Sunday, August 31, 2008
A leading economic think tank views legislation to restore collective bargaining rights to millions of Americans as a boon to working families. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research www.cepr.net presents a strong argument for the Employee Free Choice Act:
While it hasn’t gotten much attention, one of the most important issues that our elections this November could decide is the future of organized labor in the United States. This is important not just for the 15.7 million workers who happen to be in unions, but for the vast majority of the entire 154 million-member U.S. labor force. The wages, benefits, and working conditions of most employees are affected by collective bargaining even if they don’t have a union. For example, employers who want to keep unions out will sometimes have to offer their workers such amenities as health insurance.
One of the most important problems that our economy has faced for the last 30 years has been stagnating real wages. With inflation now running at 10.6 percent over the last quarter, the problem appears to most people to be rising prices, including food and energy. But for more than two decades prior to the past year, inflation has been tame. Yet the real – inflation-adjusted -- wage of the typical employee barely increased at all over the whole 34 years from 1973-2007.
This is amazing, when we consider that productivity – the amount that workers produce per hour – increased quite substantially over the period. Measured very conservatively, if we take “usable productivity” – the increased production that we can expect to be reflected in rising wages – it rose by 48 percent from 1973-2007. So our economy grows but, unlike in the past, most employees do not share in the gains.
One important reason for this great leap backwards is that the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively have been sharply curtailed over the last three decades.
For example, employees still have the legal right to petition for a federally-run election at their workplace, in which workers can vote on whether or not to join a union. To get such an election, they need the signatures of at least 30 percent of the employees. But after the employees get enough signatures for the election, employers very often intimidate workers through threats and firings before the vote is held. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has estimated that one in five workers who are actively involved in a union organizing drive can expect to be fired. Many others are “persuaded” to vote against the union through a long, captive audience campaign of employer threats and harassment.
As a result of these tactics, only about 12 percent of employees are organized in unions today, as compared with 35 percent in the 1950s. Reform legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act would give employees a fighting chance to regain some of their lost rights. This bill would mandate that an employer recognize the union if it obtains the signatures of a majority of employees. There would be no need for the long and costly – especially to the workers who are fired – election campaign.
A poll by Global Strategies Group this month found that 68 percent of middle-class Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act. Polls also indicate that tens of millions would join a union if they had the choice.
The bill passed the House 241-185 but was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate. It’s a party-line split in the Senate (except for support from Republican Senator Arlen Specter). So the bill would need a Democratic president and something close to 59 Democrats in the Senate in order to pass.
This law would probably change Americans’ lives more than any legislation since the New Deal brought us Social Security. The political influence of millions of new union members would also bring us closer to such basic reforms as universal health care. It’s all long overdue.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy.
A leading defender of the Second Amendment, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) says that a Barack Obama Presidency will not threaten the rights of gun owners.
The National Rifle Association has launched a campaign targeting Obama for his support of gun control measures but Tester disagrees with the powerful lobby.
Montana's Flathead Beacon http://www.flatheadbeacon.com reports Tester stating:
"I've got to tell you, I've talked to Barack. I think he understands the issue much better than before," Tester said in a conference call with reporters from Denver. "I am one of those guys who likes my guns, to be honest with you."
"Tester said that Obama was very clear with him."
"He told me flat out, 'I'm not taking your guns away and don't let anybody tell you that I will,'" Tester recalled. "This campaign does not need to be about fear, this guy is not going to take away your guns."
"Tester also said that Obama has an edge over McCain with hunters because the Democrat will do a better job of protecting public lands and open space."
Some influential Democrats are taking the lead on matters of concern to sportsmen. The National Journal Online www.nationaljournal.com
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., spoke at a National Wildlife Federation briefing Wednesday afternoon, pushing efforts to expand conservation areas for hunting and fishing grounds as well as better protection of the environment for sportsmen.
"Sportsmen have been stereotyped as concerned with one issue: guns. But if you listen to sportsmen as I have over the years ... we hear a different story," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.
