Article 43

 

American Solidarity

American Solidarity - Time To Stand Up

Friday, April 23, 2021

NWO - Lockdowns a Year Later

 image: global reset

Texas Ended Lockdowns and Mask Mandates.
Now Locked-Down States Are Where COVID Is Growing Most

By Ryan McMaken
Mises Wire
April 21, 2021

Early last month, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he would end the states mask mandate and allow most businesses to function at 100 percent capacity.

The response from the corporate media and the Left was predictable. California governor Gavin Newsom declared the move “absolutely reckless.” Beto O’Rourke called the GOP a “cult of death.” Joe Biden called the move “Neanderthal thinking.” Keith Olbermann insisted, Texas has decided to join the “side of the virus” AND SUGGESTED Texans shouldn’t be allowed to take the covid vaccine. Vanity Fair ran an article with the title ”REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS CELEBRATE COVID ANNIVERSARY WITH BOLD PLAN TO KILL ANOTHER 5000,000 AMERICANS.”

Other states have followed in Texas’ wake, and Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia are now all states where covid restrictions range from weak to nonexistent.

Georgia and Florida, of course, are both notable for ending lockdowns and restriction much earlier than many other states. And in those cases as well, the state governments were criticized for their policies, which were said to be reckless and sure to lead to unprecedented death. Georgia’s policy was denounced as an experiment in “human sacrifice.”

Yet in recent weeks, these predictions about Texas’ fate have proven to be spectacularly wrong. Moreover, many of the states with the worst growth in covid cases - and the worst track records in overall death counts - have been states that have had some of the harshest lockdowns. The failure of the lockdown narrative in this case has been so overwhelming that last week, when asked about the Texas situation, Anthony Fauci could only suggest a few unconvincing lines about how maybe Texans are voluntarily wearing masks and locking down more strenuously than people in other states. In Fauci’s weak-sauce explanation we see a narrative that simply fails to explain the actual facts of the matter.

Texas vs. Michigan

The Texas situation is just one piece of a state-by-state picture that is devastating for the lockdowns-save-lives narrative.

For example, letגs look at covid case numbers as of April 20.

Case numbers are a favorite metric for advocates of stay-at-home orders, business closures, mask mandates, and repressive measures in the name of disease control.

In Texas, the total new cases (SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE) on April 20 was 3,004. That comes out to approximately 103 per million.

Now, lets look at Michigan, where a variety of strict mask mandates and partial lockdowns continue. Restaurant capacity remains at 50 percent, and the state continues to issue edicts about how many people one is allowed to have over for dinner.

In Michigan, the seven-day moving average for new infections as of April 20 was 790 per million = nearly eight times worse than Texas.

imake

By the logic of lockdown advocates, states with harsh lockdowns should have far fewer cases and less growth in cases.

This, however, is most certainly not the case. In New Jersey, for example, where lockdowns have been long and harsh, case growth is nearly four times what it is in Texas. And then there are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, and New York, all of which have new case growth rates of more than double whats going on Texas.

Indeed, the only state with notably lax covid policies thatҒs in the top ten of case growth is Florida, which nonetheless is experiencing growth rates that are slower than in states run by lockdown fetishists like Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy.

Moreover, Florida’s covid-19 overall outbreak has been far less deadly than those in the states that embraced lockdowns long and hard. New Jersey, for example, has the worst covid death rate in the nation at 2,838 per million as of April 20. Right behind are New York and Massachusetts with total deaths per million at 2,672 and 2,537, respectively.

Florida, on the other hand, is twenty-eighth in the nation in terms of covid deaths, at 1,608. Texas has total deaths per million at 1,721.

image

In other words, Florida isn’t likely to catch up to New York or New Jersey any time soon, and it’s certainly not going to soon catch up with Michigan, which is leaving other states in the dust in terms of case growth. For those who are scared to death of covid, they’d be better off in Florida or Texas or Georgia than in the states that have long embraced lockdowns and claim to be “following” the science.

So how can this be explained?

The lockdown advocates don’t seem to have an explanation at all.

Last week, Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) struggled to come up with an explanation as he testified to Congress.

In previous weeks, Fauci tended to rely on the old tried-and-true claim that if we only wait two to four more weeks, cases will explode wherever covid restrictions are lessened or eliminated. Lockdown advocates tried this for months after Georgia ended its stay-at-home order, although Georgia consistently performed better than many states that continued their lockdowns.

