Pope Francis’ Historic Speech to America

Pope Francis made history today by becoming the first Pope ever to address a joint session of the United States Congress. He mentioned four great Americans from the past, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, saying that each of them helped build a better future for the people of the U.S.

The full text of the Holy Father’s speech to Congress is available at the link below. There’s also an audio version available on the site.

Read and Listen: Pope Francis makes historic address to U.S. Congress | Vatican Radio

The Story of Labor Day


Jonah Walters writes.

American workers did contribute at least one lasting legacy to the international movement for working-class liberation — a workers’ holiday, celebrating the ideal of international solidarity, and eagerly anticipating the day when workers might rise together to take control of their own lives and provide for their own well-being.

That holiday is May Day, not Labor Day.

Read More: Labor Day is May 1st | Jacobin

Popular Unity Arises in Greece

Stathis Kouvelakis and Miri Davidson report that early this morning, 25 SYRIZA MPs left the parliamentary group of the party to create a new group under the name of “Popular Unity.” Most of these MPs are affiliated to the Left Platform, but some others also joined. They are now the third largest party in the Greek Parliament, ahead of Golden Dawn, the neonazi party. This means that in the next few days their leader, Panagiotis Lafazanis, will get a mandate to constitute a government.

Read More: Greece: “Popular Unity” is born! – VersoBooks.com

On Race and Class


Matt Breunig writes for Jacobin.

The American left continues to debate whether race or class is the motivating force of oppression and suffering in US society. But as many scholars have argued, the question rests on a faulty premise — race and class are inextricable in the historical development of capitalism in the US, and this remains true today.

He also presents a series of charts that put the matter in better perspective.

Read more: How Class and Race Immiserate | Jacobin Magazine Blog

The Four Maladies of Global Capitalism

Adam Blanden writes that If there is to be an effective anti-capitalist politics there must be a serious effort to understand not just the essentials of the system, but also how capitalism is presently developing in novel ways. Blanden sketches how the global economy is changing by drawing on a wide and heterogeneous literature, emphasizing the dynamic, historical nature of capitalism.  What are the key features and dynamics of global capitalism today?

Source: New Left Project | The Four Maladies of Global Capitalism

The Crisis Continues

The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Yet further data revisions going back more than three years show the expansion—already the weakest since World War II—was even worse than previously thought, with GDP increasing at an average annual rate of 2% between 2012 and 2014, down 0.3 percentage point from prior estimates.While the first half’s growth rate of 1.5% was better than expected thanks to the first-quarter revision, economic growth so far this year has been even slower than during last year’s tepid first half and well below the pace of the overall recovery.

Source: U.S. Economy Picks Up, but Stays In Its Rut – WSJ

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 | 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

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