Article 43

 

American Solidarity

American Solidarity - Time To Stand Up

Friday, October 11, 2019

Solutions to Save Our Nation II

image: 99 percent

In the 1930s the New Deal put construction workers on the job building infrastructure we have used ever since. Much of that network is at the end of its life, so lets do it again, but this time with “green” planning built in.

Roosevelt proposed to recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enlist them in a peacetime army, and send them to battle the erosion and destruction of the nation’s natural resources.

Roosevelt’s Tree Army, was credited with renewing the nations decimated forests by planting an estimated three billion trees from 1933 to 1942.

In the 1930s white collar workers with college degrees were unemployed. The New Deal hired many of them into the regulatory bodies it set up to control the worst excesses of capitalism and to regulate private industry.

- New Deal 2.0

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THE NEXT SYSTEM PROJECT is an initiative of The Democracy Collaborative aimed at bold thinking and action to address the systemic challenges the United States faces now and in coming decades.

Deep crises of economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change - to name but three - are upon us, and systemic problems require systemic solutions. Working with a broad group of researchers, theorists and activists, we are using the best research, understanding and strategic thinking, on the one hand, and on-the-ground organizing and development experience, on the other, to promote visions, models and pathways that point to a next system, radically different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present and capable of delivering superior social, economic and ecological outcomes.

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Richard Wolff on Curing Capitalism

Bill Moyers
March 22, 2013

Richard Wolffs smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism on his first Moyers & Company appearance was so compelling and provocative, we asked him to return. This time, the economics expert answers questions sent in by our viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation, and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.

“We ought to have much more democratic enterprise,” Wolff tells Bill, in response to a question from a viewer in Oklahoma. ҔWe ought to have stores, factories and offices in which all the people who have to live with the results of what happens to that enterprise participate in deciding how it works.

Addressing a question about capitalism and climate change, Wolff says, “Capitalism is a system geared up to doing three things on the part of business: get more profits, grow your company and get a larger market share If along the way they have to sacrifice either the well-being of their workers or the well-being of the planet or the environmental conditions, they may feel very bad about it - and I know plenty who do but they have no choice.”

Wolff taught economics for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts and is now visiting professor at The New School University in New York City. His books include Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.

Transcript

BILL MOYERS: It’s not only our banking system that remains questionable and shaky - its the whole of our economy - that complex mix master of capital and labor, prices and production, goods and services, rewards and punishments, largely driven by private decisions in what has been defined, mythologically, as the “free market.” Which brings us back to Richard Wolff. I say “back” because as many of you will recall, this provocative and imaginative economist was here just about a month ago to lay out, in his words, how CAPITALISM HAS HIT THE FAN. Heres the centerpiece of his argument:

RICHARD WOLFF on Moyers & Company: For the majority of people, capitalism is not delivering the goods. It is delivering, arguably, the bads. And so we have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, but a growing majority in this society which isn’t getting the benefit, is in fact, facing harder and harder times. And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say its a systemic problem.

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Richard Wolff opened such a world of ideas that on the spot I asked him to return - and I asked you to send us the questions youd like to put to him. Your response was as overwhelming as it was smart and informed. Just take a look at some of the letters we printed out from our website, billmoyers.com. Thanks to everyone who wrote. We’ll get to some of these in just a minute and to even more of them with Richard Wolff in a live chat next Tuesday at our website, billmoyers.com.

Richard Wolff taught economics for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts and is now a visiting professor at the New School University here in New York City teaching a special course on the economic meltdown. His books include Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. Welcome back, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Let’s move on to questions from the viewers who tuned into our conversation three weeks ago, hundreds of them responded.

Here֒s Michael from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

MICHAEL: Professor Wolff, what can we as individuals in communities do to regain control of our economic destiny?

RICHARD WOLFF: We have an old tradition in the United States of doing things in a cooperative way. We celebrate it with phrases like team spirit or team effort. It’s the idea that a project will be better done if everybody has an equal stake and an equal say in the decisions that will determine the outcome. I like that idea, I believe it has a lot to do with our commitment to democracy.

So my answer to the question is we ought to have much more democratic enterprise. We ought to have stores, factories and offices in which all the people who have to live with the results of what happens to that enterprise participate in deciding how it works.

BILL MOYERS: That’s the subject of your book, “Democracy At Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” And we will come back to it in a few minutes. Here is Jose from Naples, Florida and Kristin from Joplin, Missouri.

JOSE: Professor Wolff. On the last show you mentioned how you were against regulation. I agree with you on the most part that regulation has been a failure. What would be your alternative to regulation?

KRISTIN: Without regulation how do we respond to widening economic disparity in our society?

BILL MOYERS: You said last time you were skeptical about regulation because the regulated found ways to evade, overcome or negate it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes, skepticism is the politest way I know how to say this. I think that we have now learned in our society that regulating big corporations and regulating wealthy folks is an exercise in futility. It’ll work for a while, but those folks have the incentive and the resources to work around it, to evade them.

BILL MOYERS: The hearings last week. JPMorgan--

RICHARD WOLFF: Morgan, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: --Chase continuing to--

RICHARD WOLFF: Stunning.

BILL MOYERS: --take these risks.

RICHARD WOLFF: Stunning. It’s as if the whole meltdown of 2008 and ‘09 hadn’t happened, as if all the risk-taking can continue and all the massaging of the internal rules of the banks can be manipulated, all of that. It seems to me we’ve learned the lesson that regulation is usually coming too late after, in a sense, the disaster has happened. And then it is evaded and avoided and watered down. It doesn’t work. And we have to learn the lesson.

So I would respond by saying, we have to make a more basic change. Instead of constantly coming too late to the regulation activity let’s change the way decisions are made so we don’t have to be constantly after people regulating them in this kind of sad effort that never quite succeeds. Let’s change the basic decisions.

BILL MOYERS: I thought Glass-Steagall worked fairly well from the time it was enacted in the depression with Roosevelt to 1999 when Bill Clinton and Congress repealed it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I don’t want to get into a dispute with you, Bill. I think--

BILL MOYERS: Go right ahead, everybody else does.

RICHARD WOLFF: I think there was a long history of evasion. In other words ways were found in the ‘60s and ‘70s long before the repeal, ways were found by banks setting up investment banks, setting up new financial institutions to get around if not the letter then certainly the intent of that kind of regulation.

When it was found possible politically first to weaken Glass-Steagall and then eventually to repeal it, well, that was even better. But basically the minute the regulation was set the regulated industries took it as a problem to be solved. Then they hired the economists like me, the accountants, the lawyers and all the other specialists to figure out how to get around it.

BILL MOYERS: And armies of lobbyists, let’s face it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Armies of lobbyists to make sure that the laws get massaged and the rules get adjusted so that they can get around it. That’s why we keep having financial scandal after financial scandal, hearings after hearings. After a while when you keep doing this you realize that even if you get some benefit (and I see your point), from a regulation for a while, it’s only a matter of time. And now that the corporations have gotten really good at getting around it the time for them has been reduced and so we’re back to the question isn’t there a better way than letting them do their thing and coming late to the table with another regulation?

BILL MOYERS: Okay, here’s Martha from Natick, Massachusetts.

MARTHA: I see a perfect storm coming. Capitalism is predicated on unlimited growth, but we live in a finite environment and we seem to have a dysfunctional democracy unable to resolve that contradiction. How do you see climate change and our diminishing natural resources such as fossil fuels and water impacting this crisis in capitalism?

