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#154

May -- June, 2014 

Contents

  • Educating a Vote on the TPP by Tom Broderick
  • The FAQs of Student Debt
  • Nothing Is Certain but Death and Taxes by Bill Barclay
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • CDSA Membership Convention
    Debs Dinner
    Settled!

  • On the Firing of Dr. Anthony Monteiro -- DSA National Political Committee
  • Upcoming Events of Interest
  • New Ground 154.1 -- 05.12.2014

    0. DSA News

    It's Not Too Late
    DSA in the News
    Justice Denied for Cecily McMillan

    1. Politics

    Rock n Roll!!!
    Commentary on the April, 2014, BLS Jobs Report

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Platypus Society

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 154.2 -- 05.30.2014

    0. DSA News

    A Day in Our Village
    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner
    Talkin' Socialism
    DSA in the News
    An Introduction to Gramsci
    Socialist Salon
    Membership Convention
    Membership

    1. Politics

    Financial Transaction Tax Moves Ahead -- in Europe and Chicago by Bill Barclay
    TPP: Bad for Global Health
    Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy
    Pro-Choice Action
    Chicago City Council
    Fight for 15
    How Chicago Became Safe?

    2. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 154.3 -- 06.16.2014

    0. DSA News

    Food! Politics!
    New National Youth Organizer
    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    The High Cost of Doing Nothing
    The May Job Report

    2. People

    Edna Pardo
    Les Orear
    Marvin Mirsky

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 154.4 -- 07.01.2014

    0. DSA News

    Fast Track Protest
    Disability and Protest
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    The Living Wage Is a Fight for Life by Bob Simpson
    Why Can't College Be Free?

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Coop Conference Meets in Chicago
    Stay Classy

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

     


    Educating a Vote on the TPP

    by Tom Broderick

    Chicago DSA is a member of the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition (IFTC ). For the past several months we worked to convince Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois to take a position against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). More immediately we urged them to oppose Fast Track legislation, also known as Trade Promotion Authority.

    Eight of twelve Illinois Democratic Representatives signed a letter introduced by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT) and George Miller (CA) opposing Fast Track. This letter got more than 150 Democratic signatures, including the eight from Illinois: Cheri Bustos, Danny Davis, William Enyart, Luis Gutierrez, Robin Kelly, Daniel Lipinski, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky.

    In addition, Republican Rep. Walter Jones (NC) wrote a similar letter that was co-signed by 21 additional Republican Representatives, though none from Illinois. Both letters were sent to President Barack Obama. Subsequently the TPP went into hibernation although Fast Track promoters indicated they will rework the language to make it more palatable to fellow Representatives.

    To maintain opposition to the TPP, Bruce Samuels, a member of the Greater Oak Park chapter of Chicago DSA (GOPDSA) suggested placing an advisory referendum on the November, 2014 ballot opposing the TPP. We wrote the referendum, ran it by the Oak Park Township Clerk and then gathered the necessary signatures. After the signatures were submitted, there was concern voiced by the Township about the length of the referendum, but the details were worked out.

    On April 8th, the Village Township held a meeting to vote on submitted referenda. By my count, more than 80 people came to the meeting. A simple majority of Oak Park registered voters attending the meeting were required to pass any referendum. There were two advisory referenda submitted by members of the public.

    The first called for the Federal Government to conduct universal criminal and mental health background checks for all sales, trades and transfers of firearms. Sandra Shimon, co-chair of GOPDSA was involved with promoting this referendum. It passed unanimously.

    GOPDSA's referendum, that some described as a novella, called for the Village Board of Oak Park to declare Oak Park a TPP-Free Zone. This referendum did not pass unanimously. One of those who spoke against it said that the referendum was a waste of time because Oak Park couldn't influence an international trade deal. Bill Barclay, co-chair of Chicago DSA, spoke in support, saying that the referendum would allow the voters of Oak Park to make a public statement on the issue. After some back and forth commentary, the referendum passed by voice vote. One of the opponents then called for a show of hands and it passed again.

    Between now and the election, we will engage in educational outreach. We plan to generate letters the local newspaper, the Wednesday Journal. The GOPDSA will also have a tent at Oak Park's Day In Our Village (Sunday, June 1), where we will have information on the TPP as well as the Robin Hood Tax, aka the Financial Transaction Tax.

    This outreach is important. Even though many people have some knowledge of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the TPP is called NAFTA on steroids. It has been negotiated in secret among twelve nations around the Pacific rim. From the U.S. side, there are approximately 600 "trade advisors" who have access to crafting the agreement. A large majority of these advisors represent multi-national corporations.

    Our elected officials are granted limited access to the document and are not allowed to discuss what they read with anyone else: Not their staff, their constituency, or even other Representatives. Can there be any doubt that the beneficiaries will be those who crafted the agreement on behalf of the transnational corporations? Can there be any doubt that as the public gains access to this agreement and gets time to consider the implications and provide feedback, this package will fail?

    If you'd like to help with letter writing or with staffing our tent at Day In Our Village, I can be reached at tbroderick@chicagodsa.org.


