Michael Winship speaks with In These Times labor reporter Mike Elk about efforts to unite rank-and-file union members across America. (One interesting trend in labor: Workers are striking, regardless of whether they're in a union.
I've written several op eds and letters to our local paper trying to sway people who I believe might be sitting on the fence politically. I live in Idaho which is very conservative. I try to walk a ...
Ayn Rand and Jim Crow have driven the American right into moral bankruptcy.
by D. R. Tucker and Michael Stafford
In mythology, the phoenix is a beautiful bird that bursts into flames at the end of its life as it dies. From the ashes of the old, a new phoenix emerges. This cycle of birth, fiery death and rebirth, makes the phoenix a symbol of hope and renewal.
Today, American conservatism has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology. It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite. Angry, cruel and sneering, it is exemplified by the carnival barkers on talk radio and Fox News. High in volume, but devoid of substance, it has no long-term future because it lacks credible solutions to the range of very real problems American society is facing.
Indeed, what passes for "conservatism" today is actually nothing of the sort. Modern American conservatism has forgotten its rich legacy and betrayed its best traditions. It has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand.
Rand's disciples claim to champion liberty and freedom, but really care only about license - the notion that actions have no consequences and individuals have no broader responsibilities to anything or anyone but themselves. As George Monbiot has correctly noted, this brand of libertarianism, although often "dressed up as freedom," is in reality:
"a formula for oppression and bondage. It does nothing to address inequality, hardship or social exclusion. A transparently self-serving vision, it seeks to justify the greedy and selfish behaviour of those with wealth and power." [MORE]
Two years after Senate Republicans defeated the bipartisan DREAM Act by claiming that Congress must “secure the borders first,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) floated the idea of introducing a GOP alternative to DREAM. Rubio spent three months talking up the concept on cable news, but failed to offer a bill before President Obama announced an administrative directive to protectDREAM Act-eligible students from deportation.
In unveiling the initiative on Friday, Obama cited Congress’ inability to “fix our broken immigration system” as a reason for issuing the Department of Homeland Security directive. What he didn’t expect, however, is that Republicans would respond to the news by reinforcing his message and abandoning their reform efforts.
Republicans accused Obama of politicizing immigration and the party’s new spokesperson on the issue announced that he is closing shop on any efforts to tackle the immigration question. Rubio told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that he thinks Obama’s announcement “sets back our efforts to arrive at a balanced and responsible approach to this issue. It poisons the well. It leads to mistrust.”
But the truth is that Republicans had never seriously considered comprehensive immigration reform or any new solutions for helping young people stay in the country:
1. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Refused To Hold DREAM Act Hearing: Even if Rubio had introduced a bill and if the Senate had approved it, a version of the DREAM Act would have immediately stalled in the House because of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The congressman chairs the Judiciary Committee and said he would not hold a hearing on the DREAM Act, which he called an “American nightmare.”
2. Original Republican Sponsor Of DREAM Act Didn’t Vote For It In 2010: In 2003, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sponsored the DREAM Act when it was first introduced. But when the Senate voted on a more conservative version of the bill in 2010, Hatch skipped the vote and dismissed it as a “cynical exercise in political charades” by Senate Democrats.
3. Republican Claimed Democrats Used DREAM Act To Make Republicans ‘Look Bad’: After 41 mostly Republican senators stopped the DREAM Act from passing in 2010, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed that Democrats had pushed the DREAM Act to hurt the GOP’s reputation among Latinos. The bill “passed without the ability to amend to try to make Republicans look bad with Hispanics,” he said. But Graham ignored the number of Republican senators from Latino-heavy states who previously supported the DREAM Act and voted against in 2010, and he failed to mention his own floor comments telling young undocumented immigrants who visited his office that they were “wasting their time.”
Republicans can claim that President Obama went around Congress to give protection to undocumented students, but it was the failure of congressional Republicans that forced him to act. [MORE]
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Diane Ravitch for the NYR blog: Mitt Romney's education plan would divert millions of taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools, gutting the public system (Mitt Romney's blueprint for privatising American education
President Obama's decision to override years of anti-immigrant obstruction — the DREAM Act passed the U.S. House 216-198, and had a 55-41 edge in the Senate in 2010 but was killed by a filibuster — is not only good for immigrant families, it is good for America as a whole.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates this approach will reduce our deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years due to increased tax revenue. A recent study by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center estimated that $1.4 TRILLION over 40 years in income would be generated by DREAM Act beneficiaries. And, America’s military leaders advocate for the DREAM Act because it would significantly increase the pool of recruits qualified to defend our nation.
