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#152

January -- February, 2014

Contents

We've Moved!
Save the Date!
Remind Representative Danny Davis: Support the Robin Hood Tax!
Demand Congressman Quigley Oppose the Fast Track for the TPP
Talkin' Socialism
DSA in the News

New Ground 152.1 -- 01.31.2014

0. DSA News

Socialist Reading Group
DSA in the News
We've Moved

1. Politics

Inter-Continental Day of Action Against the TPP
Why Obama and Big Business Want Fast Track Trade Legislation
Illinois Poverty 50 Years Later
Illinois Public Services
A(nother) Missed Opportunity: Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address
Campaigns and Elections

2. Democratic Socialism

When Democracy Isn't Enough

3. Upcoming Events of Interest

New Ground 152.2 -- 02.15.2014

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Socialist Salon
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Mike Quigley and the TPP by Bob Roman
United Faculty Strikes UIC!
Meeting Human Needs?
Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole
An Anemic Recovery: January Federal Jobs Report
What's So Great About America?
We Lose

2. Democratic Socialism

Co-Determination at Volkswagen?

3. Upcoming Events of Interest

New Ground 152.3 -- 03.01.2014

0. DSA News

prePOSTERous
Socialist Reading Group
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Crisis in Serving Illinois
The March Primary
Illinois' 1%
Pay More, Get More
Drop the Charges

2. Democratic Socialism

America the Beautiful

3. Upcoming Events of Interest


Welfare and Warfare

by Bob Roman

It would be a small gift to learn what scholars might think of our time, the 20th and 21st centuries, when these years become antiquity at least as distant as, say, Agincourt is today. What will they think of our country, with a military to overmatch any single other country, unable to let more than a year pass without some manner of killing: "police action", "humanitarian intervention", or downright war? Despite our self-deceptively peaceable idealism, would they deem us addicted to war?

Certainly to the metaphor if not the reality: the war on crime, the war on drugs, and, fifty years on, the war on poverty, for it was at his first State of the Union address in 1964 that President Lyndon Baines Johnson proclaimed that war. Ah, that metaphor, with its life and death, whatever it takes connotations that prove so treacherous. Years later, President Reagan joked that poverty won, though really it was only Reagan hoisting the dread white flag of surrender, leaving it to yet another President, Clinton, to sign the terms. If conservatives believe liberals stabbed the military in the back in Vietnam, handcuffed them just out of reach of victory, liberals and some lefties think much the same of conservatives and poverty. Others on the left judge poverty to be the inevitable consequence of capitalism, even when we make the best of the situation.

Certainly liberals and the left have the best of the argument. Our country has never been willing to spend for social services the trillions of dollars we spend on wars. For all the bogus nostalgia this month about Johnson's humanitarian declaration in the shadow of Kennedy's assassination, the attention has been on only that portion of Johnson's speech. The true depth of his commitment is revealed early on in his speech:

"All this and more can and must be done. It can be done by this summer, and it can be done without any increase in spending. In fact, under the budget that I shall shortly submit, it can be done with an actual reduction in Federal expenditures and Federal employment."

All this and a strong military and a tax cut too! Not to mention: "This administration must and will preserve the present gold value of the dollar." It's clear that Reagan had no monopoly on voodoo economics.

If the Great Society was never seriously meant to abolish poverty, it is true that poverty was reduced, opportunities expanded, democracy extended. Medicare, Medicaid, other expansions to Social Security, and Head Start are but a few examples of programs that made (and make) a difference. And it shows in the statistics. For every lefty, other than those with a religious commitment to insurrection, the Great Society was a worthwhile if modest achievement.

.

Family Aggregate Income

Household income, source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

      Top 5%  Bottom 20%
1958:   15.4         5.0
1968:   15.6         5.6
1978:   15.1         5.4
1988:   17.2         4.6
1998:   20.7         4.2
2008:   20.5         4.0


In 1966, the A. Philip Randolph Institute proposed a "Freedom Budget for All Americans" that advocated spending, over 10 years, $185 billion directed at health, education, and "infrastructure". In 2013 dollars, this is about $1.3 trillion and still less than the cost of the second Gulf war. The Freedom Budget featured a clever financing scheme, reserving part of the natural increase in tax revenues from economic growth to pay for its programs, something like a TIF district. While it gained broad approval if not support among labor, liberals, and the left, the Vietnam War was already sucking dollars from the budget and attention from national politics. More to the point, probably, was that it didn't seem to be a useful election campaign tool even to sympathetic politicians. Just 14 years later, President Reagan hoisted the Jolly Roger and began a massive redistribution of wealth and income to already wealthy.