    The FAQs of Student Debt

    Why is student debt a problem? Can't students just work their way through school?

    The average student now leaves college with more than $25,000 in debt and enters a labor market where jobs are scarce and the average annual earnings of workers ages 25 to 34 with Bachelors degrees have fallen by 15% since 1990. Heavily indebted students must put off purchasing homes, starting families and opening new businesses in order to pay off student loans. This means student debt not only stops graduates from pursuing their life goals, but it also depresses the economy and thus keeps unemployed people out of badly needed jobs!

     

    What caused the explosion in student indebtedness?

    Long-term disinvestment in public higher education has placed the burden of funding college education on students and their families. Since 1980, state governments have cut their funding of higher education by forty per cent in real terms. Because household incomes have stagnated over the past two decades, students and their families have turned to student loans to cover the costs of higher education. Since 1990 these costs have skyrocketed, with tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities rising by 112.5 percent.

     

    What happens if I default on my student debt?

    Defaulting on student debt can have devastating financial consequences that last for decades. Student debt cannot be discharged through the standard bankruptcy process like most other forms of personal debt. Thus, student debt stays with you for life and even with your estate after you die! To collect on a defaulted student loan, private lenders and the federal government rely on a variety on invasive measures: wage garnishment (up to 15% of disposable pay), the interception of tax refunds, and withholding of future Social Security payments. Fear of default and draconian collection tactics forces many of the 37 million Americans with student debt to take low wage jobs to start immediately making payments. Crushing student debt combined with low-wage jobs means indebted students have little disposable income to spend, further depressing the economy.

     

    What can we do about it?

    Demand free higher education for all. College tuition is free in most other industrialized countries and there is no reason U.S. students should be subjected to years of crushing debt for a college degree. We need a social movement that can stand up to the powerful corporate interests who reap huge profits from the current system. Total annual public college and university tuition comes to $80 billion a year; our "defense" budget is $800 billion. This movement must demand meaningful but realistic policy reform that puts us on the course toward universal free higher education. President Obama's Income Based Repayment Plan allows some students to discharge federally guaranteed debt incurred since 2007 by paying 10% of their discretionary income for 20 years. This is not good enough. Democratic Socialists of America's Drop Debt! Campaign demands an additional presidential executive order that:

    • Expands the program to all student debtors,
    • Allows student loans to be repaid at an annual rate of 10% of discretionary income over a maximum 10 years,
    • Expands the program to cover all public and private loans.

    To learn more about getting involved in the Drop Student Debt campaign , email Liz Henderson at elizabeth.t.henderson@gmail.com.


    Nothing Is Certain Except Death and Taxes

    and maybe not taxes, at least for some.

    by Bill Barclay

    "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the feller behind the tree."
    Senator Russell Long

    "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."
    Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

    Taxation is an emotional issue in U.S. politics and, like most such issues, there is a large amount of myth that defines the discourse. Our myths begin with our beliefs about the Boston Tea Party, the symbolic interpretation of which underlies much of the current politics and rhetoric of the Tea Party today. Contrary to popular belief -- and probably contrary to what you were taught in school -- the Boston Tea Party was not about an increase in taxes. It was actually triggered by a reduction in taxes that favored the East India Company, a chartered British monopoly; the protesters were unhappy that it was the British parliament who made the decision to reduce taxes. No word on whether any of the protesters were also among those who probably suffered the most from this tax break: smugglers bringing in untaxed tea from Holland.

    Of course, our tax myths don't stop with events of 1773. One of the most persistent myths is the claim that the U.S. is a high tax country, another meme of the Tea Party movement. In reality the U.S. tax system collects only 70% of the OECD average share of GDP raised by taxes. Then there is the takers / makers myth, that people in states such as Alaska, Mississippi, Texas, etc. are less dependent on government than those in states such as New York, Illinois, California, etc. The reality is the direct opposite: The givers from the so-called blue states actually subsidize the red states. Most of the latter receive more back from the federal revenue system than their resident pay in taxes.

    Overall, however, most of us in the U.S. probably have an attitude towards taxes that more closely resembles Senator Long than Justice Holmes. And elected officials almost always act as if they believe Long's dictum rather than Holmes' argument. Despite this, the level of compliance among U.S. taxpayers is relatively high, although not as high as in several West European countries.

    What may be more surprising is that, compared to many West European countries, the U.S. tax system is relatively progressive. This is mostly the result of the federal, and some states, income tax. Outside of the income tax, the U.S. system has some significant regressive features that may account, in part, for the prevailing tax beliefs.

    It may also be that case that taxes are more resented in the U.S. because the level of post-tax reduction of inequality is the lowest among wealthy countries so many feel, correctly, that they are not getting much for their taxes. Along with collecting a smaller portion of total GDP via taxes than almost all other wealthy countries, we do very little with that revenue to counter the higher than average level of inequality generated by U.S. labor and capital markets.

