Texas university removes 'white supremacy' statues from campus | 21 Aug 2017 | The University of Texas at Austin removed four statues tied to the Confederacy from its campus on Monday, saying they had become symbols of white supremacy at a time of protests and fierce debate about race and the legacy of America's Civil War.
Spanish police shoot dead suspected Barcelona attacker | 21 Aug 2017 | Spanish police on Monday shot dead a man they suspect was the Islamist militant who drove a van into a Barcelona crowd last week, killing 13 people. Ending a five-day manhunt, police tracked 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub to a rural area near Barcelona.
Moon blots the sun out of the sky in historic US eclipse | 21 Aug 2017 | Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the midday sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.
U.S. imperialism is rooted in the rapacious expansionism of the slave system. George Washington envisioned the new nation as a “rising empire.” Jefferson spoke of an “empire of liberty” -- meaning, the liberties he enjoyed from the labor (and sexual exploitation) of the slaves. White supremacy legitimized every avarice of the new nation. The Monroe Doctrine staked the exclusive U.S. claim to dominate the Western Hemisphere -- regarded as populated by inferior and “mongrel” races -- an “exceptionalism” Washington now insists extends to the entire planet.
“U.S. imperialism is rooted in the rapacious expansionism of the slave system.”
Fascism, including the Nazi variety, is not some strange European social disease. After crushing Black Reconstruction, the southern states invented, from the bottom up, the world’s first totally racially regimented society. U.S. “Jim Crow” inspired Adolph Hitler’s vision for nation-building under Aryan supremacy, as documented in James Q. Whitman’s recent book, Hitler’s American Model. American fascism predated -- and has long outlived -- the European variety. It is generally accepted that fascist states are characterized, to one degree or another, by:
- Extreme nationalism
- Frequent resort to mob rule
- Oppression of an internal “Other” as an organizing principle
- The political dominance of the most reactionary elements of the bourgeoisie
All of these characteristics describe the southern states of the U.S. during the nearly century-long period between the death of Reconstruction and the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, the post-Reconstruction reconciliation between North and South guaranteed that the southern fascism model would leave its imprint on the larger American political economy. In the aftermath of the Sixties, the Republican section of the corporate electoral duopoly assumed the role of the White Man’s Party -- the purer party of indigenous American fascism.
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Cooperative housing is not a new concept. Since the late 1800s, people have come together to own and control multiunit housing collectively through cooperative structures. Members purchase shares in the cooperative that entitle them to live in one of the units and have a vote in the governance and management of the building. They pay monthly fees to cover their share of the cooperation’s expenses, like mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance.
There are different types of cooperative housing, each with its own set of rules and regulations. Limited-equity co-ops are a form intended to preserve affordability for low- and moderate-income households. Shares in limited-equity cooperatives, or LECs, have restricted resale values, and there are income limits for potential members. LECs tend to offer deeper affordability than other permanently affordable shared-equity housing models, such as community land trusts or deed-restricted inclusionary housing, meaning they can bring the benefits of those models to even lower-income households.
Before the property at 53 Columbus Ave. converted to an LEC, it had been decades since a new cooperative formed in San Francisco, which is a far cry from the rate at which they were erected in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s when limited-equity co-ops were all the rage in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. In those days there were more financing options, including subsidies and below-market interest rates, that allowed developers who wanted to build LECs to secure affordable loans. Now, limited-equity co-ops are mostly created through conversions of existing buildings, and even then, it’s difficult to secure funding for such a venture.
To go back to the heyday of affordable cooperative growth, there would need to be a program that provides 100 percent, or near 100 percent, financing for affordable housing development, says Herb Fisher, former president of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives. Without that, “potential members cannot come up with the money needed to fund the cooperative’s downpayment and soft-costs requirements.”
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Greenville, Mississippi—In March, President Trump revealed his "skinny budget," a rough sketch of the nascent administration's fiscal priorities and objectives that included deep cuts to education and nutrition programs. Budget chief Mick Mulvaney defended the move. "[The programs] are supposed to help kids who don't get fed at home so they do better in school," Mulvaney said at a press conference on the day of the announcement. "Guess what? There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually doing that. There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually helping results, helping kids do better in school."
In Greenville, Mississippi, a town on the Blues Highway in the Mississippi Delta where every public school student receives free breakfast and lunch, Joan Rowe, director of the local Boys and Girls Club, heard that comment and immediately thought: "They should come down here."
Rowe and her colleagues across the Delta are watching with keen attention as the federal government aims to slash vital programs and relax school meal standards that have helped combat pervasive community health concerns and poor academic performance in one of the nation's neediest states.
Video by Emrys Eller.
The Trump administration's proposed budget would nix the Greenville afterschool program and impose deep cuts in other areas that impact school meals and nutrition. The USDA, which administers numerous grants and programs that help feed needy children, is facing a budget cut of $4.7 billion, or 21 percent of its discretionary spending, while the Department of Education's budget could fall by more than $9 billion. Even if Trump's budget never passes, the administration has already put its stamp on school meals. Newly installed Department of Agriculture chief, Sonny Perdue, is rolling back school lunch nutrition standards.
The moves befuddle researchers, who cite a growing body of evidence demonstrating that more meals for school children, and specifically more nutritious meals, benefit kids in a myriad of ways, not only in the short term, but throughout their lives. Recent studies indicate the impact of healthier meals is even greater on low-income children.
"I think there is a disconnect between the policy makers and the reality in many places," said Michele Leardo, assistant director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. "They haven't experienced what it's like to go home and not get a meal. Some of these students are getting all three meals of the day at school -- free breakfast, free lunch and an afterschool meal. I think they are out of touch with what these kids face, and how vital these programs really are."
Many communities in the Mississippi Delta have better access to casinos, convenience stores and fast food than to grocery stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Sherry Jackson, who runs federal programs for the Greenville School District in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, views the proposed cuts with dismay. "[They] make me feel sick to my stomach," she said.
"There is nowhere else for parents to turn; we are the safety net," she added.
In Greenville, the people stitching that net together are loath to imagine what will happen if holes develop.
On a humid Wednesday afternoon in April, children wearing khaki pants and polo shirts color-coded to their grade level trickled into the Boys and Girls Club of Greenville, one of five sites for Greenville's 21st Century Community Learning Centers, an afterschool program. The center faces closure if the Trump budget passes.
Inside, tutor Louise Cox helped a group of 16 elementary and middle school students with their homework and ran them through math and language exercises. In another room, an instructor directed high school students in computer and career placement lessons. A forest green pennant from Delta State University, a school in nearby Cleveland, was tacked to the wall alongside motivational posters, alphabet charts and multiplication tables. Rowe, the director, who was born and raised in Greenville, repeatedly reminds the children how important it is to graduate high school and move on to college, just as she did.
Rowe would also like to offer a lesson to the federal budget experts like Mulvaney. "I'd tell them to come out here and see what the children are faced with," Rowe said "Not everyone is privileged. I remember I walked the kids over to the bank a while back to give them a lesson on banking. We walked in and the kids were amazed by the elevator -- they'd never seen one before."
Mississippi's graduation rates and test scores have lagged behind the national average for years, but recently started to catch up. The four-year graduation rate was up to 82 percent in 2016, an improvement from 74 percent in 2012 and close to the national average of 83 percent. But in Greenville, where about 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the high school graduation rate is just 62 percent, one of the lowest in the state.
Greenville was once a prosperous and progressive city, but industry, including barge building and factory work, has slowly abandoned the area. Today the population is roughly 32,000, down from a high of 45,000 in 1990. The school district is shrinking with the community, and funding continues to decline. The district, held up as a model of integration when it became the first in the state to desegregate back in the 1960s, has become largely segregated again, with black children in public schools and white children in private ones. Today, 94 percent of Greenville's public school students live in poverty.
"A lot of them are latchkey kids. They eat a lot of fast food and some of their parents don't cook at all," said Patricia Allen, nutrition director for Greenville School District. "It's not like when I was a kid and you were taught how to cook, and maybe had fried chicken once a week as a treat. There is nobody at home for them. Nobody is providing food for them, period. They look forward to coming to school to get that meal. I see a lot of children that I'm sure are not getting the proper nutrition at home."
Good nutrition is vital for kids, who have a high metabolic rate and are growing. The effects of hunger and malnutrition go far beyond a grumbling stomach and daydreams of pepperoni pizza during algebra class, potentially causing lasting physiological damage and reduced brain development. Low levels of iron and long-term food insecurity are linked to cognitive delays. When blood glucose levels are low, adrenalin, cortisol and other hormones are released, leading to feelings of agitation and irritability. When a child is hungry the body prioritizes vital needs, dedicating scarce calories to organ function and growth. Hunger in school children is linked to an inability to focus, lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, and often leads to grade repetition.
An array of new research has reinforced previous studies showing school meals have a profound impact on students' academic outcomes, attendance, and overall health. Initiatives that help the most needy, either through direct financial means or programs like free school lunch, have benefits that last decades -- boosting income, health and other life outcomes. The federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers is one such program, offering academic help and an evening meal to mostly low-income children enrolled in underperforming schools. Under the president's proposed 2018 budget, the program, which currently serves 1.8 million children through a $1.1 billion federal grant, would be eliminated.
Annual reports from the US Department of Education have consistently found 21st Century improves grades, test scores, class participation and student behavior.
"The data and performance indicate that this broad-reaching program touches students' lives in ways that will have far reaching impact," report author Sylvia Lyles, director of the USEDs Office of Academic Improvement, concluded in the 2016 report.
