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#158

January -- February, 2015

Contents

  • Quigley and the 1% by Tom Broderick
  • The Importance of an FTT: Reining in Finance by Bill Barclay
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • It's Still Stagnation
    Vote Mujica
    Socialist Salon
    Socialist Reading Group
    A Living Wage

  • Upcoming Events
  •  

    New Ground 158.1 -- 02.02.2015

    0. DSA News

    The Greek People Reject Austerity
    YDS Statement on Syriza's Victory

    1. Politics

    The LaSalle Street Tax by Tom Broderick
    Who Pays?
    Poor by Comparison
    Youth Unemployment

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Greek Myths -- and Realities
    An X-Ray of Syriza
    Anti-Austerity in One Country?
    Greece's Solidarity Movement

    3. Communications

    Not Revolution Brewing

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest

     

    New Ground 158.2 -- 02.13.2015

    0. DSA News

    Considering the Circumstances

    1. Politics

    Vote Mujica
    Illinois Is Now a War Zone by Bob Roman
    Fast Track Follies
    Fight for 15

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Independent Politics
    Where Are the Mass Movements of Today?

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

     

    New Ground 158.3 -- 02.27.2015

    0. DSA News

    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    Chicago Municipal Elections
    Derailing the Fast Track by Tom Broderick
    This Time It Will Be Different
    CPEG Notes
    Universal Health Care
    Disappeared in Chicago

    2. Democratic Socialism

    So What Is "Neo-Liberalism"?
    Mother Jones

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    Quigley and the 1%

    by Tom Broderick

    A couple of weeks before the Christmas holiday about twenty of us paid a visit to Representative Mike Quigley's Chicago office. In the spirit of defending democracy, members from Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Democracy in Action Chicago, Progressive Democrats of America Chicago, Illinois Green Party, the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition and Chicago DSA came out to sing and zing.

    Quigley represents the 5th Illinois District Congressional District and is one of only four Illinois Democratic Representatives who refused to sign a "Dear Colleague" letter denouncing Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track. We brought him a holiday gift of two bound books with copies of letters, post cards and petitions signed by thousands urging him to vote against Fast Track and the TPP. Because the holiday was nigh, we sang a carol called "No Fast Track" to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

    Fast Track goes back to the era of President Nixon, when trade deals were actually about trade issues like tariffs. The bills were also fairly short. More recently, trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are thousands of pages long and are about enhancing the wealth and power of trans-national corporations. Our interests, the health and safety of our planet and working people around the world, are pushed aside by the class of the 1%. They have cost Americans thousands of jobs and lowered the living standards of millions around the globe.

    To implement Fast Track, our elected representatives must vote to cede their Constitutional power over trade bills to the Executive Branch. Once that happens, our elected representatives cannot take part in creating the bill. They cannot offer amendments. They cannot filibuster. They cannot have open discussion on the House floor. They will be allowed a limited time to read the bill and think about the enormity of their mistake. They will only be allowed to vote "Yes" or "No." Fast Track must be stopped.

     

    If Fast Track is passed, there are at least three major trade bills in the works. All could come before a Congress that has neutered itself.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently being negotiated behind closed doors among the governments of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. Other governments could come on board through a special agreement process. However, once a country has signed on the dotted line, getting out of the agreement is both difficult and costly.

    The Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) which is also referred to as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is currently being negotiated behind closed doors among the governments that make up the European Union (currently 28 nations) and the United States.

    The Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is currently being negotiated among the governments of 23 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The European Union (28 sovereign nations) is just one of those 23 governments. The others include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Lichtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. This is estimated to be about 70% of the world trade in services. Like any other trade negotiations, the discussions and documents are available to trade agreement participants. The process and documents are not available to the public.

    If these trade deals are good for us, why are we and our elected officials kept in the dark? Because they are not good for us. They are for the benefit of trans-national corporations and the people who run them.

    Why would our elected officials go along with Fast Track? Because they are craven and want to associate with those who might provide campaign favors. Earlier I mentioned that Representative Quigley was one of four Illinois Democratic Representatives who would not publicly oppose Fast Track. After our meeting in his office, Celeste Larkin, who is the Public Policy Coordinator for the Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), had a follow up call with a staff member at Representative Quigley's office in DC. Larkin was told that Representative Quigley has no problem with Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) or with the TPP. He supports the President.

    Recently, the Chicago Tribune, which consistently promotes Trade Promotion Authority as the anti-democratic tool of choice for passing the TPP, wrote about officials from the U.S. and China meeting in Chicago to expand financial protections for foreign investors. They are writing rules to profit investors while sticking it to everyone else as well as to the planet.

    A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute showed U.S. job displacement due to our goods trade deficit with China. These were broken out by Congressional District. Most jobs were in manufacturing. Representative Quigley's district saw 8,900 jobs displaced. Jobs displaced = Americans out of work. Representative Quigley may say he has no problem with Fast Track or the TPP and that he supports the President, but Quigley has turned his back on the health, safety and livelihood of his constituents.


    The Importance of an FTT: Reining in Finance

    by Bill Barclay

    Why should finance be taxed? There are several reasons. First, there is the question of justice: The financial sector was the driver of the 2008 financial panic and subsequent Great Recession. They should pay. Second, there is the Willie Sutton argument -- we face significant revenue shortfall and the financial sector is "where the money is." These are both good arguments. I want to pose another often overlooked: The financial sector, as it currently exists in the US, is bad for the overall political economy. It is too big, too inefficient, and wields too much political power.

