Subscribe RSS

Six Ways America is Like a Third-World Country

March 5th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Civil Liberties, public health, Unemployment

The U.S. imprisons a higher percentage of our population than countries like Russia, China and Iran.

Our society lags behind the rest of the developed world in education, health care, violence and more

by Sean McElwee

Progressive America Rising via Rolling Stone

MARCH 05, 2014 – Although the U.S. is one of the richest societies in history, it still lags behind other developed nations in many important indicators of human development – key factors like how we educate our children, how we treat our prisoners, how we take care of the sick and more. In some instances, the U.S.’s performance is downright abysmal, far below foreign countries that are snidely looked-down-upon as "third world." Here are six of the most egregious examples that show how far we still have to go:

1. Criminal Justice

We all know the U.S. criminal justice system is flawed, but few are likely aware of just how bad it is compared to the rest of the world. The International Center for Prison Studies estimates that America imprisons 716 people per 100,000 citizens (of any age). That’s significantly worse than Russia (484 prisoners per 100,000 citizens), China (121) and Iran (284). The only country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than we do is North Korea. The U.S. is also the only developed country that executes prisoners – and our death penalty has a serious race problem: 42 percent of those on death row are black, compared to less than 15 percent of the overall population.

Over two and a half million American children have a parent behind bars. A whopping 60 percent of those incarcerated in U.S. prisons are non-violent offenders, many of them in prison for drug charges (overwhelmingly African-Americans). Even while our crime rate has fallen, our incarcerated population has climbed. As of 2011, an estimated 217,000 American prisoners were raped each year ­– that’s 600 new victims every day, a truly horrifying number. In 2010, the Department of Justice released a report about abuse in juvenile detention centers. The report found that 12.1 percent of all youth held in juvenile detention reported sexual violence; youth held for between seven and 12 months had a victimization rate of 14.2 percent.

2. Gun Violence

The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn’t a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average.

Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan Rightwing Legislature Wants to Pass Bill To Fine Citizens Up To $1k Per Day For Picketing

February 27th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Civil Liberties, rightwing, Voting Rights

 

Michigan Tea Party Legislature Passes Bill To Require Judges To Fine Citizens Up To $1K For Picketing

Bye-bye First Amendment rights, Michigan GOP and Tea Party reps pass a law requiring judges to fine citizens up to $1k per day, for picketing an employer. Image: Kheel Center

By Randa Morris

Progressive America Rising via addictinginfo.org

Feb 26, 2014 – This week, the Michigan House of Representatives took up HB 4643, legislation which was introduced by Republican Tom McMillin, that imposes massive fines against citizens who exercise their basic first amendment rights.

Under this law, citizens can be fined up to $1,000 per day for picketing.

Michigan’s extreme right wing Governor, Rick Snyder, along with the state’s predominately GOP/tea party legislature, have passed some of the most controversial laws in the country. From the state’s insane Emergency Manager law, which grants the governor power to remove any elected official and replace that official with a hand picked lackey of the governor himself, to the much hated Right To Work legislation that was passed by the legislature only after the voters were locked out of the capital, to the state’s extreme anti-abortion legislation and it’s widely condemned ‘rape insurance‘ bill, the fanatical right wing politicians that have seized hold of Michigan have made it all too clear that what the voters want is of no consequence to them.

As if all of that were not enough, however, this week the Michigan House of Representatives took up a bill that will require judges to impose a fine of up to $1,000 a day for picketing workers. An additional fine of up to $10,000 a day is also to be levied against any labor organization found to be leading or organizing a strike.

Not only is this law a direct attack on labor, but a direct attack on rights guaranteed to all citizens under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Here’s a video from the House Floor. Representative Jim Towsend (D) introduced three amendments to the proposed house bill, in order to protect citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly. At the end of the video the Speaker of the House can be heard to say “Amendments not adopted.”

 

Are Michigan workers making too much money?

What’s up with all of these anti-worker bills in Michigan? Why would the state’s representatives be launching attacks against workers? Are Michigan’s super high wages keeping employers from opening businesses in the state? Not hardly. In fact, Michigan workers are not earning anything close to super high wages.

