Home About CDSA New Ground Events Debs Dinner Links Join DSA Audio Email us

 
Your contribution is appreciated
but, because of our advocacy work,
not tax deductible.

New Ground 87

March - April, 2003

Contents

  • Banana Republicans by Bob Roman
  • A Statement from DSA's National Director: No Surrender to War by Frank Llewellyn
  • Abolition Now by Tom Broderick
  • May Day 2003: Health Care not Warfare! by Harold Taggart
  • Illinois Deserves a Raise by Ron Baiman
  • Fair Taxes for All by Bob Roman
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman

  • Banana Republicans

    by Bob Roman

    It's always helpful to have Marx and Engels at one's shoulder intoning, "It's the political economy, stupid!" But in the case of Gulf War II, it seems to me that simple politics is the place to start when explaining Dubya's lunatic behavior. Consider that public reaction around the world has been almost uniformly negative, with little indication of class polarization. This, to me, suggests that there is no consensus in favor of the war among the ruling class. While "no blood for oil" is a wonderful accusation to fling at Dubya, it's nonsensical to think that a stable, profitable oil supply depends upon a "disarmed", "regime changed" Iraq, especially in the context of a $100,000,000,000 (at least) price tag, even if we're the ones paying the bill and the oil companies are only leaving the tip.

    The major exception is here in the States where Dubya's policies maintain an uneasy and skittish majority that has been polarized mostly along party lines: people who self identify as Republicans overwhelmingly approve and people who self identify as Democrats do not. Furthermore, the timing of this war fits far too well with the U.S. election cycle. What we have here is the international equivalent of former California Governor Pete Wilson's attack on the immigrant community. Race, ethnicity and religion have played a major role in American politics, in ways that both complicate and compliment the class based politics of an industrial economy. What we have here is the last gasp of America's White Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite.

    It's not that political economy is irrelevant to this process (thank you, Karl). I would speculate that the Dubya Administration represents a reactionary expression of the remains of a national capitalist constituency, whereas Shrub and Slick Willie were more in tune with a global economy dominated by multinational institutions. I don't think this is a particularly original analysis. But if it's largely accurate, it has interesting implications.

    First, no empire is going to tolerate a political center that pursues policies totally divorced from the interests of the governed. The creation of an international opposition is almost automatic. Second, the U.S. economy is losing its ability to dominate the world, despite a military that out weighs all the others. Our manufacturing base is largely defunct. If we remain a financial center for world capitalism, we're hardly the only option available and there's no particular reason for us to remain one except that we already are one. Argentina is far closer than many people may imagine; the material basis for an empire has been disappearing. Dubya may very well be biting off far more than he (or the rest of us) can chew. Dubya may very well have driven Imperial America into a tree. He may very well have driven global capitalism into a tree as well.

    The left has been fighting corporate globalization. Our objection has not been against globalization per se but against the construction of a global economy whose rules are determined solely by the needs of international capital. We've won a few battles, but let's face it: we've been getting the stuffing knocked out of us overall. But regardless of which economic interests dominate international institutions, at this stage in their development, international "law" only exists to the extent that national governments agree to implement it. Essentially, the emperor has no cloths. In the chaos following Dubya's attempt at a unilateral U.S. empire, what incentive will there be to pretend otherwise?

    And there may be practical, material limits to globalization. When weapons of mass destruction are relatively easy and cheap and deliverable via shipping container, what are the implications for international trade and globally distributed production? When invasive species of plants and animals destroy agricultural resources and habitats (a story as old as humanity but qualitatively different because of scale and context), what are the implications for globalization? In a period of resurgent infectious disease, what are the implications for global travel and open borders?

    Finally, a collapse of the U.S. empire will not be without other consequences. There are other aspiring imperial entrepreneurs in the world, and many of them rather more ugly than the current Administration. This may be a problem worth living with, but it is a problem.