    Despite the modest progressivity of the federal income tax, there are two extremely regressive features of our tax system. First, sales taxes, because they are flat, are regressive in impact. This is because all goods and services subject to sales taxes are taxed at the same rate; I don't pay a higher tax rate if I buy a Ferrari than you do when you buy a VW. Since lower income households spend a larger share of their income on current consumption, they face the flat sales tax on a higher portion of their income than richer households, thus ending up with a higher overall tax rate.

    A second, less discussed regressive feature of the U.S. tax system is the class bias in tax rates: income from labor (wage and salary) income, is taxed at higher rate than income from capital, (dividends and capital gains). The top 0.1% (not even the top 1%) receive over half of all capital gains. For the 400 highest income filers, capital gains constitute over 60% of total income. For assets held longer than 6 months, capital gains are taxed at the rate of 20% (15% from 2003 - 2012), below the marginal income tax rate for an individual earning $36,900 or a jointly filing married couple with an income of $73,800. It was not always this way. In 1978 the rate on capital income was 35%; it was reduced in the last days of the Carter administration to 28% and further reduced under both Bush administrations.

    The U.S. individual income tax system differs from that in other wealthy countries in other ways as well. Germany, France, the UK, Australia, Japan, Austria and several other countries have higher top marginal rates than in the U.S. More significantly, and important in terms of revenue raised, the top marginal rate in most other wealthy countries is imposed on incomes that are 2 to 4 times the average for the country. In the U.S. the (low by comparison) top rate is not imposed until the income received is almost 8.5 times the average.

    And then, of course, there is the corporate income tax. Throughout the 1950s, the tax on corporate profits raised over 20% of the total federal budget; today corporations contribute only half that share. Although CEOs regularly bemoan the U.S. high statutory corporate income tax, they ignore the effective corporate tax rate of less than 15%. Again the comparison with other wealthy countries is significant: As a share of total GDP, our corporate tax revenue is only a little over 80% of the OECD average.

    More strikingly, however, there were 57 profitable corporations among the S&P 500 who reported an "effective" federal income tax rate of 0 in 2013. These include GE, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell, Verizon, Merck, Boeing, Alcoa, UPS, R.R. Donnelly and Time Warner. But the corporate income tax scandal doesn't end there. Several of these same, very profitable companies not only paid no federal income tax, they actually received money from the federal treasury: Time Warner, Bank of America, Boeing, Merck, Honeywell, Verizon, and Goldman Sachs.

    Who do you suppose pays the federal income tax money that flows into one door of the U.S. Treasury and out another?

    So, overall we have a tax system that (i) is relatively progressive but (ii) raises a relatively small amount of revenue that (iii) is not significantly redistributive in impact while (iv) favoring unearned over earned income and (v) transfers money from most of us into the hands of corporate "persons." Is this the kind of tax system we really want?

    Editor's Note: a version of this appeared earlier at Democratic Left .


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    CDSA Membership Convention

    The annual Chicago DSA membership convention will be held Saturday, June 14. The second Saturday is the usual date for our monthly meeting, but the June meeting is a "membership convention" because that's what the CDSA constitution calls it and, after all, we will be electing a female co-chair, treasurer, and political education director, all for two year terms, terms starting July 1. A budget for the coming fiscal year and at least some consideration of priorities should also distinguish the agenda.

    Being an officer of CDSA is mostly what you make of it, the major exception being the post of treasurer as it involves bookkeeping and data entry at a minimum and more if you're willing. Peg Strobel has indicated she is willing to run for reelection as treasurer. The co-chair and political education positions are pretty much what you make of them though, at a minimum, they imply an ongoing involvement with the local's projects. And there's more if you're willing. If you'd like to run for any of these offices, feel free to call Bill Barclay at 708.386.1371 or the CDSA office at 773.384.0327 for more information.

    The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM in the CDSA office, 3411 W. Diversey, Suite 7, with the recording of a half hour episode of Talkin' Socialism. Arrive prior to 11:30 AM if you wish to sit in on the recording. Business usually begins at 12:15 PM, but we'll firm up the schedule and the agenda later in May. The socialist reading group meets at 2 PM in the 3411 conference room that same day.

    Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner

    Debs Dinner

    The 56th annual Debs ­ Thomas ­ Harrington Dinner is coming up fast: Friday, May 16! We've included the flyers, cover letter, and reply envelope as a reminder. Please join us in honoring the work and contributions that Larry Spivack and Robin Potter have made to the movement. Your support for their efforts helps build the movement. We're also proud to have a distinguished, passionate, knowledgeable speaker, Leone Jose Bicchieri. (See Episode 18 of Talkin' Socialism at chicagodsa.org.) How could you miss this? Don't miss this!

    And for those of you already participating: Gramercy, indeed!

    Settled!

    The University of Illinois at Chicago has reached an agreement with United Faculty Local 6456 and with SEIU Local 73. Both locals had been engaged in unnecessarily prolonged negotiations with management and Local 6456 called a two day demonstration strike as a warning. See New Ground 153 for more details. Local 73, representing employees who maintain the institution had also passed a strike vote.


