Friday, March 27, 2009
A WORKER’S RIGHT TO ORGANIZE!
When: Saturday March 28, 2009
Where: Southside Park 6th and "T" Street @ 10:00 am
Arriving: César Chávez Park @ 11:30 am approximately
Free Rapid Transit. All day bus & Light rail tickets
Come and Celebrate César Chávez’s life and legacy by carrying on the tradition in marching
for struggling families, fair wages, working conditions and workers rights, enactment of both
the Employee Free Choice Act, and the Dream Act, Jobs Now!, Immigration Reform for all,
End the War!, and No to State furloughs & LAYOFFS! Now is the time when we must unite
under the umbrella of solidarity. Join us on March 28th, bring your family, friends, your signs,
banners & posters.
“SÍ SE PUEDE!” – “YES WE CAN!”
“UNITY IN OUR COMMUNITY!”
For More Info: (916) 446-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Co sponsored by Sacramento Progressive Alliance and DSA.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
[Note: Bill Fletcher, Jr. was the featured speaker at our 2nd Annual Progressive Forum at Sacraemento State University last October and is a good friend of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance.]
By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr.
This article appeared in the March 23, 2009 edition of The Nation
Bill McKibben, "Together, We Save the Planet."
Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred."
Tariq Ali, "Capitalism's Deadly Logic."
Robert Pollin, "Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic."
John Bellamy Foster, "Economy, Ecology, Empire."
Christian Parenti, "Limits and Horizons."
Doug Henwood, A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible
Saturday, March 14, 2009
By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009; A02
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that a second economic stimulus package is not "in the cards" in the short term, disappointing those seeking another quick infusion of federal money into the struggling economy.
Pelosi's statement came less than a month after President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus measure into law and on the same day the administration warned state officials gathered in Washington that it will keep a close eye on how they spend the money allotted to them from that legislation.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) helped nudge the idea of another stimulus Tuesday when she said that Congress should "keep the door open" to the possibility. And House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said this week that he will begin "preparing options" for a second stimulus package.
But Democratic aides have cautioned strongly that another such plan is not a serious possibility in the short term, and Pelosi said yesterday that she "really would like to see this stimulus package play out" before contemplating another one.
"I don't think you ever close the door to being prepared for whatever eventuality may come," she said at her weekly news conference but emphasized that a second package is "just not right now something that's in the cards."
Some prominent economists have suggested that a second stimulus measure, costing several hundred billion dollars, may well be needed. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Economy.com who has become a key adviser to House Democrats, said this week that "policymakers need to do more. I don't think we're done. . . . I think another stimulus package is a reasonable probability, given the way things are going."
The Wall Street Journal's most recent forecasting survey, a poll of 49 economists, found that more than 40 percent of respondents thought a second large stimulus package is necessary to jump-start the economy.
But several key Democrats have said they do not like the idea of another package so soon, and congressional Republicans -- who almost unanimously opposed the first stimulus bill -- have even less appetite for a second. "I think the fact that they are already talking about stimulus two indicates they already think stimulus one has failed," suggested House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.).
Pelosi said that Congress has passed or would pass measures beyond the first package that would help create jobs, including the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that Obama signed Wednesday and the massive highway reauthorization bill the House will take up this year.
Pelosi said that a supplemental spending measure may be necessary to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but otherwise, "my preference is that any appropriations that we do henceforth be in the regular order, under the regular hearing process, markup and the rest."
She said she expects that economists and others might continue to promote the idea of another stimulus package "but not from my initiation."
The debate over a second plan comes as the money from the first is only beginning to trickle into the economy.
At the Eisenhower Executive Office Building yesterday, the Obama administration gathered state government officials for a conference on implementing the stimulus. The meeting was designed to serve as a workshop and a warning on how they should use their billions of dollars from the package.
"And so I've said before . . . if we see money being misspent, we're going to put a stop to it, and we will call it out, and we will publicize it," Obama said.
Vice President Biden delivered a similar warning to the group earlier yesterday. "A little hint: no swimming pools in this money," he said, later adding: "If we don't get this right, folks, this is the end of the opportunity to convince the Congress that anything should go to the states."
Lower-level officials drove the same point home. Thomas Barrett, the deputy transportation secretary, told attendees that "there is no room for projects that are going to look stupid or be stupid" and warned against mistakes such as "buying the spa treatments and charging it to a federal contract."
More than 100 state officials attended the conference, peppering administration aides with questions about how the stimulus money will be distributed and how it can be spent. They represented every state but Idaho.
