I remembered this morning that Andy Stern, former president of the SEIU, came to Netroots Nation two years ago and talked about plans for a national freelancers union for contract workers.
And because, frankly, the only political speeches I really want to hear are coming from the union movement, I was thinking there should be a way for liberals to show their support for union causes through affiliating with the unions — maybe through an associate membership of some kind that would possibly even allow you to buy into their health care plan.
So I got on the phone with a friend who works for the SEIU, she said she’d been thinking along similar lines and she’s promised to pursue it.
Immigration to the United States is part of a larger picture—the picture of how we are getting globalization wrong. There is no better way to understand that than to look at what has happened between the United States and Mexico since NAFTA was implemented in 1994.
NAFTA was sold to the American public on the idea that increasing trade with Mexico would create good jobs in both countries and slow the flow of undocumented workers coming to the U.S. from Mexico.
Instead, inequality has grown and workers’ rights have eroded in both the U.S. and Mexico since NAFTA’s passage. And illegal immigration flows have tripled.
Today we treat our relationship with Mexico as if it were a national security problem—solvable with military aid and a militarized border. And that is a dangerous mistake. The failures of our relationship with Mexico represent a failed economic strategy. They cannot be solved with guns and soldiers and fences. They must be addressed through an economic strategy for shared prosperity based on rising wages in both countries.
Instead, at the heart of the failure of our immigration policy is an unpleasant fact, one that you almost never hear talked about openly: Too many U.S. employers actually like the current state of the immigration system—a system where immigrants are both plentiful and undocumented—afraid and available. Too many employers like a system where our borders are closed and open at the same time—closed enough to turn immigrants into second-class citizens, open enough to ensure an endless supply of socially and legally powerless cheap labor.
Our immigration system makes a mockery of the American dream. The people doing the hardest work for the least money have no legal protections, no ability to send their children to college, no real right to form a union, no economic or legal security—no way to turn their contributions—their years of hard work—into the most fundamental right of all, the right to vote. That is intolerable for a democracy.
And yet today I hear from working people who should know better, some in my own family – that those immigrants are taking our jobs, ruining our country. Haven’t we been here before?
When I hear that kind of talk, I want to say, did an immigrant move your plant overseas? Did an immigrant take away your pension? Or cut your health care? Did an immigrant destroy American workers’ right to organize? Or crash the financial system? Did immigrant workers write the trade laws that have done so much harm to Ohio?
As President of the AFL-CIO, my message to working people is that we all are bound together by our lives as workers, our dreams for our families, and our hopes for this country’s future. The labor movement stands for giving all workers in America the right to dream the American Dream.
The only way I can think of to stay sane about the November elections is to find some real liberals and do write-in campaigns. Put up or shut up, mes amis.
Because putting in enough liberal independents (like Bernie Sanders) is the only way I can think of to reign in the excesses of power from both parties. They’d have to make concessions to win their votes — in other words, we have to build our own version of a parlimentary system.
FDL has been doing great work on covering this, with Alan Lawson from Social Security Works waiting outside the meeting room with a camera (be sure to read his entire exchange with Alan “Grandpa” Simpson).
And after you’ve read it, notice that the same people who are complaining about not enough money coming in to pay for Social Security are the same ones voting against jobs programs — you know, where people pay Social Security taxes? Funny, huh?
They signed industry-backed letters telling the FCC to abandon efforts to protect Internet users by prohibiting big companies from blocking Internet traffic.
Not only is this letter an attack on net neutrality, but by signing the industry letter, they are attempting to drastically undercut the FCC’s ability to make a fast, affordable and open Internet available to everyone in America. They are actually taking a position against the interests of rural and low-income communities.
This is unacceptable.
We need to make sure these members of Congress know that their constituents are paying attention and will hold them accountable when they undermine net neutrality protections.
I just got off the phone with Allyson Schwartz’s office (second day in a row) and told the staffer I remember Allyson “back from when she used to be a liberal” and that if she didn’t stop acting like a Blue Dog, I’d not only give money to a primary challenger, I’d work for them, too.
The staffer: “Yeah, I hear you.” Yeah, honey, I’ll bet you did.
The key point is that while the advocates of austerity pose as hardheaded realists, doing what has to be done, they can’t and won’t justify their stance with actual numbers — because the numbers do not, in fact, support their position. Nor can they claim that markets are demanding austerity. On the contrary, the German government remains able to borrow at rock-bottom interest rates.
So the real motivations for their obsession with austerity lie somewhere else.
In America, many self-described deficit hawks are hypocrites, pure and simple: They’re eager to slash benefits for those in need, but their concerns about red ink vanish when it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy. Thus, Senator Ben Nelson, who sanctimoniously declared that we can’t afford $77 billion in aid to the unemployed, was instrumental in passing the first Bush tax cut, which cost a cool $1.3 trillion.
German deficit hawkery seems more sincere. But it still has nothing to do with fiscal realism. Instead, it’s about moralizing and posturing. Germans tend to think of running deficits as being morally wrong, while balancing budgets is considered virtuous, never mind the circumstances or economic logic. “The last few hours were a singular show of strength,” declared Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, after a special cabinet meeting agreed on the austerity plan. And showing strength — or what is perceived as strength — is what it’s all about.
There will, of course, be a price for this posturing. Only part of that price will fall on Germany: German austerity will worsen the crisis in the euro area, making it that much harder for Spain and other troubled economies to recover. Europe’s troubles are also leading to a weak euro, which perversely helps German manufacturing, but also exports the consequences of German austerity to the rest of the world, including the United States.
But German politicians seem determined to prove their strength by imposing suffering — and politicians around the world are following their lead.
How bad will it be? Will it really be 1937 all over again? I don’t know. What I do know is that economic policy around the world has taken a major wrong turn, and that the odds of a prolonged slump are rising by the day.