Subscribe RSS

How Americans’ Lives Have Turned Into All Work And No Play, In 3 Charts

October 1st, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in public health, safety net

Family vacation

by Bryce Covert, Dylan Petrohilos

Progressive America Rising VIA ThinkProgress.org

Sept 30, 2014 = American workers are putting in more and more hours each week, as the supposedly 40-hour workweek has stretched to 47 hours. At the same time, they’re getting very little paid time off of work to recharge.

Just 12 percent of people who work in the private sector get paid family leave benefits, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even worse, low-income workers, who are least likely to be able to afford to take time off, have less access to paid leave.

American employers are more likely to give their workers paid sick days, vacation days, or holidays. Even so, it’s not universal: 23 percent of workers don’t get paid vacation time, 24 don’t get paid holidays, and nearly 40 percent don’t get paid sick leave.

Even those who get this time off are getting less of it. The average worker who gets paid vacation time gets 10 days off, compared to 15 last year. And someone who gets paid sick leave gets six days of it, compared to eight last year.

PAIDTIMEOFF

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

The United States is very lonely when it comes to the fact that it doesn’t require paid maternity leave. Out of 185 countries, just the U.S., Oman, and Papua New Guinea don’t guarantee that mothers can take paid time off when a new child arrives. Seventy countries also guarantee that fathers can take paid time off. Instead, the U.S. only requires that workers be given 12 unpaid weeks. Just three states have enacted paid family leave programs and a federal bill has been introduced, but so far it hasn’t gone anywhere.

The country is also lonely in its lack of a guarantee that workers can get paid sick days or holiday and vacation time. It’s the only country out of 22 developed peers that doesn’t require paid sick leave and the only one out of 21 that doesn’t require paid vacations and holidays. The European Union requires 20 paid vacation days and France, for example, requires 30.

Fifteen paid sick leave laws have been passed in the U.S., but just one state, Connecticut, requires employers to offer paid days when someone falls ill. And only one state, Washington, has even considered enacting a minimum requirement of paid vacation days.

US Unions Are Shrinking. These 7 Charts Show What That Means.

September 9th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in economic democracy, poverty, safety net, trade unions, Unemployment

This is a group of union members. They are a dying breed. Portland Press Herald / Getty Images

By Danielle Kurtzleben

Progressive America Rising via Vox

September 1, 2014 – Labor day isn’t just an excuse for millions of workers to have a three-day weekend. It began as a union holiday, an American counterpart to the International Workers Day of May 1st. But while the holiday endures, unions are increasingly becoming a thing of the past in the US. Here’s a chart-filled rundown of how unions’ place in the US has fallen off over the years, and what that means.

1) Unions have shrunk — a lot.

Union membership

Just 30 years ago, around 1 in 5 workers was a union member. Today, it’s just over 1 in 10, around 11.3 percent as of 2013. The cause of the decline is subject to heated debate. One reason may be new right-to-work laws — five states have added right-to-work laws since 1980. Some have argued that unions simply don’t appeal to young workers like they once did.

2) The fall happened entirely in the private sector.

Pew public and private unions

Source: Pew Research Center

Today, there are more than 3 million fewer union members than there were in 1983. But public sector unions have still grown; only private sector unions have fallen off, by around 4.6 million people.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ferguson Insurgency and Generational Politics

August 22nd, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in poverty, racism, Unemployment, youth and students

In Ferguson, young demonstrators are finding it’s not their grandparents’ protest

By DeNeen L. Brown

Progressive America Rising via Washington Post

Aug, 21m 2014 – FERGUSON, Mo. — It hasn’t been so easy for traditional civil-rights-era activists in this small St. Louis suburb in recent weeks, where the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer has put them on all-too-familiar turf: challenging the treatment of African American men by police.

They, like so many around the country — including President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. — have been deeply concerned about the militarized police response with tanks and tear gas and scores of arrests.

But what also has affected these activists is the realization that there is a generational divide between them and young protesters, who are organizing on their own. They are fueled by rage, mobilized by social media and sometimes, or so it seems to the old guard, capable of a bit of disrespect.

“The difference is, in the ’60s, we were disciplined,” Ron Gregory, 72, told a crowd gathered at a historic church on Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis to discuss protest strategies. The city is just minutes away from Ferguson.