But now that were six weeks out from the end of Texas’s mask mandate and partial lockdowns, Fauci could offer no plausible explanation. Rather, when pressed on the matter by Representative Jim Jordan, Fauci insisted that what really matters is compliance rather than the existence of mask mandates and lockdown mandates:

There’s a difference between lockdown and the people obeying the lockdown… You know you could have a situation where they say, We’re going to lock down, and yet you have people doing exactly what they want/

Jordan asked if this explains the situation in Michigan and New Jersey (and other states with quickly growing covid case rates). Fauci THEN CLAMIED HE COULDN’T HEAR THE QUESTION, and Jordan was cut off by the committee chairman.

No one who is familiar with the situation in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, however, would find it plausible that the spread of covid has been lessened in those areas by more militant use of masks and social distancing. Fauci’s testimony was clearly just a case of a government expert grasping about for an explanation.

But don’t expect Fauci and his supporters to give up on insisting that New York and Michigan are doing “the right thing” while Texas and Florida are embracing ?human sacrifice” as a part of a “death cult.”

The actual numbers paint a very different picture, and even casual observers can now see that the old narrative was very, very wrong.
Jordan asked if this explains the situation in Michigan and New Jersey (and other states with quickly growing covid case rates). Fauci then claimed he couldn’t hear the question, and Jordan was cut off by the committee chairman.

No one who is familiar with the situation in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, however, would find it plausible that the spread of covid has been lessened in those areas by more militant use of masks and social distancing. FauciҒs testimony was clearly just a case of a government expertӔ grasping about for an explanation.

But dont expect Fauci and his supporters to give up on insisting that New York and Michigan are doing ғthe right thing while Texas and Florida are embracing ԓhuman sacrifice as a part of a ԓdeath cult.

The actual numbers paint a very different picture, and even casual observers can now see that the old narrative was very, very wrong.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power&Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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Posted by Elvis on 04/23/21 •
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Friday, March 19, 2021

Another Medicare for All Attempt

image: uninsured

The reason the U.S. government created Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment and disability insurance is that entrepreneurs and corporations would not provide these essential services, or did so with unacceptable costs and restraints (such as denial of health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions).
- The Economy We Need

The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the individual mandate, which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance… What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.
- Health Care Deceit - Obamacare

Obamacare, which should more correctly be called by its secret Corporate name, Baucus-care, makes 30 million people buy private health insurance, a near-worthless middleman racket that produces nothing, but is an exquisite parasite that does intrude to the max between doctor and patient for the sole purpose of extracting profit. And taxpayers have to pay for all those who can’t.
- OpEd News, July 1, 2012

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Jayapal, Dingell Introduce Medicare for All Act With 112 Co-Sponsors

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer
Common Dreams
March 17, 2021

Affirming that healthcare is a basic human right and that people must come before profits, Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2021 on Wednesday, exactly one year after the first coronavirus cases were confirmed in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Dingell (D-Mich.) unveiled the landmark legislation at a virtual town hall Wednesday afternoon, where they highlighted the devastating effects of a virus that has killed more than 537,000 people in the United States while leaving millions more uninsured due to pandemic-related job loss and underemployment.

THE BILL (pdf) - BACKED by a record 112 House co-sponsors - guarantees healthcare to every U.S. resident as a human right. It provides comprehensive benefits including primary care, vision, dental, prescription drugs, mental health, long-term services and supports, reproductive healthcare, and other services. It eliminates copays and private insurance premiums.

“Our movement is growing,” Jayapal said at the opening of the town hall. “We are joining together at this pivotal moment for healthcare across America. It was exactly one year ago that every single state across this country had a confirmed Covid-19 case, and in the 365 days since, the case for Medicare for All has never been clearer.”

In a STATEMENT introducing the bill, Jayapal noted that the country is currently experiencing the highest increase in uninsured people ever recorded. 

“While this devastating pandemic is shining a bright light on our broken, for-profit healthcare system, we were already leaving nearly half of all adults under the age of 65 uninsured or UNDEERINSURED before Covid-19 hit,” said Jayapal. “And we were cruelly doing so while paying more per capita for healthcare than any other country in the world.”

On Tuesday, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen PUBLISHED a report showing that around 40% of U.S. Covid-19 infections and 33% of virus deaths are attributable to a lack of adequate health insurance coverage. At the onset of the pandemic, around 87 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured.

“There is a solution to this health crisis - a popular one that guarantees healthcare to every person as a human right and finally puts people over profits and care over corporations,” said Jayapal. “That solution is Medicare for All - everyone in, nobody out - and I am proud to introduce it today alongside a powerful movement across America.”

