It's not just Obama.

It's going to be important in 2014 -- in terms of manpower; donations; Green, Peace & Freedom and independent challenges; etc. -- to remember who is responsible for what.

Apparently, House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi influenced Democratic members of whom we can usually expect better, such as Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Luis Gutierrez (IL), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Steve Israel (NY), Ami Bera (CA), Joaquin Castro (TX), Joe Kennedy (MA), Annie Kuster (NH), Nita Lowey (NY) and Louise Slaughter (NY), to vote to protect NSA's power. If only 12 of them had opposed the program, some spying would have been stopped.

That the vote was close is good news, however: it offers hope that opponents will be encouraged to keep fighting.

How Nancy Pelosi Saved the NSA Surveillance Program: "The obituary of Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to claw back the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency has largely been written as a victory for the White House and NSA chief Keith Alexander, who lobbied the Hill aggressively in the days and hours ahead of Wednesday's shockingly close vote. But Hill sources say most of the credit for the amendment's defeat goes to someone else: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It's an odd turn, considering that Pelosi has been, on many occasions, a vocal surveillance critic...."

The rest of the story:

More on possible congressional resistance to domestic spying: Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping
1) Raise the standard for what records are considered “relevant.”
2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata.
3) Declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions.
4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed.
5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds.

Is there anyone in Congress or the White House, elected official or staff member, who would work for $9 an hour?

For someone so ept at electoral politics, President Obama has repeatedly shown himself to be artless when it comes to the political side of governance. On issue after issue, he has entered policy negotiations with low-ball proposals that set-up compromises that, in real terms, hand victory to his opponents.

Take the $9 minimum wage proposal. A person making $9 an hour will earn, before deductions, $360 a week. That's working a full 40-hour week, but many retail and service jobs offer much shorter hours. Even a worker lucky enough to land two full-time jobs -- 80 hours a week -- would take home less than $720 a week after deductions. Clearly, a minimum wage of $9 is not sufficient if the goal is to assure that, as the president said Tuesday in his address to Congress, no one with a full time job should have to live in poverty.

The problem with Obama's maladroit handling of negotiations with the conservatives is that he establishes benchmarks that, while they may achieve "compromise," not only don't fix the problem being addressed but make it less likely that a better result can be achieved in the future (think of health care reform). If a deal at all cost is your goal, $9 may make some sense; as policy, it's ridiculous.

Labor and liberals should have nothing to do with it.

Return of Medicare For All

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.

Although Obamacare is an improvement over what existed before, it was clear from the beginning of the health care debate that the compromised plan would deliver neither truly universal nor truly affordable access to health care. The greatest fear of liberals who opposed it was that, by embedding the insurance industry in the health care infrastructure, it would prevent either of these goals from ever being achieved. As the deficiencies of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have become more recognized, however, a new opportunity has opened up for Congress to do what should have been done in the first place: establish a single-payer system.

The insurance industry will oppose single-payer with scalpels and skull saws, of course, but the fight will be somewhat fairer because the industry's reputation is even lower than that of Congress. Still, with little or no help to be expected from the White House, it promises to be a hell of a battle, one that will be won only if ordinary citizens are mobilized. You can help right
from the start by asking your representative today to become an original cosponsor of H.R. 676: "The Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act" (Capitol switchboard: 866-220-0044).

Rep. John Conyers will reintroduce national, single-payer healthcare legislation sometime this week. Before he introduces the bill, Conyers would like to have as many original cosponsors as possible. Please call your rep today and let them know you want them to cosponsor H.R. 676. Help them out by mentioning that in order to become an original cosponsor of H.R. 676 your member will need to contact Michael Darner from Rep. Conyers' office at or 202-225-5126.

Already on board (thank them if you're in their district): Nadler, Schakowsky, Pingree, Grijalva, Ellison, Hank Johnson, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Takano, Holmes-Norton, Lofgren, Rangel, Moore, Chu, Al Green, Farr, McGovern, Welch, Clarke, Lee, Nolan, Pocan, Doyle, Engel, Gutierrez, Frederica Wilson, Cohen, Edwards, McDermott, Clay, Huffman, Roybal-Allard, Cummings, Yarmuth, George Miller, Honda, Christensen, Rush.

If you live on the liberal west side of Los Angeles, note the following absences from this list: Waxman, Hahn, Sherman and Bass (Capitol switchboard: 866-220-0044).

Resources: Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 18,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance
Healthcare-Now!: Organizing for a National Single-Payer Healthcare System
PublicCitizen: the Health Research Group of one of the country's most effective citizen's organizations

Law-Abiding Citizens Have Nothing to Fear from Reasonable Gun Control Regulations

A system of registration and insurance would protect everyone from effects of gun violence.

A risk of the current gun control squabble is that people with a history of mental illness will be scapegoated ("Guns don't kill people. People with mental illness kill people."). But as is demonstrated by comparing the nearly simultaneous knife attack on school children in China with Connecticut's tragedy, guns do kill people; other weapons less so.

Alas, a prohibition of assault weapons and bullets will probably work as well as any prohibition; in this case, as gun advocates warn, it is likely to mean that the only persons in possession of assault weapons will be criminals (and the police, but that's an argument for another day). How much better -- instead of creating special classes of citizens or another highly profitable traffic in contraband -- to make firearms themselves the target of reform. The licensing of automobiles provides a model (although in contrast gun control, since we're starting virtually from scratch, offers an opportunity to create a national system instead of relying on a hodgepodge of state regulations):

1) People who wish to shoot would be required to take a course in firearm care, handling and safety (similar to Drivers' Ed). They would need to show proof that they had fulfilled course requirements and to pass a test.
2) People with no record of violent crime who wish to own a gun, like those who seek to own a car, would be required to register the weapon and show proof that the weapon is insured: if the gun causes injury in the commission of a crime or through accident or negligence, the victims will be compensated, even if through theft or loss the registered owner no longer possesses or controls the weapon.
3) A national database would track firearms. If you buy a car, truck or motorcycle, that vehicle's record of involvement in accidents, recalls, etc., is easily available to you by a simple check of the VIN. Gun manufacturers would enter the serial numbers of new guns into the database and that number would be reported each time the weapon changed hands as it moved through distribution channels to owners. Gun manufacturers and distributors would carry insurance on weapons under their nominal control. Except for a small additional cost in fees and insurance spread across the industry and the entire 40% of the population that is armed, this system would be no more onerous than auto registration and insurance (the reason to insure weapons instead of users is to guarantee that no matter what the particular situation a victim of gun violence will be compensated). A portion of registration fees or insurance charges would need to be set aside for persons injured by non-registered firearms.