The goal is to allow Democrats to play at least a little on the offense on an issue that party leaders will not bring up because of fear of major political repercussions to its members by the powerful National Rifle Association. Top Democrats are still reeling from NRA-led defeats in 1994 of their members who voted for the Brady Bill and legislation to ban some assault weapons. Others say the issue likely cost Gore a win in West Virginia in 2000 that would have put him in the White House.
Dingell said hunting and fishing areas need better environmental protection, specifically citing that enforcement of the Clean Water Act needs to be beefed up to protect those lands. "These have not been a good eight years," said Dingell, a stalwart NRA member. Lincoln cited the increasing loss of public hunting areas that threaten the opportunities for families to go shooting or fishing, like hers will do in a few weeks at a dove hunt in Maryland.
"Democrats are all about conservation. They are all about preservation. I think that's a huge opportunity," Lincoln said.
A blogger for the pro-gun rights Amendment II Democrats had this to say about Obama and his stand on the right to keep and bear arms:
Obama spoke of the gun debate in the same vein as he did abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and immigration in terms of trying to establish common ground between both sides of the debate in classic Hegelian fashion. He cannot be faulted for trying. But his choice of words on the gun issue left much to be desired.
Page 48 of the 2008 Democratic platform explicitly calls for "reinstating the assault weapons ban, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals." This implies, of course, that if you wish to own a rifle with a pistol grip, our party platform has just likened you to the enemies of the public good. Obama's running mate is Senator Joe Biden, who has made banning semi-automatics a top legislative priority and shows no sign of backing away from said legislation now that he's on the ticket.
Despite the increasing presence of Democrats such as Brian Schweitzer, Russ Feingold, Jim Webb, and Bill Richardson who are embracing our Second Amendment rights, it seems that gun policy for the Democratic Party is still being dictated by the likes of the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy Center instead of by Democrats themselves.
Isn't it time our party found its own voice on gun legislation?
Doesn't our party deserve better than to be snared by the pitfalls of the past?
Standing at that podium, Obama could have made one small change to his acceptance speech without compromising his own core values: "Don't tell me we can't guarantee the right of law-abiding Americans to own AK-47s while keeping them out of the hands of criminals." A small change in wording, true, but one that would have added a new dimension of clarity to Obama's gun policy. And brought in votes from old-school Republicans and independents who can't stand John McCain.
Most important of all, that small change would have demonstrated that Democrats are truly tolerant of other people's choices.
Since the semi-auto ban was passed in 1994, Democrats have been wandering in the wilderness. In 2006, we managed to catch a glimpse of where we needed to be all along.
So my exhortation to Brarack Obama and all my fellow Democrats is for us to find our own voice, shake the dust from our feet, shoulder up our guns, and come on home at last.
My take: Obama's support for ban on semi-automatic weapons is a bad idea and will no doubt hurt him in November as it will alarm gun owners that envision a slippery slope toward a total confiscation of all firearms. Gun rights supporters should continue to defend their rights but need to look at the big picture rather than being single issue voters. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court has just affirmed the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. With a significant number of pro-gun rights Democrats in Congress, it is going to very difficult for Obama to pass the semi-automatic weapons ban if he wins the general election.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
ALEXANDRIA,VA—Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following statement regarding new statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau that show 800,000 more people are living in poverty in the United States:
“It is unacceptable that in a nation that is as prosperous as ours that 37.3 million people, including 13.3 million children, continue to live in poverty. At 12.5 percent, the poverty rate indicates that reducing poverty is not a priority for this nation.
"For Catholic Charities USA, and our 1,700 local member agencies who serve nearly 8 million in need a year, the poverty rate is not just another economic statistic. This unacceptable figure represents the millions of families we see each and every day who are struggling just to make ends meet.
"Substantial decreases in these numbers must occur in order to alleviate the struggles that millions are experiencing.
"The downturn in the economy is making matters worse. Across our nation, Catholic Charities agencies are seeing more and more people having to choose between putting food on the table, paying their utility bills, or making their rent or mortgage payments.