When President Clinton "ended welfare as we know it", Chicago DSA was a part of the ad hoc coalitions in Chicago formed to oppose his "welfare deform" program. In New Ground 39, we published an article, "It Is But Equity" by Kurt Anderson, that is still very much to the point today. In it, Anderson advocated affordable quality day care, a large hike in the minimum wage, "single-payer" universal health care, massive progressive tax reform, labor law reform, and a redefinition of the "official" poverty line. Twenty years on and this agenda is still sensible.

To mark the 50th anniversary of our stalemated (at least) War on Poverty, Chicago DSA will be devoting nearly every 2014 episode of Talkin' Socialism to some aspect of poverty and the War on Poverty. In January's episode, we review the 2013 economy and its general lack of progress for the majority of Americans.

poverty


"Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?": a Review

by Dan Hamilton

Director Michel Gondry's latest work, which is a film-length interview with linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky, falls into the category of films that take high-profile thinkers as their subjects and aim to use the medium of film to convey a set of ideas. These films have been reviewed to a wide range of reactions, including everything from praise to apathy.

Gondry, previously known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, begins Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? in the style of German playwright Bertolt Brecht, by showing his cards immediately. Brecht's style as a playwright, part of his "Epic Theater," sought to constantly remind the audience that they were not viewing reality, but rather the projection of a particular mind expressed through a story. In this fashion, Gondry reminds the audience at the outset that he is a filmmaker and what the viewer is about to see is a product of his vision, editing, selection and projection. He explains why he is making the film and that the viewer should understand they are subject to what he calls the "manipulative" nature of film making and viewing.

The title of the film, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, refers not to a specific question Chomsky answers, but is used to explain a particular linguistic idea. As Chomsky is interviewed, Gondry has created animation, which is primarily what the viewer sees throughout the film's duration. The animation has a simple, neon-heavy quality and it is apparent that they are Gondry's personal, eccentric sketches, although that doesn't detract from the place they hold in the film.

Gondry plays the part of a curious interviewer who admits up front that he feels nervous around the towering intellectual. Because of this innocence, the discussion takes on a character not of two men in an ivory tower massaging words and ideas for themselves, but rather creates a space where Chomsky must explain each idea, and these range from the difficult regarding the nature of how we perceive the world, to ideas more simple and accessible. The complicated ideas are where Gondry's animation works particularly well, because it gives form to Chomsky's abstractions.

In contrast to another recent film of this type, director Sophie Fiennes' The Pervert's Guide to Ideology featuring Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is far more effective. Fiennes' film employs popular culture and imposes Zizek within scenes of classic movies, where he then critiques them to explain his ideas on ideology. Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? works better because it understands its own confines. It has built within it a self-understanding that it is dealing with difficult material and will only appeal to a niche audience. Pervert's Guide didn't seem to have this self-awareness and it comes off trying to do more than it is able to. It also lacks the quality of having an interviewer present, which leaves Zizek to talk amongst himself about his famously difficult ideas on ideology, which become redundant and monotonous to the viewer.

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is not just for those who are familiar with Chomsky. It is rewarding for anyone interested in the world of ideas and curious about linguistics or philosophy, not just to "Chomsky groupies."

One thing that is particularly lacking for those more interested in the activist side of Chomsky is any sort of political or social critique in the film. The exception here is a discussion of the Romani people and their treatment in France, and a small discussion on the Kurds, but Gondry quickly moves Chomsky onto "something less depressing." One cannot fault a 90-minute film for not capturing every aspect of a man who has been active as a writer and thinker for more than half of a century.

At its core, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is a wonderful blend of ideas, linguistics, philosophy, biographical information, and to complement it all, Gondry's quirkiness.

 

Editor's Note: Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? will return to the Siskel Film Center in Chicago, February 21 through 27. In the meantime, it is available online through Amazon. The Pervert's Guide to Ideology will be available on DVD after February 18 and can be pre-ordered through Amazon.


Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

We've Moved!

Our new address is 3411 W. Diversey Ave, Suite 7, Chicago, IL 60647. The phone number remains the same. Please make a note of it!

The new office is a bit smaller and less expensive, and so far we're really quite pleased.

Save the Date!

The 56th annual Debs ­ Thomas ­ Harrington Dinner will be on Friday evening, May 16. We'll be back at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza but this time in the Sauganash Ballroom. More details soon.

Remind Representative Danny Davis:
Support the Robin Hood Tax!