A system of this sort would go a considerable way toward making guns safer -- by separating the criminal population more clearly from the mass of lawful guns owners; by lessening the likelihood of accidents; and by reducing the impact of gun misuse on victims by the application of personal injury liability insurance to firearms -- without creating new populations of second-class citizens (for example, by using such squishy notions as a "history" of "mental illness").

Download: Reframing the debate

[This is from the website of the Center for Economic and Policy Research]

The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive

By Dean Baker (2011)

Progressives need a fundamentally new approach to politics. They have been losing not just because conservatives have so much more money and power, but also because they have accepted the conservatives’ framing of political debates. They have accepted a framing where conservatives want market outcomes whereas liberals want the government to intervene to bring about outcomes that they consider fair.

This is not true. Conservatives rely on the government all the time, most importantly in structuring the market in ways that ensure that income flows upwards. The framing that conservatives like the market while liberals like the government puts liberals in the position of seeming to want to tax the winners to help the losers.

This "loser liberalism" is bad policy and horrible politics. Progressives would be better off fighting battles over the structure of markets so that they don't redistribute income upward. This book describes some of the key areas where progressives can focus their efforts in restructuring market so that more income flows to the bulk of the working population rather than just a small elite.

By releasing The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive under a Creative Commons license and as a free download, Baker walks the walk of one of his key arguments -- that copyrights are a form of government intervention in markets that leads to enormous inefficiency, in addition to redistributing income upward. (Hard copies are available for purchase, at cost.)  Distributing the book for free not only enables it to reach a wider audience, but Baker hopes to drive home one of the book's main points via his own example. While the e-book is free, donations to the Center for Economic and Policy Research are welcomed.

Read the book (other formats coming soon)
PDF | Kindle (.AZW) | NOOK (.EPUB) | .MOBI

Head count

Democrats got a boost of one in the Senate today.

The newly elected independent from the State of Maine, Angus King, said he will join the Democratic caucus: "Affiliating with the majority makes sense." That gives Democrats 55 seats in the upper house, with 45 seats for the Republicans. 

Time was when that would have been perceived as a majority. 

We'll see.

"Takin' Care Of Business":

What it means depends a whole lot on who says it.

A new organization is needed that will do two things:

1. provide training to ordinary citizens on the ins-and-outs of running for and serving in public office (this would not only identify potential candidates but help to train staff members for campaigns and officeholders); * and,
2. more crucially, grant subsidies to working people so that they can afford to seek office (an income cutoff of $250K would make 98% of the population eligible for some degree of help, depending on circumstances).

It is nearly impossible for a salaried person -- or a person bearing the burden of responsibilities (for children or elderly parents, for example) -- to expend without assistance the time and resources demanded by public service. The result is that we have a system of governance in which most elected officials are remote by reason of economic advantage from the people they purport to represent.

Take Congress. (Please.)

According to Capital Hill's Roll Call, Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, quite a different sum than you could put together from 535 Americans chosen at random.

Not to pick on Democrats, but with a median net value of $878,500 in 2010 the self-described defenders of the middle class were worth more than nine times the typical American household (most of these figures are drawn from reporting on CNN). Twenty-one congressional Democrats have average assets of more than $10 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (Barack Obama's average net worth of $7.3 million is nothing to sneeze at either, especially when compared to the median household net worth in America, which in 2009 was $96,000).

Republicans are a little richer, but not by much. Their median net is $957,500 on average and 35 of them have assets totaling more than $10 million. **

That's net worth: congresspersons' $174,000 salary also blows away the median household income of $49,445 for 2010 -- for most people, being elected to Congress would result in a healthy jump in income. And members' net worth has been on the rise since 2004, unlike ordinary Americans, who have seen their wealth decline (the center's figures don't even include a primary home when calculating net worth for politicians, but the Census, in calculating net worth for average Americans, includes all real estate assets, meaning the divide between the people and their representatives is even more pronounced than it appears).

Dishearteningly though not surprisingly, less than 2% of the Congress comes from the working class, a figure that's stayed constant for the last century.

There's no reason not to think that similar disparities exist at every level of government.

This is not to say that it might not be easier for a wealthy person to be an effective advocate for the interests of poor, working and middle class Americans than for a camel, say, to pass through the eye of a needle. But it's pretty clear that in the aggregate, elected officials inhabit a rarified economic environment that at the least makes it more difficult to keep the struggles of ordinary folks in perspective. It seems obvious that politicians from the working and middle classes will be more likely to concentrate on bread-and-butter domestic economic issues than will people whose principal domestic issue is whether the help all have their green cards.

It will take more than training and funding average Americans to make representative government more democratic. We need publicly financed elections, controls on media access, weekend voting, and so on. In the meantime, the suggestion I made many years ago that that the only political reform we really need is to limit the income of every elected official to the level of the average person he or she represents is still a pretty good one.

* Organizations Right and Left already exist that offer assistance and training to people who have decided to run for office. But what's needed is a national network of training centers, possibly operated through existing organizations like churches and labor unions, that broadens its appeal to include people who are just beginning to entertain the idea of service in government.

** You are permitted a moment to savor the irony that the $448 million fortune of the richest rep, Darrell Issa, is built on vehicle anti-theft devices.

Class Unconsciousness

President Obama has gotten a lot of free advice since Nov 6 from progressives who think he should refocus his attentions on their priorities. But why should he? Since, when it appeared he needed them, they volunteered their support for his reelection without demanding anything in return, why should he now feel obligated to take their wishes seriously?