“Needing help with food, rent, clothing, and prescriptions are all symptoms of much larger problems facing the poor and vulnerable in America, such as low wages and the lack of affordable housing and health care. These are problems that must be addressed if we are ever going to cut poverty in our country and create better economic opportunities for all.
“Reducing poverty in the United States must be a national priority. That’s why Catholic Charities USA launched its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, which aims cut the poverty rate in half by 2020. By helping to lift individuals and families out of poverty, we can ensure that they are in a better position to weather these economic downturns.
"Let these troubling poverty statistics be a call to action for each of us. As a nation, we must demand that our current and future leaders give a much higher priority to the needs of the poor in their policymaking decisions.
“In this election year, candidates for public office—especially our presidential candidates—must move from rhetoric to action and propose comprehensive plans to address the needs of more than 37 million people living in poverty in the United States over the next decade. We call on all Americans to ask their candidates, ‘If elected, what will you do to address poverty?’
“We must no longer ignore the injustice of poverty and the extreme inequality in America.”
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Writing at Ethics Daily www.ethicsdaily.com, Chris Sanders argues that organized labor is still alive and well:
Labor Day is coming up. In the United States, as with most legally mandated Monday holidays, in the minds of most it has lost any inspirational significance and has become just another three-day weekend.
In fact, its forgotten significance is buried deeper than the other Monday holidays. Many people who can tell you what Memorial Day and Veterans Day mean will be enjoying their Sept. 1 cookout without a clue what Labor Day means. (If this is you, a hint--it has something to do with unions.)
Labor will get its annual ink this Labor Day weekend, in a theme echoed over the 20 years I've been in the labor movement. The articles read like obituaries. They'll begin like this: "The American labor movement, like the old gray mare, ain't what she used to be. Down from a high of 35 percent of the workforce to less than 8 percent, labor is on its last legs."
Sorry to digress, but if unions are all but interred, if organized labor is so 20th century, so backward as to be irrelevant in the global economy, why all the flap over the Employee Free Choice Act?
This proposed legislation may not yet be on your mind. But if your state is a political battleground this year, you're seeing and hearing radio and TV ads in heavy rotation attacking unions and union friendly politicians. The over-the-top media spots feature Sopranos-style thugs and talking ballot boxes.
What's it all about? In short, big corporate interests are worried that the next government will amend labor law in 2009 to help workers who want to choose a union and rebuild America. For more, go to www.ufcw.org or www.americanrightsatwork.org.
It's why Walmart is schooling its management to preach voting against Democrats in the November election. With a new government and a new labor law, Walmart is scared its workers might get a shot at a voice on the job. So, no matter what the pundits say on Labor Day, the reports of labor's death are greatly exaggerated.
We aren't dead, not by a long shot. I'm with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, with over a million members in the U.S. and Canada. At our convention in Montreal last week, I spoke about my Christian calling and the work the union has to do.
Here's what I said:
"I'm a Christian, I know something about calling. A calling is a voice you hear with your heart, that you feel deep inside, when you're so inspired that you know it comes from above. Consider these heartfelt words from the Bible. 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and the Spirit has anointed me to preach good news among the poor, to let the oppressed go free, to make the world better this year.'
"That's Jesus, speaking about his calling, a calling to a mission. It's a mission that belongs to all who believe--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and beyond. You know what a mission is. It's more than your job description. It's bigger than your To-Do list. It's as big as the Montreal sky. It's to protect human rights and human dignity, to fight poverty, to speak out when no one else will--or can. It's to form that thin line against greed and injustice, to do, as the Apostle says, the work of love.
"Yes, we have some work to do. For the work of love is the work of change. We've been called to bring change. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Change isn't easy. Change isn't simple or obvious. It's just essential, right here, right now."
My paraphrase of Jesus' "Nazareth Manifesto," Luke 4:18-19, touched a deep place in the convention delegates' hearts. They resonated with the nexus between their high calling and the calling to something higher. The time is right for labor people who believe and believers who care about the struggles of people who labor to organize together, united as one in one cause.