“We were trained when we marched. We were taught if they spit on you, just wipe it off and continue marching. But we are dealing with a new breed of youngster. They say, ‘You better not spit on me.’ ”

The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer has pushed a St. Louis suburb past the breaking point.

Generational divides are not new. Even John Lewis and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee challenged leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference because they believed they weren’t pushing hard enough, fast enough. Later, the Black Panther Party took up arms and argued that African Americans have a right to defend themselves.

Read the rest of this entry »

Suburban Ghettos like Ferguson are Ticking Time Bombs

August 21st, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in racism, safety net, structural reform, Unemployment

Protestors march down West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

The protests there might be the first in a wave of suburban riots.

By Peter Dreier and Todd Swanstrom

Progressive America Rising via Washington Post

August 21, 2014 -  The current turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., follows the trajectory of urban riots in Newark, Detroit, Cincinnati, Miami, Oakland, Los Angeles and elsewhere. They typically begin with an incident of racially tinged police abuse. Outraged members of the black community organize protests, the police overreact, and the protests become more violent and threatening.

But there’s a key difference this time — Ferguson is a suburb.

More specifically, it’s a suburban ghetto.  Today, about 40 percent of the nation’s 46 million poor live in suburbs, up from 20 percent in 1970. These communities (often inner-ring suburbs) are beset with problems once associated with big cities: unemployment (especially among young men), crime, homelessness and inadequate schools and public services. Their populations are disproportionately black and Latino.

Ferguson is a microcosm of these problems and how they can erupt. But without major reforms, the current upheaval may be the first in a wave of suburban riots.

One major problem is political representation. Two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black, but blacks are severely underrepresented in Ferguson’s city government and school board. The mayor is white, as are five of six City Council members. Six of seven school board members are white.

The main reason for this discrepancy is simple: Blacks vote at a remarkably low rate in local elections. In 2012, the year President Obama ran for reelection, blacks in Ferguson voted at almost the same rate as whites (54 percent versus 55 percent), but in the 2013 municipal election, they voted at less than half the rate of whites (7  percent vs. 17 percent).

Blacks’ weak representation in local politics has real consequences. The Ferguson police department, for example, has a long history of abusing its black citizens. Only three out of 53 police officers in Ferguson are black. If blacks had a real voice in Ferguson city government, they could have made hiring more black police officers a high priority.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clinton vs. Obama, Iraq and ‘The Long War’ Theory

August 14th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Iran, iraq, Long War, Middle East, Syria

This photo is believed to be the ISIS forces moving into the Anbar province of Iraq in January 2014. (Photo: Associated Press, 2014)This article was republished by The Nation on August 13, 2014.

Tom Hayden on the Alternatives in Iraq

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Aug 12, 2014 – Hillary Clinton’s flapping of her hawkish wings only intensifies the pressure on President Barack Obama to escalate US military involvement in the sectarian wars of Iraq and Syria. Domestic political considerations already are a major factor in forcing Obama to "do something" to save the Yazidis, avert "another Benghazi," and double down in the undeclared Long War against Islamic fundamentalism.

Clinton certainly was correct in arguing that Obama’s statement "don’t do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle of US foreign policy. Instead of offering a new foreign policy, based for example on democracy, economic development and renewable energy however, Clinton lapsed into the very Cold War thinking she once questioned in the Sixties.

America’s long war on jihadi terrorism should be modeled on the earlier Cold War against communism, Clinton said. We made "mistakes", supported many "nasty guys", did "some things we’re not proud of", but the Cold War ended in American triumph with, "The defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism."

Ignoring the new Cold Wars with Russia and China, Clinton’s nostalgic vision is sure to be widely accepted among Americans, including many Democrats. She ignores, or may not even be familiar with, the actual Long War doctrine quietly promulgated during the past eight years by national security gurus like David Kilcullen, the top counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Put simply, the Long War theorists have projected an eighty-year military conflict with militant Islam over an "arc of crisis" spanning multiple Muslim countries. Starting with 9/11, the Long War would continue through twenty presidential terms. In Kilcullen’s thesis, Iraq is only a "small war" within a larger one. Since a war of such duration could never be declared officially, the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] stands as its feeble underlying justification.

