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 #160

May -- June, 2015

Contents

The Most Dangerous Woman in America
June CDSA Membership Convention

 

New Ground 160.1 -- 06.17.2015

0. DSA News

Rauner Wrong
DSA in the News
Young Democratic Socialists

1. Politics

Victory?
Another Victory to Celebrate
CPEG Notes
Censure
UE on Sanders

2. Democratic Socialism

Flakes Alive!

3. Upcoming Events of Interest

 

New Ground 160.2 -- 07.01.2015

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Charleston
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Toward a Peoples' Budget for Illinois by Tom Broderick
A Chicago Casino? We Already Have One!
Rauner: The Demon Barber of Springfield by Tom Broderick
On Calhoun County

2. Democratic Socialism

Economic Democracy and Cooperatives

3. Upcoming Events of Interest


Building New Movements for Change
Disruption Works. There Should Be More of It.

by Bob Roman

The 57th Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner convened on May 8 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro on Chicago's near westside. It was a dark and stormy evening but an educational and inspiring event. April Verrett presented the award to Gerry Hudson speaking on "what Hudson means to me": Never shrink from leadership. Hudson reflected on being a "baby socialist" while on the National Committee of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee's Youth Section, and how DSA and SEIU provided him with a political education and a pro-social outlet for his rage at injustice. Jackson Potter emphasized Amisha Patel's role in the labor uprising against Chicago's Establishment. Patel provided a concise reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of that movement. Our featured speaker, Tom Geoghegan, deserves a special mention. His presentation was not oratory. Orations are highly desirable for postprandial speakers if only to keep people awake. But Geoghegan's presentation kept the audience's attention because it spoke directly to their experiences as organizers and activists.

Photos of the event are HERE.

You can hear the entire program HERE.


No Justice, No Quiet

by Sidney Hollander

Our visit with Representative Mike Quigley on May 7 went about as well as could have been expected. The delegation included Joe Persky, Nancy Jones and Sidney Hollander. We met for nearly half an hour. Quigley started by complaining about getting yelled at over TPP (and TPA, ie Trade Promotion Authority or Fast Track), which he said was especially out of place considering how unimportant the issue is in comparison with such things as Iran and nuclear disarmament. We pointed out to him that maybe TPP was attracting a lot of attention because many people are very concerned about it.

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We showed Quigley a copy of a March 19 letter that he had sent to the Chair of Ways and Means (Paul Ryan) setting out some excellent instructions to the trade negotiators. Quigley's letter said he wants: a greater role for Congress and the public in reviewing any proposed trade deal; enforceable labor and environmental standards; methods of dealing with currency manipulations; adequate programs for displaced workers. We praised him for setting these conditions and told him several times that we expected him to stick to them and oppose any bill that did not meet them. Unfortunately, he never stated clearly whether he would do that.

On the positive side, he said a couple of times that he had voted against the Columbia free trade bill because it did not satisfy his conditions. On the negative side, he said repeatedly that he thinks a TPP is necessary to counter the influence of China, a military as well as an economic threat. And when we asked him if he was saying that any TPP was better than none he sidestepped the question. We asked him to consider the possibility that by voting no on TPA (thus dooming TPP) the other parties to the negotiations would conclude that they should do more to address the concerns that led to the bill's defeat. He pretty much dismissed that possibility, saying we could not get better terms. And he would not listen to the observation that because access to U.S. markets is intensely desired by everyone in the negotiations, the U.S. is in a strong bargaining position.

Echoing the U.S. administration, Quigley acknowledged the failings of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but only in a general way, and offered neither specific shortcomings nor any specific ways in which TPP would be better. He just insisted that Obama had learned from NAFTA and would avoid the mistakes that were made when it was adopted. He insisted that the president deserved our trust in this. We called attention to the bad outcome (balance of payments and loss of U.S. jobs) of the very recently (2012) negotiated free trade deal with South Korea, but he disputed the data (but offered none of his own.)

We mentioned the pro-corporate bias in the dispute resolution tribunals that limit governments' authority to enforce environmental and labor standards, and gave him a report of a Guatemalan case of labor repression (murder) that has dragged on for six years during which time two more organizers have been murdered. He said only that he would look into it.

Quigley presents himself as a principled insider. He mentioned his ability to talk to the President about TPP and thereby to advance his own agenda as reflected in the letter to Paul Ryan. He contrasted his approach to what he said was the approach of Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9) and Rosa DeLauro (D, CT-3). According to Quigley, those two sent the President a letter flatly opposing any TPP about a year ago. Now that the real decisions are being made, Quigley said, he's in the room exercising influence while the other two are outside, powerless to affect the outcome.

It's pretty clear that Quigley has no fundamental objection to the idea of free trade (so-called). To him, globalization (his word) with its enormous inequities is simply a given by now. He mentioned 5th district business owners who had lobbied him in support of TPP, but made no reference to the opposition of workers and unions. Although he wants to use TPP to project U.S. interests in opposition to China, for the most part governments, in his view, seem to have only limited ability to curb the influence of global capital. He seems to believe that his effort to nudge the TPP deal in a slightly better direction (better than NAFTA, I guess) is the best that can be done, and that we should trust him. On the other hand, at the close of our meeting he came back to his complaint about "yelling", so he must be feeling some heat.