    Yes, as through this world I've wandered
    I've seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    [But] You won't never see an outlaw
    Drive a family from their home.

    Woody Guthrie, Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd

    Let's consider these points in turn.

    First, the size of the US financial sector is out of proportion to the larger political economy. There are a many ways of making this point but the simplest one is that finance, as a sector that employs only a little more than 5% of the total labor force captures almost 30% of total profits (45% in the run up to the 2008 financial panic). There is no evidence that financial sector employees are six times as productive as the rest of us. Rather, through a variety of political and market mechanisms between 1980 and 2013 the financial sector managed to transfer from the rest of us $750 billion, or about $1500/person in the US, into its coffers.

    How did this happen? This takes us to the inefficiency of finance. The financial sector's primary function is to raise and allocate capital to borrowers: businesses, households, governments. Doing this efficiently means a low cost per unit of capital raised. Consider two periods in US history: in the late 19th/early 20th century period of rapid US industrial growth, the cost/dollar of capital raised was about $0.0015 to 0.0017, very low indeed. This ratio grew in the 1920s to about $0.0025 and then declined. Until the late 1970s, after which it grew again, regaining 1920s levels.

    Why has the sector become less efficient?

    After all, finance is certainly more efficient in some activities: The payments collecting role has been automated with the result of more rapid transferring of funds from the purchaser of a good or service to the seller: Think credit and debit cards vs checks. Finance efficiently stores the assets of depositors. Finance efficiently moves money in and out of bank accounts much more rapidly and at less cost than five decades ago. Both the payments and the storage of assets function of the sector have benefited from finance IT investment.

    However, the biggest growth in finance IT spending is for trading, and it is high levels of trading that have driven the increased cost of financial intermediation and decreased economic stability. Trading is also the source of much of the profit growth in finance.

    The claim that finance has a huge amount of political power is probably less controversial. Finance is among the top three industrial groups by contributions to political campaigns, by lobbying expenditures, and by the sheer numbers of lobbyists. In December, 2014, the political power of finance was again demonstrated when Congress repealed provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act that prohibited most derivatives trading in FDIC insured bank operations. Wall Street banks can return to freely trade the securities that brought Lehman Bros down in 2008 and obtain access to the benefit of insurance and loans from the federal government.

    What is to be done?

    A policy that would reduce trading would (i) reduce the profits share of finance; (ii) reduce the ability of finance to extract rents from the real economy; and (iii) thus reduce the political power of the sector.

    That is the beauty of the financial transaction tax (FTT), aka the Robin Hood Tax.

    There has been a long and, for many, frustrating struggle to establish such a tax, but in the past few weeks, two very promising breakthroughs have occurred. The first is in Europe and second is in the US -- and, with hard work, we may be able to add a third one in Illinois.

    Although 11 European nations -- representing about 75% of total European GDP -- have agreed in principal on an FTT, the negotiations that would define the scope and level of the tax were stalled over most of the past year by.the French? Doesn't that seem strange in light of Francois Hollande's campaign pledge to support such a tax?

    Well, as we have all learned, campaign promises are not always honored. The French have been urging only a small and asset limited tax vs the German (and others) desire for a broader tax with higher rates. However, in late 2014 more than 120 deputies from Hollande's Socialist Party demanded that he support the tax. In response, Hollande gave instructions to his finance ministry to move forward on the tax, publicly pledged his support, and promised a significant portion of FTT revenues toward combating climate change.

    Perhaps the development in the US is even more encouraging. On January 12th, Representative Chris Van Hollen, a leader of the Democratic house caucus, proposed an FTT as one of the key taxes that would be used to "raise wages, increase personal savings, and grow the economy." Details are scarce -- what products, what rates, etc -- but it appears that Van Hollan is seeking to track the tax as it is being crafted in Europe. Although the "progressive caucus" has been supportive of the FTT in the past, this is the first time support has emerged among elements of the party that are close to the Clintons and Obama.

    The significance of Van Hollen's act was recognized immediately by finance: Within hours the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) attacked the proposal.

    So, the last leg: can we in Chicago and across Illinois ramp up support for the LaSalle Street Tax that is proposed by Illinois Representative Mary Flowers? Contact DSA, get the information you need about both the national and state FTT proposals and talk, lobby, email, call, etc. your legislators.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    It's Still Stagnation

    The latest episode of Chicago DSA's podcast, Talkin' Socialism, is on the web. Recorded on January 10, 2015, Chicago DSA members and Chicago Political Economy Group founding members Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay do a review of the 2014 economy and look ahead to the coming year. The financial sector may be back, but wages have not grown; there's no real surge in investment: It's still stagnation. Is this a permanent condition? Baiman and Barclay look at the work of New School economist Lance Taylor in response to Thomas Piketty that suggests that, unless countered by vigorous public policy or very fortunate circumstances, stagnation may be our future. To listen, CLICK HERE.

    Vote Mujica

    Jorge Mujica's campaign to become the Alderman of the 25th ward got a major boost with its endorsement by AFSCME Council 31. Council 31 represents 100,000 active and retired public sector workers in Illinois. Mujica has also been endorsed by CWA's Unified Council of Illinois, by the Green Party of Chicago, by the Hispanic Council of Chicago, and by Chicago DSA. For more information, go to CLICK HERE.

