Homeland Regime Change
OUL: Literature in 3 Dimensions
OUL: Third Parties
Life After Bush: Youth Activism and the Fight for Our Future
March for Women's Lives
Health Care Justice Act
by Tom Broderick
The Village of Oak Park, Illinois, has passed a resolution
urging repeal or revision of portions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
On Monday, January 5th, 2004, at the first official meeting of
the year, the Village Board Trustees of Oak Park voted five to
one to join with over 230 other states, cities and municipalities
to proclaim that "Americans can be both safe and free."
The movement continues to
grow. In the first week of January, Fremont County in Wyoming,
Douglas County in Oregon, and Atlanta, Georgia, also passed similar
Under the guidance of the Oak
Park Coalition for Truth and Justice, a program of educational
outreach was begun. This included asking candidates for the Village
Board to publicly state a position on the USA PATRIOT Act during
the last election. On April 15th, shifts of petition circulators
stood outside the U.S. Post Office as tax returns were filed.
Informational leaflets were distributed and signatures were gathered
for a Village Resolution opposing the Act. At the Village 4 of
July parade, the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice marched,
distributed informational leaflets and gathered more signatures.
At the Board meeting, several Oak Parkers spoke in favor of
the Resolution. No one spoke against it. Earlier in the evening
a proclamation commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's
birthday was read. It included Village support for the vision
of Dr. King. One of those who later addressed the Board about
the USA PATRIOT Act pointed out that Dr. King would certainly
have been targeted by the Act.
Ben Iglar-Mobley formally presented copies of the petitions
to each of the Board members. He said that a major element of
the petition circulating drive was the educational outreach. During
the several signature gathering efforts that he took part in,
he said that only once or twice did anyone state support for the
Credit was given to the Village Community Relations Commission
for their effort in drafting the resolution both by Village Trustee
Galen Gockel, who read the Resolution and by Kevin McDermott of
the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice.
After the reading of the Resolution, Village Trustee Robert
Milstein asked for a slight, but significant change. Section 5
of the Resolution stated "That the Village of Oak Park urges
Congress to repeal or revise those sections of the U.S.A. PATRIOT
Act that violate the constitution . . ." Trustee Milstein
asked that "or revise" be dropped and that we urge repeal
of those sections that violate the Constitution. This change was
approved. Milstein also lamented that language directing Village
employees to refuse cooperation with Federal employees in enforcement
of the Act was discarded.
In Illinois, campaigns against the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act are now
underway in west suburban Kane County and in downstate Normal.
by Bob Roman
Saturday, March 20, will be a Global
Day of Action Against War and Occupation. The date marks the
one year anniversary of the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq.
The Day of Action will bring millions into the street to say yes
to peace and no to pre-emptive war and occupation. The Chicago
DSA Executive Committee voted to endorse the Global Day of Action.
The U.S. protests will also take on the war at home. We will
express growing opposition to the so-called USA PATRIOT Act that
authorizes political arrests, indefinite detentions, domestic
spying, and religious and racial profiling. We will call for an
end to the mass detentions and deportations of innocent immigrants
in the name of fighting terrorism. We will say no to massive military
spending amidst vast cuts in vital domestic social and economic
Planning has begun for the Chicago demonstration. On Saturday,
January 11, over 100 people gathered to begin the process. Judging
by some reports, the meeting reflected the strengths and the weaknesses
of the movement: a great deal of angry enthusiasm tempered by
papered over divisions between protest and politics that are also
reflected in ideological disagreements and organizational jealousies.
These divisions should not be overstated, however. At this point,
people are far more interested in confronting the most dangerous
President ever than in confronting one another.
Be at the Federal Plaza on Saturday, March 20.
by Mark Weinberg
On Thursday, December 18th, a chilly Chicago night filled with
major leftie events, about 20 people came to a special debate
at the New World Resource Center which concluded Open University
of the Left's Fall 2003 series of forums on the American Empire.
Two prominent members of Chicago's progressive community, Carl
Davidson and Andy
Thayer dealt with the question: How can we best respond to
the imperialist designs of the second Bush administration? The
debate was moderated by sometimes DSAer Bill Minneman who introduced
most of the programs.