Dingell said in a statement that A SYSTEM that prioritizes profits over patients and ties coverage to employment was no match for a global pandemic and will never meet the needs of our people.”

“In the wealthiest nation on Earth, patients should not be launching GoFundMe pages to afford lifesaving healthcare for themselves or their loved ones,” she asserted. “Medicare For All will build an inclusive healthcare system that won’t just open the door to care for millions of our neighbors, but do it more efficiently and effectively than the one we have today.”

“Now is not the time to shy away from these generational fights,” stressed Dingell, “it is the time for action.”

Representatives of the more than 300 local, state, and national organizations endorsing the bill agreed.

“Physicians cannot give patients the care they need in a fractured and profit-driven system,” said Dr. Susan Rogers, a Chicago-based internal medicine physician and president of Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), in a statement. “For too long, doctors have watched helplessly as our patients delayed or skipped needed careeven walked out of our hospital doorsחbecause they could not afford to pay.”

“We can’t let Congress sit on their hands while our patients suffer and die needlessly,” added Rogers. “It’s time to invest in a system that is designed to improve health outcomes, not profit margins. It’s time for single-payer Medicare for All.”

Connie Huynh, healthcare for all director at the community organizing network People’s Action, said in a statement that “everyone deserves healthcarepandemic or notחand Medicare for All can get us there… We need Congress to put people before profits and support Medicare for All.”

Public Citizen president Robert Weissman SAID in a statement that “after Covid-19, there is simply no excuse for the U.S. not to adopt Medicare for All and join all other rich countries by treating healthcare as a right.”

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Posted by Elvis on 03/19/21 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Dying America
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Monday, March 01, 2021

PRO Act - H.R. 842

union workers

“Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.”
- Thomas Palley

U.S. labor laws need a major update and the PRO Act is a great start
The PRO Act will empower NLRB to force corporations into bargaining with workers if they interfere in union drives

By Tom Conway - President United Steelworkers Union
Salon
February 14, 2021

When workers at Orchid Orthopedic Solutions tried to form a union, the company quickly brought in five full-time UNION-BUSTERS to torment them day and night.

The hired guns saturated the Bridgeport, Michigan, plant with anti-union messages, publicly belittled organizers, harangued workers on the shop floor and asked them how they’d feed their families if the plant closed.

The months of endless bullying took their toll, as the company intended, and workers voted against forming the union just to bring the harassment to an end.

“Fear was their main tactic”, recalled Duane Forbes, one of the workers, noting the union-busters not only threatened the future of the plant but warned that the company would eliminate his colleagues’ jobs and health care during a labor dispute. “Fear is the hardest thing to overcome.”

LEGISLATION now before Congress would ensure that corporations never trample workers rights like this again.

The PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE (PRO) ACT , introduced on February 4, will free Americans to BUILD BETTER LIVES and curtail the scorched-earth campaigns that employers wage to keep unions out at any cost.

The PRO Act, backed by PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN and pro-worker majorities in the House and the Senate, will impose STIFF FINANCIL PENALTIES on companies that retaliate against organizers and require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fast-track legal proceedings for workers suspended or fired for union activism. It also empowers workers to file their own civil lawsuits against employers that violate their labor rights.

The legislation will bar employers from permanently REPLACING WORKERS during labor disputes, eliminating a threat that companies like Orchid Orthopedic often use to thwart organizing campaigns.

And the PRO Act will empower the NLRB to force corporations into bargaining with workers if they interfere in union drives. That means an end to the MANDATORY TOWN HALL MEETINGS that employers regularly use to disparage organized labor and hector workers into voting against unions.

Orchid Orthopedic’s union-busters forced Forbes and his colleagues into hour-long browbeating sessions once or twice a week for months - and that was on top of the daily, one-on-one bullying the workers endured on the production floor.

“There was nowhere to go,” Forbes, who’s worked at Orchid Orthopedic for 22 years, said of the relentless intimidation. “You couldn’t just go to work and do your job anymore.

A GROWING NUMBER OF OF AMERICANS, many of whom saw unions STEP UP TO PROTECT MEMBERS during the COVID-19 pandemic, seek the safe working conditions and other protections they can only achieve by organizing.

That includes Forbes and his colleagues, who endured years of benefit cuts but still put their lives on the line for the company during the pandemic.

They launched an organizing drive to secure a voice in the workplace. They also sought job protections to prevent the company from discarding them “like a broken hammer” - as one worker, Mike Bierlein, put it - when it’s done with them.

