Sunday, September 27, 2015

Government Programs Keep Millions Out of Poverty

Without Government Programs, Millions More Would Be in Poverty

In 2014, 48.4 million people (15.3 percent of the U.S. population) were in poverty, as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure—a more sophisticated approach to measuring economic well-being than the official federal poverty line. However, that number would have been significantly higher were it not for government programs including Social Security, refundable tax credits (including the Earned Income Tax Credit), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In the absence of stronger wage growth for low- and middle-income workersthese safety-net programs play an increasingly important role in helping struggling families afford their basic needs.

Robert Reich on Saving Capitalism

Join EPI cofounder Robert Reich, EPI, and the Center for American Progress for a discussion of Reich’s new book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, on Friday, Oct. 2 at noon ET. Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, writes that the critical choices ahead are not about the size of government, but about whom government works for—and that we must choose not between a free market and big government, but between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver the most gains to the top. To attend the event in Washington, D.C., RSVP here. Or watch online here.

Workers 65 and Older Are 3 Times as Likely to Die From an On-the-Job Injury as the Average Worker
David CooperPoverty Day Numbers Show the Need for Higher Wages
Josh Bivens and Lawrence MishelWrong Question Answered BadlyIndustry Data Can’t Be Used To Infer Individuals’ Productivity
Josh BivensThe Real Stakes for This Week’s Fed Decision on Interest Rates

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, Bernie Sanders

"If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort." - Pope Francis addressing Congress today
Brothers and Sisters: I am not a theologian, an expert on the Bible, or a Catholic. I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont.
But I am emailing you today to discuss Pope Francis in the hope that we can examine the very profound lessons that he is teaching people all over this world and some of the issues for which he is advocating.
Now, there are issues on which the pope and I disagree — like choice and marriage equality — but from the moment he was elected, Pope Francis immediately let it be known that he would be a different kind of pope, a different kind of religious leader. He forces us to address some of the major issues facing humanity: war, income and wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, greed, the death penalty and other issues that too many prefer to ignore.
He is reaching out not just to the Catholic Church. He's reaching out to people all over the world with an incredibly strong message of social justice talking about the grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality.
Pope Francis is looking in the eyes of the wealthiest people around the world who make billions of dollars, and he is saying we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the poor, the needs of the sick, the dispossessed, the elderly people who are living alone, the young people who can't find jobs. He is saying that the accumulation of money, that the worship of money, is not what life should be about. We cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tsipras and Syriza Win Greek Elections

Syriza wins Greece elections, as Tsipras defeats anti-austerity rebellion

Leftist Syriza to form coalition with right-wing party, with Tsipras facing down critics of third bailout's terms

Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing Syriza party, won Greece's parliamentary election for the second time this year on Sunday and says he will form a coalition government with the small right-wing Independent Greeks.
More to come. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Congressman Ami Bera Disappoints ... Again

Congressman Ami Bera Disappoints...Again!
© by Mark Dempsey

Congressman Ami Bera sponsored a “budget workshop” from the Concord Coalition on Aug 24. So... supposedly Democratic Bera supports a Republican initiative!

And not for the first time… For example, Bera just voted to outlaw any mandated labeling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We’d expect the the “Ensure Monsanto makes money” act from the corporate-friendly Republicans, not a Democrat, but Bera manages to disappoint.

Like Republicans, who frequently parrot corporate lobbyists, Bera also wrote--or rather plagiarized--an editorial favoring the secretly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty. TTP would create an unelected court that could overturn any country’s laws, no matter how the voting public felt. As with GMOs, we must curb that pesky democracy!

Granted, it’s difficult to evaluate something so secret, but USA Today cites a government study predicting TPP’s effect: It adds nothing to GDP. The recently negotiated trade pact with Korea is the  template for TPP. Proponents touted that treaty as providing jobs too, but in the three years since it passed, our trade deficit with Korea has doubled, costing us 90,000+ jobs according to the same calculations proponents used.

So let’s just say it wasn’t that surprising when Bera invoked fiscal responsibility™ in sponsoring a presentation by the Concord Coalition--an organization funded by billionaire investment banker, former Nixon Commerce Secretary, Republican, Pete Peterson.