The first speaker was Davidson, a founder of the New Left in
the sixties who humbly billed himself as a member of the steering
committee of Chicagoans
Against War and Injustice (CAWI) which, having opposed the
U.S. attack on Iraq (as Chicagoans Against the War in Iraq), is
now conducting a voter registration drive to get out the anti-Bush
vote. Although he favors Dennis Kucinch among the current Democratic
presidential candidates he doesn't expect a progressive to get
the party's nomination, let alone to be elected and like many
others, feels that U.S. election law is hostile to third party
politics, as the Nader Green Party effort in 2000 proved. But
he feels that registration in the Chicago area will build the
base of our voters making future progressive victories possible.
He also believes that almost any Democrat is a distinct improvement
over Bush, something more of us believe now than in 2000. CAWI
has trained several hundred voter registrars and registered almost
a thousand voters so far.
Davidson was followed by the much younger Thayer of the Chicagoland Anti-Bashing Network,
a GLBT activist group. He was the last of 800 anti-war protestors
arrested March 20th after the Lake Shore Drive march to have charges
against him dropped. He cited the failure of virtually all Democrats
to unequivocally oppose Bush's illegal attack on Iraq and suggested
direct action was the only means to reasserting democratic control
of our country; he cited many examples throughout U.S. history.
Davidson retorted that Thayer had tactics without strategy,
that he appeared to believe in the general strike as a means of
regaining control of the government and that he appeared to be
an anarcho-syndicalist. Thayer said he considered himself a Leninist.
Davidson admitted to still considering himself to be a Marxist
and that he appreciated the value of direct action more than Thayer
appreciated electoral politics, an allegation that Thayer didn't
Almost everyone in the audience availed themselves of the opportunity
to make cogent comments. I stated that a successful general strike
seemed about equally far away as the election of a progressive
as U.S. president. Many felt that electoral politics shouldn't
focus on Presidential politics which takes too much organizing
and money; I concur. All in all this was an exhilarating event
that focused unequivocally on basic left strategy. Chicago DSA
and Open University of the Left will be co-sponsoring a series
on American third party politics starting January 28th. Please
show your support.
From the roar of the fanfare, you'd think something important
must have happened. This past November, the Illinois Legislature
unanimously passed a bill to reform the death penalty. Lawmakers
who favored abolishing capital punishment were able to join with
those who felt that taking a life for taking a life is just. Immediately
after this reform package passed, there were calls by some Legislators
to end the moratorium on executions. Fortunately, Governor Rod
Blagojevich said he was not yet ready to resume executions. "We
have to see how these reforms work."
This political focus on the death penalty in Illinois began
to gain momentum during the term of former Governor George Ryan,
a death penalty advocate. As Governor, Ryan was responsible for
reviewing each capital case and deciding if justice required execution.
He signed the death warrant in the first case he reviewed and
a life was taken. When he was sent the second one, Governor Ryan
had doubts. Anthony Porter came within 72 hours of extermination.
A group of college students had researched his case and presented
evidence to question Mr. Porter's guilty verdict. Mr. Porter was
found to be innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to
die. Anthony is now alive and free.
Governor Ryan responded in two ways. He commissioned a panel
to review capital punishment in Illinois. Proponents and opponents
of the death penalty were included on the panel. Members included
the late Paul Simon, U.S. Senator from Illinois; William Martin,
lead prosecutor in the Richard Speck murder trial; and attorney
and author Scott Turow. The panel was commissioned to review the
capital punishment system in Illinois and provide recommendations
to make it fair and just. Governor Ryan also said that he would
not sign any more death warrants until he felt confidence in the
system. Thus began the moratorium on executions that continues
under Governor Blagojevich.
Two years of detailed study across Illinois led the panel to
offer 85 recommendations to improve upon capital punishment as
a tool in meting out justice. They concluded with the caveat that
even enacting every one of the recommendations could not guarantee
that an innocent person would be put to death. This report did
not establish the confidence in the system that Ryan was looking
In January of 2003, Governor Ryan pardoned four more condemned
men. He also commuted the sentences of the remaining 167 death
row inmates, most of them to life without possibility of parole.
