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On Tuesday, Americans in all 50 states will rally in front of schools, libraries, fire stations, hospitals, and parks to protest the rising tide of austerity gripping all levels of our government. There’s a rally near you—sign up here to attend.
Many of the structures that long operated as a check against corporate power—campaign finance laws, unions, ACORN, public broadcasting—are being dismantled. As a result, the working and middle classes are being forced to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy, corporate giveaways, wars, and economic crashes caused by Wall Street. Money continues to flow upward, and our already undemocratic level of inequality is worsening.
All is not lost, however. The example of Wisconsin teaches us that when we are fighting for each other, we can put together some amazing grassroots activism. Wisconsin shows we still have the energy to swing public opinion our way, and to extract accountability from the elected officials who are dragging us into plutocracy. From Wisconsin, we can build a new populist movement which, not long from now, will act as an effective counterweight to the forces of austerity.
The rallies on Tuesday are a step in this process—sign up to attend one near you.
Members of the Progressives United community are sharing their ideas about what the Progressives United agenda should be and where we need to take the fight against big corporate interests in our politics.
How can we broaden the fight against corporate political influence? How can we bring what started in Wisconsin to the fight against corporate influence nationwide?
Next National Action: Saturday, March 26th
Inspired by the events in Wisconsin, thousands of Americans all over the country are taking action to battle legislation that would attack their labor rights, defund their schools, threaten their health and safety, and decimate the American middle class. Here are just some of the places across the nation that are taking part in this new “Main Street Movement” to defend and rebuild the American middle class:
…. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on Friday his caucus is prepared to kill a debt-limit extension unless “something significant” is done about the debt McConnell helped create. On Twitter yesterday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the NRSC, was even more explicit:
“Debt ceiling vote is ultimate leverage to get fiscal reform.”
It’s hard to overstate how irresponsible this is, especially for a leading U.S. senator.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned congressional Republicans not to “play around with” a coming vote to raise the government’s legal borrowing limit, adding that lawmakers shouldn’t view the debt ceiling as a “bargaining chip.” Austan Goolsbee, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, recently explained, “If we get to the point where you’ve damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”
And yet, there’s John Cornyn, not just saying crazy things in private, but taking his strategy public. “Do what I want,” he’s effectively telling Democrats, “or I’ll cause a catastrophe on purpose.”
Behold, the Republican Party of the 21st century.
Update: Remember, time is running out. The Treasury expects to hit the debt ceiling sometime between April 15 and the end of May.
In the next couple months, the Treasury Department predicts the U.S. will hit “D-Day,” the day the debt reaches the $14.3 trillion ceiling. The reality of the impending deadline has forced some Republican lawmakers to drop their “showdown” showboating for a more sober position on the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) admitted that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be “a financial disaster” and send the country “into a tailspin.” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said such a failure is “unworkable” because “obviously, you can’t default.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it more bluntly, stating that this position would “bring collapse and calamity around the world.”
But after backing away from decimating the nation’s economic future, Republicans have now decided to ratchet up the pressure and the take it hostage. A whole host of Republican lawmakers are now angling to use the debt ceiling as leverage to enact severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other saftey net programs. Today on Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised his entire caucus would vote against raisin the debt ceiling unless the White House agrees to cut entitlements:
Republicans have certainly received clear warning. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned Republican lawmakers not to “play around with” raising the debt ceilling and use it as a “bargaining chip.” President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austin Goolsbee said, “If we get to the point where you’ve damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.” But, as the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benan notes, Senate Republicans insists on the position of “do what I want,” or “I’ll cause catastrophe on purpose.”
Way back, when I spent a year in the government, an old hand told me that fighting bad ideas is like flushing cockroaches down the toilet; they just come right back. I’m having that feeling a lot lately, on at least two fronts.
The purpose of that tax increase was to maintain the dedicated tax system into the future, by having Social Security’s assigned tax take in more money than the system paid out while the baby boomers were still working, then use the trust fund built up by those surpluses to pay future bills. Viewed in its own terms, that strategy was highly successful.