As a Monday holiday, Labor Day is a paid day off. It's time, to echo Martin Luther King's words, for Labor Day to be a day on, not a day off.
Labor Day was born during the Industrial Revolution in the struggle for an eight-hour day. Eight hours, not 10 or 12 or more, became the norm for work, allowing people time to rest, take care of families and worship.
Eight hours became the norm, not through normal evolution or owner enlightenment, but when workers and their unions literally shed blood to secure their children's future. We today are their literal and spiritual children, and Labor Day is their legacy and our responsibility. It's a day on, not a day off, as we continue to stand up on the job.
No, organized labor in America isn't dead. American unions are uniting with labor globally to engage global corporate power. Unions like the UFCW are organizing and growing everywhere, because working people come together in tough economic times.
Unions are finding their spiritual center and bringing that light out from under the bushel for the world to see. Let's do it together.
Chris Sanders is executive assistant to the president and general counsel for Local 227 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, representing working people across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Active at Highland Baptist Church, he plays rock guitar and leads worship at the Friday church service.
As Chris Sanders mentioned, there has been a strong connection between labor unions and religious groups as both work together to build strong families and communities. Listed below are statements of various faith communities on worker's rights.
We reaffirm our position that workers have the right to organize by a
free and democratic vote of the workers involved. This right of
organization carries the responsibility of union leadership to
protect the rights of workers, to guarantee each member an equal
voice in the operation of its organization, and to produce just
output labors for income received." — American Baptist Churches
We recognize the right of labor to organize and to engage in
collective bargaining to the end that labor may have a fair and
living wage, such as will provide and culture. -Southern Baptist
In the first place, employers and workmen may themselves effect much
in the matter which we treat-(saving the workers from being ground
down with excessive labor). The most important of all are workmen's
associations...but it is greatly desired that they should multiply
and become more effective. -Leo XIII
What is to be thought of the action of those Catholic industrialists
who even to this day have shown themselves hostile to a labor
movement that we ourselves recommended. -Pius XI
"Among the basic rights of the human person must be counted the right
of freely founding labor unions. These unions should be truly able to
represent the workers and to contribute to the proper arrangement of
economic life. Another such right is that of taking part freely in
the activity of these unions without fear of reprisal." — Pastoral
Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Second Vatican
Church of the Brethren
Laborers are always to be regarded as persons and never as a
commodity. Industry was made for man, and not man for industry.
Employees as well as employers have the right to organize themselves
into a union for wage negotiations and collective bargaining. -
Brethren Service Commission, Church of the Brethren
Congregational Christian Churches
We stand for the replacement of the autocratic organization of
industry by one of collective effort of organized workers and
The Disciples of Christ
Be It Resolved by the International Convention of the Disciples of
That It is our conviction that workers should have the right to self-
organization, to form, join, or assist in forming labor
organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of
their own choosing and to engage in such activities as are within the
limits of Constitutional rights for the purpose of bargaining with
employers and other mutual aid protection.
"We reaffirm the right and desirability of workers in the United
States to organize and form unions. ...We decry the growing wage of
anti-unionism mounting in the nation today which asks people to
forget the struggles that led to this form of negotiation as a just
way to settle differences." — Urban Bishops Coalition of the
Episcopal Church, 1982
Evangelical and Reformed Church
In order that the Christian principles of respect for personality,
establishment of brotherhood, and obedience in the revealed will of
God may find more adequate expression in the economic order, we
commit our selves to work for ...the recognition of the right of
employers and workers to organize for collective bargaining, as a
step toward the democratic control of industry for the good of
The same rights of organization which rest with employers rest also
with those whom they employ. Modern life has permitted wealth to
consolidate itself through organization into corporations. Workers
have the same inalienable right to organize according to their own
plan for their common good and to bargain collectively with their
employers through such honorable manes as they may choose. -Central
Conference of American Rabbis
We are convinced that the organization of labor is essential to the
well being of the working people. It is based upon a sense of the
inestimable value of the individual man. United Lutheran Church In
It is the right of every man to organize with his fellow workers for
collective bargaining through representatives of his own free choice.
