Solutions Ignored in Illinois Budget Battle

125 leaders and policy wonks from 63 non-profit, community organizing and labor organizations came together on June 29 to deliberate over a series of proposals for revenue solutions to Illinois’s budget shortfall. Simon Swartzman reports for In These Times that some of the most obvious solutions (with revenues totaling as much as $9 billion) are not even being considered in Springfield.

Those assembled heard several revenue proposals. The first focused on tax hikes aimed on wealthy individuals, including a proposed progressive income tax (estimated at raising up to $2.4 billion for the state), a commuter tax ($300 million) and a luxury sales tax (between $553 million and almost $2 billion, depending on services taxed). A second proposal focused on corporate accountability, including a proposed end to corporate tax loopholes ($334 million), raising corporate income taxes ($770 million), a fee for “bad businesses” that pay low wages ($2.2 billion), a moratorium on corporate handouts and subsidies ($564 million) and reforming Chicago’s tax increment financing program ($457 million in annual revenue in the city). Proposed banking and financial industry reforms included a financial transaction tax and an end to predatory deals with banks for public financing such as the interest rate swaps Bank of America has arranged with the Chicago Public Schools.

Source: “We Need to Stop Being Nice”: IL Labor, Community Activists Push Progressive Budget Crisis Solutions – Working In These Times

Clinton on the Minimum Wage

#Guillotine:

I think part of the reason that the Congress and very strong Democratic supporters of increasing the minimum wage are trying to debate and determine what’s the national floor is because there are different economic environments. And what you can do in L.A. or in New York may not work in other places.

Read More: Hillary Clinton Declines To Support A National $15 Minimum Wage – BuzzFeed News

Going Broke on Purpose

Eric Ruder breaks down how Chicago officials are using a budget “crisis” to help out their banker friends and advance their strategy of restructuring public education.

Now the underhanded logic of Rahm’s re-election campaign should be plain to see. When he said that he was the only one with the necessary experience to get Chicago out of its looming budget crisis, he meant that he had experienced friends in the banking sector who would benefit from revolving the city’s debt and continuing massive borrowing at high interest rates–and he had enemies in the public sector to punish by making cuts in school budgets and teachers’ compensation.

Read the Article: How Chicago schools went broke on purpose | SocialistWorker.org

The Nation Bernie Sanders Interview

How do you discuss Ferguson and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts? How do you discuss Baltimore and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts? African-American youth unemployment in this country is 50 percent, and one out of three African-American males born today stands the possibility of ending up in jail if present trends continue. This is a disaster. So, of course, we’ve got to talk about police brutality; of course, we’ve got to talk about reforming our criminal-justice system; of course, we’ve got to make sure that we are educating our kids and giving them job training and not sending them to jail. But I get a little distressed that people are not talking about what I consider to be a huge problem: How do you not talk about African-American youth unemployment at 50 percent?

Read the Full Interview: Bernie Sanders Speaks | The Nation

Scott Walker’s Grab Bag


Alice Olllstein reports from Madison for Think Progress.

In the ensuing scramble, Governor Walker and his allies in the statehouse used the 4th of July holiday weekend to insert several more controversial provisions into the massive document, which local press called “a grab bag of pet projects.” Walker and Republican lawmakers have already been forced to retreat on one of them: a gutting of the state’s open records law that would have barred reporters and the public from accessing the documents that reveal how laws are written, including drafts and e-mails between state lawmakers. But the other additions remain, including provisions that censor information about police shootings, scrap factory workers’ right to one day off per week, and completely eliminate the state’s 100-year-old definition of a living wage.

Read the Report: Scott Walker Tries To Use A Back Door To Get Rid Of Wisconsin’s Living Wage Law | ThinkProgress

My Schedule for S15

I’ll be spending Independence Day in Chicago, imagining a better society and learning how to build it. This will be my third year in attendance at the annual Socialism Conference, sponsored by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change and the International Socialist Organization.

Here’s my tentative schedule for the weekend.

This conference is the most energizing and intellectually stimulating event of the year for me. It’s nice to be in a crowd of a couple thousand people and know that wherever you turn, the person you see is your comrade.

I hope to see you there!

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Jacobin Reading Group – Chicago Southland

jacobin-southlandI’m happy to announce a project I’ve been working on for awhile now: the Chicago Southland Jacobin Reading Group.

Taking readings from Jacobin Magazine, it’s an opportunity to engage with socialist ideas in a lively, open, and non-doctrinaire environment. There are no dues to pay and no formal membership requirements. Just bring your interest, your mind and your voice. The group provides an intellectual and social space that cuts across organizational boundaries, and you don’t have to be a Socialist to join in.