During the 2014-15 school year, approximately half the students who regularly attend the 21st Century program improved their math and English grades. In Mississippi, more than one third of program participants increased their math and reading assessment scores, according to the report.
While the USED study did not compare 21st Century participants to those not enrolled in the program, a 2013 Texas study did. That report found significant benefits, particularly for high school students: After school participation was associated with higher test scores, and led to much higher rates of grade level progression for students in grades nine to 12. Middle school students enrolled in the program missed fewer days of school and had fewer disciplinary incidents.
In Greenville, after the homework session with Cox, the kids slurped up spaghetti and meatballs and a fruit cup around 5:30 p.m. Then they ran outside for recess while they waited for their evening pickup. Rowe and the Greenville Boys and Girls staff feed, tutor and provide recreation for 50 students.
Brenda Birkhead is one parent who leans on Rowe and the 21st Century Program. The single mother of 10-year-old LaNiya Birkhead, a fourth grader at Greenville's Weddington Elementary School, works at a local clothing store.
"The 21st Century program really boosts the children," she said. "I know my daughter is safe. I know when I pick her up she has been fed dinner, she's had some exercise, and her homework is done."
Birkhead makes $8.50 an hour, slightly above the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25. Mississippi has no state minimum wage. She works more than 30 hours per week, and often has to close the store at 8 p.m. and work weekend shifts.
"Without the Boys and Girls Club and programs like 21st Century, my back would be up against the wall," she said.
Up the road in Cleveland, Mississippi, Shenika Maiden carefully observed the lunch time assembly line at Bell Academy, inspecting for waste and other inefficiencies. The nutrition and food services director for Cleveland School District, Maiden has overseen the recent evolution in the district's school lunches. In single file, children grab their trays, choose between a banana and a fruit cup, and then receive green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, a whole wheat roll, and hamburger steak.
"Shhhhhh. Listen. You hear that?" she asks. "They're not talking. They're not playing around. That means they're eating."
It's a reassuring sound. Since the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect in 2012 with new nutrition standards for school meals, Maiden has been working to cut sodium and fried foods, and add whole grains, fruits and vegetables to the lunch trays.
Less than 10 years ago Bell Academy, an elementary school, was failing and facing a state takeover. In 2010, it was completely revamped with a new magnet math, science and health curriculum, a direct response to rising childhood obesity rates. Recently, the school has been getting B's and C's on its state report cards. Principal Sonya Swafford says the magnet program, particularly the health portion, which is backed by a patchwork of federal grants, has brought the school a sense of purpose and community. "It's given us our own little limelight," she said.
"In general, nutrition in the community is poor. There are high rates of poverty in the Delta, and many of our families receive SNAP benefits," Maiden said, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. "It's a big issue. Many of the people who get SNAP buy the cheapest food items, junk food … hot dogs."
In the Mississippi Delta, where many of the communities have little access to affordable, fresh ingredients, the school meal program serves multiple purposes. Children who do not get enough nutrition at home get the food they need to learn and thrive, but the hope is that teaching healthy eating habits will also reverse a troubling trend. Mississippi has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, with almost 40 percent of the state's children considered obese or overweight.
"Change was necessary. Maybe Michelle Obama went a little far with it, and it was a lot at one time, but it was needed." Maiden said, referring to the former first lady's championing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. "Now we're seeing a big jump in the quality of school meals. These children will be healthier in the future, if we continue the course. If they get used to eating this way at a young age, they'll make that choice on their own when they're older."
The standards required by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act were recently dialed back by new USDA director Sonny Perdue, who referenced the need to add flexibility and reduce food waste.
"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Perdue stated when he announced the change in May. "If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition -- thus undermining the intent of the program."
After the implementation of the new rules, some states complained of waste and declining school lunch participation, but those figures have since rebounded. A 2016 Journal of the American Medical Association study assessing the Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act found the new standards significantly improved meal quality in school cafeterias and had only a negligible impact on participation.
The nation's public schools feed a lot of children -- 30 million -- and companies are willing to meet their needs. "The manufacturers have been great. Schools buy a lot of food, so they'll accommodate us," Maiden said.
Since the school meal standards went into effect, there have been significant increases in the amount of fruits and vegetables children are eating, coupled with an increase in fiber consumption and reductions in sodium and saturated fat intake, the JAMA study found. Another study, showed the percentage of calories from saturated fat in the average lunch fell from 9 percent to 6 percent after the changes.
"There's definitely a lot of variance, but since 2012 the average nutritional floor of school lunches has moved up," said Michael Anderson, an associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of a recent study on nutrition in school lunches.
Kids can still find junk food at school, but it comes with more limitations and alternative ingredients. Some schools are installing filtered, cooled water fountains and turning off soda machines until after the school day. Snacks at Bell Academy, available for an extra 50 cents, included whole grain brown rice crispy treats or reduced-fat Doritos. Next year, the district is partnering with Pizza Hut, which is using a new school-approved recipe incorporating low-fat cheese and a whole wheat crust.
Although the new standards have shown results, making nutritious meals that the children will eat, while also staying on budget, remains a challenge. The same study that lauded the lower levels of saturated fat and sodium raised concerns regarding lower amounts of calcium and Vitamin C.
"The hope is kids will take the [health] information home and share it with their families," said Leardoof NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy. "There are a lot of needy families that aren't exposed to the best options and information for healthy eating. They live near bodegas and fast food restaurants, and don't have easy access in their communities to healthy ingredients."
Five years into the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, research shows kids at schools serving more nutritious meals are doing better academically. Anderson's study found the California schools with healthier school lunches scored, on average, four percent higher on standardized tests. Also, the poorest students saw the most impact, with academic gains 40 percent higher for those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The study determined healthier meals cost approximately $80 more per year per student; to achieve similar testing improvements through reducing class sizes by hiring more teachers would cost five times as much.
"As an education policymaker you have multiple levers you can pull to improve performance," Anderson said. "If you're looking for the most return for dollars spent, school meals is a good place to start."
Sherry Jackson, the Greenville director for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other federal programs, has already had a glimpse of what would happen under the proposed cuts. During the 2016-17 school year the district lost nearly half its after school sites, representing spots for 250 children, due to a state accounting error that forced Mississippi to severely curtail participation in the program.
"I had parents calling me frantic, in tears," Jackson said. "They had nowhere else to turn, and were very worried about what they would do. I think they felt punched in the gut after seeing their kids thrive in the program."
It is communities like Greenville, with very few local resources to fall back on, that will see the deepest impact from any changes. "If it closes, I don't know what I would do," said Brenda Birkhead, LaNiya's mom. "It would be devastating."
Hear reporter Tovin Lapan talk about this story with the Education Writers Association.
Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the OSAN Airbase in South Korea, April 16, 2017. (Photo: Jeon Han / Republic of Korea)
Will this time be different? Has Trump finally crossed a line that's the beginning of the unraveling of his presidency?
Last week he threatened nuclear war with North Korea. This week he doubled down on defending white supremacists even as his allies, corporate executives and military and intelligence chiefs, backed away.
Trump keeps spinning out. After a few cities removed monuments of Confederate Civil War heroes, he tweeted Thursday, "The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"
The idea of replacing Trump is now edging back into the public's mind. The Washington Post's famed 1970s Watergate scandal reporter, Carl Bernstein, is urging the press to dig into sentiment for replacing Trump inside the GOP.
Petitions are circulating. A national PRRI poll released Thursday found 40 percent favor impeaching Trump. That's 72 percent of Democrats, compared to 58 percent six months ago, and 38 percent of independents, compared to 27 percent in February. Only 7 percent of Republicans, however, want to see him ousted, a figure holding firm from February.
With Congress firmly in GOP hands, the question becomes when would the House, which initiates the impeachment process, realize that it's in the GOP's benefit to do so. Of course, Trump could step down, as unlikely as that sounds. All of this is uncharted territory. But the latest Trump chaos is on par with last fall's grabbing-pussy boasts that at the time prompted some Republicans to consider their options for replacing candidate Trump.
All of these machinations lead to taking a closer look at Vice President Mike Pence, who would become history's latest accidental president -- even if he, too, is under the cloud of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian collusion in the campaign. (In January, Pence told CBS News the campaign had no contacts with Russia, a claim that has been disproven.)
What would Pence bring to the presidency that's not already in Trump's White House, besides self-control and a lack of drama, threats of nuclear war and overt embraces of neo-Nazis and slavery-defenders? The answer appears to be even more doctrinaire right-wing positions than those taken by Trump. Pence would shepherd the agenda repeatedly rubber-stamped by the House and Senate GOP and vetoed by President Obama. As FiveThirtyEight.com noted after his selection, he's the most far-right veep nominee in 40 years.
Pence was a smooth-talking radio host before being elected to the House, where he served in the leadership with current Speaker Paul Ryan. He was elected Indiana governor in 2012, but his backing of a "religious freedom" bill allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals caused such an economic backlash that his career seemed over until Trump rescued him.
Virtually all of his policy positions are in sync with the GOP's draconian 2016 platform, adopted at the convention soon after he introduced himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order." While it might be a relief for virtually everyone left of the political center should Trump be fired, Pence actually knows how Washington works and could deeply damage government and many public policies.
