Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Friday, November 30, 2012

Goldman Sachs, others, direct class warfare against over 50 million USA Citizens

2012-11-30 "Sen. Sanders: Wall Street CEOs are the 'Faces of Class Warfare'" from "CommonDreams.org"
Incredulous that Wall Street investment bankers and billionaire CEOs have descended on Washington in the midst of ongoing budget talks to tell Americans that they should "lower their expectations" when it comes to the security of their retirement and future health care, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor Thursday to call out the audacity of corporate-minded millionaires and billionaires, calling them the new "face of class warfare" in the United States.
"I find it literally beyond comprehension, that we have folks from Wall Street who received huge bailouts from the people of our country—from working families in this country—because of the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior, which Wall Street did to drive us into this recession, and now these very same people are coming here to Congress to lecture us and the American people about how we have to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid while they enjoy huge salaries and retirement benefits."
Sanders specifically called out CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who has recently been making both the media rounds and consulting with lawmakers regarding the ongoing tax and budget debate in Washington during the current lame duck session. Blankfein, one of the highest paid executives on Wall Street and worth hundred of millions personally, made the comments about 'lowered expectations' in a recent evening news interview with CBS [http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57552173/goldman-sachs-ceo-entitlements-must-be-contained/] and said that average Americans should understand that the US simply can't "afford" to maintain programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The facts of such sentiments, as many economists repeatedly point out, are false, but Sanders said that Blankfein delivered the familiar rightwing trope "with all the sympathy for someone struggling to get by on $14,000-a-year retirement that you’d expect from a Wall Street banker paid $16 million last year."
Blankfein is also a member of the CEO cabal that has come together under the banner 'Fix The Debt' to protect the historically low tax rates of the nation's wealthy elite while simultaneously calling for the slashing of social programs. As the Huffington Post reports:
[begin excerpt]
CEOs including Blankfein have been warning that the fiscal cliff could hurt business investment, hiring and the economy as a whole, and they have been calling for cuts to the social safety net to avert it [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/25/deficit-reduction-council-fiscal-cliff_n_2185585.html].
Dozens of major CEOs, including Blankfein, are members of the CEO council of the campaign Fix the Debt [http://www.fixthedebt.org/uploads/files/CEO%20Fiscal%20Leadership%20Council%20Membership%2011-27-12.pdf], which calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and vague Social Security reform to address the deficit [http://www.fixthedebt.org/core-principles].
More than 80 CEOs, including Blankfein, also signed a recent letter calling for deficit reduction [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203897404578077251928040508.html].
[end excerpt]
But as a recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies aimed to show, the 'Fix the Debt' campaign, which has raised $60 million to lobby for a debt deal that "would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly," is really just a Trojan horse designed to use an invented debt crisis to achieve long-held agenda goals [http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/ceo-campaign-to-fix-the-debt].
The CEOs involved in the group, including Blankfein, are trying to "pass themselves off as noble leaders who are willing to compromise in order the save America from financial ruin,” explain co-authors of the report Scott Klinger and Sarah Anderson. But the reality is that these CEOs are "leveraging the 'Fiscal Cliff'" in order to push age old attempts to avoid paying taxes at the expense of those in need, they say.
And, as Ezra Klein points out in a recent Bloomberg op-ed [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-28/stop-mistaking-austerity-crisis-for-fiscal-cliff.html], the US has an 'austerity crisis' not a 'debt crisis'. Klein argues that employing the much-used term "fiscal cliff" mistates the nature of the financial and policy realities. Worse, he says, the term "provides no hint of how to solve it."
He says, "I prefer the term 'austerity crisis,' which at least describes the real issue -- too much austerity, imposed too quickly." [http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/11/13/the-fiscal-cliff-the-austerity-crisis/]
Called by its true name or not, the CEOs behind 'Fix the Debt'—with Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell's David Cote leading the charge— are using the generated panic around the talks as a way to impose their own interests and have proven unafraid to speak boldly and use their fast resources to make their case.
However, what Klinger and Anderson call 'leverage', Sanders simply called arrogance Thursday.
“Think about the arrogance of these guys on Wall Street who were bailed out by the middle class of this country when their greed and recklessness nearly destroyed the financial system and now they come to Capitol Hill to lecture Congress and the American people about the need to cut programs for working families,” he said.
(image via New York Magazine)


