The Rigged Game: New Report on Inequality

The Economic Policy Institute has published a new report on income inequality in the United States. Here’s a quick summary of the findings.

Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and in many states is up in the post–Great Recession era. In 24 states, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth between 2009 and 2013, and in 15 of those states, the top 1 percent captured all income growth. In another 10 states, top 1 percent incomes grew in the double digits, while bottom 99 percent incomes fell. For the United States overall, the top 1 percent captured 85.1 percent of total income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 2013 the top 1 percent of families nationally made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.

It’s important to understand that none of this is happening by accident, nor by the hand of God, nor even because of the effects of an impartial marketplace. The ruling class decides who will win and who will lose. So it’s no wonder who wins and who loses.

Read the full report: Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county | Economic Policy Institute

Response to DSA’s 2016 Electoral Strategy

never-clinton

The National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America released bullet points of the organization’s 2016 electoral strategy a few weeks ago. They ask that DSA members who don’t agree “articulate these points as the organization’s perspective and then indicate where the individual member disagrees.”

You can read all of their points for yourself at the link included below. I have to say that I am deeply disturbed by what I interpret to be their (at least tacit) encouragement of strategic voting and organizing for the Democratic Party ticket.

…DSA will work with the emerging labor, immigrant, and anti-racist-led “Dump Trump” movement. For this reason, we do not endorse the #BernieOrBust tactic, though we understand the sentiment behind it. Our perspective can best be summarized as: “Dump the Racist Trump: Build the Left from the Grassroots Up.”

Although I certainly agree that a Trump Presidency would be a disaster, I also believe that a Clinton Presidency would be a disaster. The NPC’s strategy does call for turning a critical eye toward Clinton should she win, but placing emphasis on opposition to Trump alone during the campaign is a mistake, in my opinion. Socialists ought to take a principled stand to oppose both Trump and Clinton between now and November.

My own efforts will be in support of the Green Party candidacy of Dr. Jill Stein. It’s way past time to break with the Democratic Party and build a true party of the people.

I hold no illusions that someone other than Trump or Clinton shall prevail in 2016, but I cannot in good conscience lend my support nor my vote to someone I consider to be an enemy of working people. In the words of the great Eugene V. Debs,  “I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it.”

I am thankful that the NPC anticipated and explicitly allowed for dissent within our ranks, and am certainly thankful that they didn’t endorse Clinton. This is one of those times, though, when I wonder whether I’m a member of the right organization.

Read the DSA Strategy Points Here: Talking Points for DSA’s Electoral Work between May and November 2016 – Democratic Socialists of America

★ ★ ★

Here are a few more relevant links.

This is why a Clinton Presidency cannot defeat Trump.

This is why I broke with the Democrats, and quit voting for the “lesser evil.”

This is why I voted Green in 2012. I’ve since joined the Green Party and am actively working for Jill Stein’s campaign.

Help Pass The LaSalle Street Tax

lasalle-street-tax

We are now in the twelfth month of an unprecedented budget crisis in the State of Illinois. It’s past time to move toward a progressive system of taxation that will ensure that the needs of the people are met, and the wealthy pay their fair share.

On Tuesday, June 7th, a joint Illinois Senate and House Subject Matter hearing on the proposed LaSalle Street Tax will be held at the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle in Chicago. The legislation would impose a very small tax on the trading of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, currencies and their derivatives. The average person pays more than six percent sales tax on purchases of daily necessities in our state, and yet the rich speculators pay absolutely no tax when buying or selling on the financial exchanges in Illinois. Although the proposed tax rate is very low, since the number of trades is so large, the LST would raise between 10 and 12 billion dollars per year for Illinois. Here’s a fact sheet on the tax from the Chicago Political Economy Group.

If you’d like to help advocate for this important step forward in Illinois, now is the time. Here’s how you can help.

  1. Fill out a witness slip stating simply that you are a SUPPORTER of the proposed legislation. It only takes a few minutes to complete the slip online saying that you support the bill (not that you’d like to appear as a witness).
  2. If you can spare some time tomorrow, rally with us at a press conference outside the Bilandic Building at 1 PM.
  3. If you can spare a little more time, attend the hearing at 2 PM. It’s scheduled to run until five o’clock, but if you can’t stay for the entire three hours, that’s alright.