Photos by Carson Starkey.

Anti-Fast Track Chicago

Anti-Fast Track Quigley


House Opposition to the Fast Track

by Tom Broderick

On May 7, I took part in two press conferences and rallies focusing on Fast Track and the secretive trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The latter is also called the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

The first press conference was called by Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) and District 7 Steelworkers. Rep. Lipinski has taken a strong stand against Fast Track and the secretive trade deals. Joining him were Representative Robin Kelly (D-2) and an aide from the office of Representative Danny K. Davis (D-7).

A couple of weeks previous, Rep. Davis, who is on the House Ways and Means Committee voted against passing Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track by its formal name) out of committee. My thanks to Rep. Davis. If he is your Representative, call him and thank him yourself. His Chicago office can be reached at 773 533 7520. Ask for Ira Cohen when call and tell him you are calling as a member of Chicago DSA.

Unfortunately, the Republican led committee, chaired by Representative Paul Ryan (WI) passed it to the full House. Illinois Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee who voted for the measure are Representatives Bob Dold R-10) and Peter Roskam (R-6) If either of these are your Representative, call them and tell them you want them to vote against Fast Track when it comes up in the House. Dold can be reached at 847 793 8400. Roskam can be reached at 630 232 0006.

Citing the broken promises of past trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Rep. Lipinski spoke of the nearly 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Illinois alone. He also said that the estimated 70,000 new jobs and soaring exports that KORUS (the U.S. ~ Korean Free Trade agreement) was supposed to provide has turned into a loss of 60,000 jobs and an increase in the trade deficit.

He also said that it was the responsibility of the U.S. Congress to ensure that trade agreements create good paying American jobs and safeguard the consumer and environmental protections.

Rep. Kelly said that although she wanted to work with the President, it was necessary to engage in a deeper, broader and more inclusive dialogue regarding international trade. She said there could be no fast track to a more prosperous future and that currency manipulation damaged U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Fast Track was not appropriate for our international trade agreements.

Also speaking at the event were Tiffany Ingram, Midwest Advocacy Director for Natural Resources Defense Council, Bill Hickey, Chief Executive Officer of Lapham-Hickey Steel of Chicago, Robert Reiter, Jr., Secretary Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Carson Starkey, Director of Illinois Fair Trade Campaign.

The event was held inside the Jernberg Industries forging plant on Chicago's south side. We were provided safety goggles and "NO Fast Track" signs for the press conference.

Later that day there was a "Don't Walk Out On Illinois Jobs" rally and press conference in Rep. Mike Quigley's District (D-5). This event was called by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Rep. Quigley is the true Democratic Party hard ass when it comes to Fast Track and the trade agreements. He says he fully supports his President. He does not want to let China be a leader in Asia and if we don't want to lose out, we'll have to take the lead.

He obviously doesn't care about the jobs lost in his District thanks to NAFTA, CAFTA and KORUS. As part of the rally, we brought shoes that we left outside his office. Rep. Quigley was not in the office when we were there. In addition to the CWA, members of IIRON, Food and Water Watch, Progressive Democrats of America, United Students Against Sweatshops along with Chicago DSA and Illinois Fair Trade Campaign were there.

If Rep. Quigley is your Representative, please call him at 773 267 5926 and tell him you do not appreciate secret trade deals and you want him to vote against Fast Track and for democracy.


Independent Electoral Action Conference

by Bob Roman

Over the May Day weekend, May 2nd and 3rd, nearly 200 people gathered at Teamster City on Chicago's near west side to attend "The Future of Left / Independent Electoral Action in the United States" conference. The conference aimed at promoting independent political action, building cooperation among groups and individuals so engaged, and developing the means for continued networking and cooperation. Partly as a result of DSA's work in Jorge Mujica's campaign for Alderman, Chicago DSA was invited to endorse the call for the conference, and we did. I was recruited to attend. I did not want to go.

By the end of Saturday, I had developed quite an enthusiasm for the event. True, the attendees were largely typical of a lefty conference: older, majority male, minorities mostly as program participants. There were more women than usual, and many were strong personalities. Depending on the time of day, young adults were a somewhat larger proportion than usual. But three things really won me over. First, there was little of the speechifying that comes from people hungry for the soapbox. Most of the questions were just that: inquiries for more information or clarification of something not quite understood. Second, the panels that I attended were very grounded in the realities of running for office and of governing. The election skills workshops, for example, may not have given someone contemplating a run for office all the information needed for conducting a campaign, but they did provide an outline of what that person would need to learn. And third, the conference was formally polite in dealing with probably its most divisive issue: Bernie Sanders running for the Democratic Party nomination for President.

It's not as if they had much choice in how they dealt with the issue. The organizers had invited Sanders' home base, the Vermont Progressive Party, to participate in the conference. And when the question of Sanders came up early on Saturday, the session chair, out of curiosity, asked for a show of hands by those who would be working on his campaign. A large minority, perhaps a third, raised their hands: something of a shock to the others, I think. Even if most of the rest of the room were thinking dark judgments, they also weren't ready to spoil the party.