    On the Firing of Dr. Anthony Monteiro

    -- DSA National Political Committee

    Democratic Socialists of America supports the reinstatement with tenure of Dr. Anthony Monteiro as a full-time faculty member in the Department of African-American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Monteiro, who has taught in the department for the past twelve years as a non-tenure track Associate Professor, recently did not have his contract renewed for the academic year 2014-2015.

    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 #154.1

    05.12.2014

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    It's Not Too Late
    DSA in the News
    Justice Denied for Cecily McMillan

    1. Politics

    Rock n Roll!!!
    Commentary on the April, 2014, BLS Jobs Report

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Platypus Society

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    It's Not Too Late
    Yes, yes: That line is so over-used. But in fact, it's not too late to order tickets to this year's Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner, especially if you do it online. Please join us in honoring the work of labor activist and educator Larry Spivack and radical lawyer Robin Potter on Friday evening, May 16. Our featured speaker is Leone Jose Bicchieri. For more information or to order tickets, CLICK HERE.

    Or call us at 773.384.0327.

    Your contribution makes this newsletter possible; your participation honors the work of these fine activists.

    DSA in the News
    The Baraboo News Republic published an op-ed of minor league ideological sniping at local Democrats that mentioned DSA in passing (Obama = progressive = socialist), provoking a minor flame war in the comments section.

    The trial of Cecily McMillan stimulated some coverage in the press. Here are some of the articles that mentioned DSA. The online magazine Souciant had a piece by Ari Paul. An article by Chris Hedges in Truthdig mentioned YDS. McMillan testified at her trial, and this was covered by the Courthouse News Service. The Guardian also covered her testimony. When the verdict came down, it was covered in The Latin Post. The news service Reuters also carried a report that was picked up by the Chicago Tribune, among other papers.

    Tim Carpenter, the national director of Progressive Democrats of America, died last month. As Carpenter had gotten his start in politics with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (a predecessor organization to DSA) and was friends with the late Michael Harrington, John Nichols' essay in The Nation and Cole Stangler's article in In These Times mentioned DSA.

    May Day was also an occasion for DSA to appear in the media. The Examiner web sites posted articles mentioning DSA's participation in May Day celebrations in Columbus, Ohio and Wichita, Kansas. May Day was also the hook on which to hang an op-ed about DSA's Drop Student Debt campaign in Ithaca College's The Ithacan.

    The Swanee Purple at University of the South covered a week-long event, "Breaking the Silence", about issues around gender identity and mentioned the local YDS chapter's contribution the program.

    As part of its ongoing coverage of student activism, The Nation had a brief item about the Temple Democratic Socialists' Anthony Monteiro campaign.

    William Paterson University YDS activist Tara Felton was profiled in Her Campus.

    The Philadelphia Daily News mentioned DSA as part of a coalition that organized a march demanding a $15 / hr minimum wage.

    The Athens Banner-Herald (Georgia) mentioned DSA as part of the 36th annual Human Rights Festival in Athens.

    The Washington Examiner ran an item on the UAW's future plans Volkswagen in Chattanooga, citing DSA as their source. Yes, union = socialist.

    When Wendy Davis, the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of Texas, appeared at Representative Jan Schakowsky's annual Women's Power Lunch recently, Fox News Austin claimed Davis had "headlined a fundraiser" for Schakowsky, who "is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America", etc. This largely echoed a press release by Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. Politifact Texas (based at the Austin American-Statesman) rated Abbott's claim as a "pants on fire" lie.

    Justice Denied for Cecily McMillan
    At Democratic Left:

    Despite clear evidence that the police initiated the altercation that led to Cecily's arrest and used excessive and unrestrained force against both Cecily and other Occupy protestors, Cecily now faces a possible two-to-seven year prison term.  DSA condemns the biased behavior of Judge Ronald Zweibel, who refused to admit evidence that the officer in question had been charged with excessive use of force in other police matters. This irresponsible action, combined with the extraordinarily harsh charges brought against Cecily by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., reveals the extent to which government authorities desired to secure their first conviction against a peaceful Occupy protestor and justify the millions of dollars of public funds spent on this case and on policing Occupy.  This was clearly a political trial.

    MORE.

    For additional information, plus stuff even a "clicktavist" can do, CLICK HERE.



    Politics

    Rock n Roll!!!
    From the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago:

    On May 15, Chicago will host the largest strike to date in protest of poverty wages, wage theft and lack of dignity in the workplace, in solidarity with 150 other cities in 6 continents!

    MORE.

    Commentary on the April, 2014, BLS Jobs Report
    At the Chicago Political Economy Group:

    Ok, 50 straight months of job growth in the private sector -- almost unprecedented -- and we're roughly back to where we were in late 2007, just before the official beginning of the "Great Recession." The top line number for the report on April job creation was 288,000 new jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 6.3%. In many economic recoveries in the post-WWII years, this would be good news and worth celebrating. But the Long Depression that began in 2007 is far from over, and I don't mean just that the number of long term unemployed remains higher than in any other post-recession period or that the labor force participation rate is lower than at any time since the early 1980s, both of which are true. I mean the underlying problem, that the US economy is a failure in achieving the core goal of any modern economy: generating living wage jobs for all willing and able to work.

    MORE.