When the "Robin Hood Tax" was introduced in the previous Congress, 7th District Congressman Danny Davis was a co-sponsor. When Keith Ellison reintroduced HR 1579 ("The Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013") last April, Representative Davis was nowhere to be found. "Strategy!" Davis is said to insist, yet this issue is so pivotal to our county's future that, regardless of whatever slab of bacon the Congressman figures he might bring home to the 7th, public education in support of a financial transaction tax needs to begin now.

To that end, the coalition of groups in support of HR 1579 decided to remind Representative Davis of his prior commitment to the bill. As New Ground goes to press, Greater Oak Park DSA has taken responsibility for leafleting Austin Green Line CTA station on Tuesday, January 14. There will be a follow up demonstration at Representative Davis' District Office on Friday, January 17.

You can help by urging Representative Davis to co-sponsor HR 1579. The district office is at 2746 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60612, 773.533.7520. His Washington office number is 202.225.5006. Residents of the 7th District can contact Davis through his web site: http://www.davis.house.gov .

Demand Congressman Quigley Oppose the Fast Track for the TPP

Regardless of the progress of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), conventional wisdom has its prospects for passage "over determined" by whether or not Congress has agreed to "fast track" the agreement. The "Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014" has, on January 9, been introduced in both the Senate (S 1900) and the House (HR 3830). S 1900 was introduced by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and has only Orin Hatch (R-UT) as a co-sponsor. HR 3830 was introduced by Representative Dave Camp (R-MI-4) and has only Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) and Devin Nunes (R-CA-22) as co-sponsors. So far, 27 House Republicans and 161 House Democrats (according to McClatchy DC) signed on to separate letters opposing Fast Track authority.

But that hasn't stopped supporters of Fast Track authority. The New Democrat Coalition, a self-described "post ideology" caucus of 53 Democratic Representatives, issued a press release in favor of the "Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act" when the bills were introduced. 9 of the caucus members endorsed the statement, including Illinois' 5th Congressional District Representative, Mike Quigley. The New Democrats spin their support by emphasizing the Act's demands on U.S. negotiators, but experience has shown these are honored mostly when they are convenient to the negotiators.

The Illinois Fair Trade Coalition is planning a demonstration for Saturday, February 1, at Jonquil Park, Lincoln & Sheffield in Chicago, 11:40 AM, followed by a Noon march to Representative Quigley's office at 3223 N. Sheffield. Chicago DSA plans on serving stone soup to passersby as symbolic of what the majority of Americans can expect from the TPP.

If you can't make the demonstration, call Quigley's office and tell him your thoughts: 773.267.5926.

Talkin' Socialism

Episode 35 ­ The U.S. Economy in 2013. Recorded January 11, 2014, Bill Barclay and Ron Baiman of the Chicago Political Economy Group (and Chicago DSA) examine the continued inadequate and erratic performance of the economy for the 99%, explore the dangers of an economy dominated by financial "services" (rentiers) but find some flowers amid the snow. Go to www.chicagodsa.org/audarch6.html to listen. Or CLICK HERE. (MP3, 28.2 MB, 29:20)

DSA in the News

The Nation blog, anyway, placed YDS' Swanee chapter as being #8 among "Fifteen Millennial Movements to Watch This Spring".


Not Enough: The December Jobs Report

At the Chicago Political Economy Group, Sharon Post writes:

The theme of this month's jobs report ought to be 'not enough.' The latest disappointing numbers are far lower than the optimistic expectations voiced by many economists after ADP reported payroll growth of 238,000 in December 2013. CPEG has been arguing for years that what job growth the U.S. economy has seen since the official end of the 'great recession' has been inadequate. In fact, the total number of employed workers in the U.S. is still lower than it was before the start of the great recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the economy added 74,000 jobs in December 2013, falling far short of expectations. This anemic job growth brings the total employment in the country to less than what it was in November 2007, the month before the great recession started. It's important to note that if the economy had added the 200,000+ jobs that many expected, we would still not have reached pre-recession employment levels. Even a 'good' jobs report would have been disappointing.

MORE.


Why the Left Must Embrace Affluenza

At kenzoshibata.com, Kenzo Shibata writes:

I can't remember in my lifetime any diseases cured or new vaccines developed. I can't imagine how elated the world must have been when Jonas Salk released the polio vaccine, making the pernicious disease virtually nonexistent in America. Salk was revered not only for his innovation, but for his insistence on releasing the vaccine to the world without a patent, his work being only to serve humanity.

The Left has an opportunity right now. There is a crisis that, using neoliberal policy strategy, we should not "let go to waste." The crisis is "Affluenza" -- the disease that claimed the lives of four innocent people in Texas and can be traced back to the deaths of vast swaths of the population through austerity measures and poverty wages.

