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Spiraling Student Debt and What To Do About It

May 22nd, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Banks, Debt, Wall Street, youth and students


Marian Wang of Black Interviews Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren knows what education can do. Her new book, A Fighting Chance, tells of what it did for her — starting at age 16, when she secretly applied to college and persuaded her parents to let her go. After earning both a bachelor’s and a law degree, she immersed herself in bankruptcy law, which taught her how easily ordinary people can spiral into debt. Here, the Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts tells ProPublica why she’s decided to tackle the problem of student-loan debt, and what the government can — and should — do to help.

Q: Why have you taken on the issue of student debt?

A: The cost of college has gone through the roof. More and more young people have to finance through bigger and bigger student loans. They leave school and they’re trying to start a life, start a family, get a job — and they’re drowning in debt.
I want every person to have the kinds of opportunities I had. It’s personal. My parents struggled financially. My father ended up as a maintenance man, and my mother worked the phones at Sears. Education opened a thousand doors for me. I had loans, and I worked part-time, and it was enough to keep me going. But the big difference is that I went to school at a time when this country was investing in students.

Q: How big a problem are we talking about?

A: There’s $1.2 trillion outstanding in student loan debt. That’s more than credit card or car loans, more than any other kind of consumer debt except mortgages. It’s crushing people.

Q: It also has the highest delinquency rate of all types of consumer debt.

A: That’s right. Because students can’t manage debt loads this size, particularly in a sluggish economy.

Q: Why should people care about this issue?

Student loan debt affects the whole economy. Instead of buying a house or a car, young people are pinching pennies to deal with crushing amounts of debt. That’s not good for the economy. It’s not good for businesses. We need those young people entering the workforce and able to spend.

Q: What is Congress doing to help?

A: This is the part that makes me grind my teeth. Right now, the United States government is making huge profits off the backs of our students. Our young people not only have to pay back the cost of the loans, they have to pay billions more in interest to the government — like an extra tax for trying to get an education. That’s just wrong. We ought to be investing in young people who are trying to get an education — not making it harder for them.

Q: Student loans are treated differently than many other kinds of debt under bankruptcy law, so it’s much harder for struggling borrowers to discharge their student loans. Do you think this should be changed?

A: Yes. I have co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Durbin, D-Ill., that called for making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Keep in mind: Young people who have student loan debt — they didn’t go to the mall and charge up a bunch of things they couldn’t afford — but if they had gone to the mall, they could discharge those debts in bankruptcy. It’s only the student loan debt they can’t discharge.

Q: So whatshould the government be doing?

A: For both private loans and federal loans, the fixes are pretty similar. We need to restore bankruptcy protections, provide better oversight of the government contractors that work with borrowers and process loan payments, and ensure that struggling borrowers can get help to modify their loans.

Q: About those private contractors handling student loans, how could the Education Department be providing better oversight?

A: The first step here is transparency. There’s not much information about how student loans are performing or how the loan servicers are working with borrowers to help them repay their debt. The Department of Education should collect better information and make it public.

Q: The student-loan system is complex. What advice do you have people at different parts of the process?

A: For the person who hasn’t taken on any student loans yet, someone who’s looking at college: First, fill out the federal financial aid form. It’s online and it’s free. Students who don’t fill out the form miss out, not just on federal grants and loans, but also on scholarships from their colleges and from their state. Fill out the form. It’s really important.

Q: What about for people who are further along, and behind on their loans or teetering on that financial edge?

A: Find out about the help that’s available. The federal government has several repayment programs that can cut a borrower’s payment to a percentage of income, but it’s not as easy as it should be to enroll in these plans. People have to search online to learn about the programs and call their servicers to ask about them. For some people, this will provide real help.

Q: The cost of college is a huge, underlying part of this student debt conversation. How do we meaningfully attack the cost problem?
A: One of the ways we can do that is to make sure that colleges have skin in the game for getting their students educated and able to repay any money they borrow. It’s going to take everyone working hard on this: the colleges, the government, and the students. We’ve all got to push in the same direction on bringing down the cost of school.