Death row in Illinois was empty. This action was celebrated by
abolitionists across the planet. Many considered Ryan a hero of
conscience. He was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Let's return to the Illinois Legislature and the reform package
that was trumpeted by Illinois State Legislators and much of the
Illinois media as historic. It is not historic. It is a political
Earlier I mentioned Ryan's commission suggesting 85 reforms
to make our capital punishment system fairer, though still subject
to lethal failure. Our Legislature responded by passing approximately
20% of this number.
Our new reform bill no longer allows the citizens of Illinois
to execute the mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme court had already
Our new reform bill will require the taping of homicide interrogations.
Well, in two years it will. Until then, the police can continue
to interrogate in secret. This reform should be expanded to include
all felony cases. It will only help to present a clearer record
of the judicial procedure, to the benefit of all looking for justice.
Gary Gauger woke up one morning and found one of his parents
dead at their home. Mr. Gauger called the police. They found his
other parent, also dead. They had both been murdered. Gary was
not arrested, but he was taken to the police station and kept
isolated and awake. He was told he could leave after he described
how he would have murdered his parents if he had done so. Eventually
he complied and his description was entered as evidence. Mr. Gauger
was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to die. Federal prosecutors
told Illinois prosecutors that two motorcycle gang members had
admitted to killing Gauger's parents. Instead of releasing Mr.
Gauger, our judicial system left him facing execution for another
year; execution for the murder of his parents. This smacks of
attempted murder to me. Gary is also alive and free today.
Another reform would keep prosecutors from seeking the death
penalty where only one witness, jail-house snitch or accomplice
supplies the evidence. When considering execution as a just remedy,
I'm not sure it is fair to rely on only one witness to be infallible.
It is absurd to rely on either a jail-house snitch or an accomplice
to provide the only believable evidence in any case, not just
capital ones. Anthony Porter, who I mentioned above was identified
by two witnesses, yet he did not commit the crime.
The police will threaten accomplices with death to get one
to testify against another. This is one reason that police and
prosecutors don't want an end to the death penalty. Threatening
someone with death is an effective tool, though it might be considered
torture when police officers use death threats against someone
Nothing in the package passed by our legislature takes race
or class into consideration. In Illinois, the death sentence is
sought three times more often when the victim is white. Those
who know their rights and can afford one, can immediately have
counsel present at the police station. Those who have to rely
on appointed representation must wait until a court appearance,
which may not occur for a couple of days.
The death penalty cannot be successfully reformed. The poor
will always suffer from less well-financed legal help and racism
still influences many decisions. Former Governor Ryan has suggested
that we need to look at abolishing the death penalty. He is correct.
Capital punishment is cruel. It is vengeful. It creates more victims
in its wake. It does not provide justice.
Despite all of the thoroughly documented troubles with the
capital punishment system, Illinois sent two more men to death
row in 2003. This low number reflects a general trend away from
the death penalty in our country. But other cases are pending.
There is an abolition bill that needs action by our Representatives
in the Illinois House. It is House
Bill 213. This year is an election year and many
Legislators will not want to take a position to abolish the
death penalty. To quote the Saturday Night Live Church
Lady: Well isn't that special! The only solution to the unfair
capital punishment system is abolition. Push your Legislator to
promote justice. Only our Legislature can eliminate this penalty.
Editor's Note, post-publication: for an interesting look
at the politics and litigation around the death penalty in Illinois,
readers may want to consult the Illinois
Coalition Against the Death Penalty's recent report on the
subject, a 428K
pdf format file.
by Will Kelley
Packinghouse Daughter, by Cheri Register. New York: HarperCollins Perennial,
2001 (© Minnesota Historical Society, 2000).
