Friday, March 27, 2009

Cesar Chavez Day

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.
For More Info: (916) 446-3021 or
Co sponsored by Sacramento Progressive Alliance and DSA.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rising to the Occasion

[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.]

Reimagining Socialism
By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr.
This article appeared in the March 23, 2009 edition of The Nation
Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now,"Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? The following essay will, we hope, kick off a spirited dialogue, with four replies in this issue and more to come here at --The Editors
If you haven't heard socialists doing much crowing over the fall of capitalism, it isn't just because there aren't enough of us to make an audible crowing sound. We, as much as anyone on Wall Street in, say, 2006, appreciate the resilience of American capitalism--its ability to regroup and find fresh avenues for growth, as it did after the depressions of 1877, 1893 and the 1930s. In fact, The Communist Manifesto can be read not only as an indictment of capitalism but as a breathless paean to its dynamism. And we all know the joke about the Marxist economist who successfully predicted eleven out of the last three recessions.
But this time the patient may not get up from the table, no matter how many times the electroshock paddles of "stimulus" are applied. We seem to have entered the death spiral where rising unemployment leads to reduced consumption and hence to greater unemployment. Any schadenfreude we might be tempted to feel as executives lose their corporate jets and the erstwhile Masters of the Universe wipe egg from their faces is quickly dashed by the ever more vivid suffering around us. Food pantries and shelters can no longer keep up with the demand; millions face old age without pensions and with their savings gutted; we personally are consumed with anxiety about the future that awaits our children and grandchildren.
Besides, it wasn't supposed to happen this way. There was supposed to be a revolution, remember? The socialist idea, prediction, faith or whatever was that capitalism would fall when people got tired of trying to live on the crumbs that fall from the chins of the rich and rose up in some fashion--preferably inclusively, democratically and nonviolently--and seized the wealth for themselves. Such a seizure would have looked nothing like "nationalization" as currently discussed, in which public wealth flows into the private sector with little or no change in the elites that control it or in the way the control is exercised. Our expectation as socialists was that the huge amount of organizing required for revolutionary change would create an infrastructure for governance, built out of--among other puzzle pieces--unions, community organizations, advocacy groups and new organizations of the unemployed and nouveau poor.

It was also supposed to be a simple matter for the masses to take over or "seize" the physical infrastructure of industrial capitalism--the "means of production"--and start putting it to work for the common good. But much of the means of production has fled overseas--to China, for example, that bastion of authoritarian capitalism. When we look around our increasingly shuttered landscape and survey the ruins of finance capitalism, we see bank upon bank, realty and mortgage companies, title companies, insurance companies, credit-rating agencies and call centers, but not enough enterprises making anything we could actually use, like food or pharmaceuticals. In recent years, capitalism has become increasingly and almost mystically abstract. Outside manufacturing and the service sector, fewer and fewer people could explain to their children what they did for a living. The brightest students went into finance, not physics. The biggest urban buildings housed cubicles and computer screens, not assembly lines, laboratories, studios or classrooms. Even our flagship industry, manufacturing autos, would require major retooling to make something we could use--not more cars, let alone more SUVs, but more windmills, buses and trains.

What is most galling, from a socialist perspective, is the dawning notion that capitalism may be leaving us with less than it found on this planet, about 400 years ago, when the capitalist mode of production began to take off. Marx imagined that industrial capitalism had potentially solved the age-old problem of scarcity and that there was plenty to go around if only it was equitably distributed. But industrial capitalism--with some help from industrial communism--has brought about a level of environmental destruction that threatens our species along with countless others. The climate is warming, the oil supply is peaking, the deserts are advancing and the seas are rising and contain fewer and fewer fish for us to eat. You don't have to be a freaky doomster to see that extinction may be what's next on the agenda.

In this situation, with both long-term biological and day-to-day economic survival in doubt, the only relevant question is: do we have a plan, people? Can we see our way out of this and into a just, democratic, sustainable (add your own favorite adjectives) future?

Let's just put it right out on the table: we don't. At least we don't have some blueprint on how to organize society ready to whip out of our pockets. Lest this sound negligent on our part, we should explain that socialism was an idea about how to rearrange ownership and distribution and, to an extent, governance. It assumed that there was a lot worth owning and distributing; it did not imagine having to come up with an entirely new and environmentally sustainable way of life. Furthermore, the history of socialism has been disfigured by too many cadres who had a perfect plan, if only they could win the next debate, carry out a coup or get enough people to fall into line behind them.

But we do understand--and this is one of the things that make us "socialists"--that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option. The great promise of capitalism, as first suggested by Adam Smith and recently enshrined in "market fundamentalism," was that we didn't have to figure anything out, because the market would take care of everything for us. Instead of promoting self-reliance, this version of free enterprise fostered passivity in the face of that inscrutable deity, the Market. Deregulate, let wages fall to their "natural" level, turn what remains of government into an endless source of bounty for contractors--whee! Well, that hasn't worked, and the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we--not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of über-planners--have to control our own destiny.

