Where Are The Democratic Debates?

I was wondering when there will be Democratic Party Presidential debates. So I looked up how the debates worked in the 2008 cycle. 2007 corresponds to 2015 in this cycle.

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.

Then, up to today’s (Aug. 5) date there was:

June 3, 2007 at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, New Hampshire
June 28, 2007 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
July 12, 2007 at NAACP convention, Detroit, Michigan
July 23, 2007 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
August 4, 2007 at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago, Illinois

There had already been 6 debates between the Democratic candidates by this point. In the rest of August alone there were 3 more, August 7, August 9 and August 19.

What about the rest of 2007?

September 9, September 12, September 20, September 26, October 30, November 15, December 4 and December 13.

So by comparison, how are we doing so far in the 2016 cycle? And why is that?

When The Real World Confronts Trade Theories, The Real World Wins

I had a conversation over the weekend about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She’s for it, because “more trade is always good.”

TPP covers a whole lot more than what we would think of as “trade.” Regardless, let’s look here at the idea that expanding trade is always good.

Trade Is Good

Trade is good. We all at the very least trade our time for our pay. We might make or grow or draw or write something that we sell (trade) for money. Trade is basic.

But how we trade always makes a difference. If we trade our time and get paid too little, is that a good thing because it was a “trade”? Obviously the way trade gets done – the rules/policies that are in place – makes all the difference. So the question to consider is whether our current international trade policies as applied under our current economic order a good thing or a bad thing for We the People of the United States.

Cross-Border Trade

“Increasing cross-border trade” sounds like a worthy goal. But if you close a factory in the U.S., move the machines and jobs to a low-wage country, then bring the goods back here to sell in the same stores, you have just “increased cross-border trade.” How should we look at this?

The people now making the goods are paid much less, the investors who own the factory are pocketing much more. Sounds bad, unless you’re one of those owners.

Economists will tell you this is good because fewer of the resources of your economy are being expended to obtain whatever that factory was producing. Those resources can now be applied elsewhere by the investors, toward more productive investment. Sounds good.

Theoretically those American workers will now be freed up to do more productive work, potentially at a better pay rate. Sounds good.

But the way our current economic order works, those resources (the difference between what the American workers were paid and the lower costs of making the stuff somewhere else) are more often applied to the offshore tax-haven accounts of the elite investors than toward “more productive” investments. Sounds bad.

And the way our current system is working, without this new investment those workers remain unemployed, competing with the rest of the people in the workforce, which drives down everyone’s wages except for a few at the top. The reality is that if people laid off due to trade find new jobs, it is at a lower rate of pay. Sounds bad.

Economic theory confronts the reality of America’s current economic order and falls short. The elites use rigged “trade” deals to knock down labor costs. Instead of applying the gains toward investment in our economic future and higher wages for America’s workforce, they apply it to their bank accounts.

Comparative Advantage

The idea of comparative advantage says that countries (regions, etc.) should do what they are good at and trade with others for the things the others do better. Some countries are good at growing bananas and they can trade them for things they can’t grow or make.

But what counts as a comparative advantage?

A few years ago The New York Times took a look at the shift of manufacturing (and associated jobs) from the U.S. to China, in the report “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.” The report is known for the Steve Jobs quote, talking to President Obama, saying, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

The reason Jobs said those jobs are not coming back was that in China the workers sleep in dormitories, 12 to a room, and can be rousted out of bed at any hour to complete “rush” jobs. They can be made to stand all day, work with dangerous chemicals, are paid very little, cannot organize unions, cannot even vote for a government that would make their lives better.

In other words, China offers a “comparative advantage.” That advantage is that they are not a democracy, workers have no rights and no voice. China is very “business-friendly.” So why would a company like Apple use American workers when they can use workers kept in these conditions?

Our democracy is a comparative disadvantage in world trade. Sounds bad.

Again economic theory confronts the reality of America’s current economic order and falls short. America had factories, China offered low-wage workers and the opportunity to freely pollute. Elites moved the factories to China. Elites use “trade” to attack democracy, turning government of, by and for We the People into a comparative disadvantage in world markets.

