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New Ground 63

March - April, 1999

Contents:

  • Africa's HOPE Against Globalization: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Progressive Alternative to NAFTA for Africa by Bill Dixon
  • Legislative Sidebar
  • Other News by Bob Roman
  • Healthcare Action Week
    Chicago Municipal Elections
    Local Lad Makes Good


    Africa's HOPE Against Globalization:

    Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Progressive Alternative to NAFTA for Africa

    by Bill Dixon

    HR 434 is called the African Growth and Opportunity Act (a.k.a. NAFTA for Africa) and it candidly proposes that the economies of the sub-Saharan nations reorganize solely on the principle of maximum profits for multinational capital. Modeled after NAFTA, the proposal would make corporate earnings the first and last words on virtually every dimension of economic development throughout the region. Unlike the original NAFTA, however, this bill faces a rival proposal from the progressive Left. It's called HR 772, the Human Rights Opportunity Partnership and Empowerment (HOPE) for Africa Act, and it's sponsored by Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (2nd District).

    Dubbing it the "Africa Recolonization Act", Jackson led one hundred and eighty-six members of Congress in voting against the NAFTA-for-Africa bill a year ago. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. An even nastier version of the measure has been reintroduced this year.

    As before, the new NAFTA-for-Africa bill demands drastic cuts in public spending (including education and health care funding), sweeping schemes for the wholesale privatization of public services and state assets, and assorted bonanzas for foreign investors by way of giant tax breaks and the general slackening of labor, consumer, and environmental regulations. The bill makes no serious commitments to debt relief, and the latest version keeps silent about US aid as well as basic human rights standards. The growth and opportunity part of the African NAFTA really means the rapid expansion of the labor intensive export sectors, mainly clothing and textiles in addition to natural resources. Meanwhile, the sub-Saharan home markets are to be filled by non-African imports, which will help to keep living standards as low as possible relative to the higher productivity, and ultimately tighten Africas overall economic dependency on the U.S. and Europe.

    Yet as bad as a NAFTA-for-Africa would be, it's still hard to beat something with nothing. Policy makers today face enormous pressure from anxious business and (often legitimate) political interests to negotiate some sort of trade agreement between the U.S. and the sub-Saharan region, an area all too dependent on foreign investment. Fortunately, this time the Left has a serious alternative in Jackson's HOPE bill which, even if watered down, would still be an historic departure for US trade policy.

    While opening a level of preferred access between U.S. and African markets, HOPE would also mandate that basic labor and environmental standards for the region be developed and enforced. In particular, the bill takes a firm stand against the expanded use of guest workers from Asia, who are now flown into production for export centers which use little if any home labor, a striking similarity to Central Americas maquiladora zones. The HOPE bill would put tight restrictions on imports from Africa made by non-African workers. This would be a small but notable first for U.S. trade policy, and a direct challenge to the brave new capitalist vision of flexible labor markets, where multinationals jump workers across borders and even continents to escape regulation and union organizing, all the while furthering the social control of management over labor at factories far from home.

    Crucially, the HOPE bill would also tie increased trade to increased aid. In 1996, thanks to the Republican majority, the line item for US aid to Africa was eliminated, making Africa the only region in the world without any guaranteed level of U.S. support. Jackson's bill would restore previous levels of aid guarantees to Africa, and channel money for specific needs like education, agriculture, health care, etc. Administering the new aid would be a network of government officials, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups, with the aim of making US aid a serious commitment to the region instead a mere a tool of short term shifts in U.S. foreign policy. The bill also provides specific funding for combating the AIDS epidemic in the region, where the disease has been devastating on an awesome scale and continues to threaten the lives of millions who for now go without the help of any serious international policy.

    Perhaps most importantly, the HOPE bill seeks to eliminate the regions $230 billion of external debt. The servicing of that debt currently takes up to twenty percent of the regions export earnings (not including South Africa). This, of course, would the first time in the U.S. that expanded trade was directly linked to significant debt relief. Obviously, it is a linkage which is long overdue and it should be pushed as far as possible and then some. Even within corporate and financial circles there is a growing realization that the crushing weight of foreign debt in the developing world doesn't discipline emerging economies so much as cripple them and that, yes, maybe something could actually be done about that. Still, this remains the most controversial feature of HOPE and the least likely to pass (that is, unless the AFL-CIO and the rest of the fair trade camp were to recognize the importance of it and decide to exert on its behalf some of the same political muscle which defeated fast track).

    Beyond the usual cries of outrage from Big Business and its Republican Party, the HOPE bill has garnered controversy in some surprising quarters. Namely, two of Jackson's leading colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus and the otherwise staunch liberals Charles Rangel from New York and Bobby Rush (1st District, Chicago) have declared support for the NAFTA-for-Africa bill and opposition to HOPE. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, who led the successful fight against fast track, voted for the NAFTA-for-Africa bill last year, while Rep. David Bonoir, usually Gephardt's twin on labor and trade issues, voted against last years bill and has signed on to HOPE. Not surprisingly, two of Chicago's own leading progressives in Congress, Rep. Danny Davis and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, have also signed on to Jackson's bill.