When he was first running for president, then Sen. Obama repeated the famous story about a delegation of progressives, led by the great labor organizer A. Philip Randolph of the railroad porters' union, meeting with another newly elected president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The delegation described the things they believed FDR needed to do to help fix the economy and improve the situation of ordinary citizens. As the story is told, FDR listened intently, then replied: 'I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.'

Making Obama "do it" is going to take a lot more than op-ed pieces, open letters and online petitions. To move this administration in a more progressive direction, to overcome its leader's native caution and to beat back the relentless pressure it is under from the corporate class and the military-security state apparatus will require an equal or greater pressure from a national movement demanding economic justice and a restoration of the middle class. Such a movement can only be built if the identification that currently exists between the 99% and their oppressors can be broken. In other words, until Americans become class conscious there will never be a reason for Obama, or any politician, to do anything other than carry on with business as usual.

Building class consciousness won't happen -- can't happen -- by recruiting people to join the Peace and Freedom Party or the Greens (although third party mechanisms will be necessary in the future as the country continues its decline under the Democratic-Republican duopoly, so it's to be hoped that Jill Stein's paltry 396,684 tally is enough to keep the Green Party on state ballots). But class consciousness can be built by engaging in practical political work in our communities.

There are a number of local issues that are looming (or that are chronic, is more like it) -- repairing the public schools; providing universal access to public institutions of higher learning; keeping hospital emergency rooms and clinics open and accessible; raising local minimum wages to livable levels; restraining public transportation costs and assuring availability; resisting hand-outs to developers; opposing the crushing of local businesses by big-box stores and malls; increasing infrastructure spending; making state and local taxes more progressive; supporting labor actions by janitors, hotel workers, grocery clerks, teachers, factory workers -- that offer opportunities for common-sense, real-world discussions about capitalism and economic and social justice.

Also, reforms that would make our political system more democratic and thus more responsive to the majority -- weekend voting; instant run-offs; proportional representation; public financing of elections -- will only gain traction if they are tested and proven effective on the local level. And that won't happen, either, unless that majority begins to understand whose interests are served by the creaky, calcified, undemocratic political mechanism we use now.

This is not to say that we should give up attempting to affect national issues -- the security state; the war machine; our murderous and counter-productive foreign policy; the immoral drone campaign; climate change; free trade; protecting and expanding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; the private health care insurance gravy train; control of the government by oligarchs; the kleptocracy -- but these are matters for discussion and op-ed pages; organizing around them will only make sense when people active locally begin to connect the dots between community concerns and macro issues, and local organizations join together to demand change on these national issues.

The Democratic Party as a whole has moved steadily to the right for four decades. But many people within the party who share our goals are potential allies in local fights; these engaged people also need and deserve support when they resist the pro-business, anti-labor forces that dominate the party. After the "change" election in 2008, many on the left suffered buyer's remorse when Obama adopted a business-as-usual attitude toward governing (and doubled-down on many of Bush's worst security-state policies); yet four-years later they found themselves with seemingly no choice but to push once again for the lesser-of-two-evils option. If we're going to use our limited personal energies in electoral politics going forward, it should be in local races and political institutions where we can build trust with our communities and demonstrate concrete results. If this country is going to begin down a new road, the journey will start at Neighborhood Watch and the PTA, in community organizations, planning commissions and city councils. Not only is it possible to make concrete changes in our lives at the micro-political level, but local successes will demonstrate the practical worth of our ideas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Independent in Politics

Bill Moyers interviews Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s been an independent in Congress for 21 years — longer than anyone in American history. Sanders talks about jobs, the state of our economy, health care, and the unprecedented impact of big money on the major political parties.

“What you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections,” Sanders tells Bill. “I fear very much that if we don’t turn this around, we’re heading toward an oligarchic form of society.”
From Moyers and Company 2012-09-10

Not a pretty picture.

Lesser of two evils? Really?

Like Bill Clinton as president (you remember: banking "reform," telecom "reform," welfare "reform," WTO, NAFTA -- that Bill Clinton), President Obama has tried to deflect criticism by adopting the policies of his opponents, in effect, as used to be said, being more Catholic than the Pope. In domestic affairs, this has led to passivity and inaction, allowing the Right to stake out the parameters of the political debate: the pursuit of austerity; the advancement of tax cuts (more of a muddle now that candidate Obama is a born-again populist); the promotion of the health of the insurance industry ahead of the health of the people; the setting "on the table" of cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

But, as troubling as the administration's domestic agenda has been, it is in the area of foreign policy that its behavior is most distressing. Not wishing to allow criticism from conservatives, Obama has not just continued George W. Bush's Long War, but has enlarged it both in scope and in ferocity. The legal and physical framework established during Bush's reign, from the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act thru Gitmo to drones, not only remains in place, but has been extended to include contract killings and a list of conflict points that looks like the departure board of an international airline.

So where does that leave the Left in November 2012? True to form, the presidential wing of the Democratic Party is campaigning on the shop-worn "lesser-of-two-evils" platform, even though it has become so threadbare the only part not in tatters is the fear-mongering about appointments to the Supreme Court. (And, by the way, how different is jazzing up the Democratic base over Roe V. Wade from the GOP's cynical use of "social issues" to get its base hyperventilating? Here's something you can put money on: whether Obama or Romney is president, the next appointee to the Supreme Court will be a reliable defender of corporate interests and the status quo.) Even if you're appalled, as you should be, by the idea of Mitt Romney in the White House (and Paul Ryan a heartbeat away), how can you vote for Obama without endorsing his policy choices?

The answer, of course, is that you can't. In 2008, it was possible to convince yourself that the Democratic candidate's general blandness ("hope," "change," "yes we can") and specific conservatism (missile attacks on Iran, more war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, advocacy of the death penalty, deliberate blurring of the clear language of the 2nd amendment, bipartisanship as a policy goal) was a disguise intended to slip him past voters on election day, a "whites of their eyes" strategy as it is (now wistfully) described to get hold of the reins of power before turning the carriage of state down the road to peace and economic justice. In 2012, deluding yourself that Obama is the candidate of change is no longer possible. No wonder the campaign is spending its millions demonizing the hapless Romney (Obama has been supremely lucky in his opponents, but never more so than this season); what else is there to talk about?