I’ll say one more thing. Three out of every four students today is in a public university. When I was growing up, the states invested in public universities to keep the costs low for students. Today, the states make much smaller investments than they made a generation ago. That means our students and their families have to pick up the costs. We need to make those investments in education so that all of our kids have a low-cost option for a high-quality education.

Q: What are the odds that in this political climate Congress can get something done?

A: You can’t get what you don’t fight for. We make change when we get noisy and insist that Congress follow through. There’s so much at stake. Fixing the student-loan problem is about building a strong future for our country. That’s where I’m focused and that’s where I’m going to stay focused.

Republicans’ Insane Political Strategy: Ruining Our Country Hurts the Democratic Party

May 14th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, GOP, rightwing

By Thom Hartmann

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

May 13, 2014 – The Republicans have their strategy, and they’re sticking to it, even though it involves destroying lives and even killing people.

It’s working so well based on a simple statistical reality.

The majority of Americans – depending on which survey you look at, between 60 and 75 percent – cannot name which political party controls the House of Representatives, which party controls the Senate [3], or either.

Because most Americans don’t know who controls Congress, when Congress misbehaves, as they have been doing for six years, most Americans aren’t sure who to blame.

Enter the Republican Chaos Strategy, based entirely on this statistical and political reality.

And common sense suggests that well over 90 percent of Americans know that Barack Obama is the president and that he is a Democrat.

The Republicans know this, too, and it’s the other half of their strategy.

Therefore, what the Republicans know, is that if they can cause damage to the American economy and to American working people, the average voter, not realizing it was exclusively the Republicans who did it, are going to assume that the president – and the Democratic Party he is a member of – must bear some or maybe even all of the responsibility.

It’s a brilliant strategy: Damage the country and you damage the Democratic Party.

And just in time for the midterm elections.

For six years now, Republicans have been hard at work damaging America and the American people. When the Democrats briefly controlled Congress, Nancy Pelosi got passed legislation that removed tax incentives for big companies to move jobs overseas and reversed those incentives to encourage companies to move factories back to the United States. This would seem to be a no-brainer, but Republicans filibustered it in the Senate and it died.

Why? Because it would’ve helped the economy, it would’ve lowered unemployment, it would’ve brought back good paying jobs, and it would’ve helped the American people.

The Republican Chaos Strategy dictates that you cannot allow these things to happen when there is a Democrat in the White House. Under their theory, if anything positive is done for the American people by Congress, the American people –  who don’t know which party controls Congress – will assume that the president and his Democrats must’ve had something to do with it. And therefore, the Democrats will get the credit.

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The Next Battle Against Wall Street? Los Angeles…

May 9th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Banks, Budget Debates, trade unions, Wall Street

Will The Occupy LA protestors, from October 2011, return to the steps of Los Angeles City Hall in this new battle against Wall Street? (Photo: Los Angeles Times, 2011).

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising

The next battle against Wall Street may be brewing and this one is in Los Angeles City Hall.

If it erupts, the soldiers will be a scrappy, wonky, and sophisticated phalanx of labor, neighborhood, and religious activists. Their research has exposed the fact that Wall Street banks were paid $200 million in fees alone last year by the City of Los Angeles; many millions more than the city spent on fixing its streets.

The comparison between City Hall and our streets makes City Hall officials wince; claiming it mixes apples with oranges. But there’s more than catchiness in the comparison. The new report, Fix LA, shows that at least $106 billion in public money overall, from airports, seaports, utilities and pension funds, goes to private financial institutions that profit from fees, lending and leveraging those funds.

Citizens and elected officials often are overwhelmed and under-qualified to understand the weird and complicated transactions – debt swaps and derivative trades, for example – that Wall Street employs to extract maximum profit from all that public capital. There is no single Los Angeles official mandated to bargain with Wall Street. No official consumer watchdog, no fledgling Elizabeth Warren or Ralph Nader. No inspector-general to investigate financial industry fraud. No mainstream investigative reporters on the case, not so far anyway. While insiders and advocates will pore over the city’s multi-billion annual budget this month, no single monitor is minding the hundreds of millions funneled to Wall Street’s predatory care, as the report charges.

