Posts Tagged ‘Mark M. McDermott’

Important Workshop: Making the American Dream Real for Everyone

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

From 1-3 pm on Wednesday, April 29, at the Greenwood Community Senior Center, 525 N. 85th, Seattle, Mark McDermott, Chairperson of PSARA’s Education Committee, will lead a workshop entitled “Making the American Dream Real for Everyone”. It is an interactive economic justice workshop that educates and inspires attendees to take action to reclaim a more just and secure economic future for all.

By using a combination of personal stories, history, and political and economic analysis, the workshop will identify the root causes of the historic shifts that have led to our present-day dramatic shift of wealth and power to the 1%. The workshop documents historic economic and social justice victories that have been won and demonstrates that we can move forward to create a more economically just and secure nation for all now!

Building from the economic difficulties experienced by workshop participants and those close to them, the discussion is anchored in a long historical perspective. Exploring the struggles of organized labor, working people, and retirees, the discussion will lead to how we can ensure that economic prosperity is shared fairly rather than concentrated primarily among the wealthy.

The primary goal of the workshop is to bring individual and collective hope based on our own history. Most importantly, the workshop demonstrates to attendees that we, the people, can once again build a better future for everyone. Given our history and current system steeped in injustice, we need to take action.

What Kind of Country Do You Want to Live In?

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

By Mark McDermott, Chair of PSARA’s Education Committee 

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our land.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1816.

“Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.” – President Grover Cleveland, 1886 State of the Union Address.

Masters issue ultimatums. Masters threaten severe punishment to their servants.

For more than two centuries we the people have struggled over fundamental questions of corporate power over us and our government. Boeing’s unjust threats of massive job losses and economic devastation brings this issue home once again.

Between 2003 and 2012, Boeing pre-profits totaled $35 billion. They received $1.8 billion in federal income tax rebates (a negative 5% tax rate) and $96 million in state income tax rebates. My wife and I paid 22% in federal taxes in 2012.

In 2013, their stock price is up 73%; fourth quarter dividends up 50%. Boeing has so much spare cash that they are spending $10 billion to buy back stock, further benefiting shareholders. This should be a wonderful time for the company, its dedicated workers and the communities that have supported the company for the past 96 years.

In the midst of this enormous success, Boeing threatens our state, its workers and our communities with massive job losses. They demanded $8.7 billion in tax breaks and that union machinists give up a defined benefit pension and many other hard won gains that build the middle class in our region. Does Boeing really need this money? No! But why not make these demands?

On November 12th Governor Inslee signed the largest state business tax break in 237 years of American history. The debate lasted three days. The lightning quick response of Governor Inslee and most of the Legislature clearly shows that they believe that Boeing is their and our master.

The union machinists refusal of Boeing’s unjust and unnecessary demands is a profile in courage and a powerful statement that they are a free people and not the servants of Boeing. They stood up for themselves, their families and our communities. They stood for a future in which powerful corporations have real responsibilities to their workers and generations to come.

Having said this, I ask: What kind of country do we want to live in? What kind of future do we want to give to our children and future generations? Have corporations become our masters?

Imagine a foreign country threatening our state and its workers, unions and communities in the following way: “We demand $8+ billion in ransom. Your workers give up much of their financial security for their old age. You must accept a reduced standard of living and less affordable health care. You have 10 days to decide. If you do not submit, we will punish you for many years. Thousand will lose their jobs. Your children’s futures will be diminished. Your communities will be damaged by the loss of jobs, income and stability. We will take away what you have fought for over the past 90 years.

“WE ARE YOUR MASTERS. YOU HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE. DO NOT DEFY US OR WE WILL PUNISH YOU.”

No foreign country would do this. But Boeing would and has. It is considered a good business practice and responsible management by some.

Is this the kind of country you want? A country with very wealthy corporations legally extorting an entire state, workers and communities with impunity. Corporations with no loyalty to those who build their success. Workers and communities more expendable than the machinery. A country of throwaway workers and communities. Growing retirement insecurity amidst fabulous wealth. Is this the best we can do as a people and country?

I ask again, Is this the kind of country we want to live in? I say no! This is our country but we live in fear of our corporate overlords. Enough of this economic tyranny. I challenge all of us to begin to think about what kind of country we want. What is our vision of a better future with greater economic security free from unjust corporate threats? What values anchor our positive vision? How do we build a new future in which we have growing security as we become wealthier as a nation?

We don’t have to accept this type of world. We must dare to dream and begin building a more just and sustainable future. More on this later.

No More Lazy People: Now What?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

By Mark McDermott, Chair of PSARA’s Education Committee 

In the past two years, I have had the honor and opportunity to talk with thousands of people who are deeply concerned about the future for their families, their communities and our world.

Here is one story.

Earlier this week, I was flying home after speaking to the Machinists Union national retiree convention.

