Posts Tagged ‘economic justice’

PSARA Forms New Committee on the Threat to the Environment

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

While continuing the economic and social justice work we already do, PSARA will take an active role in challenging the causes of global climate change. We have formed a standing committee to work on the growing threat to our future posed by global climate change, chaired by Executive Board members Tom Lux and Kristen Beifus.

Our efforts will include working with allies to support concrete programs whose goal is to create good family wage jobs that are consistent with the need to confront the challenges of climate change.

The first meeting of the PSARA Committee on the Environment will be 10a.m. – 11:30a.m., Thursday, March 14, Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 First AV, Room 226, Seattle. All interested members of PSARA are welcome.

A tough, self-critical assessment to clear the way to a better future

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

By Mark McDermott

The outcome of the 2012 election is extremely important, but even avictory for President Obama and the congressional Democrats will not ensure that our nation moves towardanew shared prosperity and genuine economic opportunity and security for all. For more thanyears, corporate America’s relentless attacks and its economic and political domination have been growing and will not stop regardless of the election results.

What is the way forward? First and foremost, we progressives from many movements need to do an-depth self-criticism of how we are organized and carrying forward the fight for a better future. We need to ask ourselves tough questions about our vision, values, agenda, strategy and collective organization. I include myself in this tough self-critical examination.

I submit that the progressive movements lack the critical collective organizational capacity to the develop an overall coherent vision of a better future and to proactively map the road forward. We are a multi-limbed organism that lacks a well-developed brain and central nervous system. If hard work, dedication, and a deep commitment to justice were all that were needed, our nation would look very different. Unfortunately much more is needed.

What does this deep self-criticism look like? Major league professional sports teams study game films every week. They study the offense and defense on every play. They analyze the strategies, tactics, timely adjustments, quality of the players, and the role of random luc. Their study leads to decisions to rebuild the team, to fundamentally shift strategies or tactics, to add a few new players and/or persist with the current strategy.

For political and economic movements, history itself is the game film. Let’s look at the 30-plus years of the game films of the origins of the financial collapse and the Great Recession. Most importantly we need to look hard at what we, the progressive movements, did to combat the financial deregulation origins of this economic catastrophe.

For decades, Corporate America, its Republican and Democratic allies, and many elite economists and commentators aggressively pushed deregulation of the banks and financial industries. President Carter and the ruling congressional Democrats started the process in the late 1970’s. President Reagan and Congress continued. President Clinton and most of Congress delivered massive deregulation in the late 1990’s. Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and their cronies mismanaged the weakened regulatory protections in the 2000’s.

It added up to a largely bipartisan selling out of the American people. Final score: Big banks bailed out — for the people, massive pain.

Studying the game films of our opponents is easy. Deregulation took place in broad daylight. We know what they did if we care to look. Here comes the uncomfortable part for the movements and for me personally. What was our collective offense and defense over the past 30+ years?

Our offense and defense were largely non-existent. If you doubt this, try to recall how many demonstrations and protests of any size took place across the country in opposition to deregulation and the need for greater regulation. I can’t remember any. Why? Deregulation took place publicly. Brilliant progressive economists and some progressive Democrats warned us of the great dangers. Let me be blunt. We were not paying attention. We can’t blame our opponents for this. Why were we so unprepared?

The progressive movements are splintered up into literally thousands of organizations focused on single issues. We have labor, health care reform, immigration reform, hunger, poverty, human services, senior issues, reproductive and gay/lesbian rights etc. etc. etc. What mass movement is in charge of ensuring that we don’t have unnecessary economic collapses? None. More importantly, we lack a central organizational structure to discuss these matters across movements to ensure an effective vision and strategy to prevent crises and lead us forward to a better future. The institutional Democratic Party failed miserably in this historic task.

All progressive movements and their constituencies have been hit hard by the five-plus years of economic hard times. For decades, we have lacked the collective capacity to ensure that economic policy and financial regulation serve the people and not the wealthy elites. When the collapse came, we were both powerless and largely clueless regarding what to do.

All of us want a brighter, more secure and sustainable future. We must recognize our collective strategic organizational failure as the first step in laying out our positive vision for the future and how we will get there. More on this in later articles.