The object of the fiscal responsibility™ exercise was to see whether people would agree to cut Federal spending, particularly for entitlements™. The plutocrats hate Social Security and Medicare! They are both “big” government and keep people from poverty and ill health. We can’t afford to even think about that!

But luckily, the Federal government makes the money, so its spending is not constrained, certainly not by tax revenues, no matter how much the fiscally responsible™ might protest. Where would taxpayers get dollars to pay taxes if government didn’t spend them out into the economy first? Taxes make dollars valuable; they do not provision government.

So Federal “debt” is absolutely nothing like household debt. It’s not a burden on future generations, it’s a bookkeeping entry to indicate how many dollar financial assets are in circulation. Reducing debt sounds good if it’s for households; but Federal “debt” reduction means reducing citizens’ savings, making them vulnerable to a mugging by the vulture capitalists, like Pete Peterson.

The only real constraint on Federal spending would be overheating the economy to cause inflation. Inflation could (theoretically) be a problem if government got into a bidding war with the private sector. But bidding has to occur, or inflation does not happen. If government made a lot of money and put it in a savings account, no inflation would occur.

Would minting a few trillion-dollar coins to retire Federal “debt” cause inflation? Those “debt” dollars have already done whatever bidding they’re going to do. So no. (The financial sector would protest, though, because without government bonds, where would they park their money between speculative deals?)

And if that’s all too technical, then ask yourself where was this fiscal responsibility™  when the conversation turned to multi-trillion-dollar wars in the Middle East, or multi-trillion-dollar bailouts for investment banksters like Pete Peterson? Somehow we’re only short of dollars when social safety nets are the topic.

So the Concord Coalition’s propaganda serves the plutocrats who want to turn us all into debt peons, but harms the general population. Thanks Congressman Bera!

Sources for the above are the Modern Money Theorists (neo-Chartalists). Unlike conventional economists, they actually predicted the Great Recession.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Talk: Activism, Voting and the Constitution

“Raising Issues About Citizens, Activism and the

Friday, September 18, 2015Orchard Suite, University Union
3:00pm-4:00pm   Sacramento State
Dr. Duane Campbell, Sacramento State Professor Emeritus of Bilingual/Multicultural Education, will address how activism, action, and reflection are essential to efforts to protect, defend and extend our democracy. The courts alone will not protect our democracy, especially in light of the Supreme Court rulings on Citizens United, the Voting Rights Act and the rise of Donald Trump.  Thus, it falls to each generation to protect democracy – are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution? 
Reception to follow after the talk. Sponsored by:The Serna Center
Duane Campbell is the electoral chair of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance and the former chair of Democratic Socialists of America. Event is part of the Constitution Week program at Sac State. 

Activism and the Constitution

“Raising Issues About Citizens, Activism and the Constitution”

Friday, September 18, 2015Orchard Suite, University Union
3:00pm-4:00pm   Sacramento State
Dr. Duane Campbell, Sacramento State Professor Emeritus of Bilingual/Multicultural Education, will address how activism, action, and reflection are essential to efforts to protect, defend and extend our democracy. The courts alone will not protect our democracy, especially in light of the Supreme Court rulings on Citizens United, the Voting Rights Act and the rise of Donald Trump.  Thus, it falls to each generation to protect democracy – are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution? 
Reception to follow after the talk. Sponsored by:The Serna Center
Duane Campbell is the electoral chair of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance and the former chair of Democratic Socialists of America. Event is part of the Constitution Week program at Sac State. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What is Next for Greece ?

What is Greece’s Future under the EU’s Forced Bank Bail Out ?

In short:  The bankers of the EU ( Germany and France) are starving the Greek people  to force an overthrow of the Greek Government and to make the Greek people pay for the Economic Crisis of 2008- 2015.
Dr. Duane E. Campbell.  Sacramento Progressive Alliance and DSA.
Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.
3 PM- 4 PM. Del Norte Hall. Room 1004.  CSU-Sacramento.
Sponsored by the Renaissance Society of CSU-Sacramento.  Free.

Parking on campus requires a daily parking permit.