RICHARD WOLFF: Capitalism is a system geared up to doing three things on the part of business: get more profits, grow your company and get a larger market share. Those are the driving bottom line issues. Corporations are successful or not if they succeed in getting these objectives met. That’s what their boards of directors are chosen to do, that’s what their shareholders expect. That’s the way the system works.

If along the way they have to sacrifice either the well-being of their workers or the well-being of the planet or the environmental conditions, they may feel very bad about it, and I know plenty of them who do. But they have no choice. And they will explain if they’re honest that that’s the way this system works. So we have despoiled our environment in a classic way. That’s why we have huge cleanup funds, that why we have so many problems. That’s why we have to impose all kinds of costs on companies now to deal with this problem.

So I’m not very hopeful. I don’t think this is a system that has a place in it for us to seriously deal with the limits to growth, with the need to preserve our environment, to take care of our health as a people because we have a system that pushes forward with a kind of intensity that pushes those issues to the side.

BILL MOYERS: Janet from Woolwich, Maine.

JANET: If you could be president with a cooperative Congress, what are the three most critical things you would do to ensure that we have a healthy economy that is sustainable, particularly in light of a growing aging population? Thank you.

RICHARD WOLFF: I would pick the following three. Number one, solve the unemployment problem. In a sense it’s the most urgent one we have. If the private sector-- and here I’m paraphrasing Franklin Roosevelt in the ‘30s.

If the private sector either cannot or will not provide the work for millions of Americans who want the work, then it’s the job of the government to do it because no one else is. And if I were president, I would follow Roosevelt and immediately create and fill millions, millions-- I’m talking 15 to 20 million jobs in the United States right away.

Number two, I would make it would some have called a “green New Deal,” that is the major thing these people would be doing would be to deal with the environmental crisis that we have, to change the way we use energy. For example (just to give one), to give us the proper mass transportation system that advanced countries in other parts of the world already have that we ought to have.

Millions of people could go to work producing that system and give us a way to move our goods and move our people around the society using less oil and gas with less damage of injury and death the way our car-driven system has, with less pollution of our environment. Here’s a way to benefit people on many scales while we put to work those who want to work with the raw materials and tools that are available.

And the third thing I would do is take a page from Italy, yes, Italy who passed a law in 1985 called the Marcora Law which said the following wonderful thing. If you want employment you have a choice in Italy. You don’t just have to collect your weekly unemployment check the way we do here in the United States, you have an option.

If you get together with ten other unemployed workers and you agree to do the following thing, the government will give you three years of your unemployment payments upfront, right now, in a lump sum. What you have to agree to is that together with at least ten other people you’re going to start your own cooperative business which you all together work.

The feeling in Italy was if you give people a chance to own and operate their own business collectively they’ll be more committed to it, more invested in it, more likely to make a go of it than simply collecting a check. And meanwhile they’ll be producing things and they’ll feel better about themselves. And they’ll have a more productive role in the community. If you give everybody a vested interest in their enterprise, they work harder, they work better, because its theirs. They’re not just working for the man, they’re working for themselves, which is a dream Americans have had, way back from the beginning.

Sixty years ago the United States was less unequal than the capitalism’s in Europe. Now we are more unequal. So yes, it is possible to have capitalism with a much more human face than the ones we have here in the United States and in Britain particularly where we have allowed things to go in a very different direction.

BILL MOYERS: But isn’t Italy in a mess today? We all know about the euro crisis. Those governments are in trouble, austerity’s being imposed throughout the Mediterranean area. We had this explosion with Cyprus-- explosion of fear with CYPRUS being bailed out and the depositors in the banks having to contribute to the cost of bailing out. A tiny island threatens to bring the euro system down again.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely, and that Cyprus story is extremely important. Even though it’s a very small country and people might not pay attention because it is small. Here is the austerity program of raising taxes and cutting government spending, taking a qualitative new step to help bail out a capitalism that hasn’t worked in Europe and that has crippled this little country of Cyprus.

The step taken to try to fix the problem is to literally reach into the private, insured bank accounts of people in the local banks in Cyprus and take money out of it to pay for fixing this broken system. For all working people, and not just in Europe, here in the United States, too, this should be a wakeup call if you still need one that we’re in a situation where the most dire, unexpected, unimaginable steps are being taken to fix a system that keeps resisting being fixed so that we are required now to dip into people’s checking accounts and literally take the money away.

BILL MOYERS: Richard, one of our viewers, Antonia Murrero asks, “Student loan debts are overwhelming me and many others. What does Professor Wolff think would happen to the economy if those debts could be forgiven in personal bankruptcy? Is that even possible?” he asks.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the law in the United States specifically prevents you from using bankruptcy to erase your student loans. Bankruptcy does allow you to erase other kinds of debts if you can’t pay them. But the student loan system was set up to prevent that. So students are in a very specially bad place by virtue of this.

We’ve never before done this. In our history as a nation we’ve never before required college students to take anything remotely like this level of debt. We’re still-- we’re requiring students to accumulate huge amounts of debt to get bachelor’s degree, let alone more advanced degrees, at the same time that we offer the graduates the poorest job market and prospects in a generation. That’s a one-two punch.

You have to borrow more than you can afford to face a job which will not allow you to ever pay it off, hence this person’s very intelligent question. How is this going to work? We’ve solved a problem in our society, how to educate the next generation. And let me tell you, this is an important matter. We economists believe that the single most important factor shaping the future of any economy in the world including the United States is the quality and the quantity of the educated trained labor force it produces.

College and universities are where we do that. If we’re crippling an entire generation with debts they cannot support and jobs that will not encourage them to continue in their studies we are as a nation shooting ourselves in the foot going forward. It’s a demonstration of the dysfunctionality of our system.

And then the question comes could we forgive the students’ debts? Well, it’s an interesting idea. But how then do you go to the people who can’t afford their credit card debts or their home debts or their mortgage debts-- they’re all hurting. And the students have a special claim, I give them that. And we need those students, I understand it.

But we have to go at the root of a society which allows unspeakable wealth to accumulate in the hands of a tiny minority while condemning an entire generation of students to a set of burdens. We don’t want them to have those burdens. We need what they can produce for us as a society.

BILL MOYERS: But what does this young woman do who says she’s overwhelmed by her debt?

RICHARD WOLFF: Many students are not aware that they actually have some ways to help them. But the more broad answer I would give you is you need a social movement. If there were masses of students saying, “This is intolerable,” and saying it loudly and saying it publicly, peacefully for sure, but making it clear, then the powers that be would begin to realize that there are millions of students, upward of 15, 16 million people go to colleges and universities in the United States. You’re talking about a very well educated constituency. If they were organized and mobilized you would begin to get the response of dealing with their crises much more effectively than what we have now.

BILL MOYERS: Here’s a synopsis, Richard, of a lot of similar questions that bring us to your book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. A viewer who identifies himself as a longtime fan of Dr. Wolff writes, “You’re passionate about workers self-directed enterprises. Can you explain briefly why you think these are the way to save capitalism? Critics say your alternative may work in theory but not in practice.”

RICHARD WOLFF: My point is that workers ought to be-- all of us who work in an office, a factory or a store - ought to be in the position of participating in the decisions governing that enterprise. And I do that not only because I believe in democracy. And let me say that if you do believe in democracy, it’s always been a mystery to me why that democracy that you believe in doesn’t apply to the place where you work. After all, five out of seven days of every week, most of your adult life, you’re at work.