If you're not a supporter of fiscal austerity except when it comes to funding endless war, what do you do? In some states, third party candidates will be on the ballot (in California, no joke, Roseanne Barr was nominated for president last week by the Peace and Freedom Party, which also has in Marsha Feinland a first rate candidate for U.S. Senate against that pillar of the status quo, Sen. Diane Feinstein; Barr is also working hard to get on the ballot in other states; and the Green Party has a worthy candidate in Dr. Jill Stein). In most of the places where where liberal disappointment in the president is greatest -- New York, Illinois, California, New England and the Pacific Northwest, the distortions of the electoral college have rendered votes in the Obama-Romney contest so meaningless that even progressives persuaded by lesser-of-two-evils argument can cast a third party protest vote without worrying. There also are numerous opportunities to affect the much more important matter of who gets to serve in the national legislature: in addition to such obvious choices as Sen. Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and Alan Grayson, scores of federal and local progressive candidates need your support: you'll find most (or all) of them at the fundraising site ActBlue. And you can work to build a third party more in tune with the your politics than the duopoly; get involved in local politics; join the struggle to create alternative power bases, for example in labor or community organizations; pursue change in specific policy areas (such as militarization or the environment); assist civil rights and civil liberties defenders like the Southern Poverty Law Center or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Or you can take to the streets.

What you can't do, it seems to me, is sit passively in the audience of our political theater; what you can't do is agree to business as usual; what you can't do is once again accept without resistance the lesser of two evils.

What's to be done?

One idea: How about agreeing to a list of immediately achievable demands -- say, unfettered voter registration, weekend balloting, instant runoffs, election of the President and Vice President by majority vote not the electoral college, public financing of campaigns, free media for candidates, perhaps proportional representation -- driving a national march beginning in, say, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland OR, Seattle, Houston, Miami and Portland ME -- merging in various centers along the way -- say, Denver, Chicago, Buffalo, Cleveland, St Louis, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York City and lesser venues in between -- and culminating on Pennsylvania Avenue with the firm commitment not to leave until all demands are met? The logistical problems would be formidable but not insurmountable, and the Occupy Movement already has organizers and infrastructure in place all over the country.

Obviously, there are many problems -- the crumbling infrastructure, the slashing of budgets for public services, the unjust tax structure, the misallocation of public resources to military spending and corporate giveaways, the destruction of free public education, the absence of affordable universal health care -- that impact much more directly on people's lives. But the adoption of measures to make the country more democratic and thus more responsive to the demands of its citizens would be a solid beginning down the path to solving deeper and more intractable problems.

There is an army of outraged people in this nation, many of them unemployed and facing bleak futures. Are they ready to enlist?

The Fed: 11 Charts Prove The Economy Has Gone Ice Cold

"With the June Fed meeting just around the corner," writes Robert Kienst, "the market is waiting with bated breath for the decision on Quantitative Easing 3. It is like a bad movie where they keep making sequels nobody wants to watch, but are forced to endure."

The state of the economy will dictate the central bank's actions, if any, this month. With that reality in mind, Kienst presents some charts that suggest where we stand.

The most interesting fact to me is that retail sales reports are up sharply and so, apparently, is consumer confidence (although not according to the Conference Board), at the same time that durable goods purchases are down, real estate is down, and customers haven't returned to the retail stock market. So if people are spending more money, it's on essentials like bread and milk, and -- not learning from recent experience -- they're doing so with credit cards. With jobs still not in the offing (in fact, more public sector layoffs are coming in most states), that's a danger signal for the economy not a sign of recovery. Without proper savings, investment suffers and so does growth.

The rest of the story: These 11 Charts Prove The Economy Has Gone Ice Cold by Robert Kienst (Seeking Alpha 2012-06-14)

2012: Will voters "throw the bums out"?

I'm taken to task for having the temerity to suggest that Barack Obama may be held accountable for the nation's problems -- in the instance, for the decline in average American's income and net worth, and that there may be some justice in his impending political demise: "It's not Obama's fault. It's the policies, peoples." As if, I guess, it is John Boehner who is running the country.

It's true, though, that these "policies" are not Obama's alone. They have been been pursued through six administrations and a couple of dozen congresses controlled, it should not be forgotten, more often by Democrats than by Republicans. There is a lot of convenient buck passing in the nation's capital: the Republicans blame the Democrats for lack of "progress" on social issues; the Democrat's accuse the GOP of holding Taxes and Progress are inextricably linked economic reforms "hostage;" meanwhile, the oligarchs dictate the outcome of the legislative process, and the two parties get to go back to the electorate every couple of years with the same unresolved set of issues (we forget that the GOP agitates its base with "lesser of two evils" rhetoric familiar to us from Democratic propaganda).

It was Democrat Bill Clinton, at the end of the day, who passed the stalled pro-corporate agenda -- banking "reform," telecom "reform," welfare "reform," trade "reform," NAFTA, etc. -- beyond the reach of Republican George Bush the Elder. It is Obama who has doubled-down on militarism and security abuses. As Bush the Younger did with al Queda, Obama inflated the GOP and the Blue Dogs for his own purposes, empowering them, attempting to partner with them instead of closing ranks with congressional liberals (and thus losing the House, just as Clinton did, and for the same reason: why vote for Democrats if they are going govern on behalf the corporate elite instead of the majority?), and blaming the conservatives as he caved on issue after issue without a fight.