    Democratic Socialism

    The Platypus Society
    In New Ground 153.1, we mentioned that DSA members were making a contribution to the 6th annual international convention of the Platypus Society, held here in Chicago early in April. The folks at Platypus have posted transcripts and recordings of these presentations:

  • In which DSA's Bill Barclay, along with Lenny Brody and Leon Fink, discuss the politics of work: CLICK HERE.
  • In which Bill Barclay and Joe Schwartz discuss "DSA's" perspective on the left: CLICK HERE.
  • In which DSA's William Pelz, along with James Heartfield and Jon Bekken, discuss the 1st International: CLICK HERE.

  • 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 #154.2

    05.30.2014

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    A Day in Our Village
    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner
    Talkin' Socialism
    DSA in the News
    An Introduction to Gramsci
    Socialist Salon
    Membership Convention
    Membership

    1. Politics

    Financial Transaction Tax Moves Ahead -- in Europe and Chicago by Bill Barclay
    TPP: Bad for Global Health
    Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy
    Pro-Choice Action
    Chicago City Council
    Fight for 15
    How Chicago Became Safe?

    2. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    A Day in Our Village
    For over 40 years, Oak Park has been holding a village fair that features more than just music, more than just a "taste" of the village, but a venue where all local businesses, political organizations, religions, etc., can set up informational booths. This year, it will be held on Sunday, June 1, in Scoville Park at Lake St and Oak Park Ave in Oak Park from 11 AM to 6 PM.

    Greater Oak Park DSA will be there, so stop by our table and say hello. We'll be distributing literature about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the "Robin Hood Tax". If you'd like to help, call Tom at 708-386-6007 or Bill at 708-386-1371.

    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner
    It was great. You should have been there. Our honorees, Robin Potter and Larry Spivack, were loquacious but not tedious. Leone Bicchieri was brilliant. The room was chilly. But whether you were there or not, you will find photos (courtesy John Scott) of the event
    HERE.

    Talkin' Socialism
    Episode 39
    -- Pope Francis: Poverty and Social Justice
    Recorded May 10, 2014. With the new Pope Francis, how has this changed the conversation about poverty and social justice? What has changed in the Catholic Church, and what has stayed the same? Our guests for this program are Sisters Kathleen Desautels and Dorothy Pagosa from the 8th Day Center for Justice. Sandra Shimon does the interview.

    Listen or (right click) Download: MP3 (38.5 MB) or OGG VORBIS (44.5 MB) (42:00)

    Talkin' Socialism once again has an RSS feed. You should be able to subscribe through a variety of programs, including iTunes, if that's on your machine. We still need to submit the feed to aggregators, including doing the housekeeping needed to reconnect with Apple's iTunes store, but we'll get to that. Let us know if you run into any problems.

    DSA in the News
    The Cecily McMillan affair continues to generate most of the mentions of DSA at present. The Progressive, The Village Voice, the New School Free Press, Mother Jones, the New Yorker, and Z Magazine were among the media that covered one or another aspect of McMillan's trial and mentioned DSA, sometimes in passing and sometimes as a part of the story.

    Chicago DSA, incidentally, just sent McMillan a $100 contribution. For more information about the latest developments, CLICK HERE.

    Saint Louis University High School student newspaper, the Prep News, recently did a feature on one of its less recognized alumni, Michael Harrington. The article is posted on the web as HTML and as a very large PDF. The article contains material from the Chicago DSA web site. The PDF version contains an additional sidebar about a 1995 controversey at SLUHS involving Prep News and Michael Harrington.

    An Introduction to Gramsci
    We wish we could introduce the two of you, but Antonio Gramsci has been dead for many decades now, 1937 in fact. He was an Italian Marxist theoretician and politician whose writings are still influencial on the left, including among members of the New American Movement, a predecessor organization to DSA. Gramsci will be the topic for discussion by the Chicago DSA Reading Group on Saturday, June 14, 2 PM, when the group meets in the Conference Room at 3411 W. Diversey in Chicago. The readings for this session are:

    For more information, contact Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569.

    Socialist Salon
    Greater Oak Park DSA's bimonthly salon will, on June 17, be considering Rosa Luxemburg, a documentary followed by discussion. It'll be at 7 PM at Jan & Nurtan's, 834 N. Ridgeland in Oak Park. All DSA members are welcome. For more information,
    CLICK HERE.

    Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA's next monthly meeting on Saturday, June 14, will be our annual membership convention. Among other agenda items, we'll be electing a female co-chair, treasurer, and political education director, all for a 2 year term.

    The meeting will begin with recording Episode 40 of Talkin' Socialism. This half hour episode will focus on disability rights and will feature Tom Wilson and Rene David Luna. This will be at 11:30 AM in the Chicago DSA office at 3411 W. Diversey, Suite 7 in Chicago. Please arrive prior to 11:30 AM if you want to sit in; we like to have a live audience.

    The meeting proper begins at about 12:15 PM, either in the CDSA office or (depending on turnout) the Conference Room. For more information, email or call 773.384.0327.