City officials will have their chance to respond in public hearings over the next several weeks, based on a motion being introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz this Friday; one seconded by Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Budget and Finance Committee chair Paul Krekorian, waiving the report, promised thorough public scrutiny of its data and claims.

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Is Elizabeth Warren the Only Person Standing Between You and Total Bank Domination?

May 6th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Banks, Budget Debates, Wall Street, youth and students

Book Review: Fighting Chance

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

May 1, 2014 - There’s really a storybook quality to Elizabeth Warren. How did this cookie-baking housewife from Oklahoma end up staring down the most powerful financial powers on Planet Earth, causing them to tremble in their wingtip shoes?

Seemingly conjured up from the fabled town of Mayberry, a place of bake sales and heart-to-hearts with Aunt Bea (she actually had an Aunt Bea), Sen. Warren seems aware of her mythic dimension: at one point in her new memoir, A Fighting Chance, she refers to herself as “Alice in Crazyland.” As Alice/Elizabeth heads down the rabbit hole to navigate the money-papered halls of Washington, she uses words like “vile” and “shameful” to describe the evildoing of bankers and corporate predators: she’s an outsider from a realm of truer American values who looks upon the upside-down goings on with outraged astonishment, frequently peppering her narrative with her favorite term for disbelief at human folly, an emphatic, “Really?!?

This Alice among the evil wizards of Wall Street is full of homespun charm and Midwestern wisdom, but in this cynical age, the truly fabulous thing is that her story is true.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren really did grow up among ordinary, struggling people in Oklahoma, and she really did try her very best to content herself with baking brownies and tending her young family before deciding to go to law school. She really did become a crack expert in bankruptcy law and a Harvard professor, and used what she’d learned to challenge the bankers who spent billions purchasing their own facts and unleashing armies of lobbyists to make victims of hard-working, law-abiding Americans.

You get the feeling that Warren’s fight against these financial predators is deeply personal. And from her memoir, you can see why: she’s fighting for the people who raised her, the neighbors she grew up among, the students in her classes, and the people she has met along the way who have lost their homes, jobs and savings through the deliberate traps set by people who measure their income in human suffering.

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Nine Rules for Democratic Midterm Victory

April 24th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats, GOP, Voting Rights

By Robert Creamer
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

Much has been written about the difficult road faced by Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. But virtually all of it presumes that turnout among reliable Democratic voters will decline 3 to 5 percent more from 2012 levels than turnout among reliable Republican voters.

There is no question that most midterms do in fact follow that model. The results of the disastrous 2010 midterms can be chalked up almost entirely to the fact that record numbers of Democratic voters failed to show up at the polls.

But before the pundits and ambitious Republicans get too cocky, it is important to remember that this kind of turnout differential is not at all preordained. A three to five percentage imbalance in turnout can have a massive impact on in-play elections — but it is also small enough that Democrats can do something about it.

In fact, as recently as 2013 — in a completely off-year election in Virginia, Democrats kept the turnout mix at 2012 levels. To win — as we did in Virginia — Democrats don’t have to turn out the same number of voters as we did in 2012. We only have to ensure that the turnout mix is the same as it was in 2012. In other words, we have to make certain that the drop-off between 2012 and 2014 is no greater than the drop-off for Republican voters.

So what affects turnout?

In general, electoral turnout is not affected by the factors that dominate the discourse of the chattering class. For persuadable voters — voters who always vote but are often undecided in elections — the factors that affect the voters’ decisions involve the candidate. Persuadable voters made their decisions based on candidate qualities like:

Is the candidate on my side?
Does the candidate have strong core values?
Do I think the candidate is a strong effective leader?
Does the candidate respect me?
Do I like or make an emotional connection with the candidate?
Is the candidate an insider or outsider?
Is the candidate self-confident?
Does the candidate have integrity?
Does the candidate have vision?
Does the candidate inspire me?

With one exception, turnout it not affected by any of these factors — or for that matter by the "issues" being used by the candidates to demonstrate that they are on the voter’s side. That’s because low-propensity Democratic voters would already vote for Democratic candidates if they went to the polls — the question is not how they would vote, but whether they are motivated to go to the polls.

The messages that motivate low-turnout voters are not about the candidates or issues — they are about the voters themselves.