     

    Sidebar:

    Illinois Congressmen and HR 434 and HR 772

    Please call your Congressman and express your support for HR 772 and opposition to HR 434. If your Congressman is already supporting HR 434, please be sure to thank them. For additional information about HR 772, go to http://www.citizen.org/pctrade/Africa/HOPE/hopehome.htm

     

    Illinois Sponsors H.R. 434 "NAFTA for Africa"

     

    8th District
    The Honorable Philip M. Crane
    233 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1308
    (202) 225-3711
     
    15th District
    The Honorable Thomas W. Ewing
    2417 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1315
    (202) 225-2371
     
    16th District
    The Honorable Donald A. Manzullo
    409 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1316
    (202) 225-5676
     
    1st District
    The Honorable Bobby L. Rush
    2416 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1301
    (202) 225-4372
     
    10th District
    The Honorable John Edward Porter
    2373 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1310
    (202) 225-4835

     

    DSA members should give special attention to DSA member Major Owens; please contact him to tell him that he is mistaken in his support for H.R. 434.

     

    The Honorable Major R. Owens
    2305 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-3211
    (202) 225-6231

     

    Illinois Sponsors H.R. 772 Hope for Africa Act

     

    2nd District
    The Honorable Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
    313 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1302
    (202) 225-0773
     
    9th District
    The Honorable Janice D. Schakowsky
    515 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1309
    (202) 225-2111
     
    17th District
    The Honorable Lane Evans
    2335 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1317
    (202) 225-5905
     
    7th District
    The Honorable Danny K. Davis
    1222 Longworth HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1307
    (202) 225-5006
     
    5th District
    The Honorable Rod R. Blagojevich
    331 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1305
    (202) 225-4061

     

    The Other Illinois Congressmen

     

    13th District
    The Honorable Judy Biggert
    508 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1313
    (202) 225-3515
     
    12th District
    The Honorable Jerry F. Costello
    2454 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1312
    (202) 225-5661
     
    4th District
    The Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez
    2438 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1304
    (202) 225-8203
     
    14th District
    The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
    2263 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1314
    (202) 225-2976
     
    District 6
    The Honorable Henry J. Hyde
    2110 Rayburn HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1306
    (202) 225-4561
     
    18th District
    The Honorable Ray LaHood
    329 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1318
    (202) 225-6201
     
    3rd District
    The Honorable William O. Lipinski
    1501 Longworth HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1303
    (202) 225-5701
     
    19th District
    The Honorable David D. Phelps
    1523 Longworth HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1319
    (202) 225-5201
     
    20th District
    The Honorable John Shimkus
    513 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1320
    (202) 225-5271
     
    11th District
    The Honorable Jerry Weller
    424 Cannon HOB
    Washington, DC 20515-1311
    (202) 225-3635


    Other News

    by Bob Roman

    Health Care Action Week

    The Campaign for Better Health Care has declared April 5 through 10th to be Health Care Action Week. During that week, state legislators will be at their district offices, and the Campaign hopes to mobilize tens of thousands of health care consumers throughout Illinois to raise a frightful clamor for measures that protect consumers, their communities and health care workers. Specifically, there are three bills which you can help promote.

    The first is HB 626 / SB 626, the Managed Care Consumer Bill of Rights. Managed care plans have gotten an evil reputation for rationing care, with little or no recourse. The bill increases accountability by strengthening grievance and appeal rights, by establishing a state ombudsman and by giving consumers the right to sue. It bans some of the more obnoxious practices managed care plans have fallen into, such as gag rules or "prior authorization" for emergencies. It increases the amount and quality of information available to the consumer. This year, the Illinois State Medical Society has not introduced a competing bill.

    HB 2138 is grandiosely entitled Illinois Universal Health Care Plan of 1999. It is in fact a legislative version of the proposed Bernardine Amendment which requires the state to come up with a scheme that provides health care for all Illinois citizens. It provides a timeline that the state must follow. HB 2138 differs from the proposed amendment by providing a longer timeline. It also takes less votes to pass.

    HB 1807, the Local Public Health Accountability Act, was still being drafted at press time, but the object of the bill will be to regulate the conversion of non profit hospitals into for profit operations. This has been a real problem for some communities, sometimes involving pretty scandalous behavior. The legislation will attempt to strengthen existing safeguards against conflicts of interest and make timely provisions for public information. More to the point, it will also put State's Attorneys on notice that they do indeed have the authority to intervene in these matters. Lawyers do tend to be creatures of habit and custom.

