talking about. These proposals solve real problems in practical ways that help the American people.
The Speaker of the House last week said that taxing people to pay for government is theft. Let’s look at just where actual theft is occurring.
Michael McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui covered the story at the Huffington Post, in John Boehner Compares Tax Proposals Of White House To Stealing,
We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” Boehner added. “How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government? I’m for no more.”
Yes, the old “taxes are theft” argument again. This is the line of reasoning that says government is bad, that decision-making by We, the People is bad, that people are “takers” and the wealthy are “producers” and “job creators,” and that the people are lazy and “don’t want to work” and if you let them assemble together and vote they become a mob that will steal everything from the rich who are rich by Divine Right, etc…
Keep in mind that in a democracy We, the People make decisions and government spending by definition is We, the People deciding to do things that make our lives better.
In honor of Speaker Boehner’s argument that taxes are theft, this is from August 2010: (even though the post will say June 12, 2012…)
Conservatives like to say that taxes are theft. In fact it is tax cuts that are theft because they break a long-standing contract.
The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?
The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:
A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.
We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper – the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us – through good wages, benefits and taxes.
But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:
Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.
This is the Reagan Revolution home to roost: the social contract is broken. Instead of providing good wages and benefits and paying taxes to provide for the general welfare and reinvestment in infrastructure and public structures, the bounty of our democracy is being diverted to a wealthy few.
… read the rest of Tax Cuts Are Theft
Also see see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.
And while you are at it here are some other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation
Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Fairness Radio
Yesterday’s testimony at the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act was historical for many reasons. The 1965 VRA is the law that Congress passed in response to the 15th amendment, which was ratified 97 years earlier. In other words it took Congress 97 years to develop the courage, information and creativity to craft a bill to protect the foundational right of our democracy.
It was also historic in than it comes at a time of increased attempts to suppress votes of minorities – not just blacks, but Hispanics, Asians and anyone else who is not white and Republican. The motivation for this suppression is as much partisan as it is racist, but the outcome is the same…fewer voters of color and fewer faces in the Congress and state legislatures and city councils that look like America today.
But it was also historic for the words of Justice Scalia. Scalia told Donald Verrilli, the Administration lawyer defending the VRA, that Congress could not be trusted to amend the VRA because it is a “racial entitlement” and Congress cannot get out of obsolete racial entitlements through the normal process, so it is up to the courts to eliminate them.
There was a gasp in the courtroom and in the lawyers lounge where attorneys were listening to the proceedings. A Supreme Court Justice had called the 1965 VRA the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”
Justice Scalia, with all due respect, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement; it is the Constitutionally demanded shield protecting an American Constitutional right. It is the Act of Congress called for in Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee for all Americans the foundational right – not an entitlement, but a right - that underpins this and every other democracy around the world modeled on our Constitution.
Fifty people were beaten to near death on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, marching for their right to vote. Twenty-five thousand people – including Dr. Martin Luther King – took up their fallen banners and completed the march with Federal troops guarding them. Four people were bombed and died later on defending their right to vote after the march. Others were shot or hanged or run over trying to register black people to vote.
President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in memory of the blood shed by the people who were beaten and died on the Edmund Pettis bridge that day and afterwards defending the right to vote. Voting is not an entitlement to be given or withdrawn at the whim of whatever party is in power in Congress or a state legislature. It is the foundation of everything America stands for: equality, democracy, popular election of the government and its accountability to the people. People died for it, for us, so that we can live in a democracy.
That includes you, Justice Scalia. You took the same oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 15th Amendment, that President Johnson did. Bloody Sunday is part of your national history. Jimmie Lee, whose death at the hands of an Alabama state trooper led to Bloody Sunday, died so that you could live in a true democracy and rise to its highest court. The little children blown to bits in a southern church by people who didn’t think Negros should vote died for the democracy you live in today, for the Court that has room for your black and female and Hispanic colleagues.
The fact that you don’t know that; the fact that you see voting as an entitlement, not a right – the most important right in the Constitution – disqualifies you from the bench. Your 1950′s conservative ideology has blinded you to the history and the basic premise of American democracy. And your partisanship has led you to an insult to the memory of those who were beaten and fire-hosed and whipped and shot and killed to enshrine this right in the Constitution that you are supposed to know and understand and protect.
You should apologize to every American and especially to those whose deaths gave us the Voting Rights Act. And then you should resign.