A quick survey of Pence's stances is revealing -- beyond his habit of never meeting alone with a woman other than his wife because he believes such interactions are implicitly sexual. As the Washington Post put it, "There's little distance between that perspective and that of the ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to sit next to a woman on an airplane, or the fundamentalist Muslims who demand that women be covered head to toe to contain the unstoppable sexual allure that renders men unable to control their urges."
Here are snapshots from a biography of his career: After he was elected to the House in 2000, he opposed President George W. Bush's expansion of Medicare prescription drug benefits. During his 12 years in Congress, he introduced 90 bills and resolutions. None became law. He opposed Obama's Affordable Care Act, needless to say.
After becoming governor in 2013, he faced a state fiscal crisis. He cut tens of millions from the budget for higher education, social agencies and human services. Although Indiana's economy had the nation's worst job growth, he signed bills blocking local governments from raising the minimum wage or requiring businesses to offer better benefits. He pushed cutting income and business taxes, but would not sign laws reversing other regressive taxes.
Pence was a big booster of privatizing government services, whether new highways or traditional public schools. He repeatedly acted to boost charter schools and vouchers and undermine the teachers' unions, including making the state Board of Education an arm of the executive branch. From there, he clashed with educators over treatment of transgender students.
On energy and the environment, he rolled back energy efficiency standards, denounced and fought with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and declared Indiana was a pro-coal state. On guns, he signed a bill to let people keep guns in their cars parked on school grounds, recruited the NRA to train the Indiana National Guard and pre-empted the city of Gary from suing gun manufacturers whose weapons were sold illegally.
On health, he and the state GOP defunded Planned Parenthood, even with southern Indiana experiencing an HIV epidemic. He opposed needle exchanges for drug addiction treatment. While he did accept Obamacare funds to expand state-run Medicaid, he added bigger co-payments for recipients.
Pence received national attention after signing a so-called religious freedom bill in 2015, prompting some big state employers -- notably Angie's List -- to cancel a state-based expansion in Indianapolis, costing the state 1,000 jobs. The backlash forced him to rescind parts of the law. On women's health and reproductive rights, Pence has been a fundamentalist, signing into law a bill banning abortion procedures and penalizing providers. A federal court overruled the law, saying it was unconstitutional.
Pence also tried to create a state-run news service, to circumvent local media. He's repeatedly stonewalled reporters seeking public documents. He is known for using private emails to conduct official business -- the same thing he criticized Hillary Clinton for. And he tried but failed to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in the state. A court stopped him.
In the fall 2016 campaign, Pence said his role model for the vice presidency, if elected, would be Dick Cheney, George W. Bush's powerful surrogate.
"I frankly hold Dick Cheney in really high regard in his role as vice president and as an American," he told ABC-TV. "Vice President Cheney had experience in Congress as I do, and he was very active in working with members of the House and the Senate."
While tens of millions of Americans want the nightmare of Trump to end, a different right-wing takeover looms should Pence inherit the Oval Office. One can ask, as Carl Bernstein has, whether Republicans and careerists in military and intelligence circles have completely lost faith in Trump. It's anybody's guess when congressional Republicans will decide whether they would be better off with a President Pence -- notwithstanding Mueller's probe.
The country's last accidental president was Gerald Ford, who took office after Richard Nixon resigned, and wasn't re-elected in 1976 after issuing a full pardon for Nixon two years before. Ford did not get much done in his time in office. But the mid-1970s was another era.
Should Pence inherit the job, and should the GOP maintain its control in Congress, the far right could have even more power than it does today.
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Single-payer health care is still a controversial idea in the US, but a majority of physicians are moving to support it, a new survey finds. Fifty-six percent of doctors registered either strong support or were somewhat supportive of a single-payer health system, according to the survey by Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm.
There's a growing sense of inevitability as more doctors assume single-payer is on the horizon. (Photo: megaflopp / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
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Single-payer health care is still a controversial idea in the US, but a majority of physicians are moving to support it, a new survey finds.
Fifty-six percent of doctors registered either strong support or were somewhat supportive of a single-payer health system, according to the survey by Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm. In its 2008 survey, opinions ran the opposite way -- 58 percent opposed single-payer. What's changed?
Red tape, doctors tell Merritt Hawkins. Phillip Miller, the firm's vice president of communications, said that in the thousands of conversations its employees have with doctors each year, physicians often say they are tired of dealing with billing and paperwork, which takes time away from patients.
"Physicians long for the relative clarity and simplicity of single-payer. In their minds, it would create less distractions, taking care of patients -- not reimbursement," Miller said.
In a single-payer system, a public entity, such as the government, would pay all the medical bills for a certain population, rather than insurance companies doing that work.
A long-term trend away from physicians owning their practices may be another reason that single-payer is winning some over. Last year was the first in which fewer than half of practicing physicians owned their practice -- 47.1 percent -- according to the American Medical Association's surveys in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Many doctors are today employed by hospitals or health care institutions, rather than working for themselves in traditional solo or small-group private practices. Those doctors might be less invested in who pays the invoices, Miller said.
There's also a growing sense of inevitability, Miller said, as more doctors assume single-payer is on the horizon.
"I would say there is a sense of frustration, a sense of maybe resignation that we're moving in that direction, let's go there and get it over with," he said.
Merritt Hawkins emailed its survey Aug. 3 and received responses from 1,003 doctors. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The Affordable Care Act established the principle that everyone deserves health coverage, said Shawn Martin, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Academy of Family Physicians. Inside the medical profession, the conversation has changed to how best to provide universal coverage, he said.
"That's the debate we're moving into, that's why you're seeing a renewed interest in single-payer," Martin said.
Dr. Steven Schroeder, who chaired a national commission in 2013 that studied how physicians are paid, said the attitude of medical students is also shifting.
Schroeder has taught medicine at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center since 1971 and has noticed students' increasing support for a single-payer system, an attitude they likely carry into their professional careers.
"Most of the medical students here don't understand why the rest of the country doesn't support it," said Schroeder.
The Merritt Hawkins' findings follow two similar surveys this year.
In February, a LinkedIn survey of 500 doctors found that 48 percent supported a "Medicare for all" type of system, and 32 percent opposed the idea.
The second, released by the Chicago Medical Society in June, reported that 56 percent of doctors in that area picked single-payer as the "best care to the greatest number of people." More than 1,000 doctors were surveyed.
Since June 2016, more than 2,500 doctors have endorsed a proposal published in the American Journal of Public Health calling for a single-payer to replace the Affordable Care Act. The plan was drafted by the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), which says it represents 21,600 doctors, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer.
Clare Fauke, a communications specialist for the organization, said the group added 1,065 members in the past year and membership is now the highest since PNHP began in 1987.
Both Donald Trump and his neoliberal opponents seem to agree that NAFTA has been good for Mexicans, but in reality, the pact caused Mexico to lose millions of jobs, especially in the agricultural sector, and resulted in a sharp increase in migration to the US. If NAFTA is renewed, it will continue to benefit transnational corporate moguls rather than workers.
Robert Lighthizer, then-nominee to serve as United States Trade Representative, meets with Senator Charles E. Grassley, January 18, 2017. On August 16, Lighthizer met with his counterparts from Canada and Mexico to open talks on renegotiating NAFTA. (Photo: Wikipedia)
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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect at midnight on January 1, 1994. That night, thousands of Indigenous Mayans rose up in arms in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, seizing at least five towns and declaring NAFTA a "death certificate" for people like themselves. This was just the beginning of Mexico's troubles in a year that brought countless protests, hotly disputed elections and the assassinations of two of the then-ruling party's leaders. 1994 ended with a sudden devaluation of the peso, the start of an economic collapse from which the country didn't recover fully for years.
NAFTA is back in the news this month: On August 16, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with his counterparts from Canada and Mexico, the other two NAFTA nations, to open talks on renegotiating the pact.
While it's true that NAFTA was just one of the many problems Mexico had in the 1990s, we have to wonder, given the renewed focus on the trade accord, why US mainstream media have carried so little discussion of the events that accompanied NAFTA's rollout in Mexico. The reason may be a consensus among opinion makers about NAFTA and similar trade pacts.
It is an article of faith across party lines that these accords are beneficial to our trading partners in the Global South. On the right, we have President Trump, who told CBS during the campaign that "Mexico ... is taking our jobs. I love the Mexican people. They're great people. But the leadership is too smart for our country.... We're being defrauded by all these countries." On the other side, we have commentators who insist that NAFTA's been good for the US economy but still go along with Trump's claim that Mexicans benefit from it. Some even assert that these trade pacts are the only hope for the developing world.NAFTA's lifting of protective tariffs left Mexico's family farms unable to compete against imports from US-subsidized agribusiness firms.
The numbers tell a different story. In 2009, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace issued a report on Mexico after 15 years of NAFTA. The researchers found some positive results -- including trade growth and an 80 percent productivity increase in the manufacturing sector -- but little improvement in areas such as economic growth, inequality and the disparity between Mexican and US wages. Interestingly, the worst news was about jobs. The export assembly plants known in Mexico as maquiladoras gained some 660,000 jobs, most of them probably manufacturing jobs outsourced from the United States and lost to workers here. But at the same time, NAFTA's lifting of protective tariffs left Mexico's family farms unable to compete against imports from US-subsidized agribusiness firms. The result was the disappearance of 2.3 million jobs in Mexico's agricultural sector -- a net loss of some 1.6 million jobs for Mexicans.
This helps explain a sharp increase in Mexican migration to the United States "from about 350,000 per year before NAFTA to nearly 500,000 per year by the early 2000s," according to the report. Many of these immigrants are the unauthorized residents Trump is now deporting.