See; Yanis Varoufakis.  How Europe Crushed Greece.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Grape Strike That Transformed a Nation - 50 Years Later

Philip Vera Cruz 
Steve Magagnini, The Sacramento Bee
On Sept. 8, 1965, Lorraine Agtang, her family and other Filipino grape pickers walked out of their fields to protest a cut in their pay from $1.40 to $1.25 an hour. Twelve days later, labor organizer Cesar Chavez and more than 1,200 Mexican workers joined the strike that led to the first United Farm Workers contracts with growers in 1970.
Sacramento State professor emeritus Duane Campbell, who worked for the UFW from 1972 to 1980, said the strike “totally changed labor politics and Latino politics.” Inspired by the events of that September and the impact of the international table grape boycott that followed, thousands of people of different races and ethnicities devoted their lives to activism and nonviolent protest.
“It was a training ground for organizers who spread to hundreds of different fields – a large number of Latino legislators worked with the UFW,” Campbell said. “The strike and boycott awakened Latinos, ‘the sleeping giant of California politics,’ triggering the Chicano movement and the creation of the Sac State  bilingual education department.”

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bernie Sanders Calls for Immigration Reform

Sanders Calls for Immigration Reform, Rips Trump Attacks on Immigrants

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told a Latino roundtable meeting here on Friday that “mean and degrading” remarks about immigrants by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are “unacceptable.”
Sanders also faulted the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for refusing to consider a Senate-passed immigration reform bill passed by a bipartisan majority of 68-32 in 2013. “It is incomprehensible that the U.S. House has not yet taken up the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate with my support,” Sanders said. “We need legislation which takes 11 million undocumented people living in the United States out of the shadows and puts them on a path to citizenship.”