It wasn't long into Sunday that my enthusiasm began to wane. Speeches began to creep in among the questions and dogmas began to run loose in the hall. More than that, my original sense of hope was partly based on the idea of a growing competency learned from experience. But not that many attendees were young people, and they were mostly very, very new to electoral politics. Given the average age of the conferees, we should have been movers and shakers, representing significant constituencies. But with a few exceptions, the attendees pretty much represented themselves. There will be exceptions, but these geezers have mostly gone about as far as they will go.

The conference, however, did fulfill more than a passing need. There is a need for a venue where the left, unencumbered by the Democratic Party brand, can gather to schmooze about elections and governing, where people interested in joining campaigns and elections can be introduced to them and mentored. That doesn't completely describe what this event was about, but the overlap is considerable.

Toward the end of the conference, attendees were asked to formally resolve that the ad hoc organizing committee continue and plan another event, possibly in 2016. It passed unanimously with but 4 abstentions. This conference was a sterling example of how much can be accomplished on a shoestring with dedication. But all volunteer operations are fragile, depending on commitment and trust among a few. A year can be a very long time in politics, and some of these organizers tend to be as much dogmatists as they are ideologues. We'll see: Perhaps Labor Notes for politicians?


Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

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The Most Dangerous Woman in America

Episode 52, recorded April 27, 2015: According to West Virginia district attorney Reese Blizzard, that would be Mary Harris Jones, aka "Mother Jones." And just who was Mother Jones and why was she so dangerous? What was Mother Jones' role in the American Railway Union's Pullman Strike? What was her relation to the women's movement of the early 20th Century? How did her radicalism relate to her Irish heritage? How is her legacy and work with the miners' unions to be remembered at the Mother Jones Museum in Mt. Olive, Illinois? And what was it with Gene Autry, anyway? In this episode of Talkin' Socialism, Peg Strobel interviews Rosemary Feurer, Associate Professor of History at Northern Illinois University and Director of the Mother Jones Heritage Project. To listen, use the audio player to the right. To download and listen later, right-click HERE (MP3 27.3 MB).

 

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June CDSA Membership Convention

Our regular Chicago DSA meeting on Saturday, June 13, will be a "convention" because we will be electing a male co-chair and secretary for two year terms beginning July 1. As the position is vacant, we'll also be holding an election for the female co-chair, this for a 1 year term. In addition to the usual business, we'll be adopting a budget and discussing priorities in light of the resources at hand.

The meeting begins at 12:15 PM in the Chicago DSA office, 3411 W. Diversey, Ste 7 (2nd floor) in Chicago. Please call (773.384.0327) or email (chiildsa@chicagodsa.org) if you're planning to attend. If we hear from enough people, we'll move the meeting to the building conference room.


I Believe We Will Win

by Tom Broderick

Although the Oak Brook, Illinois, police department estimated the crowd at 2,000, it seemed quite a bit bigger. Folk from Kansas City, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Milwaukee, Chicago and probably elsewhere converged on McDonald's headquarters in advance of the corporation's shareholders meeting. Red Fight for $15 t-shirts were everywhere. A multi-racial crowd ranging from infants pushed along in strollers to the aged pushing walkers. Economic justice was on everyone's mind on this chilly May 20th. Workers and their supporters called for a $15/hr minimum wage and the right to form a union.

One month earlier, Fight for $15 called for actions globally and the Oak Park chapter of Chicago DSA brought several members to rally with McDonald's workers and other supporters at the only McDonald's franchise in Oak Park. After a short picket, we followed a worker inside as she tried to deliver a letter to the manager. He refused to take it and then walked out of the franchise, turned his back on us and wouldn't talk with us or acknowledge us in any way.

Several years ago, this same McDonald's franchise was the scene of the very last picket before McDonald's signed a deal with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. At that time, when a squad car from the Oak Park police department rolled up, I went to speak with the officer and the franchise manager elbowed me out of the way and demanded that the officer "do something." The officer looked at us moving back and forth, carrying our signs on the sidewalk in front of the franchise and asked the manager wanted him to do, since it appeared to be a lawful protest. The manager walked to his car and left, saying he didn't want us on his property.

Since then, the Immokalee workers have racked up several successful campaigns. One of the chants at the Oak Brook demo was "I believe we will win!" It was a large and beautiful event and I believe the Fight for $15 will win their wage increase and their right to organize.

Tom Broderick

Photo by Bob Simpson


Ode: To a Babbling Brooks

If only the poor
Would be more like Brooks,
And stay in school
And hit the books.
Then they too could write
For the New York Times,
And then no more looting,
No more petty crimes.
So problem solved!
Says David Brooks,
Giving one of his
Patented ain't-I-smart looks.
To the poor, the cops
May appear less than noble.
But they rarely gun down
The upwardly mobile.

-- Hugh Iglarsh
in response to "The Nature of Poverty" by David Brooks.



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 #160.1

06.17.2015

Contents

0. DSA News

Rauner Wrong
DSA in the News
Young Democratic Socialists

1. Politics

Victory?
Another Victory to Celebrate
CPEG Notes
Censure
UE on Sanders

2. Democratic Socialism

Flakes Alive!

3. Upcoming Events of Interest


DSA News

Rauner Wrong
Greater Oak Park DSA's Bill Barclay took just a bit more than 3 minutes to tell the Oak Park Village Board about a natural social experiment that shows just where Rauner would take us. Watch it HERE.