MORE.


Letters

Whatever happened to "A government of the people, for the people, by the people"? It is fading into the memories of us who are fortunate enough to have lived through the best years of American history.

The leadership of President Roosevelt brought the country successfully through two worldwide catastrophes, the great depression and WWII. Sadly he died before seeing the overall results, but his successors, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower carried the nation through its recovery into a period of true social and economic prosperity. Those events might have brought a lesser nation to its knees, but the spirit of ordinary people, engendered in large part by the courage of their leaders, provided victory over all.

During the three plus terms FDR occupied the White House and through the forties, fifties, and sixties, that spirit and the progressive leadership of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson fueled a social and economic recovery which lasted into the eighties.

Both facets, economic and social, were remarkable, but the social was more so. During that time, the constitutional system of checks and balances was honored by the government's three branches, so that it worked as it was meant to, for the benefit of everyone. Laws were proposed and passed to improve living and working conditions of both those who were able and those who were disabled or disenfranchised. The Supreme Court issued decisions which clearly proved it was performing its constitutional duty as the last bastion of relief and protection for anyone who had been or might be harmed by wrongful government actions.

Unfortunately, that is not so today. The enemy our democracy now faces is the accumulation of excessive wealth, ergo power, by a few greedy people and institutions, who, since the election of their toadies, R. Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and G.W. Bush have been given license to amass even more.

Moneyed interests have eroded our Constitutional system of checks and balances by funding the election of presidents and legislators, and the appointment of judges, and other officials all of whom are dedicated to the myth that 'business' is what makes democracy work. Those officials have seen to it that any law or regulation which might or does impede or otherwise interfere with the making of profits is either changed or ignored.

If the 'great experiment' of 1776 is to be sustained, that myth must be discredited and exposed. It is a rationalization of the greedy to justify their use and exploitation of ordinary people. The behavior which supports the delusion must end! It is the greedy and their nefarious actions which have transformed our once democratic political system into government of the people, by the few, for the few.

James C. Spelman
Rockford, IL


Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.


New Ground #152.1

01.31.2014

Contents

0. DSA News

Socialist Reading Group
DSA in the News
We've Moved

1. Politics

Inter-Continental Day of Action Against the TPP
Why Obama and Big Business Want Fast Track Trade Legislation
Illinois Poverty 50 Years Later
Illinois Public Services
A(nother) Missed Opportunity: Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address
Campaigns and Elections

2. Democratic Socialism

When Democracy Isn't Enough

3. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

Socialist Reading Group
The next meeting is Saturday, February 8, 2 PM in the conference room at 3411 W. Diversey, Chicago. The discussion for this session will be on "Neoliberal and Progressive Narratives of U.S. Capitalism in Crisis" by Bill Barclay. A PDF copy of the reading is temporarily available HERE.

DSA in the News
As part of their continuing coverage Kshama Sawant's election to the City Council, Seattle Times did a compare and contrast article between Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders. DSA's Maria Svart was asked to comment. Al Jazeera America published an essay on Martin Luther King's radical gospel, mentioning Michael Harrington and DSA in passing. DSA was also mentioned in passing in a New York Times profile essay about Brad Lander, a City Councilman from Brooklyn, a founder of the Council's Progressive Caucus, and, as it happens, an alumnus of the old University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists chapter. (He helped out at the Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner, too.) Penn State's The Daily Collegian mentioned YDS in passing in an article about the punk rock band The Strange Times. Crayonbeats covered Leo Albatross' release of a new rap entitled "In Defense of Michael Harrington".

We've Moved
Yes, you know that. But some other of our readers most certainly have not made a note of it. Our new address is 3411 W. Diversey, Suite 7, Chicago, IL 60647. The phone number remains 773.384.0327. We made a last check for mail and turned in our keys to the old office on Wednesday.



Politics

Inter-Continental Day of Action Against the TPP
On Saturday, February 1, 11:40 AM, come to Jonquil Park at Lincoln Avenue and Sheffield in Chicago to rally and March (Noon) to Congressman Quigley's office. Join Chicago DSA and the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition on February 1st for Chicago's pariticipation in the hemispheric day of action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership! January marks 20 years since NAFTA passed. Since then, we've seen the results as our hemisphere has been ravaged by massive displacement, proliferating extractive industry, the outsourcing of U.S. labor to countries with less protective regulations, forced migration and violence against labor rights activists. MORE INFORMATION.