    Socialist Salon

    Those of you away from Oak Park may not be hip to this, but Greater Oak Park DSA meets every month, with alternate months being business and a "Socialist Salon". The February Socialist Salon will be on Monday, February 2nd, 7 PM, at the home of Jan Sansone and Nurtan Esmen, 834 N. Ridgeland, Oak Park. It will feature a discussion of the movie Selma. Go see it or be prepared for spoilers. All DSA members are welcome. For more information, call Tom Broderick at 708.386.6007.

    Socialist Reading Group

    The Socialist Reading Group will be meeting on Saturday, February 14, 2 PM, at the Chicago DSA office, 3411 W. Diversey, Suite 7, in Chicago. This month's discussion will be on the public philosopher and democratic socialist John Dewey. The readings can be downloaded from HERE. For more information, call Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569.

    Progress Illinois

    Progress Illinois, for those unacquainted with it, is an online news publication covering (mostly) Chicago labor and community affairs news. It was started back in 2008 with the sponsorship of SEIU's Illinois State Council. SEIU has found itself unable to continue funding the project and the additional revenue streams developed in the meantime have not been enough by themselves to support the project. Around the beginning of December, Progress Illinois announced it would cease operations by the end of December. And indeed, after December 19, new material ceased being posted to the site.

    But Progress Illinois has since received a reprieve. SEIU came up with the money to keep the site up and running through about the end of February, allowing time for Progress Illinois to recruit additional sponsors and donors. For more information, go to Progress Illinois.

    A Living Wage

    The Wednesday Journal in Oak Park published a letter from GOPDSA regarding the Oak Park Village Board's continued inaction on a Living Wage Ordinance. The letter reads, in part:

    "We urge the trustees to stop the endless delay and give Manager Pavlicek the go-ahead to proceed with her plan. The voters of Oak Park have been waiting for over six years. There have been multiple public hearings. There have been months of Community Relations Committee (CRC) deliberations that culminated in a comprehensive report and a 7-2 vote by the CRC to implement an LWO. There have been multiple testimonies in support at village board meetings.

    "Our board seems to embrace tackling development issues but suffers from a lack of will in implementing a voter-endorsed living wage ordinance. Across the country, the most recent election shows voters believe government should intervene in the fight against poverty wages."

    For the complete letter, 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 #158.1

    02.02.2015

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    The Greek People Reject Austerity
    YDS Statement on Syriza's Victory

    1. Politics

    The LaSalle Street Tax by Tom Broderick
    Who Pays?
    Poor by Comparison
    Youth Unemployment

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Greek Myths -- and Realities
    An X-Ray of Syriza
    Anti-Austerity in One Country?
    Greece's Solidarity Movement

    3. Communications

    Not Revolution Brewing

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    The Greek People Reject Austerity
    A statement adopted on January 26 by DSA's National Political Committee continues:

    Now the Rest of the World Must Join Them

    The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) celebrates SYRIZA's victory in the Greek parliamentary elections of January 25, 2015.

    SYRIZA's coming to power represents not just a rejection of the socially destructive austerity measures European elites imposed on the Greek people against their will.  It also represents a new hope for democratic and socialist electoral alternatives across Europe and the rest of the world.

    Democratic socialists understand that winning an election does not mark the end of a process of social transformation. It is only the beginning, and a difficult road lies ahead for SYRIZA and its supporters. After years of deep depression, Greek society is in shambles. One quarter of the population is out of work; youth unemployment is over 50%; hundreds of thousands of households are without basic necessities like electricity; untold numbers have been forced to scavenge for their daily bread. Even after its clear victory at the polls, SYRIZA continues to face not just domestic political opposition but international isolation as well. It will quickly find out whether the so-called "troika" (i.e., the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) will give the Greek people room to breathe or try to punish them for their democratic audacity.  

    DSA also recognizes that this is a time for true international solidarity. The democratic will of the Greek people will only be realized if grassroots social movements across Europe force their governments to abandon their support for European Union (EU)-enforced austerity policies. This is particularly true in regards to ending the pro-austerity policies of the moderate left governments in Italy and France, and, most importantly, the Christian Democratic-Social Democratic coalition government in Germany.

    But today, we should celebrate the fact that the Greek people rejected not just austerity, but the false alternative of the nationalist and fascist right. Tomorrow, we return to our hard work bringing similar triumphs to the United States and beyond. 

    YDS Statement on Syriza's Victory
    Drafted by Jake Schenberg and adopted by the Coordinating Committee, the statement begins:

    Yesterday the Greek left made history. The Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its acronym Syriza, won the parliamentary elections with 36% of the vote, bringing them two seats shy of a parliamentary majority. The Greek people voted to reject the disastrous austerity measures forced on them by the Troika, (the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), a failed set of policies responsible for half a decade of economic contraction and human misery. Syriza proposes an alternative path grounded in economic justice and participatory democracy.

    MORE.


    Politics

    The LaSalle Street Tax
    by Tom Broderick

    In December, 2014, four members of the Greater Oak Park chapter of Chicago DSA arranged to meet with Illinois State Representative Camille Lilly to talk with her about the LaSalle Street Tax, also known as the Robin Hood Tax or the Financial Transaction Tax. We wanted her to sign on to an Illinois Bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers to enact the bill.