It is the duty of both management and labor to accept and support
conciliations and arbitration in industrial disputes. -Board of
Social Mission and the Executive Board of the United Lutheran Church
We stand for the right of employees and employers alike to organize
for collective bargaining and social action; protection of both in
the exercise of their right; the obligation of both to work for the
public good. -The General Conference of the Methodist Church
Collective bargaining, in its mature phase, is democracy applied to
industrial relations. It is representative government and reasoned
compromise taking the place of authoritarian rule by force in the
economic sphere. In its highest form it is the Christian ideal of
brotherhood translated into the machinery of daily life. -General
Board of Christian Education of the Methodist Church
Labor unions have been instrumental in achieving a higher standard of
living and in improving working conditions. They have helped to
obtain safety and health measures against occupational risk; to
achieve a larger degree of protection against child labor; to relieve
the disabled, the sick, the unemployed; and to gain a more equitable
share in the value of what they produce. -Board of Christian
Education, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
The right of labor to organize and to bargain collectively with
employers is clearly an inalienable right in a democracy, and has so
been recognized by our government. -Synod of Tennessee, Presbyterian
Church of U.S.A.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
A new report finds that U.S. taxpayers subsidize excessive executive compensation by more than $20 billion per year.
The report is available via the web at:
The 15th annual 'Executive Excess' report from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy calculates the annual cost to taxpayers of the following tax and accounting loopholes that encourage excessive executive pay:
1. Preferential capital gains treatment of carried interest ($2.6 billion)
2. Unlimited deferred pay ($80.6 million)
3. Offshore deferred compensation ($2.1 billion)
4. Unlimited deductibility of executive compensation ($5.2 billion)
5. Stock option accounting double standard ($10.0 billion)
"These loopholes allow top executives to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. As a result, ordinary taxpayers wind up picking up the bill," explains report co-author and IPS Associate Fellow Sam Pizzigati.
Members of Congress have attempted to plug each of these five loopholes, but their efforts have stalled in the face of strong opposition from corporate lobby groups.
The Presidential race is shining a brighter spotlight on the issue, as both candidates have attacked excessive executive compensation on the campaign trail. And yet the report points out that neither Obama nor McCain has yet endorsed all the major reforms needed to eliminate subsidies for executive pay.
"It's outrageous that our tax dollars are inflating executive paychecks," says Institute for Policy Studies fellow Sarah Anderson, a lead author of the annual Executive Excess reports for the past 15 years. "Surely in these troubled economic times we can find better ways to spend our nation's wealth."
ADDITIONAL KEY FINDINGS:
CEO-WORKER PAY GAP: CEOs of large U.S. companies last year averaged $10.5 million each in total compensation, 344 times the pay of the average U.S. worker. The top 50 private equity and hedge fund managers pocketed an average of $588 million each, or 19,000 times as much as average workers.
IF CURRENT TRENDS CONTINUE: The gap between CEO and average worker pay will grow wider since industries that are adding the most jobs have far wider pay gaps than those that are losing the most jobs. Labor law reforms are needed to help more workers exercise their right to bargain collectively for fair compensation.
INDIRECT TAXPAYER SUPPORT FOR RUNAWAY PAY: Additional billions of taxpayer dollars indirectly encourage excessive executive pay through government contracts and bailouts that allow unlimited CEO compensation. The report documents that 85 percent of top federal contractors paid their CEOs over 100 times the pay of average U.S. workers in 2007.
Authored by Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, Sam Pizzigati, and Mike Lapham, Executive Excess 2008 is the 15th annual CEO pay study by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.
The Institute for Policy Studies is an independent center for progressive research and education in Washington, DC ( www.ips-dc.org). Boston-based United for a Fair Economy is a non-partisan organization that spotlights growing economic inequality ( www.faireconomy.org).
ORLANDO,FL - Florida Red and Blue, a political committee opposing Amendment 2, has released a TV ad which is both factually wrong and attempts to mislead and scare senior citizens. The ad will be aired on Florida stations during the Democratic National Convention through out this week.