2012-11-30 "'Fix the Debt': How 1%ers Build a Mass Movement for Millionaires; The Fixers: How Fix the Debt Won Over Wall Street and Built a Fiscal Cliff Army" by Kevin Roose from "New York Magazine"
Kevin Roose is a staff writer for New York Magazine. He is also the author of The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, which was published in March 2009 by Grand Central Publishing.
“You meet people, and you’re all trying to work on something together. It’s its own little think-tank."
“The beautiful thing about this is that, when you get a room full of incredibly bright people with compelling ideas together in a room, something good comes of that.”
“We would lose people if we got more specific about our goals. We’d rather try to influence the overall broad parameters of what happens.”
Quick: Which loosely organized, quasi-ideological faction came up with those lofty expressions of idealism?
If you guessed Occupy Wall Street, you were wrong. They came from recent interviews with top-level members of Fix the Debt, the high-minded confab of business elites that is pushing for bipartisan deficit reduction ahead of the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The Campaign to Fix the Debt, as it is properly known, is a four-month-old effort led by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the bipartisan duo who unsuccessfully tried to push a deficit-reduction scheme through Congress in 2010. With a reported $43 million war chest and the support of Peter G. Peterson, the Blackstone billionaire and leader of the deficit-scold movement, the group has been waging a nationwide media campaign meant to encourage President Obama and House Republicans to work together to avoid the expiration of the Bush income tax cuts and get long-term spending under control.
At its top levels, Fix the Debt has quickly morphed into a massive business kaffeeklatsch — a stateside Davos, with fewer panels on green energy and more talk of baselines and dynamic scoring. The organization’s “CEO Council” now consists of roughly 150 executives, many of them recognizable names from Wall Street’s upper echelons. The leaders of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Citigroup are all in, as are a number of well-known investors like Bill Ackman and Bain Capital's Josh Bekenstein. Members of the group have a multitude of reasons for getting involved — real concerns about the deficit, a desire to make their voices heard in Washington, and, for some, a chance to hop on a growing bandwagon filled with A-list peers.
The single-minded mobilization of Wall Street’s finest raises a question: How, exactly, did this group of corporate chieftains assemble?
Fix the Debt prefers to keep its behind-the-scenes operations under wraps. Most on-the-record comments are a mishmash of platitudes about shared sacrifice and working together for the good of the country. But interviews with a number of organizers and CEO council members point to a massive networking effort among one-percenters — one that relies on strategically exploiting existing business relationships and appealing to patriotic and economic instincts.
The roots of the movement were planted last September, at a series of private dinners held at the home of Virginia Senator Mark Warner, and hosted by Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. In attendance were budget experts like Alice Rivlin and politically active CEOs including David Cote of Honeywell and Mark Bertolini of Aetna. MacGuineas, a longtime Peterson ally, told the CEOs that their help — along with the support of small-business leaders and private citizens — could help steer the conversation about the deficit in a way that could essentially save the economy from Washington’s gridlock.
When Fix the Debt was officially launched in July, it had a working budget of about $3 million, and the most visible talking heads were the group's centrist political figures: Simpson, Bowles, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg. MacGuineas was the official spokesperson. But that changed as Cote, Bertolini, and other early organizers like BlackRock chief Larry Fink began reaching out to their fellow business titans, setting up small lunches and dinner meetings, and bringing new recruits into the fold. Executives recruited their friends, board members, and clients, who then dug into their own networks on the group's behalf. “CEO Tools” were given to members to use in pitching the Fix the Debt platform, including sample letters to employees and Powerpoint decks to “communicate the debt story in a visual way.”
A vast and powerful fund-raising machine emerged. Cote and other non-bank CEOs targeted their peers in the Fortune 500, while Simpson and Bowles leaned on their various political and corporate connections (Bowles, a board member of Morgan Stanley, is said to have gotten the bank’s CEO, James Gorman, in the mix). Steven Rattner and James B. Lee, Jr., it was decided, would head up the Wall Street push.
The choice of Rattner and Lee as Fix the Debt’s main financial industry recruiters was an indicator of the group’s division-healing ambitions. Rattner — an Obama administration auto czar, Bloomberg consigliere, and former private equity executive — had the Democratic bona fides to woo left-of-center financiers. "Jimmy" Lee, the vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase and right-hand man to CEO Jamie Dimon, had a golden Rolodex and an ability to get Republicans on board. The two had butted heads on deals before (most notably, during the 2009 Chrysler bailout, when Rattner represented the government and Lee negotiated on behalf of Chrysler’s creditors). But now they would work together to shoehorn their Wall Street connections into the movement and get them not only to contribute their time, but their cash as well.
"Maya came to me and said, 'I've got a $3 million budget," Lee says. "And I said, 'Maya, it costs a billion dollars to run for president. Where's $3 million going to go?'"
While Rattner began touting the group’s aims on cable TV shows, Lee formed a team of government-relations types and began working the phones. "Steve and I are running it like a deal," Lee says. "We've got a syndicate book, if you will — who's spoken to who, how much they've contributed."
Soon Wall Street machers — some of whom had been major supporters of Mitt Romney and were looking for a way to recover their Washington influence after Romney’s election loss — were tripping over themselves to contribute to the cause. Rattner and Lee, along with Cote and other members of the Fix the Debt steering committee, raised tens of millions in a matter of weeks.
“Jimmy’s very persuasive,” said one Fix the Debt recruit. “He’s very good at getting a good group of people together in a room, talking about good ideas.”
"These phone calls take about a minute when you explain what you're doing,” Lee told me. “It doesn't matter if you're talking to a Democrat or a Republican — they say, 'where do I sign?'"
Not all of the chieftains' pitches worked, though. Lee tried and failed to persuade Blackstone co-founder Steve Schwarzman to join the cause, according to one insider. President Obama’s longtime allies on Wall Street — hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, Evercore Partners founder Roger Altman, and former UBS banker Robert Wolf, among others — are conspicuously absent from the CEO council. And, for reasons having more to do with the gender makeup of the Fortune 500 than the appeal of deficit hawkery, the group has had trouble making inroads with female executives.
“We’re a little short on women,” one recruiter sheepishly admitted.
But many of the business bigwigs signed on. Jamie Dimon, Lee’s boss, agreed to host a pair of Fix the Debt–themed lunches at JPMorgan’s Park Avenue headquarters, and appear with Bowles and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein on CNBC in mid-October to make the case for a grand bargain. (That appearance so impressed CNBC’s top brass, according to a source close to the network, that they decided to blanket the airwaves with a channel-wide, Fix the Debt–inspired marketing campaign called "Rise Above.") Blankfein became part of a corporate coalition that has made multiple lobbying trips to Washington, including a trip to the White House this week to meet with President Obama.
“These CEOs are supporting the effort more than financially,” MacGuineas said. “They’re willing to do the work.”
Fix the Debt’s impressive growth is easy to understand as a social phenomenon, especially given the various personal and professional webs that have connected many of its members for decades, and how little up-front investment is required of new joiners. It’s not hard to imagine that when Rattner, Lee, or one of your biggest corporate clients is on the phone, twisting your arm for a small check and your support, the potential costs of not participating make saying yes a no-brainer. In addition to being a powerful political force, Fix the Debt is also an elite hobnobber's paradise.
“We have these great dinners,” raved one relatively new member, who says he has met a number of CEOs for the first time through his work with the group. “Everyone has been throwing out ideas about how to get the message to a broader audience.”
But even as Fix the Debt increasingly resembles a networking event with a vague political gloss, many of these CEOs have concluded that a federal impasse on deficit reduction poses serious risks to their businesses and the broader economy. Rightly or wrongly, they genuinely believe that their corporate acumen makes them well-suited to determine what is best for America as a whole. If you can analyze a billion-dollar term sheet with a gimlet eye, they imagine, it shouldn’t be that hard to balance a federal budget in a way that protects future generations from an all-out debt crisis.
“It’s really not a political thing,” one steering committee member told me. “These guys all look at the numbers, and they see that the country’s entitlement programs and demography are headed for a crash.”
Not everyone thinks Fix the Debt is acting in good faith. In recent days, the group has aroused the suspicion of groups on both the left and the right, who see in it a pro-business ideological movement masquerading as aisle-crossing diplomacy. Critics have accused the group’s CEO leaders of acting in their economic self-interest by laying groundwork for lower corporate taxes and deep cuts to entitlement programs that primarily benefit the working and middle classes. After a meeting with Fix the Debt members, House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement, “One thing Republicans won’t be party to is a deal that protects big businesses and preserves special-interest tax breaks while raising tax rates on the small businesses." (Fix the Debt says Boehner's statement is consistent with its mission.)
And even though Fix the Debt makes no specific proposals for entitlement cuts, groups that want to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — Peterson’s lifelong bĂȘtes noires — are howling.
“Fix the Debt is a PR campaign that appears as a very sensible, very bipartisan effort. But at its core, all of it is window dressing for a very ideological, partisan policy position, which is the destruction of Social Security,” Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, told me yesterday.
Whether Fix the Debt will ultimately succeed in bringing about a grand bargain before the fiscal cliff is anyone’s guess. Most likely, Congress and President Obama will hash out some sort of arrangement that allows them to claim credit for any bargain that includes new tax revenue and entitlement reform, no matter the exact details or timing. And what then? Will this massive, mobilized group of powerful business executives just vanish back into their corner offices? Like kids approaching the last day of summer camp, some members sound like they want to keep the movement alive even after a deal is struck.
"I don't know," Lee said, when asked about the group's future. "Maybe we tackle some other issue of national importance, like making the Boston Red Sox a contender again."

anti-Fascism: Low-Wage Workers are Organizing for Freedom

2012-11-30 "Organizing McDonalds and Walmart, and Why Austerity Economics Hurts Low-Wage Workers the Most" by Robert Reich
What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?
Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seven out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains. That’s why the median wage keeps dropping, especially for the 80 percent of the workforce that’s paid by the hour.
It’s also part of the reason why the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has been increasing even as the economy has started to recover — from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2011. More than 46 million Americans now live below the poverty line.
Many of them have jobs. The problem is these jobs just don’t pay enough to lift their families out of poverty.
So, encouraged by the economic recovery and perhaps also by the election returns, low-wage workers have started to organize. 
Yesterday in New York hundreds of workers at dozens of fast-food chain stores went on strike, demanding a raise to $15-an-hour from their current pay of $8 to $10 an hour (the median hourly wage for food service and prep workers in New York is $8.90 an hour).
Last week, Walmart workers staged demonstrations and walkouts at thousands of Walmart stores, also demanding better pay. The average Walmart employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.
These workers are not teenagers. Most have to support their families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of fast-food workers is over 28; and women, who comprise two-thirds of the industry, are over 32. The median age of big-box retail workers is over 30.
Organizing makes economic sense.
Unlike industrial jobs, these can’t be outsourced abroad. Nor are they likely to be replaced by automated machinery and computers. The service these workers provide is personal and direct: Someone has to be on hand to help customers and dole out the burgers.
And any wage gains they receive aren’t likely to be passed on to consumers in higher prices because big-box retailers and fast-food chains have to compete intensely for consumers. They have no choice but to keep their prices low. 
That means wage gains are likely to come out of profits – which, in turn, would affect the return to shareholders and the total compensation of top executives.
That wouldn’t be such a bad thing. 
According to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, most low-wage workers are employed by large corporations that have been enjoying healthy profits. Three-quarters of these employers (the fifty biggest employers of low-wage workers) are raking in higher revenues now than they did before the recession.
McDonald’s — bellwether for the fast-food industry — posted strong results during the recession by attracting cash-strapped customers, and its sales have continued to rise.
Its CEO, Jim Skinner, got $8.8 million last year. In addition to annual bonuses, McDonald’s also gives its executives a long-term bonus once every three years; Skinner received an $8.3 million long-term bonus in 2009 and is due for another this year. The value of Skinner’s other perks — including personal use of the company aircraft, physical exams and security — rose 19% to $752,000.
Yum!Brands, which operates and licenses Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, has also done wonderfully well. Its CEO, David Novak, received $29.67 million in total compensation last year, placing him number 23 on Forbes’ list of highest paid chief executives.
Walmart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Walmart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him number 82 on Forbes’ list.
The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Walmart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Last week, Walmart announced that the next Wal-Mart dividend will be issued December 27 instead of January 2, after the Bush tax cut for dividends expires — thereby saving the Walmart family as much as $180 million. (According to the online weekly “Too Much,” this $180 million would be enough to give 72,000 Wal-Mart workers now making $8 an hour a 20 percent annual pay hike. That hike would still leave those workers making under the poverty line for a family of three.)
America is becoming more unequal by the day. So wouldn’t it be sensible to encourage unionization at fast-food and big-box retailers?
Yes, but here’s the problem.
The unemployment rate among people with just a high school degree – which describes most (but not all) fast-food and big-box retail workers – is still in the stratosphere. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it at 12.2 percent, and that’s conservative estimate. It was 7.7 percent at the start of 2008.
High unemployment makes it much harder to organize a union because workers are even more fearful than usual of losing their jobs. Eight dollars an hour is better than no dollars an hour. And employers at big-box and fast-food chains have not been reluctant to give the boot to employees associated with attempts to organize for higher wages.
Meanwhile, only half of the people who lose their jobs qualify for unemployment insurance these days. Retail workers in big-boxes and fast-food chains rarely qualify because they haven’t been on the job long enough or are there only part-time. This makes the risk of job loss even greater.
Which brings us back to what’s happening in Washington.
Washington’s obsession with deficit reduction makes it all the more likely these workers will face continuing high unemployment – even higher if the nation succumbs to deficit hysteria. That’s because cutting government spending reduces overall demand, which hits low-wage workers hardest. They and their families are the biggest casualties of austerity economics.
And if the spending cuts Washington is contemplating fall on low-wage workers whose families are under the poverty line – reducing not only the availability of unemployment insurance but also food stamps, housing assistance, infant and child nutrition, child health care, and Medicaid – it will be even worse. (It’s worth recalling, in this regard, that 62 percent of the cuts in the Republican budget engineered by Paul Ryan fell on America’s poor.)
By contrast, low levels of unemployment invite wage gains and make it easier to organize unions. The last time America’s low-wage workers got a real raise (apart from the last hike in the minimum wage) was the late 1990s when unemployment dropped to 4 percent nationally – compelling employers to raise wages in order to recruit and retain them, and prompting a round of labor organizing.
That’s one reason why job growth must be the nation’s number one priority. Not deficit reduction.
Yet neither side in the current “fiscal cliff” negotiations is talking about America’s low-wage workers. They’re invisible in official Washington.
Not only are they unorganized for the purpose of getting a larger share of the profits at Walmart, McDonalds, and other giant firms, they’re also unorganized for the purpose of being heard in our nation’s capital. There’s no national association of low-wage workers. They don’t contribute much to political campaigns. They have no Super-PAC. They don’t have Washington lobbyists.
But if this nation is to reverse the scourge of widening inequality, Washington needs to start paying attention to them. And the rest of us should do everything we can to pressure Washington and big-box retailers and fast-food chains to raise their pay.