But as more Americans seek the benefits of union membership, employers escalating attacks on labor rights make the PRO Act ever more important.

Corporations DROP HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS every year on “union-avoidance consultants” like the ones Forbes and Bierlein encountered - to coach them on how to thwart organizing drives.

The higher the stakes, the dirtier employers play. Tech giants Google and Amazon used their vast technology and wealth to propel union-busting to a new level.

Google not only electronically spied on workers it suspected of having union sympathies, but RIGGED ITS COMPUTER SYSTEMS to prevent them from sharing calendars and virtual meeting rooms.

Amazon DEVELOPED PLANS FOR SPECIAL SOFTWARE to track unions and other so-called “threats to the company’s well-being.” In Alabama, where thousands of Amazon warehouse workers JUST BEGAN VOTING on whether to unionize, the company showed anti-union videos and PowerPoints at mandatory town hall meetings, posted propaganda in bathroom stalls and sent multiple HARASSING TEXT MESSAGES to every worker every day.

“It really opened my eyes to what’s going on,” Bierlein, who’s worked at Orchid Orthopedic for 18 years, said of the unfair tactics his company employed against organizers. THE DECK IS STACKED AGAINST WORKERS.

The PRO Act will help to level the playing field and arrest the decades-long erosion of labor rights that significantly accelerated under the previous, anti-worker presidential administration.

It will require employers to POST NOTICES informing workers of their labor rights, helping to ensure managers respect the law. The legislation will enable prospective union members to vote on union representation on neutral sites instead of workplaces where the threat of coercion looms.

And the PRO Act will make it more difficult for employers to deliberately misclassify employees as contractors with fewer labor rights. That change will give millions of gig workers, including those driving for shared-ride and food-delivery companies, the opportunity to form unions and fight for better futures.

Right now, employers often stall negotiations for a first contract to punish workers for organizing or frustrate them into giving up. The PRO Act will curb these abuses by requiring mediation and binding arbitration when companies drag talks out.

Orchid Orthopedics campaign of intimidation and deception lasted until the very end of the union drive.

As the vote on organizing neared, Forbes said, the company promised it would treat workers better in the future if they decided against the union.

Instead, after the vote fell short, the company quickly increased the cost of spousal health insurance. That left Forbes more convinced than ever that workers need changes like those promised in the PRO Act to seize control of their destinies.

“I’m all about right and wrong,” Forbes said, “and the way we were treated was wrong.”

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Posted by Elvis on 03/01/21 •
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Friday, November 15, 2019

Bernie

image: bernie sanders 2019

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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image: bernie sander and alexandria ocasioo-cortez

Why We Need Young People To Run the Country - And Why I’m Voting for Bernie Anyway
You cant trust anyone over 30 years in office. Except maybe one

By Dayton Martindale
In These Times
October 24, 2019

Young people are badly underrepresented in the U.S. government.  The average age of Senators is currently 63, a full 25 years older than the median U.S. resident. In the House, it’s 58. The four leading presidential contenders, including Trump, are all in their 70s. Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 - he has been one of the planetגs most powerful people for nearly half a century, longer than most have been alive.

Politics is often construed as noble public service, but it is also a tremendous privilege. Federal officeholders wield POWER over not only U.S. voters but also many who have no say in our elections, including residents of other countries and those under 18. In fact, climate change, nuclear war and environmental pollution have the potential to affect all life on this planet for centuries if not millennia to come.

Probably no single government should have such power. At the least, a supposed democracy should share this power as widely as possible. In reality, most ordinary people never get near it.

Over time, this power corrupts. As Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) TELLS US:

Behind closed doors, your arm is twisted, the vise pressure of political pressure gets put on you, every trick in the book, psychological and otherwise, is used to get us to abandon the working class.

“As a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met,” wrote Barack Obama of his 2004 Senate campaign in The Audacity of Hope. “I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality and frequent hardship of the other 99%. I suspect this is true for every senator: The longer you are a senator, the narrower the scope of your interactions.”

The youth counterculture of the 1960s used to claim that you can’t trust anyone over 30. Obama’s words suggest that you can’t trust anyone whos held federal office for over 30 years.

The ancient Athenians would have agreed. They believed elections favor the wealthy and influential, instead appointing (male, non-slave) citizens to political positions for one-year terms through random selection.