What is it about 1959? There are some years that everyone knows
are crucial to history, years like 1968. But there are other years,
as well, years that aren't so prominent in memory but pop up again
and again. 1959 is like that. No one has written a book about
it, as far as I know, but as I learn more about the history of
working people, more likely than not there it will be: 1959. It
was the year of the big steel strike, described in Striking
Steel, and it appears again in Cheri Register's memoir, Packinghouse
1959 doesn't stand out as a year where anything reached a peak
or fell to a nadir.* Rates of unionization were close to the highest
they had ever been, but were not at a peak. Nor were there more
work stoppages in 1959 than in other years. Adjusted for a tendency
for three-year cycles, in 1959 work stoppages were on their way
to a post-World War II low in the early 1960s, a low that wouldn't
be reached again until the Reagan administration. And the Landrum-Griffin
Act came too late for it to be a direct cause of anything.
Perhaps it's just that the early baby boomers, the ones who
write so much about themselves, were beginning to become aware
of something beyond cowboy outfits, the Howdy Doody Show, and
what was due for homework on Monday. That could explain a lot.
Then again, perhaps some of the labor disputes of the time were
particularly nasty, and threatened to shred further the impression
of social cohesion and mutual accommodation that had been so carefully
assembled after the war. That, at least, is the impression that
a reader comes away with after reading Packinghouse Daughter.
The book falls neatly into three parts. In the first, Register
introduces meatpacking, the plant, and the family history that
placed her there. On her father's side, the Registers descended
from immigrants to far Southern Minnesota who arrived in the 1850s.
Her branch of the family lost their farm in the 1920s, and her
father eventually went to work for Wilson's meatpacking company
in Albert Lea. On her mother's side, her grandparents emigrated
from Denmark in the early years of the 20th Century. Cheri, the
youngest of three daughters, grew up to witness her parents' post-war
She also witnessed an ugly contract fight that was tremendously
divisive, disruptive, and nearly violent. Nearly 40% of the book
is given over to a description of it. It began in early November,
with disputes over mandatory overtime, notification, and responses
to the automation that everyone could see coming. For instance,
the union wanted workers who had been displaced to be able to
pay for group insurance plans with the same premium payments that
had been offered to the employer when the worker was part of the
group. Unacceptably radical? Hardly, since now this is part of
national law, as everyone who has used COBRA will be happy to
Wilson's, though, declined to follow the industry pattern,
insisting on its right to "management prerogatives".
The conflict escalated in early December, when Wilson's tried
to impose a contract and threatened to hire permanent replacements.
Tempers were short all around. But here is what makes the book
a testament to something remarkable: in order to prevent an outburst
of violence, Governor Orville Freeman called out the National
Guard, occupying both the plant and Albert Lea until tempers cooled.
Yet not even this broke the deadlock, which lasted for a total
of 109 days.
The third part of the book looks at the legacy of the strike,
following the fate of the families, her hometown, and the company.
Jobs and lives were hanging in balance, and not just those of
the plant workers and managers. Governor Freeman, for instance,
was widely understood to have sacrificed his office when he activated
the Guard. President Kennedy, fortunately, later saw fit to make
him Secretary of Agriculture.
Register's strength is in her ability to remember the look
and feel of a time and place, then compare it with what she discovered
through archival research years later. This brings to life the
full humanity of the people who participated, whether by choice
or by chance, in this turbulent episode.
For instance, it had been easy for the pro-business media to
pillory Governor Freeman as someone who was just paying back a
favor to Democratic Farmer Labor Party supporters. Her look at
the notes he scribbled the night he called out the Guard, though,
reveal a more nuanced sensibility that was concerned with the
people of Albert Lea, not the politics. Beginning with "history
of bitterness," his notes continue, "what of community,
who can speak for community - people who live there. What are
community rights livelihood of people & future of town."
Eventually they conclude, "Also practical is the integrity
of one of Minnesota finest communities - Legitimate objective
to minimize antagonism where city country, farm worker - even
inter-family bitterness takes place - casualties to flow from
this are long & real."
Freeman gave more weight to the right of a community to remain
a community, by maintaining comity among its members, than he
gave to the rights of private property ownership. He chose to
use the Guard to calm the situation instead of allowing further
disruption. It is a view of human rights that remains a basic
challenge to extremist capitalist ideologues.