This fall, Democrats have the ability to motivate the voters to turnout at levels adequate to replicate the 2012 turnout mix — just as they did in Virginia last year. But we need to focus 100 percent of our energy on motivation. That requires that we follow several important rules:

1). Rule #1: Motivation is about emotion. We must engage the voters’ feelings — their anger, their love, their passion, their humor. You engage emotion by making things concrete and personal — not abstract or cerebral. Our messages to low-turnout voters must engage the senses. The political dialogue between now and November needs to make people hear, visualize, feel — experience — the battle.

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The New Abolitionism: Sending the Carbon-Burners Down the Path of the Slave Owners

April 23rd, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Climate, Green Energy, structural reform

By Christopher Hayes
Progressive America Rising via The Nation

April 22, 2014 – Before the cannons fired at Fort Sumter, the Confederates announced their rebellion with lofty rhetoric about “violations of the Constitution of the United States” and “encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States.” But the brute, bloody fact beneath those words was money. So much goddamn money.

The leaders of slave power were fighting a movement of dispossession. The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out. Imagine a modern-day political movement that contended that mutual funds and 401(k)s, stocks and college savings accounts were evil institutions that must be eliminated completely, more or less overnight. This was the fear that approximately 400,000 Southern slaveholders faced on the eve of the Civil War.

Today, we rightly recoil at the thought of tabulating slaves as property. It was precisely this ontological question—property or persons?—that the war was fought over. But suspend that moral revulsion for a moment and look at the numbers: Just how much money were the South’s slaves worth then? A commonly cited figure is $75 billion, which comes from multiplying the average sale price of slaves in 1860 by the number of slaves and then using the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. But as economists Samuel H. Williamson and Louis P. Cain argue [1], using CPI-adjusted prices over such a long period doesn’t really tell us much: “In the 19th century,” they note, “there were no national surveys to figure out what the average consumer bought.” In fact, the first such survey, in Massachusetts, wasn’t conducted until 1875.

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

* * *

In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math [2].” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most.

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An Armed Standoff in Nevada Is Only the Beginning for America’s Right-Wing Militias

April 16th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, rightwing, Tea Party

A standoff between federal agents and right-wing militia members came very close to bloodshed last week. Photo by Shannon Bushman via Facebook

By Grace Wyler

Progressive America Rising via Vice News

For two decades the US government has tried to get Cliven Bundy to remove his cows from federal land, and for two decades the Nevada rancher has steadfastly refused, defying court orders and attempts to negotiate a settlement for the $1.1 million he owes in federal grazing fees. Finally, last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took matters into its own hands and started seizing cattle that had been illegally grazing on government property. Things went downhill from there.

What began as an arcane land dispute rapidly escalated into an armed standoff in the desert. A ragtag band of anti-government militants, Tea Party politicians, and Old West ranchers descended on the area, responding to a call to arms posted by the Bundy family on their blog and circulated throughout the internet by conservatives and libertarians. Spurred on by YouTube videos of physical altercations between federal agents and the Bundys, the protesters aggressively confronted law enforcement, which in turn escalated things by gathering a huge force of armed BLM rangers and FBI agents. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a month-long flight restriction over the ranch after the Bundy family posted aerial photos of the assembled authorities.

For right-wing militias and paramilitary groups founded around a collective paranoid belief that the federal government is just looking for an excuse to impose martial law, images of armed federal agents forcibly seizing cows basically means it’s DEFCON 1. By Saturday, as many as 1,000 anti-BLM protestors from as far away as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia had set up camp in Bunkerville, an arid patch of land where the BLM was rounding up the Bundy cattle. Packing handguns and assault rifles, the protesters carried signs featuring slogans like “Tyranny Is Alive,” “Where’s the Justice?” and “Militia Sighn In [sic]," and many said they were prepared for a shoot-out with the federal government. The mood was such that even Glenn Beck was wary of the crowd, announcing on his show that “there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening."

“We were prepared to do whatever it takes to protect their cattle, and their ranch, and their home,” said protester Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is on the board of Oath Keepers, a militia founded by a former Ron Paul aide and made up mostly of current and former US military personnel and law enforcement. “The government was prepared to do anything, including shooting at unarmed people." (On Monday Mack told Fox News that organizers had been “strategizing to put all the women up front” in a firefight so that the image of the BLM shooting women would be televised.)