Despite high-profile successes such as the victory of Ocasio-Cortez (age 30) over Joe Crowley (age 57), most Congressional incumbents can rest relatively easy, with well above an 80% likelihood of reelection. What we get is an insulated class of professional politicians, propped up by a relatively wealthy and old donor class. As Astra Taylor ARGUES in the New York Times, structural obstacles from age limits to economic precarity to the Senate’s rural-state bias hinder young people (who disproportionately live in cities) from entering politics.

On the surface, this may seem only a modest injustice - can’t millennials just wait our turn? But the importance of youth representation becomes clear when you begin to consider climate change: The old folks in Congress will die before the worst impacts hit. (While the elderly poor are already getting slammed by heat waves and storms, the elderly poor are not who sit in Congress.) They can dismiss youth-led calls for “a Green New Deal as a green dream, or whatever” (Nancy Pelosi, 79), knowing they will be safely in the grave while future generations struggle to make a life among the wreckage. An aging elite is refusing to PASS THE TORCH and using that torch to set the planet alight. As GRETA THUNBERG asked: How dare they?

Of course, age should not be the only factor in making our presidential decisions. It is perhaps ironic that the oldest candidate, Bernie Sanders, has the most ambitious plan to rein in climate change, student debt and war, all issues disproportionately affecting the youth; he also eschews corporate fundraising and, according to Ocasio-Cortez, who recently endorsed him, has maintained consistent and nonstop advocacy for the 99% despite his 34 years in elected office. This is probably why the vast plurality of millennials planning to vote in the Democratic primary - this author included - back him.

It is probably not coincidence, however, that the long-tenured Sanders has been reluctant to embrace such institutional reforms as abolishing the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court. Several younger candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg (37) and Kamala Harris (55), are much more open, as is Elizabeth Warren (70). Their relative youth and newness to politics may give them a fresher perspective on how government should be operated. (Warren, although just eight years younger than Sanders, has only held elected office since 2013.)

In fact, Buttigieg, the youngest candidate at 37, introduced “intergenerational justice” as a campaign theme and has voiced the strongest support for court packing. (Unfortunately, the details of his court-packing plan are needlessly convoluted and, like his whole campaign, leave much to be desired.)

Sanders’ other electoral weaknesses - his IMPROVED but RACE and GENDER - baggage and old grudges from 2016 (not totally his fault); concerns about his heart - also correlate with age and length of time in politics. All of this suggests that passing the torch to a younger, more diverse suite of left politicians will need to happen sooner than later.

It is to his credit that Sanders is doing this, both directly and indirectly. The organization that came out of his 2016 campaign, Our Revolution, is actively working to build up new progressive leadership at every level of government. And many of the young people mobilized by that campaign have gone on to hold office, from Ocasio-Cortez to socialist Chicago alderman Andre Vasquez (now 40). Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn., age 38), too, says she was inspired to run for Congress by the Sanders campaign.

We may have seen a glimpse of the future in New York this October, where Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez shared a stage before an audience of 26,000.

“Are you willing to fight for young people drowning in student debt, even if you are not?” Sanders asked to close his speech. “Are you willing to fight for a future for generations of people who have not yet even been born, but are entitled to live on a planet that is healthy and habitable? Because if you are willing to do that, if you are willing to love, if you are willing to fight for a government of compassion and justice and decency - [then] together we will transform this country.

Later, in a joint interview, Ocasio-Cortez was asked whether she would work in a Sanders administration. Bernie jumped in: “Yes, you would!”

This is part of a debate about whether age matters in a presidential candidate. Read the first entry, “Ageism Has No Place in a Presidential Election,” by Susan Douglas, HERE.

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Can Bernie (Really) Save America?

By Umair Haque
Eudaimonia
January 24, 2020

Lately, as Bernie surges in the polls, I get the question slightly resentful accusation, really - that I don’t like Bernie. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love Bernie, I’ve always liked Bernie, I call him grandpa on Twitter in a kind of childish ironic affection to make fun of pundits who...mean it. Everybody, in fact, should like Bernie.

Bernie’s fantastic, and he’d make a great President, for many reasons. He’s an outsider among the K St Beltway clique that runs DC. I grew up among people like this, so I know viscerally just how indiserish they can be. They’ve never had a new idea in their lives - because if you live within fifty miles of K St, and work in this class of people, life’s never been better.

(This class of people - lets call them America’s technocratic elites - are the precise equivalent of their Soviet counterparts. They’ve failed dismally, they don’t know it, and they don’t care, because nobody can ever hold them accountable. Except maybe a Bernie.