So if democracy’s an important value it ought to be at your job because that’s where you are most of the time. And democracy at the job means the following. If you have to live with the decisions that are made in a job, what you’re producing, what technology’s being used, what the health conditions of your workplace are, what’s done with the fruits of your labor, literally whether your factor or your office continues, since you have to live with those decisions you ought to participate, the basic idea of democracy.

So I like the idea of cooperative enterprises because it fulfills my value commitment to democracy. Whereas a capitalist enterprise doesn’t because it keeps all the decision making in a tiny minority. We all who go to work have to live with their decisions, but we don’t participate in them, not even to speak of the community that has to live with the decisions.

But the second reason is I see concrete results coming from an enterprise that was run by the workers collectively, and let me give you a few examples. First, most of us believe that if the workers themselves made a decision that they would close the enterprise and move it to China, I don’t think so.

I think that the whole running away of enterprises out of the United States was made possible because the decisions to close enterprises here and to open them in another part of the world where you could get away with paying workers much less was a decision that was very good for the folks who make the decisions, but not for the average workers there.

So if we had decision making made by the workers in place they wouldn’t undo their own jobs and they wouldn’t move. And that would make a very different economic system from the one we have today. Second example, suppose a technology was being considered by the corporate heads who make the decision, the board of directors, and it was one that wasn’t safe, it created too much noise, too much air pollution, despoiled the water, whatever. If it’s a bottom line decision of the typical sort the board of directors and the shareholders seeing profit using that technology might go ahead and use it because it’s profitable and that’s what they’re called upon to do, make profits.

If the workers collectively made the decision knowing that they had to breathe that air, they had to hear that noise, they had to live with that water and so did their spouses and their children and their neighbors, I bet you you’d get a different decision because they would weigh the costs and benefits of that decision differently. And my third example, although I could give you many, Bill, if you want them.

The third example, when it comes to deciding what to do with the profits, suppose instead the workers themselves made that decision democratically, how do we divide the profits?

You think they would give a handful of top officials wild sums of money to buy $40 million apartments on Fifth Avenue while everybody else was having to borrow money to get their kids through school? I don’t think so. I think that people collectively would distribute the wealth more to some than others for all kinds of reasons, but they would do it in a much less unequal way than we have in a capitalist system.

So I challenge all of those who are concerned with a more equal system, with less inequality, to come up with a better way of achieving it than having workers be in a position to make the decisions as to how we divide the profits because that is the single most important determinant of the inequality of income in our society.

BILL MOYERS: But how do you answer this viewer? “In 1994 when United Airlines was on the brink of financial collapse a deal was made creating the biggest employee-owned company in the US. In 2002 the airline filed for bankruptcy.”

RICHARD WOLFF: My answer is the following and it’s very important. For workers to own something is one thing. For workers to become the directors of their own enterprise is something else. Worker ownership means for example, and we have lots of examples both in the United States and around the world, that the workers become in a sense shareholders. They are the technical owners.

But if the workers who become owners, and I’m not against that, but if the workers who become owners don’t change the way the enterprise is operated it remains a capitalist enterprise. It still has a board of directors, a handful of people who make all the decisions. It’s true that the workers may vote for who those people are, but they’ve left the structure of the enterprise in the old form, hierarchical, top-down. That’s what was done in United Airlines. I was involved in that. I actually know.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

RICHARD WOLFF: They called me in at a couple points to participate in some of the discussions, the International Association of Machinists, which was the union that was part of that. So they left the old capitalist structure, they weren’t willing to go beyond saying, “We, the workers, become owners, but we leave the running of the enterprise, the directing of it, the day to day decisions in the old form made by the old experts.” Part of a movement away from capitalism to a cooperative enterprise requires that the people of the United States stop believing that the folks at the top have some magical entitlement to give them that position.

BILL MOYERS: I think most of them have, if journalism and the social science surveys are reporting what’s actually going on out there.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yeah, and I think that there has to be a change. I think most Americans have to recognize that the folks who run our enterprises, they had to learn how to do that. And we can all learn how to do that. It’s the old argument in a sense that comes out of our history.

BILL MOYERS: Here’s a viewer named Jeff chiming in. “Dr. Wolff, can you please give a concrete, not academic or theoretical explanation, of how you would apply your employee-run business model to a McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, a hospital or JPMorgan Chase?”

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the answer is best given not as a hypothetical but to describe an enterprise which is large like all of those are, which has done this.

BILL MOYERS: There’s a film called SHIFT CHANGE, about the cooperative efforts. And we’ll provide a link to that.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the example I’m going to give is a company in Spain. It’s called Mondragon, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation. And a little history may interest folks. It was started in the middle of the 1950s by a Catholic priest in the north of Spain in the Basque area just south of the Pyrenees Mountains.

It was a time of terrible privation in Spain after the World War II and the Spanish Civil War. There was terrible unemployment in this area and the Catholic priest decided that one way to deal with unemployment was not to wait for a capitalist employer to come in and hire people but to set up cooperatives. And he began with six parishioners in his Roman Catholic church to start a co-op.

Okay, this is 1956. Let’s fast forward to 2013. That corporation now has over 100,000 employees. It has been a success story of gargantuan proportions. It is a family of co-ops, within this large corporation. In most of these co-ops the workers make the decisions of how this cooperative works.

So let me give you an idea of how successful they’ve been. They partner with Microsoft and General Motors in their research labs because Microsoft and General Motors want to tap into their creative way of running a business. They have a rule that nobody can get more than six times what the lowest paid worker in an enterprise gets.

The typical situation in a major American corporation is that the top executives gets 300 or 400 times what their lowest paid worker does. So they have solved the equality problem in a dramatic way for 120, roughly, thousand people. There’s a concrete example of how you can make a cooperative democratically run enterprise successful, growing and becoming a powerful community force.

There is Arizmendi, the name of that priest in Spain, there’s the Arizmendi Bakeries, six of them in the Bay Area that are all run as cooperatives. And they run it as a worker-directed enterprise. They’ve been very successful. Their commitment, number one, is not profit. Their commitment, number one, is not growth. Their commitment, number one, is to their people.

BILL MOYERS: Which brings me to a question from another viewer. “How do you move to this alternative you’re talking about and writing about without strong unions? Union membership is down to its lowest level since 1936 when Franklin Roosevelt was president. And can you do this without increased strength among unions?”

RICHARD WOLFF: A union in its negotiations with an employer currently is limited in most cases to asking for better wages, better working conditions. Imagine with me for a moment what it would mean if the unions developed a new strategy. Let’s call it a two-track strategy.

On the one hand you continue bargaining with your workers for better conditions from your employer. But on the other hand you do something else. You begin to train workers to become able to run their own enterprises and to have a whole new bargaining chip when you confront an employer. Many unions over the last 30 years have been confronted by a company that basically comes and says the following. “We’re thinking of leaving Cincinnati, Sheboygan, Detroit, whatever. We need to get some concessions from you.

“We won’t leave if you give us wage give backs, lower benefits, all the usual things, or else we’ll leave.” The union doesn’t know what to do, is terrified, doesn’t want to call the bluff because not sure it is a bluff, et cetera, et cetera, so eventually the union caves. That has been the history over and over again.