It's true that NAFTA produced some winners. Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim moved into the top 10 on Forbes' list of the world's billionaires, Walmart became Mexico's largest private employer, and US corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, Bartlett Grain and Cargill profited handsomely from our country's agricultural exports to Mexico, worth $17.7 billion in 2016. NAFTA critics suggest that trade accords negotiated behind closed doors by business-oriented experts are bound to produce results like these and that future negotiations should be handled by the people left behind in previous pacts.
In fact, there have been several efforts to bring together civil society groups from Canada, Mexico and the United States to formulate demands for a more equitable accord. The DC-based nonprofit Global Trade Watch has been promoting the idea for years, and a meeting in Mexico City in May this year has set the project in motion. The agenda would include proposals to create or strengthen protections for labor organizing, for small-scale farming, for the environment, and for the rights of women and people of color -- along with a more rational approach to migration than what we have now.
These grassroots efforts are important, although they aren't likely to sway the policy makers in the short term. US negotiator Lighthizer talked tough on August 16, telling the press that "NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement," but a letter he sent Congress in May suggests that the Trump administration will actually go ahead with what is pretty much a modernized version of the old NAFTA, its flaws intact.
Still, at the very least, we can use the new attention on trade to start dispelling the fantasy that NAFTA was a giveaway to Mexico. This was never a conflict between the people of the NAFTA nations; the conflict was between the super-rich and all the rest of us, and we're the ones who have been losing.
As former industrial communities seek to rebuild their economies around clean energy, two cities in the Midwest provide examples with starkly different outcomes.
Chicago's Southeast Side and Newton, Iowa both used to house thriving industries, keeping residents with a solid toe in the middle class through well-paid and steady factory work. In Chicago it was steel, while Newton boomed under the all-encompassing attentions of the Maytag family and their washing machine factories.
Thirty years later, those core industries have left both areas and a handful of different businesses have taken their place. In Newton, the Maytag sites have been reborn to manufacture wind turbine bodies and blades. But in Chicago, the jutting land formerly housing US Steel remains empty.
While urban Chicago and rural Iowa are different in obvious ways, experts say there are still common factors that influence how a green economic development transition takes place.
Greg Carlock, a climate researcher with the World Resources Institute, says that sustainable development is a wide-ranging and complicated process, but he has seen some essentials emerge. These were detailed in a study for the Brookings Institute in 2011 which found that any green development transitions require long-term commitment to incremental changes, a shared public-private vision, public support, specialization and strategies that take local context into effect.
And to understand how this plays out in real life, says Carlock, look at the local level.
"All changes are local, if you can identify these local models you have created the enabling environment for action," he says.
Who Is Leading the Transition -- and Bringing the Resources?
Where the transitional plan comes from, and who has buy-in, is a significant factor. In Newton, the shock from the unexpected loss of their biggest employer pushed both local officials and community leaders to band together to find a new major employer for the area.
In contrast, the Southeast Side was just one of many areas in Chicago competing for economic development funding -- and the valuable lakefront real estate is also being targeted by multiple parties for development.
US Steel, the company that dominated a 369 acre site called the South Works, closed in 1992. It left an area of polluted and vacant land, one of the last few pieces of Chicago's lakefront that was undeveloped or unclaimed. A series of development proposals has come and gone for the area, including a Solo Cup Factory and high-rise housing, to no avail.
Today there are three primary plans for developing the space. The first is the Green Economic Industrial Corridor plan, a blueprint created by the Southeast Environmental Task Force that re-imagines redevelopment of the site as including environmentally friendly businesses and residential space as well as integrating renewable energy.
The second is called the Chicago 808 Lakeshore Master Plan, a joint venture between a Spanish housing developer and a social media security platform called WELink to create apartments with up to 12,000 homes, and include extensive green spaces and gardens.
And most recently, the city of Chicago reached a deal with a developer to buy the property to convert the site into a mixed-use development which will include housing as well as manufacturing space.
These initiatives, announced over the last several years, however, are mostly stalled, moving slowly or in the very initial stages.
Alberto Rincon, a native of the Southeast Side, briefly a development intern with local alderman Sue Garza's office and currently a graduate student at Harvard University completing a fellowship with the City of Chicago's Mayor's office, says he saw a lack of coordination, coherence and concreteness in these efforts that kept them from moving forward.
The stalling is also an example of the ways in which poorer neighborhoods of color, and particularly those further away from the city center, see less investment. As the Southeast Side, which is more than 70 percent Latino and majority working class, has been struggling to find a developer for the area, complicated projects with more city backing, like the development of an elevated walking trail on the wealthier and whiter Northwest Side, have moved forward.
"People don't really know a lot about what is going on around here," says Rincon. Unlike initiatives in other areas that have had direct mayoral backing, the Southeast Side has been working with numerous local partners but is rarely a pet project of the mayor's office. "It's important to collaborate because it allows communities to tap into the resources and skill-sets needed to see a project through," says Rincon.
Carlock says that a disconnect between citizens and government is common, and unfortunate. "If the needs of the people in the area can't be conveyed up through the political apparatus, then the incentives aren't aligned and the will won't be there," he says.
In Newton, Maytag announced in 2007 that it would be selling out to Whirlpool and closing the doors of its factories, which at their peak employed one in every five people in the town of 15,000 people. The leadership of the town -- both then-mayor Chaz Allen and the Newton Development Corporation, a business group -- saw the need for an immediate solution.
With Iowa already a leader in wind energy, the city decided to court two companies -- TPI Composites, which makes wind turbine blades, and Trinity Structural Towers. Among the incentives for the companies, which eventually settled in Newton, were Maytag's existing infrastructure, a workforce familiar with manufacturing, the city's willingness to help redevelop the land for TPI Composites, and the availability of state-level funds to offer training programs.
"We had the workforce and we had the access to capital," said Frank Liebl, executive director at the Newton Development Corporation, "and it gave us confidence that this was a good place to locate."
Carlock says having a clear economic argument for a certain type of energy or industry is also often helpful when localities are considering large investments.
"When it makes economic sense, it aligns with values because it supports people," says Carlock. "Everyone is motivated by positive economic outcomes, particularly when there is good policy alignment and market incentives."
In Iowa, wind energy was the obvious answer. The state creates a larger share of its electricity from wind energy than any other in the country, and its wind energy infrastructure was rapidly growing. The state also offered tax incentives for areas that were interested in transitioning to green energy. Newton was also connected to rail lines that could carry components to other markets.
"It just happened that wind energy was taking off at the time, and we were in the right place," says Liebl. "We want to create a new workforce, and let these youngsters know there is a career in manufacturing."
Green development in a larger city can be more complicated. In Chicago, clean energy manufacturing competes with other needs, such as those for tourist areas, nature reclamation and expanding affordable housing in an already densely populated area.
That said, Carlock says, there is "a clear global trend about where it is in the interests of global and national government to go in sustainability."
A May 2017 report called "Sizing Up Our Region's Green Economy," from the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that the clean economy in the Chicago region was growing faster than other sectors, and that there were clear specialties that included energy services, lighting, and air-water purification.
On the Southeast side, access to the Calumet River for bringing materials in and out of the area, as well as a population trained to work in manufacturing settings, could make it an area particularly good for green energy manufacturing, says Rincon.
On the former US Steel site, Rincon says he would like to see wind or solar manufacturing, which could be helped by the state's recent passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which promises support for bringing clean energy jobs to low-income communities.
The recently elected alderman of the 10th ward, Sue Garza, knows well the need for a livelihood for the residents of the area -- her father was Ed Sadlowski, legendary union activist and former director of the United Steelworkers of America. Garza, before becoming alderman, was a former public school counselor and union activist.
"Traditionally the 10th ward has always been an industrial corridor, everyone comes to bring dirty industry and landfills," she says. "But we want no more landfills, no more toxic waste. We want something that will revitalize the whole Southeast side of the city."
This story was produced as part of the Social Justice News Nexus fellowship at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. It was also supported by the Fund for Environmental Journalism.
Russian air force destroys over 200 ISIS terrorists heading for Deir ez-Zor, Syria - MoD | 21 Aug 2017 | The Russian air force has destroyed a large column of Islamic State militants, vehicles and large caliber weapons heading to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, the Russian defense ministry has said.