DSA in the News
DSA was mentioned in passing in a Bedford and Bowery article concerning David McReynolds' resignation from the Socialist Party USA.

DSA was among the organizations organizing a May Day march in Columbus, Ohio, according to the Examiner web site.

Bernie Sanders was the occasion for a multiple mentions of DSA, including Peter Dreier's (an old DSA'er himself) commentary in The American Prospect. Bloomberg Politics reported that "America's Socialists Say Bernie Sanders Can Advance Their Cause" (ya think?). For Eric Lee, the Sanders campaign brought back memories of DSOC's intervention in the one and only Democratic Party mid-term convention in 1978, a recollection he shared at Salon (also see New Ground 132). New Jersey Today's favorable editorial regarding Sanders used DSA to define "democratic socialism". Lawrence Wittner included DSA in a Sanders inspired retrospective on democratic socialists' electoral efforts in the Huffington Post. (Wittner's piece got picked up by several other web publications / blogs.) The Washington Times discovered that socialists are seriously divided about Bernie Sanders. (Imagine.) And who is Bernie Sanders? Not John Galt but DSA, according to The Red & Black at the University of Georgia.

The Young Democratic Socialists was mentioned in passing in the Columbia Missourian's coverage of Hickman High School's graduation.

DSA was used, as usual, as an identifier applied to Cornel West in The Christian Post's coverage of the recent Justice Conference in Chicago.

Young Democratic Socialists
are holding a Southern Regional conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 7 through 9. For more information, CLICK HERE.


Politics

Victory?
The Senate passed one bill that contained Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as Fast Track, and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The House separated the two bills. The House must recombine their two bills to match the one bill passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the President.

In the House, the TAA was called first and it went down in flames to see the votes on this, CLICK HERE. Although TAA is supposed to be assistance for workers who lost their jobs due to trade, it's not assistance that's needed, It's jobs that's needed.

TPA passed in the house. To see the votes on this, CLICK HERE.

The House has given itself until July 30 to reconsider the TAA vote, but that vote could come at any time. And there are other strategies possible, including a House -- Senate conference to reconcile the differences. The fight is not over.

For those Representatives who voted against both parts, we need to thank them profusely.

For those Representatives who voted against the TAA portion, we need to thank them for that vote and urge them to stand firm when it comes up again. For those who voted for the TAA portion, we need to urge them to re-consider and vote against it when it comes up again. Passing TAA will allow the combination of TAA with TPA (Fast Track).

The phone number for the switchboard at the capital in DC is 202 224 3121. Ask for Representative and when you get them, let them know you are a constituent and tell them to vote against TAA when it comes up again. You can look up your Representative HERE.

Also, consider calling Rep. Pelosi and urge her to use her leadership to pull her members together to vote against the re-consideration of TAA.

Another Victory to Celebrate
Monday night, June 15, the Village Board of Oak Park voted to pass a Resolution calling for the federal government to establish federal legislation establishing a single, consistent-for-all-states universal background check for all gun sales. The board passed it unanimously, although two Trustees were absent. Congratulations to the Gun Responsibility Advocates (GRA) and to Greater Oak Park DSA co-chair Sandra Shimon for all the work they did to make this happen. For a discussion and background, CLICK HERE.

CPEG Notes
The Summer edition of the Chicago Political Economy Group's quarterly survey of the economy is posted on the web. In this edition: Prof. Joseph Persky gets things started with his take on the U.S.' less-than-robust first quarter performance, Ron Baiman then delivers a sharp analysis of the worsening employment scene while making sense of the deteriorating employment/population ratio, Bill Barclay looks at how two Midwestern states have fared under contrasting economic policy regimes, Mel Rothenberg's International Note examines the current challenges facing Greece and its Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, and finally CPEG explores the Chicago mayoral election. CLICK HERE. (PDF)

Censure
The American Association of University Professors at its annual meeting voted overwhelmingly to censure the administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of the dismissal of Steven Salaita, more HERE and HERE.

UE on Sanders
At its end of May meeting, the United Electrical Workers' General Executive Board adopted a statement on Bernie Sanders' campaign for President that begins:

The UE General Executive Board welcomes the entrance of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the presidential race. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, will compete in the Democratic primaries for the Democratic nomination. In his 35-year career in elected office, including 25 years in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been a strong friend and ally to UE members and to workers generally. He has urged workers to organize -- as he did when workers at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) in St. Albans organized UE Local 208 in 2008. When Vermont workers have organized, struck, or been engaged in other actions to defend their rights against employer greed or mismanagement, Sanders has spoken publicly in their behalf and assisted them in many other ways.  

Recently the Vermont State AFL-CIO Labor Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling him "the strongest candidate articulating our issues". With the present stable of corporate-sponsored candidates in the presidential race we could not agree more.

MORE.


Democratic Socialism

Flakes Alive!
At The Baffler, DSA National Political Committee member Amber Frost begins:

A few weeks back in Manhattan, hundreds of socialists, communists, anarchists, and even few decent "small-d" democrats shuffled into the unlikely venue of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (ironically, best known as a "cop school") for Left Forum 2015. If you aren't up on your radical political symposiums, Left Forum evolved out of the now-defunct Socialist Scholars Conference, which was re-founded in 1981 after the original Socialist Scholars Conference petered out in the 1960s. The SSC grew into the largest, most prominent leftist summit in the United States, though nationwide university cuts eventually curtailed both budget and staff for the event. By 2004 it was renamed Left Forum, and it still commands a big draw: This year's confab boasted 1,300 speakers and four hundred events under the salient title of "No Justice, No Peace: Confronting the Crises of Capitalism and Democracy."