Imagine a union that had been able to say to these folks, “Okay, if you leave rather than coming to a reasonable accommodation with us, we are going to set up an enterprise right here. The factory you leave we will occupy. The jobs you don’t pay us to do we will do for ourselves. And you will be located in China bringing goods back here, but we’ll continue to produce goods here and let’s see which goods the American working people will buy.”

BILL MOYERS: But they will need capital to do that.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. And the question is where would the capital come from?

BILL MOYERS: The question is where will the capital come from?

RICHARD WOLFF: Good. The answer is, where the capital come from, there are several possibilities. The first possibility is the United States government. The United States government has the money, needs to do something for our unemployment problem and here’s a way to do it because as the Marcora Law in Italy that I mentioned earlier illustrates there’s a governmental and a social interest in doing this. This is a better way to solve the unemployment problem than giving people a dole for months or years at a time during which time they lose their job connections, they often lose their skills.

This is a much better solution, giving them the startup money to begin small, medium size enterprises that they will have a great interest in making successful because it’s their future, it’s their wellbeing that’s at stake and it’s their collectively owned and operated enterprise.

Well, why in the world don’t we have a cooperative business administration providing startup money and technical help so that these kinds of enterprise, particularly helping unemployed people, could begin not only to help them and to help our economy but again to provide that freedom of choice for Americans so we can all see how these enterprises work and make a collective decision whether we’d rather have an economy more of them than of the old capitalist type. And again I think that the capitalists would be surprised by how many of us would choose that other route. And that would be a way to get it going.

BILL MOYERS: This is all very provocative and very controversial. And very imaginative. We’ll have you back at this table before the season is over. But in the meantime I look forward to our live chat on BillMoyers.com this coming Tuesday at 1:00pm Eastern Time.

RICHARD WOLFF: Good. I look forward to it as well.

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California Just Legalized Public Banks. Will the Rest of the Nation Follow Suit?
The new law promises to take taxpayer money back from Wall Street and reinvest it in communities.

By Ananya Garg
Yes Magazine
October 3, 2019

The Standing Rock movement in 2016 brought together Indigenous activists from across the nation to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. One of the demands of this movement included divestment from Wells Fargo, a bank that was funding development of the pipeline. This brought into the spotlight one of the biggest issues concerning economic justice in the United States: big banks. More specifically, big for-profit banks that the government uses to invest public money into Wall Street, rather than local communities. Some of those investments include the fossil fuel industry, private prisons, immigrant detention centers, and more.

The divestment movement is mostly about getting those government investmentspublic employee pension funds, for exampleחout of the big banks. The question then becomes where to put them. Some economic justice activists say the answer is public banking.

In September, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 857, a law that would allow a regulatory framework for public banking in the state. This would allow the establishment of banks that hold the governments money and include socially responsible charters, anti-corruption clauses, transparency, a board that includes community development professionals, and prohibitions on retail locations and on competing with community banks and credit unions. On Oct. 2, Gov. Gavin Newsom SIGNED IT INTO LAW. Newsom has been a supporter of public banking since his 2018 campaign. ItҒs expected to take one or two years, at least, to set up a charter for such a bank.

The only public bank in the contiguous United States today is in North Dakota. This public bank is not a new phenomenon; it was established during a populist movement in 1919. The credit system during the time was not set up in a way that supported farmers, so for them to be able to receive farming loans, the state created what is now known as the Bank of North Dakota.

“North Dakota was the only state that escaped the credit crisis,” says Ellen Brown, founder and president of the Public Banking Institute. “It never went in the red, [had] the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest foreclosure rate at that time.”

According to THE BANK’S 2018 ANNUAL REPORT, it recorded its 15th consecutive year of record profit in 2018, with $159 million in income and $7 billion in assets. It maintains an investment portfolio of $1.9 billion.

Opponents of public banking have said that public banks are too risky and could waste taxpayer dollars. That was the position of the Los Angeles Times editorial board AGAINST A 2018 PIBLIC INITIATIVE that would have allowed public banking charters in that city. (Voters later rejected the measure.) The Times also said public banks would compete with smaller private banks.

But the Bank of North Dakota, widely seen as a model for successful public banks, only competes with Wall Street as a repository of government funds. It instead partners with local private banks when small businesses need big loans, and steps in to secure the larger loans.

At the time of the Standing Rock protests and the clamor for divestment, many individuals were able to switch their personal accounts to nonprofit credit unions. But larger entities, such as governments, have fewer options. While credit unions are an excellent alternative to privately owned banks for individual accounts, they don’t have the capacity to handle the large government accounts of cities and states. To begin, credit unions are owned by their members, while public banks are owned by a government. Credit unions also have a less capital to issue loans.

For example, in February 2017, the Seattle City Council voted to divest the citys banking services from Wells Fargo because of its ties with the Dakota Access Pipeline, but in the end was unable to find an alternative that could process about $3 billion a year in government revenue. Three months later, the city renewed its banking relationship with Wells Fargo.

While few historical examples of public banking exist, one stands out. The FreedmanҒs Savings Bank was originally founded for freed former slaves and African American veterans to have a place to build their savings. The Oxford African American Studies Center writes that the bank served its purpose for a short time, but then moved its headquarters from New York to Washington, D.C. After a change in leadership and several dubious investments, the Freedmans Bank went into debt and was forced to shut down.

Debbie Notkin, who works with the California Public Banking Alliance, says that by law, all corporations, which includes private banks, are legally obligated to maximize profit. Public banks are not held to this expectation, however, and are instead mandated to serve their communities.

Public banks are run like nonprofits in that they have boards made up of members of the community. Those board members are people with clear credit and experience in business. While this raises the question about who might end up on these boards, Notkin says that advocates like her are :committed to wide representation,” uplifting marginalized voices, and staying true to their values, such as fighting against fossil fuels and Wall Street.

Therefore, Notkin says, community investments have unlimited possibilities, including affordable housing, saving people from foreclosure, making student loans more affordable, and creating more infrastructure to defend against the effects of climate change, such as more dikes and dams for coastal areas.

The Public Banking Institute;s Ellen Brown has been referred to as the godmother of the public banking movement. She is the author of The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity and runs The Web of Debt blog. She sees the Bank of North Dakota as a model for public banking systems across the nation.

Public funds are currently invested in Wall Street banks and deposited in Wall Street banks. ItӒs not the government that keeps our money, its private banks,Ҕ Brown says. Furthermore, these public funds are not used to improve communities. For example, many large private banks might be more interested in putting $5 billion into a Wall Street investment bank and reaping the profits from that arrangement, rather than making a $50,000 loan to a local business. Private banks often choose Wall Street, because it is where they can maximize their returns on investments. Connections to their local communities arent a consideration.

The community implications of public banking could be huge.

Los Angeles-based public banking advocate Trinity Tran is the co-founder and lead organizer for three volunteer groups that support public banking in Los Angeles: Public Bank LA, Revolution LA, and Divest LA.

“Our current banking model is based on extraction,” she says. She also spoke on the Bank of North Dakota, saying that it has existed for 100 years, and it is currently in its 15th consecutive year of profit even though it is not mandated to be profitable, but to serve the community.

Sushil Jacob, a senior staff attorney for economic justice with the LawyersԒ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, was instrumental in drafting the bill Gov. Newsom just signed.