2012-11-21 "Why You Shouldn’t Shop at Walmart on Friday" by Robert Reich
A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today’s dollars, including health and pension benefits.
Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.
There are many reasons for the difference – including globalization and technological changes that have shrunk employment in American manufacturing while enlarging it in sectors involving personal services, such as retail.
But one reason, closely related to this seismic shift, is the decline of labor unions in the United States. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today fewer than 7 percent do. As a result, the typical American worker no longer has the bargaining clout to get a sizable share of corporate profits.
At the peak of its power and influence in the 1950s, the United Auto Workers could claim a significant portion of GM’s earnings for its members.
Walmart’s employees, by contrast, have no union to represent them. So they’ve had no means of getting much of the corporation’s earnings.
Walmart earned $16 billion last year (it just reported a 9 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2012, to $3.6 billion), much of which went to Walmart’s shareholders — including the family of its founder, Sam Walton. The wealth of the Walton family now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Is this about to change? Despite decades of failed unionization attempts, Walmart workers are planning to strike or conduct some other form of protest outside at least 1,000 locations across the United States this Friday – so-called “Black Friday,” the biggest shopping day in America when the Christmas holiday buying season begins.
At the very least, the action gives Walmart employees a chance to air their grievances in public – not only lousy wages (as low at $8 an hour) but also unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, excessive hours, and sexual harassment. The result is bad publicity for the company exactly when it wants the public to think of it as Santa Claus. And the threatened strike, the first in 50 years, is gaining steam.
The company is fighting back. It has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to preemptively ban the Black Friday strikes. The complaint alleges that the pickets are illegal “representational” picketing designed to win recognition for the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Walmart’s workers say they’re protesting unfair labor practices rather than acting on behalf of the UFCW. If a court sides with Walmart, it could possibly issue an injunction blocking Black Friday’s pickets.
What happens at Walmart will have consequences extending far beyond the company. Other big box retailers are watching carefully. Walmart is their major competitor. Its pay scale and working conditions set the standard.
More broadly, the widening inequality reflected in the gap between the pay of Walmart workers and the returns to Walmart investors, including the Walton fammily, haunts the American economy.
Consumer spending is 70 percent of economic activity, but consumers are also workers. And as income and wealth continue to concentrate at the top, and the median wage continues to drop – it’s now 8 percent lower than it was in 2000 – a growing portion of the American workforce lacks the purchasing power to get the economy back to speed. Without a vibrant and growing middle class, Walmart itself won’t have the customers it needs.
Most new jobs in America are in personal services like retail, with low pay and bad hours. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average full-time retail worker earns between $18,000 and $21,000 per year.
But if retail workers got a raise, would consumers have to pay higher prices to make up for it? A new study by the think tank Demos reports that raising the salary of all full-time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty, at a cost of only a 1 percent price increase for customers.
And, in the end, retailers would benefit. According to the study, the cost of the wage increases to major retailers would be $20.8 billion — about one percent of the sector’s $2.17 trillion in total annual sales. But the study also estimates the increased purchasing power of lower-wage workers as a result of the pay raises would generate $4 billion to $5 billion in additional retail sales.
This seems like a good deal all around.

University of Los Angeles and the rise of White Nationalism amongst students

2012-11-30 "Local news can’t handle the ugly truth: UCLA's been battling a growing problem with hate speech on campus. Why won't local media divulge the dirty details?" by Mary Elizabeth Williams
There is plenty that’s horrible about a racist, sexist act of vandalism at the University of California, Los Angeles. But along with the crime itself, there’s yet another depressing aspect to the story: the way it’s been reported.
On Wednesday, students discovered a handwritten sign on a bathroom stall door in the school’s Powell Library that read, “Asian Women are White-Boy Worshipping Sluts.” It was the second such incident in as many days. On Tuesday, a sign saying “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores” was tacked to a Vietnamese Student Union sign on the campus’s Kerckhoff Hall.
It’s not the first time UCLA has battled racism, either. Last year, shortly after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, then-student Alexandra Wallace gained YouTube infamy after posting a three-minute diatribe about the “hordes” of Asians in the school library, “going through their whole families just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing,” adding, “I’ll be typing away furiously, blah blah blah, and then all of the sudden, when I’m about to, like, reach an epiphany, over here from somewhere, ‘OHH Ching chong ling long ting tong? OHH.’” (Wallace left the school soon after the clip went viral, saying she’d received death threats. [http://abcnews.go.com/US/uclas-alexandra-wallace-apologizes-campus-asian-culture/story?id=13174245]) And last winter, a nearby apartment complex that houses students was defaced with graffiti against “you rude ignorant spic cunts” and “dirty Meximelt bitches.” [http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/02/ucla_graffiti_mexican_racist_s.php]
You can see, then, why this new act is an important story about a sensitive issue. The school’s own paper, the Daily Bruin, got it right [http://www.dailybruin.com/article/2012/11/ucpd-investigate-racial-sexist-slurs-found-on-bathroom-stall-door], opening a story on the crimes with a note explaining, “Given the nature of these slurs, the editorial staff were faced with the question of whether it was appropriate for the student newspaper to repeat these slurs and potentially perpetuate their use. The editorial decision was made to write them as they occurred in order to report accurately and thoroughly on the incident.” Transparent, honest and brave — just like journalism is supposed to be.
Yet the local ABC news team couldn’t bring itself to say exactly what had happened, reporting [http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=8903238], “The language is too graphic for us to repeat, but it was a clear attack against Asian women.”
The local CBS news, meanwhile, explained the incident with a cryptic reference to a note that said “Asian women R ****** white-boy worshipping ******.” [http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/11/29/ucla-students-hold-rally-after-alleged-hate-crimes-against-asians/]
Of course there are compelling reasons for news outlets to not want to publish or speak offending words. If you’re a decent person, it’s nauseating to repeat them. More significantly, you run the risk of deeply offending your audience – and alienating your advertisers. The New York Times is so concerned with decorum that earlier this year, it refused to even print the names of the STFU, Parents blog or Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, lest readers figure out what the F is for.
I have thought about these issues a lot, including again earlier this week, as I was writing on Chris Brown’s latest grotesque outburst. I don’t like to repeat the garbage that guy spews. It’s hateful and it’s hurtful. But I also believe when somebody does something gross and cowardly, it’s important to tell people exactly what it is. It’s important, when talking about what someone has said, to use his or her own words. Anything short of that does the person the favor of softening his or her actions, of taming them. That’s why when, two years ago, Salon ran a full transcript of Mel Gibson’s ”expletive-strewn tirade,” it was illuminating to see the words that had come directly from his mouth, at the mother of his child. It said something about what happened that was real and truthful in a way that no bleep or series of dashes could.
Saying what has happened is not the same as endorsing what has happened. It’s telling the hard truth about ugly things. It’s what you’re supposed to do. The news isn’t always nice. And as George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations.”