I sat next to a middle-aged woman who is an independent contractor for a large drug company in the Southwest. She is very angry about how they exploit her and her constant insecurity about steady work and a secure future.

I steered the conversation toward unjust corporate domination and their drive to create a “social insecurity system” in which none of us feel secure.

“Tell me more,” she said.

She began asking me what she and people like her could do to help build a brighter future. After I shared some ideas, she was warming up to getting involved politically. A first for her. Then a light bulb came on in her head.

Let me paraphrase: “You know what really makes me mad. All these Mexicans who don’t want to learn English. They keep to themselves. They don’t want to work hard. They are getting all this help from the government. I almost lost my house to foreclosure and I didn’t get any help. Why does the government help them and not me?”

I gently responded: “When I was a kid, our family almost lost our house to foreclosure. I am still haunted by that trauma. But do you really think all Mexicans are lazy?”

“Of course not. I know hard-working Mexicans. What really bothers me is lazy people who won’t work.”

“So your big concern is lazy people, not Mexicans?”

“YES.”

“May I share some thoughts with you?”

“YES.”

“How many of the Wall Street executives who wrecked the economy in 2008 and almost caused you to lose your home do you think were undocumented workers from Mexico?”

She laughed. “Well none of them.”

“Is it possible that you might be focusing your legitimate frustration and anger on another group of struggling working people and not on corporate CEOs that are threatening all of us?”

“I see your point.”

“May I share another idea with you?”

“YES.”

“I had a dream last night that every lazy person in America permanently got over being lazy. It was wonderful. They all got up the next day. Showered, ironed their clothes, got their resumes together, and hit the streets at 8 AM looking for a full-time job. Thank goodness laziness was gone forever. At the end of the day, 23 million of them came home without a full-time job.”

Her response: “23 MILLION?”

“Yes.”

I explained the employment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Her response: “Oh my God!!”

“May I continue?”

“YES.”

“The next day 8 of the 23 million no-longer-lazy people decided they needed more education and training to get a job. When the 8 million showed up at their local community colleges, the lines were 15 blocks long and tuition costs were skyrocketing. At the end of the second day, most of the 23 million were struggling. So what do we do if everyone quits being lazy and we are more than 20 million full-time jobs short and millions can’t get needed education and training?”

She looked at me and said: “We need to make the corporations create more jobs. They are filthy rich. While we are at it, the government should create more jobs.”

“Great idea.”

She then blew my mind. “A few years ago, I complained to my manager that I felt they were violating my rights as an independent contractor. He gave me a hard look and said, ‘If you don’t like it here you can leave. You can be replaced pretty quickly.'”

“How did that feel?”

“I was scared to death. I am single and was fighting off foreclosure. I dropped my complaints.”

“What was done to you was probably illegal. Do you want to live in a country where employers can threaten to destroy hard-working people like you?”

“NO!!”

Five minutes later, we deplaned.

I will never see her again, but I hope she got a better insight into how people like her are encouraged to turn their justifiable anger against other people who are also being victimized.

I gave her my business card and said email or call me sometime. “I have some ideas about how you can take your frustration and put it to good use.”

There are tens of millions of frustrated, angry and confused members of our communities who want hope. How do we individually and collectively expand our ability to reach out to them?

What do the 1% Really Think?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

By Mark McDermott, Chair of PSARA’s Education Committee 

We live in an age of the super-wealthy, the wealthy and the 99%. Public opinion polls constantly tell us what the 99% think and do. But what do the 1% think and do politically?

We know what the 1% do. They give big money to influence elections and government. In the 2012 election, Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave over $90 million. Another 31 superrich people gave $223 million. This $313 million equaled the $312 million given by 3.7 million contributors who gave less than $200. Under Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, we are all equal under the law and can contribute $90 million to make sure our voice is heard.

But what are the 1% thinking? A recent first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge academic study entitled “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans” reveals the political thinking of 83 wealthy Chicagoans who participated in in-depth interviews.

Who are these people? Their average yearly income amounted to $1.04 million.Their average wealth was $14 million, and their median income was $7.5 million.

How do these wealthy folks participate in politics? Ninety-nine percent vote. Eighty-four percent “attend” to politics. Twenty-one percent collect donations from others and send them to the parties and candidates of their choice. Fifty-three percent contacted the White House, Congress and/or senior administration officials in the previous six months.

They are serious about influencing the government. So what ideas guide their efforts?

Here is what the “one-percenters” think: 67% want to cut Social Security; 64% want to cut food stamps. Only 19% of “one-percenters” think the federal government should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job. Sixty-eight percent of the general public think so.

Should the minimum wage be high enough so that no family with a full-time worker falls below the federal poverty line? Only 40% of the “one-percenters” say Yes, compared with 78% of the general public.