Jacob says that while it is important to pressure the federal government, the real changes are going to take place at the state and local level, which is where public banks come into play. Theyll be necessary to provide funding for local projects as the economy transforms from one based on extractive industries to one that supports democracy, the environment, and community well-being, especially in low-income communities of color and other marginalized groups.

In addition to supporting that transformation to what is called the Just Transition framework, public banking would also be necessary to provide capital for projects under the proposed Green New Deal.

“By creating a mechanism in which cities and counties can divest from their current banks and put them into new banks, and have those banks be tasked with only lending to things that are going to be a part of the new economy, that creates a local financing mechanism for a just transition,” Jacob said.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Villages Medicare Advantage

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They’re Retired. They’re Insured. The Government Pays for It. And Trump Loves It.

Trump talks Medicare in a retirement enclave where doctors are a golf-cart ride away.

By Akilah Johnson
ProPublica
October 3, 2019

It was happy hour on a typical Thursday, and Debi Hahn was twisting and shouting with the rest of the M-T Heads (pronounced: empty heads) at a bar on the main town square. Today, her right hand was wrapped in a purple bandage matching her colorful top.

She and a friend were talking about surgeries, cancer and rising treatment costs, even in a community with a health care model seen as an innovative - and frugal - alternative to traditional Medicare. I have a lot of squamous cells,Ӕ the 67-year-old confided, detailing her string of past, present and future skin cancer treatments and her $95-a-month cost for an experimental chemotherapy cream.

“Cocktails make it better,” said her friend, whose hand was bandaged too.

Welcome to The Villages, one of Americas largest retirement communities, a sprawling Central Florida haven that bills itself as “Florida’s friendliest hometown” and has a vision to become America’s healthiest.

This is not a place where seniors idly watch the world go by. Instead, think Fort Lauderdale spring break circa 1985, except all the revelers are over 55. It’s a place where friends meet in bars to dance, drink and maybe puff medical marijuana vape pens and celebrate softball outcomes with cans of cold Bud Light.

It was happy hour on a typical Thursday, and Debi Hahn was twisting and shouting with the rest of the M-T Heads (pronounced: empty heads) at a bar on the main town square. Today, her right hand was wrapped in a purple bandage matching her colorful top.

She and a friend were talking about surgeries, cancer and rising treatment costs, even in a community with a health care model seen as an innovative - and frugal - alternative to traditional Medicare. “I have a lot of squamous cells,” the 67-year-old confided, detailing her string of past, present and future skin cancer treatments and her $95-a-month cost for an experimental chemotherapy cream.

“Cocktails make it better,” said her friend, whose hand was bandaged too.

Welcome to The Villages, one of America’s largest retirement communities, a sprawling Central Florida haven that bills itself as Florida’s friendliest hometown and has a vision to become “Americas healthiest.”

This is not a place where seniors idly watch the world go by. Instead, think Fort Lauderdale spring break circa 1985, except all the revelers are over 55. It’s a place where friends meet in bars to dance, drink and maybe puff medical marijuana vape pens and celebrate softball outcomes with cans of cold Bud Light.

Advantage plans were initially billed as a way to contain costs, but it’s unclear if that actually happened. Some studies found the average annual costs were about the same between the two programs, while others have said Medicare Advantage is actually more expensive.

The Villages, experts say, is exactly the kind of well-to-do, relatively healthy community that MEDICARE ADVANTAGE insurers have focused on and it’s where Trump will sell his approach before an invitation-only crowd.

Billed as an official White House visit, the president can expect a supportive political audience in a pocket of Florida an hour northwest of Orlando where seniors like Hahn praise Trump for his efforts to, as she puts it, “straighten this country out.”

“I love Donald Trump,” Hahn said. “I wouldn’t care if we had Trumps from now until eternity.”

Hahn’s enthusiasm is mainstream in The Villages, with its mostly white, middle-class, Republican residents set amid pastureland and billboards selling semi-automatic rifles. It has a 2,000-member Villagers for Trump club.

“President Trump is doing a phenomenal job,” 68-year-old Dr. Rosalind Gamba, a naturopathic medical doctor, said just before The Villages Republican Club meeting began last month. She and her husband waited to marry until he was eligible for Medicare because his insurance costs were too expensive. Now, they are both covered by The Villages privately run Medicare Advantage plan.

“Like Trump says, we should be taking care of our own first,” Gamba said. “We shouldn’t keep paying for people who don’t belong here.”

Trump was supposed to visit The Villages in August, but he had to reschedule after back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

While there is a growing number of independent voters here like Randy Fritts, who says, “I don’t discuss religion or politics with my friends because I still want them to be my friends,” The Villages is a GOP stronghold in a critical swing state that Trump needs to carry.

There’s a lot of old folks, and there are a lot of his supporters in the three counties that make up The Villages,” Daniel A. Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. “That’s why he’s going there.”

More importantly, Smith said, these supporters show up at the polls. In 2016, he said, at least 8 out of 10 Republicans voted in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties, with turnout in Sumter at 87.5%.

“That’s insane,” he said. “There aren’t any Republicans who are anti-Trump in Sumter County.”

The county has one of the highest population growth rates in the state, which demographers and political science experts say is largely thanks to retirees from the Midwest and Northeast flocking to The Villages, with its 50 golf courses and 100 pickleball courts.

“They find that people there think a lot like they do on social and political issues, particularly a preponderance of people who favor limited government in all its forms,” said the late David Colburn, history professor and provost emeritus at the University of Florida. (ProPublica interviewed Colburn a week before his death.)

But, he said, political loyalty could wane should a candidate proposed an initiative that undermined or reduced Medicare benefits.

“These folks down there are not wealthy,” he said. “They’ve done pretty well in life, but they are not like people who live in really plush retirement communities in Florida. So they would be significantly disadvantaged if Medicare should be modified in a way that provides less coverage.”

Like traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage is part of the current federal health insurance program for most adults over 65 and young people who meet federal disability requirements. The idea of allowing private insurers to offer Medicare benefits has been around since the 1970s but wasn’t christened with the name until 2003.

Many Advantage plans bring together the various parts of Medicare - hospital care and doctor visits, prescription drug coverage into a single package that usually offers additional benefits such as dental and vision coverage. They differ in how the government pays for those benefits, paying by the service in traditional Medicare versus giving insurance companies a lump sum per person annually with Medicare Advantage. Another difference is that beneficiaries are restricted to a defined network of providers like an HMO or preferred provider organization.

Today, more than one third of all Medicare beneficiaries, or about 22 million people, opt for privately managed health care plans, a dramatic increase from 5.3 million at the advent of the program in 2003.

The growth is fueled, in part, by sophisticated lobbying campaigns organized by the insurance industry. For example, major insurance companies quietly funded a coalition of more than a quarter-million seniors who support the program, according to The Associated Press.

דMedicare Advantage has been able to grow because insurers see this as a profitable marketplace, said Tricia Neuman, senior vice president and director of Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. ԓThey are making money.

Medicare paid private insurers about $210 billion in 2017. Insurance companies, Neuman said, need to sell their products to a large community to make money.

Like The Villages.

“There’s an abundance of Medicare-qualified people for a particular area,” Shanna Kurpe, director of marketing and sales at The Villages Health, said about The Villages. It’s denser than in most populations.

The Villages Health Medicare Advantage plan was created about six and a half years ago when the retirement community decided to expand.