    When we sat down with her, she essentially said she is so tired of cutting and cutting and cutting and wanted to find ways to raise revenue that didn't harm working people. She agreed to co-sponsor and offered a couple of suggestions, including the need to reach out to the incoming freshmen. She felt they wouldn't have yet had discussions about the tax and thought they would like to get some working knowledge on the topic.

    In January, 2015 DSA member Howard Kapso arranged a meeting with the other Illinois State Representative who serves a portion of Oak Park. While the meeting with Rep. Lilly was made up of four DSA constituents from her district, our meeting with Rep. LaShawn Ford was a little more diverse. While there were DSA members, we also had someone from the Unitarian Church, Unity Temple, as well as a Unitarian minister and a member of MoveOn. This meeting was also a success. Rep. Ford agreed to be a co-sponsor. Rep. Ford also offered suggestions, such as looking for Republican allies.

    Our next steps are a little up in the air. We want to find a State Senator to draft a similar bill for the Illinois Senate, so we are beginning that search. In addition, we'll be looking for additional members of the Illinois House to add to the list of co-sponsors for the bill introduced by Rep. Flowers. We plan to begin by asking Chicago DSA members for help. Want to be proactive? Call the Chicago DSA office @ 773.384.0327.

    Who Pays?
    The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has released a report, Who Pays?, examining just who pays state and local taxes in each of the 50 states:

    "Ten states -- Washington, Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas, and Indiana -- are particularly regressive. These "Terrible Ten" states tax their poorest residents -- those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale -- at rates up to seven times higher than the wealthy. Middle-income families in these states pay a rate up to three times higher as a share of their income as the wealthiest families."

    MORE.

    Poor by Comparison
    The Heartland Alliance's Social Impact Research Center has released its 2015 report on poverty in Illinois, Poor by Comparison: Report on Illinois Poverty. The report "examines how Illinois compares to other states on over 25 key metrics associated with poverty and hardship. By many accounts, Illinois should be a leader on addressing poverty: Illinois is the fifth largest state, has a rich mix of industries, is home to world class educational institutions, and has a state economy larger than that of many independent nations. But when it comes to the well-being of its people, particularly those at the bottom of the economic spectrum, Illinois is not stepping up to be the leader it should be."

    Youth Unemployment
    Drexel University's Center for Labor Markets, at the behest of the Chicago Urban League and the Alternative Schools Network, completed a study of youth employment in Chicago, A Frayed Connection: Joblessness Among Teens in Chicago. The study found that the fraction of teens (16 to 19) has decline to the lowest level during the post-World War II period: 26% in 2010, half of its typical level. Further, the post recession "recovery" has made little improvement in employment. Further, there is a strong positive relationship between household income and teen employment rates.


    Democratic Socialism

    Greek Myths -- and Realities
    At Democratic Left, Bill Barclay begins:

    Everybody "knows" that Greece has too much debt, that is unsustainable and thus a "responsible" government must reduce spending and pay off the debt. And, because Greece is facing some maturity dates in the near future, Syriza won't be able to implement its program of restarting the economy.

    But what "everybody knows" about Greek debt isn't true. It is important to grasp this, both in terms of the arguments we must win with conservatives over the next few months and to see/support, if possible, a path for Syriza's economic policies. And, if what "everybody knows" about Greek debt isn't true, then the demand of Greek sovereign debt holders for immediate payoff, no renegotiation of the memorandum, etc. should be rejected. 

    MORE.

    An X-Ray of Syriza
    Just prior to the Greek election, Jacobin posted an extensive interview with Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of the Syriza central committee, covering just about everything you might want to know about it. Sebastian Budgen does the interview HERE.

    Stathis Kouvelakis provides a post-election analysis HERE.

    Anti-Austerity in One Country?
    It would improve Syriza's prospects immensely if similar left, anti-austerity movements took power in Europe. One prospect is Spain's Podemos movement. Its General Secretary Pablo Iglesias provides some thoughts on how the left can win HERE.

    Germany may be the biggest obstacle faced by the new Syriza government. At Social Europe, Hans Kundnani ponders The Return of the German Question.

    Greece's Solidarity Movement
    Citizen-run health clinics, food centres, kitchens and legal aid hubs have sprung up to fill the gaps left by austerity -- and now look set to play a bigger role under a Syriza government. Jon Henley examines the movement in The Guardian.


    Communications

    Not Revolution Brewing
    From jkaderbek@...:

    Just thought I would pass on that local co-opters of Leftist imagery Revolution Brewing have been sourcing their cans from a union busting company.

    Thought the DSA/YDS might be interested, as I've seen many comrades fall for their packaging.

    http://www.takebacksnomore.ca/ - Website for the striking Canadian Steelworkers
    http://www.crowncork.com/craftbrew - Website of the union busting company, highlighting their partnership with nominally pro-labor Revolution Brewing.


    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 #158.2

    02.13.2015

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Considering the Circumstances

    1. Politics

    Vote Mujica
    Illinois Is Now a War Zone by Bob Roman
    Fast Track Follies
    Fight for 15

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Independent Politics
    Where Are the Mass Movements of Today?

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    DSA News

    Considering the Circumstances
    Isn't it time you paid your DSA dues? CLICK HERE.