US Airforce Colonel attacks peace vigils in New York

2012-11-29 "Anti-Drone Activists Could Get 7 Years for 'Irritating' US Air Force Colonel; Judge's signed protection order against peaceful protest called an 'escalation' and an 'absurd' threat to free speech" from "Common Dreams"
A local judge in upstate New York has signed an order of protection for a US Air Force colonel that could make it a crime, punishable by up to seven years in prison, for anti-drone activists to continue their weekly peace vigil outside or near the gates of the Hancock Air National Guard base there.
How will they know if they've broken the rules of the order? Apparently, if one specific military officer at the base finds their protest or direct actions 'irritating' personally.
Specifically troubling to the activists is that Colonel Earl A Evans, a commander at the base who filed the request for the order, is someone the activists have not once targeted directly. Though the order 'bans them specifically from approaching the home, school or workplace' of Evans, none of the activists even seemed to know who he is.
Read the judge's order here (pdf) [https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/525327-order-of-protection-v3.html].
"This is a new tactic to deny us our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to petition our government," Elliot Adams, one of the seventeen activists listed in the order, said to The Guardian in an interview.
The seventeen named in the order were all arrested in October following an attempt to block several entryways onto the base [https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/25-3]. Though this was just the latest in a series of protests directed at the US drone program which operates out of Hancock, the group interprets the order as an escalation against their efforts and a direct assault on their right to peaceably assemble and voice grievances to their government for acts they deem illegal under domestic and international law.
"We are committed to non-violence" said Adams. "It's absurd that this order is all about Evans' personal well being. He's the guy who has spent a lifetime training in delivering violence and killing people and I say that as a veteran myself. Those inside Hancock are the ones with the M16s and assault rifles, the MQ9 drones. We as individuals are obligated to stop our government committing war crimes – that's part of what came out of Nuremberg. This is a misuse of the law."
According to court documents Evans is the mission support group commander of the 174th fighter wing group. The Guardian continues:
[begin excerpt]
In a deposition to the court dated 25 October, Evans called for an order of protection and prosecution of the arrested protesters to the "fullest extent". He said the blocking of all three gates by the protesters was the "third time that protesters had done an unannounced protest" that resulted in a closure of the gate.
Written by hand, in block capitals, Evans wrote: "As an authorized representative of Hancock Field, I request that the court issue an order of protection on each and every defendant arrested such that they are to stay away from Hancock Field and I request prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."
The order has created confusion among the activists involved, as they say they no longer know where they can legitimately protest against the unmanned drones, which are operated from the base.
[end excerpt]
More troubling still is that the bar for violating the order seems to rest on the level of annoyance future actions have on specific individuals; in this case, Colonel Evans.
[begin excerpt]
The activists, Adams said, had asked if the order meant they had to stay away from the weekly permitted protest across the road from the base. The response from law enforcement officers: if Evans found it "irritating" then it did.
[end excerpt]
 Clare Grady (hands up) and her sister, Mary Anne Flores-Grady (on the left) are being arrested for protesting against drones, at the Thompson Road entrance to the New York Air National Guard. (Ellen M. Blalock / The Post-Standard)

2012-11-28 "Anti-drone protesters knocked off course by broad restraining order; Demonstrators who have gathered at New York air base for years say their constitutional right to protest has been compromised after colonel granted strict order of protection" by Karen McVeigh from "guardian.co.uk"
Ever since the F16 fighters were replaced by Reaper drones at Hancock Air National Guard base in upstate New York three years ago, peace activists have engaged in regular anti-drone protests outside the facility. In that time they have learned what to expect: holding banners at a site across the road is tolerated; close proximity or blocking gates risks arrest for trespass or disorderly conduct, a fine, or at the most, a few uncomfortable nights in a cell.
But now, in what appears to be a significant escalation by base authorities, the activists have been subjected to what they describe as an "absurd" restraining order which they say breaches their constitutional right to protest.
The order was issued by a judge [https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/525327-order-of-protection-v3.html] following the arrest of 17 protesters accused of blocking all three base entrances to traffic last month. It bans them specifically from approaching the home, school or workplace of Colonel Earl A Evans, a commander at the base. Failure to comply is a felony, punishable by up to seven years in jail.
Some of the activists are due to have the charges against them, including disorderly conduct and harassment, heard in Dewitt criminal court on Wednesday.
The arrested protesters, three of whom spoke to the Guardian, said they had never heard of Evans, had never met him and did not know what he looked like. He is the mission support group commander of the 174th fighter wing group, according to court documents.
Neither his home or school address is known to the defendants or detailed in the order, which names his place of work as 6001 East Molloy Road in Dewitt, New York – the military base. They are also banned from all forms of communication with Evans, including by email.
In a deposition to the court dated 25 October, Evans called for an order of protection and prosecution of the arrested protesters to the "fullest extent" [https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/525326-supporting-deposition-evans.html]. He said the blocking of all three gates by the protesters was the "third time that protesters had done an unannounced protest" that resulted in a closure of the gate.
Written by hand, in block capitals, Evans wrote: "As an authorised representative of Hancock Field, I request that the court issue an order of protection on each and every defendant arrested such that they are to stay away from Hancock Field and I request prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."
The order has created confusion among the activists involved, as they say they no longer know where they can legitimately protest against the unmanned drones, which are operated from the base.
One of the 17 arrested, Elliott Adams, said: "This is a new tactic to deny us our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to petition our government."
Adams, a Vietnam veteran, past president of Veterans for Peace and former mayor of Sharon Springs, accused the military and local law enforcement of increasingly heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protests. In the last 18 months, more than 100 people have been arrested at the base, according to protesters, but in at least a third of the cases, the charges have been dropped [http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/06/no-permit_charges_against_dron.html.].
Last year, Adams was among 33 protesters arrested after marching in single file on the side of the road, in what he described as "frivolous charges" which were later dropped. But the latest order is the worst so far, he said.
"We are committed to non-violence" said Adams. "It's absurd that this order is all about Evans' personal well being. He's the guy who has spent a lifetime training in delivering violence and killing people and I say that as a veteran myself. Those inside Hancock are the ones with the M16s and assault rifles, the MQ9 drones. We as individuals are obligated to stop our government committing war crimes – that's part of what came out of Nuremberg. This is a misuse of the law."
Adams said that he has repeatedly been arrested as he attempted to deliver a letter to the base commander, Colonel Greg Semmel, and others accusing the government of war crimes.
The order of protection, issued by Donald Benack, a judge in the Dewitt town court, Onondaga, New York, on 25 October, forbids the 17 activists from contacting Evans, and, specifically, forbids them from the following: "…assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Earl A Evans."
The activists, Adams said, had asked if the order meant they had to stay away from the weekly permitted protest across the road from the base. The response from law enforcement officers: if Evans found it "irritating" then it did.
Adams now plans to consult an attorney over the best strategy to take over the order. His case comes up in court later this month.
Another protester, Mark Scibilia-Carver, said he considered it part of his duty as a Christian to protest at the base, but that the order may deter him.
Scibilia-Carver, 60, an arborist from Trumensberg who has already spent five days in jail after being arrested at Hancock in the past, said: "The order of protection threatens a felony and that's seven years. It's very heavy-handed. I'm surprised the judge signed it. I will resist as far as I'm able but I have to think about the possibility of a longer sentence. I didn't do that well in jail the last time."
He has used court time in the past to argue the case against drones and has even offered, unsuccessfully in lieu of payment of a $250 fine, to submit a contribution to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers charity.
Scibilia-Carver, who began protesting at the base on Good Friday last year, said: "The US is the biggest imperial force in the world and it seems that poor people are expendable. Civilians get caught up in drone strikes. Even those who are targeted as terrorists are not being afforded the rule of law."
The letter of indictment, which protesters have attempted to deliver to Semmel and others, accuses the US government of war crimes, including the killing of innocent civilians, by remote means. It cites the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who, in 2010, called the use of drones in targeted killings "a highly problematic blurring and expansion of the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks" which has resulted in "the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum".
The letter adds: "There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safety to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassination."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

anti-fascism: Fast Food Workers Union

Fast Food Forward [http://www.fastfoodforward.org/]:

Fast Food Forward is a movement of NYC fast food workers to raise wages and gain rights at work. It is part of the national movement of low-wage workers fighting for a better future. When we make enough to live - instead of barely getting by - our community and economy benefit.
Fast Food Forward joins the momentum of the Black Friday strikes and other low-wage worker struggles to build community engagement, hold corporations and their CEOs accountable, and to raise wages so that all Americans can prosper.
EMAIL [info@fastfoodforward.org]
TWITTER [@fastfoodforward]
FACEBOOK [facebook.com/fastfoodforward]
Fast Food Workers in New York City...
We can't survive on $7.25!
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation.
While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by— many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.
Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.

2012-11-29 "New York Fast Food Workers Walk Off the Job" Alexandra Bradbury from "Labor Notes"
“Good morning! I’m on strike!” shouted McDonald’s worker Darryl Young on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk at 7 am today, as supporters rallied outside the Madison Avenue fast food outlet where he works. “Wanna know why? $7.25!”
Close on the heels of last week’s high-profile Walmart walkouts, fast food workers across New York City staged a one-day strike today, calling for a raise and an end to anti-union retaliation.
Organizers said hundreds of workers struck at dozens of fast food locations this morning. The action marks the public debut of a cross-company Fast Food Organizing Committee that includes workers from not just McDonald’s but also Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, Wendy’s, Domino’s, and Papa John’s.
The idea is to take on the whole fast food industry, which employs 50,000 workers in New York City, said Jonathan Westin, organizing director of the ACORN successor community organization that is supporting the drive, New York Communities for Change.
“A typical campaign is not going to bring Ronald McDonald to the table,” Westin said. “This is dozens of stores around the city with workers going on strike on the same day. That’s the type of organizing that’s needed.”