Jon Hanian, a spokesman for Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R), said the governor has announced his recommendations for how the state's stimulus money should be spent. And because of the economic downturn, Hanian said, Idaho is restricting travel for state employees.
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Duane Campbell, one of the editors of this blog, has published the 4th. edition of his book, Choosing Democracy; a practical Guide to Multicultural Education. ( Allyn and Bacon, 2010. )
This book provides a left- pro labor view of the U.S. economy and the needs of public schools. It is written for teachers. It includes a history of the development of the Irish American working class, and a detailed description of class.
Here is what Cornel West says about the book,
“This magisterial treatment of our contemporary crisis in American society, culture, and education takes us step-by-step through the treacherous terrains that impede our efforts to examine critically and expand effectively democracy in our time. His powerful text is the most comprehensive analysis we have of sharpening the practical strategies for multicultural education in America.
Like the exquisite poetry of Walt Whitman and the exhilarating music of Louis Armstrong, Duane Campbell’s empowering pedagogy is shot through with profound democratic sentiments. In our frightening moment of class polarization and racial balkanization, his themes of social reconstruction, cultural innovation, and political transformation—themes that link any talk about diversity to the expansion of democracy—are refreshing and uplifting. They also present the principal means by which we can link order to justice, civility to mutual respect, and merit to fairness.
His radical democratic analysis and vision is a voice of sanity at a time of irrationality—a voice that understands rage yet transforms bitterness into bonding. This bonding is neither naive nor utopian; rather it is rooted in a candid encounter with the sources of our rage and an unleashing of the best in us for serious democratic engagement that goes far beyond our hostilities.
The best of American life has always been embodied and enacted by courageous figures who chose democracy—from Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, César Chávez, Ronald Takaki, to Dolores Huerta. Duane Campbell makes it clear what it means to choose democracy in our classrooms, workplaces, homes, and civic life. In short, like James Baldwin, he frightfully reminds us that we either choose democracy now or ultimately witness the fire this time!
Cornel West. Princeton University.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I have worked with many of you over the last four years on issues of importance to Progressives across the country. It has been a pleasure to serve the membership as an officer of the caucus. In fact, it has been lightning in a bottle. We have had some successes like the Net Neutrality resolution that I brought forward in 2007. Collaborating with Labor Chair, Jim Gordon, we produced an unprecedented victory for all of America on this essential issue. After that I chaired and co-wrote the Internet plank of the CDP platform with Dante Atkins. I worked with our Co-Chair Jo Olson and our Vice Chair Ahjamu Makalani on the “Immigration Town Hall”. Once again, our caucus blazed a new trail in the CDP by organizing a multi-caucus event on a critical social issue.
The proposal that I worked on the hardest and am most proud of is the, “Progressive Plan” (http://www.progressivecaucuscdp.org/). I co-authored this blueprint for Progressive organizing, strategizing and energizing with Ahjamu Makalani. We also received valuable editing from our fellow officers - Jo Olson, Joye Swan, Dotty LeMieux and Mayme Hubert. Not only does the analysis of the CDP and Democratic Party political infrastructure, found in the plan, still hold true today but also our proposals for change have been fundamental in building our Progressive movement in California and across the nation.
Progressive economics is the best long-term design for creating prosperity and opportunity for all. To that end, I have been writing and collaborating on the problem and the solution. You can find my essay, “Who’s Minding The Store?” at: http://www.riozen.com/salon2.html. In it, I explore the social aspects of the new economic realities. Then please read, “Progressive Economic Principles Essay” at: http://www.economicsfordemocrats.com/. I co-wrote that article with Mark Pash. In it, Mark shares his vision for creating a quality economy through Progressive economics.
I believe that when principled candidates who embody Progressive ideas are joined by modern GOTV operations, then the change we have hoped for and believed in will be possible. Then the Democratic Party will be living up to its mandate.
Change is the only permanent feature of nature. The Progressive Caucus must change as well as the Democratic Party. We need to leave the comfort of our home - the caucus - and reach out to the entire Party. It is time for us to inspire the rest of our Party to invest in our policy proposals. It is time to take the Progressive Platform into every corner of the Democratic Party and America.
By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; A15
"We are all socialists now," proclaims Newsweek. We are creating "socialist republics" in the United States, says Mike Huckabee, adding, on reflection, that "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff." We are witnessing the Obama-era phenomenon of "European socialism transplanted to Washington," says Newt Gingrich.