At its best, Left Forum remains a reassuring beacon of cameraderie and ambition. In addition to seasoned journalists, organizers and academics, it usually snags a few big public intellectuals, like Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, and Angela Davis, while also peppering the bill with high-profile activists like Harry Belafonte and Michael Moore. The organizers sometimes even lure the odd political success story, most recently Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member and open socialist. Generally, both speakers and attendees are smart, friendly, and often quite young and good-looking (if I do say so myself).

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 #160.2

07.01.2015

Contents

0. DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Charleston
DSA in the News

1. Politics

Toward a Peoples' Budget for Illinois by Tom Broderick
A Chicago Casino? We Already Have One!
Rauner: The Demon Barber of Springfield by Tom Broderick
On Calhoun County

2. Democratic Socialism

Economic Democracy and Cooperatives

3. Upcoming Events of Interest


DSA News

Talkin' Socialism
Episode 53 -- Eugene V. Debs
Recorded June 27, 2015. Dan Hamilton, Chicago DSA's Political Education Director, interviews Professor William A. Pelz on the occasion of the recent release of the second edition of the Eugene V. Debs Reader: Socialism and the Class Struggle. Edited by Professor Pelz, the book is an anthology of writings and speeches by one of the most radical of America's early 20th century labor leaders, bringing to life a once powerful Socialist movement. Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926), one of America's most famous socialists, was an important political figure on the American political landscape in the early 20th century. He ran as the Socialist Party's presidential candidate five times and obtained nearly a million votes in 1912 and 1920.

Download to listen later [right click]: MP3 (24.5 MB) or OGG VORBIS (32 MB) (25:31)

SUBSCRIBE, or add to your playlist using STITCHER.

Charleston
The DSA National Political Committee statement on the murders at Emanuel AME Church:

The Black Lives Matter movement continues to contend correctly that these incidents are not isolated nor the work of deranged individuals. They are part of a centuries-long pattern of white violence against blacks, which takes the form of brutal physical coercion alongside economic and social exclusion. Not coincidentally, the confessed killer wore jackets with patches from apartheid South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). These regimes were founded to maintain both racist ideology and white control of the economy and domination of black labor.

MORE.

DSA in the News
The AM radio Fox News affiliate in Twin Falls, Idaho, KLIX News Radio 1310, ran a commentary on the issue of gun control, bringing DSA into the mix by pointing out pollster Guy Molyneux's political affiliations: "Liberal or Progressive or Marxist? What Difference Does It Make?"

Aaron Klein is one a small group of conservatives who make part of their living by writing and speaking about DSA. The Sanders campaign has given that group pause as suddenly socialism is an idea, a label that is not so far out, making the whole thing much less dramatic and frightful, therefore less entertaining, motivating, and salable. But at WND (not a news site, really, but right-wing propaganda), Klein gives it the old college try (It's a living, after all!) with "Bernie Sanders Recruited Socialists to Congress". It's mostly a remix of old material but two points are worth making. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) web site was never part of the DSA national web site. The official CPC web site was always a page off Bernie Sander's House web site. But there wasn't much there in contrast to what was available at the DSA site. Second, the comments following this article are remarkable in that as recently as two or three years ago, the comments section would have been a full-blown two minute hate rally out of 1984. These comments resemble a debate.


Politics

Toward a Peoples' Budget for Illinois
by Tom Broderick
There has been quite a bit of organized popular pushback against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda in the Chicago area.

Fair Economy Illinois has sponsored a few Moral Monday actions combining politics, theater and civil disobedience. One took place by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at Jackson and LaSalle Streets in downtown Chicago. There was a larger than life Rauner puppet and a table piled with wealth. Several clergy spoke about the damage that the Rauner agenda would inflict on the people of Illinois after which the table of wealth was taken into the street and overturned. With a chant of "Rauner Repent!" about a dozen, mostly clergy, then sat down in the intersection, were arrested and released with a citation.

Another started with a rally at the Thompson Center and a march to the offices of billionaire Sam Zell, who provided $4 million to Governor Rauner's political action committee. The theater was the story of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. The camel was two women in costume and another woman held a super-sized needle. To get through the eye of the needle, the camel had to divest itself of the money bags it was carrying. Approximately 21 clergy and others were issued citations for occupying an intersection. They were promptly released, but a smaller group was arrested for protesting inside the skyway that linked the Riverside Plaza Building with the Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Zell's offices are.

After Governor Rauner vetoed the budget sent to him by the State Legislature, another Moral Monday rally and march began at the Thompson Center and proceeded to a nearby office of building that houses Citadel LLC. Citadel LLC is a hedge fund firm led by billionaire Ken Griffin, who donated millions of dollars to the Rauner campaign. Several hundred took part in the march and rally, which culminated in a "die-in" outside the office building. Seven protesters who refused to leave the building after being ordered to do so were taken into police custody.