In a customer satisfaction survey, residents were asked where they went for health care, and the response was someplace besides The Villages, she said. The Villages planned to build a second hospital in response to the survey until, Kurpe said, a friend asked the late CEO of The Villages Gary Morse, “If your mission is to make The Villages Americas healthiest town, why would you build another building dedicated to sick people?”

His solution was to create The Villages Health, a neighborhood, primary-care-based health system, and two Medicare Advantage Plans, an HMO and PPO run by UnitedHealthcare. The goal was to ensure residents could access convenient health care facilities at a lower cost.

The Villages Health had 75 employees when it began. Today, there are more than 500, including more than 60 board-certified physicians, working in 15 specialities at eight health centers caring for 46,000 patients, mostly residents or employees and their families. Doctors see half as many patients, about 1,250, as those who serve traditional Medicare, and each visit save for the first lasts 30 minutes, The Villages Health officials said. That first visit? Its 60 minutes.

As of last month, federal data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed 33,889 people were enrolled in UnitedHealthcare;s The Villages MedicareComplete plans, up from 7,561 in 2014 when the program began.

The 2020 estimated annual costs for The Villages Medicare Advantage plans are $3,786 to $4,638. Meanwhile, the estimated annual costs for traditional Medicare with added drug coverage and a supplemental plan are $2,690 to $6,503. Part of the reason costs are so high for Medicare with a supplemental plan is that some supplemental plans cover most if not all - out of pocket costs.

Our care model is set up to be primary care driven,Ӕ Kurpe said, adding that it is designed to serve Medicare Advantage enrollees. WeӒre incentivized to keep you healthy. Were not compensated enough if you go into the hospital.Ҕ

And The Villages Health is growing.

Construction is underway on the Advanced Center for Healthcare at Brownwood, a 285,000-square-foot outpatient facility that will be connected by a covered walkway to the Brownwood Hotel & Spa (also under construction), described as a rustic chic 150-room hotel. It will keep some guest rooms in reserve for patients having procedures next door.

The Villages Health, according to its website, only accepts three Medicare Advantage plans its own, one through AARP and, as of January 2020, Florida Blue - and private insurance. (Specialists at The Villages Health accept traditional Medicare.)

Ahead of this years open enrollment period, which begins Oct. 15, Villages Health has began offering free one-hour classes that quickly fill to capacity called ғMedicare Simplified: How to Choose Worry-Free Health care in The Villages.

“Our goal with The Villages Health is to keep you healthy and heal you quickly so you can enjoy this lifestyle here,” Debra Siwinski, a patient service representative - and patient - at The Villages Health, told a recent group taking her class. Siwinski, a retired widow from Illinois, applied for the job as a way to stave off boredom - and loves it.

“Anybody in the room aging in?” she asked the class of 14. “You get a lot of clutter right now. There’s a lot that you’re getting hit with between the mail, the radio, TV advertisements. Hopefully, [this] will help get through a lot of that clutter.”

She spent the first half of class going over the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of the differences between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. And the next half was dedicated to explaining the courses second goal - choosing worry-free health care by steering the conversation toward this conclusion: Medicare Advantage, though she did emphasize that a third-party, licensed insurance agent was nearby to answer specific questions about Medicareגs various options.

“With traditional Medicare,” Siwinski said, “doctors have waiting lists of patients: that undergo more tests and more procedures because that’s how they get paid. They do better if the patients are sick. “Some people have told me that they’ve waited an hour or longer to get into their doctor to only be seen on average seven to 12 minutes.”

And, she continued, “because one doctor doesn’t know what the other doctor is doing, a lot of times the patients get the runaround.”

Not everyone in The Villages has embraced the advent of Villages Health. Limiting care to those with Medicare Advantage plans caused some backlash because it meant people like Jerry Prince and his wife would have to switch doctors. And that was a sacrifice he said they were unwilling to make.

“My wife had three heart attacks, and her cardiologist is outside of that plan,” said Prince, 72 and president of The Villages Republican Club. “He’s done great things for her, and I’m not changing.”

Blurred Lines

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which labeled Medicare Advantage as such, was one of the most significant overhauls of Medicare since the program was created in 1965. Some Democrats criticized it even then as a Republican scheme to privatize - and eventually eliminate Medicare.

It was the stamp of approval from the “liberal lion” from Massachusetts, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, that opened the door to compromise and helped pushed the 2003 law beyond years of political gridlock. He endorsed the proposal that added prescription drug coverage to Medicare. The coverage, though, is only available through private insurers.

This, health care experts and advocates say, has opened the door for a growing private industry fueled by taxpayer dollars that has delivered mixed results.

There’s been little comprehensive research comparing the performance and value of Medicare Advantage with traditional Medicare by taking into account such things as utilization, access, cost of care, quality and outcomes.

The studies that have been done are limited in scope. For example, a recent report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found that people in traditional Medicare are no more likely to report problems getting into see a doctor than those with private insurance.

No one has taken all of these different studies and put them into one single narrative,Ӕ said Lori Gonzalez, a faculty member at Florida State Universitys Claude Pepper Center. She added that the lack of a systematic review comparing Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare means “its very hard to say to you that one, according to research, is better” than another.

She’s currently working on an issue brief to rectify that, saying what she’s discovered so far is that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries tend to be healthier. The reason, she said, is twofold: They seemed to be kind of cherry-picked or Medicare Advantage plans take the money they get to advertise in areas where they know there are these healthier older folks.Ӕ

Since taking office, Trump has largely left untouched Medicare and other programs heavily used by seniors, but that changed this year. Trumps 2020 budget proposal requested $845 billion in Medicare cuts over the next 10 years, proposing to achieve this largely by changing payments to hospitals and doctors and renewing efforts to lessen fraud and abuse.

But Medicare advocates say the Trump administration has made some changes favoring private insurers that administer Medicare Advantage plans. They say recent rule changes have blurred the lines between program education and marketing of specific plans.

“They are treating traditional Medicare as a plan option rather than saying, This is what Medicare is supposed to be, and we have this secondary choice,” said Matt Shepard of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “It entices people to sign up for something that then doesn’t work with them. Do you think for-profit, private companies are going to be worried about profit or help?”

But People Love It and Trump

For Will Statom, the answer is simple.

“Health care is a business, said the 67-year-old, who has a framed personal photo of Vice President Mike Pence in his living room. (We’ve known each other so long, we’ve known each other since our hair was jet black, he said of Pence.)

Statom has been a member of The Villages’ Medicare Advantage plan since moving to Florida from Indiana in January 2017. He loves it because there are no monthly payments, and he likes his doctor. What he doesn’t understand is the notion that health care coverage is a human right.

“I read the Constitution and I’m not a scholar,” he said, “but it doesn’t say in there that everyone should get it.”

Can the nation’s health care system stand some improvements? Sure. The problem, he said, is that there are people who would complain if you gave them a $1 million worth of pennies [but] told them they had to roll ‘em up.

Hannah Fresques and Moiz Syed contributed to this report.

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Monday, October 07, 2019

Bernie

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The Movement Bernie Started Is Bigger Than Any One Person. Have Faith in That Movement, Not Just the Man

By Emily Kirklin
Common Dreams
October 6, 2019

Senator Bernie Sanders is not just one man. He is a movement. What he represents is a set of ideals that will pull this nation out of the soul-sucking quicksand in which we currently find ourselves.