    The Campaign is planning a variety of actions, from consumer lobbying days in Springfield, to district meetings, to postcards and letter writing, much of it targeting specific legislators. However, the Campaign is also encouraging its members to take the initiative. To find out more about these bills and to find out how you can help, call the Campaign for Better Health Care at (312) 913-9449.

    Chicago Municipal Elections

    The Chicago municipal elections were a mixed bag. While there were some notable defeats, there were also some notable victories.

    Bobby Rush lost disastrously, receiving less than 30% of the vote. This election was such a rout, Congressman Rush could easily be in trouble in 2000.

    The Rush campaign suffered from three problems. First and least of all, it was not a particularly well run campaign. This can make a difference in a close contest, which this was not.

    Secondly, the time was not ripe. There was no strong "kick the bums out" attitude among voters, giving incumbency an additional advantage. This can be overcome if the incumbent has a bad strategy and makes mistakes. Daley did not.

    Finally, the Rush campaign repeated the errors of the past few elections, which envisioned a unified African - American community rising up to take power on its own terms. It didn't happen.

    I would hope that this election will wake-up for that stratum of the African - American community that have served as the core for many of the past Black mayoral candidates. In Chicago, ethnic politics politics is a tradition; in proximity to St. Patrick's Day, you might even call it "grand". But it is always done in coalition. Not even the Irish won power by themselves or were ever united enough to keep it by themselves.

    Lu Palmer captures the attitute of this stratum of the African - American community very well. In the February, 1999, issue of the Chicago Reporter, he is quoted as saying, "I can't name one black person in Chicago who has political power. I don't know one black person in the city of Chicago who can make a move without turning to some white person or white institution to get it approved." Taken literally, this is absurd. But it is true that in a city where Blacks are a large plurality of the voters, they always end up being the junior partner.

    And it is true that no elected or appointed Black public official is accountable only to the African - American community. Welcome to the real world, for in fact this mutualism is the very basis of coalition politics. Harold Washington knew this; it was one of the reasons he became mayor. The sooner this is realized, the sooner we'll see another Black mayor in Chicago.

    If this takes yet another election cycle to sink in, don't be too surprised. A similar stratum of white folks along the lakefront still think "Independent" means something.

    Two candidates of note not endorsed by CDSA, also did well. Alderman Munoz (22nd) won a landslide re-election in a campaign that had many on the left worried, given that Senator Jesus Garcia had been narrowly defeated just a year ago. In the 1st Ward, challenger Cynthia Soto has managed to take incumbent Jesse Granato into the runoff. This could be an interesting race.

    Among the CDSA endorsed candidates, Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Michael Chandler (24th) and Joe Moore (49th) easily won re-election with landslide victories.

    Two other CDSA endorsed incumbents did not do so well. Both Helen Shiller (46th) and Barbara Holt (5th) did not gain a majority of the vote, thus finding themselves in the runoff election on April 13th. While Helen Shiller had a 2 to 1 plurality over the nearest challenger, liberals and leftists in Chicago should be concerned. Barbara Holt may actually be in a worse position going into the runoff, and it's worth noting that many CDSA members are supporting her opponent, Leslie Hairston, who is endorsed by the IVI-IPO.

    Other CDSA endorsed candidates did not do so well. Maria Torres (12th) and Ray Colon (39th), both challengers, both lost. Supporters of Ray Colon felt reasonably satisfied with their effort, having scored nearly 40% of the vote against an entrenched incumbent, Velma Colom.

    Two other CDSA endorsed challengers have made it into the runoff election: Ted Thomas (15th) and Floyd Thomas (29th). Ted Thomas is in a reasonably good position to win his election, having come in first, but Floyd Thomas will have a more difficult time of it, having come in a distant second to another challenger, Isaac Carothers. Carothers apparently comes out of the City's Department of Streets and Sanitation, demonstrating that garbage cans still get Chicagoan's attention come election time.

    Ted Thomas, Floyd Thomas, Ray Colon and Maria Torres were all New Party endorsed candidates, and I'm happy to report that CDSA members accounted for well over $3,000 in contributions to these four candidates alone.

    But this story isn't over. The runoff election is April 13, and Helen Shiller, Ted Thomas, Floyd Thomas and Barbara Holt need your help:

    Local Lad Makes Good

    Bill Dixon's cover story for the Spring, 1998, issue of Democratic Left won First Place in Project Censored's Top Ten Most Censored News Stories. Project Censored is a media watch-dog and research group at Sonoma State University in California. Each year it assembles a national panel of media experts to select the most important stories that the mainstream media did not, for whatever reason, see fit to print. The stories will be published together in a book, Censored 1999, published by Seven Stories Press. The authors will be feted at an awards dinner in New York City in April.

    Bill Dixon is a member of DSA's National Political Committee from Chicago. He is a frequent contributor to DSA's national publication, Democratic Left, and to Chicago DSA's New Ground.

    Way to go and congratulations, Bill!

    (From Democratic Left)


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