If BHO was a liberal warrior in the mold of FDR, HST and LBJ, he would not be in danger of getting the boot in November, as he probably will. But the real victory this fall will not go to the Democrats or the Republicans; whether it is Obama or Mitt Romney who takes the oath of office in January, the true winners will be the militarists and the masters of the security state. Obama? Romney?: the victims of the shredded social contract, the unemployed and underemployed, the homeless, the graduates without prospects drowning in debt, the hundreds of thousands of youth whose futures are being sacrificed to the war on drugs, the young men and women who will die in exotic locales of interest only to war profiteers, the innocent victims of American guns and bombs and gameboy war toys, none of these will know the difference.
Return of the Body Count: Dissecting Obama's Standard on Drone Strike Deaths by Justin Elliott (ProPublica 2012-06-05)
Democratic Website Publishes List of Obama Accomplishments, Half of Them Are the Names of People He's Killed (Reason 2012-06-12)
Most voters favor slashing foreign economic & military aid; few would cut domestic programs like Social Security, education and health care (Good).

2012: Prop 29

I'm of two minds about Prop 29, the tobacco tax initiative.

Here's what's wrong with the ballot initiative process. More cancer research: great idea. Higher taxes: great idea. But: limiting the tax revenue generated by this measure to cancer research, anti-smoking programs and tobacco law enforcement is a bad idea; the money belongs in the general fund.

The whole point of representative government is to assure that tax revenues are allocated fairly across all needs and services and interests. Past initiatives have already made hash of the California budget process; do we want to make it worse?

Cancer research is vitally important, but is relatively well-funded; other diseases that are equally costly to society get far fewer dollars. Even limiting ourselves to a discussion of what to do about the harm caused by tobacco, we have to take account of the fact that Prop 29 does nothing to mitigate the huge medical costs already resulting from past and current smoking, and that's the point: We elect representatives to make those decisions; maybe anti-smoking programs are already well-enough funded -- they certainly appear to be -- but medical costs are under-addressed (they certainly appear to be); an informed legislature should make those choices.

Also: a $1 tax is insufficient, given the costs of tobacco to society; a referendum, if successful, will almost certainly close the door on higher taxes on tobacco products in the future.

Plus, this decision will be made by the tiny percentage of voters that bothers to turn out tomorrow, nothing like a majority.

Explanation of Prop 29 in the official CA state voter guide.

Not The Onion: Hundreds of common words that could get you in trouble

The Daily Mail reports that federal thought police have compiled an "intriguing" list of words and phrases to be used to "monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S." The list includes "obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'."

The Dept. of Homeland Security was forced to release the list by a privacy watchdog group that filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Although DHS claims it only employs the list to detect legitimate security risks, "[t]he words are included in the department's 2011 'Analyst's Desktop Binder'* used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'."

Note that the avoidance of many of these words would make public discussion of security and military issues -- to say nothing of the weather -- impossible. But note also that your continued insistence on discussing such matters may attract the security state's interest.

Of course, you could decide to mess with them by putting references to "pork," "snow," "bridge," "tremor," "Tucson," "worm" and "metro" in all your communications.

The rest of the story: Revealed: Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don't want the government spying on you by Daniel Miller (Mail Online 2012-05-26).

*Even "redacted," 'Analyst's Desktop Binder' makes for interesting reading.

Too controversial for TED: "The rich should pay more in taxes"

“Ideas Worth Spreading.”

Some, not so much.

If you need more evidence of how difficult it is for ideas that challenge the reigning political Weltanschauung to gain traction in mainstream media, take a look at this video of a presentation at TED, the conference that GOOD business editor Tim Fernholz describes as "for creative techies and do-gooding hipsters that vaulted the 18-minute lecture into an art form."

Like fish trying to make sense of water, it is impossible for most of us to comprehend how much misinformation we take for granted swimming as we do in the ocean of propaganda -- American exceptionalism, the greatest nation in history, fortress of democracy, Christian state, yadda yadda -- that envelops us.

At TED, Fernholz writes, "you’ll find speakers discussing everything from 'Sculpting Waves in Wood and Time' to 'Building U.S.-China relations … by Banjo.' What you won’t find is a recent TED talk by Nick Hanauer, a wealthy venture capitalist, that argues income inequality is a problem that threatens the economy, and that higher taxes on the wealthy are part of the solution."

"So here's an idea worth spreading," concludes Hanauer:
In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class. And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.
A transcript of Hanauer's speech is available here.

See, also: Too Hot for TED: Income Inequality by Jim Tankersley (National Journal 2012-05-22).
TED's Taboo: What's Too Controversial for the Hipster Confab? by Tim Fernholz (GOOD 2012-05-17)

In response to the brouhaha over his website's suppression of Hanauer's talk, TED "curator" Chris Anderson posted the video to Youtube himself, with a link to an apologia: TED and inequality: The real story (TEDChris: The untweetable 2012-05-17). However, Anderson's claim that the talk was rejected because it "framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan" is contradicted by the fact that TED has posted other "partisan" presentations, such as scoldings by Al Gore on the need to fight climate change or the Gates Foundation's Melinda Gates call for handing out contraceptives across the globe. These challenges to the status quo are apparently less bothersome to the wealthy attendees at TED than the simple idea that they should pay their fare share of taxes.

The economy: Professor Robert Reich Explains It All for You

Got a couple of minutes? Want to understand what's up with the economy? Here you go:

Militarism: Americans are tiring of The Long War

Even as they enmesh the U.S. in other senseless, costly military adventures in Yemen, Honduras, West Africa, and the Philippines, to name but a few, Obama administration warriors are taking time off this weekend to try to persuade their erstwhile NATO allies that the war in Afghanistan has been worth the effort. "I can't let this be a war without end," the president is alleged to have said, "and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

Too late. Not only has the invasion lost support of the whole Democratic Party, but, as Robert Naiman wrote yesterday on his HuffPost blog (On Afghanistan, the Pentagon Has Lost the American People 2012-05-18), "a substantial part of the Republican Party as well; the majority of Republican voters, for example." Luckily for the president, his domestic allies are the GOP leaders, so the AfPak debacle probably won't be much of a factor in the fall election. Still, Obama seems to be anxious to control the narrative in Chicago.

Whatever the outcomes in Chicago this weekend and in Kabul some weekend in the future, the enthusiasm of security staters for the Long War will not diminish, whether Barack Obama continues in office or Mitt Romney becomes commander in chief. With access to oil and other resources the motivation and the failed "War on Drugs" the excuse, and no matter the harm that is being done at home, America's political elite will continue to bog the nation down in unwinnable conflicts big and small.