    Membership
    And speaking of membership, are you a DSA member? You should be. It doesn't matter so much to Chicago DSA; your engagement and interest is probably more significant. But DSA membership makes it that much easier for our national staff to focus on what's really important: politics rather than fundraising. You can join on line
    HERE.



    Politics

    Financial Transaction Tax Moves Ahead -- in Europe and Chicago.
    by Bill Barclay
    The financial transaction tax (FTT, aka "Robin Hood Tax" -- and now "The LaSalle Street Tax") is making waves on two continents.

    In Europe there has long been a strong popular movement for the tax. Although it was agreed upon by several members of the EU quite some time ago, a challenge by the UK slowed progress. However, in late April the European Court dismissed the UK's case. A week later, 10 countries announced plans to proceed with the tax (others are able to join if they choose to do so). Implementation will occur in late 2015 or early 2016, probably beginning with stocks and stock derivatives.

    Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has taken up the cause under the label "LaSalle Street Tax." CTU is urging the tax as an alternative to Emanuel's very unpopular proposal to increase property taxes. And, here's the truly exciting news: although the CTU has raised the issue only in the past several weeks, a recent Sun Times poll now shows it tied for top spot support among Chicago residents with the idea of a commuter tax. Both got a 25% support level. Rahm's property tax proposal was last with a 1% support level.

    Gandhi once said "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you -- and then you win. FTT is on the way.

    TPP: Bad for Global Health
    At the Wednesday Journal, David Holmquist writes:

    One potential threat posed by the TPP, not often discussed, is in the area of public health and the provision of health care services. Those of us who are concerned with social justice, in the U.S. and across the globe, have been shocked to see the aggressive stance taken by American negotiators with respect to the intellectual property chapter of TPP. This chapter would govern the patent rights of drug and medical device manufacturers, and seeks to both broaden and lengthen patent protections. 

    Such a move would raise the cost of drugs and treatments worldwide. It would pose a grave threat to global public health, particularly in its effects on the control of communicable disease, already compromised by the inability to provide treatment in the world's many conflict zones.

    MORE.

    Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy
    The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) has published a useful booklet outlining the threat posed by the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, with special attention to the ways in which the treaties limit the ability of national and local governments to regulate trade, investment, and property rights, including through investor-to-state dispute settlement provisions.

    As Ron Oswald, the IUF General Secretary, explains it:

    This publication builds on the past work of the IUF and the efforts of many activists in explaining the nature of these threats and why the labour movement must commit to defeating these treaties as an urgent political priority. We would also hope to stimulate discussion on how we might move beyond these defensive struggles to begin putting in place a system of global rules to effectively enforce respect for human rights over the private claims of investors.

    To download CLICK HERE. (PDF, 1.13 Mbytes)

    Pro-Choice Action
    The Illinois Choice Action Team will be canvassing for pro-choice legislation at the Dyke March and doing a condom give-away at the Pride march. This is the 10th year they've been doing this. For more information, CLICK HERE.

    Chicago City Council
    The May 28th meeting of the Chicago City Council was probably one of the more substantive meetings this year in terms of issues important to the 99%. Progress Illinois has a good summary account.

    .

    Fight for 15
    Also from Progress Illinois:

    One day before the annual McDonald's shareholder meeting took place in Oak Brook Thursday, hundreds of minimum wage workers and their supporters descended upon the fast food company's corporate headquarters to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

    After protesters entered the McDonald's campus at Jorie Boulevard and Kroc Drive and staged a sit-in, 138 demonstrators were arrested and charged with an ordinance violation of criminal trespass to property, according to the Oak Brook Police Department.

    MORE.

     

    And at The Bobboshere, Bob Simpson writes:

    It was a chilly drizzly, 5:30 am in Chicago as a handful of WOCC (Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago) activists loaded batteries into bullhorns, sorted out picket signs and made sure the now familiar Fight for $15 red plastic rain ponchos were ready. WOCC is the organization for the Fight for $15 movement in Chicago. They were preparing for the planned 6 am rally at the Rock and Roll McDonalds, the city's flagship store.

    It was May 15, 2014, the day of a global strike and protest against the McDonalds Corporation for its selectively applied exploitative labor policies. In countries with strong unions and a high level of working class solidarity, a job at McDonalds means reasonably decent wages and benefits. But not everywhere. And definitely not here in the USA.

    MORE.

    How Chicago Became Safe?
    At Chicago Magazine:

    To get to the bottom of the numbers, Chicago studied police reports and court documents, examined the department's internal and publicly available crime data, and interviewed more than 70 crime victims, neighborhood activists, criminologists, and former and current police sources. (Officers agreed to speak only if their names were withheld, some citing fears of retaliation.) We also reviewed a recently released audit by the city's office of the inspector general that found the police department failed to report nearly a quarter of aggravated assaults and aggravated batteries in 2012, based on the cases surveyed.

    Together, this information shows what Smith, Gottesman, and countless Chicagoans have been saying all along: The city's crime numbers seem too good to be true. One former lieutenant has a name for the system: the washing machine. "They wash and rinse the numbers," the lieutenant says.