In a special broadcast today, we remember legendary comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who passed away on Saturday in Washington, DC at the age of 84. Gregory became one of the most popular comedians in the country, paving the way for generations of African-American comedians. On Sunday Chris Rock wrote on Instagram, "We lost a king. They'll never be another. Read his books. Look him up you won't be disappointed. Unfortunately the America that produced Dick Gregory still exists." Dick Gregory was the first African-American comedian to sit on the couch of The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Parr. As his popularity grew, so did his activism. In 1967, Dick Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago against the infamous Richard Daley. He was a close friend of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1968 he ran for president against Richard Nixon. Dr. Greg Carr, chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and a friend of Gregory, described him as a perpetual student. "His intellectual capacity was honed to precision with a lifetime of deep study," Carr told Diverse Magazine. We feature Dick Gregory in his own words in our 2002 interview with the comedian in our old firehouse studio. We first interviewed Gregory just months after Democracy Now! went on television. In a special broadcast today, we remember legendary comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who passed away on Saturday in Washington, DC at the age of 84. Gregory became one of the most popular comedians in the country, paving the way for generations of African-American comedians. On Sunday Chris Rock wrote on Instagram, "We lost a king. They'll never be another. Read his books. Look him up you won't be disappointed. Unfortunately the America that produced Dick Gregory still exists." Dick Gregory was the first African-American comedian to sit on the couch of The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Parr. As his popularity grew, so did his activism. In 1967, Dick Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago against the infamous Richard Daley. He was a close friend of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1968 he ran for president against Richard Nixon. Dr. Greg Carr, chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and a friend of Gregory, described him as a perpetual student. "His intellectual capacity was honed to precision with a lifetime of deep study," Carr told Diverse Magazine. We feature Dick Gregory in his own words in our 2002 interview with the comedian in our old firehouse studio. We first interviewed Gregory just months after Democracy Now! went on television.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, a special broadcast. We remember the pioneering comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory. He died on Saturday in Washington, DC, at the age of 84. In the early 1960's Dick Gregory became one of the most popular comedians in the country and paved the way for generations of African-American comedians from Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor to Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. On Sunday, Chris rock wrote on Instagram, "We lost a king. There will never be another. Read his books, look him up. You won't be disappointed. Unfortunately, the America that produced Dick Gregory still exists," Chris Rock wrote. Dick Gregory was the first African-American comedian to sit on the couch of "The Tonight Show" then hosted by Jack Parr. But as his popularity grew, so did his activism. He was jailed and beaten by Birmingham police for parading without a permit in 1963. He took a bullet in the knee while trying to calm a crowd during the Watts riots in 1965. That same year he spoke at one of the first major teach-ins on the Vietnam War at University of California, Berkeley.
DICK GREGORY: As far as war, as far as the way that radical group will say, oh they just holding this meeting because they want to duck the draft. They will always think of little petty things to say. But I tell you one thing, I'm not against armies as long as this the army that's going to come in after a tornado and help clean up. I'm not against the Army if the type of Army that is going to go around the world and distribute food to everyone. But, I'd love to ask the boys in Washington, DC how a Negro and standing up and say, he's non violent, and white America loves that and going to send me over to kill somebody? No, nonviolence to me means not that I'm not supposed to hit American white man, nonviolence mean to me that death might put me on its payroll, but I'll never put death on my payroll.
AMY GOODMAN: Two years later in 1967, Dick Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago against the infamous Richard Daley. He was a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1968 he ran for president against Richard Nixon.
DICK GREGORY: I had already announced 18 months ago that I was a presidential candidate as a write-in because I feel that the two-party system is obsolete. The two-party system is so corrupt and immoral that it cannot solve the problems confronting the masses of the people in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Dick Gregory, by his account, pulled an astonishing 1.5 million votes, but the official tally put him at 47,000 votes. And that was as a write-in candidate. During the campaign, Dick Gregory was arrested by U.S. Treasury agents for printing and distributing fake American currency with his picture on the bills as campaign literature. He also became well-known for his hunger strikes for justice. In 1967, he weighed more than 280 pounds and smoke and drank heavily. Then he began a public fast, starting Thanksgiving Day, to protest the war in Vietnam. 40 days later, he broke his fast with a hearty glass of fruit juice. He weighed 97 pounds. In the summer of 1968, he fasted for 45 days as a show of solidarity with Native Americans. The following summer, he did another 45 days of fast in protest of de facto segregation in the Chicago public schools. In 1970, Gregory went 81 days to bring attention to the narcotics problem in America. Beginning in 1971, he went nearly three years without solid food, again, to protest the war. During that stretch, he ran 900 miles from Chicago to Washington, DC During the Iran hostage crisis, Dick Gregory traveled to Tehran in an effort to free the hostages and he traveled to the north of Ireland to advise hunger-striking IRA prisoners. In his campaign against hunger, he traveled to Ethiopia more than 10 times. More recently, his face appeared in newspapers across the country for his community action to -- approach to investigate allegations behind the CIA's connection with drugs in the African American community. He camped out in dealer-ridden public parks and rallied community leaders to shut down head shops. He protested at CIA headquarters and was arrested. Throughout his life, Dick Gregory has been a target of FBI and police surveillance. And he was virtually banned from the entertainment arena for his political activism. When we come back from break, we we'll hear from Dick Gregory in his own words. Again, Dick Gregory died at the age of 84 in Washington, DC Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Imagine" by John Lennon, partly inspired by Dick Gregory. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. As we continue our special remembrance of the life of the legendary comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory. He died Saturday at the age of 84 in Washington, DC. I spoke to Dick Gregory many times. We're going to go back, though, first to 2002 when we were in our firehouse studio's in downtown Manhattan.
DICK GREGORY: When you think about what on happened September 11 of last year, the number one problem confronting America, there is never another act of terrorism if this country stays as frightened as it is, cannot survive. I mean, I never understood what Roosevelt meant when he said, "nothing to fear but fear itself." I been married 43 years and the biggest problem i have with my wife, literally when I first got married, is scared. She could can't handle debt. "When we going to pay Sears and Roebuck? You act like we got some money. We don't have no money. And when I get me some money, Sears and Roebuck now my first priority" Well, look, Sears knew I wasn't gonna pay for that stuff when I got it. On the back of the application they said who's going to pay for this? I said, "your mama." About two weeks later I walk in the house and she's like, losing her -- "they did it. They did it." I asked her what's wrong. "They did it. They did it. Here it is final notice. Final notice." I looked at it. Final notice. Hm. Thank God we won't be hearing from them no more. You don't have to worry. Listen, I have a brother that's so worried, he called me the other day, he said, "they about to repossess my car. What must I do?" Don't park in front of the house. Just simple. Don't worry. And for those of you out there, those book collectors, look, I don't know how many of you aware of the fact that 60% of those bill collectors that call you, they are prison inmates. I mean, I had a triple serial killer call me the other day to embarrass me because I'm late paying Neiman Marcus. I said, "punk, you come get the money. You leave the jail and come get the money." And then another thing you have to stop doing, stop having your children lie to the bill collectors. You go to the phone, "tell them I'm not here." How you going to tell a child to lie and then tell them one day "never lie to me"? You go to the phone, "Dick Greg?" "Yeah, this is Dick." They don't know what to do. You see, they've been trained that you going to say you're not there. And when you say you there, they run back to the manual. "What do you say when they say they there?" He comes back, "this is not you." I said, "boy, how old are you?" "22 years old." "Let me tell you something, I've been owing this company this money for 38 years. What makes you think you're going to collect it in your lifetime?" And then when they can't intimidate you, then they bring the high echelon people; Phd's, psychologists, psychiatrists and the call goes like this "hi, there, guy. When can we expect a payment?" "Well, I'm not in control of your expectations. Matter of fact you can expect a payment all the time." And so, when you stop letting fear interrupt -- I mean, fear, fear. If you look at NBC, CBS, ABC and the black community, I mean, black folks have looked at the news -- and I know black folks that haven't even got nothing, got locks on their door. I mean, how you going to something from -- I got a cousin in Kansas City, Missouri, he had 27 locks on the door and haven't got nothing in house. I said, "boy, if somebody broke in here, they would leave something." And the house he live in is so small, he stuck the key in the door one day and stabbed 12 people. They was in the backyard. So, when you stop and think about -- I mean, just think about this for a minute. I keep asking the black community, what do you mean by black on black crime? And that's what I tell white folks, you got to listen to black folks because sometimes they be saying stuff that sound good, but they be talking about you all. For instance, black on black crime. Ask anybody and they say, we tired of black folk killing black folk. Now they didn't say they was tired of killing. They said they were not tired of black folks killing black folks. Then who be left? I mean, it's a simple matter. If you go to China today, who do you think is killing Chinese in China? If you go to Italy tomorrow, who do you think is killing Italians in Italy? You kill where you live. And if 98% of all white folks that was murdered in America last year was murdered by white folks. If they're not talking about white on white crime. Why we going to talk about black on black crime? Like I said, you kill where you live. And to all you black folks out there that's worried about black on black crime, join the NAACP, the Urban League, PUSH, SCLC. Get out here with us and work to integrate this country, and I guarantee you, if I'm living in a white suburban neighborhood and somebody -- my old lady make me mad enough to want to shoot somebody, I'm not going to jump in my car and drive all the way back to the ghetto and shoot you. Trust me. I mean, like I say, you kill where you live. But, look at these stats; 98% of all homicides in America is caused by friends or relatives. And 96% of all homicides in America is caused from arguments, not breaking and entering. So, we don't need more locks on our doors, we need locks on our attitude.
So, when you look at fear -- and I understand that because at the height of the civil rights movement when I would go south, I mean, I was frightened. Thank God I went anyway. And at that time I did not understand that fear and God do not occupy the same space. And because of the non-fear that the king and that nonviolent movement had, I was able to lose mine. And so, when you stop and think, I'm 70 years old. When I was the youngster, we celebrated Negro history week. Now we celebrate Black Month. Now, tell me that's not progress. Because when you know they getting ready to give us a month, and be that month with all them days missing. I mean, I did not expect a 31 day'er, but I was like wiped out when they laid February on us. 'Cause most blacks that I know, not only do we not like February, we don't even understand it. I mean, what's a groundhog? I mean, February 2 of this year, I was in Saint Louis. The white dude said, "Brother Greg, today is Groundhog Day. What do you think'll happen if the groundhog see it's shadow?" So I said, "man, back up. I don't play that ground---" And he got real hostile, "what do you mean you don't play groundhog? You anti-American? Anti-social?" I said, "I didn't know you was going to feel that way. You feel that way about it, ask me again, I'll play it." He said, "today is Groundhog Day. What do you think will happen today if the groundhog sees his shadow, boy?" I said, "six more weeks of winter, sir. But, since we going to play it, let's keep playing. Suppose that groundhog come out today and don't see his shadow, but see five black dudes? Do you know what that means?" He got nervous. "No, no, no, what does it mean?" "It means six more weeks of basketball, chump." And then we moved from February 2 to February 14. Which is not just Valentine's Day, but saint -- saint. I mean, that is the only day on the calendar that is called "saint."