    And if Dubya succeeds? Saddam gone; weapons of mass destruction discovered; a short campaign with relatively few American and civilian Iraqi casualties; a gratefully surprised Iraqi population with an endless supply of Baathist horror stories; basic reconstruction largely accomplished by the time the November, 2004, elections come around? Not only will the American Presidency stand astride the world without peers, but the domestic left will be shattered, easily neutralized by dowsing with the blood of Saddam's victims, isolated to the ghettos of a handful of safe congressional districts. This is Dubya's dream, and like most rosy scenarios likely to remain mostly a dream, but beware. Though it may seem unprecedented to many of our countrymen, what Dubya is doing in Iraq is not at all new behavior for the United States. Just consider our ongoing interventions in the countries of Central and South America over the past century or so. In Mexico, they have a saying, "Pity poor Mexico; so far from God, so close to the United States." If Dubya pulls this off, for a time all the world will be a banana republic.


    A Statement from DSA's National Director:

    No Surrender to War

    by Frank Llewellyn

    President Bush has announced his intention to begin war against Iraq within 48 hours, assuming Saddam Hussein does not voluntarily relinquish power. This is a sad day, as it represents a blatant United States abandonment of multilateral international cooperation on behalf of peace. But this is not a day for the movement for peace and justice to surrender.

    President Bush has ignored the voices of millions of Americans and even more millions of people throughout the world. In the past few months an enormous movement for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis sprang up across the globe. A movement strong enough that it altered the policies of numerous governments from acquiescing to the will of the world's lone superpower to opposing it or engaging in active non-cooperation.

    That is a tremendous achievement and everyone who helped build this voice for sanity should be proud of their contribution. Those of us who demanded the peaceful containment of the Iraqi regime were more realistic than those who pushed for war. The advocates of war are expecting that the onset of conflict will demobilize the peace movement or at least a section of it. In fact efforts will be redoubled over the next forty-eight hours and beyond to stop a war or to shorten one that begins.

    The war planners expect a speedy "victory", and they may well get that. But the movement for a peaceful and democratic foreign policy will continue to grow, as there is no clear end-game for the resulting United States occupation nor are there any clear limits to further wars in the name of United States security.

    The simple fact is that the President has taken the country in a wrong and dangerous direction - a direction that can only be changed by political means. And by conflating the "war on terrorism" with a "war on terrorist states" the administration threatens to destroy intelligence service and diplomatic cooperation that between our government and those in the Islamic world.

    This is not a limited military campaign that can be won on the battlefield and forgotten. This military campaign is the first of the new wars the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes is intended to justify. The war will be followed by an occupation led by Americans and a reconstruction led by American corporations rather than international humanitarian organizations. There are new targets for action: Iran and North Korea are already being discussed.

    Since 1996 a small group of right wing policy operatives, gathered under the name of the Project for a New American Century (led by William Kristol Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz, to name a few), have articulated the view that the 21st century should be an American Century in which United States military and economic power would dominate the world, making it safe for free markets and "democracy" (read any government favorable to American global interests). Globalization backed by American power would make the world safe for "the American way of life" (or the neo-liberal model of globalization. The influence of this group and their policy centers has been so profound and so obvious that Bush officials in key positions, such as Secretary of State Powell, have found it necessary to deny its influence.

    This war and those that could well follow it do not flow from any direct threat to the United States. Even in his speech tonight President Bush talked about a future threat. There is no smoking gun. There are no demonstrable ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The CIA admits that Iraq is many years away from developing a nuclear device, yet alone the capacity to deliver one. And the horrible use of Iraqi chemical and biological warfare is not a threat to the United States, but rather to an Iran that used comparable weapons of mass destruction in the Iran-Iraq war from 1981 to 1990.

    Of course, in that war, the United States consciously sided with secular, nationalist Iraq against fundamentalist, Shiite Iran. We aided and abetted the Iraqi development of chemical and biological weapons and refused to condemn the Iraqi use of these weapons against its own Kurdish population. Despite Bush administration use of the oppression of the Kurds to justify our invasion this very same administration is willing to sanction the Turks sending 50,000 troops into northern Iraq, a move whose only aim would be to disarm the Iraqi Kurds.

    Bush's war is a political war in favor of a new ideological doctrine of imperial dominance. Thus, this war can only be defeated politically, by a regime change in the United States. The peace movement if it is to end this conflict and prevent the next conflict must begin now to challenge the underlying doctrine. Our message must become more than "no war." We must provide an alternative vision of a just United States foreign policy.