The date at which the trust fund will run out, according to Social Security Administration projections, has receded steadily into the future: 10 years ago it was 2029, now it’s 2042. As Kevin Drum, Brad DeLong, and others have pointed out, the SSA estimates are very conservative, and quite moderate projections of economic growth push the exhaustion date into the indefinite future.
But the privatizers won’t take yes for an answer when it comes to the sustainability of Social Security.
But there are two problems with their position.
The bigger problem for those who want to see a crisis in Social Security’s future is this: if Social Security is just part of the federal budget, with no budget or trust fund of its own, then, well, it’s just part of the federal budget: there can’t be a Social Security crisis. All you can have is a general budget crisis. Rising Social Security benefit payments might be one reason for that crisis, but it’s hard to make the case that it will be central.
But those who insist that we face a Social Security crisis want to have it both ways. Having invoked the concept of a unified budget to reject the existence of a trust fund, they refuse to accept the implications of that unified budget going forward. Instead, having changed the rules to make the trust fund meaningless, they want to change the rules back around 15 years from now: today, when the payroll tax takes in more revenue than SS benefits, they say that’s meaningless, but when – in 2018 or later – benefits start to exceed the payroll tax, why, that’s a crisis. Huh?
I don’t know why this contradiction is so hard to understand, except to echo Upton Sinclair: it’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary (or, in the current situation, his membership in the political club) depends on his not understanding it. But let me try this one more time, by asking the following: What happens in 2018 or whenever, when benefits payments exceed payroll tax revenues?
The answer, very clearly, is nothing.
Now it’s true that rising benefit costs will be a drag on the federal budget. So will rising Medicare costs. So will the ongoing drain from tax cuts. So will whatever wars we get into. I can’t find a story under which Social Security payments, as opposed to other things, become a crucial budgetary problem in 2018.
What we really have is a looming crisis in the General Fund. Social Security, with its own dedicated tax, has been run responsibly; the rest of the government has not. So why are we talking about a Social Security crisis?
Oh well. I guess we just have to keep fighting these fights, over and over.
Here are four things you often hear asserted about the economy. Guess which ones are wrong:
l The major reason job growth has been so slow is that there wasn’t enough fiscal stimulus.
l Off-shoring creates more jobs at home than it kills.
l Industrial policy always fails.
l Globalization is not a major contributor to rising income inequality.
In fact, all four statements are wrong. And now Michael Spence has the proof.
Spence is former dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, former dean of Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences and a world-class economist with a John Bates Clark medal and Nobel prize. And last week, Spence was in Washington to make a presentation at a high-powered conference organized by the International Monetary Fund. The moment I heard it, I knew he was on to something important.
Put the two together – the very unequal employment growth and nearly-equal output growth – and what you get is an economic tale of two cities, one that is growing in terms of jobs but not income, another that is growing income but not jobs. In short, a recipe for increasing inequality and social and political polarization.
The story behind the numbers goes like this:
Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said the run up in gas prices in recent weeks could hurt the economy’s recovery and urged the president to release oil from the 727 million-barrel reserve.
“We need to consider moving toward the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to put the oil that we have in reserve into the economy to try to temper this increase in gas prices,” Durbin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“I’m worried that if we don’t use the reserve that our economic recovery will stall and fall backward,” he said.
The price of oil has risen above $100 a barrel on concerns over supply due to the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.
Obama, whose prospects for re-election in 2012 may hinge partly on gasoline prices and their effect on the economy, told a news conference on Friday that he could tap the oil reserves quickly if necessary, but he declined to say what price threshold would trigger such intervention.
– A federal appeals court has agreed to act swiftly in considering a Florida judge’s ruling that President Obama’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Friday that it had agreed to expedite the appeal, setting a faster timetable than even the federal government had requested.
The decision means the federal government must file its first set of court papers on the issues in the case by April 4, and the state of Florida has until May 4 to file its papers. The federal government would file additional papers by May 18.
The appeals court said it had not made a decision on a request that the initial review be held before all 10 federal judges.
The Justice Department said in a filing this week that expedited treatment of the case was warranted because of the far-reaching nature of the decision by a federal judge who declared the entire law unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled against the Obama administration’s health care overhaul on grounds that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring nearly all Americans to carry health insurance.