Finally, then, this book tells us something about 1959. This
was just a few years after the rate of unionization in manufacturing
had reached its height and begun a long, secular decline that
has yet to halt. If there is anything we have learned in the last
fifty years, it is that this has been the result of a deliberate
strategy. Once it became clear that Eisenhower would not try to
dismantle the New Deal, by the mid-1950s a core segment of the
business class decided to do it on their own, beginning with employment
practices. Yet Register makes clear that central figures in the
union saw themselves as powerful actors, a nearly irresistible
force. They did not realize that central figures in management
had determined to turn themselves into an immovable obstacle.
The result: labor war in Lake Wobegon, or, perhaps closer to the
spirit of Garrison Keillor, Millet. If this turns out to be an
accurate view of the situation it could account for the harshness
of the conflicts in 1959, and their vividness to an emerging generation.
In addition, the struggle at Wilson's can be seen as a harbinger
of things to come, not just another work stoppage over difficult
contract negotiations with an always intractable employer.
Packinghouse Daughter is a vital portrait of an important
time, understood through the experiences of the people who lived
it. The issues in conflict here remain unresolved. The book, then,
is well worth the time. It would also be useful in college-level
classes in a variety of areas.
*The trends described here come from Michael Goldfield's book,
The Decline of Organized Labor in the United States.
compiled by Bob Roman
The 2004 Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas
- Michael Harrington Dinner will honor Eliseo Medina and Lynn
Talbott. The Dinner will be held on Friday, May 7, 6 PM at the
Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, 350 N. Orleans in Chicago.
Eliseo Medina is an International Executive Vice President
of SEIU in Los Angeles, but many of us regard him as a Chicagoan
as he organized the United Farm Workers' Grape Boycott here in
Chicago in the 1970s. More recently, he was instrumental in getting
the AFL-CIO to change its policy on immigration issues.
Lynn Talbott is very much a Chicagoan, being an International
Vice President of UNITE from UNITE's Chicago and Central States
Joint Board. Ms. Talbott has been active in U.S. Labor Against
the War and is a leader in UNITE's campaigns to organize low-wage
workers, most notably the ongoing CINTRAS campaign.
Our featured speaker will be Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
who, you can be sure, will have a great deal to say about building
the Dump Bush movement.
Open University Of The Left announces its first literary salon
program of the new year, "1984 in 2004", a discussion
of George Orwell's classic dystopic novel. We belatedly celebrate
the 2003 centenary of the birth of this great socialist writer.
This was the book, originally published in 1948 that put terms
like "newspeak," "double think" and "thought
police" into our language and generally accentuated our concern
with the roles of technology and propaganda in totalitarian governments.
Our discussion will focus on the relevance of Orwell's vision
to "Amerika" today. The facilitator will be Mark C.
Weinberg, Open University regular, reluctant bureaucrat and Political
Education Director of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.
The salon will be held on Wednesday, February 4, 2004 7:00
P.M. at ACME Artworks, 1741 N. Western, Chicago. Tuition is $3
to $5 to cover costs but no one will be turned away for inability
The next salon will be on March 3, featuring a discussion of
Herman Melville's White Jacket, led by Hugh Iglarsh.
The Open University of the Left will be holding an 8 part discussion
of third parties in the U.S., past and present. These will be
held at ACME Artworks, 1741 N. Western Ave in Chicago All sessions
will run from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. After an opening presentation,
a discussion will follow. Suggested tuition is $3 per session
though no one will be turned away.
1. Wednesday, Jan. 28: The Two Party System How We Got It
This session will look at how the "good cop/bad cop"
dynamic of the two-party system emerged in the United States.
The session would describe the rise of the Federalist Party of
Adams and Hamilton and the Democrat-Republicans of Jefferson and
Madison. An opening presentation will argue that the slave owners
who led the Democrat-Republicans were very skilled at seeming
to champion the interests of small farmers and "mechanics."
As a result of that and other factors there was no significant
political party championing the independent interests of the poor
in the early Republic.
2. Wednesday, Feb. 11 The rise of the Republican Party
This session would explore the disintegration of the Whig Party
that was hastened by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the
subsequent rise of the Republican Party. The emphasis would be
on what economic forces produced the Whig Party and what new economic
forces led to its disintegration. The session will examine "Bleeding
Kansas" and how the ideology of the Republican Party was
different than abolitionism.