‘1, 2, 3, 4, Time for You to Pay More’ -
After two years working at McDonald’s, Young is making only $7.25 an hour, New York State’s minimum wage.
That makes it tough to support his two daughters, he said, and many of his co-workers rely on Section 8 housing assistance, welfare, and food stamps to get by, while the corporation they work for makes billions in profit.
That’s why Young joined the organizing committee a couple of months ago. He and a friend have been meeting daily and approaching fellow employees at the store “to see if they want to get down with the union,” he said.
Westin said workers are circulating a petition calling for $15 an hour and the right to unionize without reprisal. The strategy of walking out against retaliation, without first gaining a recognized union, echoes similar recent actions by Walmart retail and warehouse workers.
Management’s counterattack has already begun. McDonald’s employee Diego Delgado, an immigrant from Colombia, said his store’s general manager pulled everyone together for a union-bashing meeting yesterday. Workers huddled for their own meeting outside afterwards.
Speaking through a translator, Delgado explained that his position as a manager (but not a general manager) means he has no steady schedule. He has to cover all shifts, and there are never enough workers—because people keep quitting in frustration at the low wages and demanding work.
Delgado makes just $8.50, after three years working at McDonald’s.
“I’m here for the union,” he said at this morning’s rally.
NYCC has 40 organizers working on the campaign, Westin said. The group has also teamed up with the Retail Wholesale union on recent organizing drives among supermarket and carwash workers.
Westin said his group started taking on these workplace struggles after leaders realized that low-wage jobs were the biggest obstacle keeping its members in poverty. And “in the low-wage industry, fast food dominates,” he said.
In addition to NYCC, the coalition supporting the Fast Food Forward campaign includes the Service Employees union and the advocacy groups United NY and the Black Institute.

‘5, 6, 7, 8, Don’t You Dare Retaliate’ -
Young said he was “a little nervous” to strike today, but he found the courage because of “the struggle every day—waking up and coming to a job I don’t want to do.”
Some fast food workers have already been suspended for union activity, organizers said, and they expect further retaliation in the wake of today’s action.
If that happens, “we have community, labor, and clergy ready to stand up and bring workers back to work,” Westin said.
Irania Sanchez is one such ally. A member of the Latino and working-class community group Make the Road New York, she came to this morning’s rally in part because the fight is personal: it brought her closer to her brother’s memory.
Sanchez’s brother worked at McDonald’s, she explained through a translator. He told her about the abuses workers suffered there: how the job demands were ever-increasing, and people would be fired when they could not handle new tasks, even after years of loyal work.
When her brother grew ill, he was fired, Sanchez said. He later passed away from cancer.
Workers boarded a bus from the Madison Avenue McDonald’s to protest at another fast food location this morning. Rallies were planned at locations around the city throughout the day. Organizers said they expected hundreds to converge at a climactic rally in Times Square this afternoon.
Westin hopes today’s action will inspire more fast food workers to take the same risk that strikers like Young and Delgado are taking.
“Our goal is to galvanize as many workers as possible,” he said. No one is without fear, but “going back and making $7.25 an hour, and not being able to put food on the table, is a much harder thing than striking for better wages.”
[photo caption] Fast food workers rallied outside a Madison Avenue McDonald's early this morning. Hundreds of New Yorkers took part in today's one-day strike, the debut action of a cross-company Fast Food Organizing Committee

2012-11-29 "Historic Fast Food Strike in NYC Fights CEO's for Living Wages; 'We could lift an entire segment of the US population out of poverty'" by "Common Dreams"
Fast food workers across New York City hit the streets today in a strike against the $200 billion fast food industry, which workers charge pays wages so low that many struggle to meet their basic needs [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/nyregion/drive-to-unionize-fast-food-workers-opens-in-ny.html].
The workers who are employed within one of the world's most expensive cities and work in several restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s and Taco Bell, have been organizing with groups such as Fast Food Forward and many other organizations to fight for livable wages and for the right to unionize.
Their ultimate goal is to raise wages to $15-an-hour from minimum wage pay and to gain recognition for their independent union, the Fast Food Workers Committee [http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/mcjobs-should-pay-too-its-time-for-fast-food-workers-to-get-living-wages/265714/].
According to Fast Food Forward, while the fast food industry currently grosses $200 billion annually, and the average daily salary of most fast food CEO's is $25,000, the average fast food worker only makes 11,000 per year, or roughly 25 percent of the money required to survive in NYC.
Organizers say most workers are forced to supplement their income with public assistance. This externalizes business costs onto American taxpayers, while the international corporations run away with multibillion dollar profits.
The strike is the first multi-corporation strike by fast-food workers in US history.
The New York Times reports that the first walkout took place at 6:30 a.m. at a McDonald’s on Madison Avenue and 40th Street. Several dozen workers and supporters, including 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work the morning shift that day, lined up outside of the restaurant chanting, “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.”
“We don’t get paid for what we do. It really is living in poverty,” Raymond Lopez, 21, an aspiring actor who has worked at McDonald’s for over two years told The Times.
“The fast-food industry employs tens of thousands of workers in New York and pays them poverty wages,” said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change. “A lot of them can’t afford to get by. A lot have to rely on public assistance, and taxpayers are often footing the bill because these companies are not paying a living wage."
If successful, the move to unionize will be the first to do so across several fast food chains, and could be the largest of its kind.
"For so long, a lot of labor and other folks have avoided these industries because they thought they were too low wage, too hard to organize, and now our economy has become an economy of mostly low wage service jobs," Westin told the Atlantic [http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/mcjobs-should-pay-too-its-time-for-fast-food-workers-to-get-living-wages/265714/].
"It was the same thing when they were organizing factories in the early 1900s. They organized those factories and lifted an entire segment of the population into the middle class. This could happen here. We could lift an entire segment of the US population out of poverty and into the middle class."

Fast Food Forward has more [http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-NYyp89dCE8]:

2012-11-29 "In rare strike, NYC fast-food workers walk out; After a Black Friday action at Wal-Mart, NYC fast-food workers walk out, challenging a nearly union-free industry" by Josh Eidelson