Our regular meetings are planned for the third Tuesday of each month, at Feed Arts and Cultural Center, 259 S. Schuyler, Kankakee, Illinois. The first meeting is planned for August 18, 2015.

If you think you may be interested in joining us, email me to noebie@gmail.com or request to join our Google Group.

Here’s the reading group website: Jacobin Reading Group – Chicago Southland | Reading in Revolt.

Flag in Chains

Flag_in_Chains_Collection_University_of_California_at_Berkley 1965 by Marc Morrell

Nick Walsh presents a three-part story about a significant public controversy related to the Vietnam War that happened in my home town of Decatur, Illinois. Using sources from the archives of the Decatur Herald and Review, the Decatur Tribune, Millikin University’s Decaturian, and recent interviews with the one of the controversy’s key figures, Walsh covers how the situation developed, how the public and authorities reacted, and how the court case surrounding the exhibit of Flag in Chains unfolded. I remember the anger of these times fairly vividly. It seemed as if everyone in our community was forced to choose sides.

By using their talents to confront the issues of their time, artists take on a certain amount of risk if their perspectives are contestable in the court of public opinion.  While not directly about the Vietnam War, the story of “Flag in Chains” reflects sentiments and convictions rooted in the national discourse of that era.  Decatur residents were sporadic in giving their opinions about the war throughout its duration.  However, public debate reached a crescendo in 1969, as emotions stemming from the war were channeled into dialogue surrounding a controversial legal case that involved the owner of the Decatur Herald and the Daily Review and a Millikin University art professor.  This collision of patriotism and free expression provides a glimpse into the conscience of Decatur residents during the Vietnam War.

Here are links to all three parts of Walsh’s report.

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 1) | RE:DECATUR

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 2) | RE:DECATUR

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 3) | RE:DECATUR

Rauner Kills The State Museums

On June 2, Rauner announced an initial list of steps he’d be taking in an effort to address what he says is a gap of up to $4 billion in the state’s 2016 budget. His list included closing the 138-year-old state museum, which is run by the Department of Natural Resources, and consists of a flagship museum and research center in Springfield and five satellite facilities. The proposed 2016 museum operating budget is $6.29 million. A DNR spokesperson says most of the museum system’s 68 employees will be laid off when it closes, leaving just enough staff to maintain the collections and buildings.

Source: Targeted by Governor Rauner, Illinois State Museum’s Chicago facilities are emptying out | Bleader | Chicago Reader

The Irony of a Union Win

Michael Kazen writes in Dissent.

The hard struggle the AFL-CIO just spearheaded could become yet another example of a long, ironic tradition in labor politics: When union activists fight for issues that clearly affect large numbers of ordinary people, they often win. But when they try to persuade voters and legislators to defend or expand the membership of their own organizations, they usually lose.

Read More: Why Unions Win When They Win | Dissent Magazine

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Pope?

Those who profit from what harms the earth have to keep the poor out of sight. They have trouble enough fighting off the scientific, economic, and political arguments against bastioned privilege. Bringing basic morality to the fore could be fatal to them. That is why they are mounting such a public pre-emptive strike against the encyclical before it even appears. They must not only discredit the pope’s words (whatever they turn out to be), they must block them, ridicule them, destroy them.

Read More: Who’s Afraid of Pope Francis? by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

On Human Nature

The other evening, some friends and I had a discussion about our societal woes and how to solve them. As I described the sort of world I would like to see, one of my friends called me idealistic. She related that there were people at her place of work who did the bare minimum they could possibly do and still keep their jobs. She also spoke about ambitious, hard-working millionaires. Her point, I believe, was that a system that neither rewards people with vastly more than they can ever use, nor deprives others of their basic needs, cannot work – because of human nature. The sort of society of which I dream would leave everything undone, since people would have no motivation to do anything.

My knee-jerk response was to say that ideas and habits are a result of the economic system, not vice versa. If we really want to change the undesirable ways people behave, we should change the system. This more or less ended that part of our discussion, and not because anyone was convinced of the wisdom of the statement.

The next day, I wanted to find a specific reference on this concept, and was pleased that an online search for “material conditions determine consciousness” quickly turned up this quote, from the preface to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.

So our legal institutions, our politics, even our notions about ourselves and accepted concepts of justice – all derive from our economic relations. These relations determine our consciousness and norms of behavior.

The task is not to address faults in “human nature.” The task is to focus attention on material conditions, the inherent antagonisms that must exist in a society based on class, and conflicts that currently exist between productive forces and property relations. This offers an opportunity to raise consciousness of the essential nature of life under capitalism. Such is the basis for revolution.