Read the rest of this entry »

UAW: Unions Need New Strategy

February 18th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, Organizing, rightwing, trade unions

Reflections on the defeat suffered by the TN workers in Volkswagen

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising via BillFletcherJr.com

Feb 18 , 2014 · The election loss at the Chattanooga plant of VW was, first and foremost, a loss suffered by the workers.  Secondarily it was a loss suffered by the United Auto Workers.  The workers at that facility lost the chance to bargain collectively and to obtain a voice in their workplace.  This was a loss that was mainly the result of the all-out right-wing offensive that took place in TN against the workers and their–the workers’–decision to seek representation. And, as is the case for all workers who lack collective bargaining (or the even rarer personal contract), they remain in a free-fire zone where they can be removed from their job for any reason or no reason as long as the reason does not violate statute.   I am sorry; i just needed to cut to the chase.

Yet, we cannot stop there with our reflections on what transpired.  This was a situation where the company–VW–agreed to be neutral and, in many ways, seemed to welcome the union.  Nevertheless, by a relatively slim majority, the proponents of workers’ rights did not prevail.   This reality emphasizes the point that employer neutrality, while important, is insufficient.  There are larger factors at stake when workers must make a decision on union representation, particularly in a period where labor unions have been under such vicious assault.  The decision, in this case, of the Republican Party and others on the political Right to draw a line in the sand and go all out to intimidate the workforce is a case-in-point.  The workers, their families and friends had to decide whether the threats coming from the political Right were genuine or just rhetoric.  Given the history of anti-worker repression in the South, along with the on-going racist efforts to secure a ‘white bloc’ against progress, the messages of the political Right came through loud and clear.

At the same time there was another factor that i found particularly striking.   It was mentioned in an article on the election in the Washington Post yesterday (Monday).  They indicated that within the anti-union vote there were those who were angered by the UAW’s willingness to keep the wages and benefits of VW workers in TN ‘competitive.’  This was particularly interesting because herein lay a critique of the UAW that may have surprised many people.  The workers were saying that they did not want to guarantee to VW that their wages would stay below those of Chrysler, Ford or GM workers.

The UAW finds itself in a bind.  For more than thirty years it has engaged in concessionary bargaining with employers under the banner of “jointness.”  Only a few years ago it approved a two-tier agreement by which the wage and benefit package for incoming workers would differ from veteran workers.  Two-tier systems are by their very nature demoralizing and undermine any real sense of solidarity.  They are also a poison pill that can kill the patient over time as the newer workers come to resent the benefits that they do not have, but which are held by the veteran workers.  Jointness, two tier concessions and a failure–until relatively recently–to develop innovative approaches toward organizing auto “transplants” and auto parts manufacturers in the South have come back to bite the UAW, and to bite with fangs of steel.

The defeat in TN will lead some commentators to suggest that organizing in the South, or in any hostile environment, is pointless short of changes in labor law.  Such conclusions, which we hear periodically, are ahistoric and defeatest.   Yet there are sobering conclusions, or at least suggestions that must be considered.  With all due respect, let me propose a few.

One, the UAW needs to build a local union in that TN plant.  The fact that the election was lost should not mean that the union disappears.  Rather, there is the notion that has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years of what are called “non-majority unions,” that is, unions that are organized in a situation where they have not won majority status and, therefore, cannot bargain collectively, but where they can organize the workers and build alternative forms of representation.   The UAW needs to make that commitment and flip the script.

Two, as is being attempted by the UAW in Mississippi, organizing must look very differently than in the past.  The battle is not simply, only and some cases, mainly between the workers and the employer.  In the case of Chattanooga, VW was not opposed to the union, for example.  Yet in organizing a labor union we must be clear that this is and always has been about power–who has it and who does not.  Thus, organizing a union really must be a community affair.  It must be a matter that involves and engages not only the directly affected workers but also their families, friends and neighbors.  The community must see in unionization an economic development strategy that makes sense. They must also see in unionization a strategy to fight back against the gross injustices that workers feel every day.