3. Wednesday, Feb. 25 The Post-Civil War Third Party Efforts
This session would focus on how the post-Civil War expansion
of banking and railroad capital led to the rise of attempts to
form third parties. The session will look at the Greenback movement
of the 1870s and 1880s and also the Populist Party. The session
will examine the ideology of the Populist, the Populist Party
program, and William Jennings Bryan's famous "cross of gold"
speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention. It will discuss the
influence that the greenback and populist movements had on labor
and radical organizations that followed, such as the IWW, the
Socialist Party and the Communist Party USA. The session will
also look at the specific role that populism played in the South,
particularly during the Reconstruction era and then after the
defeat of Reconstruction.
4. Wednesday, March 10 First Attempts to Form a Labor Party
This session will examine the very first attempts after the
Civil War to form a labor party in the United States. The session
will look at the 1880s and 1890s and Henry George and his "single
tax" and the efforts of the Knights of Labor at that time.
The session will look at the role that immigrant revolutionaries
from Central Europe played in this process.
5. Wednesday, March 24 The 20th Century before the New Deal
This session will discuss the rise and decline of the Socialist
Party in the early 20th century, and how it involved people from
different class backgrounds and was a political force in rural
America, the West and South. It will examine what lessons can
be learned from the Socialist Party's rise and decline in this
period. The session will also examine the LaFollette Progressive
Party campaign of 1924 and its lessons for today.
6. Wednesday, April 7: The New Deal and the Roosevelt Coalition
This session will look at the years of Franklin Roosevelt's
presidency and what the Roosevelt Coalition (which spanned everyone
from the CIO to the Dixiecrats) represented. How did the Democratic
Party include for many years everyone from Strom Thurmond to Henry
Wallace and why did both of them bolt the party in 1948? What
did the Progressive Party of 1948 represent, and why did it fail?
7. Wednesday, April 21: The Rise of alternative political parties
This session will examine the different parties which have
emerged since Lyndon Johnson declined to run for re-election in
1968 the Peace and Freedom Party, Citizens Party, the Green Party
and the movements within the Democratic party which have been
transformed into cause celebres (the Harold Washington campaigns
of 1983 and 1987 and the Jesse Jackson campaigns of 1984 and 1988.)
8. Wednesday, May 5: Third Parties Today
This session will discuss the role which different third parties
are playing, or could play today. It will also discuss what progressive
people should do on Election Day 2004.
The Young Democratic Socialists'
Winter Conference will be held Friday February 20 through Sunday
February 22 at CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown Manhattan in New
York City. This will be a weekend long conference for young activists
dedicated to social and economic justice. Workshops and plenary
presentations will address topics ranging from U.S. foreign policy,
workers rights, anti-racism, the feminist movement, confronting
right-wing ideology, globalization and America's low-wage economy,
LGBTQ activism, grassroots organizing, democratic socialist politics
and more. Participants will explore what's at stake in this critical
election year as well as strategize how students and youth can
best affect change in 2004 and beyond. The conference will highlight
upcoming mobilizations and campaign initiatives that anyone can
plug into such as the April 25th March for Women's Lives, and
the Books Not Bombs national day of action. "Life After Bush"
will be an excellent opportunity to debate, network and have fun
with other young people from across the country. Among others,
Cornel West, Frances Fox Piven, Doug Henwood, Steve Max, Leslie
Cagan and Ian Williams will be speaking. For additional information,
go to http://www.ydsusa.org/confs/nyc_0204.html.
April 25, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, has been the
occasion of demonstrations in Washington, DC, in support of women's
rights for many years now. The renewed offensive against reproductive
rights has given this year's demonstration added urgency. In recognition
of the danger, the organizers have renamed the event the "March
for Women's Rights.
The DSA National Convention endorsed this year's march. At
its January meeting, the Chicago DSA Executive Committee did as
well. In Chicago, Planned
Parenthood will be organizing buses to Washington, DC. Chicago
DSA will be encouraging its members and friends to participate
in the national march and events locally.
For more information, go to http://www.marchforchoice.org.