The government blinked first, announcing Saturday afternoon that it would stop seizing Bundy’s cattle because of "grave concern about the safety of our employees and members of the public." A few hours later, protesters stormed the BLM’s corrals, demanding that the bureau release the 400 cows it had already captured.

"Everyone was up there trying to get the cattle back and the BLM and all of the agents kept yelling, ‘Step closer and we’ll shoot!’ Everybody had their hands up, and we just kept moving forward," said protester Kevin Gillman, a 24-year-old military veteran who volunteered with the state militia coalition Operation Mutual Aid at Bundy Ranch. "They ended up releasing the cattle, because it was either that or shoot us."

The government described the situation slightly differently. “Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released from the enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order," BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.

Bundy’s allies have cautiously declared victory, although most of the protesters I spoke to remain predictably suspicious that the stand-down was just another government “ruse” to lure them into complacency. "We don’t want to be taken by surprise by another onslaught, so we’re still being careful," Mack said. He estimated that about a third of the protesters had remained at Bundy Ranch this week to provide "security."

Emboldened by the strong showing in Nevada, right-wing militia organizers are now looking to capitalize on the momentum, hosting marathon conference calls in which hundreds of militia volunteers strategize and coordinate their next big move.

"There have been more organizations putting out the word about what’s going on, how the [federal government] is taking away our freedoms and liberties," said Gillman, who is one of roughly 400 new volunteers to join Operation Mutual Aid in recent days. Gillman added that he hadn’t known much about the militia movement before last week.

"Most of them are just citizens who want to go out and help the cause of other Americans in need who don’t have backup," he said of his right-wing comrades. "I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a militia, but we did bring our guns out there, because the federal agents went out there with their sniper rifles and their guns. We’re just going to be prepared for whatever [the government] wants to do. It’s hard to talk to someone who has a gun unless you have one yourself."

Meanwhile, the tenuous stalemate has basically put the BLM right back where it started. In a statement I was given on Tuesday, the agency insisted that it had not cut a deal with Bundy and that it would still try to force the rancher into compliance through administrative and legal channels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, also weighed in on the conflict this week, telling Reno’s NBC affiliate KRNV that the conflict isn’t finished.

“We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it,” Reid said. “So it’s not over.”

Legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. His disagreement with the federal government dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying federal grazing fees in response to new regulations aimed at protecting the desert tortoise habitat in Golden Butte, a federally owned 600,000-acre swath of land northeast of Las Vegas where Bundy’s family has been raising cattle since his Mormon ancestors settled there, in the late 1800s. In response, the BLM revoked Bundy’s permit and sued him twice in federal court. Both times, a judge ordered Bundy to get his cows off public land or face fines of $200 per head for each day that he refused to comply. The government now claims that Bundy owes $1.1 million in fines and grazing fees. (The right-wing website Breitbart has compiled all of the court orders—and provided a lengthy analysis—here.)

In response, Bundy has argued that the federal government doesn’t actually own the land in question, and thus doesn’t have the right to tell him what to do with his cows. The land, he says, actually belongs to the state of Nevada—a claim that is very obviously untrue.

“I think this is the sovereign state of Nevada,” Bundy told conservative talk-radio host Dana Loesch Thursday. “I abide by all Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Bundy’s larger point—that the feds shouldn’t own 80 percent of the land in Nevada, or nearly 50 percent of land in 11 Western states—demonstrates the long-running tension over state’s rights and federal land-use policies that invariably pick winners and losers among environmental and business interests. Even if Bundy wanted to pay the government fines, he would still be forced to remove his cows from Butte Gold thanks to a 1998 conservation deal that eliminated grazing in the area in exchange for allowing the county to destroy desert tortoise habitats for private development. Bundy is now the sole surviving cattle rancher in Clark County.