Three, grass roots political education and political action is key.  The political Right mobilized its various forces against this unionization effort.  Workers and their unions cannot sit back and await a Democratic Party response to such a travesty.  Workers need locally-based political associations and organizations that can mobilize in order to both advance a progressive project but to also move against the political Right.  Champions of workers rights must create a bit of mischief thereby destabilizing our opponents.  That ranges from an active presence in the media to legislative initiatives that advance workers’ rights to electoral campaigns against the demons who wish to keep the workers in bondage.

Four, and this is a difficult one, the UAW will need to look at itself.  The UAW is not by itself in this challenge, i might add.  Today’s unions were constructed in a very different environment.  In many cases they are led–at the national and local levels–by very sincere individuals who continue to fight the ‘last war.’  In the case of the UAW, the leaders and members probably need to seize this time to reflect on the strategy of jointness; on two-tier systems; on their failure to take an aggressive approach to organizing the auto parts industry; and why it has taken so long to make a serious and on-going effort to unionize the South.  Such a discussion will be complicated and painful, but in the absence of such an examination, the UAW will continue to die the death of a thousand cuts.  And, more importantly, workers in this country who so desperately need unionization, will continue to feel the boot of corporate America and their right-wing allies on our collective necks.

The Average American Overestimates and Fears Racial Diversity

February 13th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Immigration, racism, women, youth and students

By Lisa Wade

Progressive America Rising via Pacific Standard

Feb 7, 2014 – Do you know what percentage of the population is made up of racial minorities?

New survey data shows that the average person overestimates the diversity of the American population, both now and in the future. Today, for example, racial minorities make up 37 percent of the population, but the average guess was 49 percent.

1-projections

Many Americans fear rising diversity. Over half worry that more minorities means fewer jobs, nearly half think that it means more crime, and almost two-thirds think these groups strain social services. If people think that minorities are bad for America and overestimate their prevalence, they may be more likely to support draconian and punishing policy designed to minimize their numbers or mitigate the consequences they are believed to bring.

Not all Americans, of course, fear diversity equally. Below are the scores of various groups on an “openness to diversity” measure with a range of 0-160.

2-Screen-Shot-2013-10-22-at-1.34.24-PM

For the future, Americans are still strongly divided as to what to do about diversity and the racialized inequality we currently see.

3-last-chart


This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

More: Diversity, Inequality, Minorities

Lisa Wade

Lisa Wade, Ph.D., holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an M.A. in Human Sexuality from New York University. She is an associate professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @lisawade.

Liberal Talking Points Won’t Do: Shatter the Tea Party with the US Constitution Itself

February 12th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Democrats, Tea Party

 

Who can Stop the Tea Party movement?  (left to right: Karl Rove, Senator Chuck Schumer, North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. William Barber II)

Who can Stop the Tea Party movement? (left to right: Karl Rove, Senator Chuck Schumer, North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. William Barber II)

Cut the Tea Party Movement from the Ground Up

By  Leonard Zeskind

Progressive America Rising via IREHR

Recently Sen. Charles Schumer made a groundbreaking speech outlining a Democratic Party strategy aimed at the Tea Parties.  For the first time, a major figure in the liberal political universe sought to both explain the Tea Parties’ appeal to tens of millions of adult Americas and to project a strategy to break the Tea Party base away from its leaders—at least in the context of election campaigns. 

Mr. Schumer’s was wrong in his description of the Tea Party movement, however, and his proposed strategy was little more than a campaign statement that would do little damage to the Tea Parties. 

It should be noted that Republican Party operatives such as Karl Rove had already set the Tea Parties in their sights, planning to drown them with a sea of adverse money and media during the upcoming Republican primaries. The prospects for Republican Chamber of Commerce-types beating down the Tea Party grew dimmer recently, however.  Witness the recent imbroglio over immigration reform.  Speaker John Boehner—in line with Rove’s general strategy—outlined possible points for bi-partisan agreement on immigration reform.  But the Tea Party movement and other hard right organizations pushed the whole project into the dirt.  The Tea Parties were the ones swamping Republican congressional reps with negative phone calls and emails from their constituents. As a result, immigration reform is now off any Republican legislative agenda, and the Tea Party movement can claim victory. Remember, in 2013, Tea Party groups raised more than double the funds that Rove did, according to the February 1, New York Times. Not much of a strategy for Mr. Rove.