Alliance For Community Services convened a "Stop the Chop" community forum at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park. DSA activist Fran Tobin was principal in putting this together. The event featured moving testimony from speakers and audience members on how cuts in the areas of physical and mental health care and public/paratransit services will affect them and their loved ones.

Audience members were asked to take part in an inequality exercise that illustrated how the poorest have suffered inordinately as income re-distribution paved the way for greater wealth for a small minority. Diane Stokes, President of AFSCME Local 2858, whose workers provide some of the services that Governor Rauner's budget proposals directly threaten, cited the importance of unions and fair contracts for workers.

In addition to the living testimonies, there was a presentation on how to raise revenue, chiefly provided by Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union and Dr. Bill Barclay, a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group and co-chair of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. They focused on the LaSalle Street Tax, which is a service tax of $1 to $2 per contract to be paid for by some of the traders working through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange.

State Senator Don Harmon (D-39) and State Representative Camille Lilly (D-78) spoke at the forum. They represent the area where Grace Episcopal Church hosted the meeting. Senator Harmon is the chief sponsor of the "fair income tax" bill (SJRCA0001), which, if passed through a Constitutional amendment, would change Illinois from taxing all incomes the same (flat tax) and set higher rates on higher incomes and lower rates on lower incomes.

During the Q&A, Senator Harmon was asked to comment on the LaSalle Street Tax. He responded that he thought the traders would leave Illinois if such a tax were imposed. DSA members who live in Senator Harmon's district have asked for a meeting with him to discuss this issue.

Representative Camille Lilly has already agreed to add her name to such a tax when Representative Mary Flowers, the chief sponsor of the bill, opens it up for signatories. Representative La Shawn Ford who also represents a portion of Oak Park has also agreed to sign on the bill.

At the meeting at Grace Church, Representative Lilly talked of Rauner's inexperience with elected office and his need to learn to work with the Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature. She also brought a flier to alert us to a meeting with several members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) to speak against Rauner's proposed budget cuts. This was hosted by the South Austin Coalition Community Council on the west side of Chicago. Though there were plenty of chairs, turnout was standing room only. No doubt helped by the fact that seven members of the Caucus brought community members to address the spirited gathering.

Ms. Lillian Drummond (The Mighty Warrior) opened the event and got right to business, exhorting that we must "challenge Governor Rauner and his ally the devil." She went on to say that it's necessary to "walk in the shoes of low income people before you can speak on their behalf." Cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) got particular condemnation from Ms. Drummond.

The members of the members of the ILBC who spoke at the rally included: Senators Karen Lightford (D-4), who is Assistant Majority Leader and Joint Black Caucus Chair and Patricia Van Pelt (D-5); and Representatives Chris Welch (D-7), La Shawn Ford (D-8), Arthur Turner (D-9) and Camille Lilly (D-78). Representative Lilly provided the phone number for Governor Rauner's office and told us to call and let the Governor know that these cuts are unfair. That number is 217 782 0244.

While more than one speaker acknowledged that Governor Rauner did not create the budget mess, his plans were "going to push us all into a ditch." The number of speakers brought to speak out was impressive, but in the end, the "Next Steps" and "Questions from Audience" portions of the program were cut because of time. This was unfortunate because of the energy in the room and also because Governor Rauner vetoed the budget presented to him by the Democratic majority while we were meeting. Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-4), who presided over the meeting as the Joint Black Caucus Chair, had stepped away to talk with the press when news about Rauner's veto came in.

Although the veto should have been expected, Senator Lightford was in tears as she broke the news: "don't confuse my tears with signs of weakness -- I'm mad!" But amid calls for "next steps Senator," all she could respond was "I think our elders need to lead the way." And on that, the meeting was over.

Chicago ADAPT, which serves the Illinois disabled community called a rally, march and protest against Governor Rauner's cuts to home and community support programs. We met on the north steps of the Chicago Cultural Center at 77 W. Randolph an then marched to one of Governor Rauner's several residences at 340 W. Randolph. There were perhaps 80 participants over the course of the event, including 15 people in motorized wheel chairs.

We marched more or less in single file, carrying signs, petitions while chanting and disrupting traffic on busy Michigan Avenue. When we got to the condo, pretty much everyone squeezed into the lobby, including all of the folk in the wheel chairs. Even though at least two television stations had cameras and reporters on hand, it took quite some time for Chicago's finest to show up. Finally three officers on bicycles came to the scene of the invasion. One of them seemed quite put out by our action, glaring at everyone and finally putting their bikes in front of the access doors. Someone pointed out that she was creating a fire hazard by blocking the doors and she responded "so call the fire department."

Her action didn't stop anyone from entering or exiting until a much larger contingent of officers showed up. Someone with higher police authority finally told us that everyone who didn't want to get arrested for trespassing on private property should leave the building. Fran Tobin let us know that the staff at the condo would not accept the petitions.

The four who were not in motorized wheel chairs were led out in handcuffs and marched over to a waiting police van. This group included Access Living community organizer and DSA activist Tom Wilson. It was unclear what was going to happen to protesters who were in motorized wheel chairs and still in the building's lobby. Then the first four were marched back to the condo, issued citations for trespassing and released. The protesters still in the building were then issued citations and released. A lawyer for the group gathered up the citations and what comes next is yet to be decided.