Click to see a video of Ian Fletcher talking at, of all places, the Heritage Foundation about his book, “Free Trade Doesn’t Work.” At 21:06 to 25:47 minutes he takes a very good look at the idea of comparative advantage in the real world. In sum:
1) Absence of externalities is not a competitive advantage. The pollution is still there, the workers are still exploited.
2) Capital mobility means you are allocating your capital outside of your own economy.
3) Comparative statistics look at a snapshot, a fixed point in time. If China doesn’t already have a factory making X it is not comparative advantage to go open one there. It is not the best move today if the other country is not already producing the thing for less.

Economies Of Scale

When trade is “opened up” across a border it doesn’t mean that new customers suddenly appear, anxious to buy goods and services produced by America’s small businesses. It’s not like there were no producers and suppliers on the other side of that trade border. The goods and services of an economy were likely already being supplied by someone.

Acme Widget, based in the American town of Plainville, is not suddenly going to get orders from small towns all across the new trading partner Tradonia. Tradonia already has suppliers of widgets. Those suppliers will just as easily come sell their widgets in Plainville.

Economists will say that “opening up” trade across a border increases competition, which benefits consumers. But this is not how it actually works. What has really opened up is a larger playing field with more opportunities for big companies on both sides of trade borders to dominate a larger market than the one they had been dominating, with a resulting decrease in aggregate employment.

In our current economic order big companies have advantages because of their size, and unfortunately rules are made based on which companies are ready to shell out the cash to influence how the rules for competition and domination of industries are made. Larger companies dominate and remove smaller competitors. One or two of these companies will get most of the business in both countries and become very large; the others will be gone. Due to economies of scale the overall widget manufacturing employment will decrease. The new monopolies and near-monopolies will then have the ability to charge what they want.

Once again economic theory confronts the reality of America’s current economic order and falls short. Opening up trade borders is more likely to bring further consolidation of giant companies, not more competition.

Reality Wins

These are just a few examples of the problems of academic trade and economic theory confronted with the realities of what actually happens in actual countries.

Another economic theory says that trade will balance as a result of currency adjustments. Supposedly when a country is running a surplus its currency rate will increase and things made in those countries will cost more, so purchases will shift back to the country that had a deficit. But in the real world, the United State competes with real countries that don’t play this way. Our country has an enormous, humongous trade deficit and has run continual trade deficits every single year since the late 1970s when “free markets” and “free trade” ideology came to dominate. This is because we follow an economic theory ideology, and other countries look at reality and adjust. So they win.

Reality trumps economic theories and ideologies – Every. Single. Time.

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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.

Tobacco “Carve-Out” Dispute Tells Us What We Need To Know About TPP

Administration officials are desperately trying to wrap-up Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in the next few days or so. If they can get it done right now, it enables a timeline for pushing it through Congress by the end of the year — before the public can rally opposition, and before the Presidential campaign season could bring heightened attention to the deal.

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Right-Wing Shutdown of Ex-Im Bank Already Threatening to Kill Jobs

Conservatives deride using government to help American companies export their goods as “picking winners and losers,” even when the winners are American exporters and workers.

So Republicans have closed the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, hopefully temporarily. The Ex-Im Bank provides financing guarantees to customers of American exporters if they cannot obtain financing elsewhere. This helps American companies make the sale.

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What Happened To Rex Henry In A Philadelphia, Mississippi Jail Cell?

Rexdale Wayne Henry, a Mississippi Choctaw Native American activist, was arrested on July 9 for failing to pay an old traffic fine. He was found dead in his Philadelphia, Mississippi jail cell on July 14. What happened?

Sources say Rex Henry was running for tribal council, trying to get casino money used for things like schools, housing, elder care, language revitalization, and jobs training. There is little information available on Henry’s death and any resulting investigation.

There is not much information available. Here is a roundup.

WTOK.com, July 14, “Jail Death Under Investigation”:

An inmate was found dead at the Neshoba County Jail Tuesday morning.