Obama has made cautious attempts to separate himself from the Long War doctrine and even seeks to narrow or revisit the AUMF. But Obama has never named and or criticized the doctrine, presumably for fear of being accused of going soft in the War on Terrorism. Obama’s true foreign policy leaning is revealed in his repeated desire to "do some nation building here at home", which many hawks view as a retreat from America’s imperial role. They prefer, in Clinton’s words, the posture of "aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward," rather than being, "down on yourself."

While expanding US drone attacks, intervening in Libya and Yemen, and now escalating again in Iraq, Obama has emphasized another foreign policy direction that is disturbing to hawks. Obama repeatedly argues, “There is no military solution…" to the very wars he has engaged in, or tried to disengage from. That rational observation apparently is too "radical" for a government with the largest military in the world.

Clinton thinks the better approach is a little more muscular intervention – arming the Syrian rebels, for example, combined with some "soft power" on the ground.

Read the rest of this entry »

How the Democrats Can Blow It in 2014

August 12th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats

Running as a Dem, sounding like a Republican

By: Alex Isenstadt

Progressive America Rising via Politico

August 11, 2014 – It’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail. It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so.

Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.

Faced with a treacherous political environment, many Democrats are trotting out campaign ads that call for balanced budgets, tax cuts and other more traditionally GOP positions. Some of them are running in congressional districts that just two years ago broke sharply for President Barack Obama.

The Republican-flavored ads provide an early glimpse of how Democrats will wage their 2014 campaign. Democrats, hampered by Obama’s rising unpopularity and the tendency for conservatives to turn out at higher levels than liberals in midterm years, face the reality that swing congressional districts favorable to them in 2012 will be far less so in 2014.

Read the rest of this entry »

Should Populists Declare Victory?

August 7th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, 2016 Election, Democrats, PDA, Voting Rights, Wall Street

By Robert Borosage

Progressive America Rising via OurFuture.org

Aug 7, 2014 – Should populists declare victory and go home? Despite money-drenched politics, Washington gridlock, the richest few capturing virtually all the income growth in the economy and corporations deserting the country to avoid taxes, the fanciful notion that populists have captured the Democratic Party is gaining popularity in the political chatter of the idle summer months.

Politico argues that “an ascendant progressive and populist movement” is “on the verge of taking over the party.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, electric on campaign trail and in social media, is touted as “Wall Street’s nightmare” and a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Hillary’s supporters respond with a hearty embrace, arguing that there’s no notable issue difference between Hillary and Warren. Blogger Matt Yglesias trumpets that Democrats are more united than ever, with no major issues dividing them.

The Democratic Leadership Council, center of the New Democrat assault on liberals, has shut its doors. The Rubinomics of the New Dems – featuring corporate trade accords, financial deregulation, fiscal austerity, and starving public investments – was discredited in the economic collapse. And now The Democratic Strategist, a New Democrat offshoot, features a “strategy memo” by James Vega arguing that progressives should declare victory and pick up their winnings. Rather than continuing to wage “a fight for the soul of the party,” challenging conservative Democrats in primaries, they should follow the example set by Warren, lay out a popular populist agenda, rally support for it, and invite all Democrats to join.

Plaintively, Vega argues that the New Dems have seen the error of their ways, understanding that financial deregulation in the 1990s was a mistake and that Obama’s Grand Bargain strategy in 2010-2011 was an error. Centrists have learned the need for a more populist stance and policies. Progressives should claim victory and hang up their pitchforks, eschewing “accusations of personal corruption and loyalties to groups like Wall Street.”

Warren, Vega argues, is the exemplar of this. She lays out a popular populist agenda and promises to fight for it. She consolidates support and mobilizes energy. She doesn’t push off of other Democrats, name names, or act divisively, thus she can “invite moderates in.”

Vega warns the populists that they can’t combine the Warren “progressive agenda” approach with the traditional “struggle for the soul of the party” at the same time. The one tries to unify a political party around a broad agenda; the latter tries to “purify” it by defining some groups as unacceptable.

This argument is like the summer’s morning fog; it evaporates in the light. The problem for Democrats isn’t that the populists are too powerful, but that they are too weak. Groups like Moveon.org, Daily Kos, Democrats for America, the Working Families Party, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have only begun to build the capacity to recruit and support candidates. At the state and local level, Progressive Majority is one of the few operations that helps recruit and train populist challengers. Labor unions still tend to be less active in primaries, gearing up only to get members out in the general election. Hillary Clinton is unique in many ways, but her ability to build a campaign-in-waiting, with millions already committed, demonstrates a potency that populists cannot match.