America's Pacific Century: The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action by Hillary Clinton (Foreign Policy 2011-10-11)
The National Security State Wins (Again): Why the Real Victor in Campaign 2012 Won’t Be Obama or Romney by William J. Astore (Tom Dispatch 2012-05-15)
Out of Africa: An expat witnesses the end of halcyon days in Mali by Jennifer Swift-Mogan (ForeignPolicy 2012-04-13)
Unmanned and Dangerous: Why NATO's expanding use of drones is a disturbing trend by Louis Arbour (Foreign Policy 2012-05-18)
The Long War: Year Ten  Lost in the Desert with the GPS on the Fritz  by Andrew J. Bacevich (Tom Dispatch 2010-10-01)
Fact Sheet: History of U.S. Military Involvement in Africa  (AfriCom/Congressional Research Service 2008-06-12)
U.S. Africa Command (AfriCom) History, Background and Fact Sheets

Here are some articles analyzing and debunking the "War on Terror," from a reading list on New Democracy:

2012: Lets have a real debate in the California U.S. Senate race

The June 6, 2012 primary offers the voters of California a unique opportunity to stand against business as usual in Washington: with 24 candidates on the ballot for United States Senate, six of them Democrats, it's possible, at least in theory, that a unity candidate could win second place and the chance to debate centrist Diane Feinstein face-to-face in the run-off in November. Peace & Freedom Party Senate candidate Marsha FeinlandMarsha Feinland of the Peace & Freedom Party would fill this role perfectly: she is articulate, personable, dedicated, and right (that is to say, Left) on the issues. It would be illuminating if, before she heads back to Washington to act in our name, our senior senator was required to explain her positions on such matters as international trade, military adventurism, immigration, homeland security and the bankster crime wave (she's for aggressively prosecuting Julian Assange for espionage, for example, but much less enthusiastic about putting financial crooks in jail), to say nothing of addressing unresolved allegations of corruption stemming from her days on a military appropriations subcommittee.With Democrats and Republicans divvying up the primary ballots, it might not take very high numbers to grab second place; it would certainly make for a livelier debate in the general election to have a representative of the 99% sharing the stage with Sen. Feinstein rather than another one-percenter like herself from the GOP.

Project VoteSmart
's summary of Dianne Feinstein's key votes.

Resource: The Afghanistan Report the Pentagon Doesn't Want You to Read

"Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war. The single greatest penalty our Nation has suffered, however, has been that we have lost the blood, limbs and lives of tens of thousands of American Service Members with little to no gain to our country as a consequence of this deception." -- from Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort, an unclassified summary of our failed military adventure in Afghanistan by Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, posted by Rolling Stone.

For background, see The Afghanistan Report the Pentagon Doesn't Want You to Read by Michael Hastings (Rolling Stone 2012-02-10).

See, also: In Afghan War, Officer Becomes a Whistle-Blower by Scott Shane (New York Times 2012-02-05). Officer: U.S. paints false picture of Afghan war by Agence France-Presse (2012-02-06).

quote unquote: James Madison on war

"No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments James Madison on war and freedomfor bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison

(Political Observations (1795-04-20); also in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. IV, p. 491.)

How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the '1 Percent'

by George Lakey (Waging Nonviolence 2012-01-25)

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice.

Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They “fired” the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.
(A march in Ådalen, Sweden, in 1931.)

Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn’t find oil, but that didn’t stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls “an enviable standard of living.”

Neither country is a utopia, as readers of the crime novels by Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbro will know. Critical left-wing authors such as these try to push Sweden and Norway to continue on the path toward more fully just societies. However, as an American activist who first encountered Norway as a student in 1959 and learned some of its language and culture, the achievements I found amazed me. I remember, for example, bicycling for hours through a small industrial city, looking in vain for substandard housing. Sometimes resisting the evidence of my eyes, I made up stories that “accounted for” the differences I saw: “small country,” “homogeneous,” “a value consensus.” I finally gave up imposing my frameworks on these countries and learned the real reason: their own histories.

Then I began to learn that the Swedes and Norwegians paid a price for their standards of living through nonviolent struggle. There was a time when Scandinavian workers didn’t expect that the electoral arena could deliver the change they believed in. They realized that, with the 1 percent in charge, electoral “democracy” was stacked against them, so nonviolent direct action was needed to exert the power for change.

In both countries, the troops were called out to defend the 1 percent; people died. Award-winning Swedish filmmaker Bo Widerberg told the Swedish story vividly in Ådalen 31, which depicts the strikers killed in 1931 and the sparking of a nationwide general strike. (You can read more about this case in an entry by Max Rennebohm in the Global Nonviolent Action Database.)

The Norwegians had a harder time organizing a cohesive people’s movement because Norway’s small population—about three million—was spread out over a territory the size of Britain. People were divided by mountains and fjords, and they spoke regional dialects in isolated valleys. In the nineteenth century, Norway was ruled by Denmark and then by Sweden; in the context of Europe Norwegians were the “country rubes,” of little consequence. Not until 1905 did Norway finally become independent.

When workers formed unions in the early 1900s, they generally turned to Marxism, organizing for revolution as well as immediate gains. They were overjoyed by the overthrow of the czar in Russia, and the Norwegian Labor Party joined the Communist International organized by Lenin. Labor didn’t stay long, however. One way in which most Norwegians parted ways with Leninist strategy was on the role of violence: Norwegians wanted to win their revolution through collective nonviolent struggle, along with establishing co-ops and using the electoral arena.

In the 1920s strikes increased in intensity. The town of Hammerfest formed a commune in 1921, led by workers councils; the army intervened to crush it. The workers’ response verged toward a national general strike. The employers, backed by the state, beat back that strike, but workers erupted again in the ironworkers’ strike of 1923–24.

The Norwegian 1 percent decided not to rely simply on the army; in 1926 they formed a social movement called the Patriotic League, recruiting mainly from the middle class. By the 1930s, the League included as many as 100,000 people for armed protection of strike breakers—this in a country of only 3 million!