    Politics

    Vote Mujica
    Jorge Mujica's campaign for 25th Ward Alderman earned another endorsement, this time from GPAC Illinois, the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee. You can help. CLICK HERE.

    Illinois Is Now a War Zone
    by Bob Roman
    Some commentators have compared it to the opening salvo on Fort Sumter and that may not be an overstatement. As a Civil War battle, after all, Fort Sumter was pretty underwhelming. But Governor Rauner's creative use of Executive Orders imposing open shop conditions on governmental workplaces under the Governor's jurisdiction was pretty much the declaration of war the more pessimistic among us were expecting.

    The Illinois AFL-CIO has already had a strategy meeting about this at the state federation's Chicago office in Burr Ridge. AFSCME Council 31 released a brief statement condemning Rauner's decree as "a blatantly illegal abuse of power." But most likely, the battles will be largely fought in the courtroom and in the media, venues where money has the advantage.

    Journalists have already displayed a remarkable talent for not being able to explain Rauner's decree. An open shop simply means that employees in a union shop not only need not belong to the union, they are under no obligation to even pay the union a service fee while the union, having the contract to represent employees in that shop, is obliged to represent everyone, including the deadbeats. If journalists are confused, consider the general public, most of whom have never had any experience with a union.

    In that context, the tens of millions of post-election dollars Rauner raised from himself and a few others for his political fund takes on a different significance. It's not simply aimed as a threat and a reassurance to Republican legislators or even as a threat toward Democratic legislators, but perhaps as much or more as a means of financing fancy lawyers and anti-union propaganda. And you can expect other money to join the fray. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has already offered free legal aid to any Illinois State employee willing join their fight for slavery.

    Rauner's case is not the only one in the pipeline, and I'm sure conservatives have dreams of uniting them into one fell argument before the Supreme Court where we can expect all the justice of Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v Ferguson, and yes, Bush v. Gore. Labor, after all, is so far inferior that they have no rights an employer is obliged to respect.

    Fast Track Follies
    Representatives Mike Quigley and Bill Foster have been two of the prime targets among the Illinois Congressional delegation for persuasion by the Fair Trade campaign, and DSA has been active in lending a hand with both. The latest news is that Representative Foster has promised to vote against Fast Track legislation. However, rumor has it that Representative Bobby Rush will probably vote in favor of Fast Track, and this is a result of President Obama leaning on the Congressional Black Caucus, a group that until now has been pretty solidly against Fast Track legislation. Some commentators (Jonathan Tasini, for example) have expressed some confidence that Fast Track will be killed by a "Left - Right alliance," but this may be wishful thinking.

    FYI, "Fast Track" refers to legislation that, on trade agreements, restricts Congress to expedited voting in favor or against, no amendments allowed.

    Ironically, updated 2014 trade data from the U.S. International Trade Commission show that trade deficits under the new Korea -- U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the older NAFTA have grown, and Obama's 2010 promise of doubling U.S. exports is failing miserably. You can get the details HERE.

    Fight for 15
    On April 15, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (Fight for 15) is promising "the largest low-wage worker protest in modern history" demanding $15 an hour and union representation. Details are few at this point, but you can find out more HERE. Save the date.


    Democratic Socialism

    Independent Politics
    Various Lefties and "watermelon" Greens are organizing a conference on "The Future of the Left / Independent Electoral Action in the United States." The conference is planned for Chicago on the weekend of May 2 and May 3. The call for the conference states:

    From impending climate catastrophe to the renewed assault on working class living standards, we don't have time to waste on the status quo, lesser evils, and token reforms. The richest 1% may own the two major parties, but the past year has seen an uptick in left electoral activity. From Kshama Sawant's election as an open socialist on the Seattle City Council to the numerous other socialist and independent left campaigns in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere throughout Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, interest in a working class alternative is growing. However, in order to really begin building a viable electoral alternative, we first need to forge unity between our disparate campaigns. Those of us struggling to build a left pole in the electoral arena have much to learn from one another. Therefore we propose a gathering of candidates, individuals, and organizations committed to a non-sectarian left political alliance in opposition to the two-party system of corporate-capitalist rule.

    At this point, it seems like a gathering of the usual suspects, but that could well change. We'll have more details as they become available.

    Where Are the Mass Movements of Today?
    At Dollars & Sense, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg observes that "given the aftermath of the recession and existing economic and environmental problems, the need was sufficient to have led to more sustained social protest than actually occurred." What happened? CLICK HERE.

    At the Economic Policy Institute, Thomas Palley notes:

    Full employment is also relevant for union bargaining power, and unions are unlikely to achieve their principal institutional objectives -- organizing and bargaining -- without full employment. Consequently, full employment should be a major concern of unions for reasons of both social solidarity and institutional interest.

    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 #158.3

    02.27.2015

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    Chicago Municipal Elections
    Derailing the Fast Track by Tom Broderick
    This Time It Will Be Different
    CPEG Notes
    Universal Health Care
    Disappeared in Chicago

    2. Democratic Socialism

    So What Is "Neo-Liberalism"?
    Mother Jones

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    DSA News

    DSA in the News
    Chicago DSA member Alec Hudson interviewed Chicago Aldermanic candidate Jorge Mujica at Jacobin. DSA was mentioned in passing as an identifier for Cornel West in Ramapo College's The Ramapo News.