An Emergency Convening on a People's Budget Plan was held at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on the south side of Chicago. Initiated by the Grassroots Collaborative and joined by members of dozens of organizations, this three-hour gathering included presentations and discussions on the political crisis as well as the financial crisis we face.

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative and Ed Shurna, Executive Director of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless steered us through the event which included reflections on the impact that the proposed budget cuts would have on Illinois and what are the root causes of fiscal crisis. This included a power point presentation showing how the burden of paying for a robust society has been shifted away from corporations and powerful individuals to poor and middle income families.

An overview of possible progressive revenue solutions included taxing higher income earners, corporate accountability and regulating the powerful financial industry. Over a working lunch, we were asked to gather in different parts of the room to discuss one of the three topics and to consider short and long-term solutions. Chicago DSA co-chair Bill Barclay helped facilitate the group focusing on the financial industry and DSA member Ron Baiman helped facilitate the group focusing on corporate accountability.

After reconvening we discussed how (and if) to move forward to launch a sustained fight for a people's budget plan. This included thoughts on messaging. Carl Rosen, President of the Western Region of United Electrical Workers pointed out, "the banks got bailed out and we got sold out," an expression made famous by UE workers when they took over and occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago.

Sheilah Garland an organizer for National Nurses United said we need to remember to be revolutionary and bold as we move forward after which a Chicago Alderman suggested that a Financial Transaction Tax might be something that would take some time to come to fruition. Ron Baiman responded that it's just a lack of political will that holds up the implementation of a LaSalle Street Tax.

There were questions about how to move beyond Chicago and the metropolitan region and about how to craft messages to appeal to different audiences. Some of the folk representing groups wanted to get back to their organizations to determine if and how to establish a working coalition. Everybody wanted to get the documentation used to put together facts and figures we were presented with. But, overall, I'd say everyone seemed to be in agreement that we need to fight for a more inclusive and democratic political and financial agenda.

Photos by Fran Tobin
ADAPT Protest
 

A Chicago Casino? We Already Have One!
At the Chicago Political Economy Group:

Chicago already has one of the biggest "rich person" casinos in the world but it is hardly taxed at all. A new CPEG report explores the massive gap between taxation of largely lower and middle-class riverboat gamblers, and the upper-class who do their gambling in the heart of Chicago's financial district.

In fact, assuming that both rich and poor person casinos in Illinois pass tax costs on to their customers, "traders" at Illinois' rich-person casinos: Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) owned by the CME, and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) pay state taxes that are at most equal to 0.000014% of the nominal value traded, more than 200,000 times lower than the 3.2% state tax per dollar wagered by "gamblers" at Illinois' 10 poor-person riverboat casinos.

MORE. (PDF)

Rauner: The Demon Barber of Springfield
by Tom Broderick
A couple of interesting letters to the editor were published in the 6/3/15 issue of the Wednesday Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers the Illinois communities of Oak Park and River Forest. Chicago DSA co-chair Bill Barclay compared the responses of the governors and legislatures of Wisconsin and Minnesota when facing budget deficits. Wisconsin chose austerity. Minnesota chose stimulus. According to the letter, Minnesota chose the right path. Illinois also has a budget deficit and our governor champions the chop and slash of austerity.

Illinois State Senator Don Harmon wrote about the damage that Governor Rauner's funding cuts will cause the middle class. It's likely Senator Harmon focused on the middle class because Oak Park and River Forest have populations that predominately view themselves as middle class.

Rauner wants to cut by 50% the share of state income tax revenue that local municipalities receive. Senator Harmon points out that this will result in "fewer firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more pesky potholes." Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature cut state funding to the city of Detroit when they were looking to force it into bankruptcy for political and racist reasons. Governor Rauner apparently wants the punishment to be more broadly felt.

Other cuts proposed by our governor include increasing the co-payments for low-income parents who receive child-care subsidies from the state. He also wants to refuse to accept any new applicants into the program. This means that poverty-wage workers will be left without child-care. Do they continue to work? If so, what becomes of their children? Are they other people's problems?

Without specifying what income levels will be affected, Governor Rauner wants to put income limits on the Community Care Program. This serves to keep senior citizens in their homes rather than forcing them into nursing home facilities at greater long-term cost: Classic kick the can down the road governance that Rauner rightly paints the current and previous Democratic Party led legislatures as guilty of.

He wants to eliminate Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation facilities. These include Transitional Living Centers, where people in crisis can be temporarily housed for evaluation. There are also Transitional Supervised Residential Programs, where people can be cared for around the clock, with the goal of helping them achieve independent living as their mental health improves. This is one part of Rauner's goal to cut $1.5 billion from Medicaid.

System wide, higher education in Illinois is targeted with a $400 million slash, including a 30% cut to all public universities in 2015. The Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants only meet a fraction of current student needs. Not a good long term projection for the future of education in Illinois.

Our governor wants a $127 million reduction in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which will further burden the CTA, Metra and Pace public transportation systems. Paratransit riders on the suburban Pace system could see fares jump from $3 to $5 per ride. This is an attack on people as well as the environment.