Why Obama and Big Business Want Fast Track Trade Legislation
At Democratic Left, Paul Garver and Simone Morgan begin:

The corporate business elite, the Obama administration and the neoliberal wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties have thrown down the gauntlet. The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, introduced by House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R), and by Senators Baucus (D) and Hatch (R), would reinstate Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track) that was last enacted in 2002 and lapsed in 2007. TPA allows rapid votes on " trade agreements" (which consist mainly of non-trade items on the corporate wish list), limiting Congress to merely casting an up-or-down vote on legislation implementing the terms of a completed and signed negotiated agreement.

For major corporate lobbying organizations like the Business Roundtable, renewing Trade Promotion Authority is the crucial step in facilitating the completion of three major items on the corporate agenda: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and a global Trade in Services Agreement.

MORE.

Illinois Poverty 50 Years Later
Social IMPACT Research Center released a new report comparing Illinois poverty at the start of Johnson's "War on Poverty" with the situation today.

Despite important victories, poverty and its associated hardships are still realities for 1.9 million Illinoisans and 46.5 million Americans. Significant economic, demographic, and legislative shifts occurred in the last 50 years, and many War on Poverty programs were not large enough or designed to offset these significant changes. As a result, workers are worse off, with many people working full time but still falling below the poverty line, more women are poor, and racial inequality persists. Veterans and suburban areas face new challenges, and seniors continue to retire into poverty.

The report is heavily graphic, making the statistics generally painless and easily comprehended. It makes for a 15.4 megabytes PDF, downloadable HERE.

The report also has an accompanying web site, equally graphic, with considerably more information, HERE.

Illinois Public Services
Complimentary to the report on Illinois poverty, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability released a report that compares Illinois spending on public services to that of other states.

Recent projections show that the state of Illinois will run a deficit ranging from $7.59 to $7.96 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. This is, however, nothing new. According to the Comptroller's Office, the state has run a deficit in its General Fund every year since at least FY1991. This creates genuine cause for concern, since over $9 out of every $10 spent through the General Fund goes to four core service areas: education (35 percent), healthcare (29 percent), human services (20 percent), and public safety (6 percent).

Given that the state's General Fund deficits have been sustained over such a long period of time, many believe that spending on those core services in Illinois must be exceedingly high, and hence a major reason why the state experiences recurring budget shortfalls. The data on spending, however, paint a very different picture. When considered over the long-term, it is clear that General Fund spending on services in Illinois is actually declining in real terms after adjusting for inflation.

The report can be downloaded HERE. (PDF, 191 Kbytes)

A(nother) Missed Opportunity: Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address
At Democratic Left, Bill Barclay notes:

This was a missed opportunity to build upon -- and further -- the changing shape of political discourse in the U.S. and the globe. Even our economic rulers, meeting in Davos for the World Economic Forum last week, heard about inequality of both income and wealth. Obama, however, chose to use the framework of opportunity and poverty. Of course, everyone is for opportunity and most are against poverty (couldn't be sure about John Boehner). In contrast to only three mentions of inequality, Obama talked about economic opportunity 11 times, summarizing his perspective by claiming that "opportunity is who we are," a claim unfortunately not borne out when the U.S. is compared to other wealthy countries.

MORE.

Campaigns and Elections
"If a socialist can win an election in Seattle, why not Chicago?" begins Andrew Mortazavi's In These Times account of a January 22nd meeting at which a coalition of socialist groups agreed to begin prospecting for likely wards in which a socialist candidate might win in 2015.

At NBC Chicago, Mark W. Anderson writes:

Faced with what it sees as increasing pressure on public education and issues critical to its members, the Chicago Teachers Union has decided to wade directly into Chicago and Illinois politics with its own independent political organization.

MORE.

The Working Families Party is expanding its operations to additional states. For a stereoscopic perspective, there are two recent articles worth reading.

The first, posted at Jacobin Magazine last November, is by Ari Paul. Paul begins with essentially a concern about branding:

"Vote Row E. Vote Working Families Party."

That's the mantra New York City's progressives have long chanted on their way to the polls. It's an ingenious solution for the conflicted partisan, someone who is pragmatic but can't stomach backing the Democratic Party. You can vote for a Democratic candidate on the union-backed Working Families line. You can have your vote matter and support a third party, who may not run its own candidates, but manages to pull mainstream Democrats leftward anyway.

Ari Paul essentially argues the Working Families Party could have been a viable progressive force, but only if it had stayed consistent in its own agenda.