What about education? Only 28% of the “one-percenters” think the federal government should make sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so. Only 35% of the super-rich think the federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools, but a whopping 87% of the general public thinks so.

What about racial justice in education and opportunity? Only a bare majority, 53% of the super-rich think the federal government should make sure that minorities have schools equal in quality to whites, even if it means higher taxes; 71% of the general public think that.

The children of the overwhelmingly white 1% go to excellent public or private schools. They don’t need financial aid to go to college. It is refreshing to know that the wealthy are not interested in ensuring that kids of working class, poor and people of color backgrounds have an equal chance at a bright future.

What about skyrocketing income and wealth inequality? Only 13% of the “one-percenters” think the government should try to reduce income disparities between people with high incomes and those with low incomes. Eighty-seven percent of the general public thinks that’s a good idea..

A quick summary of the thinking of the 1%: Cut Social Security. Sub-poverty minimum wage. No commitment to full employment. Strong opposition to quality affordable education for all. Weak support for racial equality in education. Strong opposition to government efforts to address issues of skyrocketing income and wealth inequality. Is it any wonder the 1% needs to buy elections and lobby hard when their clearly stated interests are so deeply opposed to ours.? The 1% is opposed to our American Dream.

We need to take the fight to them and their political allies!

Telling Our Story Brings Hope: Fighting to Create and Keep a Secure Retirement

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

By Mark McDermott

If I had $10 for every time I hear a young person say that Social Security won’t be around for them, I could pay for a round-the-world trip. These feelings are anchored in fear, hopelessness, powerlessness and ignorance of history. We are constantly bombarded with pessimistic messages that our country can’t afford to ensure that everyone has a secure retirement. This is nonsense.

Winning a secure retirement for all has been one of the key struggles of working people since the 1800s. We need to tell our story of hope, courage and victories against entrenched corporate power. In doing so we will inspire people, young, middle-aged and old, for the fights ahead.

To paraphrase Fred Kaltenstein, a labor educator: “If the young don’t understand and appreciate the struggles of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, they may be doomed to fight the same battles over again.” Let me share a family story that brings hope.

My Irish-American grandfather worked from the age of 10 to 75. A frugal hardworking laborer, he was too old to get Social Security. When he “retired” in 1945, my grandparents received a monthly old-age pension check from the state of Illinois. This program preceded Social Security and was intended to help old people with no income. Each month, the state placed a lien against their house. When they died within a month of each other in 1954, the state foreclosed on the house as the liens were worth more than the house. Sixty-five years of work left nothing for their heirs.

My German-American grandfather was an unemployed autoworker who was seriously injured after being hit by a street car. With no money and no health insurance, he received inadequate health care. In 1932, he died in physical agony and his family in crisis. No Social Security, no pension and the family suffered greatly.

These stories are typical of what “retirement” meant for millions of Americans prior to the rising of we the people in the 1930s. There was little justice in these stories. In general, people of color and elderly single women faced much worse plights that those of my family.

The people’s uprisings of the 1930s began to create a new more secure future for millions. A powerful labor movement and many allies built mass movements which successfully won many reforms including Social Security. For the first time, millions of Americans would eventually earn a monthly retirement check. Racist and sexist lawmakers excluded many people of color and women from the program.

Over the next four decades, continued mass pressure won other major legislative victories: Medicare, Medicaid, cost of living adjustments for Social Security, and an end to many exclusions from Social Security. In addition, a strong labor movement won defined benefit pensions for millions, and many non-union employers followed suit to help keep the unions out. Last but not least, the vast majority of Americans were benefiting from a rising standard of living. Again, people of color and women lagged behind whites and men. Nonetheless retirement was the brightest in our national history. That bright future was built on relentless economic and political organizing. Nothing was given to us.

What did these victories mean for my poor working class parents? Social Security with a COLA and Medicare. They lived into their 90s and used their red-white-and blue Medicare card at University Hospital many times for in- and out-patient care. They did not suffer the fate of my injured grandfather. This is but one of millions of examples of what our great people’s victories meant in the lives of working people.

Everyone has their own family stories of how these struggles made their retirements more secure. We need to share them with our families and friends. In doing so, we create the needed hope that we can once again rise up and create a brighter more secure future for everyone.

Today we are told that our nation, which is much wealthier than in the days of my grand-parents and parents, cannot afford to ensure that everyone can have a secure and dignified retirement. This is a lie of Corporate America and their allies. They don’t want us to have a secure retirement. They certainly don’t want to pay for it. They want us to bear all of the financial risks of retirement.

We the people have a choice. We can accept the corporate-dominated future of growing retirement insecurity or we can rise up once again as our ancestors did. A key part of this new rising must be reclaiming our own history that inspires us, and gives us courage and hope.

Mark McDermott is chair of PSARA’s Education Committee.