    The war against Iraq is an ideological assertion of the right of the American Empire to use brutal force to restructure the globe in its own image. This is a systemic view of a right-wing administration that conceives of the "free world" as consisting of governments that follow neo-liberal economic development policies and support United States foreign policy aims. Thus, such noted "democracies" as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remain in the United States' camp of "freedom."

    Bush's National Security Doctrine says the United States can "preventively" attack any nation that it conceives to be even a "long-run threat" to United States interests anywhere around the globe. The doctrine is a misnomer, as it moves well beyond the "just war" doctrine of a "pre-emptive" military strike being justified when an about-to-be-attacked nation can only defend itself successfully if it attacks first. It is a vision of imperial arrogance mirrored in the United States' disregard for both world public opinion and the majority of the UN Security Council. It is a doctrine that threatens to negate the very principle of national sovereignty that underpins global stability. And this doctrine of unilateral United States supremacy precludes the development of truly multilateral global norms and institutions to prevent genocide, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and international human rights violations.

    If Iraq is first, will Iran be next? What of North Korea? Pakistan? Venezuela? Colombia? Brazil? And how can a United States that has violated numerous international treaties (Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, the ABM treaty) caution a Pakistan or India (or an Egypt or Israel) not to engage in "pre-emptive" strikes against one another?

    The logic of the doctrine of "pre-emptive" wars has stunning implications. First and most frightful is that it promotes nuclear proliferation. If possessing nuclear weapons is what it takes to avoid a United States preemptive strike than every state that is threatened will want one. And if a credible delivery system is necessary and missiles are not available, than the intelligence operatives, or worse, non-governmental para-military groups associated with threatened regimes, will undertake to deliver such weapons to our shores.

    We must begin to challenge the Bush doctrine in the aftermath of this war. The anti-war movement must create ongoing institutional structures and movement strategies that will build long-term opposition to the new National Security Doctrine. Even if the United States wins a short-term military victory, the struggle for a just peace in the Middle East will not end. We must fight not only for a balanced US foreign policy committed to secure statehood for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, but also for a democratic, independent Iraq.

    Thus, the peace movement should agitate for United Nation's (and not United States) administration of post-war Iraqi economic and military reconstruction. We should oppose United States support for any Iraqi regime that ignores the need for guaranteed autonomy for the Kurdish minority and full political and civil rights for the Shiite majority. Many in the Bush administration would be glad to turn over Iraq to a Sunni ex-Baathist general who could preserve the "national integrity" of Iraq and maintain the flow of oil. We must demand that Iraqi oil be owned and controlled by a democratic Iraqi government and used to benefit the Iraqi people and not to pay for the United States military expedition and occupation. And of course we must bring our troops home.

    The unilateral attack on Iraq is part and parcel of the Reagan-Bush worldview that conceives of the United States as the sole force for good in the world. In this parochial world-view, the US neo-liberal economic model must be forced upon the nations of the world and American military power must both defend the interests of the United States and bring peace to the world community.

    Educating the public as to the dangers of this arrogant ideology of American exceptionalism necessitates building a peace and social justice movement for the long-run, a movement that fights for an alternative vision of a just America and a just world. Much of the peace movement is already committed to this direction.

    The struggle against US militarism abroad is also a fight against the neo-liberal economic policies of gutting the public sector, redistributing income and wealth to the rich, and deregulating the global economy. In DSA's daily work in the anti-war movement, we must calmly put forth our commitment to building a mainstream peace movement that can speak to ordinary Americans who do not already concur with our alternative vision. Only by doing so, can we help build a anti-war movement that can bring about the "regime change" at home necessary to constructing a truly global, post-Cold War international community.


    Abolition Now

    by Tom Broderick

    Former Illinois Governor Ryan emptied death row, but the death penalty has not been abolished. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has announced her intention to return some of the recently commuted to the condemned units. Apparently Ms. Madigan must prove to State Prosecutors Dick Devine, Joe Birkett and others of the clan, that she too is a prosecutor. During her race for the office of Attorney General of Illinois, she was accused of being a politician rather than a prosecutor.