    Politics

    Chicago Municipal Elections
    In the 25th Ward, Danny Solis squeaked in with 50.99% of the vote:

    Danny Solis     3731 50.99%
    Byron Sigcho    1351 18.46%
    Jorge Mujica     900 12.30%
    Roberto Montano  733 10.02%
    Ed Hershey       602  8.23%

    Chicago DSA had endorsed and DSA members, not just from Chicago, had worked for Jorge Mujica.

    In the 25th Ward, the elected school board advisory referendum, "yes" received 88.47%.

    At Progress Illinois, Ellyn Fortino looks at the progressive score in the aldermanic races HERE and at the results of advisory referendum questions HERE.

    At Capitol Fax, Rich Miller passed along an interesting analysis by Scott Kennedy of who voted for the losers in the first round of voting for Mayor, thus where the votes in April are... or are not. February turn-out, it should be noted, was considerably less than the previous municipal election but not much different than 2003 and 2007. CLICK HERE.

    You can find more analysis by Kennedy plus a downloadable spreadsheet HERE.

    Your editor opines that the task for liberals and for the left was and will be getting the electorate to think that the token effort required to decide and to vote makes a difference to more than just fans of politics. Considering the train wreck of U.S. and Illinois politics facing either Mayor 1% or Chuy upon election, the slackers may have an argument.

    Derailing the Fast Track
    by Tom Broderick
    Pressure to pass Fast Track (or Trade Promotion Authority as it's officially known) is coming from President Obama, certain members of Congress and from trans-national corporations. Congress is designated to have exclusive authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations. During the Nixon administration, Congress agreed to temporarily give up oversight to the executive branch. At the that time, international trade bills were focused on tariffs and duties and the trade bills were small in scope.

    The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was passed using Fast Track, became law in 1994. NAFTA has eight parts with a total of 22 chapters and seven annexes: A difficult piece of work to digest. Yet by passing the buck from the Congress to the executive branch all Congress did was surrender its responsibility to serve the people of the United States. The people who elected them to office. We can't let that happen again.

    Without considering anything but the impact on U.S. workers, NAFTA was a disaster. Nearly 700,000 Americans lost employment. Most of the jobs were in the well-paid manufacturing sector. This displacement allowed multi-national corporations to threaten to outsource work during labor-management negotiations and to threaten workers who sought to organize a workplace. Local governments were blackmailed into providing subsidies to these trans-national corporations as normal business operation. This is simply one aspect of the damage done by NAFTA.

    The agreement is a touchstone of trans-national corporate greed and power.

    There are three major trans-national "trade" deals currently in the works and they are all being worked on in secret. Trans-national corporations are involved in shaping of all of them. These are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA).

    Little is known about the texts of the deals and that's what the ruling class wants.

    However difficult it may be for our Congressional Representatives to deal with the complexities of these coming trade deals, they represent our only chance at getting the deals before the public. We must force them to put our interests ahead of trans-national corporations with no allegiance to anything beyond maximizing profit.

    Toward that end, the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, including DSA members, made three visits to area Representatives about Fast Track (also known as Trade Promotion Authority) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Danny Davis, Bill Foster, and Mike Quigley.

    Rep. Danny Davis, Democrat, 7th Congressional District
    On Friday, February 20, representatives from Move On 7th District, West Suburban Move To Amend and the Greater Oak Park Chapter of Chicago Democratic Socialists had a meeting with Ira Cohen, Director of Issues and Communication for Representative Danny Davis. We wanted to have a conversation about Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Rep. Davis was a signatory to the DeLauro/Miller Dear Colleague letter stating his opposition to Fast Track Authority. We told Ira Cohen that we knew that there was pressure from the President to grant him Fast Track Authority and wanted to confirm that Rep. Davis was still opposed to its passage. Mr. Cohen said had no indication that Rep. Davis had changed his mind. We asked Mr. Cohen to convey our concern and ask Rep. Davis to confirm his opposition. Mr. Cohen responded that he felt it was not his place to "grill" his boss. A member from Move To Amend asked that Mr. Cohen relay that "we have Rep. Davis' back" and he should oppose Fast Track.

    There was a good discussion on both Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and it was clear that Mr. Cohen has a clear grasp of both issues and of the difficulty in making them understandable to the general public.

    Mr. Cohen encouraged us to have our various members contact Rep. Davis about the TPP and Fast Track. He suggested we bring specific concerns about the TPP and/or Fast Track to Rep. Davis' attention and let him know we expect him to stand with us.

    After Mr. Cohen mentioned the difficulty in presenting Fast Track and the TPP to the general public, I reminded him of the referendum that the Greater Oak Park chapter of DSA wrote and got on the ballot for the last election. My original purpose in the referendum process was to provide information about the anti-democratic nature of Fast Track and the secretive nature in the creation of the TPP. Passage was secondary.

    Once on the ballot, various Oak Park residents to wrote letters to the editors of the local newspapers around specific aspects of Fast Track and the TPP. There were letters about big Pharma, the too big to fail and too powerful financial industry, environmental degradation, the trade deficit and job loss in the manufacturing industry and the general undemocratic nature of both the TPP and Fast Track. The referendum to have the Village Board of Oak Park turn Oak Park into a TPP Free Zone received more than 70% of the votes cast. Of course the Village Board of Oak Park has done nothing to respond to the voice of the people.