The Campaign for Better Health Care has been working on a legislative
version of the Bernardine Amendment for some years now, and their
current effort is so close to passage that one can almost taste
it. It passed the full House last March (60-45) but has become
hung up in the Illinois Senate. In the veto session, the Health
Care Justice Act was tacked on to a "shell bill", HB
This time we don't have Pate Phillips to blame; a Democratic
majority runs the Senate. The present difficulty was provoked
by a few Senators who discovered the bill farmed out the crafting
of a universal health care bill to stakeholders outside the legislature
then required the legislature to pass the resulting legislation.
Admittedly, this is an unusual approach to legislation though
it's not unheard of. The Chicago City Council, for example, is
required to approve property tax increases sought by the Chicago
Board of Education; they can't be denied. Informally, much legislation
is crafted by lobbyists then rubberstamped by the legislature.
For more information about the Health Care Justice Act, see
"Other News" in New
Ground 87 or go to http://www.cbhconline.org/fact_hb1984.htm.
According to news reports, there has been some contact between
the hotel and HERE Local 1,
the first time since the workers walked out last summer. It would
probably be an exaggeration to call this one meeting much more
than a conversation. The January 9 meeting was apparently initiated
by a change in health care coverage under the plan administered
by the union. There was not even any public agreement as to which
side requested the meeting though there was agreement that there
was no agreements reached at the meeting. But published reports
indicate that there will be another meeting on January 22.
In the meantime, the Congress Hotel has gotten into some difficulty
with building code violations. For an idea of some of the problems
as related by disgruntled customers, check out the strike web
According to the City, most of the over five dozen violations
have been corrected or are being corrected. The hotel is due back
in court on these issues January 29.
It seems to have been unnoticed by political and economic analysts
that Clinton's greatest sin, in the eyes of our economic and financial
aristocracy, was to create a budget surplus. The Republican ideologues
among them were, of course, outraged that he had robbed them of
their favorite political bull-whip: the slogan branding the Democrats
as "tax and spend liberals" but the real blow was the
fiscal threat posed to their class interests by the budget surplus
itself. The surplus meant that the U.S. Treasury would be under
less pressure to borrow money and the interest rate would fall,
limiting the income of the bond holders and the fees of the "law
firms" on Wall Street that negotiated the sale of large blocks
of each bond issue to them. One should remember that a similar
threat at the close of World War Two, posed by a group of progressive
members of the House of Representatives, gave rise to the career
of Richard Milhous Nixon.
The solution, put into the action by the management of the
Republican Party and the handlers of the current resident of the
White House was quite traditional, although brilliant in the eyes
of those who profited: a tax cut so extreme and unbalanced that
it would throw the Federal budget into deficit and enrich the
already wealthy to the extent that they could lend their added
wealth to the U.S. Treasury at a well negotiated and comfortable
rate of interest. They would be relieved of the pressure to find
profitable investments, create employment or take (heavens!) risks.
They could devote their energies to creating public opinion, playing
(seriously) with politics and social affairs. There is always
so much to do when one has a sufficiently high guaranteed income,
without the responsibility of actually creating it. Running and
ruining the country is so much fun.
This is not a new development. Hierarchical states ruled by
aristocracies have always borrowed for their immediate needs,
be they wars, roads or palaces. They typically borrowed from the
wealthy, who were often related to and supported the rulers, and
were therefore assured of a handsome return over time. When the
rulers could not borrow enough, they usually levied what they
wanted from the middle and lower classes without a promise of
With the further development of civilization, the process was
refined. Corporations, including banks, developed to rationalize
the process (and to take the blame when needed). America's "Gilded
Age" illustrated the process, as did the "Roaring Twenties".
When the Boom led to Bust, some corporations did undertake capital
projects (The electrification of the Pennsylvania Railroad is
a case in point.) but the typical upper class investor in the
1930s loaned money to the Federal Government that then undertook
the needed capital projects, providing needed employment and (like
road construction) subsidized sectors of private investment (trucking,
auto manufacture, petroleum, etc.). The bond buyers were assured
of a steady return without effort or risk and (as Alexander Hamilton
put it) had the leisure to devote to "the arts of government".