We admit: we don't even have a plan for the deliberative process that we know has to replace the anarchic madness of capitalism. Yes, we have some notion of how it should work, based on our experiences with the civil rights movement, the women's movement and the labor movement, as well as with countless cooperative enterprises. This notion centers on what we still call "participatory democracy," in which all voices are heard and all people equally respected. But we have no precise models of participatory democracy on the scale that is currently called for, involving hundreds of millions, and potentially billions, of participants at a time.

What might this look like? There are some intriguing models to study, like the Brazilian Workers Party's famous experiments in developing a participatory budget in Porto Alegre. Z Magazine founder Michael Albert developed a detailed approach to mass-based planning that he calls participatory economics, or "parecon," and one of us (Fletcher, in his book Solidarity Divided, written with Fernando Gapasin) has proposed a locally based network of people's assemblies. But all this is experimental, and we realize that any system for mass democratic planning will be messy. It will stumble; it will be wrong sometimes; and there will be a lot of running back to the drawing board.

But as socialists we know the spirit in which this great project of collective salvation must be undertaken, and that spirit is solidarity. An antique notion until very recently, it flickered into life again in the symbolism and energy of the Obama campaign. The Yes We Can! chant was the slogan of the United Farm Workers movement and went on to be adopted by various unions and community-based organizations to emphasize what large numbers of people can accomplish through collective action. Even Obama's relatively anodyne calls for a new commitment to volunteerism and community service seem to have inspired a spirit of "giving back." If the idea of democratic planning, of controlling our destiny, is the intellectual content of socialism, then solidarity is its emotional energy source--the moral understanding and the searing conviction that, however overwhelming the challenges, we are in this together.

Solidarity, though, is an empty sentiment without organization--ways of thinking and working together, and of connecting the social movements that are battling injustice every day. We see a tremendous opportunity in the bleak fact that millions of Americans have been rendered redundant by the capitalist economy and are free to dedicate their considerable talents to creating a more just and sustainable alternative. But if we are serious about collective survival in the face of our multiple crises, we have to build organizations, including explicitly socialist ones, that can mobilize this talent, develop leadership and advance local struggles. And we have to be serious, because the capitalist elites who have run things so far have forfeited all trust or even respect, and we--progressives of all stripes--are now the only grown-ups around.

Other Contributions to the Forum:
Immanuel Wallerstein, "Follow Brazil's Example."
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

About Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich is the author, most recently, of This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation. more...
About Bill Fletcher Jr.
Bill Fletcher Jr. originated the call for founding "Progressives for Obama." He is the executive editor of Black Commentator, and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. more...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

No Second Stimulus Bill Is Coming Soon, Pelosi Says

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 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

Why I'm Not Now and Have Never Been the Democrats' "Rush Limbaugh"
Friday 06 March 2009 - by: Michael Moore Visit article original @ MichaelMoore.Com

Michael Moore tells Republicans: "The days of using my name as a pejorative are now over."

(Photo: Saed Hindash / The Star-Ledger)

I have watched with mild amusement this week the self-immolation of the Republican Party as it bows before the altar of Rush Limbaugh, begging for mercy, pleading for forgiveness, breathlessly seeking guidance and wisdom from The Oracle.

President Obama and the Democratic Party have wasted no time in pointing out to the American people this marriage from hell, tying Rush like a rock around the collective Republican neck and hoping for its quick descent to the netherworld of irrelevance.

But some commentators (Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Chuck Todd of NBC News, etc.) have likened this to "what Republicans tried to do to the Democrats with Michael Moore." Perhaps. But there is one central difference: What I have believed in, and what I have stood for in these past eight years - an end to the war, establishing universal health care, closing Guantanamo and banning torture, making the rich pay more taxes and aggressively going after the corporate chiefs on Wall Street - these are all things which the majority of Americans believe in too. That's why in November the majority voted for the guy I voted for. The majority of Americans rejected the ideology of Rush and embraced the same issues I have raised consistently in my movies and books.How did this happen?

Considering how, for the past eight years, the Republican machine thought they could somehow smear and damage the Democrats if they said it was "the party of Michael Moore," it appears that the American public heard them loud and clear and decided that, "hey, if you say Michael Moore is connected to the Democrats, then the Democrats must be OK!"

During this past election, a Democrat in Michigan, Mark Schauer, was running against the incumbent Republican congressman, Rep. Tim Walberg. Schauer asked me to endorse him and campaign for him, and I did. The Republicans were thrilled. They acted like they had been handed manna from heaven. They filled the airwaves with attack ads showing pictures of me and asking voters, 'is this the guy you want influencing your congressman?' The voters of western Michigan said "YES!" and threw the Republican out of office. The newly elected congressman told me his poll numbers had gone up once the Republicans started running ads likening him to me.