    The two groups she is seeking to return to death row are those who did not request commutation and those whose sentences had been vacated for a judicial reason and were waiting resentencing. From a legal standpoint, Ms. Madigan has every right to take this sleazy action. As Illinois Attorney General, she can also take the case directly to the Illinois Supreme Court for consideration. This would expedite the determination and may well keep individual State Prosecutors from pursuing the same course through the lower courts. Ultimately any such cases brought by our State Prosecutors would end up in the Illinois Supreme Court, so depending on the outcome, Ms. Madigan's action could benefit the abolition movement.

    Attorney General Madigan has stated her support for the death penalty.

    Former Governor Ryan, a Republican, cleared death row through commutations and exonerations. He stated that our capital punishment system was broken and perhaps beyond remediation. As Governor, reviewing every capital punishment case was his responsibility and he was clear and forthright in his response to that duty. He challenged the Illinois Legislature to stop avoiding the issues of judicial misconduct as well as class and race bias. He publicly questioned the purpose of the death penalty, asking if it was anything more than revenge.

    Not wanting the condemned units in our prison system to go to waste, the Illinois Judicial system has already sentenced Mr. Anthony Mertz to death by lethal injection. Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich has announced that he will continue the moratorium on executions, but believes execution is acceptable punishment. It is likely that Mr. Mertz will have company sooner rather than later.

    The death penalty has no redeeming value. It has not been proved a deterrence to murder. It is prone to error as well as pure malevolent official misconduct. It is heavily biased against the poor and people of color. Since the United States reintroduced the death penalty in 1976, our nation has snuffed out the life of 834 of our fellow humans in the pursuit of justice. What's the likelihood that someone was innocent? Does it matter? Execution is not about justice, it's about payback and inflicting pain.

    In Illinois, where prosecutors and judges are elected, execution becomes campaign material. During elections, however, nothing is said about the financial burden that communities are saddled with when a local prosecutor pursues death. The prosecutorial glamour attached to seeking the ultimate penalty in the rah-rah war against crime is divorced from the very high cost that our neighborhoods must pay in order to execute someone. This is no small sum of money, and it has to come from somewhere in the local budget.

    Police and prosecutors also value the death penalty as a kind of hammer. It is used as a threat during interrogations and they don't want to lose this effective tool. There are those of us who view threatening people with extermination during a police interrogation as a form of torture.

    Where does this leave the abolition movement in Illinois?

    We are in the best shape since the reintroduction of execution. Former Governor Ryan did everything he could to provide for an honest and serious review of the issue. He then went beyond that to stop the suffering that any capital punishment system produces. It is now our responsibility to end to this cruelty.

    On March 6th, the Illinois House Judiciary Committee II passed HB213 (the abolition bill) out of the conference committee and onto the floor of the House. The bill was passed out of committee by a vote of 8 to 4, with one vote of "present." Not every committee member voting to pass the bill to a full hearing by the House favors abolition. Some voted only to allow for a full discussion of the bill and indicated their intention to vote against abolition. Mary K. O'Brien, Chair of the committee is one of these. She voted to pass the bill out of committee and declared "I am very positive that we are going to defeat the measure on the floor."

    All of the seven Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee II voted to pass the bill out of committee: Chair Mary K. O'Brien (75th); Patricia Bailey (6th); Richard Bradley (40th); bill sponsor Annazette Collins (10th); bill sponsor William Delgado (3rd); Constance Howard (34th) and bill sponsor Lovana Jones (26th). The sole Republican member of the committee voting to pass the bill out of committee was Eileen Lyons (82nd).

    As members of the House Judiciary Committee II, Eileen and the Seven Dems represent every citizen in Illinois when it comes to criminal justice issues. I urge you to write or call every one of them and thank them for their vote. You should also direct them to vote for the abolition bill when it comes up for a vote in the House, though at that point, they only represent their electoral base.

    To get HB213 passed by the Illinois House we will need to pressure all of our fence-sitting Representatives to vote for abolition. There are many of these. But all of our Legislators need to hear from their constituency. Don't worry about their position on this issue, contact your Representative today, and tell them how to vote. They look forward to your call.

    Let there be no question, Illinois is being carefully watched by abolitionists around the world. Every success we achieve (moratorium; individual exonerations and commutations; the Governor's panel reporting that enacting all 85 reforms they suggested would not keep an innocent person from being executed; emptying death row) is shaping the movement. Success is not guaranteed at all, but we are making headway and our continued progress is crucial.