    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 #154.3

    06.16.2014

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Food! Politics!
    New National Youth Organizer
    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    The High Cost of Doing Nothing
    The May Job Report

    2. People

    Edna Pardo
    Les Orear
    Marvin Mirsky

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Food! Politics!
    You are invited to an informal brunch to meet three young DSA members and hear about their work and the activities of their chapters. Jared Abbott (Philadelphia) chairs DSA's Strategy Committee, which is responsible for a DSA-wide discussion and analysis of our current strategy paper. Liz Henderson (also Philadelphia) chairs our Drop Student Debt Campaign. Sean Monahan is a former Young Democratic Socialists organizer and a founder of the current Providence, RI, chapter.

    Sunday, June  29, Noon to 2 PM
    150 N. Lombard Ave
    Oak Park, IL 60304

    Potluck brunch -- bring food or drink and friends!
    Please RSVP by email (peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net) or phone (708.386.1371).

    New National Youth Organizer
    DSA has hired a new youth organizer, Betsy Avila. She introduces herself HERE.

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    There will be more on this in subsequent issues of New Ground, but there were a number of interesting developments at our annual membership convention on Saturday. Among them, we have a new political education director, Dan Hamilton. Hamilton had already been presiding at our monthly reading group. Another is that Chicago DSA has endorsed Jorge Mujica for Alderman of the 25th Ward in the 2015 municipal elections.

    DSA in the News
    The tail end of the Cecily McMillan buzz brought this mention of DSA in Lawrence University's The Lawrentian. McMillan is incarcerated at Rikers Island, but her release date will likely be July 2nd. They're planning a party for the 4th.



    Politics

    The High Cost of Doing Nothing
    The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, at its annual Fiscal Symposium, released a Fact Sheet that documents the consequences of the Illinois legislature's failure to act on tax justice. It begins:

    Because the Illinois legislature failed to act during the spring legislative session, both of the temporary state income tax increases that became law under the Taxpayer Accountability and Budget Stabilization Act of 2011 (TABSA)1 will begin to phase down halfway through Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, which begins on July 1, 2014. Under TABSA, the personal income tax rate will decline from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, and the corporate income tax rate will drop from 7 percent to 5.25 percent beginning on January 1, 2015.

    Many proponents of belt tightening maintain that the loss of revenue this will cause will not seriously threaten the state's capacity to provide core services. The data, however, say something quite different. Indeed, as illustrated in the following analysis of the FY2015 General Fund budget, in this case there is a very high cost of doing nothing.

    MORE.

    The May Job Report
    At the Chicago Political Economy Group, Sharon Post writes:

    The month of May saw job growth of 217,000 in the U.S. but no change in the number of people who are unemployed. Perhaps buoyed by the news of job growth, 218,000 unemployed people who had abandoned the search for work re-entered the labor force in May. But what awaits those hopeful job-seekers?

    Although we've had several months of relatively positive jobs reports, the pace of job growth has been too slow to employ the nearly 10 million officially unemployed workers in any reasonable amount of time. The number workers without jobs for 27 weeks or more did not change in May and still accounts for 35% of the total unemployed. Nor has the labor force participation rate budged past the historically low levels that have defined the Great Recession and its long, dreary 'recovery.' Prospects for working people are still grim, especially in the 24 states that have callously refused to expand Medicaid even as their residents struggle to get by.

    MORE.


    People

    Edna Pardo
    Somewhat belated, because we weren't paying attention, but Edna Pardo: 1921 -- 2014. See the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader.

    Les Orear
    Les Orear, president emeritus of the Illinois Labor History Society: 1911 -- 2014. See the Chicago Tribune, Fox Valley Labor News, and Minewars.org.

    Marvin Mirsky
    Marvin Mirsky, 1923 -- 2014: See the Chicago Tribune.


    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 #154.4

    07.01.2014

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Fast Track Protest
    Disability and Protest
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    The Living Wage Is a Fight for Life by Bob Simpson
    Why Can't College Be Free?

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Coop Conference Meets in Chicago
    Stay Classy

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Fast Track Protest
    Illinois Blue Dog Democrat Bill Foster came to Oak Park for a fundraiser. He's one of 4 Illinois representatives that have not signed a pledge to oppose Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So, on a fine morning on June 22, GOPDSA organized a demonstration including folks from Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, Progressive Democrats of America to welcome him. A delegation met with Foster, who still declines to oppose Fast Track, citing the tired excuse of jobs.

    Disability and Poverty
    Talkin' Socialism -- Episode 40 -- Recorded June 14, 2014. Disability rights activists Tom Wilson, Rene David Luna, and Susan Aarup explore the relation between disability and poverty. They touch on the issues of independent living, poverty programs that place barriers to employment, discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act, sub-minimum wages, and more.

    Listen or (right click) Download: MP3 (31.1 MB) or OGG VORBIS (23.8 MB) (33:58)

    DSA in the News
    DSA was mentioned in passing by the Sacramento Bee among the groups contemplating a lawsuit against a publicly subsidized sports stadium. The Augusta Chronicle editorial staff went off the deep end in an editorial ranting about the "Cloward -- Piven strategy" and Obama and, in passing, DSA; the editorial was inspired by the recent wave of child migrants crossing the border and perhaps a profound longing for cross burnings. Z Magazine had an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich on the occasion of her new book, with DSA as part of Ehrenreich's description of her politics.