The Labor Party, in the meantime, opened its membership to anyone, whether or not in a unionized workplace. Middle-class Marxists and some reformers joined the party. Many rural farm workers joined the Labor Party, as well as some small landholders. Labor leadership understood that in a protracted struggle, constant outreach and organizing was needed to a nonviolent campaign. In the midst of the growing polarization, Norway’s workers launched another wave of strikes and boycotts in 1928.

The Depression hit bottom in 1931. More people were jobless there than in any other Nordic country. Unlike in the U.S., the Norwegian union movement kept the people thrown out of work as members, even though they couldn’t pay dues. This decision paid off in mass mobilizations. When the employers’ federation locked employees out of the factories to try to force a reduction of wages, the workers fought back with massive demonstrations.

Many people then found that their mortgages were in jeopardy. (Sound familiar?) The Depression continued, and farmers were unable to keep up payment on their debts. As turbulence hit the rural sector, crowds gathered nonviolently to prevent the eviction of families from their farms. The Agrarian Party, which included larger farmers and had previously been allied with the Conservative Party, began to distance itself from the 1 percent; some could see that the ability of the few to rule the many was in doubt.

By 1935, Norway was on the brink. The Conservative-led government was losing legitimacy daily; the 1 percent became increasingly desperate as militancy grew among workers and farmers. A complete overthrow might be just a couple years away, radical workers thought. However, the misery of the poor became more urgent daily, and the Labor Party felt increasing pressure from its members to alleviate their suffering, which it could do only if it took charge of the government in a compromise agreement with the other side.

This it did. In a compromise that allowed owners to retain the right to own and manage their firms, Labor in 1935 took the reins of government in coalition with the Agrarian Party. They expanded the economy and started public works projects to head toward a policy of full employment that became the keystone of Norwegian economic policy. Labor’s success and the continued militancy of workers enabled steady inroads against the privileges of the 1 percent, to the point that majority ownership of all large firms was taken by the public interest. (There is an entry on this case as well at the Global Nonviolent Action Database.)

The 1 percent thereby lost its historic power to dominate the economy and society. Not until three decades later could the Conservatives return to a governing coalition, having by then accepted the new rules of the game, including a high degree of public ownership of the means of production, extremely progressive taxation, strong business regulation for the public good and the virtual abolition of poverty. When Conservatives eventually tried a fling with neoliberal policies, the economy generated a bubble and headed for disaster. (Sound familiar?)

Labor stepped in, seized the three largest banks, fired the top management, left the stockholders without a dime and refused to bail out any of the smaller banks. The well-purged Norwegian financial sector was not one of those countries that lurched into crisis in 2008; carefully regulated and much of it publicly owned, the sector was solid.

Although Norwegians may not tell you about this the first time you meet them, the fact remains that their society’s high level of freedom and broadly-shared prosperity began when workers and farmers, along with middle class allies, waged a nonviolent struggle that empowered the people to govern for the common good.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

George Lakey
George Lakey is Visiting Professor at Swarthmore College and a Quaker. He has led 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national, and international levels. Among many other books and articles, he is author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” in David Solnit’s book Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004). His first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and most recent was with Earth Quaker Action Team while protesting mountain top removal coal mining. E-mail:

Democracy: Bulk up the House. Dump the Senate.

A number of initiatives and referenda have been cleared for circulation by the California Secretary of State, including,
1540. (11-0067) Legislature Expansion. Legislative Process. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Increases size of Legislature almost 100-fold by dividing current Assembly and Senate districts into neighborhood districts such that each Assemblymember represents about 5,000 persons and each Senator represents about 10,000 persons. Provides for neighborhood district representatives to elect working committees the size of the current Assembly and Senate, 80 Assemblymembers and 40 Senators. Gives working committees the legislative power generally, and sole power to amend bills, but requires approval by appropriate vote of the full membership in each house for passage of any non-urgency bill. Reduces legislators' pay and expenditures. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Decreased state spending on the Legislature of over $180 million annually. Increased county election costs, potentially in the range of tens of millions of dollars initially and lower amounts annually thereafter.
I've proposed elsewhere that the federal legislature be reduced to one house and that the resultant unicameral congress be reconstituted with 30,000 members. Research has shown that beyond about 10,000 voters, districts are too big for citizens effectively to know their representatives. Given the reach of digital technology, participants in a 30K-member body would be able to remain in their district most of the time, meeting with other representatives virtually and conducting the people's business within the grasp of their constituents.

Democracy is badly in need of reform. What was practicable in the days of horses and buggies may be appropriate no longer. If the Founders were inventing the United States now, Paine would be tweeting, Hamilton, Madison and Jay would have a blog, and Jefferson and Adams would be arguing over at Constitution.Org. The system they would devise today would look nothing like the Rube Goldberg contraption they arrived at by compromise more than two centuries ago. For sure, they'd consider the current constitutional release as beta.

See, also:
The Big House by Sean Wilentz and Micheal Merrill (The New Republic 1992-11-16).
How Can the U.S. House Be Made More Representative? by J.F. Zimmerman and W. Rule (Political Science and Politics Volume 31, Number 1; 1998).
House of Representatives: Setting the Size at 435 by David C. Huckabee (pdf) (CRS Report for Congress 1995-07-11).
Beyond Administrative Apportionment: Rediscovering the Calculus of Representative Government by John A. Kromkowski (pdf) (Polity, Vol. XXIV, No. 3 Spring 1992).
A House of Our Own or A House We’ve Outgrown? An Argument for Increasing the Size of the House of Representatives by Christopher St. John Yates Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 1992).
How to build a better House: Why Not Have 1000 Congressmen? by Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe 2009-11-08).
Political monopoly power by Walter Williams (Creators Syndicate 2008-10-15).
Why not have 1000 Congressman? by George Will (Townhall 2001-01-14).
Want to be more efficient? Increase number of politicians by Jonah Goldberg (Jewish World Review 2001-01-04).
Increasing the size of Congress could limit campaign spending by Andrew W. Cohen ( Law Center 200-06-30).
Growth in U.S. Population Calls for Larger House of Representatives by Margo Anderson (Population Today 2000-04).