Corporate America Stole Our Broadly Shared Prosperity 1980 to Today

Friday, August 31st, 2012

By Mark McDermott (Member of PSARA Executive Board)

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 set the stage for Corporate America’s all-out offensive to reassert their domination of our country and economy. Armed with a comprehensive political and economic strategy, a well-oiled propaganda machine, vast financial resources, a clearly articulated vision and values for America, and a resurgent right wing, the offensive began in earnest.

Relentless attacks against working people and unions, major cutbacks in critical social programs, extensive deregulation of financial industries and other key industries, large tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, and aggressive promotion of free trade and the export of manufacturing jobs were the centerpiece of the big promises to restore widespread prosperity. At the same time, major increases in military spending were coupled with a more aggressive foreign policy. To quote a famous 1984 Reagan re-election ad: “It is morning in America again.” Unfortunately, for millions of hard-working and poor Americans, it was “Mourning in America again.”

What happened under the new corporate dominated regime? Good-bye shared prosperity. Hello stolen prosperity. No longer would Americans, poor, working class, or middle class share fairly in the growing wealth of our nation. My proof? Sometimes pictures are worth a 1000 words. Look the first graph.

During the shared prosperity of the late 1940s to the late 1970s, all income groups of families saw their average incomes double after inflation with the exception of the richest 5%. It was period in which a rising economic tide was lifting all boats. Poverty rates plummeted, income gaps between whites and people of color were narrowing and women began to gain on men.

Many challenges remained to create shared prosperity, and genuine economic opportunity and security for all Americans. However our long-term direction of the nation was producing greater opportunity and security for most Americans. Now look at the second graph.

Since the late 1970s, shared prosperity disappeared. The poorest 20% of families saw their average incomes drop by 11%, the lower middle class’s average income only rose 2% and the middle class’s rose only 10%. During the previous 3 decades the income gains income of these three groups were 116%, 100% and 111%.

The past three decades have been wonderful for the super-wealthy and corporate America. Between 1979 and 2006, the average income for the richest 11 thousand American families rose 386 percent. In 2006, their average income was $35.5 million. Tax rates for the super-wealthy were also cut. By 2010, corporate after-tax profits as a share of the total national income reached a record high while federal corporate tax rates reached the lowest point in more than 60 years. Times have never been better for Corporate America.

Today, we are still recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s. High levels of unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, poverty, and hunger and widespread economic insecurity remain serious problems. To understand the way forward to a renewed broadly shared prosperity and secure future, we must acknowledge that both Republicans and many corporate Democrats strongly supported financial deregulation which allowed Wall Street and Corporate America to collapse the economy and steal our shared prosperity.

Today, we face a crossroads in our nation’s history. The election of Mitt Romney will unleash a new wave of corporate domination and continuation of policies that advance the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the people. The re-election of Barack Obama is critical but it is far from enough. Next month we can begin to explore the long-term strategy to bring renewed economic security and opportunity for all Americans.

European voters reject austerity

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

By Mike Andrew

In a series of May elections, European voters rejected the austerity policies that have brought the continent’s working families to the brink of catastrophe.

On May 6, Socialist Francois Hollande was elected President of France, defeating Nicolas Sarkozy, the co-architect of European austerity with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option,” Hollande said in his victory speech. Instead, Hollande promised to refocus European fiscal priorities from budget-cutting to “growth.”

During the campaign, Hollande promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than one million euros a year.

He also wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers, and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for most workers.

Sarkozy had promised to balance the French budget by 2016 by raising social security taxes and the regressive VAT tax – essentially a sales tax. Sarkozy had raised the retirement age from 60 to 62 in 2010, with the predictable result that unemployment among young workers increased to 23%.

Sarkozy was also in favor of limiting immigration into France from Southern Europe and North Africa.

In Greece – ground zero of the European economic crisis – voters also went to the polls May 6, rejecting the draconian austerity program forced on them by the EU in return for a “bailout” of the faltering Greek banking system.

The two mainstream parties that had forged a “national unity” government to implement the EU-backed austerity program – right-wing New Democracy and socialist PASOK – were rejected by voters, and found themselves without enough seats in parliament to be able to form a new government.