After the news of the senators recent health setbacks, many people are worried about the future of the Sanders campaign. I was one of them. I found myself thinking, “Will the voters confidence be shaken? Will the people vote for someone who may not be able to weather the stress of the presidency? How can we keep asking him to sacrifice his health for the good of the nation?”

I wasn’t sure. I’m still not. My father had a heart attack, stents, and more a few years back. I cant honestly say that I would want my dad to put himself through such grueling work. I want him for myself, and I want to make each moment we have last as long as possible. These should be happy days of enjoying life’s simple pleasures and each others company. Can I really ask so much of someone when I’m not willing to give it up myself? So, I spent some moments in introspection, imagining the various scenarios and what ifs of a future without Bernie. They all seemed a bit lackluster. But I thought, maybe its time. He has already given the Democratic Party and this country so much. The issues at the forefront today, like healthcare and student debt, are so dramatically different from what they were four years ago, and we have Senator Sanders to thank for that. Without his voice, representing the millions of disenfranchised voters across this land, we would still be in that sandpit, slowly sinking to the bottom. He has thrown us a lifeline. We can’t let that go.

Is it time for him to hand the rope to someone else to struggle onward? To let the man rest and enjoy life with his family? But who could take on the struggle? Is any single person up to the task? Perhaps not. But then I realized, that isn’t really the point of Bernie’s campaign: “Not me, us.” Not one single person, but all of us pulling together. This movement is so much bigger than one person.

The movement does not begin and end with Sanders. From the first day he steps into the Oval Office, the change begins, like a pebble thrown into the water, reverberating through the depths, rippling across the surface. Every individual within his administration will be a part of the revolution. Every person who chooses to stand at his side represents the ideals of integrity, honesty, humility, transparency, and responsibility to our environment, responsibility to those who are voiceless.

The reason people support Bernie Sanders is not because of the man; it is because of THE IDEALS that he represents. He fights for the issues that are dear to us, and people trust him to fill his administration with those who will carry on in these fights. I have no doubt that his administration will be one of moral integrity. That every person appointed and hired will truly have these ideals at heart and will have the moral fortitude to stand up to corporate interests and lobbyists. A government for the people and by the people. And while I would love for Sanders to fill the role of president for four whole years, we would be blessed to have even one day because that’s all we truly need. For just a moment, someone to put their foot in the door, so the rest of us can gather the strength to get out of this sandpit, push open that door more fully, and allow in the integrity and compassion we’ve been missing.

Ultimately, the choice is his, but knowing Bernie, I believe that hell be fighting with every bit of his strength until his final days (may they be many years from now!), win or lose, rain or shine, because that is simply the type of person he is.

So, as selfish as it may be, I ask that he keep fighting for us. Just a little longer. I am willing to put my faith in the movement as a whole. I am putting my faith in every person that is a part of this. Keep pulling. Not me, us.

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

Reclaiming Independence Day

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Reclaiming Independence Day

By DayRosanne Lindsay
Activist Post
July 3, 2019

Has the concept of independence been lost under Acts of Tyranny perpetrated by government?

Based on historical evidence, the only freedom people have is the freedom they defend. As this country celebrates Independence Day 2019, tyrannical Acts that remove rights are being rolled out under the guise of safety and security.

On June 24th, President Trump signed into law the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Advancing Innovations Act (PAHPA), authored by Rep. Susan w. Brooks (R-IN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to strengthen the country’s preparedness and response program. PAHPA ensures that the country is better prepared to respond to a wide array of Public Health emergencies, whether man-made or occurring through natural disaster or infectious disease.

Problem - Reaction - Solution

The PAHPA Act is part of the HEGELIAN DIALECTIC Playbook of Problem, Reaction, Solution. This Act, act-ivates the government to prepare and respond in any way it deems necessary by doing whatever it wants, wherever it wants, however it wants, without your permission.

This DISCLOSURE to all subjects and slaves of the world show that the ideal of FREEDOM has been a ruse. The Constitution of the United States does not protect freedom. The Declaration of Independence does not ensure rights. True freedom is is not found in any Act, but must be defended through action.

Panic Propaganda

Panic Propaganda is predictive programming that keeps people in a state of fear. Fear is a low frequency. As vibrational beings, what we believe, think, and feel are frequencies that determine HOW WE ACT or whether we act. Fear keeps people is a state of flight, fight, or freeze. Fear keeps people stuck and afraid of acting on their own behalf and for their own best interests.

In a state of fear, people are unlikely to remember that they are the true authors of government, and that elected officials must get permission from the people. Under mandates it is easy to forget that legislators work for YOU.

Have Americans forgotten the words of Thomas Jefferson, written in the Declaration of Independence?

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Undo The Conditioning

Americans have taken on the CONDITIONING of the public SCHOOL SYSTEM to believe that rights come from government and you have no say over your life since all decisions must be made to protect the “Public Health” and well being.

People are made to believe that “Public Health” exists. But “the Public” is like a forest. A forest does not exist except for the individual trees. Therefore, “the public” does not exist except for individuals who make up the public. When it comes to health, wealth, and happiness, it is not “the Public” that benefits. It is individual who does.

Where Does Freedom Live?

When you decide to un-condition yourself from falsehoods you have accepted to the truth that is self-evident, you realize that freedom is not granted by government, or presidents, or kings. Freedom lives in individuals. You are born with inherent rights.

In order to experience freedom, you must live it and express it through your choices. Without choice there is no freedom. Avoid the “pro” vs. “anti” propaganda that is set up by social engineers to DIVIDE AND CONQUER. While you are bogged down in endless debate (pro or anti), mandates are rolled out. Totalitarian rule is established.

The Healthy People 2020 Act is coming. This cradle-to-grave vaccine mandate demands young and old, and every one in between, roll up their sleeves and submit to an injection.  It is an Act that removes choice and tests the will of the people. Everyone will be faced with a choice. What will you choose? How do you reclaim independence?

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Union Rise

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America’s labor movement is finally waking up after a 30 year slumber

By George Pearkes, Opinion Contributor
Business Insider
June 30, 2019

You may have noticed some labor disruptions in the headlines. A few examples from the past month: employees of Vox Media successfully NEGOTIATED a collective bargaining agreement, Buzzfeed employees WALKED OUT in an effort to get recognition for their union, and VOLKSWAGEN workers in Tennessee TALKED WILDCAT STRIKES after a vote to unionize failed by a small margin.

Last year, teachers walked off the job in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona with walk-outs and other disruptions from Colorado to the Carolinas. This may seem like bad news for capitalists, but unions can be a source of stability as well as class conflict. The recent labor renaissance could help to reverse some worrying long-term trends in the American economy, while also still benefiting the businesses from which workers are extracting gains.

The recent uptick in strikes is not just your imagination, and it recalls an earlier era when unions played a greater role in the American labor market. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed more than 485,000 workers were impacted by large strikes that started during the year, the highest number since 1986.

This year, the first five months of the year have seen 307,000 workers impacted by strikes, versus 431,000 in the first five months of 2018.

The return to labor disruptions after a long post-Reagan slumber comes as workers are becoming scarcer. Using BLS data which goes back to 1994, as-of May only 9.12% of the potential workers either had no job and want one, or are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work. The measure is approaching its record low of 8.9%, from April of 2000.