    We can put an end to this lethal approach to correction.

    Both Attorney General Madigan and Governor Blagojevich need pressure: "Abolition, not reform." "Reform the entire judicial system, but abolish capital punishment." "Abolish the death penalty." Call them. Write them. Don't let up. Make the issue important to them. Speaker of the House, Michael J. Madigan (D, 22nd), also needs to hear from all abolitionists in Illinois.

    But it is our Legislature that needs immediate focus. To move to the Illinois Senate, the House must pass the bill by the end of the first week of April. It may be that you are reading this article too late, but perhaps not. If there is still time, call your Representative immediately and urge a vote for House Bill 213.

    Whether the bill has passed to the Senate for consideration, or is still before the House, contact your State Senator. To abolish execution in Illinois, both the House and the Senate must vote to end it, so we need to challenge our State Senators to do the right thing. Then it would go to Governor Rod Blagojevich. Political pressure from all of us will encourage him to sign the abolition bill.

    Prior to the last election, many (if not all) districts in Illinois were redrawn, and you may not know who your State Representative and State Senator are. A useful web site for the names, addresses and phone numbers of our elected State Officials is found through the Illinois Board of Elections.


    May Day 2003: Health Care not Warfare!

    by Harold Taggart

    The last time I served on jury duty, the judge explained to me and my fellow jurors that we should feel honored to be part of the best judicial system in the world. He didn't mention that the rest of the world sets aside a day to memorialize the dishonesty of the U.S. judicial system.

    On May 1st of each year, the world, minus the U.S., recalls an event that epitomizes the U.S. and the blatant and shameless corruption of authority at every level. May Day is the second most celebrated holiday after New Years Day and Eve. Only the U.S. does not celebrate May Day and Canada does not celebrate it formally. May Day celebrations were forbidden in Apartheid South Africa and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

    The Haymarket Affair that took place in Chicago from 1886 to 1887 is the event that gave birth to May Day, International Workers Day.

    Many of us feel that May Day should be a prominent time in the U.S. It should be a day of introspection to delve into what America is in theory and in reality. It should not be a formal holiday since the government was the problem and continues to be a major problem.

    The government has a long list of atrocities and violations of human rights and decency since the Haymarket Affair. Some of these are a Hitleresque eugenics program from 1890 to 1920, the Palmer Raids, Japanese Internment, incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons of mass destruction and McCarthyism. The current administration is acting like a lawless, power-hungry autocracy and the other branches of government and the media are reduced to meek, obedient puppets and sycophants.

    During the Haymarket Affair, the government was corrupted at every level by a group of businessmen led by Marshall Field. Today, the business community, dominated by oil industry executives, continues to be a dominating, corrupting force on a willing U.S. government.

    This year, May Day falls on Thursday. Several groups are calling on everyone to suspend their usual activities. Union leaders and activists in the Youngstown and Pittsburgh area are asking everyone to honor the call for at least half of a day. In Chicago, we are calling for a two-day walkout.

    Activities are planned for Thursday through Sunday. There will be the usual May Day march up Michigan Avenue. Other activities include street theater, book sales, bands, theater, games and parties.

    The May Day theme this year will be Healthcare, not Warfare. Healthcare epitomizes the misguided priorities in America. It is the worlds most expensive healthcare system and is rated 37th by the United Nations for healthcare delivery. Americans pay twice as much as citizens of any other nation. Healthcare providers bilk Americans for huge corporate profits and to subsidize regulated healthcare in other nations.

    The healthcare system reminds us that our democracy, our choices, extend only to a few of the major issues that impact our lives. It reminds us that profits are primary. People are secondary.

    A fraction of the money spent on the U.S.'s biennial wars would bring affordable healthcare to every U.S. citizen.

    The May 1st march will be a demand to bring total democracy and affordable healthcare to every U.S. resident. The march will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Balbo St. where colonialism (Christopher Columbus) meets Fascism (Italo Balbo, a minister in Mussolini's government).

    For details about May Day activities, visit DSA's Web site at chicagodsa.org and other Chicago activist Web sites.