Well! Even as we all turn red, I've still encountered just two avowed democratic socialists in my daily rounds through the nation's capital: Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders . . . and the guy I see in the mirror when I shave. Bernie is quite capable of speaking for himself, so what follows is a report on the state of actual existing socialism from the other half of the D.C. Senators and Columnists Soviet.
First, as we survey the political landscape, what's striking is the absence of advocates of socialism, at least as the term was understood by those who carried that banner during the capitalist crisis of the 1930s. Then, socialists and communists both spoke of nationalizing all major industries and abolishing private markets and the wage system. Today, it's impossible to find a left-leaning party anywhere that has such demands or entertains such fantasies. (Not even Hugo Chávez -- more an authoritarian populist than any kind of socialist -- says such things.)
Within the confines of socialist history, this means that the perspective of Eduard Bernstein -- the fin de siecle German socialist who argued that the immediate struggle to humanize capitalism through the instruments of democratic government was everything, and that the goal of supplanting capitalism altogether was meaningless -- has definitively prevailed. Within the confines of American history, this means that when New York's garment unions left the Socialist Party to endorse Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, they were charting the paradigmatic course for American socialists: into the Democratic Party to support not the abolition of capitalism but its regulation and democratization, and the creation of some areas of public life where the market does not rule.
But in the United States, conservatives have never bashed socialism because its specter was actually stalking America. Rather, they've wielded the cudgel against such progressive reforms as free universal education, the minimum wage or tighter financial regulations. Their signal success is to have kept the United States free from the taint of universal health care. The result: We have the world's highest health-care costs, borne by businesses and employees that cannot afford them; nearly 50 million Americans have no coverage; infant mortality rates are higher than those in 41 nations -- but at least (phew!) we don't have socialized medicine.
Give conservatives credit for their consistency: They attacked Roosevelt as a socialist as they are now attacking Obama, when in fact Obama, like Roosevelt before him, is engaged not in creating socialism but in rebooting a crashed capitalist system. The spending in Obama's stimulus plan isn't a socialist takeover. It's the only way to inject money into a system in which private-sector investment, consumption and exports -- the other three possible engines of growth -- are locked down. Investing more tax dollars in education and research and development is a way to use public funds to create a more competitive private sector. Keeping our banks from speculating madly with our money is a way to keep banking alive.
If Obama realizes his agenda, what emerges will be a more social, sustainable, competitive capitalism. His more intellectually honest and sentient conservative critics don't accuse him of Leninism but of making our form of capitalism more like Europe's. In fact, over the past quarter-century, Europe's capitalism became less regulated and more like ours, one reason Europe is tanking along with everyone else.
Take it from a democratic socialist: Laissez-faire American capitalism is about to be supplanted not by socialism but by a more regulated, viable capitalism. And the reason isn't that the woods are full of secret socialists who are only now outing themselves.
Judging by the failures of the great Wall Street investment houses and the worldwide crisis of commercial banks; the collapse of East Asian, German and American exports; the death rattle of the U.S. auto industry; the plunge of stock markets everywhere; the sickening rise in global joblessness; and the growing shakiness of governments in fledgling democracies that opened themselves to the world market -- judging by all these, a more social capitalism is on the horizon because the deregulated capitalism of the past 30 years has blown itself up, taking much of the known world with it.
So, for conservatives searching for the culprits behind this transformation of capitalism: Despite our best efforts, it wasn't Bernie and it wasn't me. It was your own damn system.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
by Robert Reich
President Obama’s new budget is, well, audacious -- not just because it includes several big, audacious initiatives (universally affordable health care, and a cap-and-trade system for coping with global warming, for starters) but also because it represents the biggest redistribution of income from the wealthy to the middle class and poor this nation has seen in more than forty years.
In order to see the whole, you need to look both at where revenues will come from and at where they’ll go:
Come from: By allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, the marginal income tax on the highest earners goes back to 39.6 percent (from 35 percent, now), and capital gains rates to 20 percent (from 15, now). The budget also limits the amount highest earners can claim for mortgage-interest and charitable deductions (from 35 percent now down to 28 percent), raising an estimated $318 billion over ten years. Finally, wealthier Medicare beneficiaries will have to pay higher premiums for prescription drugs.
Come from, and go: Revenues from a cap-and-trade auction -- the costs of which will presumably will be passed on to all consumers -- will finance a continuation of the middle-class and lower-income tax credits now in the stimulus bill at a slightly higher rate ($500 per individual, $1,000 per couple, phasing out above $75,000 per person).