Authorities say 53-year-old Rexdale Henry of Philadelphia was found by officers just after 10 a.m. He was last seen alive around 9:30.

An autopsy is being performed and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is looking into the death.

The Neshoba Democrat, July 14: Man dies in county jail, adds that “Sheriff Tommy Waddell said Henry was in jail for failure to pay old fines.”

Jackson Free Press, Juy 25: “Death of Choctaw Activist Rexdale Henry in Neshoba Jail Prompts Private Autopsy”:

Helping with the family’s independent probe are civil-rights activists John Steele, a close friend of Henry’s, and Diane Nash, a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as Syracuse University law professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson of the school’s Cold Case Justice Initiative.

“At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,” McDonald said in a statement.

… Information from a SNCC email listserv states of Henry: “His family wants to know what or who caused their healthy, fifty-three year old loved one to die in that cell.”

Indian Country Today Network, July 28, “Here Is What We Know About the Death of Choctaw Medicine Man Rexdale W. Henry,” gives a roundup of information, adding only this to the above: “The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has not released a statement on the death of Henry.”

Perhaps the lack of coverage is itself newsworthy.

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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.

I Want To Support Clinton, Too, But…

Like everyone I am in contact with (everyone who knows who he is, anyway) Bernie Sanders has my heart. But I really want to support Hillary Clinton, too!

But this is getting ridiculous. TPP, Keystone…

Here is her statement on an issue I will not name, because it is her basic answer on every issue:

“On the XXXX itself, again, I think, we have to look to see what are the pluses and minuses that are embodied in a decision,” she said. “I’ve obviously looked at the arguments on both sides, and I think we’ll gather more information and that will perhaps give us a better path forward.”

Hillary’s strategy is to sit on her big lead, and not say anything that will hurt her with the big donors.

Did Obama Administration Downplay Malaysia Slavery To Grease Trade Deal?

“Pope Francis says when the economy controls politics both lose … When economics takes over we tolerate anything for the sake of the dollar.”
– Sister Simone Campbell

Cheap labor is the whole point of our corporate-rigged, NAFTA-style trade agreements. Companies get to move jobs, factories, even entire industries out of the U.S. to countries where people are exploited, the environment is not protected and “costs” like human safety are kept low.

But even so … tolerating slavery? Flat-out slavery? Really? Unfortunately, it looks like that’s what is happening with fast-track trade promotion authority, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Obama administration.

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Unions Are A Big Part Making The Economy Work For The 99 Percent

A Friday panel at Netroots Nation in Phoenix, “Unions as the Answer to the Defining Issue of our Time,” made the point that empowering unions is about more than just the workers having a path to the middle class; it is about strengthening the entire economy.

The panel was moderated by Seema Nanda, deputy chief of staff to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. On the panel were Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Frank Piccioli, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2960 with the City of Phoenix and Arizona EMS Workers United; Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, and Naomi Walker, who serves as an assistant to the president of AFSCME.

The panel’s description set the stage:

It’s no accident that corporate-backed politicians have been on the attack against unions. They know what we have known for a long time: joining a union is one of the best ways to un-rig the system and level the playing field for all workers. After decades of these attacks, wages are dropping, inequality is rising – and women, communities of color, and the millennial generation still face especially steep hurdles in today’s economy. The system is rigged. This panel will explore what the labor movement is doing to reverse these trends and what challenges lie ahead. There’s no doubt that strong unions are a key part of the solution to income inequality, the only question is how workers will organize a winning movement in the face of corporate-funded attacks.

Neera Tanden described how all income gains in the economy have been going to the top. One third of the stagnation and decline in wages in men is due to the decline of unions – down to 11 percent of the total workforce and less than 7 percent of the private-sector workforce. This is a challenge for the economy writ large, a challenge for families, people struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs. Other countries have figured this out. Unionization rates of up to 40 percent in countries like Canada and Australia allow people to have wage gains. In hard times, not just workers bear all the risk.