This extremely broad metric measures not just those who are counted as unemployed by the BLS, but goes further to include those who haven’t been looking for work but want a job as well as those working part-time for economic reasons. If employers want to add capacity or replace workers who retire or quit, there are fewer and fewer places to turn, which gives workers more bargaining power.
George Pearkes

The surge in organized labor activity also poses a concern for investors and economic observers: won’t all that labor bargaining power lead to wage-price spirals and runaway inflation? Not necessarily.

In fact, the FOMC’s most recent Summary of Economic Projections showed 8 of 15 FOMC members see multiple interest rate cuts this year, spurred in part by a weak inflation outlook. Many doves are more worried about slow inflation and the possibility of slipping inflation expectations, rather than inflation surging thanks to excessive labor bargaining power.

One reason a dovish outlook in the presence of low unemployment may carry less risk of a sudden uptick in inflation than it otherwise might: labor share of income is extremely low.

As Bloomberg’s Matt Boelser POINTED OUT in April, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida brought the below chart with him from his role at fixed income fund giant Pimco. It shows that labor compensation share of national income hit a record low earlier in the expansion, and has only risen modestly since.

Tight labor markets may help return some balance to the economy, raising income share for workers after decades of declines and very little bounce during the current economic expansion. Higher labor compensation share of income could push up wages and incomes, without a dramatic uptick in inflation from businesses passing wage costs on to consumers.
Geroge Pearkes

Can a burgeoning push for unions help that process along? It’s always hard to draw concrete causal links between two economic variables, and we should be cautious to say rising union power would definitely raise worker bargaining powerespecially without inflationary consequences. But it’s clear that declines in labor share of income since the 1970s only took place after unionization rates had been falling, and for quite some time.

Today, less than 11% of workers are union members per the BLS, with even lower numbers for the private sector (6.4%). Back in 1960, per the University of Amsterdam’s ICTWSS database, almost a third of the labor force was unionized.

The contemporary political framing of unions is often very negative, and given the experience of high inflation that subsided after supply-side reforms in the 1980s, that’s somewhat understandable, but it ignores a longer and more nuanced history of the LABOR MOVEMENT in the US. Modern edifices like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were introduced to balance the conflicts BETWEEN UNIONS AND EMPLOYERS.

Examples of past excesses include a million rounds fired and chemical weapons used at the Battle of Blair Mountain (West Virginia, 1921) or President Truman nationalizing the steel industry by executive order in 1952 in response to a strike. Unrestrained conflict between workers and management is bad for everyone, but a managed negotiation between workers and business can play a role in creating a more equitable and stable society.

Years of political and judicial maneuvering (ranging from the 2018 Janus decision to much older right-to-work laws) have reduced the power of unions and the NLRB. But workers and employers are also well-served to remember that both can benefit from orderly collective bargaining: stability and predictability may be worth the bottom-line cost of paying workers more.

No employer need worry about an armed revolt or sudden nationalization these days, but even small wildcat strikes or walk-outs (which can destroy a business overnight), higher turnover rates in a low unemployment economy, and failure to attract talent can have devastating consequences. Unions and formalized negotiating can be a venue for class conflict that might otherwise boil over if kept bottled up.

For now, unionization movements are still limited. Organizers’ failure to introduce the South to unionized auto manufacturing via the Volkswagen plant is just one example of the difficulties organized labor still faces.

Given the longstanding frustration with slow wage growth and a society that feels imbalanced, recent victories at the bargaining table for journalists and teachers, facilitated by unions, seem likely to get copied in other workplaces.

SOURCE

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image: union workers

Unions Did Great Things for the Working Class
Strengthening them could blunt inequality and wage stagnation.

By Noah Smith
Bloomberg
June 13, 2018

Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys, but they often leave the working class fragmented and divided—between different companies, between union and non-union workers, and even between different ethnic groups.

Economists, too, have long puzzled about how to think about unions. They don’t fit easily into the standard paradigm of modern economic theory in which atomistic individuals and companies abide by rules overseen by an all-powerful government. Some economists see unions as a cartel, protecting insiders at the expense of outsiders. According to this theory, unions raise wages but also drive up unemployment. This is the interpretation of unions taught in many introductory courses and textbooks.

If this were really what unions did, it might be worth it to simply let them slip into oblivion, as private-sector unions have been doing in the U.S.

But there are many reasons to think that this theory of unions isn’t right—or, at least, is woefully incomplete.

First, even back in the 1970s, some economists realized that unions do a lot more than just push up wages. In a 1979 paper entitled “The Two Faces of Unionism,” economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff argued that “by providing workers with a voice both at the workplace and in the political arena, unions can and do affect positively the functioning of the economic and social systems.”

Freeman and Medoff cite data showing that unions reduced turnover, which lowers costs associated with constantly finding and training new workers. They also show that unions engaged in political activity that benefitted the working class more broadly, rather than just union members. And they showed that contrary to popular belief, unions actually decreased racial wage disparities. Finally, Freeman and Medoff argue that by defining standard wage rates within industries, unions actually reduced wage inequality overall, despite the cartel-like effect emphasized in econ textbooks.

But the world didnԒt listen to Freeman and Medoff, and private-sectors unions declined into near-insignificance. Now, four decades later, economists are again starting to suspect that unions were a better deal than the textbooks made them out to be. A recent paper by economists Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu concludes that unions were an important force reducing inequality in the U.S.

Since past data tends to be patchy, Farber et al. combine a huge number of different data sources to get a detailed picture of unionization rates going all the way back to 1936, the year after Congress passed a law letting private-sector employees form unions. The authors find that as unionization rises, inequality tends to fall, and vice versa. Nor is this effect driven by greater skills and education on the part of union workers; during the era from 1940 through 1970, when unionization rose and inequality fell, union workers tended to be less educated than others. In other words, unions lifted the workers at the bottom of the distribution. Black workers, and other nonwhite workers, tended to benefit the most from the union boost.

Now, however, private-sector unions are mostly a faded memory and their power to raise wages has waned—Farber et al. find that although there’s still a union wage premium, it’s now much more due to the fact that higher-skilled workers tended to be the ones who stayed unionized. A 2004 paper by economists John DiNardo and David Lee found that by 1984-1999, unions had lost much of their ability to force wages higher.

Given the contrast between the golden age of 1940-1970 and the current age of spiraling inequality, wouldn’t it make sense to bring unions back? Perhaps. The key question is why private-sector unions mostly died out. Policy changes—right-to-work laws, and the appointment of anti-union regulators, probably played a key role in reducing unionization. But globalization may have also played a big part. Competition from companies in countries like Germany—where unions often bargain to hold down wages in order to increase their companies’ competitiveness—might have made the old American model of unionization unsustainable. Now, with even stiffer competition from China, the challenge of re-unionizing the U.S. might be an insurmountable one.

But it might be worth it to try. Other than massive government redistribution of income and wealth, theres really no other obvious way to address the country’s rising inequality. Also, there’s the chance that unions might be an effective remedy for the problem of increasing corporate market power—evidence suggests that when unionization rates are high, industry concentration is less effective at suppressing wages. Repealing right-to-work laws and appointing more pro-union regulators could be just the medicine the economy needs.

So supporters of free markets should rethink their antipathy to unions. As socialism gains support among the young, both economists and free-market thinkers should consider the possibility that unions—that odd hybrid of free-market bargaining and government intervention—were the vaccine that allowed the U.S. and other rich nations to largely escape the disasters of communism in the 20th century.

It looks like it’s TIME FOR A BOOSTER SHOT.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/04/19 •
Section American Solidarity
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