There have been over a half-dozen attack documentaries on me ("Michael Moore Hates America," "Fahrenhype 9/11," etc.), plus a feature film starring Kelsey Grammer and James Woods that had me being slapped silly for 83 minutes. Several books have been written by the Right in a concerted attempt to denounce me. One book, "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America," had me listed at #1. The author was so sure people would know why, he didn't even bother to write a chapter on me like he did for the other 99. You just get to the end of the book and all it says is "#1" with nothing but a big picture of me that takes up a full page.

What made the Republicans so sure that Americans would recoil upon the mere mention of my name, or by simply showing a photo of my face?

The result of this was one colossal backfire. The more they attacked me, the more the public decided to check out who this "devil" was and what he was saying. And - oops! - more than a few people liked what they saw. Overnight I went from having a small, loyal following to having millions go to movie theaters to watch ... documentaries? Wow.

Yes, the more the Right went after me, the more people got to hear what I was saying - and eventually the majority, for some strange reason, ended up agreeing with me - not Rush Limbaugh - and elected Barack Obama as president of the United States, a man who promised to end the war, bring about universal health care, close Guantanamo, stop torture, tax the rich, and rein in the abusive masters of Wall Street.

Think about this road I've traveled. At the beginning of the Bush years, I was pretty much an outsider, referred to as being on the "far left." I usually found myself holding viewpoints that differed from the majority of the people in this country. When I spoke out against the war - before it even started - I was marginalized by the mainstream media and then booed off the Oscar stage in "liberal Hollywood" for commenting about a "fictitious" president. Seventy percent of the public back then supported the war and approved of the job George W. Bush was doing.

But I stuck to what I believed in, kept churning out my movies, and never looked back. The Right and the White House spokespeople came after me time after time. President Bush 41 called me an "a**" on TV, and I became a favorite punching bag at both the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions in speeches by John McCain and Joe Lieberman. On the front page of this morning's Washington Post, Mark McKinnon, a top adviser to George W. Bush, revealed - for the first time - the Bush White House strategy of singling me out in the hopes of turning the country against me and the Democratic Party. Here's what the Post said:

Mark McKinnon, a top adviser in President George W. Bush's campaigns, acknowledged the value of picking a divisive opponent. "We used a similar strategy by making Michael Moore the face of the Democratic Party," he said of the documentary filmmaker.

In the end it all proved to be a big strategic mistake on their part. Thanks to the Republican attacks on me, average Joes and Janes started to listen to what I had to say. Contrary to Richard Wolffe's assessment that "there were no Democrats as far as I can remember who were saying they stood with Michael Moore," Democrats, in fact, have stood side by side with me during all of this. Here's the Congressional Black Caucus supporting me on Capitol Hill in 2004. Here's Terry McAuliffe, the head of the Democratic National Committee, enthusiastically attending the premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" with two dozen senators and members of Congress. Here's a group of Democratic congresspeople endorsing my film "Sicko" in the chambers of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007. And here's President Jimmy Carter inviting me to sit with him in his box at the Democratic National Convention. Far from making me into a pariah, the Republicans helped the Democratic leadership realize that to identify themselves publicly with me meant reaching the millions who followed and supported my work.

Though John Kerry lost in 2004, my focus that year had been to get young voters registered and out to vote (I visited over 60 campuses). And so, just a few short months after the release of "Fahrenheit 9/11," America's young voters became the only age group that John Kerry won. They set a new record for the largest 18- to 24-year-old turnout since 1972, when 18-year-olds were given the right to vote, thus sending a signal about what would happen four years later with the youth revolution that ignited Obama's campaign.

After Fahrenheit, I kept speaking out, the Republican machine kept attacking me, and two years later, in 2006, the American public sided with me - not Rush Limbaugh - and voted in the Democrats to take over both houses of Congress.

And then, finally, two years after that, we won the White House.

That's the difference - The American people agree with me, not Rush.

The American public believes that health care is a right and not a commodity.

They want tougher environmental laws and believe that global warming is real, not a myth.

They believe that the rich should be taxed more.

They want to go after the crooks on Wall Street who got us into this mess and the politicians who enabled them.

They want more money invested in education, science, technology and infrastructure - not in more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

They believe that, whether Democrats or Republicans have been in power, wealthy corporations have been calling the shots for the past few decades and the American people's voices have not been heard as their country has slowly been driven into the ground. Our politicians and our media have been bought and paid for by the highest bidders and we don't trust them anymore.

Finally - they want us to get the hell out of Iraq and to investigate the criminals who sent us there for fictitious reasons.

