Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

China: An Abusive Trade Partner

In this week when love relationships are celebrated and commemorated, the trade relationship between China and America should be denounced as destructive and exploitive.

China’s deliberate trade violations are draining America’s strength. Beijing is to America what Delilah was to Samson.

Top U.S. trade officials are in China this week in high-stakes negotiations to curb China’s illegal trade practices and restore American vigor. They are scheduled to meet Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They’re talking tough, which is appropriate since no previous agreement and no previous penalties have even dinged China’s free-market-defying trade regime. But then, President Trump let slip earlier this week that he would consider postponing a tariff increase scheduled for March 1 if no deal is reached. Delay means nothing but additional strength shorn from America.

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Egalitarians Gain Ground in Washington

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If you worry about inequality, and if you want an end to grand — and dangerous — concentrations of income and wealth, pinch yourself. We have entered a new political moment. Egalitarians have suddenly seized the policy momentum. They have forced onto the nation’s political center stage initiatives for shearing the ultra rich down to democratic size that no major elected leader in America would have dared propose only a year ago. Maybe even a few months ago.

This stunning shift began early in January when Rep. Alexandria Olivia-Cortez from New York proposed a new 70 percent tax rate on income over $10 million.

Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, in quick order, then put on the table a “wealth tax” on the grand fortunes of America’s richest 75,000 households. Warren, an announced prime-time candidate for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination, called for a 2 percent federal levy on personal assets over $50 million and a 3 percent wealth tax rate on fortune over $1 billion.

This week, just before month’s end, still another stunning proposal: Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, another likely — and leading — 2020 presidential candidate, urged a 77 percent tax on the value of estates left behind at death over $1 billion.

These three new proposals, each one far bolder than the conventional political wisdom has deemed acceptable over recent decades, did attract some assorted jeers and ridicule. But, more significantly, the three proposals drew widespread public — and even pundit — support.

How much support?

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Organizers Oust Amazon HQ2 from New York

Negin Owliaei Co-editor, Inequality.org

Amazon offered New Yorkers the best possible Valentine’s Day gift — a breakup. The union-busting, deportation-aiding company announced it wouldn’t go forward with plans to build a new headquarters in Queens, financed in part by tax breaks and capital grants, thanks to the sustained organizing efforts from New York grassroots groups.

The announcement was welcome news to the coalition of organizers who demanded the city invest in its communities instead of trying to woo the richest man in the world. The coalition was made up of local community organizations, including groups like New York Communities for Change and Queens Neighborhoods United, tenants unions, immigrant groups like Desis Rising Up and Moving and Make the Road NY, and more.

They sprang into action soon after Amazon announced it would build two new home bases in New York and Virginia. “We won by standing firm with our stance on no concessions and united with other organizations and groups across the city with this message,” Shrima Pandey, an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United, told Inequality.org in an email. “We made sure that our electeds knew we were not looking to make deals because we know you can’t make a deal with the devil.”

“We also won by rallying our people, by making sure everyone was informed of the disastrous impacts that HQ2 could have had in our borough and our city,” Pandey said. “We won by being committed to this campaign – we took early morning calls, and day-long meetings, and hit the streets in the bitter cold even though QNU is an all-volunteer group and our members bear many other responsibilities.”

The reaction to the Amazon deal was immediate as questions popped up over the incentives package proposed by New York officials. Why offer hefty tax subsidies when the city is failing to address record-high homelessness? Why offer to “assist in securing access to a helipad” (a real thing promised by the city to Amazon) while the public transit system was melting down? And why offer all these perks and incentives under a shroud of secrecy, without community input?

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Grifting the Working Class

Marc Dann
Former Attorney General, Ohio

Since the 2016 election, pundits have pondered how a man who began his campaign by gliding down an escalator in a gaudy Manhattan skyscraper festooned with his name managed to ride working-class resentment and anxiety to the presidency. How did a billionaire steal blue-collar Democratic voters right out from under Hillary Clinton’s upturned nose in broad daylight?

The answer will be obvious to anyone who, like me, has spent a career battling consumer fraud: they were conned.

And not for the first time. Trump, like all great con men, knows when a “mark” is ripe to be taken, but we often overlook how these same voters were hoodwinked first by Bill Clinton and then by Barack Obama. Their con games left  blue-collar voters ready to fall.

Really, who could blame them? They voted for Bill Clinton because he promised to reform health care and ban the use of scabs. Instead he passed NAFTA, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs across the industrial Midwest. Clinton also rolled back banking regulation (with a lot of help from his successor George W. Bush), setting the stage for near-collapse of the global economy.

Then came Obama, who promised hope and change and delivered neither for actual workers. To stop the impending meltdown of the economy he funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to banks instead of the working families who were about to lose their homes. He doled out billions more to save General Motors but didn’t force the company to preserve American jobs—a failure that’s playing out with disastrous consequences at Lordstown and other GM plants across the country. And he also failed to keep his promise to streamline the union organizing process.

The policies of the last few decades left a nation littered with the broken dreams of blue-collar and middle-class workers struggling to cope with stagnant wages, home foreclosures, disappearing pensions, and vanishing opportunity. Trump knew instinctively they could be duped.

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Union Matters

A Billionaire with a Truly Bottom-Line Moral Code

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Some advice for billionaire investment fund manager Tom Barrack: Don’t give any more lectures on morality. Last Tuesday, this long-time Donald Trump pal — and chairman of his inauguration — did a bit too much moralizing. Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Barrack called the hand-wringing over Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi “a mistake.” After all, he noted, “we have a young man and a regime that’s trying to push themselves into 2030.” We ought not, Barrack added, try “to dictate” the Saudi “moral code.” The pushback would be quick and massive. On Wednesday, Barrack apologized, but didn’t, news reports noted, “retract praise for the crown prince.” One possible reason: Barrack’s investment fund has tanked of late, its share price down by over half. Barrack has raised over $1.5 billion in bailout aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He may be hoping for still more.

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Let's Talk About Wealth

Let's Talk About Wealth