The campaign commercial has a prominent theme which is repeated three times asserting that the marriage amendment is an attempt by the government to interfere “into our private lives”. Other parts of the ad state that defeating Amendment 2 would “keep government out of our private lives” and that “personal marriage issues should be decided by you, your family and clergy, not by the government.” *
“This ad is just factually wrong and Red and Blue needs to be held accountable for false and misleading advertisements” said John Stemberger, State Chairman of Yes2Marriage.org the official sponsor of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. “To the contrary, the citizen initiated and citizen led Amendment 2 has nothing at all to do with government action. It has everything to do with citizen action stopping the government from redefining marriage against their will. Amendment 2 allows the people and not activist judges to decide how marriage will be defined in Florida. This is only the first of a series of ads in an avalanche of fraud and deception that is going to flood the airways in the October.”
The campaign commercial also states* that “Democrats are United against Amendment 2 in Florida.” This is not accurate or factually correct. Over three quarters of a million Florida voters signed a citizen’s initiative petition to get the marriage amendment on the ballot. Well over 33% of those Floridians who signed the petition are registered Democrats. The recent June 3, 2008, Quinnipiac Florida poll demonstrates that a significant 45% of Democratic voters in Florida support Amendment 2.
Senator Barack Obama in the recent Saddleback forum with Rick Warren clearly stated, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” “This hardly seems like unity among Democrats on the issue of the definition of marriage” said Eladio Armesto, the Chairman of the Florida Democratic League who is a major supporter of Amendment 2 in South Florida.
Stemberger said, “Marriage is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It’s not even a liberal - conservative issue. It is a human issue and a moral issue—and one which Floridians will vote yes on in overwhelming numbers on November 4, 2008.”
Finally, the unanimous Florida Supreme Court made up of Democratic and Republican appointees has ruled that Amendment 2 is about the “singular subject” of marriage and that the effect of the amendment does nothing new as it merely takes the existing law on marriage and places it into the state constitution as 27 other states have done. (1) “Telling senior citizens that they will lose Social Security and or domestic partner benefits by voting yes on 2 is outright fraud and preys upon Florida’s most vulnerable and precious citizens” stated Stemberger.
Amendment 2 has received strong support from the Florida Catholic Conference:
The Catholic Church teaches that “the marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1660)
Unity, indissolubility and openness to fertility are indispensable to marriage. It is only through the union of one man and one woman that the authentic marriage bond can be realized.
The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment will define marriage in our state’s constitution as the legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. As evidenced in our 2005 statement, Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman, the bishops of Florida have taken a position in support of Amendment 2.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Jay McDonough of Examiner.Com www.examiner.com and Swimming Freestyle www.swimmingfreestyle.net has sound advice for the Obama campaign and Democrats this year:
As noted in the last post, the Barack Obama folks would do well to concentrate on a campaign reminding voters of the performance of the Bush Administration for the last eight years and the resultant economic mess. More of the same, economy, more of the same, economy. Hit it hard....and often.
As a primer:
- Inflation is rising. The U.S. economy is currently experiencing “the worst 12 months of inflation in almost three decades.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-fi-economy20-2008aug20,0,3636868.story
- Real wages are declining. Americans are experiencing a “de facto pay cut.” “Almost everything costs more, even as [Americans] have less money to pay for it.”
- Unemployment is increasing. Americans have experienced “seven consecutive monthly declines in employment.”
- Cost of food is rising. Food prices are quickly increasing and even school lunches across the country will be more expensive in the coming year.
- Optimism about economy is declining. “Optimism in the U.S. economy among CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies” is at a 16-year low. Americans are similarly pessimistic.
- Foreclosures are still increasing. Home foreclosures were up 55 percent over last year in July and “17 [percent] of all homes for sale in the U.S. are repossessed properties.”
And in addition to Jay's economic mantra, here's a link to a site that will provide Obama with the data for dozens of Ross Perot-like charts documenting the decline of a broad based prosperity in America. http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/
Economic fairness for America's workers is issue number one in '08.