The failure of Americas technocratic elites 0 the Yale and Harvard educated set that works at McKinsey or Goldman for a few years, and then slides into cushy jobs as lobbyists, consultants, undersecretaries of this and that is so spectacular, though, that it makes the world’s jaw drop. The average American lives in poverty, unable to pay the bills, piling up debt, and dying in it. He or she doesn’t have decent healthcare, education, food, water, not to mention income or retirement (which is now an impossibility.) What the? No country since the Soviet Union has been so fatally mismanaged as America.)

That brings me to the biggest reason to like Bernie. He doesn’t subscribe to the crackpot ideas that destroyed America from within - making it collapse into poverty, despair, rage, greed, and the hate all those eventually become. He just flatly dismisses them as the crackpot thinking they are, and always have been.

What are some of those ideas? You know them so well they’re invisible American pundits and intellectuals talk of nothing else, even though those ideas have failed catastrophically, just like Soviet ideology. There’s “trickle-down economics” while wealth is busy trickling up. There’s deficit-cutting while the average person struggles to pay basic bills. There’s the idea that government should be “drowned in a bathtub” so colossally stupid, because who else can provide you decent healthcare and retirement? That capitalist? LOL.

I could go on forever. The great thing about Bernie - the refreshing, courageous, and true thing about Bernie is that - he can grasp and speak the simple reality that mainstream, status quo, elite American ideas have failed catastrophically. Let me put all the above even more simply.

America made a socioeconomic choice - a fatal one. It wasn’t going to be like any other society. No it was exceptional, and always had been: a promised land. Here, people would learn to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps - and along the way, they’d learn the virtues of industry, hard work, and decency. They’d become better people and everyone would grow rich. All it would take was a little punishment, a little selfishness, a little bit of hard-heartedness. Or maybe a lot. “Tough love” is what American pop culture calls all that.

The problem, of course, is that America’s economic exceptionalism didn’t work. Making Americans beg each other for dollars to pay for healthcare online didn’t make anyone better off - it just made people dead. Turning the middle class into the new, desperate poor didn’t lead to some kind of mass movement of generous and beautiful peopl - it just led to neofascism, as they sought even more powerless people to hate. Making working class Americans work around the clock and never take vacations didn’t add to more industry in fact, it only led to abusive monopolies, and mega-billionaires that corrode democracy.

American ideas have failed in every possible way - and hence, as a result, Americas having something very much like a Soviet collapse.

And yet the weird thing is this. Here’s the part where you might hate me. But dont. I don’t say it to be mean. I say it in the way of gentle, loving constructive criticism, yes really. The biggest reason to like Bernie might also be Bernie’s biggest shortcoming, in the end.

Let me explain. It’s not really about Bernie, but the movement hes come to spearhead “democratic socialism.” Bernie understand that American ideas have failed. And so he’s reaching for a new set of ideas. But does he have to? Does the wheel need to be reinvented? Christ, I sound like a punditly ass when I write - insert Ezra Klein voice - so let me try again.

European social democracy is the most successful system of organization humankind has ever invented. Yes, really. I’m a social democrat - in a mild way, I don’t care much for politics, and I’m not fanatical about it, I prefer disco and my puppy - not for ideology’s sake. But because I can’t deny reality. The empirical reality of social democracy’s stunning success is too strong and obvious to be denied, by any thinking person.

Europeans live not just the world’s longest, happiest, richest, healthiest, sanest lives by a very, very long way - but history’s. Moreover, they’ve accomplished that in just one human lifetime - from the ashes of war. The magnitude and triumph of such a thing isn’t taught in America, but it should be. It might just be humanity’s greatest accomplishment, ever. The European miracle should be taught to every child in preschool, so that they really understand what human prosperity is made of, where it comes from.

Now let’s come back to Bernie. Bernie’s big challenge isn’t really his own. It’s part of a larger movement. American “democratic socialism.” Now, this set of ideas, which was made in America, which is purely American, isn’t European social democracy. In fact, it proposes a very different way to achieve a similar kind of society. The ends might be similar, but the means aren’t. What are the differences?

Democratic socialism isn’t interested overly in building great and transformative national institutions - like Britain’s NHS or BBC, like Frances pension system, like Germany’s system of corporate of governance. It doesn’t really aspire so much to build something like “An American National Health System” or “An American BBC” or “An American Worker Led Governance System,” as it does to - well - nobody really knows. This is a movement without a direction and a vision at the higher levels of social reimagination… precisely because Americans are frustrated - but like Americans, being exceptionalists, they don’tt want to copy those dirty Europeans - they want to to do it their own way.