    Illinois Deserves a Raise

    by Ron Baiman

    It's been a race to the finish. As five of us at the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago have labored late nights and weekends to finish a report on the impact of a $6.50 an hour state minimum wage with COLA on workers, business, and the overall economy. We were given about a month to do the (independently funded) study by the "Campaign to Reward Work", a broad of organizations including ACORN, SEIU 880, BPPPI, the Illinois AFL-CIO, Chicago DSA, JWJ, CNP, and many others. This was a major challenge as typically just getting the data for such a broad study can take months, let alone the analysis and write-up. Eleven other states and the District of Columbia have state minimum wages that are higher the Federal minimum wage (currently $5.15 an hour) and three of these have been linked to cost of living adjustments.

    The major focus of our report is on the importance of a COLA adjustment. Research shows that the decline in real value of the minimum wage can explain almost all of the growth in wage dispersion in the bottom half of the income distribution. The real value of the minimum wage has declined from $8.27 in 1968 to $5.15 in 2002 (all in 2002 dollars). All but $0.13 of its last $0.90 (1996-7) increase has been eaten by inflation. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the major cause of this precipitous decline is the lack of cost of living adjustment. One of our major findings was that practically all of the major employers of minimum wage workers are "place bound" service industries whose markets and competitors are within state so that they would be similarly affected by a new wage floor (Eating and Drinking Establishments, Retail, Building Services, Health Services, etc. ­ the one exception was Hotel and Motel workers). This explains why we found no statistically significant affect on employment from moderate increases or reductions in the real value of state minimum wages.

    We finished at about 10:00 PM Wednesday night just before our scheduled simultaneous press conferences in Chicago and Springfield on Thursday February 27. I and my colleague, Marc Doussard, arrived in Springfield at around 2:00 AM and got little sleep before rushing out in the morning to make copies of our report and get ready for the scheduled 10:00 AM press conference in support of Senate Bill 600 whose key sponsors are Senators Lightford and Ronen. Our lime light was largely taken by the Governor who had a press conference right before ours devoted to cracking down on costs for state boards and commissions that also dealt with reports of covered up mass brutality by state prison guards (Springfield as usual!?). We gave a presentation on the substance of our study but reporters seemed more interested in Senator Lightford's views on the politics of its passage. Our colleagues in Chicago (Joe Persky and Nik Theodore) got more exposure, at least on WBEZ, for their conference at the State of Illinois building in Chicago. Though there were print media reporters at both conferences, press reports seemed quite sparse (A piece in Streetwise was one of the few exceptions).

    This was puzzling to us as this appeared to be a major and important state initiative. But the subsequent canceling of a long-scheduled Senate committee hearing this Wednesday (March 5) coupled with major media on the Governor's intention to raise the minimum wage to $6.50 with no mention of cost of living adjustment or our report, which directly refutes all of the business opposition points raised in the press, has led us to suspect that there is an effort afoot to sideline our campaign. Members of the Campaign led by ACORN and SEIU 880 were similarly down in Springfield in force last Wednesday only to be told at the last moment that Committee hearings have been postponed to next week.

    In spite of early indications of support for this, at press time it appears that Governor Blagjoevich may be backing off of the COLA part of the bill.

    [Note: as New Ground goes to press, the minimum wage bill was passed out of the Senate Labor Committee on a party line vote of 6 - 4, with Democrats voting for and Republicans against. Despite an active lobbying campaign, the COLA and tipped employees provisions were taken out by the governor's office, reportedly to win the support of the Illinois Restaurant Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association.]

    I am not a proponent of tactically mindless leftism. But, based on our quite thorough and comprehensive study, I believe that there is no reason to deny minimum wage workers a COLA adjustment. It will not hurt the state's economy and is likely to help it ­ by stimulating demand. It will surely be of major importance to the 800,000 or so affected Illinois low-wage workers who desperately need this added income and don't need it to be taken away (and then some) by inflation, which has been the historic pattern.

    The following is an executive summary that includes some of the key findings of our report (not to be found in the main stream press!). The full study can be obtained at: http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/uicued/Publications/EXECSMRY/IllinoisMinimumWage.htm.


    Fair Taxes for All

    by Bob Roman

    Chicago DSA has signed on the Fair Taxes for All Coalition. This is an ongoing project that was formed to fight Dubya's original tax cut and now his proposed additional tax cut. The coalition is co-chaired by People For the American Way, National Women's Law Center, Leadership Conference On Civil Rights, AFSCME, Campaign for America's Future and US Action.