If you’re concerned about our pensioners, our schools and effective human services in Illinois, please join in this important struggle.

If It Were Not For You

e-v-debs

I would have you make up your minds that there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves. You do not need the capitalist. He could not exist an instant without you. You would just begin to live without him. You do everything and he has everything; and some of you imagine that if it were not for him, you would have no work. As a matter of fact, he does not employ you at all; you employ him to take from you what you produce, and he faithfully sticks to his task. If you can stand it, he can: and if you don’t change this relation, I am sure he won’t. You make the automobile, he rides in it. If it were not for you, he would walk; and if it were not for him, you would ride.

– Eugene V. Debs

Daddy, are we working class?

In this second article in our series explaining socialism to kids, we take a look at a key concept for many socialists, particularly Marxists. What is “the working class?”

You’ve probably heard the words “working class” being used on the news lately. Especially during an election year, people will talk a lot about “working class voters.” Or sometimes you’ll hear them say something about a “working class neighborhood.”

Here in the United States, people think of the working class as folks who do factory work. Or sometimes they mean someone who works in a job that doesn’t pay very much, or one that doesn’t require a lot of education, or maybe one that involves a lot of hard physical work.

There’s another meaning of “working class” though, that’s really important to socialists. Socialists believe that this special classification of people are the ones who can transform society and lead the world to freedom and equality.

working-class-bread-and-roses

Who is the working class?

In order to make the things that we need for our lives, two things are required. They are labor power and the “means of production.” Labor power is the ability of a worker to do something. It could be making a sandwich or driving a school bus or writing computer code, or anything else that workers do. The “means of production” is everything the worker needs in order to do the job. In a sandwich shop, means of production would be things like the building, the ingredients, the cash register, tables and chairs – everything needed in order to prepare and sell and serve the meal so the customer can eat it.

Under our capitalist economic system, a pretty small percentage of people own these means of production. They are called owners, or bosses or “the ruling class.” All of the rest of us, who don’t own the means of production and must sell our labor power to the bosses so we can earn money to live, are in the working class.

It doesn’t matter what type of work a person does, or how much money she makes. If she doesn’t own the means of production, she is part of the working class.

who-is-the-working-class

Why is the working class important to socialists?

Working class people can have it pretty rough. We have to show up when the owners want us to show up. We have to do what we’re told. If we don’t, we might be fired from the job and not have money to buy the things we need in order to live. For a lot of workers, it’s a struggle every day to keep our jobs and earn enough to survive. It’s especially hard for people with limited education and skills, for single parents, or for anyone with extra challenges in their lives. Lots of times people have to choose between taking care of important things at home, and doing what they have to do to keep their jobs.

It seems like the bosses sort of have us in a bad situation. Since they own the means of production, they can order us around and we pretty much have to do what they say. Some owners (or the managers they hire) are nice people, and try to treat their workers with kindness and respect. Still, the worker always knows that he has to do what the boss says or he might lose the job.

So, how can a group of people like the working class, who seem so powerless, be the ones to transform society? If we have to do what the bosses say, how can we possibly lead anyone to a better world? It’s because the working class has a secret super power. The power is called solidarity.

Although an individual worker may be powerless to defy the owners, when workers stand together in solidarity, they can change the world. The ruling (owning) class is so small, that they can’t possibly do the work themselves. Without the workers, no work gets done.

When workers decide together to stay off the job until their demands are met, it’s called “going on strike.”

Think of your favorite sandwich shop. If all of the workers decided not to show up to work, there would be nobody there to make the meals, to clean the tables, or to take the orders.

Or think about an owner of a bus company. She would be sitting alone in a parking lot full of empty busses if the drivers decided not to come to work. Without the working class, everything in society stops.

So when workers stand together in solidarity, they can show the bosses that it’s really the workers who have all the power – in the workplace and in society. But it’s only when they stand together as one that this becomes the truth.

working-class-solidarity

What can solidarity do?

When workers join unions, and stand in solidarity together to make demands, they can get the bosses to pay attention and give in. In fact, before the struggles of unions in the early 1900s, people sometimes had to work fourteen hours a day or more, six or seven days a week. Workers formed unions and went on strike to demand an eight-hour work day. Later, they demanded higher wages, and benefits, such as vacations and health insurance and days off when they’re sick. These things that so many of us enjoy and take for granted today were not given by the owners simply because they wanted to be nice. They were won by the workers who stuck together and demanded them.

