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


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 |

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

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

The 2016 Bottom Line

Chris Hedges gets to the bottom line of the 2016 U.S. elections.

I intend to devote no more time to the upcoming presidential elections than walking to my local polling station on Election Day, voting for a third-party candidate, most likely the Green Party candidate, and going home. Any further energy invested in these elections, including championing Bernie Sanders’ ill-advised decision to validate the Democratic Party by becoming one of its presidential candidates, is a waste of time. Every action we take now must be directed at ripping down the structures of the corporate state.

Source: Chris Hedges: America’s Electoral Farce – Chris Hedges – Truthdig

Things That Caught My Eye This Week

Here are some links of interest that I ran across this week.

Rauner, Public Unions Not Close On Contracts

The contracts for more than 40,000 Illinois state workers will expire at the end of the month, and their unions and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s negotiating team apparently aren’t close to agreeing on new ones. The impasse has gotten more public attention in recent days, with union members staging nearly 100 protests throughout the state to rally public support to their calls for fair contracts. With the potential for a far-reaching strike or lockout looming, here are things to know.

What Would a Sanders Administration Do on K-12 Education?
The most progressive candidate in the 2016 race has some interesting ideas on public education.

Right-to-Work’s big moment | TheHill
People can reasonably debate the merits of unions or how labor law should balance the interests of employers, employees and labor organizations. But the contemporary push for Right-to-Work, like its historical predecessors, doesn’t do this. Today it is being used to burnish the credentials of aspiring politicians on the right and as a blunt instrument to defund a political adversary. The well-being of employees has always been much further down the list.

The Real Meaning of Obama’s Trade Defeat | Robert Kuttner
The real story here is a deep and principled split between the Congressional wing of the Democratic Party, most of whose members are still fairly progressive, and a presidential wing that has been in bed with Wall Street at least since Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin (who among his many other roles is the mentor and patron of Obama’s top trade official, Mike Froman).

To be an anarchist | Adbusters
When an “entire society,” i.e., almost everything around you, seemingly to the smallest detail, reflects assumptions contrary to your most deeply held convictions about what the world is and can be,  merely to persevere in imagining and acting on the assumption of the possibility of another kind of world is, in itself, a monumental and continual effort of resistance.

Barbara Ransby on Black Lives Matter

UIC Historian Barbara Ransby writes for Colorlines about the black-led movement against state violence. In two short paragraphs she describes the essence of late-stage capitalism, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

The post-industrial era and the age of global neoliberal policies means cities and neighborhoods have been abandoned. Some of the areas where police have recently killed black civilians are reeling from more than 30 percent unemployment. They’re challenged by a booming underground economy that puts participants and bystanders at greater risk of being jailed or killed.

In Chicago’s North Lawndale, in West Baltimore, or almost any neighborhood in my hometown of Detroit, there simply are no jobs and no real grocery stores. There is dilapidated and abandoned housing and dramatically dwindling services. The one problem, from a crude capitalist standpoint, is that there are still people in these post-economic areas but their labor is no longer needed in the steel mills, factories or private homes. These superfluous, redundant bodies are the dilemma of 21st Century racial capitalism.

Read the Full Essay: Ella Taught Me: Shattering the Myth of the Leaderless Movement | Colorlines

Thoughts on 2016

Tony Wilsdon analyzes U.S. politics in flux ahead of the 2016 elections.

The central contradiction of our time is that capitalism is in decline, which means the system’s ability to make concessions has been significantly narrowed. Corporate profitability has been maintained by massively increasing exploitation while in the public sector there is endless austerity. Both major parties lie to the public to get elected, and then do the dirty work of big business once in office. Behind both parties and the mass media lies an elite 0.01% whose massive wealth rests in ownership of shares in big companies, financial institutions and real estate and other assets. They plough money into the two parties to represent their interests. They flood the corridors of Washington with their paid representatives to make sure pro-big business policies are enacted. These corporate-serving politicians from both parties then have to come back to the public with a new story as to why we should put faith in them again. As the cracks grow between corporate politics and the needs of the 99%, so the cracks grow in the political system, and so the opportunities grow to build a new political party of the working class and the poor.

Read the Article: 2016 Presidential Campaign Underway | Socialist Alternative