Sen. Schumer’s talk garnered more than the usual media attention conferred on a politician’s speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.  The New York Times accorded it positive coverage and virtually thirteen column inches of text, plus a picture and headline.  The Wall Street Journal as well as smaller city dailies respectfully covered the senator’s talk.  The conservative and Tea Party blogosphere gave Schumer short, negative attention.  An interesting piece by Kelsey Osterman, writing on Red Alert Politics, a website describing itself as written by and for young conservatives, asserted that Schumer’s proposed strategy “isn’t going to work.”  Why? Osterman asked: “Because Schumer fundamentally misunderstands the grassroots movement.”  The young conservative has this point.

Read the rest of this entry »

US Foreign Policy in Latin America Leaves an Open Door for China

February 6th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in China, latin america

 

 

By Mark Weisbrot

Progressive America Rising via The Guardian | News Analysis

Jan 31, 2014 – In the last week or so much of the international business press has been focused on the problems of financial stability in developing countries, some of whom have recently become more vulnerable to capital outflows. The main cause is that investors are trying to get the jump on possible moves by the US Federal Reserve to allow interest rates to rise, which will draw capital from developing countries and cause their borrowing costs to rise.

Argentina has gotten some of this attention, as it allowed the peso to fall by 15% in one day and increased some access for Argentines to dollars on the official market. Venezuela is not as affected by these market developments, but is always negatively portrayed in the international media, and more so since its exchange rate system problems have caused its inflation to rise to an annual rate of 56% over the past year.

The two countries face different sets of problems, but both likely have to stabilize their exchange rates to resolve them. This is where international help can make a big difference, and there is one country that has both the ability and interest in doing so: China.

China has already helped Venezuela with tens of billions of dollars of loans – much of which has already been repaid – as well as investment. It has also provided significant lending and investment in Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil and other countries. But there is more that they could do at this moment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Overthrow the Speculators

January 1st, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in economic democracy, financial crisis, safety net, structural reform

Why the Progressive Majority Needs a Common Front vs. Finance Capital, War and the Far Right

By Chris Hedges
Beaver County Blue via Common Dreams   

Dec 20, 2013 – Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed.

Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.

We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dems Duking it Out for 2014 & 2016: The ‘Third’ Way vs. the Popular Front against Finance Capital

December 24th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats, financial crisis, Tax Policy, Wall Street

Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Keystone XL Pipeline While Hillary Clinton’s Allies Push It Ahead

By Eric Zuesse

Progressive America Rising via Alternet.org

Dec 21, 2013 – On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming.

TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada’s tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe. Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, while Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side.

Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world’s highest-carbon-emitting oil, 53% of which is owned by America’s Koch brothers [3]. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Industries.)

David Goldwyn, who was former Secretary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, [4] is yet another lobbyist for TransCanada. [5] So, TransCanada has two of Hillary Clinton’s friends working for it. Elliot and Goldwyn worked with Clinton’s people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm or governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline.

Secretary Clinton’s State Department allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and the resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth’s climate would be additionally heated if the pipeline is built and operated. Its report ignored that question and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, [6] which was estimated to be none.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Minimum Wage Debate, A Battle Over Inequality and Job Loss

December 22nd, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Organizing, pushing obama, safety net, trade unions, Unemployment, youth and students

A strike by fast-food workers for higher wages in New York City's Union Square in August 2013. Credit: The All-Nite Images/ CC by 2.0

A strike by fast-food workers for higher wages in New York City’s Union Square in August 2013. Credit: The All-Nite Images

By Ramy Srour

Progressive America Rising via IPS

WASHINGTON, Dec 11 2013 (IPS) – In the midst of a nationwide movement for policymakers to raise minimum wages for millions of workers in the United States, experts here continue to debate the advantages and drawbacks of raising the federal rate.

The push for higher minimum wages has gained momentum in recent weeks, particularly with strikes by low-wage restaurant workers last Thursday in more than 100 cities. President Barack Obama also joined the debate, delivering a landmark speech condemning income inequality and the “race to the bottom” where businesses try to “pay the lowest wages” possible.