The state portion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is funded by a surcharge on the monthly utility bills of Illinois residents. It is used to help folk with low incomes pay their utility bills throughout Illinois. Governor Rauner has threatened to cut that assistance and move the funds into the general revenue fund where he can choose how to dispense the money. Legally he can't do this without a change to Illinois law, and that's what he proposes to do if he doesn't get a budget he likes. He didn't get a budget to his liking and indeed vetoed the one sent to him by legislators.

Governor Rauner doesn't want to discuss raising revenue until the state legislature embraces his agenda. He wants the leaders of the various municipalities who have been threatened with the loss of their share of the state income tax to pressure our legislature. As Senator Harmon pointed out, "the only people who benefit from Governor Rauner's agenda are his corporate pals."

Senator Harmon sponsored "a fair income tax," (SJRCA0001) where those with higher income pay higher rates, and those with lower income pay lower rates. Worth pursuing, but it will take a constitutional amendment to enact and therefore is no quick budget fix. Illinois is one of a small group of states with a flat income tax, where all personal income is taxed at one rate. Illinois is also fingered as one of the ten most regressive state and local tax systems in the U.S. according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Click on "Ten Most Regressive State & Local Tax Systems" in the Table of Contents.

Illinois Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan, has revived the idea of an additional tax on individuals with annual incomes greater than $1 million. This received overwhelming support in a recent non-binding statewide ballot referendum. It would also require a constitutional amendment. California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont and New York have similar tax surcharges on the wealthy.

In addition to implementing a progressive income tax, we should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This would be a boon to lower income working families. In Illinois, the EITC is currently 10% of the Federal tax credit. Near the end of his term, former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn suggested increasing the Illinois EITC to 20% of the Federal tax credit. This is something our legislators could do with nothing more than intestinal fortitude.

One potential source of revenue is the Financial Transaction Tax, locally known as the LaSalle Street Tax. This is a small tax that would mostly apply to high frequency traders working through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. This tax would raise needed revenue from highly speculative and risky gambling. Call it a casino tax on the financial elite.

This could be implemented by the Illinois Legislature the moment it wants to focus on raising revenue. There is a bill to do this on the national level as well. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced this legislation, which he has called The Inclusive Prosperity Act. Still, Chicago provides an excellent opportunity to move forward with a statewide tax. The Chicago Political Economy Group has done great research on this.

The Federal Estate Tax is the most progressive part of the U.S. tax code according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These "Paris Hilton" taxes are generally thought of as federal taxes, but some states, including Illinois, have them. In 2010, the Illinois Legislature repealed the state estate tax, only to re-instate it in 2011. Our legislature exempted the first $2 million from taxation and then increased the exemption to $3.5 million in 2012 and raised the exemption again to $4 million in 2014. Wrong direction.

When our legislators protest that Illinois is on the verge of bankruptcy and ask us all to share in the suffering, ask why they're leaving cash on the table. Only political will keeps the LaSalle Street Tax and the Paris Hilton Tax from being viewed as low hanging fruit ripe for harvesting.

Nationally, the cap on social security should be raised. Currently, annual income greater than $118,500 is exempt from the social security tax. Social security is considered a safety net for Americans. Not for poor Americans, not for Rich Americans, for Americans. It's a most honorable national pact. Why should making more money on an annual basis exempt you from paying into our national safety net?

Senator Harmon wrote that Rauner's agenda is "class warfare, aimed squarely at the middle class." It's not simply Rauner's agenda. Remember the redistribution of wealth overseen by President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Today, we have the Business Roundtable, promoting a business agenda as good public policy and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) cross-pollinating corporate views with conservative politicians.

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, were each ranked the 9th richest person in the world by the Hurun Report in 2014. Sheldon Adelson was ranked the 18th richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2015. These imperious lords of capitalism flaunt their wealth through the conspicuous consumption of purchased politicians, purchased elections and purchased judicial decisions.

Governor Rauner's agenda is one part of a corporate driven financial program that will chop us into a future of poverty for much of Illinois. That poverty will deepen and spread. Where there once was a thriving middle class will become memory.

The view from Mt. 1% is that the greater the number of precariat, the more timid we will be. Instead of singling out the middle class as a victim in need of resuscitation, we need to broaden our scope. Ours is not an economy based on hard work leading to great success, it's an economy based on the maximization of profit and wealth for a trans-national class of hoarders.

This class is mythically referred to as "job creators." Can you hear them laughing on the way to their international tax havens of choice? No? They're too distant to be heard. As long as capital is allowed to avoid taxation through international mobility and well-constructed loopholes, we will suffer austerity while a few prosper.

When a corporation closes a work site and ships good paying jobs overseas, it's business. When unemployed/under-employed workers lose their health care, it's business. When unemployed/under-employed workers lose their homes through bank foreclosures, it's business. Rauner comes out of a corporate consolidation background: Profit over people. His agenda is not ours. We need to fight back with an agenda that rejects the notion that great a amount of personal wealth exempts anyone from social and environmental responsibility.

"I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars while men and women who work all their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence." - Eugene V. Debs.

On Calhoun County
What's in a name? At Capitol Fax, Rich Miller explores the issue HERE.


Democratic Socialism

Economic Democracy and Cooperatives
At Grassroots Economic Organizing, Christopher Michael begins by asking:

Is there a difference between "economic democracy" and "cooperativism"? And, perhaps more specifically, how should "worker cooperative advocacy" relate to "cooperative advocacy"?

MORE.


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