    I urge you to exercise your voice with Rep. Davis, as Mr. Cohen suggested. Call his Chicago office at 773 533 7520. Ask for Ira Cohen and tell him that you would like Rep. Davis to vote against passing Fast Track Authority and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Rep. Bill Foster, Democrat, 11th Congressional District
    On Friday, February 20, representatives from the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, including United Steel Workers, MoveOn, United Auto Workers, Citizen Action and Food and Water Watch met with Rep. Bill Foster to discuss Fast Track and the TPP. To date, Rep. Foster has refused to publicly state that he will vote against Fast Track authority. When the DeLauro/Miller Dear Colleague letter was circulated among members of the Democratic House of Representatives, eight of twelve Democrats signed the letter stating opposition to Fast Track. This did not include Rep. Foster. While he still refused to commit to voting against Fast Track, at the meeting, he listed concerns he has with "trade" deals like the TPP.

    Job loss. Foster's district has seem 348,900 jobs displaced to due trade deficits with Mexico between the enacting of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. Jobs lost due to trade deficits with China between 2001 and 2008 in his district totaled 5,600. Most were good paying manufacturing jobs.

    Currency manipulation. This is also linked to job loss and to lower standards of living in the United States. It is a major factor in our ever-increasing trade deficits with other countries. Economic theory states that trade surpluses and deficits will balance out over time. Reality is proving this wrong. The U.S. continues to buy more and make less. This is financially unsustainable. We are a debtor nation.

    Environmental degradation. Trade bills from the recent past have been very destructive to the health of the planet. Natural resources are being exploited without regard to the impact they will have on life: Strip mining; mountain top removal; increased use of (ever more dangerous) pesticides; abuse of fresh water supplies; clear cutting of forests. All for the "rights" of corporations to "enjoy" profit.

    Representative Foster should tell the President that he will oppose Trade Promotion Authority and wants any and all trade bills to go through the democratic process involving members of Congress. Trans-national corporations and their cheerleaders like the Chicago Tribune do not want open discussion. In an editorial the Chicago Tribune wrote that they did not want the interference of our elected officials in the creation of trade bills like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Tribune has always failed to mention the lobbyists given official status to shape the TPP. They are apparently not involved in interference. Just business.

    If you're a constituent, contact Rep. Bill Foster at his Aurora office at 630 585 7672 and tell him you oppose the undemocratic nature of Fast Track and the TPP. Only by defeating Fast Track can our elected Representatives have a voice in creating a trade deal that reflects democratic values.

    .

    Rep. Mike Quigley, Democrat, 5th Congressional District
    On Monday, February 23, representatives from the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Democracy in Action, The People's Lobby, Food and Water Watch and Chicago Democratic Socialists of America held a Valentine's Day action at Rep. Mike Quigley's two offices in Chicago.

    Rep. Quigley has steadfastly held to his positions of supporting the passage of Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 1,900 jobs have been lost in his district due to trade deficits with Mexico since the enactment of NAFTA in 1994. Trade deficits with China between 2001 and 2008 have totaled 6,100 lost jobs. Again, most were good paying manufacturing jobs. Once gone, probably gone forever.

    We brought Rep. Quigley a book with copies of letters and petitions urging to vote against Fast Track and the TPP. Bound into the book were also documents about the harmful effects and undemocratic nature of Fast Track and the TPP. We presented him with a "wall" of valentine cards asking him to show a little love for his constituents. We even sang a song about the TPP based upon the Frank Sinatra classic L.O.V.E.

    Last December we visited one of Rep. Quigley's Chicago offices and staged a similar but Christmas holiday themed event. And a year ago, we held a rally outside his office on Sheffield Ave. where Chicago DSA provided stone soup to the participants.

    Rep. Quigley's Office

    .

    Rep. Quigley refuses to meet with us because he supports Fast Track, the TPP and his President. If you are a constituent of Rep. Quigley, please call him and tell him you are a constituent and that you oppose Fast Track and the TPP because of the undemocratic nature of both.

     

    Illinois Is Up to You
    The Fast Track must be stopped. During the last session of Congress, one hundred fifty-one Democratic members of Congress and twenty-two Republican members of Congress signed letters declaring their opposition to Fast Track. Some representatives have been replaced since the last election. Below, I will list the U.S. Representatives from Illinois and include their phone numbers. In addition, I will list the number of jobs lost to NAFTA by District, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Eight Democrats signed the DeLauro/Miller letter opposing Fast Track. Four did not. None of the Republicans from Illinois signed the Republican version of the letter.

    As pressure mounts, it is important that constituents reach out to our elected representatives in Congress and tell them to vote against passage of Trade Promotion Authority/Fast Track. Just because they may have signed the original letter, they will be getting an earful from the President and from lobbyists for the multi-national corporations. Do not assume they will remain on our side.