At 6:30 this morning, New York City fast food workers walked off the job, launching a rare strike against a nearly union-free industry. Organizers expect workers at dozens of stores to join the one-day strike, a bold challenge to an industry whose low wages, limited hours and precarious employment typify a growing portion of the U.S. economy.
New York City workers are organizing at McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Papa John’s. Organizers expect today’s strike to include workers from almost all of those chains, with the largest group coming from McDonald’s; the company did not respond to a request for comment.
But employees were clear about their reasons for walking out. “They’re not paying us enough to survive,” McDonald’s worker Raymond Lopez told Salon in a pre-strike interview. Lopez said he decided to join today’s strike because “This company has enough money to pay us a reasonable amount for all that we do … they’re just not going to give it to us as long as they can get away with it. I think we need to be heard.”
Lopez, a 21-year-old who’s been at McDonald’s for two years, said he makes $8.75 an hour as a shift manager (organizers say this isn’t a supervisory position). He works at McDonald’s and at two other jobs – catering and doing leaf work – while paying off student loans, pursuing an acting career, and helping to support his family.
“Everything we do needs to be fast, needs to be perfect,” said Lopez, and “when you’re actually there for eight hours smiling like you’re on the Miss Universe contest, it’s not easy.” He said McDonald’s supervisors “make us work off the clock all of the time” and “there is a lot of verbal abuse.” Lopez recalled a supervisor telling him, “Hey, if you don’t want me to treat you this way, then give me what I want.’”
New York Communities for Change organizing director Jonathan Westin told Salon the current effort is “the biggest organizing campaign that’s happened in the fast food industry.” A team of 40 NYCC organizers have been meeting with workers for months, spearheading efforts to form a new union, the Fast Food Workers Committee. NYCC organizers and fast food workers have been signing up employees on petitions demanding both the chance to organize a union without retaliation and a hefty raise, from near-minimum wages to $15 an hour.
When an NYCC organizer started meeting with McDonald’s workers across from his store, said Lopez, “It was a little difficult for me to believe that it was going to be possible” to change McDonald’s. “I didn’t pay too much attention to it … it took me two or three meetings to start trusting them.” But as the number of workers meeting with NYCC increased, “my faith in this whole deal grew as well.”
Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren described companies like McDonald’s as poster children for the ways that “the nature and organization of work have changed” in the United States: “part-time work, contingent work, the inability to have control over one’s schedule … essentially no protections, and even where there’s existing protections, they’re not enforced … They don’t even approach living wage jobs,” and for most workers, “there are absolutely no benefits.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs “Combined Food Service and Preparation Workers, Including Fast Food” as the lowest-paid job category in NYC. State labor department data show the city’s fast food jobs have grown by 55 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, McDonald’s profits have increased 130 percent over four years.
University of Pennsylvania sociologist Robin Leidner said Tuesday that an industry norm in which “virtually everyone is part-time” puts workers in a bind: “No one gets enough hours to trigger the legal protections, and to make them eligible for any health benefits … You can’t earn enough with one job, but given the unpredictability, it’s extremely hard to hold down more than one.” Leidner worked at McDonald’s (with the company’s agreement) as part of the research for her 1993 book “Fast Food, Fast Talk.” She recalled a store manager who “was pretty frank about saying if he had some problem with someone, typically what he’d do is reduce their hours until they got the message. In other words, until they quit.”
Leidner said the jobs are also “very heavily surveilled”: Customers keep workers on their toes, cash registers store instantaneous sales data, managers regulate employees’ expressions, and corporate officials pore over individual stores’ metrics in search of ways to boost profits.
NYC isn’t the only place fast food workers are in revolt. Today’s strike follows a founding convention held earlier this month by an linked organization, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. WWOC claims 200-some members in fast food and retail. Its most dramatic actions took place on Black Friday, when workers leafleted and demonstrated at major companies and dropped a banner inside of Macy’s (they also joined pickets in support of local Wal-Mart workers). “We’re getting all the workers together and we’re standing up against CEOs,” said WOCC member Brittany Smith. “Because there’s more workers than there are CEOs.” Smith, a college student who recently quit her job at the retail chain Express and took a similar job at Urban Outfitters, said she now makes $8.75 an hour. “Some of the time I luck out and I can eat two meals a day,” she said. “But most of the time, I’m eating one.”
Like FFWC in New York, WOCC is a new independent union made up of workers tied together by a shared city and similarly low wages, not a single employer. Both FFWC and WOCC are backed by unions and labor community groups, and so far aren’t recognized by any employers. And they’re making the same demands: allow a fair process for unionization and start paying $15 an hour. Organizers say that could be achieved through union contracts with individual companies, or through joint bargaining with several employers at once. Either way, it’s a heavy lift.
As workers try to change their industry, will fast food companies retaliate? Organizers say they already have.
Jose Cerillo, a 79-year-old who cleans tables and floors at a New York McDonald’s, told Salon he was suspended by the company on Monday after signing up co-workers on the campaign petition. According to Cerillo, management said the punishment was for violating a “no solicitation” policy. “They feel threatened because I’m organizing,” said Cerillo (he was interviewed in Spanish). He said he circulated the petition during break times and outside of work.
Cerillo said he got involved after receiving a phone call from an organizer at home a few months ago. “I was so happy,” he said. Cerillo, who has been working at a series of McDonald’s locations since 1996, said he makes $7.40 an hour, 15 cents above minimum wage. “It’s just not enough to live.”
Cerillo said many of his co-workers share his frustrations but are hesitant to get involved: Of around 40 other employees at his store, “about three” signed his petition. “They don’t want to lose their job,” said Cerillo. But he said he remains eager to keep up the fight: “I feel happy, and I want to fight more … I want to do something worthwhile.”
In recent decades, Warren said Tuesday, even the most effective U.S. unions have “had such a hard time organizing in their core industries,” where they already have members, “that fast food just got left out … no one was really willing to take the risk and invest in fast food organizing.” Warren said research suggests that the industry’s demographics – predominantly women and workers of color – could improve prospects for organizing.
On the other hand, Leidner noted that the extremely high turnover and the relatively small number of workers in each store would make organizing that much more difficult.
The structure of the industry will also play a role: most individual stores are franchisees, technically owned by an individual who holds a contract with the national company and pays them fees and a portion of revenue. Any individual franchisee that buckled to pressure to transform conditions or eschew union-busting could have that contract revoked (one exception: establishments in public buildings like convention centers, among the only places you can find a unionized Starbucks). At best, the franchisee relationship could provide organizers with an additional point of leverage, creating unrest in stores that could drive franchisees to press corporate for a resolution, and vice versa. But at worst, the franchisee structure could offer another lever for corporate to crack down on any uprisings while evading any responsibility.
The New York and Chicago campaigns evoke two strategies that have been long debated but infrequently attempted in U.S. labor. First, “minority unionism”: mobilizing workers to take dramatic actions and make demands on management prior to showing support from the majority of employees. Second, “geographic organizing”: collaboration between multiple unions to organize workers at several employers and win public support for raising a region’s standards through unionization. This campaign is also the latest example in which community-based organizing groups, which unions have long leaned on to drum up support for workers, are playing a major role in directly organizing workers to win union recognition.
NYCC’s Westin told Salon in a pre-strike interview that the goal of this work stoppage is to give expression to workers’ “energy and movement” and “anger around how they’ve been treated,” and “hopefully mobilizing the community, and mobilizing clergy, and mobilizing their fellow workers around them.”
Today’s strike also comes one week after non-union Wal-Mart workers escalated their unprecedented strike wave against the retail giant. Lopez said that, while he had already decided to strike, he drew additional inspiration from the Black Friday example. “I thought it was really ballsy for someone to do that,” said Lopez. “Which I admired.” Lopez said his decision to strike “got scary probably a couple days ago, when I realized the seriousness of this.” Despite that fear, he said, “I still believe in what I’m doing, so I’m going to go ahead and do it.”
“I don’t know what to expect” from the strike, said Lopez. “It’s such a unique thing. A lot of stuff could happen. It’s not going to be overnight.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2012-11-28 "Romney chief strategist lauds white, wealthy and middle-class support"

by Rachel Rose Hartman from "Yahoo! News" [http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/romney-chief-strategist-stuart-stevens-lauds-white-wealthy-194334371--election.html]:
Mitt Romney's former chief strategist Stuart Stevens in an op-ed published on Wednesday touted wealthy, middle-class and white voter support as several of the silver linings to Romney's loss on Nov. 6.
In a Washington Post editorial titled, "Mitt Romney: A good man. The right fight," Stevens wrote [http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-good-man-the-right-fight/2012/11/28/5338b27a-38e9-11e2-8a97-363b0f9a0ab3_story.html]:
[begin excerpt]
On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters younger than 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift.
[end excerpt]
Romney won over seniors with entitlement reform, raised more money for the GOP than the party itself and championed ideas that connected Americans and made them think, Stevens argued.
"Yes, the Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let's remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right," he wrote.

"Amiri Baraka on Newark's Neo Nazi Negro May Whore"

posted by Marvin X to [http://blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com/2012/11/amiri-baraka-on-newarks-neo-nazi-negro.html]

2012-11-28 "Coery Booker, Newark’s “Virtual Mayor” Shows Out As Negro Nazi" by Amiri Baraka:

               For two years or so Newark’s May Whore , Corey  Booker, never set foot in the City Council chambers. Why? So he wd  not have to be confronted by the peoples’ elected representatives. Instead, that is why he is called our “Virtual Mayor”, because on the tube he is ubiquitous, on radio, at press conferences from undisclosed hideouts. But personally, almost never.
               He has appeared, rarely, when the council smoked him out, e.g., when he tried to sell the city’s water, to some of his cronies disguised as the Municipal Utilities Authority(MUA). But  as a result of his desperate foray into the real world , the MUA  got defeated and apparently he learned from that and stayed out of sight except as  occasional  Oprah mascot and Steadman lookalike.
               At another rare emergence into the real world, when he closed our libraries (and  you wonder why a dude well advertised in his sweetheart press as Stanford Univ, Yale Law School, Rhodes scholar would close libraries – I tried to ask him this question , he turned his head to some white member of the library’s board, who said , “No”.
               The rest of the Newark Activists there rose up and started whooping and hollering at the Mayor’s brief excursion into reality. The people screamed at him and he fled. The main library was reopened.
               What I had wanted to ask was to address the mayor’s  Republican sounding statement that “ the government can’t do everything.” I wanted to ask him  then  Why  he doesn’t demand that  Prudential, the world’s largest insurance company  pay it’s taxes, since it hasn’t paid since 1970. That one white building is worth 300 million dollars a year, taxesl  A 45 year old tax exemption!
               Now, around the question of a replacement for City Council President, Donald Payne, Jr, who replaced his father as Congressman, the Virtual One decided to dare reality again. This time with the collusion of city clerk  “Bye Bye Bob” Marasco , and El Sucio Quatro, four council members to mislead the people—there was no mention of the replacing of the council president on the Council agenda, but in the middle of the seeming regular council business, the Virtual One tried to sneak back into reality . He tip toed, on a cue from Traitor Ramos & the Junta as they waved Booker’s replacement dummy on the scene and tried to have “Bye Bye Bob” swear her in.
               This whole scene was preposterous! When Councilman Baraka tried to protest this burlesque Traitor Ramos refused to recognize him. This prompted council persons Baraka, Sharif, & Crump to come off the platform, take the public mikes and began to assail the rump council’s illegal actions & Booker’s clownish violation of the city’s legal statutes.
               When these small time Nazis tried to continue their ripoff of Newark laws and democracy  the people in the hall started to scream foul and tried to stop the criminal actions en masse. Some of us were trying to tell Booker’s stooges  Ramos & the rest who are all linked to North Ward il Duce, Steve Adubato & his boy Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo , that they were committing criminal acts .   Now people surged to the front demonstrating that they be  heard. Instead one policeman started pepper  spraying the people, while  the Virtual One tip toed back into his virtualness.
               It is said that Booker had fellow conspirator Marasco swear the fake council person in, Chenique Davis Speight ,whose husband is an political associate of Steve Adubato, in his office. But we must challenge this whole fiasco as an attack on Democracy and ask at the same time why wd you try this Nazi foolishness on us? Wait a minute, someone might ask, are you trying to accuse these people of Racism as well. How could you do that, the Mayor is a Negro.
    Very much so, we answer, but then we have to quote Fanon, “Some of the oppressed don’t want to destroy their enemies, they want to be them”.