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrate Labor Day

(Photo: AP/Lynne Sladky)
Protesters, part of the national Fight for 15 movement, applaud in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour at a church in Miami in April.
Harold Meyerson. The American Prospect
Labor Day is upon us, marking an end to summertime, when the livin’ is easy and Americans take their well-earned vacations. Well, some Americans. About 56 percent of American workers took weeklong vacations last summer—a new low-point in a steady decline that began in early 1980s, when more than 80 percent took weeklong vacations.
That depressing bit of news is of a piece, alas, with everything else we know about the declining fortunes of American workers. As the Economic Policy Institute documented in report released Wednesday, productivity rose by 72.2 percent and median hourly compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) by just 8.7 percent between 1973 and 2014. As the National Employment Law Project reported in a study released the following day, real median hourly wages declined by 4 percent from 2009 to 2014.
If anything, numbers grow worse with each passing year. In the second quarter of this year, labor costs rose at their lowest rate since the early 1980s—a measly 0.2 percent, despite the economy’s steady growth and falling unemployment, which in a “normal” economy should lead to higher incomes. In the new normal, however, virtually nothing leads to higher incomes for employees—hence their longer hours and shorter, if any, vacations. Instead, the gains from their work accrue almost entirely to owners, stock players, and top executives.
And yet this Labor Day, for the first time since the 1970s, American workers are beginning to reclaim what by right should be theirs. Through actions in city halls and statehouses, through court decisions and labor board rulings, public officials, prompted by workers’ advocates, are finding ways to overcome many of the obstacles—outsourcing, franchising, stagnating minimum wages, union busting—that have created the new normal and with it, the shrinking of the middle class.
The public response to the “Fight for 15” campaign of fast-food and other low-wage workers has exceeded all expectations. Ordinances to raise the local minimum wage, which first popped up in liberal strongholds like San Francisco and Seattle, have in the past few weeks been enacted in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Birmingham, Alabama. A proposed ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 in California—home to one out of every eight American workers—commanded 68 percent support in a Field Poll last week.
Unions are polling better, too: In a mid-August Gallup Poll, they commanded a 58 percent approval rating, 66 percent among adults under 35. That’s radically at odds, of course, with the percentage of private-sector workers who actually belong to unions: just 6.6 percent. The chasm between the number who approve and the number who belong is the product of decades of union-smashing by employers, ranging from illegal firings of union activists to corporate restructurings that enable employers to claim their workers aren’t actually theirs.
In hotels across America, the workers who check you in and clean your rooms often come from temporary employment agencies, though there may be nothing temporary about their tenure on the job. In Tennessee and Mississippi, many of the workers on the assembly lines in Nissan factories are also labeled temps, though they’ve been there as long and do the same work, for less pay, as the Nissan employees right next to them. FedEx insists the men and women who drive its trucks are independent contractors, though they can’t drive for anyone else. At Walmart’s warehouses, the tens of thousands of workers who unload the goods from China and ship them to stores near and far are formally employed by a bewildering array of staffing agencies. Many of these workers—permatemps, if you will—hold down the same job for many years, though their employer of record may have shifted repeatedly.
When these workers and the millions like them are paid at lower rates than workers doing the same jobs for parent companies, or when they receive no benefits, or when they’re paid less than the legal minimum or injured on the job, their parent companies have been able to deny any legal responsibility. When these workers have sought to form a union, they’ve had no legal right even to knock on their parent employer’s door. “The current laws,” says one veteran union organizer, “don’t let workers get to their puppet masters, whether they’re the companies whose goods are processed at the warehouses, or who employ the drivers at the ports.”
Now, that’s changing. Last week, the Obama-appointed majority on the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a local union representing the staffing-agency employees at Browning Ferris, a California waste-management company, could bargain with Browning Ferris itself: The parent company, they said, was really a joint employer. In Miller & Anderson, a case pending before the NLRB, that same majority might rule that a union can actually represent both outsourced workers and parent-company employees in the same unit.
The new joint-employer standard announced in Browning Ferris will help fast-food workers in their attempts to unionize chains like McDonald’s. I suspect it will spur even more immediate unionization efforts in the warehouse and hotel industries, and at permatemp-reliant manufacturers like Nissan.
The same “if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck” standard that the NLRB has now proclaimed also infuses recent rulings against companies that mislabel their workers as independent contractors. California’s labor commissioner, Julie Su, has ruled repeatedly that the state’s port truckers, who carry imports from the harbors to the warehouses, are actually employees who’ve been illegally underpaid. Her rulings have prompted a number of companies to acknowledge the drivers are in fact theirs and to make back-pay settlements; in some cases, those drivers have elected to form unions and have won contracts. Also in California, just this Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that Uber drivers could file a class-action suit petitioning for reclassification as employees.
A different solution to the independent contractor scam may be forthcoming in Seattle, where, as The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis has reported, the city council has before it a proposed ordinance that would permit the city’s personal transport drivers—the independent contractors who drive not just for Uber and Lyft, but for taxicab companies, too—to unionize without changing their status. The National Labor Relations Act specifically excludes independent contractors from the law’s coverage, in the same section that excludes public employees, agricultural, and domestic workers. The reasoning behind the Seattle proposal is that nothing in federal law prohibited states and localities from enacting their own laws granting bargaining rights to public employees and agricultural workers, and because many states and localities have done just that, they can do the same for independent contractors as well.
Will this new wave of rulings and ordinances spur more workers to attempt to unionize? Elizabeth Bunn, the AFL-CIO’s director of organizing, thinks it can. “Workers will overcome their fears,” she says. “The real problem has been their lack of belief they can win. Browning Ferris can now inform their calculus—it helps them get to the real decision-maker.”
This sea-change in the nation’s concern over economic inequality and the diminution of worker power—and in what may become the nation’s long overdue response to them—is the product of many efforts, but those of the fast-food workers and the union directing and funding their campaign, the Service Employees International Union, have clearly been the game-changer. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, who mobilized her union behind her belief that it needed to expand its mission to changing the nation’s zeitgeist even if that meant forgoing some campaigns that might more quickly yield new members, has emerged as the gutsiest and most visionary union leader since John L. Lewis and Sidney Hillman founded the CIO. Credit is also due the new-model Teamsters, a cleaned-up union that is waging innovative campaigns on behalf of warehouse workers, truckers, and drivers.
Not surprisingly, the NLRB’s ruling in Browning Ferris upset inequality’s champions—among them, predictably, The Wall Street Journal’s editorialists, who complained not only of the ruling’s substance but also that the decision “ruin[ed] countless August vacations.” Just what you’d expect from an editorial board that either can’t or won’t see that “countless” Americans can’t afford to take vacations anymore.
Harold Meyerson is an Editor of the American Prospect and a Vice Chair of DSA.