Twenty-six states challenged the law in the Florida case. Another federal judge ruled against the law, while three other federal judges upheld the law.
Four leaders of the Fairbanks-based “Alaska Peacekeeper’s Militia” are now in custody, charged with conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping and arson. Their plot, by all accounts, was pretty serious.
According to the criminal complaint, the militia was supposed to “respond to attempts to arrest or kill [Cox] by responding against state court or law enforcement targets with twice the force and consequences as happened to him or his family. If he was arrested, two state targets would be ‘arrested’ (kidnapped). If he was killed, two state targets would be killed. If his house was taken, two state target houses would be burned.”
Based on the FBI’s account, the plot had progressed to the level at which militia members were instructed on where to find three state troopers and a state judge.
Media Matters added that Cox, who doesn’t regard state or federal laws as valid, is part of a “sovereign citizens” movement, which promotes violent resistance to the federal and Alaska state government.
The arrests come almost exactly a year after the arrests of a Michigan-based Christian militia group, which also intended to target law-enforcement officials.
And yet House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) refused to expand his investigation of domestic radicals to include anyone other than Muslim Americans.
I’m still not sure what’s more pitiful. The fact the CNN along with our other cable news networks decided to largely ignore the fact that we had massive protests going on in Wisconsin this weekend, or that when they finally devoted a few minutes to it as CNN did here in between hours upon hours of chasing the ambulance of the day which is the earthquake in Japan, they didn’t let the public know just how large the crowds were there.
We need to do something about the media consolidation in this country and until these large media conglomerates are broken up, things aren’t going to get any better with our struggles to fight back against the destruction of the labor movement and the middle class that is under assault right now.
Here’s their feedback page if you’d like to let them hear about it. Contact us.
The make-up post with an edge:
“For the record, I like Arianna Huffington. Sorry to disappoint those folks yearning for a Wrestlemania smackdown, but I think she’s a shrewd entrepreneur and a charming woman. Also, we seem to share a belief in hiring professional journalists; she’s hired some good ones from The Times. (We won’t dwell on the fact that her new owners at AOL laid off 200 journalists to help pay for the acquisition of The Huffington Post.) So, really, I like Arianna.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch shamefully ignored a 4,300+ person Rally Against Corporate Greed at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis on Friday.
As a point of reference, compare this to a 500 person rally in downtown Clayton last April by the tea party. For the tea party rally:
- The Post-Dispatch wrote a 600 word article about the rally.
- The article was accompanies by a photograph.
- The article contained absolutely no opposing voices or criticisms of the tea party, but instead just shared their unfiltered message.
On the other hand, for a rally with 4300 (8 times more) people who support the middle class we had:
- No story.
- No photographs.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the political reporting of the Post-Dispatch completely fails to fairly report on the issues that the citizens of St. Louis care about. One thing we can do is contact their political director Chistopher Ave ([email protected] ) and tell him to stop ignoring everyone to the left of Michelle Bachman. But the most important thing is that we need to start building our own media.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Japan at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday to assist relief efforts after Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami.
It is part of a large mobilization of American naval forces in the Pacific to aid Japan, with more ships due to arrive in the coming days.
Getting out of just one foreign war could fix all the US states’ budget deficits. If the math is that simple, the politics should be
Debate over the controversial treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning apparently has cost State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley his job.
Manning is the US Army private first class being held in solitary confinement at the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Crowley has been the assistant secretary for public affairs – the main briefer on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A retired Air Force colonel, he served on the National Security Council staff under former President Bill Clinton.
Crowley’s exodus – reported in several news sources Sunday – probably was inevitable.
Speaking at a seminar at M.I.T. last week, he described Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” although he added “nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place.”
Obama had to answer Crowley’s criticism
At his press conference Friday, Obama was asked about Crowley’s sharp criticism of Manning’s treatment.
“I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards,” he replied. “They assured me that they are.”
In other words, Obama – who campaigned against the mistreatment of Iraq War prisoners and who pledged to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay – was put in the position of having to take the Pentagon’s word for it, despite continuing criticism from domestic and international human rights organizations.