    Representative + District Jobs Displaced Phone Numbers
    Bobby L. Rush, 1st CD/Dem. 250,000 Chicago ~ 773 224 6500
        DC ~ 202 225 4372
    Robin Kelly, 2nd CD/Dem. 258,000 Matteson ~ 708 679 6078
        DC ~ 202 225 0773
    Daniel Lipinski, 3rd CD/Dem. 300,700 Chicago ~ 312 886 8481
        DC ~ 202 225 5701
    Luis Gutierrez, 4th CD/Dem. 281,600 Chicago ~ 773 342 0774
        DC ~ 202 225 8203
    Mike Quigley, 5th CD/Dem 355,400 Chicago ~ 773 267 5926
        DC ~ 202 225 4061
    Peter J. Roskam, 6th CD/Rep. 346,000 West Chicago ~ 630 232 0006
        DC ~ 202 225 4561
    Danny K. Davis, 7th CD/Dem. 268,800 Chicago ~ 773 533 7520
        DC ~ 202 225 5006
    Tammy Duckworth, 8th CD/Dem. 379,000 Schaumburg ~ 847 413 1959
        DC ~ 202 225 3711
    Jan Schakowsky, 9th CD/Dem. 315,000 Chicago ~ 773 506 7100
        DC ~ 202 225 2111
    Bob Dold, 10th CD/Rep. 309,000 Lincolnshire ~ 847 793 8400
        DC ~ 202 225 4835
    Bill Foster, 11th CD/Dem. 358,900 Aurora ~ 630 585 7672
        DC ~ 202 225 3515
    Mike Bost, 12th CD/Rep. 289,400 Belleville ~ 618 233 8026
        DC ~ 202 225 5661
    Rodney Davis, 13th CD/Rep. 389,600 Champaign ~ 217 403 4690
        DC ~ 202 225 2371
    Randy Hultgren, 14th CD/Rep. 395,000 Geneva ~ 630 232 7104
        DC ~ 202 225 2976
    John Shimkus, 15th CD/Rep 321,400 Effingham ~ 217 347 7947
        DC ~ 202 225 5271
    Adam Zinzinger, 16th CD/Rep 351,000 Ottawa ~ 815 347 9271
        DC ~ 202 225 3635
    Cheri Bustos, 17th CD/Dem 287,700 Peoria ~ 309 966 1813
        DC ~ 202 225 5905
    Aaron Schock, 18th CD/Rep 312,000 Peoria ~ 309 671 7027
        DC ~ 202 225 6201

    When you call, tell your representative to vote against Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority if for no other reason than it is a thoroughly undemocratic approach to legislation. Then call Tom Broderick at 708 386 6007 and let me know what kind of response you get.

    If you would be willing to set up a meeting with the Representative or a staff member, please call Tom Broderick at 708 386 6007. If we can coordinate it, we'd like to have someone familiar with Fast Track and the various trade bills meet with you and your representative as well as fellow members of your community.

    This Time It Will Be Different
    At Eyes on Trade, Ben Beachy notes:

    According to the official government trade data from the U.S. International Trade Commission, the aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with FTA partners is more than five times as high as before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate trade deficit with non-FTA countries has actually fallen. The key differences are soaring imports into the United States from FTA partners and lower growth in U.S. exports to those nations than to non-FTA nations.

    Why then do we keep hearing arguments that this time will be different?

    MORE.

    Robert Scott at Working Economics chimes in with:

    The 69th Economic Report of the President (ERP), released this week, has much to recommend it -- especially its focus on policies needed to rebuild middle-class economics, including raising the federal minimum wage and increasing job-creating investments in infrastructure, science, and technology. However, the report runs off the road when it turns to trade.

    MORE.

    CPEG Notes
    The Chicago Political Economy Group has premiered a new publication, CPEG Notes. The first issue

    "...begins with the Quarterly Review on the state of the US economy, written by Joseph Persky, Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Persky continues with a National Note discussing factors keeping state and local governments from contributing to an economic recovery, and the economic costs of their inaction. Ron Baiman, Assistant Professor of economics at Benedictine University and former long-time member of the Editorial Board of the Review of Radical Political Economics, then contributes a National Note on the continually bleak US employment picture. Bill Barclay PhD, who worked 22 years in financial services, explains in a National Note how taxing financial transactions can help rebalance our political economy. The issue closes with an International Note in which Chicago writer (and CPEG Notes Editor) Luis Diaz-Perez summarizes competing explanations for the recent, dramatic drop in oil prices."

    MORE.

    Universal Health Care
    Anne Scheetz notes:

    On January 14, 2015 Representative Mary Flowers of Chicago introduced the Illinois Universal Health Care Act in the 99th Illinois General Assembly as House Bill 108....

    The bill when enacted would provide coverage for all necessary health care to all residents of the state with no deductibles, co-pays, or other cost sharing. Individuals would not have to search for and try to evaluate insurance policies on the exchanges. No one could lose their health insurance coverage for any reason. Employers would be relieved of the burden of providing health insurance to employees. State and local governments would see their health care spending significantly reduced. In order to create a single-tier system with the same benefits available to everyone, private insurance companies would not be allowed to sell coverage that would duplicate the comprehensive coverage provided by the state program.

    MORE.

    Disappeared in Chicago
    At The Guardian, Spencer Ackerman writes:

    The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

    MORE.


    Democratic Socialism

    So What Is "Neo-Liberalism"?
    Daniel Kay Hertz examines three possible definitions suited to an urban landscape at City Notes.

    Mother Jones
    A Salute to "The Most Dangerous Woman in America" is a event to benefit the Mother Jones Museum in Mt. Olive, Illinois. To be held on Saturday, March 28, 5 PM to 8 PM at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox in Chicago, the event will include excerpts from the documentary Mother Jones, America's Most Dangerous Woman, a presentation by Professor Rosemary Feurer, and more. $35 admission includes refreshments and free parking. MORE INFORMATION.


    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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