2012-11-28 "Wisconsin Legislators Jetting Off on Corporate-Funded Trip to Develop Special Interest Legislation"

by Brendan Fischer from "Center for Media and Democracy" [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/11/28-6]:
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatch, SourceWatch, and BanksterUSA. Our newest major investigation is available at ALECexposed.org.
MADISON, WI - November 28 - Several Wisconsin legislators are attending this week’s conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C., and likely doing so on corporate-funded “scholarships,”, which the Center for Media and Democracy believes violate state ethics and lobbying laws. The three-day meeting, held November 28-30, will bring state legislators together with corporate lobbyists and special interests to craft “model” bills – many of which will likely be introduced in the ALEC-majority Wisconsin legislature in the session that begins in January.
Earlier this year, CMD filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board alleging the “scholarship” program that allows corporate interests to fund legislators’ travel and hotel expenses to ALEC meetings violates the state’s gift ban. Neighboring Minnesota banned the so-called “scholarship” program many years ago. As detailed in “Buying Influence,” an October 2012 report by CMD, DBA Press, and Common Cause, between 2006 and 2010 Wisconsin legislators received at least $116,700 in corporate-funded flights and hotel rooms.
Those corporate-funded gifts correspond with a surge in ALEC-inspired special interest legislation. Some of the most controversial legislation introduced in the Wisconsin Capitol in recent years has ALEC roots, including parts of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union Act 10, the state’s unconstitutional voter ID law, efforts to bar suits for Wisconsin deaths from FDA-approved drugs and devices along with other so-called tort “reform,” and the “Title Pledge Act” whose introduction resulted in $24,000 in campaign contributions to Wisconsin legislators from ALEC member Loanmax. It also includes the Special Needs Scholarship Program Act, which was promoted in Wisconsin by ALEC member American Federation for Children. Former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen represents that Betsy DeVos-funded organization at ALEC meetings.
This month’s annual ALEC meeting caps a year of controversy surrounding the organization’s political agenda and its tax-exempt status. ALEC came under particularly intense scrutiny for its national drive to promote the “Stand Your Ground” gun law that for weeks shielded the killer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin from prosecution. A bill that shares some of the operative provisions of that ALEC-approved law dubbed the “Castle Doctrine,” also passed in Wisconsin last year. Similarly, ALEC has faced intense controversy over its role in legislation to make it harder for American citizens to vote, through restrictive “voter ID” legislation.
ALEC has been the subject of multiple IRS complaints alleging that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status by acting primarily as a conduit for corporate interests to lobby state legislators, thereby allowing these special interests to write-off their lobbying expenses as a charitable deduction. And in recent months, five Wisconsin legislators tried to shield their ALEC-related emails from open records requests, and only released the records to settle a state lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause.
The ALEC State Co-Chair for Wisconsin in 2011-2012, Rep. Robin Vos, has been promoted to Assembly Speaker, and one of the other state legislator Co-Chairs, Rep. Scott Suder, is Assembly Majority Leader. There is precedent for leadership within ALEC leading to leadership roles in Wisconsin government. One ALEC State Co-Chair in the previous term, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, became Senate Majority Leader in 2011-2012, and his 2009-2010 ALEC State Co-Chair, former Rep. Mike Huebsch, became head of the Department of Administration.
Sen. Leah Vukmir is the third ALEC State State Co-Chair. She also sits on the ALEC National Board of Directors, and is the public sector chair of the ALEC Health & Human Services Task Force, serving alongside a lobbyist for the insurance industry. The press and public are barred from the ALEC’s task force meetings where legislators and lobbyists vote to approve "model" bills.
Dozens of other Wisconsin legislators are also ALEC members.
Which of these state legislators are in DC this week? Which ALEC firm bankrolled their flight? What corporate-sponsored bills will they be bringing back to Wisconsin?
When Sen. Fitzgerald was interviewed after ALEC’s 2010 post-election meeting, before ALEC was engulfed in controversy, he told press that he had never seen such enthusiasm for so-called “right to work” legislation, a bill Governor Walker subsequently promised billionaire Diane Hendricks he would push after his “divide and conquer” efforts to tie his (ALEC-related) union-busting to the budget bill. What will ALEC legislators enthusiastically bring back to Wisconsin to push with their newly regained majority in the state Senate after their secret meetings with corporate lobbyists at the ALEC meeting this week?
We urge state reporters to ask Wisconsin legislators about how their travel was paid for this trip, who paid for their dinners and parties in DC, and what bills they discussed as part of the ALEC agenda for 2013 at the ALEC meeting this week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Welfare state supported by majority of Conservatives

2012-11-27 "A Grand Bargain is a Grand Betrayal: The Forgotten, Lonely World of Facts: That the United States is center-right and Obama needs compromise on slashing the welfare state is a myth" by Paul Rosenberg from "Al Jazeera"
Paul Rosenberg was a frontpage blogger for OpenLeft.org and is now Senior Editor for Random Lengths News, an alternative bi-weekly in the Los Angeles Harbor Area, where he specializes in labor, community and environmental justice issues.
"Facts are stupid things," Ronald Reagan once said, hilariously misquoting Founding Father John Adams, your typical elitist Enlightenment intellectual, who actually said, "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." But in the contest between the real world of John Adams and the fantasy world bequeathed to us by Ronald Reagan, stupid and stubborn are on both on the side of the latter... and the latter is winning, hands down, as can be seen in President Obama's pursuit of a so-called "grand bargain" that would cut far more in spending than it would raise in taxes. In the Reaganite fantasy world of Washington DC, Obama represents the left. In the real world? Well, take a look for yourself.
There is a political party in the United States whose presidential candidate got over 60 million votes, and whose members - according to the General Social Survey - overwhelmingly think we're spending too little on Social Security, rather than spending too much, by a lopsided margin of 52-12. The party, of course, is the Republican Party.
There is as an ideological label claimed by over 100 million Americans, who collectively think we're spending too little on "improving and protecting the nation's health", rather than spending too much, by a 2-1 margin: 48-24.  The labelled ideology, of course, is conservative.
Combine the two categories and the two spending questions, and you find that a 51.4 percent of conservative Republicans think we're spending too little on either Social Security, health care or both. Only 28.7 percent think we're spending too much, and just 7.3 percent think we're spending too much on both.
That's 7.3 percent of conservative Republicans in support of the position taken by leaders of both political parties - Republicans, who want to slash the welfare state drastically while making permanent tax cuts for the rich, and Democrats, led by President Obama, who wants a more "balanced" approach, with $2.50 cut from spending for every $1 added in taxes. Other Democrats, particularly in Congress, are trying to push back against Obama, without letting their slips show, and Obama is doing his best to hide what he's up to, but there is simply no way to get $4 trillion in cuts - almost $1 trillion already agreed to and another $3 trillion in his current proposal - without deep spending cuts that even a majority of conservative Republicans oppose.
Yet, as the Guardian reports [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/22/obama-grassroots-team-fiscal-cliff], Obama's grassroots campaign organization is being kept alive after the campaign, and pushing this far right agenda is their first emailed call to action. "It's now clear that ordinary citizens will also be subjected to a full bore messaging campaign to persuade them that they should regard this counterproductive sacrifice as good for them," notes leading econoblogger Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism [http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/obama-to-deploy-campaign-apparatus-to-persuade-americans-to-look-forward-to-more-and-better-catfood.html]. She also notes, correctly, that "most Americans have a simple response to the notion of 'reforming' these popular programs: Cut military budgets and raise taxes on upper income groups".