Friday, August 15, 2008
In my view, Michael Lind is one of the brightest political minds in America today. Lind, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, has a most astute analysis at Salon.Com concerning how Democrats can restore the New Deal Coalition. Check out this link to the full article. http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/08/15/newer_deal/
The New Deal Coalition dominated American politics from 1932 to 1968 and remained a powerful force until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 although certainly weakened by the McGovern debacle of 1972. Lind writes:
"The Roosevelt Party ran on economic issues, and didn't care whether voters were in favor of sex or against it on principle as long as they supported the New Deal. The McGovern Party, by contrast, has made social issues its litmus test. Economic conservatives have had a home in the McGovern Party, as long as they support abortion rights and affirmative action, but social democrats and populists who are pro-life or anti-affirmative action are not made nearly as welcome."
"Beginning with its namesake, George McGovern, in 1972, the McGovern Party has been trounced repeatedly by the Nixon Party, not because of its economic agenda, which the public actually prefers to the alternative, but because of its unpopular stands on issues like race-based affirmative action, illegal immigration, crime and punishment, and national security. Progressives are fooling themselves when they dismiss these as insignificant "wedge issues." What can be more important than whether civil rights laws apply equally to everyone -- even those wicked "white males" -- regardless of race and gender, or whether, in an age of terrorism, the nation's border and immigration laws are enforced? There is no democracy in the world today where a party that stood for ethnic quotas that excluded the national majority or welfare benefits for illegal immigrants would not be in political danger. As I write, all of the major European democracies except Britain are governed by parties of the right that are more nationalist and populist than the left parties they have defeated. And Gordon Brown isn't looking too hale either."
Lind contends that it is possible for Democrats to allow for a diversity of opinion on the social issues and build a New Deal-style coalition as a large majority of Americans hold a number of economic populist views and favor the same sort of activist role by government once advocated by FDR, Truman and JFK. Lind continues:
"In fact, the majority of Americans, including many social conservatives, never ceased to support New Deal policies, which from Social Security and Medicare to the G.I. Bill have remained popular with the public throughout the entire Nixon-to-Bush era. Consider the results of a June 17, 2008, Rockefeller Foundation/Time poll. When "favor strongly" and "favor somewhat" are combined, one gets the following percentages for policies favored by overwhelming majorities: increase the minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living (88 percent); increase government spending on things like public-works projects to create jobs (86 percent); put stricter limits on pollution we put into the atmosphere (85 percent); limit rate increases on adjustable rate mortgages (82 percent); provide quality healthcare to all, regardless of ability to pay (81 percent); impose higher tax incentives for alternative energy (81 percent); provide government-funded childcare to all parents so they can work (77 percent); provide more paid maternity/dependent care leave (76 percent); make it less profitable for companies to outsource jobs to foreign countries (76 percent); expand unemployment benefits (76 percent)."
"Note that almost all of the policy proposals that excite the American public are exactly the sort of old-fashioned, "paleoliberal" spending programs or systems of government regulation that are supposed to be obsolete in this era of privatization, deregulation and free-market globalization, according to neoliberals and libertarians. Bill Clinton to the contrary, the public clearly does not think that "the era of big government is over." Nor does the public show any interest in the laundry lists of teeny-weeny tax credits for this and that that neoliberals love to propose, to appear compassionate without spending real money. The public wants the middle-class welfare state to be rounded out by a few major additions -- chiefly, healthcare and childcare -- and the public also wants the government to grow the economy by investing in public works and favoring companies that locate their production facilities inside the U.S. There, in a sentence, is a program for a neo-Rooseveltian party that could effect an epochal realignment in American politics."