Full Text 0f Legislature Expansion. Legislative Process. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Complete list of California Initiatives and Referenda Cleared for Circulation.

Reform: Four Smart State Laws Set to Move in 2012

Congress may be deadlocked, but practical, popular solutions are gaining momentum at the state level.

by Charles Monaco (Yes! 2012-01-13)

In the year since conservatives took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in states across the nation, we’ve seen them move their agenda with alarming disregard for both democracy and the economic security of the nation. From the irresponsibly provoked debt ceiling “crisis” to the wholesale obstruction of job creation efforts, conservatives on the national stage took an approach of reckless political brinksmanship over the past year that put the entire economy at risk. And from Wisconsin to Alabama and beyond, 2011 saw conservatives in the states—buoyed by support from their corporate allies in the 1%—launch attack after attack on workers, women, voters, and immigrants.

But the new year brings new hope for progressives looking to turn the tide—hope that, for the time being, largely resides not in the halls of Congress but in the 50 states. Elections in every corner of the country last November—from Arizona to Maine to Ohio—saw voters decisively reject a range of right-wing legislative attacks. The shady practice of corporations writing state laws to benefit their own bottom lines (through organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council) has been subject to an increasing amount of sunlight and public attention. And the public sentiment behind the explosive growth of the Occupy movement last fall has remained, even as many physical occupations have been forcibly dismantled. On issue after issue, public opinion remains firmly in favor of policies that will begin to address the needs of the 99 percent.

While progressives in the states will be focused on a range of economic priorities, here are four specific policies that state lawmakers are advancing in 2012 that are practical, popular, and are set to gain real momentum as new legislative sessions kick off starting this month:

1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Proposals that Can Pass in Red and Blue States Alike:

When President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act last fall, he included in it a handful of elements that had already been passed with bipartisan support—and proven successful—in many states. These included the banning of employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed, saving jobs by allowing work-sharing as part of unemployment insurance programs, and requiring that states “Buy American” in their contracting practices in order to create jobs here at home. These measures have shown both that they work and that they can pass even in conservative-controlled chambers.

Public opinion remains firmly in favor of policies that will begin to address the needs of the 99 percent.

In 2011, New Jersey passed a bill prohibiting employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their current employment status, and similar bills are set to move across the nation in 2012. Likewise, work-sharing—a pro-worker measure currently in place in 23 states that allows workers to keep their jobs and gives employers flexibility to weather a downturn by allowing workers to earn partial UI benefits while working part-time—passed in states, including Pennsylvania and Maine, with conservative legislatures. And “Buy American” provisions are also set to move in a slew of states (such as Nebraska) this year.

2. Creating State Banks to Foster Local Economic Growth:

With revenue and budget crises certain to be in the headlines once again in many states in 2012, lawmakers are increasingly looking towards structural changes that will ensure they can rebuild and sustain prosperity—even as conservatives once again look to cut much needed public services to the bone.

While demanding corporate transparency and accountability—and requiring that the 1 percent and corporations pay their fair share in taxes—will continue to be a priority for progressive state lawmakers in 2012, they will also be attempting to capitalize on widespread public frustration with big banks by proposing the creation of state development banks similar to the one in place for over 90 years in North Dakota. The creation of state banks would allow states to invest dollars in their local communities rather than line the pockets of Wall Street CEOs. Additionally, according to one study, state banks have the potential to close some current state deficits by anywhere from 10 - 20 percent. The measure will be hotly debated in Oregon this year, where it has the potential to pass, and introduced in many other states as well.

3. Restoring the Minimum Wage to Grow the Economy:

One of the simplest ways for states to jumpstart their economies and address the needs of the 99 percent—all without increasing spending—is through restoring the minimum wage. Studies have shown that raising the minimum wage provides a direct boost to economies by giving lower-income workers more purchasing power.

The basic principle that no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty clearly resonates with the public.

While proposals are under consideration in many states, including New York and Missouri, perhaps the most exciting development is in Illinois, where legislation is under consideration that would restore the minimum wage to its historic 1968 value: $10.50 per hour, after adjusting for inflation. Other states are considering measures that would index the minimum wage so that it rises with inflation, or to boost it by lower amounts. In 8 states, automatic increases took effect on January 1st, providing much needed economic stimulus; in Washington, the rate is now at $9 an hour.

Regardless of the specific proposals, raising the minimum wage has proven incredibly popular, with approval for the policy ranging from 75 to 90 percent in recent polls. The basic principle that no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty clearly resonates with the public, and bodes well for continuing efforts to raise the minimum wage and grow state economies in 2012.

4. Rejecting Arizona’s Immigration Approach, Businesses Line Up Behind Tuition Equity

After Arizona enacted SB1070, its controversial “show me your papers bill,” in the summer of 2010, conventional wisdom had it that states would be lining up to copy this destructive, enforcement-only approach to immigration. Prominent copycat bills in states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina notwithstanding, the vast majority of states have rejected similar bills. This widespread rejection has been due in no small part to the efforts of the business community, which is acutely aware that the deep economic pain and social upheaval that has accompanied the passage of SB1070 copycats is simply not good for business, or for a state’s economic prospects.

Over the last two years, states have increasingly turned towards common-sense legislation that welcomes the economic contributions of (and taxes paid by) immigrants and non-immigrants alike. One of the chief ways they are doing so is by advancing tuition equity measures. Already enacted in 14 states, these laws allow talented undocumented students to attend state universities and colleges at the same tuition rate as their U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident classmates. Many are on the agenda again in 2012, including in Colorado, Hawaii, and New Mexico. Colorado State Sen. Mike Johnston, a former high school principal, reflected on the reason such laws see growing support: “Colorado’s future depends on forward-thinking approaches to immigration—ones that focus on nurturing talented youth and putting our tax dollars to better use than destroying immigrant families.”
Charles Monaco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Charles is director of Communications and New Media with the Progressive States Network.

This article is reprinted under the the Creative Commons license.
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