Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Forced Trade

Forced Trade
Photo by author Chad Broughton of Dave Bevard, former Machinists local union president at the Maytag factory in Galesburg, Ill., standing beside the last refrigerator produced there in 2004 before the corporation moved production to Mexico. The refrigerator is autographed by some of the 1,600 workers who lost their jobs.

Senators who voted last week to Fast Track ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) call it a free trade deal, but really, it’s forced trade imposed on protesting American workers who have endured its damaging effects for decades.   

Under the free trade regime, rich and powerful corporate interests have hauled in ever-higher profits as they shipped manufacturing overseas to low-wage, no-environmental-regulation countries. Meanwhile, American workers lost jobs, health benefits, income and all sense of stability.

For the past 50 years, the government provided compensation to some American workers who suffered because of trade deals. They got Trade Adjustment Assistance, a little bit of money to help them subsist and retrain after losing their jobs. Now, the wealthy beneficiaries of free trade, and the Republicans they fund, contend that senior citizens should pay the cost of Trade Adjustment Assistance. That Republicans feel it’s appropriate to cut Medicare to cover the cost of Trade Adjustment Assistance illustrates how deeply flawed American trade policy is. It is based on the philosophy that workers and the retired should suffer to facilitate the rich getting richer.

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Guilt by Association: Hillary and the Working Class

John Russo

John Russo Research Fellow, Metropolitan Institute of Virginia Tech University

As the 2016 Presidential campaign revs up, we’re seeing a political version of guilt by association as Hillary Clinton tries to position herself in relation to the cornerstones of her husband’s legislative agenda: the Violent Crime and Enforcement Act (VCEA, 1994), the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWOA, 1996), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994). Liberals and progressives widely recognize that these policies had an immediate and devastating impact on people of color, the white working class, and organized labor. They also had continuing influence, at once contributing to and mirroring current issues and debates involving poverty, incarceration, and trade agreements.

A brief historical summary might be helpful. The VCEA, based on the idea that increased incarceration would lower the crime rate, was part of President Clinton’s attempt to capture the “get tough on crime” zeitgeist. As criminologist Jeremy Travis suggested, the federal government promised increased funding to states that increased punishment for drug offenses, and 28 states and the District of Columbia “followed the money and enacted stricter sentencing laws for violent offenses.” As a result, the number of prisons and the rate of incarceration of the poor, blacks, and Latinos have increased. That may have helped the growing prison industry, but later studies show there was little correspondence between incarcerations and lower crime rates.

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Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education

Casey Quinlan

Casey Quinlan Education Reporter, Think Progress

Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education

“I don’t think you’d notice if the whole department was gone tomorrow,” Rand Paul said of the U.S. Department of Education at a University of Chicago Institute of Politics panel last year. The Kentucky senator has been saying this for years, but he isn’t the only one. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry have also said the department of education is “nonessential” or worth scrapping completely.

But what would happen if indeed, there was no Department of Education?

The department as we know it now, a cabinet-level agency, was created by the Department of Education Organization Act, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law in 1979. The department officially opened in 1980 and started with an annual budget of $12 billion. Prior to the law, the department of education changed its name several times since its creation in 1867.

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Populists Are Driving the Ideas Primary

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

In the run-up to 2016 presidential race, press attention is sensibly focused on the money primary – the candidates strutting their stuff before deep-pocket donors who will decide which candidates get a real shot to compete with the already established leaders, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Overshadowed is the ideas primary – the competition to formulate a compelling message and agenda that appeals to voters. Hillary and Jeb have even postponed unveiling their ideas in order to focus on the money. But under the radar, in sharp contrast to the money primary, economic populism has become the coin of the realm in both parties. And on the Democratic side, populism is driving the ideas primary.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only formally announced challenger to Clinton, is an unvarnished populist, seeking to rouse working Americans across lines of race and region against what he calls the “billionaire class.” But Sanders isn’t alone. Former senator Jim Webb of Virginia has a proud populist record – opposing corporate trade deals, warning of rising inequality, challenging the national security elite’s efforts to police the world. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is remaking himself into an economic populist, joining the opposition to President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Clinton, the establishment champion, has put off the unveiling of her agenda, but has proclaimed herself the “champion” of “everyday people.” She has criticized soaring CEO pay, and has delivered forceful addresses for comprehensive immigration reform and against mass incarceration and the systematic racial bias of our criminal justice system.

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Raise the Wage to Create Jobs

Raise the Wage to Create Jobs

Union Matters

Fantasy Politics

Bashing liberals is a time-honored sport on the far right.  Bashing the Clintons can therefore legitimately be compared to fantasy baseball.  In each of these, one can construct one’s own reality, related to facts no more than one wishes.

A major-league example of Clinton bashing is the book Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweizer, founder of the Government Accountability Institute.  Mr. Schweizer is a conservative with a history of getting it wrong.  According to Media Matters, his most recent work continues that tradition.

Right-wing snark of recent years, like the purple-heart Band-Aids that mocked John Kerry’s Presidential candidacy in 2004, has often been funded by uber-wealthy conservatives.  In the case of Clinton Cash, the folks behind the screen are, apparently, the Koch Brothers.

These siblings are no slouches when it comes to keeping conservative causes afloat; their efforts have included bankrolling the campaign to prevent the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  Operating as they do so far under the radar, the Koch Brothers’ efforts to distort the information that underlies our electoral process might seem almost impossible to overcome.  But they’re mot.

Not even the Koch Brothers have enough money to outstrip the votes of millions of motivated Americans.

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