Go: Although we don't have details as yet, the President's health-care proposal is likely to include substantial subsidies for lower-income families. In addition, let's hope the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit now in the stimulus bill will continue beyond 2010, as well as the refundable Child Tax Credit, enlarged Food Stamp program, larger Title I for poor school districts, and expansion of Pell Grants. (So are, no clear signal on this.)
Presidential budgets are aspirations. They're not real, in the sense that no one really has to adhere to them. Obama's budget now goes to Congress, where budget committees will draw up their own versions. Even these congressional budgets are mere guidelines for appropriations and tax-writing committees. Lobbyists will be swarming. So don't expect the final sausage to look exactly like the meat the President is putting into the grinder. On the other hand, the sausage is likely to bear more than a passing resemblance.
Remember: This president's approval ratings are well over 60 percent -- substantially higher than Congress's overall approval rating, and far far higher than Republicans in Congress -- and the nation is still looking to Obama to lead the way out of our troubled times. And it's a Democratic congress, with a Democratic Senate that could be (if Franken is seated) one vote short of being able to cut off a filibuster.
It's about time a presidential budget uneqivocally redistributed income from the very rich to the middle class and poor. The incomes of the top 1 percent have soared for thirty years while median wages have slowed or declined in real terms. As economists Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez have shown, in the 1970s the top-earning 1 percent of Americans took home 8 percent of total income; as recently as 1980 they took home 9 percent. After that, total income became more and more concentrated at the top. By 2007, the top 1 percent took home over 22 percent. Meanwhile, even as their incomes dramatically increased, the total federal tax rates paid by the top 1 percent dropped. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1 percent paid a total federal tax rate of 37 percent three decades ago; now it's paying 31 percent.
Fairness is at stake but so is the economy as a whole. This Mini Depression is partly the result of a widening gap between what Americans can afford to buy and what Americans when fully employed can produce. And that gap is in no small measure due to the widening gap in incomes, since the rich don't devote nearly as large a portion of their incomes to buying things than middle and lower-income people. The rich, after all, already have most of what they want.
Robert Reich was the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book is "Supercapitalism."
Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.
The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.
For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.
On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change.
And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.
Many will ask whether Mr. Obama can actually pull off the deficit reduction he promises. Can he actually reduce the red ink from $1.75 trillion this year to less than a third as much in 2013? Yes, he can.
Right now the deficit is huge thanks to temporary factors (at least we hope they’re temporary): a severe economic slump is depressing revenues and large sums have to be allocated both to fiscal stimulus and to financial rescues.
But if and when the crisis passes, the budget picture should improve dramatically. Bear in mind that from 2005 to 2007, that is, in the three years before the crisis, the federal deficit averaged only $243 billion a year. Now, during those years, revenues were inflated, to some degree, by the housing bubble. But it’s also true that we were spending more than $100 billion a year in Iraq.
So if Mr. Obama gets us out of Iraq (without bogging us down in an equally expensive Afghan quagmire) and manages to engineer a solid economic recovery — two big ifs, to be sure — getting the deficit down to around $500 billion by 2013 shouldn’t be at all difficult.
But won’t the deficit be swollen by interest on the debt run-up over the next few years? Not as much as you might think. Interest rates on long-term government debt are less than 4 percent, so even a trillion dollars of additional debt adds less than $40 billion a year to future deficits. And those interest costs are fully reflected in the budget documents.
So we have good priorities and plausible projections. What’s not to like about this budget? Basically, the long run outlook remains worrying.
According to the Obama administration’s budget projections, the ratio of federal debt to G.D.P., a widely used measure of the government’s financial position, will soar over the next few years, then more or less stabilize. But this stability will be achieved at a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of around 60 percent. That wouldn’t be an extremely high debt level by international standards, but it would be the deepest in debt America has been since the years immediately following World War II. And it would leave us with considerably reduced room for maneuver if another crisis comes along.
Furthermore, the Obama budget only tells us about the next 10 years. That’s an improvement on Bush-era budgets, which looked only 5 years ahead. But America’s really big fiscal problems lurk over that budget horizon: sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the forces driving up long-run spending — above all, the ever-rising cost of health care.
And even if fundamental health care reform brings costs under control, I at least find it hard to see how the federal government can meet its long-term obligations without some tax increases on the middle class. Whatever politicians may say now, there’s probably a value-added tax in our future.
But I don’t blame Mr. Obama for leaving some big questions unanswered in this budget. There’s only so much long-run thinking the political system can handle in the midst of a severe crisis; he has probably taken on all he can, for now. And this budget looks very, very good.