    The Coalition's statement of principles is:

    "The package of tax cuts proposed by President Bush is too costly and would do little to stimulate the weak economy and create jobs now. The tax cuts are far too large, poorly designed, and highly inequitable.

    "The new tax cuts jeopardize the nation's ability to meet its domestic and foreign responsibilities, threaten national and state fiscal stability and security both now and in future years, and inequitably distribute the benefits they provide.

    "In contrast to the Bush plan, any economic package must provide temporary, short-term stimulus that is fiscally responsible and equitable. Any such package should include aid to states to help respond to their fiscal crises, and should focus on people who will spend the money now, including those hard hit by the economic downturn."

    The Federal budgeting process is a Rube Goldberg contraption that seems designed to obfuscate and deceive as much as to actually decide. Right now, Congress is working on the budget. This supposedly sets the framework for the actual appropriations and taxes.

    The Senate may very likely be voting on their version of the budget as you read this. The plan reported out by the Senate Budget Committee would divert hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade from the Social Security Trust Fund, health care, education and homeland defense to pay for tax cuts that would mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans. The President's proposed dividend tax cut benefits only the small percentage of Americans who receive substantial income from stock dividends. But the other large piece of the President's $726,000,000,000 tax cut package, accelerating the 2001 tax rate cuts, is even more skewed to the wealthy than the dividend tax cut. Over half of the benefits of accelerating the rate cuts would flow to the top one percent of tax filers, a group whose average income is about $1,000,000. The rate cuts alone, without the dividend tax cut, would give millionaires a new tax break of over $63,000 next year.

    An estimated budget shortfall of $1,800,000,000,000 could have been an $891,000,000,000 surplus but for the Bush tax and budget proposals, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. It is beyond reason to run up huge deficits over the next decade, just as the baby boomers reach retirement age, to give another round of tax breaks to the very wealthy few.

    The tax and budget plan approved by the House Budget Committee provides the clearest evidence to date that tax cuts for millionaires would be balanced on the backs of poor and middle-income families. Under the House plan, $1,400,000,000,000 in tax cuts over the next decade would be funded by cuts in important programs like Medicare ($214,000,000,000 in cuts), Medicaid ($95,000,000,000 in cuts), Food Stamps ($12,000,000,000 in cuts), veterans' programs ($15,000,000,000) and farm programs ($7,000,000,000). To make the tax cuts more politically palatable, the Senate budget does not specify such deep program cuts. But as the costs of the tax cuts inflate the national debt and drive up interest rates, the bill to be paid by future generations will be even higher.

    This travesty is not simply the idiot spawn of the wealthy's greed and the best legislators money can buy or rent, though it is that too; it is part of a well crafted, long term libertarian campaign to collapse government to the size of a basket ball. That the transition will be accomplished on the backs of everyone but the wealthy is of no concern to these revolutionaries as they tend to be one and the same. That in this brave new world unfolding, freedom will be slavery is also of no concern as they expect to own us all.

    Locally, the effort to counter Dubya's campaign to leave no millionaire behind is headquartered at the Illinois office of People for the American way. For more information, call 312.726.2179 or go to http://www.fairtaxesforall.org/.

    Be sure to write your legislators before you riot.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    UofC YDS

    Noah Millstone reports that the University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists sent some three dozen students to attend the February 15 anti-war demonstration in New York City. The van rentals were partially subsidized by money from the Chicago Local. The March 5th student strike - teach-in also went well with some 1,300 people attending the teach-in at Rockafeller Chapel.

    The UofC YDS is planning its own universal health care week for next quarter. The schedule at this point is for Monday, April 7, to be a student debate on universal health care, followed by a BBQ. Tuesday, April 8, will be devoted to Labor and Universal Health Care, with a special focus on SEIU's Hospital Accountability Project. Wednesday, April 9, will be devoted to women's health issues. Thursday, April 10, will be a presentation by Physicians for a National Program. For more information (such as times and venues), contact Noah Millstone at 773.752.8069.

    The Young Democratic Socialists' summer conference will actually be toward the end of May in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, go to http://www.ydsusa.org or call 212.727.8610.