In his statement regarding his resignation, Crowley acknowledged that.
Although the Supreme Court is often viewed as pro-business and conservative, it has taken the other side in several recent cases. Observers call it a useful reminder that the court isn’t predictable.
The Supreme Court, often described as conservative, divided and pro-corporate, has been sounding different notes in recent weeks.
The justices have been unanimous, or nearly so, in dealing defeats to employers and to corporations. They have also taken the side of hard-luck plaintiffs who were mistreated by the government.
Twice recently the court ruled for fired workers and expanded the reach of anti-discrimination laws. It revived an injured motorist’s suit against Mazda, refusing to shield automakers from safety claims. The justices rejected a corporation’s claim of “personal privacy,” and they twice ruled for prisoners, one who had been abused and another who said he was rehabilitated.
Legal experts say they see no fundamental change, but they call the recent decisions a useful reminder that the court is not as predictable as some have suggested.
It “demonstrates the court isn’t reflexively pro-corporate and conservative,” said Washington lawyer Thomas Goldstein. He called the rulings involving the fired workers and the auto safety suit “very significant.”
“The term so far explodes the most extreme form of the ‘pro-corporate’ myth,” said Roy Englert, an attorney who has won and lost business cases in the high court.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has had one win and four losses so far this term. “It’s not surprising to me,” said Robin S. Conrad, who heads the chamber’s litigation center. She discounts “claims of the court’s pro-business bias” as “simplistic” and inaccurate.
Others caution it’s still early in the court’s calendar. The justices have announced rulings in only 26 cases, about a third of the total, and its most contentious cases are often decided in June.
The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) sent a notice to the Wisconsin Legislature, explaining that its attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers is illegal.
The ICLR is a New York-based nongovernmental organization that coordinates a pro bono network of labor lawyers and experts throughout the world. It investigates labor rights violations and issues reports and amicus briefs on issues of labor law.
The ICLR identified the right of “freedom of association” as a fundamental right and affirmed that the right to collective bargaining is an essential element of freedom of association. These rights, which have been recognized worldwide, provide a brake on unchecked corporate or state power.
In 1935, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the NLRA, or the Wagner Act), it recognized the direct relationship between the inequality of bargaining power of workers and corporations and the recurrent business depressions. That is, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners, the economy fell into depression. The law therefore recognized as policy of the United States the encouragement of collective bargaining.
While the NLRA covered US employees in private employment, the law protecting collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors has developed since 1935 to cover all workers “without distinction.”
“Before all of this occurred, I wouldn’t have known a lot of their names,” said Paul Fieber, a retired state employee carrying a sign declaring, “Our heroes.” “But that has changed for me and a lot of the population.”
The reason for the reception was that the 14 Democratic state senators had returned weeks after fleeing to another state in a dramatic – if ultimately failed – effort to prevent a vote on a bill that would significantly weaken public-sector unions.
Their disappearance – “a really, really weird trip,” in the words of one senator – was one of the most memorable and divisive aspects of the legislative standoff, and it helped escalate a policy dispute into a protracted battle over union rights that seized the attention of the nation.
The size of the crowd, which the Madison police estimated at around 100,000, and the amount of positive energy was striking, coming a day after the long battle over the bill was lost, though legal efforts were under way to keep it from taking effect.
For weeks the rhythmic chanting of protesters has filled this city like a heartbeat, proof that despite the lack of legislative power, the political left in this state is still a visible, and audible, presence. At the very moment that the noise was expected to fade in disappointment, that thumping proof of life – the staccato refrain of “This is what democracy looks like,” was the most popular of the chants – continued with renewed vigor.
But it is unclear how long the protests will continue.
And, did you miss what happened in FEBRUARY?
Capitol Square was host to over 50 tractors driven by farmers in protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s recently signed Budget Repair Bill. Thousands of protesters joined with the farmers to also voice their dismay with the bill.