The people of Manila have always struggled to survive day to day, but now they're cheating death every night. The vices and bandits that usually roam the streets are being eclipsed by a crueler menace: the foot soldiers of President Rodrigo Duterte's authoritarian regime.
Last week, Duterte brought another summer nightmare to the region, with 32 "drug personalities" slaughtered in 67 police operations, deployed in a series of raids on the provincial outskirts of the city. The massacre capped a year of thousands of killings in a hyper-militarized drug war, which seems to be growing bolder following Duterte's recent expansion of military rule.
The formal imposition of martial law has shown that much of the president's working-class base remains loyal. Banking on promises of stability and development, many are still lured by the political deal he proudly campaigned on -- trading democracy for "law and order" -- even as his administration robs them of both. His brazen populism and incendiary rhetoric is now undermining the labor movement that helped bring him to power, as the government continues to fail to protect workers from exploitation.
But dissent is brewing among some allies on the left, who have supported him since his days as a renegade mayor of Davao. Late last month, the left-wing Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Labor Center set up a street encampment to protest martial law and demand labor reforms.
"Poverty, hunger and oppression among workers have worsened under Duterte's continued promotion of cheap, contractual and repressed labor," the group declared in its July 24 manifesto, denouncing the president's economic policy as "subservient to the neoliberal dictates of the US and China."
Breaking from labor's general tolerance of Duterte's hardline tactics, the group contended that martial law was "merely being used to curtail civil liberties and suppress workers' and people's legitimate demands and struggles." At the same time, the military crackdown on a rebellion on Mindanao island, Duterte's home region and long a site of communal conflict, "has served as a threat to other workers asserting their demands for regular jobs and living wages," they write.
The chaos that Duterte generates is providing justification for bludgeoning the insurgency and tightening his grip on the urban core. Capitalizing on a strongman persona, his scorched-earth policing agenda has led to mass imprisonment and extrajudicial slaughter with virtually no due process, according to international human rights authorities.
But disillusionment with Duterte's image as a "voice of the people" is spreading among the rank-and-file. Old labor alliances have bristled at the Labor Ministry's ongoing failure to address systematic abuses of worker rights, neglect of longstanding union demands for stronger regulation of subcontracting and refusal to implement meaningful land reform. With an estimated 24 million irregular contract workers nationwide, girded by a highly unequal tiered wage structure, unemployment and social disenfranchisement fester amid state oppression and neoliberal free markets.
The parallels between Duterte's reign of terror and Trumpism go beyond the optics of nationalist bravado and vulgar soundbites. Both figures have mastered the art of manipulating media and social anxieties to distract the public from the root causes of social dysfunction.
In reality, political insurrection from militants on the country's marginalized outskirts, along with the war on drugs, both reflect the abysmal social inequality and deprivation that his regime has inherited and perpetuated. The chief victims of Duterte's drug wars, after all, are the jobless, disenfranchised youth who have been trapped for generations in a maelstrom of corruption and exploitation. Yet mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings and rampant police-led brutality continue in a crackdown that rights advocates have condemned as a "war on the poor."
Amnesty International observed in February that police-led and vigilante street violence "have overwhelmingly hit the urban poor. And the police and paid killers have built an economy off extrajudicial executions. Witnesses and family members repeatedly told us how the police stole money and other valuables from their homes, and wedding rings off the fingers of the deceased."
The police and vigilante aggression unleashed by Duterte's anti-crime campaigns, now steeled by martial law in Mindanao, has provoked tense backlash from faith groups and human rights advocates who fear a return to the dictatorship days under Marcos. An opposition prosecutor has even tried to get Duterte charged at The Hague, apparently with little impact on domestic politics. But Duterte's grip on civil society will only be broken when he loses the faith of his working-class followers, the vast majority of whom support his drug war policies, although most express concern about extrajudicial murder impacting them or someone they know.
Nonetheless, militant workers might be crystallizing a grassroots opposition.
Following the protest camp action in late July, KMU Chair Elmer Labog stated via email that the campaign was one of several mass uprisings across the country that month, largely driven by frustration with dismal wages, the exploitation of precarious subcontracted workers and pervasive state violence under martial law.
Labog, nonetheless, acknowledges the challenges of organizing under authoritarianism, arguing: "Once again these are dangerous times for organizers and mass leaders, but we had survived the worst attacks under Marcosian rule. We have learned a lot from our experiences during those dark days under martial law." While some "yellow unions" are still standing by Duterte, Labog notes, "They would eventually be isolated by supporting anti-people and anti-worker policies of the US-Duterte regime."
Partido Manggagawa, a labor-left opposition party, expressed solidarity with KMU's protest camp, but also pointed out that KMU remains somewhat compromised -- indirectly tied to the regime through key cabinet posts held by party affiliates "who are serving in Duterte's cabinet have not resigned, so there is an ambivalence."
Partido Manggagawa, meanwhile, has joined a national federation of leftist labor groups, Nagkaisa, to sign a collective opposition statement to Duterte's oppressive policies. The coalition linked the fate of working people to the need to disinvest in violent and repressive institutions, and to focus instead on social remedies that actually raise the quality of life, rather than fuel more bloodshed. At the heart of labor's demands are issues of basic welfare: fair taxation of the rich, stable family-supporting jobs and rehabilitation for youth and communities trapped in the drug crisis.
The group cautioned, "It will be very unproductive [for Duterte] to spend his remaining years in office for this costly war. War is both destruction and political distraction. It neither creates nor equally redistributes social wealth that is now concentrated in the hands of oligarchs."
The statement also denounced regime's militarization of society when there was "a better war to wage and win against contractualization, low wages and high prices of basic goods and services. If you want peace, Mr. President, build social justice and economic inclusion first."
Echoing a long legacy of oppressive administrations, Duterte has built power by aggravating social divisions. Finding common ground among all the communities under his grip, however, can sow real populism -- if a critical mass can rise again against authoritarian rule.
The program has stood the test of time well. (Photo: eric1513 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Last week marked the 82nd anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt's signing the bill that created Social Security. The program has stood the test of time well.
It accounts for more than half of the income for 60 percent of senior households and more than 90 percent for almost one third. It has reduced poverty rates among the elderly from more than one-third to roughly the same as the rest of the adult population. In addition, it provides disability insurance, as well as life insurance for family members, for almost the entire working-age population.
This is a pretty good track record. This is the reason the program is hugely popular and efforts at privatization, like President George W. Bush's 2005 effort, have all gone down in defeat. It's hard to beat Social Security.
A big part of the benefit of Social Security is that it is very efficient. The administrative costs of the retirement portion of the program are just 0.4 percent of what is paid out in benefits each year. By comparison, the costs of even relatively well-run privatized systems, like those in Chile or the United Kingdom, are 10-15 percent of benefits. That difference would amount to $80 billion a year (close to $1 trillion over a 10-year budget horizon) being paid out to the financial industry instead of to retirees.
This was a huge hurdle for President Bush to overcome with his privatization plan. His main route was to invent stories about the much higher returns that workers would be able to earn with the privatized accounts he promised them.
But this story of better returns turned out to be based on phony numbers. Essentially, his crew was extrapolating stock returns from a period when the economy was growing fast and price-to-earnings ratios in the stock market were much lower. Their claims about future returns could not be reconciled with the Social Security trustees growth projections that provided the basis for the debate.
To make this point, we invented the "No Economist Left Behind" test where we challenged supporters of privatization to write down numbers for capital gains and dividend yields that added to the stock returns assumed by the Bush administration. This amounted to writing down two numbers that added to 7 percent (the annual real return they assumed for stocks), a task which should not be too difficult for someone with a Ph.D. in economics.
It turned out the privatizers were not up to the challenge. If they picked a high number for real stock returns (say 5 percent), they would soon have price-to-earnings ratios well over a hundred to one. No economist wanted to be associated with this prediction.
The alternative was to assume a high dividend yield. This quickly had companies paying out more than all of their profits in dividends or share buybacks. This meant they wouldn't even be able to invest enough to maintain their capital stock, also an unlikely scenario.
The moral of the story is that there is no free lunch in financial markets. That was true back in 2005 and is probably even truer today. Price- to-earnings ratios are even higher than in 2005, and profits are an unusually large share of national income, meaning that they are likely to grow at a slower pace than the economy as a whole in future years. With real estate also at unusually high prices, it is virtually guaranteed that returns to all forms of financial capital will be considerably lower in future years than in the past.
In this story, the best way to generate wealth for future retirees is to minimize the money that is wasted in fees for the financial industry. This is the route being followed by the states of Illinois, California and Oregon, all of which have passed legislation that allows workers in the private sector to invest with their public employee retirement funds. Several other states are close behind in this process.
While these plans keep a strict separation of the funds, they allow workers throughout the state to invest their money by taking advantage of the structure already in place for public employees. The savings on administrative expenses compared to existing IRAs or 401(k)s can easily be on the order of 1-2 percentage points annually. This difference could translate into almost $30,000 in additional savings for someone putting aside $2,000 a year for 30 years, a difference of close to 30 percent.