Something we can all agree on -
The figures cited above come from the General Social Survey of 2010. The GSS is the gold standard of public opinion research in the United States. Social scientists reference it more often than any other data source except for the US Census. The GSS has been asking these same questions since the 1970s, with similar ones added to its list over time. The responses to those questions reveal a much broader truth - the American people like the various different functions of the welfare state, regardless of their political ideology or affiliation. They like spending on highways, roads and bridges, mass transportation, education, child care, urban problems, alternative energy, you name it.
For example, in 2010, if we combine six questions - adding education, mass transit, highways and bridges, and urban problems to Social Security and health care - then the percentage of conservative Republicans saying we spend too much on all of them drops to a minuscule 0.4 percent, while two-thirds (66.5 percent) say we are spending too little on at least one of them. They may philosophically subscribe to the idea of shrinking government, but pragmatically they know what works and they want more of it, not less. Americans are famously described as being pragmatic, rather than ideological, and in this respect, at least, that political cliche is absolutely right.
Indeed, 2010 was only remarkable as a year in which anti-welfare state hysteria had been whipped up to a fever pitch. If one looked instead at the combined surveys for 2006, 2008 and 2010, then two-thirds of conservative Republicans (66.6 percent) thought we were spending too little on one or both of health care and Social Security, compared to just under one in seven (14 percent) who thought we were spending too much on at least one. A mere 5.1 percent thought we were spending too much on both.
In the world of stubborn and stupid, America is a center-right nation, and it really does make no sense that Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney. He's trying to compromise with the Republicans because he has to: Their insistence on slashing the welfare state represents the overwhelming consensus of American political opinion, regardless of the last election's results. But in the forgotten, lonely world of facts, none of that is true.

The need for a restatement -
While GSS data since 1973 repeatedly confirms this pattern of welfare state support even from self-identified conservatives, the pattern was actually first described and discussed in the 1967 book The Political Beliefs of Americans by Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril, two towering pioneers of public opinion research. Their book was based on surveys conducted in 1964, almost a full decade before the GSS data begins. The disjunction between what they called "operational" liberalism and ideological conservatism was one of the dominant themes of their book (they identified ideological conservatism by agreement with a set of five questions about government interference versus individual initiative). In the final section of the final chapter of the book, titled, "The Need for a Restatement of American Ideology", they wrote:
"The paradox of a large majority of Americans qualifying as operational liberals while at the same time a majority hold to a conservative ideology has been repeatedly emphasized in this study. We have described this state of affairs as mildly schizoid, with people believing in one set of principles abstractly while acting according to another set of principles in their political behavior. But the principles according to which the majority of Americans actually behave politically have not yet been adequately formulated in modern terms...
"There is little doubt that the time has come for a restatement of American ideology to bring it in line with what the great majority of people want and approve. Such a statement, with the right symbols incorporated, would focus people's wants, hopes, and beliefs, and provide a guide and platform to enable the American people to implement their political desires in a more intelligent, direct, and consistent manner."
This, of course, never took place. Two major political figures who might have helped foster such a restatement - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert F Kennedy - were assassinated the next year. Philosopher John Rawls' Theory of Justice actually embodied that restatement in a brilliantly simple abstract metaphor, the veil of ignorance, but his ideas never found the sort of symbolic amplification that Free and Cantril rightly recognized as crucial.
Instead, American politics took a much darker turn, one led by the indulgence of racist animosity, whose influence only became more deeply embedded over time, even as its initial expression was formally abandoned, and condemned. This turn can even be seen implicitly there in Free and Cantril's data. It's not just the case that Americans as a whole are schizoid - operationally liberal (65 percent according to their data) while ideologically conservative (50 percent). It's particularly true of a crucial subset: 23 percent of the population is both operationally liberal and ideologically conservative. And here's the kicker: The proportion of people fitting this description was double that in the five Southern states that Barry Goldwater carried in 1964 - the only states in the nation he carried aside from his home state of Arizona.
What this clearly implied, we can now see with hindsight, is that this population could be tipped either way, and was particularly vulnerable by tipping on the issue of race. Even though Goldwater himself abhorred making racist appeals, activists and even party organizations working for him had no such qualms, and the states he carried reflected that. Indeed, we can even see this today in GSS data, by looking at differences within the broad spectrum of support for government spending.
If, for example, we consider two different spending questions which bear on dealing with the problem of global warming - support for spending on the environment and for developing alternative energy (a new question just added in 2010) - we find a difference between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, but the difference is entirely within the realm of overwhelming support. Democrats say we're spending too little versus too much on both by 57.8 percent to 0.3 percent - a factor of almost 200-to-1 - while Republicans agree by "only" 29.8 percent to 6.6 percent - a factor of more than 4-to-1. For liberals, its more than 80-to-1 (65.2 percent to 0.8 percent), while for conservatives its better than 5-to-1 (29.6 percent to 5.7 percent). So the differences are stark - but they're all in the realm of overwhelming support for more spending. It's like comparing a rabid football fan to another rabid football fan with season tickets for his extended family.
When we look at spending on poor people and blacks, however, the picture is starkly different. Liberals once again say we're spending too little rather than too much on both by an overwhelming margin, 25-to-1 (39.8 percent  to 1.6 percent), but Republicans are evenly split (10.5 percent to 10.4 percent). For liberals the ratio is roughly 20-to-1 (35.3 percent to 1.8 percent), while for conservatives it's 3-to-2 (15.6 percent to 10.0 percent). But when you combine the categories, that's when the depth of the difference really stands out. For liberal Democrats, the ratio is 200-to-1 (40.8 percent to 0.2 percent), while for conservative Republicans it's more than 2-to-1 in the other direction (6.4 percent to 13.8 percent). In short, the one way to get conservative Republicans to be operationally conservative is to talk about poor people and blacks - in 19th century terms "the undeserving poor". And yes, since you asked, they really do still think that way. If you want to know where Mitt Romney's talk of the 47 percent came from, you need look no farther than this.

Just the facts -
But America rejected Romney's vision, didn't they? As the last few million votes are still being totaled, his percentage of the vote has dwindled down... to 47 percent, ironically. And yet, Obama's reasoning, even his "progressive" argument to his base is articulated within a conservative framework, one that highlights the deficit as the focus of hysterical concern, even when it tries to sound sensible and sober. Thus, the email call to his volunteers mentioned above said that Obama was "working with leaders of both parties in Washington to reduce the deficit in a balanced way so we can lay the foundation for long-term middle-class job growth and prevent your taxes from going up".
The idea of a bipartisan plan to grow the economy by balanced deficit reduction is understandably quite popular. It ranks right up there with the pizza-beer-and-ice-cream-heart-healthy-weight-loss-diet plan: The perfect solution for a fact-free world. But, as a recent letter from 350 economists points out [http://jobsnotausterity.org/], "[T]oo many in Washington are fixated on cutting public spending to balance the budget, not on how to put people back to work and get our economy going", but "there is no theory of economics that explains how we can deflate our way to recovery". To the contrary, as they pointed out, the opposite is true: "As Great Britain, Ireland, Spain and Greece have shown, inflicting austerity on a weak economy leads to deeper recession, rising unemployment and increasing misery."
But it's not just this popular proposal is a fantasy. It's also not really that popular if you ask folks about specifics. Which is just what Democracy Corps and Campaign for America's Future did with an election eve poll [http://www.ourfuture.org/files/documents/dcor.cafpe.graphs.110812.FINAL.pdf]. In particular, they asked about all the major components of the Simpson-Bowles Plan, the informal background for Obama's "balanced deficit reduction plan". Every single component they asked about was deemed unacceptable by landslide majorities.
* "Capping Medicare payments, forcing seniors to pay more" was rejected 79-18.
* "Requiring deep cuts in domestic programs without protecting programs for infants, poor children, schools and college aid" was rejected 75-21
* "Cutting discretionary spending, like education, child nutrition, worker training, and disease control" was rejected 72-25.
* "Not raising taxes on the rich" was rejected 68-28.
* "Continuing to tax investors' income at lower rates than workers' pay" was rejected 63-26.
* "Reducing Social Security benefits over time by having them rise more slowly than the cost of living" was rejected 62-31.
Turning to the subject of preserving Medicare:
* "Capping Medicare payments, forcing seniors to pay more" was rejected 79-18.
* But - taking a very different approach, "Save Medicare costs by negotiating lower drug prices from drug companies" was supported 89-8.
Robert L Borosage warned in a cover story for the Nation magazine [http://www.thenation.com/article/171266/grand-bargain-fiscal-cliff-could-be-grand-betrayal], which cites some of these same strong views opposing what the fantasy rhetoric hides. "The grand bargain not only offers the wrong answer; it poses the wrong question," Borosage writes. The right question, of course, is what to do about the stranglehold of wealth and income inequality that has developed over the past 30+ years, and how to secure the future of the 99 percent that have been left behind. "The call for shared sacrifice makes no sense," Borosage argues, "given that in recent decades, the rewards have not been shared."
A truly progressive vision, stubbornly rooted in the world of facts would focus like a laser beam on the right question. This is what FDR's New Deal was all about at bottom - rebuilding the nation's prosperity from the bottom up. The economic soundness of his approach can be seen in the decades of broadly shared prosperity that followed in his wake. The political soundness can be seen in the polling data cited above - particularly the measures of conservative support. Those are the stubborn facts that President Obama ought to be attending to. And leave the stubborn fantasies behind. It's time he set aside his love affair with Ronald Reagan. John Adams is waiting in the wings.