Harold Meyerson, on the other hand, gives the same subject an opposite spin at The American Prospect. But Meyerson is a journalist even if he is an advocate. If you are inclined to agree with Ari Paul, Meyerson's article provides information about how it may be happening. For example:

How much of what the Working Families Party has accomplished in New York can be transferred to other states that don't have fusion voting? Quite a lot, Cantor says. It turns out that fusion -- the sine qua non of his and Joel Rogers's original manifesto -- isn't essential to building an electoral left after all. "The Tea Party proved we were wrong," Cantor says. "They yanked the Republican Party to the right without being a separate party. We realized that most of our power in New York comes from our work in Democratic primaries. We don't have to be on the ballot."

What the WFP has built in New York, in fact, is a left party within the Democratic Party -- a coalition of unions and community groups that has come together and decided to fund and conduct joint electoral and issue campaigns. Indeed, as the institutional Democratic Party has atrophied, the WFP looks less like a party within the Democratic Party than a party that has assumed the functions of the Democratic Party, only with progressive politics.

In other words, the Working Families Party is becoming a vendor of campaign services. For those in a position to know, as the Chicago Teachers Union sets up its new political organization, it may be worthwhile (and fun) to observe who they bring in as consultants.



Democratic Socialism

When Democracy Isn't Enough
At Grassroots Economic Organizing:

It's something that I think a lot of us often overlook: our definition of legitimate democratic control may differ from others people's, and a purely legalistic application of democratic decision-making may well alienate many people from the process, rather than giving them voice. This is why it is so important that we do the difficult work of relationship building within our co-operative enterprises and within our communities.

MORE.


Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.


New Ground #152.2

02.15.2014

Contents

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Socialist Salon
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Mike Quigley and the TPP by Bob Roman
United Faculty Strikes UIC!
Meeting Human Needs?
Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole
An Anemic Recovery: January Federal Jobs Report
What's So Great About America?
We Lose

2. Democratic Socialism

Co-Determination at Volkswagen?

3. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Episode 36 -- Illinois' War on Poverty: 50 Years On. Recorded February 8, 2014. This is Talkin' Socialism's first program on the War on Poverty, Fifty Years On. Our guests are Amy Terpstra, Associate Director of the Social IMPACT Research Center at the Heartland Alliance, and Kimberly Drew, Policy Associate at the Heartland Alliance. The Social IMPACT Research Center had just released a study on the War on Poverty in Illinois, 1964 and 2014. Terpstra and Drew discuss poverty in Illinois in 1964 and how it has changed in 2014. How is poverty measured? How might programs designed for poverty in 1964 miss the mark in 2014? How do these programs affect the level of poverty? Download: MP3 (34.5 MB). (35:53)

Socialist Salon
Greater Oak Park DSA's bi-monthly salon will feature a "sing-a-long". Tuesday, February 25, 7 PM, at the home of Jan Sansone and Nurtan Esmen, 834 N. Ridgeland Ave, in Oak Park. All DSA members are welcome. For more information, call Tom at 708.386.6007.

DSA in the News
The editorial writers at Investors Business Daily believe everything they read on right-wing sites, so of course the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a DSA project. This is why, on the occasion of gloating over Representative Waxman's retirement, they identified him as DSA member. (He isn't.) Temple University's The Temple News covered a Strike Student Debt forum organized by Philadelphia DSA, including quotes by Michele Rossi, Joe Schwartz, and Dustin Guastella. Jeffrey Issacs penned an hommage to the late Robert Dahl for The Monkey Cage blog of The Washington Post that mentions Dahl's DSA membership. Cornel West is always good for a DSA mention, and The Swathmore Phoenix was not exceptional in covering West's appearance on their campus.



Politics

Mike Quigley and the TPP
by Bob Roman
Some 200 people rallied in Jonquil Park in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood and marched several blocks up the street to Congresscritter Mike Quigley's district office on February 1. They were demanding his opposition to fast tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. When the crowd finally arrived at the District Office, all was dark and locked, not even the staff of the local politicians who share the space were present.

The Representative can't hide forever, of course, and about a week later activists caught up with him at the Harwood Heights public library. Reports are that Congressman equivocated and quiggled, but he at least had to face the displeasure of those he sorta kinda represents in Congress.

Chicago DSA is a part of the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition that organized the march. Activists from the Greater Oak Park branch contributed a bit of political theater. At the opening rally, they served hot stone soup under the Chicago DSA banner, with an explanation that under free trade agreements, stone soup is what most Americans get.