Lind notes that Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 won by appealing to populist sentiment but changed their tune after winning office. Carter took his substantial evangelical Christian constituency for granted, took generally liberal positions on social issues (although Carter did play a role in the passage of the Hyde Amendment which banned federal funding of abortions) and championed airline deregulation instead of economic populism. There is no doubt that Carter missed a golden opportunity to revitalize the New Deal Coalition. Clinton pushed for free trade deals at the expense of working class Americans and supported financial deregulation while becoming closely identified with the pet causes of cultural liberalism. Failed Democratic nominees from George McGovern to John Kerry have been rejected in large part because of their distance from mainstream America on issues like gun control, traditional family values and abortion rights.
Making the case for a Democratic Party focused on economic populism, Lind argues for a "big tent" approach to the social issues.
"A Newer Deal party that ran on this economic agenda could attract Southern Baptist creationists as well as Marin County agnostics. I hear the riposte already: "I'd rather move to Canada than share the Democratic Party with those people!" But across the country there are lots of potential Democratic congressional and senatorial candidates who would like to move to Washington -- and might be able to, if social conservatives were welcomed to a big-tent party defined almost exclusively by economic liberalism."
And Lind has no illusions about the difficulty of selling this approach to the Democratic Party's activist base. Lind explains the obstacles and the opportunities for Democrats if they are willing to move beyond the culture war:
"Unfortunately, the upper-middle-class left, with its unerring instinct for political suicide, is probably incapable of seizing the moment and bringing more Baptists and Catholics into the Democratic Party, because it has developed an almost superstitious distaste for religious conservatives. This might make sense if the religious right were still a menace, as it was a generation ago. But with the exception of state referenda and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, religious conservatives have lost one battle after another, from failed attempts to promote creationism on school boards to the doomed effort to repeal Roe v. Wade.'
"There would have been no Progressive Era without the followers of William Jennings Bryan and no New Deal without the support of ancestors of many of today's Protestant evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics. Social conservatives, having lost the culture war, should be offered not only a truce but also an opportunity to join a broad economic campaign for a middle-class America, as many of them did between 1932 and 1968. When pro-choicers and pro-lifers unite in cheering the public investment and living wage planks at the convention of the neo-Roosevelt party, we will know that the political era that began in 1968 is truly and finally over."
I agree that many of our party activist types would rather continue to lose election after election than to coexist with social traditionalists, however, Lind has given Democrats a real strategy for building a long-term governing majority.
Democrats for Education Reform www.dfer.org has commended Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana for taking a principled stand on behalf of education reform:
Louisiana's senior senator, Senator Mary Landrieu, has strived to reform our country's education system throughout her career as a legislator. She has actively supported education reform in Louisiana, and has been a strong proponent of charter schools throughout the parishes of her state. Senator Landrieu says of her duty to the children of this country, "I believe it is my job as Louisiana's senior senator to help our state find the resources it needs to secure for every child the finest education possible."
Since winning her Senate seat in a hotly contested election in 1996, Landrieu has been a strong advocate of charter schools and education reform. She opposed abandoning the public education system in favor of private school vouchers in Washington D.C., and was the subject of brutal criticism for doing so. She said of the attacks, "I'm willing to take a few lashes that are being dished out if it means that the children in the city get more opportunities for a quality education."
In the late 90s, Sen. Landrieu worked with a bi-partisan coalition to give scholarships to D.C. students for their education through the D.C. Student Opportunity Scholarship Act of 1997, though President Clinton later vetoed the bill. Sen. Landrieu has often been a voice of dissent against the status quo, joining seven Republicans and two other Democrats in May of 2008 to sponsor a bill honoring the achievements of charter school students. In introducing S. Res 556, Landrieu said, "Back home in New Orleans, in the aftermath of the catastrophic devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita came an opportunity to recreate a public school system through bold innovation and community involvement. The educational entrepreneurship of public charter schools has been integral to the city's recovery. They are inspiring positive changes throughout the system, as other schools work to cultivate the same benefits. Our hope is that all public schools in New Orleans will enjoy the same entrepreneurship, independence, and community involvement that the public charter schools have fostered."
Landrieu's efforts to support charter schools in Louisiana, and to improve the quality of education in Washington D.C., have pushed her to the forefront as an education reformer and an open-minded legislator who is willing to fight for what is right for our children.