Obama’s renewed call coincided with a letter by 53 members of Congress calling on McDonald’s and other employers in the fast-food sector to raise pay for their employees. “Put[ting] more money in the hands of consumers…can help strengthen our economy,” the lawmakers noted.

But while higher minimum wages are widely believed to have a positive effect on social conditions, particularly by easing poverty among the most vulnerable sectors of society, economists maintain varying views on the issue.

“We’re all looking for ways to help low-income people get ahead, and that’s a very important goal,” Jonathan Meer, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on economic public policy, told IPS. “But the real question is, what’s the right way to do it?”

So far, he said, most people have proposed minimum wage increases because “it’s the easy fall-back to say, ‘Let’s just pay people more.’ But research shows that increasing minimum wages actually reduces job growth. Simply put: people never get hired.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Radicals in City Hall: An American Tradition

December 19th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in elections, Organizing, trade unions, Voting Rights, women
 

Kshama Sawant speaks at the Seattle Pride Parade, July 2013 (Vote Sawant/Facebook)

By Peter Dreier

Progressive America Rising via Dissent

Dec 19, 2013 – Socialist Kshama Sawant’s election to the Seattle City Council in November 2013 made national news, a kind of “man bites dog” story that the media found shocking and irresistible.  The Los Angeles Times’s front-page article described Sawant as “41-year-old software-engineer-turned-far-left-sweetheart.” The Seattle Times called her “the council’s first socialist member in modern history.”

In fact, the United States has a long tradition of municipal socialism. One hundred years ago, at the Socialist Party’s high point, about 1,200 party members held public office in 340 cities, including seventy‑nine mayors in cities such as Milwaukee, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Reading, and Schenectady. (Before Sawant, the last socialist to get elected in Seattle was journalist Anna Louise Strong, who won a seat on the School Board in 1916). These local leaders, whose ranks included working-class labor union members and middle-class radicals such as teachers, clergy, and lawyers, worked alongside progressive reformers to improve living and working conditions in the nation’s burgeoning cities. In today’s hyper-capitalist economy, their experience may still offer some lessons for contemporary activists.

Seattle political analysts are still trying to assess how Sawant—who beat sixteen-year incumbent Richard Conlin by a slim margin despite being outspent more than two to one—managed to pull off her remarkable upset. Her effective grassroots campaign and knack for proposing policy ideas that seemed both radical and reasonable played a key role. But Sawant’s victory is also a result of the growing unease—in Seattle and across the country—with widening inequality and the growing influence of big business in politics. Much of this was expressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in September 2011, but while Occupy activists have generally eschewed electoral politics as a strategy for change, their message has continued to resonate with the American public, and many mainstream politicians and pundits have embraced the “1 percent vs. 99 percent” theme.

On the same day that Sawant won her city council seat, progressives and radicals around the country won a number of significant local victories. The most celebrated was Bill de Blasio’s landslide election to the New York City mayoralty on a platform challenging the city’s growing inequality and gentrification. Minneapolis voters elected City Council member Betsy Hodges—a longtime activist with the progressive grassroots group Take Action Minnesota who called on people to “free ourselves from the fear that keeps us locked into patterns of inequality”—as their new mayor. Another longtime Take Action Minnesota member, Dai Thao, became the first Hmong city council member in the St. Paul’s history. In Minneapolis, Ty Moore, an Occupy organizer and Socialist Alternative candidate, narrowly lost a contest for City Council. Meanwhile, Boston voters catapulted union leader and state legislator Martin Walsh into the mayor’s office, despite business-led efforts to lambast him as a radical.

One of Sawant’s key campaign platforms was a pledge to push for a $15-an-hour municipal minimum wage. This might have seemed outrageous a year ago, but on the same day Seattle voters elected Sawant, voters in the adjacent suburb of Seatac approved that same minimum wage for about 6,000 workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and airport-related businesses, including hotels, car-rental agencies, and parking lots. Both Seattle’s defeated incumbent mayor, Mike McGinn, and his successor Ed Murray endorsed the Seatac initiative and raised the possibility of doing the same thing in Washington’s largest city. (San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque already have municipal minimum wages).

Read the rest of this entry »