    Anti-War Action

    Chicago DSA endorsed both major anti-war demonstrations, the 2/15 event in the far north West Rogers Park neighborhood and the 3/16 event in the Daly Plaza downtown. Of similar size, the former was organized by the movement's radical fringe with one foot in the mainstream and the latter by the mainstream with one foot in the fringe.

    GOP DSA Candidate Survey

    Municipal elections in Oak Park will be April 1st, a fine and appropriate day for an election. To let Greater Oak Park DSA members, friends and Oak Park citizens in general know where the candidates stand, GOP DSA conducted a survey of the candidates for the Village Board. To get the results of the survey, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/gopdsa03.html, call Tom Broderick at 708.386.6007, or the CDSA office at 773.384.0327.

    Midwest Regional DSA Conference

    As a follow up to last September's east coast conference on "Confronting America's Low Wage Economy", DSA is planning similar regional conferences on the west coast and in the Midwest. The Midwest conference is planned for Friday evening, July 11 through Sunday morning, July 13. The venue is tentatively the International House on the University of Chicago campus. For more information, call the DSA National Office at 212.727.8610.

    Immigrant Freedom Ride

    In emulation the Freedom Rides that cracked segregated interstate public transportation in the South, a coalition of labor and community groups is planning a symbolic series of bus rides as a demonstration in support of civil rights for immigrants. Prominent among the unions actively supporting the project are the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees, Service Employees, UNITE, Laborers, United Food & Commercial Workers, and the United Farm Workers. The demonstration is scheduled for the Fall of 2003. The busses will depart from a number of major cities across the country, including Chicago, converge on Washington, DC, finally arriving together in New York City. For more information, go to http://www.immigrantworkersfreedomride.com.

    Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

    The Chicago chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists' Annual Awards Banquet will be presenting their Congressman Charles A. Hayes Award to Timuel Black. The event will be on Saturday, April 12, 6:30 PM, at The Martinique, 2500 W. 95th St in Evergreen Park. Tickets are $65 each. For information, call 773.684.7309.

    Justice for Janitors

    SEIU Local 1 has settled its contract negotiations with the landlords of residential buildings, but the contract with commercial buildings expires on April 6. As part of the Student Labor Action Project's "2003 National Student Labor Week of Action", a rally is being planned for April 4. Word is the rally will feature AFL-CIO President John Sweeney with a subtext of money for living wages not war in Iraq. For information, contact ella@uchicago.edu. For more information about the 2003 Justice for Janitors campaign, go to http://www.yourjanitor.org.

    Campaign for Better Health Care

    One of the benefits of Democratic control of the Illinois State government is some small progress toward universal healthcare, in Illinois, at least. For some years now the Campaign for Better Health Care and others have been attempting to build a consensus around a universal healthcare plan by committing the state government to a planning process that would result in a plan. One approach was to write this into the state Constitution. This was what the proposed Barnardin Amendment was all about. The other was legislation.

    This session, the bills are HB 2268 and SB 1430, the Health Care Justice Act. By the time you read this, there's a reasonably good chance that these will have passed. This will not have been accomplished without some difficulty, but the sheer scale of the uninsured and the continual increase in insurance costs has made some previous opponents (such as the Illinois Hospital Association and the Illinois State Medical Association) into supporters or neutral bystanders.

    The proposed legislation sets up a bi-partisan Health Care Commission that includes 30 members, some of whom would be non-voting appointees of or directors of various Illinois departments that deal with health care issues. Eight members would be appointed by the legislative leaders of both parties in each chamber of the legislature. The remainder would be appointed by the Governor with the requirement that various stakeholder groups be represented as well as a mandate for some demographic balance.

    The Commission would be mandated to hold hearings both before and after the work of formulating one or more plans for a universal health cares system is completed.

    The legislation does provides some parameters for what a universal health care plan must do:

    The expectation would be that the Commission would consider a number of alternate plans and recommend the one it favors, though minority reports are a possibility. The legislation requires the Commission to complete its work by February 1, 2006, legislation to be passed by June 1, 2006, and implementation by the start of 2007.

    The cost of this planning process is expected to be around $3 million, most of which is anticipated to be consulting expense for comparison studies between plans (heads up, public policy shops!).


     Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email).

     Back to top.