In short, insofar as we want to supplement the income provided by Social Security, we should look to the program as a model. Keep it simple and keep the costs low. If people want to speculate in financial markets they are welcome to do so, but retirement policy means simple and cheap, and if that reduces profits for the financial industry, that's good too.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks alongside fellow Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Joe Donnelly during an event to unveil "A Better Deal on Trade and Jobs," in front of the US Capitol on August 2, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
Resistance to Trump's authoritarianism will not come from a two-party system that has been shaped by neoliberalism and the power of the financial elite. Despite its rebranding efforts, the Democratic Party is far from embracing the anti-capitalist vision of radical change needed to make democratic socialism into a real alternative in the United States.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks alongside fellow Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Joe Donnelly during an event to unveil "A Better Deal on Trade and Jobs," in front of the US Capitol on August 2, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
There is a certain duplicity in the Democratic Party's attempts to remake itself as the enemy of the corporate establishment and a leader in a movement to resist Trump and his mode of authoritarianism.
Democrats, such as Ted Lieu, Maxine Waters and Elizabeth Warren, represent one minority faction of the party that rails against Trump's racism and authoritarianism while less liberal types who actually control the party, such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, claim that they have heard the cry of angry workers and are in the forefront of developing an opposition party that will reverse many of the policies that benefited the financial elite. Both views are part of the Democratic Party's attempt to rebrand itself.
The Democrats' new populist platform, called "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages" has echoes of FDR's New Deal, but it says little about developing both a radical democratic vision and economic and social policies that would allow the Democratic Party to speak more for the poor, people of color and young people than for the corporate and financial elite that run the military-industrial-entertainment complex. Their anti-Trump rhetoric rings hollow.
For Democratic Party leaders, the rebranding of the party rests on the assumption that resistance to Trump merely entails embracing the needs of those who are the economic losers of neoliberalism and globalization. What they forget is that authoritarianism thrives on more than economic discontent, as the recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, made clear. Authoritarianism also thrives on racism, xenophobia, exclusion, expulsion and the deeming of certain subgroups as "disposable" -- a script that the "new" Democratic Party has little to say about.
David Broder has recently argued that being anti-Trump is not a sufficient political position because doing so inures people to a myriad of neoliberal policies that have impoverished the working class, destroyed the welfare state, waged foreign wars and a war on public goods, polluted the environment, created massive inequities and expanded the reach of the punishing and mass incarceration state. Even though these neoliberal policies were produced by both Republicans and liberal Democrats, this message appears to have been taken up, at least partly, by the Democrats in a focused attempt to rebrand themselves as the guardians of working class interests.
For too many members of the Democratic Party, Trump is the eccentric clown who unexpectedly stepped into history by finding the right note in rousing an army of "deplorables" willing to invest in his toxic script of hatred, demonization and exclusion. Of course, as Anthony DiMaggio, Thomas Frank, Michelle Alexander, Naomi Klein, Paul Street and others have pointed out, this is a false yet comforting narrative for a liberal elite whose moralism is as suffocating as is their belief in centrist politics. Neoliberal policies, especially under Clinton and Obama, created the conditions for Trump to actually come to power in the first place.
Trump's presidency represents not merely the triumph of authoritarianism but also the tragedy of a neoliberal capitalism that benefited investment bankers, Wall Street, lawyers, hedge fund managers and other members of the financial elite who promoted free trade, financial deregulation, cutthroat competition and commercialization as the highest measure of individual and market freedom. Trump is not simply the result of a surprising voter turnout by an angry, disgruntled working class (along with large segments of the white suburban middle class), he is also the endpoint of a brutal economic and political system that celebrated the market as the template for governing society while normalizing a narrative of greed, self-interest and corporate power. Trump is the mirror reflection of the development of a form of illiberal democracy and authoritarianism that mixes neoliberal economic policies, anti-immigrant bigotry, the stifling of free speech, hyper-nationalism and a politics of disposability and exclusion.
A History of Betrayal by Both Political PartiesGetting in bed with Wall Street has also been a favorite pastime of the Democratic Party.
The tyranny of the current moment bespeaks a long history of betrayal by a financial and political class that inhabits both major parties. It is no secret that the Republican Party has been laying the groundwork for an American-style authoritarianism since the 1970s by aggressively pushing for massive tax cuts for the rich, privatizing public goods, promoting a culture of fear, crushing trade unions, outsourcing public services and eliminating restrictions designed to protect workers, women and the environment. But they have not been the only party reproducing the dictates of neoliberalism. Getting in bed with Wall Street has also been a favorite pastime of the Democratic Party.
It was the Democratic Party, especially under President Clinton, that prepared the groundwork for the financial crisis of 2007 by loosening corporate and banking regulations while at the same time slashing welfare provisions and creating the conditions for the intensification of the mass incarceration state. The Clinton administration did more than court Wall Street, it played a decisive role in expanding the neoliberal gains that took place three decades before he was elected. Nancy Fraser insightfully sums this up in her contribution to The Great Regression anthology:
Neoliberalism developed in the United States roughly over the last three decades and was ratified with Bill Clinton's election in 1992.... Turning the US economy over to Goldman Sachs, it deregulated the banking system and negotiated the free-trade agreements that accelerated deindustrialization.... Continued by his successors, including Barack Obama, Clinton's policies degraded the living conditions of all working people, but especially those employed in industrial production. In short, Clintonism bears a heavy share of responsibility for the weakening of unions, the decline of real wages, the increasing precarity of work, and the rise of the 'two-earner family' in place of the defunct family wage.
The Obama administration continued this abandonment of democratic values by bailing out the bankers and selling out millions of people who lost their homes while at the same time aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. It was the Obama administration that added a kill list to its foreign policy and matched it domestically with educational policies that collapsed education into vocational training and undermined it as a moral and democratizing public good. Obama mixed neoliberalism's claim to unbridled economic and political power with an educational reform program that undermined the social imagination and the critical capacities that made democracy possible. Promoting charter schools and mind-numbing accountability schemes, Obama and the Democratic Party paved the way for the appointment of the hapless reactionary billionaire Betsy DeVos as Trump's Secretary of Education. And it was the Obama administration that enlarged the surveillance state while allowing CIA operatives who tortured and maimed people in the name of American exceptionalism and militarism to go free. In short, the flirtation of neoliberalism with the forces of illiberal democracy was transformed into a courtship during the Clinton and Obama administrations and until death do us part under Trump.
The growing disregard for public goods, such as schools and health care, the weakening of union power, the erosion of citizenship to an act of consumption, the emptying out of political participation, and the widening social and economic inequality are not only the product of a form of ideological extremism and market fundamentalism embraced by Republicans. The Democratic Party also has a long legacy of incorporating the malicious policies of neoliberalism in their party platforms in order to curry favor with the rich and powerful. Neoliberalism stands for the death of democracy, and the established political parties have functioned as its accomplice. Both political parties, to different degrees, have imposed massive misery and suffering on the American people and condemned many to what David Graeber has described in his book The Democracy Project as "an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future." While Trump and the Republican Party leadership display no shame over their strong embrace of neoliberalism, the allegedly reform-minded Democratic Party covers up its complicity with Wall Street and uses their alleged opposition to Trump to erase their criminogenic history with casino capitalism. With Republican majorities, mainstream Democrats share an unwillingness to detach themselves from an ideology that challenges the substance of a viable democracy and the public spheres and formative cultures that make it possible.
Democratic Party Remains Complicit in Neoliberal and Authoritarian Politics
Chris Hedges has laid bare both the complicity of the Democratic Party in neoliberal and authoritarian politics as well as the hypocrisy behind its claim to be the only political alternative to challenge Trump's illiberalism. He is worth quoting at length:
The liberal elites, who bear significant responsibility for the death of our democracy, now hold themselves up as the saviors of the republic. They have embarked, despite their own corruption and their complicity in neoliberalism and the crimes of empire, on a self-righteous moral crusade to topple Donald Trump. It is quite a show.... Where was this moral outrage when our privacy was taken from us by the security and surveillance state, the criminals on Wall Street were bailed out, we were stripped of our civil liberties and 2.3 million men and women were packed into our prisons, most of them poor people of color? Why did they not thunder with indignation as money replaced the vote and elected officials and corporate lobbyists instituted our system of legalized bribery? Where were the impassioned critiques of the absurd idea of allowing a nation to be governed by the dictates of corporations, banks and hedge fund managers? Why did they cater to the foibles and utterings of fellow elites, all the while blacklisting critics of the corporate state and ignoring the misery of the poor and the working class? Where was their moral righteousness when the United States committed war crimes in the Middle East and our militarized police carried out murderous rampages?
According to Katie Sanders, writing in PunditFact, under the Obama presidency, the Democrats "lost 11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers." And the losses and humiliations got worse in 2016 elections. It is no secret that the Democratic Party is a political formation of diminished power and hopes. Yet, in the face of Trump's authoritarianism, it has attempted to reinvent itself as the party of reform by updating its worn out economic policies and ideological scripts. As proof of its reincarnation, it has proposed a platform titled "A Better Deal," signaling a populist turn in economic policy. A number of its economic reforms would certainly help benefit the poor and underprivileged. These include proposed increases of the minimum wage to $15, tax credits to encourage job training and hiring, regulations to lower drug costs, stronger anti-trust laws and a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. The platform, however, does not support universal health care, and it says nothing about providing free higher education, reducing military spending or reversing the huge growth in inequality.