Instead, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), once considered a marginal party, vaulted into a second place finish by promising to reject the EU’s austerity package.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is now considered the odds-on favorite to become Prime Minister after new elections in July.

If the “disease of austerity destroys Greece, it will spread to the rest of Europe,” Tsipras warned in a BBC interview after the election.

Banks were profiting at the expense of thousands of European workers – in Spain and Italy, as well as Greece – leaving them in poverty and hardship, he said.

“Therefore the European leadership, and especially Mrs Merkel, need to stop playing poker with the lives of people,” Tsipras said.

SYRIZA rejected the idea that if Greeks fail to adhere to the austerity program that has led to 22% unemployment – and over 50% unemployment among workers under 25 – they will have to go it alone outside the EU.

“Our choice is to stay in Europe without austerity policies,” Tsipras said. “We are in favor of the euro without the austerity that is destroying it. We are convinced that if the austerity policies continue then the eurozone will be destroyed.”

Only three days before the French and Greek elections, British voters slammed the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in elections for municipal council members.

The opposition Labor Party, which campaigned against the government’s all-cuts budget, kept the majority in every local council they controlled and picked up majorities in 22 others. The Lib Dems were especially hard-hit, losing majorities in every local council they previously controlled.

Even Angela Merkel suffered a significant defeat, when voters in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, chose the opposition Social Democrats to lead the state government.

“This is a crashing defeat for Mrs. Merkel and her minister,” Social Democrat party leader Andrea Nahles said. “The likelihood has become significantly greater that the next chancellor will be a Social Democrat.”

Merkel said on May 16 that she was ready to discuss stimulus programs to get the Greek economy growing again and that she was committed to keeping Greece in the euro zone.

Learning from the past to build a brighter future

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

By Mark McDermott 

We live in difficult times. For more than three decades, working people, seniors, the poor, the young, people of color, women, immigrants and people with disabilities have faced growing threats to our economic well-being and security. Our nation is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet tens of millions of us live in poverty, face hunger, fear the loss of our homes or homelessness, worry about affordable quality health care, and hope that our children and grandchildren will receive a quality education. Growing old brings new fears of economic hard times even though we and our ancestors worked for generations to build the great fortunes of our great and wealthy nation. Why?

How can it be that the past three decades of increasing national wealth has resulted in greater economic insecurity and needless suffering? Our country is filled with highly profitable corporations and immensely wealthy individuals, yet we are told that our nation cannot afford to ensure that all of us can live and prosper in genuine economic security and opportunity and in harmony with a healthy environment. Really? This is a lie.

These fears and the people’s struggles to secure a better present and future are not new. Since the 1870s our ancestors and we have faced the economic and political power of corporate America and the wealthy. We have demanded justice, fairness, and economic opportunity and security. It is a relentless battle between two groups of “persons” over how we, the people, will share in our growing national wealth that we help to create. One group is flesh-and-blood human beings who successfully demanded the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness stated in our Declaration of Independence. The other group is “non-human persons” called corporations who have been granted by the U.S. Supreme Court many of the same constitutional rights of we flesh-and-blood humans.

In the next three issues of The Advocate, we will explore three periods of American economic and political history: The 1880s to the early 1930s; the early 1930s to the late 1970s; and the late 1970s to the present. We need to better understand the successes and failures of working people and their allies in each period as they worked to build a brighter future filled with growing economic security, opportunity and fairness. We need to learn these critically important lessons of history to help us develop more effective short and long-term strategies to reclaim the American Dream for all people in our nation.

These periods are filled with stories of great people’s victories and defeats. Each period saw the nation’s wealth grow over time, but the periods of the 1880s to the early 1930s and the late 1970s to today were dominated by corporate America. They were plagued by extraordinary levels of income and wealth inequality coupled with high levels of needless economic insecurity and suffering. The early 1930s through the late 1970s saw strong economic growth shared more equitably and growing economic security.

Understanding how our nation moved from a long period of economic injustice to four decades of growing economic justice and then swung back to our current period of growing economic injustice and insecurity is critical to building a better future for ourselves and future generations. These articles are intended to stimulate debate about the road back toward economic justice and a brighter future for all.