At the same time, environmentalists have criticized the BLM for not dealing with the Bundys’ trespass cattle sooner, and they were outraged this week when the agency called off the roundup. “The BLM monumentally failed to remove the trespass cattle, collect fees, or protect the land for more than 20 years,” Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now it backed down in the face of threats and posturing of armed so-called ‘sovereignists.’ This is absolutely pathetic and an insult to ranchers and others who hold permits and pay their required fees to use the public lands.”

For most of the Bundys’ far-right allies, though, the showdown in Nevada wasn’t as much about the rancher and his land as it was a flashpoint in their growing beef with the federal government.

"Progressively, the federal government is just getting stronger," Gillman said. "I don’t understand why they need to go out there with 200 federal agents and set up sniper positions. I don’t see the need for the federal government to take up guns against its own people.

"We’re willing to go as far as they are willing to go," he added. "We’re not here for violence… But if they’re coming in, guns blaring, to hurt citizens, then we’re just going to defend ourselves. We’re not going to go out and attack or anything. When someone goes in and takes away your freedoms, the only thing you can do is stand up against them. If you don’t stand up against them, how far will they go?"

Follow Grace Wyler on Twitter.

Adjunct Profs Turn to Citywide Unionizing as Their Best Hope

April 15th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Organizing, trade unions, youth and students

Power in Numbers

By Peter Schmidt

Progressive America Rising via The Chronicle of Higher Ed


It’s the lull between Northeastern University’s afternoon and evening classes, and adjunct instructors drift in and out of a windowless room set aside for them in Ryder Hall. Lacking offices on campus, they come here to log on to shared computers or to grab books from shelved cardboard boxes that serve as their makeshift lockers.

Having to share a small workspace is just one of the many frustrations they share. They commiserate about meager earnings, unpredictable teaching loads, and their belief that a bloated administration gobbles up too much of the tuition revenue they help bring in.

Most of the instructors here decline to talk on the record, citing fears of being denied future contracts or otherwise punished for it. But Deborah O’Toole, a senior lecturer who earns about $2,200 per three-credit course teaching English to international students, is fed up enough to speak out. She argues that part-time faculty members like her are being abused and need to form collective-bargaining units if they want their concerns heard.

David Fionda, an adjunct at Bentley U., says he is satisfied with his working conditions as they are, without unionization. “It is not as if we are making minimum wage,” he says.

"Our hope is in the union," she says.

Such sentiments have put Boston at the center of a nationwide labor-organizing effort bent on changing the lives of all adjunct faculty members, unionized or not. Rather than simply try to establish unions of adjunct faculty at individual colleges, it seeks to unionize them throughout entire metropolitan areas, to drive broader improvements in their pay, benefits, and working conditions.

The approach seeks to shift labor-market dynamics, turning a buyer’s market in which colleges have broad leeway to set employment terms into a seller’s market in which adjuncts can take the highest bid for their services. The strategy assumes that college administrations will be less resistant to the formation of unions, and to union demands, if officials are assured that competing institutions are in the same boat.

The thinking behind the approach holds that sufficient union saturation of a given local labor market will not only produce big gains at unionized colleges, but put nonunionized ones under pressure to treat adjuncts better, too. Those colleges might be prompted to improve pay or working conditions to be able to compete for talent or, in some cases, to discourage potential unionization drives on their own campuses.

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What’s With South Carolina’s ‘Neo-Confederates’?

April 9th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, GOP, racism, rightwing


McConnell at his memorabilia store in 1999

Glenn McConnell Began Selling Segregationist’s Products in Wake of Boycott

By Josh Glasstetter

Progressive America Rising via Hatewatch

After a segregationist businessman’s products were dropped from major grocery chains over his promotion of slavery, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell – who was recently selected to head the College of Charleston – went out of his way to sell the man’s products.

Maurice Bessinger, an unrepentant segregationist who ran the Piggie Park chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina, sparked a controversy in 2000 when he began flying the Confederate flag over his restaurants – a reaction to the state government removing the flag from the capitol dome. Soon it was discovered that Bessinger was selling pro-slavery materials at his restaurants, including a pamphlet entitled “The Biblical Justification for Slavery.”

Bessinger, who wore a white suit and appeared atop a white horse in promotional materials, had made a name for himself during the Civil Rights era for refusing to integrate his restaurants and leading the National Association for the Preservation of White People. He posted signs at his stores telling African Americans they were not welcome. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually forced him to integrate and his restaurants went back to, more or less, business as usual.