The argument over the direction of the party has always been about vision, agenda and leaders. The brutal battles are over issues, particularly defining issues that are tied to differing directions. What Warren personifies is the reality that the most attractive leaders in the Senate (Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, John Whitehouse and others) and House (like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva of the Progressive Caucus), activists of the Rising American Electorate (young, people of color, single women), and the organized base of the party – labor, citizen action groups, civil rights, women’s and environmental groups – all support an agenda far bolder and more populist than that embraced by the Obama White House.

With Hillary’s strength virtually suffocating the race for the nomination, progressives have already set out to lay out that agenda, consolidate the support for it, and elevate leaders who champion it. They do so both in the hope that Hillary will move to adopt their themes and reforms, and to build an independent movement for change.

This isn’t about electoral messaging or a settling of scores out of personal pique against those who got it wrong in the past. What is driving the new populism is an economy that does not work for working families. The concern about extreme inequality isn’t because some are rich beyond all measure. It is because the wealthiest 1 percent are capturing virtually all of the income growth of the society, meaning that everyone is struggling simply to stay afloat.

And, this isn’t an accident, an act of fate, a natural phenomena. This is, as Warren states, because they rigged the rules to benefit themselves. It won’t be changed without fierce battles to dislodge powerful and entrenched interests and change the rules. Curbing the financial casino requires taking on Wall Street. Getting trade right and reviving good jobs at home requires taking on the multinationals. Making the investments we need in areas vital to our future requires forcing the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Enabling workers to capture a fair share of the profits and productivity they help generate requires empowering workers and curbing CEO excesses. Providing a fair and healthy shot for every child requires reversing the conservative retreats of the last decades. The list can go on.

These fights will be at the center of our political debates over the next years. They will be pitched battles against powerful interests. Politicians will have to decide which side they are on. And the new populism has no chance unless a powerful movement is built that is prepared to elect champions to office and take on those who stand in the way.

America’s Massive National Security State Is the 4th Branch of Government

August 5th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Long War, militarism

 

Who rules Washington?

By Tom Englehardt

Beaver County Peace Links via Tom Dispatch

August 3, 2014 |   As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary.  That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material.  Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II.  It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort.

Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply.  In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power.  So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country).  In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.”  And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yet Another Case for a Popular Front vs. Finance Capital

July 29th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in financial crisis, poverty, safety net, Social Securiy, trade unions, Wall Street, youth and students

Big Lie: America Doesn't Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World: We're Ranked 27th!

Big Lie: America Doesn’t Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World: We’re Ranked 27th!

Les Leopold Author, The Looting of America

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

July 28, 2014 – America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires, and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years! 

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.

Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27. 

The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.

Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, "God bless the child that’s got his own." 

Well, it’s a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).

Why?

Here’s a starter list:

  • We don’t have real universal healthcare. We pay more and still have poorer health outcomes than all other industrialized countries. Should a serious illness strike, we also can become impoverished.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five Ways Wall Street Continues to Screw Up the Economy for the Rest of Us and How to Fix It

July 8th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in financial crisis, Infrastructure, poverty, Unemployment, Wall Street

By Robert Kuttner

Beaver County Blue via Huffington Post

July 2, 2014 – The shocking thing about the financial collapse of 2008 is not that Wall Street excesses pushed us into the worst economy crisis since the Depression. It’s that the same financial system has been propped back up and that elites are getting richer than ever, while the effects of that collapse are continuing to sandbag the rest of the economy. Oh, and most of this aftermath happened while a Democrat was in the White House.

Consider:

  • The biggest banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever.
  • Subprime (subprime!) is making a comeback [2] with interest rates of 8 to 13 percent.
  • Despite Michael Lewis’s devastating expose of how high speed trading is nothing but a technological scam that allows insiders to profit at the expense of small investors, regulators are not moving to abolish it [3].
  • The usual suspects are declaring the housing crisis over, even though default and foreclosure rates in the hardest hit cities and states are upwards of 25 percent.
  • The deficit is falling, now just 2.8 percent of GDP [4], thanks to massive cuts in social spending. Isn’t that reassuring?

Meanwhile, back in the real economy, good jobs are far too scarce, incomes are stagnant, while 95 percent of the gains go to the top one percent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: ,