 

United Faculty Strikes UIC!
We had Holly Graff from the IEA chapter at Oakton Community College and Joe Persky from UIC's United Faculty as guests in Talkin' Socialism's "Labor in Higher Education" not long after United Faculty had begun contract negotiations at UIC. It's come to this (and incidentally, it's not just the professors; SEIU Local 73 has a bone to pick, too.):

After 18 months of bargaining, the faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is headed for a two-day strike on Tuesday, February 18th and Wednesday, February 19th. UIC professors did not want it to come to this, but the trustees' proposals continue to short change both faculty and students. UIC administration continues to hike tuition to the point it has amassed hundreds of millions in profits each year and more than a billion dollars in reserves, yet refuses to pay professors what they're worth. Many members of the faculty who teach first-year students only make $30,000 a year!

Please join us at a number of events organized by UIC faculty to bring attention to their issues.

  • Picketing: 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18 & Wednesday, Feb.19. Warming stations will be available both days.
  • Rally: 10 a.m. ­ 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb 18. Same location as picketing. Speakers will include faculty leaders, students, campus workers and community organizations.
  • Overpass Light Brigade banner: 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday over the Racine/290 overpass. Participants will display LED lights with a message of solidarity for striking faculty to evening commuters.
  • Demonstration: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 18 outside the Battle of the Deans basketball shootout at the UIC Pavilion.

MORE INFORMATION.

Meeting Human Needs?
The Alliance for Community Services is organizing a townhall forum on social services in Illinois. State officials are being invited to hear from, and respond to, consumers, community groups and front-line service workers, about how to save and improve the quality and accessibility of services. Elected officials invited to listen and respond include State Senator Heather Steans, State Representative Kelly Cassidy, and State Representative Greg Harris. The townhall will be on Friday, February 21, 6 PM to 7:30 PM at St. Ita's Church, 1220 W. Catalpa in Chicago. MORE INFORMATION.

Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole
The Illinois Public Interest Research Group has a released a report on how states are reclaiming revenue lost to offshore tax havens:

Every year, corporations use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens -- countries with minimal or no taxes -- in order to reduce their state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. Tax haven abusers benefit from America's markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law -- all supported in one way or another by tax dollars. But they use tax havens to escape supporting these public structures and benefits. Ultimately, ordinary taxpayers end up picking up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes or cuts to public spending priorities.

While much attention is paid to the impact of tax haven abuse on federal revenue, offshore tax havens also reduce state revenue because state tax codes are often tethered to federally defined taxable income. With Congress often gridlocked, states should take action to reduce the impact of offshore tax havens on state budgets.

MORE.

An Anemic Recovery: January Federal Jobs Report
At Democratic Left, Sid Hollander provides CPEG's analysis:

The anemic recovery of the labor market proceeded apace in January, with unemployment ticking down by only a tenth of a point, from 6.7 to 6.6 percent (10.2 million people.)  Job creation sputtered along at little more than half the rate that prevailed in the autumn, with only 113,000 jobs added.  That is only just enough to keep up with population-driven growth in the labor force.

Taken together with the even weaker job-creation performance in December (a mere 75,000 jobs added) it once again raises doubts about the depth and durability of the recovery that started in June 2009.  It is no small irony that the January report, which documents the persistence of historically high (35.8 percent) levels of unemployment lasting over half a year, was released only a day after a Senate filibuster had blocked the approval of extended unemployment insurance payments to the long term unemployed.

MORE.

What's So Great About America?
Bill Ayers has an answer HERE.

We Lose
The UAW lost its campaign to represent workers at Volkwagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. The union received 47% of the vote with 89% of the eligible workers voting.



Democratic Socialism

Co-Determination at Volkswagen?
The attempt by the UAW to gain a presence in the South will have been decided, for this round at least, as this issue of New Ground flies off the server. As covered in New Ground 147.1 and New Ground 150.1, the effort involves an effort to organize a works council along European lines at Volkswagen's Tennessee plant. Because of U.S. labor law, this requires the participation of a recognized union. This has provoked a severe reaction from Tennessee Republicans, as covered in In These Times. Labor Notes has a more union oriented article, with a very good side bar on just what is a works council.


Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.


New Ground #152.3

03.01.2014

Contents

0. DSA News

prePOSTERous
Socialist Reading Group
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Crisis in Serving Illinois
The March Primary
Illinois' 1%
Pay More, Get More
Drop the Charges

2. Democratic Socialism

America the Beautiful

3. Upcoming Events of Interest



DSA News

prePOSTERous
We're hoping to raise at least a month's rent, and to make it all a bit more interesting, we're offering these posters in exchange. Some of these, if they were in perfect conditions, would be very "collectible"; you will find them listed in museum catalogs and historical archives, for example. These are not in perfect condition. Most have spent some time decorating the Chicago DSA office walls. But the illustrating photos were not always taken with correct illumination so some are in better shape than they appear. If you really are a collector in the Chicago area, feel free to come by the office to look over the items you're interested in, but email or call first: 773.384.0327.