The result is that - democratic socialists tend, ironically, to be cautious incrementalists, not transformational revolutionaries. That’s going to make a lot of them angry but I think it’s fair to say that much on a global scale. They want Medicare For All not an American Healthcare System. They want more public media, maybe - not an American BBC. They want a higher minimum wage not often a mandatory contract between industries and workers or reformed corporate boards on which workers sit. Do you see the difference? Itחs true that some democratic socialists will support all the above. But as a movement, revolutionary transformations are not so high on its agenda incremental changes, like extending existing institutions, are. So far as I can see, anyways.

Let me try to make the difference crystal clear.

җDemocratic socialists support incremental changes to policies, usually Ӕ what they dont seem to support nearly as much is revolutionary changes to institutions. Why doesnגt America have its own BBC? ItҒs own NHS? Something like Frances bargaining system Ғ where the government and whole sectors (like, say restaurants) negotiate wages across industries? The answer to that question and I think itחs an important question goes like this.

American democratic socialists arenҗt interested in learning much from European social democracy. They want to reinvent the wheel. They want to bewell, something that҅s important to Americans: innovators, pioneers, and so on. And so nobody, really, on the democratic socialist side says something like җhey, lets just copy BritainӒs healthcare system, Frances pension system, and GermanyҒs corporate governance system. (If anyone, Liz Warren did that Ҕ but her team blew it, and thats another story.)

But is there any need to reinvent this particular wheel ג when its the most powerful and successful thing humanityגs probably ever created? I mean that metaphor weirdly literally. Is there any need to reinvent European or Canadian style social democracy when itҗs literally the most powerful and successful model of human organization ever createdby a very, very long way? Or is there just a need to҅learn from it, to literally institutionalize it in America?

(Why reinvent something that works so beautifully well? Can you even ever reinvent it?)

Now, you might think all that’s abstract, a point without a point. But I assure you it’s not. Not really understanding or admiring the depth and immensity of social democracy’s historic triumph creates real problems for American democratic socialists - because they don’t really understand it’s workings, necessities, demands, morality, ethics, or responsibilities, either.

Take Bernie’s tax plan. There is a very big problem with it. It effectively says to Americans that their taxes don’t have to rise (apart from maybe factoring in healthcare) to achieve something like a social democracy. But that is very, very unlikely to be true. The price of a true social democracy is simple. People give up somewhere close to half their income to enjoy expansive public goods. That wheel, my friends, cant be reinvented. To suggest that the average American can pay maybe 25% in taxes - and enjoy European levels of public goods just isn’t a very good one. It’s selling people social democracy, but on capitalisms easy, comfortable terms. Does that sound reasonable to you?

There’s a very simple reason for that, by the way. The definition of a social democracy the simplest one, anyways - is that about half the economy is socialist, and the other half capitalist. So half the economy is made up of public healthcare, media, retirement, childcare, transport, and so on while half is your everyday capitalist iPhones and designer handbags and whatnot. But you canחt achieve that balance when the average persons paying something like 25% in taxes. Because, quite obviously, for half the economy to be public, social, collective, so too, the average person has to give up something like close to half of what they earn to make that happen (just like in most of Europe).

That brings me back to a Very Big Problem. Let me put it bluntly. Americans are not generous people when it comes to their society. I don’t mean that in a mean way just in an empirical one. The price of decades of predatory capitalism and red scares has been that the average American is very, very, very much against ever really paying higher taxes. It’s just a politically unpalatable idea - which is precisely why even Bernie’s way of selling democratic socialism is to point out that you break even in net terms.

He has to resort to that rhetorical tactic precisely because Americans dislike paying taxes, because they hate their government - because, and this is the part they don’t get - they still distrust the idea of collective action and public goods, deep down. That says: Americans haven’t made the moral and cultural shift social responsibility really demands yet. But Bernie’s not fully asking them to make it, either.

Everyone hates paying taxes. Europeans don’t exactly love it. But they seem to understand the logic, the responsibilities, of the kind of social contract above. If you want a society where public goods are expansive and collective action has power, a true social democracy then you must also share something like half of what you have, to make that true. You can’t have it both ways.

Do you see that point? How it really works? You can’t have an economy that’s a social democracy half capitalist, half socialist, one where labour has just as much power as capital - unless people are also willing to share up to about half of what they have. It just isn’t possible, by definition.