Since I can't be sure what you may have heard from exploiters of anti-immigrant sentiment employed in politics and in the One Percent Media, let's be clear about what we are talking about. First of all, this policy shift does not grant voting rights to anyone — this is the major sticking point for Republican moderates on this issue, who want immigration reforms such as these in order to grow our economy, but are weary of expanding the immigrant (and, let's be frank, non-white) electorate. Okay, so no new voters to deal with. What this new policy does do is allow people to avoid deportation and get work permits who were brought to U.S. by their parents before the age of 16. To qualify, they must have resided in the country continuously for five years, graduated high school or have a GED, have no criminal convictions, and be younger than 30.
In a global economy, our competitiveness depends on attracting the best and the brightest to this country, and keeping the ones we have. We need, not only this measure, but Comprehensive Immigration Reform in order to meet the labor demands of a growing economy. We must have a better ratio of workers to retirees. Right now, that ratio is getting worse as the Baby Boomers retire and anti-immigrant hysteria (stoked for political gain) prevents us from taking advantage of our country's global reputation as the land of opportunity and the nation of immigrants. A growing work force, and an innovative, rapidly expanding economy are crucial if we are going to solve the fiscal crisis made worse by the Great Recession.
90% of Americans support the DREAM Act. Even in Arizona that number is 73%. If enacted, it would offer six years of residential status for young people who are in every way “American,” but were brought to the U.S. as children without proper legal status. After ten years, they could apply for a green card if they have completed two years of college or two years of honorable service in the U.S. military. And, after acquiring a green card, they could apply for citizenship.
Despite bipartisan support for the DREAM Act, the irrational ugliness we have seen in opposition is a manifestation of widening division within the Republican party between pragmatists and extremists. [MORE]
It's no accident that Americans widely underestimate inequality.
by JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, Salon.com
How, in a democracy supposedly based on one person one vote, could the 1 percent have been so victorious in shaping policies in its interests? It is part of a process of disempowerment, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement that produces low voter turnout, a system in which electoral success requires heavy investments, and in which those with money have made political investments that have reaped large rewards — often greater than the returns they have reaped on their other investments.
There is another way for moneyed interests to get what they want out of government: convince the 99 percent that they have shared interests. This strategy requires an impressive sleight of hand; in many respects the interests of the 1 percent and the 99 percent differ markedly.
The fact that the 1 percent has so successfully shaped public perception testifies to the malleability of beliefs. When others engage in it, we call it “brainwashing” and “propaganda.” We look askance at these attempts to shape public views, because they are often seen as unbalanced and manipulative, without realizing that there is something akin going on in democracies, too. What is different today is that we have far greater understanding of how to shape perceptions and beliefs — thanks to the advances in research in the social sciences.
It is clear that many, if not most, Americans possess a limited understanding of the nature of the inequality in our society: They believe that there is less inequality than there is, they underestimate its adverse economic effects, they underestimate the ability of government to do anything about it, and they overestimate the costs of taking action. They even fail to understand what the government is doing — many who value highly government programs like Medicare don’t realize that they are in the public sector.
In a recent study respondents on average thought that the top fifth of the population had just short of 60 percent of the wealth, when in truth that group holds approximately 85 percent of the wealth. (Interestingly, respondents described an ideal wealth distribution as one in which the top 20 percent hold just over 30 percent of the wealth. Americans recognize that some inequality is inevitable, and perhaps even desirable if one is to provide incentives; but the level of inequality in American society is well beyond that level.)
Not only do Americans misperceive the level of inequality; they underestimate the changes that have been going on. [MORE]
A new bill is circulating Congress that would alleviate the pressures facing students struggling to repay college loans.
The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, introduced to the House by Representative Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), would reduce the debt of students who have already repaid a substantial portion of their loans over the past decade.
The act, which currently has over a million signatures on the petition website signon.org, aims to stimulate the economy by increasing the amount of available income students -- otherwise theoretically debt-bound -- would have to invest and spend. [MORE]
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