Here's how we're working it: inelegant, quick and dirty: CLICK HERE.

Socialist Reading Group
is meeting in the conference room at 3411 W. Diversey Ave, Chicago, at 2 PM on Saturday, March 8. The reading for this month: "Socialisms" by Michael Harrington (PDF, 15.3 Mbytes). For more information, contact Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569.

DSA in the News
The Young Democratic Socialists chapter at Temple University was the subject of a feature in The Temple News. Cecily McMillan's upcoming trial was the occasion for The Washington Square News' mention of DSA. And DSA's endorsement of a mayoral candidate in the Washington, DC, municipal elections gathered a mention in the Washington City Paper.



Politics

Crisis in Serving Illinois
At Progress Illinois, Ellen Fortino writes:

The health and human services system in Illinois is in "crisis," according to Chicago-area residents who pressed state lawmakers at a public forum Friday night to address problems facing social safety net programs.

At the forum held at St. Ita's Church in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood, residents provided personal testimony on a number of issues, including understaffed Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) offices and inadequate wages paid to frontline service workers, to name a few.

A coalition of labor and community groups hosted the event, including Alliance for the Community Services, AFSCME Local 2858, IMPRUVE, Northside Action For Justice and SEIU Local 73.

MORE.

The March Primary
in Illinois will be held on March 18 and early voting begins on March 3. Chicago DSA has not made any endorsements in this election. Some see this as a bug, others as a feature. But Chicago DSA is a member of Citizen Action/Illinois, and they have made some endorsements for this election. For Your Information, those endorsements can be found HERE.

Illinois' 1%
The Economic Policy Institute released a study that examines income inequality in each of the 50 states. More than just the usual PDF, the EPI also included an interactive feature that makes easy a comparison with national statistics and with other states. Illinois' 1% have done very well, incidentally, but the numbers beg for further investigation. The report begins:

While there are plentiful data examining the fortunes of the top 1 percent at the national level, this report examines how the top 1 percent in each state have fared over 1917­2011, with an emphasis on trends over 1928­2011 (data for additional percentiles spanning 1917­2011 are available at go.epi.org/top-incomes). In so doing, this analysis finds that all 50 states have experienced widening income inequality in recent decades.

MORE.

For an interactive exercise in equality and fairness, CLICK HERE.

Pay More, Get More
At Dollars & Sense, Polly Cleveland writes:

Back when I first studied economics, we "proved" in class that a minimum wage causes unemployment. You just draw supply and demand curves for labor, add a horizontal line for a wage above the "market clearing" competitive equilibrium wage, and-bingo!-a gap appears between labor supply and labor demand. Q.E.D.

I took this orthodoxy on faith until 1992.That's when David Card and Alan Krueger's famous paper "Minimum Wages and Employment" appeared, comparing unemployment among fast food workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before and after New Jersey raised the minimum wage. Card and Krueger found no effect. None. Zip. At first I shared the economics profession's incredulity. The research was sloppy. The sample was too small. The researchers' liberal bias skewed the results. Why even waste time testing something obvious? But then more studies came out, some also showing no effect, and some showing a small positive effect.

MORE.

Drop the Charges
Cecily McMillan ("DSA in the News" New Ground 141.1) was sexually assaulted, beaten unconscious and into seizures by NY Police, but the city is charging her with felony assault over the incident. Her hearing is scheduled for March 3. Sign and share this petition telling the New York District Attorney to drop the charges: CLICK HERE.



Democratic Socialism

America the Beautiful
Conservatives have been freaking out over Coca Cola's multilingual version of "America the Beautiful", but at Talking Points Memo, Peter Dreier notes:

Had these conservative commentators known the origins of "America the Beautiful," they might have been doubly outraged, accusing Coca Cola of promoting the so-called "homosexual agenda." Because, had they bothered to look up the facts (not a strong point among reactionaries), they would have learned that "America the Beautiful" was written by -- dare we say this in public? -- a lesbian!

Yes, indeed. The author of this iconic anthem of American patriotism was Katharine Lee Bates. In a brilliant lampoon of the bigots' backlash against the Coke commercial, Stephen Colbert pointed out that Bates was a lesbian. He could also have added that she was also a Christian socialist and an ardent foe of American imperialism.

MORE.


Upcoming Events of Interest

Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.


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