Grijalva said that with the decline of unions comes a decline in income, wages, working conditions and the overall political landscape. We see rising income inequality, wage disparity, and a continuing widening of that disparity. The decline is not the result of attrition; it has been a deliberate, long-run effort by corporate America and in some instances government to strip away the ability of unions to organize. As they began to strip it away, power shifted to ownership, to corporate America. Now we see the effect.

The Progressive Caucus and allies in the labor movement have begun to draw symbolic but important lines around raising wages and the push for executive orders to stop wage theft and encourage collective bargaining.

But the central thing, these symbolic victories set a tone, then when workers get opportunity, gains are made. There is work in the federal area with executive orders, but passing legislation in Congress now that is pro-union is near to impossible.

Corporations should be rewarded for how they pay employees, keep jobs in the nation, don’t send profits overseas. We need a corporate responsibility agenda.

Naomi Walker said that we need unions in order to solve structural problems in our economy. The people who benefit from rigged systems, the corporations, are fighting unions because labor unions provide a counterbalance. That’s why they are trying so hard to eliminate unions and collective bargaining. The public sector has been able to maintain a decent level of representation, so that’s why they are going after public sector workers and unions.

Frank Piccioli represents Phoenix city employees. We need unions to protect the middle class, he said, so workers who sacrifice, work very head, can share gains. And these gains extend to their families.

When Piccioli was a kid, his father was a New York City firefighter. One day, his father was driving on a bridge when he saw a car on fire. He got out of his car and pulled two people out of the burning vehicle. When he went to get the third, the car exploded and he was injured. The city tried to deny him benefits because he was off duty and not wearing his protective gear. The only venue through which he could appeal that decision was through the union. Everyone who works hard deserves basic benefits, to know they are protected.

Naomi Walker said that unions provided a path to the middle class for women and people of color. The current right-wing trashing of government is code for women and people of color filling government jobs and clients for services government workers provide. People of color workers and women lost wages at higher rates after recession as result of these right-wing attacks.

Tanden pointed out that the clearest thing we can do for the economy is strengthen unions, give people power to bargain for higher wages. Unions are the way in which workers have been able to address the things that are driving wages down.

Our economy is 70 percent consumption. When unions are weakened, wages lag, consumption drags, so growth drags. Unions do not kill jobs; they create jobs and drive the economy.

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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.

Oak Flat: The Latest Land Grab From Native Americans

A “sneak law” attachment to a “must-pass” bill gives sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. How did this happen?

Do you remember that “Citibank budget,” where a budget bill to avert an imminent government shutdown suddenly had in it a Citibank-written provision deregulating certain risky financial trades? If Congress voted against the budget, the government would shut down, so Citibank got its way? This is how “sneak laws” get through. Usually We the People don’t get a chance to learn about them in time to do something about it, and this was one example.

Another example of this happened in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. On page 1,103 of the 1,648-page bill is a provision giving more than 2400 acres of land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, which is part of London-based Rio Tinto and Melbourn-based BHP Billiton, giant mining companies. This was done by Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.

The area is known as Oak Flat and is land that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Yavapai-Apache Nation. They compare it to the sacredness of Mt. Sinai in other religions. In 1886, the federal government removed the tribes and expropriated the land.

Sacred Land Given To A Foreign Corporation In A Sneak Law

America of course has a long and disgraceful history of stealing land from Native Americans – to say the least. But this is the first time that sacred Native American land has been stolen to give to a foreign corporation.

However, this land transfer is unusual even before you consider that the beneficiary is a foreign corporation. This land has been given special protection since at least 1955. Even President Richard Nixon protected it, which is saying something. Five times Arizona Republicans have tried and failed to give this land to this company. Only by sneaking it into this must-pass bill did they succeed.

A New York Times op-ed calls the Oak Flat Apache land grab “an impressive new low in congressional corruption” and points out that:

It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban.

Yes, this is “an impressive new low in congressional corruption.”

This Doesn’t Just Grab The Sacred Land, It Destroys It

The method of mining “block cave mining” that is proposed is going to, by design, completely devastate the land. In Truthout’s “The Apache Way: The March to Oak Flat,” Roger Hill explains:

This process involves a series of deep underground detonations, essentially collapsing the mountainous terrain in on itself and extracting the ore and materials from a series of tunnels dug in the earth. This process creates more toxic material than traditional surface mining and produces greater contaminants affecting the groundwater with acid runoff.