Obama and the Democrats going after Rush is a good thing and will not do for him what the Republican attack plan did for me - namely, the majority of Americans will never be sympathetic to Rush because they simply don't agree with him.

The days of using my name as a pejorative are now over. The right wing turned me into an accidental spokesperson for the liberal, majority agenda. Thank you, Republican Party. You helped us elect one of the most liberal senators to the presidency of the United States. We couldn't have done it without you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Duane Campbell's new book.

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

A New Progressive Plan: Parker for Progressive Chair 2009

[Note: The Sacramento Progressive Alliance and Campus 4 Obama (Sac State) are proud to endorse Brad Parker for Chair of the Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party.]

Email, meetups and rabble-rousing speeches. Enewsletters, blogs, websites, listserves and labor rallies. PDA, DFA and MoveOn. CODEPINK, Wellstone Action! and the Courage Campaign. Like a phoenix from the ashes of the Liberal ideal we rose, just four short years ago. We are the resurrection of the Spirit of 76’. We are the flame of liberal thought burning down the neo-con, neo-liberal, DLC Blue Dog, stand for nothing house. We are the Progressive Movement. We are the Progressive Swarm. We come to every Democrat with the Progressive Plan in our left hand and with our right hand open, extended in inclusion and dialogue. We are the circle that draws everyone in. The Progressive Caucus is our home in the California Democratic Party.

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” ( 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.

Because I believe that I have the vision and a plan to represent you faithfully and forcefully over the next two years - I am a candidate for Chair of the Progressive Caucus. Over the next few weeks I am going to share with you my plan for our next Progressive Caucus agenda. In this article I want to share my core policy initiatives. I look forward to your collaboration on all of these proposals.

Progressive Policy

My principal issues objective, as Chair, would be to build on our original platform and the policy initiatives it embraced. That platform changed our state Party, the national Party and the political dialogue in America. Even with the invigoration it provided for all Americans, its goals remain to be achieved:

Out of Iraq- Immediate withdrawal and renunciation of preemptive war

Universal Healthcare- Single-payer healthcare for all Americans

Election Integrity- Election Protection (count every vote as cast)- Clean Money (public financing of campaigns)

Poverty- Eliminate its causes- Alleviate its affects

Progressive Grid

Progressives have pioneered the use of the Internet and its micro-media communications in the 21st Century. Progressives use the modern technology of the Internet to organize in a new way and yes - we do get people elected. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. In the coming years, we need to up the ante of our technological innovation. What we need to do now is project our liberal ideals across the Party and the nation by building a Progressive Grid.

I propose to you that we build a network of networks, linking the local Progressive clubs, statewide activists, the AD groups and individual members from around the 58 California counties with the Progressive Caucus. We should then link the Caucus to national organizations and build out through the states across the nation. Most importantly, we must actively help to create a Progressive Caucus in each of the 50 state Parties and add them to the grid.

With a Progressive Grid, a Smart Grid, we can focus Progressives, from local to state to national, to wherever the most activism is needed. In essence, we will create an inter-connected communications wheel with the Progressive Caucus at the hub - a multi-directional democratization of information. The Internet not only makes this possible but achievable through the social networking software already available.

Progressive Economics

Crafting initiatives of sound Progressive economic policy should be an integral part of the work of the next Progressive Caucus.

The economic theories of the last thirty years of unbridled greed have collapsed. We must demand that the DLC Blue Dog practices of compromising the needs of the people to Crony corporate protocols of narrow self-interest must give way to enlightened self-interest. America needs a complete reexamination of the entire monetary and fiscal policy apparatus as well as a more local, sustainable, renewable and humane ethic for all businesses, going forward.

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: In it, I explore the social aspects of the new economic realities. Then please read, “Progressive Economic Principles Essay” at: I co-wrote that article with Mark Pash. In it, Mark shares his vision for creating a quality economy through Progressive economics.
There is a great debate going on in the CDP for the soul of the Democratic Party. On one side are those who say electing Democrats, especially incumbents, is the only purpose of the CDP. On the other side are the members who say that the Party should be the incubator of Progressive Liberal policy. Some say money is everything but we say - in this “Age of Information”, ideas are the greatest capital of all. So, policy and issues are our Progressive focus, not personalities.

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.

Our determination and dedication to open, accessible, transparent and accountable politics have changed the political dynamics of America. Our Progressive ideas and actions have come to demand everyone’s attention. I propose that we go further, much further.

I ask for your vote for Chair of the Progressive Caucus and I thank you for your support.

Brad Parker

Valley Democrats United, PresidentProgressive Caucus of the CDP, Officer at LargePlatform Committee of the CDPDSCC, Delegate, 42nd ADProgressive Democrats of America, Board of TrusteesA.F. of M. Local 47riozen@riozen. com

Who are you calling a socialist?

Who You Calling Socialist?

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.

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.