Workers can demand and win things like better hours, better working conditions and higher wages for their own jobs. But they can also work in solidarity to make a better society for everyone. Unions have fought for things like an end to child labor, laws regulating workplace safety, a minimum wage for all workers (even ones not in unions), Social Security benefits for retired workers, and so much more.

Working Class Solidarity for a Better World

For socialists, the goal is a society where we do away with the ruling class owners altogether. In a socialist society, the workers would control the means of production, and would share in all the decisions about what to produce and how the work should be done. There wouldn’t be an owner to boss people around. We would rule ourselves in fairness and equality. We would do this because we’re all in the same boat. In the words of the Wobblies (a union that started more than a hundred years ago) “an injury to one is an injury to all.” We would all stand up together in solidarity for a just and equal share of society’s bounty and an equal say in society’s decisions.

So yes, my dear. We are a working class family, and proud of it. It’s up to us to always show our solidarity with other workers, and to fight together with them for a better life for all of us.

In the words of the famous socialist and philosopher Karl Marx “Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

Hedges and Nader

Chris Hedges and Ralph Nader speak about Nader’s Breaking Through Power event being held in D.C. this week, and about what it will take to bring democracy to America. Hedges opens with these thoughts.

This moment in American history is what Antonio Gramsci called the “interregnum”—the period when a discredited regime is collapsing but a new one has yet to take its place. There is no guarantee that what comes next will be better. But this space, which will close soon, offers citizens the final chance to embrace a new vision and a new direction. This vision will only be obtained through mass acts of civic mobilization and civil disobedience across the country.

Nader is at his imaginative best these days. Many people are urging Senator Sanders to move beyond the election of 2016 toward a sustained program of activism, but Nader is the first I’ve read who articulates a practical strategy.

“What does he have to lose?” Nader asked of Sanders. “He’s 74. He can lead this massive movement. I don’t think he wants to let go. His campaign has exceeded his expectations. He is enormously energized. If he leads the civic mobilization before the election, whom is he going to help? He’s going to help the Democratic Party, without having to go around being a one-line toady expressing his loyalty to Hillary. He is going to be undermining the Republican Party. He is going to be saying to the Democratic Party, ‘You better face up to the majoritarian crowds and their agenda, or you’re going to continue losing in these gerrymandered districts to the Republicans in Congress.’ These gerrymandered districts can be overcome with a shift of 10 percent of the vote. Once the rumble from the people gets underway, nothing can stop it. No one person can, of course, lead this. There has to be a groundswell, although Sanders can provide a focal point”

Read the full article: Chris Hedges: Welcome to 1984 | Chris Hedges – Truthdig

The Saint of Entrance Avenue

He paces
With hands waving and flapping
Electric Slide
Humpty Dance
Prayer

His orange hair
pops to and fro
like a bobber

Since prison, he doesn’t like to be kept inside.

He is on this corner early every morning
and again at 3 o’clock
the hour that his Lord
gave up the ghost

He used to be a hustler

Now all he does is pray

Those who sometimes go out of the way
to pass by his corner
shout from the car

Bless you my brother
Pray for us

You know I will!

Flash of smile
Back to his duty
Electric Slide
Humpty Dance
Prayer

Remembering Father Berrigan

Bernardine Dohrn writes of her memories of Father Berrigan, from a time when both of them were wanted by the FBI.

Dan Berrigan refused to report to prison, and during his time “underground” he repeatedly appeared publically to conduct church sermons or to give anti-war speeches, further infuriating FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. His was both a playful “underground” and a passionately moral one. He wrote, of the Catonsville action: “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children…”

The Weather Underground responded with a much less eloquent “communiqué” to “Brother Dan,” just after he was arrested in 1970. “We watched you, Dan, on TV when they took you to jail, smiling and with hands raised, handcuffed, giving the sign of peace. You have refused the corruption of your generation.”

I ran across these links today. Rest in power, Father.

The Priest Who Practiced Radical Direct Action: Father Daniel J. Berrigan | Beacon Broadside

Imagining The New Creation | Religious Socialism Blog

Bearing The Cross | Chris Hedges at Truthdig

The photo of Father Berrigan is by Jim Forest.