Of course neighboring towns are dependent on that groundwater.

This method will leave behind a “7,000-acre, 500-foot-high waste dump of toxic tailings.” Later the cave will collapse, leaving behind destruction the size of five Empire State Buildings.

Fighting Back

Leading the fight to stop this are Native Americans themselves. The Apaches are not asking that the land be returned to them, only that it not be mined.

Apaches have begun an occupation of the disputed land. (After a special ceremony in August that is only open to Apaches, you can come and help occupy Oak Flat. Do not bring weapons; Apaches are not deadbeat Tea Party ranchers.)

In June Apaches marched on Washington. Lee Allen at Indian Country News has the story, “Oak Flat Protesters Plan March on Washington to Protest Apache Land Grab“:

“Today we are announcing the next step in our battle for repeal, and that’s a march on Washington,” Nosie said. “Alliances with other tribes, universities, religious groups and outraged citizens continue to grow in groundswell proportion—our support numbers have just gone crazy. The month of June will be a month of protest in the streets and in congressional offices. There comes a time when we need to say enough is enough, and that time has come. We need to hold those in Washington responsible, so the fight’s on, and from this point going forward, wherever it takes us, that’s where we will be.”

… Attendees at the gathering represented a diverse mix of tribal and non-Native supporters. Daniel Jose is an Apache from Peridot who has camped at Oak Flat since the first spiritual gathering in February. “We’re going to fight for our land, and I’ll stay here forever if I have to,” he said.

A cross-country caravan called Apache Stronghold is gathering attention to the effort. Joesph Huff-Hannon writes about this at Rolling Stone, in “Meet the Apache Activists Opening for Neil Young“:

Starting at Red Rocks earlier this month, and in venues across the country since, the Apache have been linking up with Young on the road, sharing their stories and singing prayer songs to thousands of audience members.

The activists are trying to preserve a stretch of canyon land in Tonto National Forest called Oak Flat, an hour east of Phoenix, where young Apache women like Pike have celebrated coming-of-age ceremonies for generations. “I became a woman at Oak Flat, I had my sunrise dance there, so it’s like my heart is there,” she says.

They are getting some news. The Guardian, “Apache tribe brings battle for Oak Flat to New York’s Times Square“:

Members of the Apache tribe stood chanting in a circle with drums and posters in the center of New York’s Times Square on Friday, to protest against a bill that will hand over land they hold sacred to a foreign mining corporation.

Times Square was the latest stop for activists from the Apache tribe who are travelling across the United States to battle for Oak Flat and to draw attention to a bill introduced by Arizona representative Raúl M Grijalva to repeal the decision to hand the land over to Resolution Copper.

They are also beginning to get some results. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva has introduced a bill to fight this. From Indian Country Today, “Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat Bill Boosted by Historic Preservation Listing“:

Legislation to save an Apache sacred site from destruction by an international mining company got a helping hand recently when the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the land on its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Almost all of the places that make it onto the list are preserved.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva(D-AZ) introduced the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act,H.R. 2811, on June 17. Grijalva’s bill would repeal a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (NDAA) that authorizes approximately 2,422 acres of land known as Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest in Southeastern Arizona to be transferred to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the giant international mining company Rio Tinto.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently included the land on its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

What You Can Do

● Write and call your representative in Congress in support of Grijalva’s bill, H.R. 2811.

● Contact people running for office and let them know about this issue. (So far only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has spoken out against this.)

● Visit the Apache Stronghold website for a number of things you can do. Send them money for gas and food.

● Visit and like Facebook pages: “Apache Stronghold,”
Save Oak Flat By Contacting Your Legislators” and
Indigenous Environmental Network.”

● Sign the CREDO Action petition, Don’t mine sacred Native American land in Arizona.

● Sign the MoveOn petition, Congress: Don’t give sacred Apache land to a mining company

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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.