David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group has beefed up its presence in Maine since the election of Gov. Paul LePage (R), a far-right tea party favorite. Meanwhile, Maine’s Republican Speaker of the House hired Trevor Bragdon, the former director of the Americans for Prosperity state chapter in Maine. And Trevor’s brother Tarren is the executive director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative state-based think tank with ties to several corporate donors, including Koch Industries. Both Americans for Prosperity and the Maine Heritage Policy Center appear to be laying the groundwork for the same type of anti-labor effort as Wisconsin’s led by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).
The conservative strategy for decimating the labor movement is being replicated with great speed — and little creativity. Each state, from Wisconsin, to Ohio, to Maine, and others across the country face a similar threat of phony Tea Party groups, business front organizations, and even nearly identical legislative proposals.
The efforts of progressive activists in Wisconsin have generated considerable attention, and with good reason. But here’s hoping the activism won’t be limited to Madison.
For example, you may not have heard about this gathering in Austin, Texas.
Thousands of parents, teachers and other education advocates poured onto the Capitol grounds Saturday to rally against proposed state budget cuts that school districts say could force layoffs of thousands of teachers and other public education employees.
Estimates of the crowd size vary, but I’ve seen some put the number at 12,000 people. (Organizers brought 11,000 stickers to hand out to those on hand, and ran out while folks were still showing up.)
It’s a shame events like this don’t get more attention. A year ago at this time, a former half-term governor attended a Tea Party rally in Nevada, drew a crowd of 8,000, and garnered national media attention, including live television coverage. But 12,000 people take a stand against deep education cuts, and it’s largely an afterthought outside the local media.
One could make the argument, I suppose, that the folks rallying against education cuts in Texas are almost certain to lose – Republicans dominate in the state capitol – which makes their efforts less interesting. But I tend to think the opposite – 12,000 people know they’re likely to lose, but they gathered in large numbers anyway and demanded to be heard. Good for them.
For that matter, the opportunity for related activism is great in other areas. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott ® wants to cut taxes, and pay for it by slashing education funding. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker ® has already cut taxes, and has introduced a budget that cuts education so deeply, the proposal has been characterized as “inhumane.”
Pennsylvania’s new governor, Republican Tom Corbett, is eyeing some of the deepest cuts to education of any state in the country, including slashing funding for Pennsylvania colleges and universities by more than 50 percent.
Polls suggest education cuts are the ones voters dislike the most, and yet this appears to be one of the first areas Republicans go to when looking for ways to balance their budgets and cut taxes.
The more activism this inspires, the better.
[Reader Comment: Most likely, there will be 10,000 in Maryland’s state capitol tomorrow. 20,000 demonstrated in Indiana earlier this week. These are all union-led protests, which is why they get no mention in the media. No one is supposed to understand that these cuts are unpopular and avoidable. It takes a long time to educate our membership that they’re avoidable. Most people have internalized them as inevitable–people are just so used to losing. (Posted by: Dan Chambers on March 13, 2011)]
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Few visitors make their way past the cactus garden and into the dark ranch-style home where Randy and Amy Loughner have spent much time grieving alone. The rampage in which their troubled 22-year-old son is accused opened a fault line between them and the rest of this recovering city.
But beyond Tucson, two people who have never met the Loughners are now seeking them out, and others are likely to follow.
When Jared L. Loughner was identified as the gunman who shot 19 people here two Saturdays ago, his parents joined a circle whose membership is a curse: the kin of those who have gone on killing sprees. Now, others in this circle of relatives are beginning to issue invitations to the Loughners.
David Kaczynski, brother of Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber, left a message with Mr. Loughner’s public defender offering his ear if the parents wanted to talk to “someone with a similar experience,” he recalled.
Robert P. Hyde of Albuquerque had the same instinct. The brother of a mentally ill man who killed five people, two of them police officers, Mr. Hyde looked up the Loughners’ address and mailed them a letter inviting them to contact him. The gist of his letter, Mr. Hyde said by phone, was that “what happened is not your fault.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Movement Progressives should stop and think for a moment about what is happening in America before they go and AEI themselves. That’s when a formerly innovative and insightful group fails to recognize that they have won the war of ideas, can’t stop lashing out at old enemies and subsequently turns into a bastion of harpies shell of its former self,” – Karl Smith.