By 2000, South Carolina had changed, but Bessinger hadn’t. According to The State, Bessinger was “distributing pro-slavery audiotapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature.” He claimed that slavery in South Carolina was “biblical slavery,” which he argued was more ethical than other forms.

Customers began boycotting his restaurants, and the NAACP and other organizations called on major grocery chains to drop his products – one after another, they did. Bessinger wrote in his 2001 memoir, “Defending My Heritage,” that six major grocery chains, including Walmart, had dropped his products by the end of 2000, and wholesale sales were down 98%.

When you read his memoir, it’s not hard to understand why. Here are a few choice quotes:

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GOP’s Shameful Treatment of the Powerless

April 7th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Budget Debates, Tax Policy, Tea Party

By Jesse Jackson

Progressive America Rising

April 7, 2014 – The Bible’s injunction that we shall be judged by how we have treated the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) appears in different forms in virtually every religion or faith. And surely the measure of a country is how it treats the most vulnerable of its people — children in the dawn of life, the poor in the valley of life, the ailing in the shadows of life, the elderly in the dusk of life.

This week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Republican budget proposal put together by Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the Budget Committee and Mitt Romney’s running mate. The vast majority of Republicans are lined up to vote for it, with possible exceptions for a handful who think it does not cut enough.

It is a breathtakingly mean and callous proposal. The Republican budget would cut taxes on the wealthy, giving millionaires, the Citizen for Tax Justice estimates, a tax break of $200,000 per year. (Ryan tells us only what tax rates he would lower, not the loopholes he would close to make his proposal revenue neutral. But CTJ shows that even if he closed every loophole, it wouldn’t make up for the revenue lost by lowering their top rate). The Ryan plan would also extend tax breaks for multinationals, moving to make the entire world a tax haven. He would raise spending on the military by about $500 billion over the levels now projected over the next decade.

Yet Republicans are pledged to balance the budget in 10 years.
To achieve this, the Republican budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program (but only for those 55 and younger). He would repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). He would gut Medicaid, turning it into a block grant for states and cutting it by more than one-fourth by 2024. The result, as estimated by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, would be to deprive 40 million low and moderate income Americans of health care insurance.

The Republican budget also devastates domestic programs and investments, cutting them by one-third of their inflation adjusted levels over the decade, ending at an inconceivable one-half the levels of the Reagan years as a percentage of the economy. Infant nutrition, food subsidy, Head Start, investment in schools, Pell Grants for college, public housing, Meals on Wheels and home heating assistance for seniors or the confined all would suffer deep cuts. The poorest children will suffer the worst cuts.

The Republican budget also savages investments vital to our future — not just education, but research and development, renewable energy, modern infrastructure.

This budget is scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives this week. It is expected to pass with a majority made up entirely of Republican votes. Speaker Boehner has lined up this vote, even as he refuses even to allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits and on raising the minimum wage.

It is hard to see this as anything other than a declaration of class warfare by the few against the many. Republicans declare the country is broke, against all evidence to the contrary. But they still want to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and hike spending on the military. So they lay waste to support for working and poor people.
Ryan argues that cutting programs for the poor will set them free, removing a “hammock” and forcing them to stand on their own feet. That might be worth debating if jobs were plentiful, schools received equal support, housing was affordable and jobs paid a living wage.
But none of this is true.

In today’s conditions, with mass unemployment, savagely unequal schools, homeless families and poverty wage jobs, Ryan’s words simply ring false.

Needless to say, the wealthy and corporations reward Republicans for arguing their case. As the Koch brothers are showing, their campaigns will be lavishly supported; their opponents will face a barrage of attack ads.

But most Americans are better than this. Majorities oppose these cruel priorities. The question is whether those who vote for these harsh priorities are held accountable this fall in the elections. After decades of struggle, we all have the right to vote. The majority can speak if it chooses. It has to sort through annoying ads, poll-tested excuses and glib politicians. But we can decide we aren’t going to support politicians who protect the privileges of the few and vote to make the poor pay the price.