    No TPP



    Politics

    The Living Wage Is a Fight for Life
    The Living Wage Ordinance is back on the agenda of the Oak Park Village Board. At the June 16 Board meeting, GOPDSA member Bob Simpson offered testimony:

    Good evening: My name is Bob Simpson. I've resided in Oak Park since 1987. I am a retired high school  teacher with 20+ years experience on the West and South Sides of Chicago. I am also a member of Action Now which is directly involved in the Fight for $15 Campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to organize a union without fear of retaliation. 

    I want to speak on behalf of a living wage ordinance for $15 an hour because it is literally a life and death issue.

    Last Friday I stood before the steps of the St. Sabina Church at 78th and Racine in South Side Chicago. I listened while several individuals read the names of the 105 Chicago young people who were shot to death this school year of 2013-2014. The individuals who read those names were parents of some of the young men and women who had  been felled by gunfire.

    The Fight for $15 Campaign put out a map last year that showed where homicides were concentrated. They were all in communities with high levels of poverty. One of those neighborhoods was Austin, which is located just a few minutes walk from I am standing now.

    The Fight for $15 workers want you to know that poverty kills. And poverty wages contribute to those deaths. 

    When people go on strike against McDonalds or Walmart they are  literally in a fight for life. But poverty doesn't always kill in a hail of bullets. Sometimes poverty kills slowly as stress and worry wears down a person's immune system, inviting multiple health problems that overwhelm the body and our inadequate public health system.

    Poverty is stress on steroids. One injury to yourself...one delay on the CTA...your child's sudden illness...and you could lose your low wage job that same day. And since poverty is heavily racialized, the stress of racism only adds to the quality of life problems associated with poverty.

    Please understand. When I said a living wage is a fight for life, I don't mean simple physical survival, but a genuine life. For example, poverty is an enemy of education. The best single predictor of a child's success in school is the income of the parent. Oak Park prides itself in its commitment to education. Let's extend that commitment to people who come to work here from elsewhere by paying a living wage.

    Communities where a living wage is the norm are ones where parents are in a much better position to help their children in school, where there are fewer problems on the street for children to navigate. There are also many low wage workers who would like to further their education but find it difficult because they make so little money.  A community where the living wage is the norm can be more stable community where a full civic life is more possible.

    There is no excuse for paying poverty wages in a wealthy country like the USA. Former labor Secretary Robert Reich has called our shocking wealth inequality the civil rights issue of our time. There was a period in Oak Park's history when it displayed moral leadership in the battle against racial segregation  and set an example for the nation. That's why I came to live here.  As a child I saw Jim Crow up close and personal and I never wanted to live in a racially segregated community again.

    The time has come for Oak Park to meet a new moral challenge and join the national movement for a $15 an hour living wage. Lets pursue this fight with as much intelligence and courage as we can muster. The ordinance in question does not cover all workers, but it's step in the right direction. I think there is room for improvement in its coverage, but In any event, please remember, lives are in the balance.

    Thank you.

    Why Can't College Be Free?
    At In These Times, Rebecaa Burns writes:

    On Monday, President Obama announced a new plan for student loan reform that will expand income-based repayment to millions of indebted borrowers. Some have criticized the plan for shutting out those saddled with private loan repayments, however, as well as those whose loans date back prior to October 2007.

    Others have asked a more fundamental question: Instead of reforming student loans, why not eliminate student debt altogether?

    MORE.



    Democratic Socialism

    Coop Conference Meets in Chicago
    At Grassroots Economic Organizing, Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo writes:

    More than 450 people attended the sold-out fifth biennial conference of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) in Chicago at the end of May, continuing to build a movement and celebrating 10 years since its founding.

    "We are working to realize our humanity," said Ed Whitfield of the Fund For Democratic Communities who gave closing remarks with USFWC executive director Melissa Hoover. "We are trying to recapture the Commons -- capture old wealth and create new wealth. We need to be true to ourselves and create the power to meet our own needs."

    Hoover, who has led the Federation since its inception, said that in order to really grow, the worker co-op movement must build alliances with other groups of people seeking change in the economic system.

    MORE.

    Stay Classy
    The intersection of class and other identities has been a topic of analysis and debate on the left for decades (at least). University of Chicago YDS alumni Peter Frase begins:

    There's a passage from Barbara Ehrenreich that I used to find very powerful.

    The original radical . . . vision was of a society without hierarchies of any kind. This of course means equality among the races and the genders, but class is different: There can be no such thing as "equality among the classes." The abolition of hierarchy demands not only racial and gender equality, but the abolition of class.

    Many still find this formulation appealing, judging by the frequency with which I see similar sentiments expressed by my peers. And I still find it beguiling as well. But over the years I've come to see that it's fundamentally wrong, and encourages a very misleading way of thinking about how class works.

    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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