As Anthony DiMaggio points out, the plan "doesn't even reach a Bernie Sanders level of liberalism, and it is a far cry from the kind of progressive populist policies introduced in FDR's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society/War on Poverty." Eric Cheyfitz adds to this argument by insisting that the plan does nothing to challenge the rapacious system of unfettered capitalism the Democrats and Republicans have supported since the 1970s. Democrats are completely unrepentant about having supported the deregulation of capital and thus ushered in a new form of US authoritarianism. Moreover, any reform policy worth its name would directly address income inequality and the power of the military-industrial complex, while fighting for single-payer health care and a redistribution of wealth and power. There will have to be a massive refiguring of power and redistribution of wealth to address the health care crisis, poverty, climate change, inadequacies in education and the plague of mass incarceration -- problems not addressed in the Better Deal. It is not unreasonable to assume that such vexing challenges cannot be addressed within a two-party system that supports the foundational elements of predatory capitalism.
In spite of the horrendous neoliberal ideology and reactionary policies driving the Democratic Party, various Democrats and progressives cannot bring themselves to denounce either capitalism as the bane of democracy nor its suffocating hold on its reform efforts. They appear thunderstruck when asked to denounce a corrupt two-party system and develop a social movement and political apparatus that supports democratic socialism.
For instance, unrepentant centrist liberals, such as Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, have castigated progressives within the party while unapologetically embracing neoliberalism as a reform strategy. They believe that the Democratic Party has lost its base because it rushed to defend "identity politics" and leftist ideas and that workers felt abandoned by the party's "shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures." Instead, they claim that the Democratic Party needs "to reject socialist ideas and adopt an agenda of renewed growth, greater protection for American workers ... return to fiscal responsibility, and give up on ... defending sanctuary cities."
This sounds like a script written by a Trump policy advisor. It gets worse. Others such as Leonard Steinhorn have argued that the real challenge facing the Democratic Party is not to change their policies but their brand and messaging techniques. This argument suggests that the Democrats lost their base because they failed to win the messaging battle rather than the loss being due to moving to the right and aligning themselves with corporate and moneyed interests.
Suffering from an acute loss of historical memory, Jonathan Chait argues that the Democratic Party never embraced the policies of neoliberalism and has in its recent incarnations actually moved to the left, upholding the principles of the New Deal and Great Society. As Leah Hunt-Hendrix observes:
One need not be anti-capitalist to understand that the Democratic [Party] ... allowed for policies that deregulated the finance sector (under President Bill Clinton), allowed for the privatization of many public goods (including the weakening of the public education system through the promotion of charter schools) and bailed out Wall Street banks without taking measures to truly address the needs of struggling working Americans.
Chait seems to have overlooked the fact that Trump and Sanders have proved conclusively that the working class no longer belongs to the Democratic Party or that the Democratic Party under Clinton and Obama became the vanguard of neoliberalism. He goes even further, arguing implausibly that neoliberalism is simply an epithet used by the left to discredit liberals and progressive Democrats. Chait appears oblivious to the transformation of the Democratic Party into an adjunct of the rich and corporate elite.
Is Chait unaware of Clinton's elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act, his gutting of the welfare system and love affair with Wall Street, among his many missteps? How did he miss Obama's bailout of Goldman-Sachs, the abandonment of education as a public good, his attack on whistleblowers, or the Democrats' assault on organized labor via NAFTA? Was he unware that, in a White House interview given to Noticias Univision 23, Obama admitted that his "policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican?"
In the end, Chait is most concerned about what he calls an attempt on the part of the left to engage in the trick of bracketing "the center-left with the right as 'neoliberal' and force progressives to choose between that and socialism." He goes on to say that "The 'neoliberal' accusation is a synecdoche for the American left's renewed offensive against the center-left and a touchstone in the struggle to define progressivism after Barack Obama [and] is an attempt to win an argument with an epithet." Because of his fear of democratic socialism, Chait is like many other centrists in the Democratic Party who are oblivious to the damaging effects of the scorched-earth neoliberal polices adopted under the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Other progressive spokespersons, such as John Nichols and Leah Hunt-Hendrix, and groups, such as Our Revolution and the Incorruptibles, want to rebuild the Democratic Party from the base up by running candidates with progressive values "for local offices: in state houses, city councils, planning commissions, select boards and more." The emphasis here would be for activists to revitalize and take over the Democratic Party by turning it to the left so that it will stand up for the poor and underprivileged.
Tom Gallagher adds to this reform strategy by arguing that Bernie Sanders should join the Democratic Party -- forgetting that when he supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, he presented himself as a defacto member of the party in all but name.
Many of the strategies proposed to move the Democratic Party away from its history of centrism and the violence of neoliberalism are noble: If they were enacted at the level of policies and power relations, they would certainly make life easier for the poor, vulnerable and excluded. Progressives are right to be motivated and inspired by Sanders's courage and policies. Sanders's campaign against a rigged economy that redistributed wealth and income upward on a massive scale to the rich and corporate robber barons, coupled with his critique of the fixed political system that protected neoliberalism, provided a new language that had the potential to be visionary. But there is a difference between calling for reform and offering a new and compelling vision with an emphasis on a radical transformation of the political and economic systems.
At the same time, calls for a new vision and supporting values for radical democratic change do not mean abandoning attempts at reforming the Democratic Party as much as viewing such attempts as part of a broader strategy designed to make immediate progressive gains on a number of fronts. Most importantly, such a strategy moves beyond reform by pushing the party to its ideological and political limits so as to make visible the endpoint of liberal reform. At stake here is the assumption that such a strategy will make clear that the Democratic Party is incapable of being transformed radically and as such should not be expected to be on the forefront of radical democratic change.
Political and ideological centrism is endemic to the Democratic Party: It has never called for restructuring a system that is corrupt to the core. As a result, in the words of Nancy Fraser, the antidote to authoritarianism "is a left project that redirects the rage and the pain of the dispossessed towards a deep societal restructuring and a democratic political 'revolution'." The power of a left-progressive presence in the United States will, in part, depend on developing a comprehensive and accessible narrative that is able, as Nancy Fraser observes, to "articulate the legitimate grievances of Trump supporters with a fulsome critique of financialization on the one hand, and with an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-hierarchical vision of emancipation on the other." The left needs a populism with a social conscience, one that allows young people, workers, the middle class, and others to see how their futures might develop in a way that speaks to their needs and a more just and equitable life, one in which the utopian possibilities of a radical democracy appear possible.
Looking Beyond the Democratic Party
A new vision for change cannot be built on the legacy of the Democratic Party. What is needed is a concerted attempt to figure out what democratic socialism will mean and look like in the 21st century. This suggests rethinking the meaning of politics, one that can rekindle the social imagination. Central to such a struggle is the role education must play in creating the formative culture capable of creating critical and engaged citizens. In this case, politics moves beyond ephemeral protests and recalibrates itself to create the public spheres that enable progressives to think about what long term movements, organizations and institutions can be aligned to create new political formations willing to confront neoliberal capitalism and other forms of oppression, not simply as symptoms of a distorted democracy but as part of a more radical project unwilling to compromise on identifying root causes.
Michelle Alexander is right in warning us that it would be a tragedy to waste the growing resistance against Trump "by settling for any Democrat the next time around." I would similarly argue that we should not settle for a choice between good or bad Democrats. We must instead struggle for a radical restructuring of society, one that gives meaning to a substantive democracy. Resistance cannot be either defensive or ephemeral, reduced to either a narrow criticism of Trump's policies or to short-lived expressions of protests. As Michael Lerner has pointed out, protests are moments, and however pedagogically and politically valuable, do not constitute a movement. As Zygmunt Bauman and Leonidas Donskis have suggested in their book Liquid Evil, protests function as "an explosion of political subjectivity" and generally tell us what people are against but not what they want. Coupled with a new vision, moral language and democratic values, the left and other progressives need a platform for thinking beyond neoliberal capitalism.
As David Harvey observes, the problems Americans face are too intractable and extensive to resolve without a strong anti-capitalist movement. This will only take place if progressives create a broad-based social movement that aligns struggles at the local, state and national level with democratic movements at the global level. The peripheral demands of single-issue movements cannot be abandoned, but they must translate into wider opportunities for social change. There should be no contradiction between the call for educational reform, women's rights and ecological change and what Katrina Forrester calls an alternative economic and political vision for America. At the same time, it is a mistake for progressives to look at society only in terms of economic structures and issues. A mass-based movement to challenge neoliberalism and authoritarianism cannot be constructed unless it also commits to struggle against the many forms of oppression extending from sexism and racism to xenophobia and transphobia. Only a movement that unifies these diverse struggles will lead us toward a radical democracy.
Politics becomes radical when it translates private troubles into broader systemic issues and challenges the commanding institutional and educational structures of neoliberalism. To be effective, it must do so in a language that speaks to people's needs, enabling them to both identify and invest in narratives in which they can recognize themselves and the conditions that produce the suffering they experience. For this reason, the call for institutional change is inextricably connected to the politics of social transformation. Such transformation must propel us toward an international movement to build a society that embraces the beauty of universal emancipation and promise of a radical democracy. At a time in history when the stakes for democracy are so threatened and life on the planet itself so imperiled, collective action is the only way out of the age of illiberal democracy. It is time to go for broke.
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