But that is the problem Americans have. They want it both ways. They want the benefits of living in a social democracy ג at the price of living in a capitalist one. Bernies still promising them that ג or at least a flavour of that, a taste of it. That is a great shortcoming, my friends.

I dont think such a thing is possible ג to have a social democracy, on capitalisms terms. To have a functioning modern society ג but people only sharing a quarter or less of they have and make. For the simple reason that such a society can only ever be 25% or so made of public goods which are socially owned, operated, managed. (That is more or less where America is today 25% social, 75% private. You canחt go much lower than 25% because then you dont have roads, teachers, and police at all. Going from 25 to 50% is how you have healthcare, college, retirement, childcare, and so on.)

The fundamental idea democratic socialists have Ғ that really marks them out as different from social democrats is that they can tax the ultra wealthy to pay for a functioning modern society. But that logic isnחt going to work in the long run. It isnt capable of real transformation. Sure, you can tax the rich and have a nice nest egg for society. But itҒs a one-off. What happens after you tax their wealth and income to bits? To keep a society operating consistently, perpetually, and stably at a balance of half public, half private which, again, is what social democracy is, and what public healthcare, retirement, education, and so on really consist of - the average person has to give up something pretty close to half of what they make, create, produce, own, and earn.

Yes, really. I don’t think Americans are there yet. I don’t think they/re ready to make that sacrifice - because that’s how they still see it, as a sacrifice, not as what it truly is: a form of investment.

Social democracy works because people are investing half of what they earn and own right back in everyone else. I am investing half of me in you, but you are doing right back for me, too. Then and only then do expansive public goods become possible, does labour have equal power to capital, can collective action really force social change. Less is not enough. Half is a critical threshold for a very good reason, which Ill come to shortly.

Make that choice, though, and everyone, that way, rises, astonishingly fast, to a just as astonishingly high standard of living - like I said, it took Europe just seventy years to become enjoy history/s highest living standards, ever. A social surplus fairly redistributed - then generously reinvested - that is the formula for human prosperity.

America’s democratic socialists, though, don’t seem to fully understand that. Again, I don’t say that in a mean way. Their movement is young, and there’s much to learn. Still, for them, the central idea is that a social surplus can be taken from the rich, and used to create a functioning society for everyone else. That is a part of how a true social democracy works, to be sure - but only a small part, really. The larger part is that people just everyday, average, normal people are wise, courageous, brave, generous, empathetic, and defiant enough to, despite their struggles and travails, invest half of what is theirs in everyone else. That is what keeps Europe a gentler and happier and saner place, too. That sense of togetherness, the lack of selfishness, the wisdom of a beautiful choice.

The wisdom of a beautiful choice. What do I mean by that? Think about the morality and ethics of (the economics and politics of) social democracy for a moment - how improbable and beautiful it really is.

When I invest half of me in you - all of you - what am I really saying? We are equal, all of us. We all have inherent and inalienable worth, and it is precisely equivalent. In hard terms. In concrete terms. Half for me half for you. Your education, retirement, healthcare, and so on. Nothing could be fairer. Let me say it again. Nothing could be fairer. Me giving half of myself to everyone else is the foundation for history’s most succesful social contract because it is what permits morality, economics, and politics to converge. Then we are equal, then we are in balance, then we are walking beside one another all of us. There is a much truer reason, then, than why Americans - even their leftists really understand, why social democracy became history’s greatest success story. A deep one, that cuts right down to the soul.

The question, though, is whether Americas democratic socialists are ready to learn all that. That strange and astonishingly beautiful link between morality, ethics, economics, politics, society, and power that social democracy really makes. Just what a great insight and breakthrough it really is - one so great that human though hasn’t fully recognized it yet. The threshold of half and half, and what it says about the freedom and equality we give - and the power and prosperity we receive.

It has taken Europe centuries of pain and millennia of strife to recognize the beauty in such wisdom. Let us then be gentle with America, and say: perhaps it will take a little while longer yet.

(Bernie will make a fantastic President. He’s awesome. But nobody’s perfect. I say all this gently, not with spite. America has a long, long way to go towards social democracy - and that’s with Bernie. Take it from someone who understands all the above intimately, because they’ve lived and studied both social democracy and capitalism. Without him, of course, America’s inevitable plunge from poverty towards fascism only accelerates, and becomes irreversible.)

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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.

SOURCE

---

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.

SOURCE

SOLUTIONS TO SAVE OUR NATION

Posted by Elvis on 10/11/19 •
Section Revelations • Section American Solidarity
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