Category: Allied Approaches

Weingarten to Walmart: 'Stop Selling Guns or We'll Stop Shopping There'

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Having had it up to here with gun-caused carnage, including at the nation’s schools, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has a blunt message for the nation’s biggest retailer: Walmart: Stop selling guns or we’ll stop shopping there.

That bombshell is just before the end of a letter Weingarten sent August 7 to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. He has yet to reply.

“Walmart has millions of customers and they all should feel safe while shopping,” Weingarten wrote after a gunman, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, entered the Walmart in El Paso, Texas and slaughtered 22 people, most of them Hispanic.

The gunman previously posted an anti-Mexican internet screed and used phrases associated with GOP President Donald Trump, but Weingarten didn’t mention Trump in her letter. Instead, she unveiled her warning to Walmart:

“If you choose to act, it could change our national conversation in an instant. And if Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reforms, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores.” Even without anti-gun laws, Weingarten urged Walmart “to be part of the solution.”

That solution should not only include a total gun ban in Walmart, but withdrawal of Walmart campaign contributions to the notorious gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, she said. Weingarten noted five of the top current congressional recipients of gun lobby money also got dollars from Walmart’s campaign committee, its owners and its executives.

OpenSecrets.org, run by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics – which tallies, annotates and explains campaign contributions, reports the top 20 gun money recipients are incumbent GOP senators, ranging from Mitt Romney of Utah ($13.64 million, including spending slamming his opponent) to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($1.27 million, again including money against his foe).

Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the nation’s largest union, the National Education Association, have been part of a national crusade for tougher gun controls – bans on semi-automatic weapons, universal background checks, “red flag” laws and more – ever since the Valentine’s Day 2018 of 14 students and three AFT member-teachers by a semi-automatic-wielding shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

More ...

Let’s Get This Legislation Over the Finish Line

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Congress is out of session for the August recess, which means that the nation’s legislative business is on hold for a few weeks.

But Members have a packed agenda waiting for them when they return in the fall, including finalizing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It’s a massive bill that authorizes the Defense Department, and included in this year’s version is language that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and our national security.

No pressure, Congress.

As we’ve outlined before, there are major security and economic concerns about China’s role in building U.S. transit. The Senate moved to address these threats when it passed its version of the NDAA by including language to ban Chinese government-owned or controlled companies from using U.S. taxpayer dollars to build U.S. rail cars and buses.

When the House passed its version, however, the ban only applied to rail.

The reason? Folks like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) support bus maker Build Your Dreams (BYD) – a company that maintains strong ties to China’s government (and has ambitious plans to dominate the global auto market, which threatens hundreds of thousandsU.S. jobs).

Now the legislation is headed to conference, and negotiators from the Senate and the House will determine whether to move forward with the Senate version or the House version. Or, they could very well scrap the language all together in order to ensure passage of the NDAA.

That’s what happened earlier this year, in fact, when similar language was included as part of the fiscal 2019 omnibus spending bill (a.k.a., the legislation that avoided another government shutdown). Because of the complaints of McCarthy, the provision was scrapped and not included as part of the final legislation.

It’s important that negotiators get it right this time.

More ...

New Hampshire’s Republican governor just vetoed a bipartisan redistricting commission

Danielle McLean

Danielle McLean Reporter, ThinkProgress

New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have allowed an independent redistricting committee to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district maps in 2021 and beyond.

The veto is just the latest sign that Republican Party leaders want to control the map-making process and preserve a system that allowed them to racially and politically gerrymander at historic proportions in several GOP-controlled states the last time district lines were redrawn in 2011. But supporters of the bill say the veto could actually backfire on New Hampshire Republicans, currently in the minority party in the state’s legislature. Sununu is up for re-election in 2020.

“With his veto, the governor is throwing out a plan that would ensure Republicans are treated fairly in the next round of redistricting even if Democrats do well in next year’s elections,” said Yurij Rudensky, a counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program who advised New Hampshire legislators on the bill.

Sununu said in a statement Friday that he decided to veto the bill that would have established a 15-member commission — free of recent lobbyists and elected officials — to redraw district maps because it would have created a body that was “unelected and unaccountable to the voters.” He added the measure was supported by out-of-state organizations that favor Democrats during the decennial redistricting process.

“Legislators should not abrogate their responsibility to the voters and delegate authority to an unelected and unaccountable commission selected by political party bosses,” Sununu said in the statement. “We should all be proud that issues of gerrymandering are extremely rare in New Hampshire. Our current redistricting process is fair and representative of the people of our State.”

Under the vetoed bill, the 15-member commission that would include members picked from a list of applicants collected by the secretary of state, would be tasked with redrawing the state’s maps. State lawmakers need to approve the maps. Former elected officials and people that have been lobbyists within the past 10 years would be barred from joining the commission.

Rudensky called Sununu’s veto “shortsighted” and said the bill would have established a model for bipartisan redistricting reform.

More ...

After Years in China, This American Manufacturer Made a Mighty Move

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

When Texas entrepreneur Jack Clark created a durable, lightweight utility cart in 1994, he built his first 1,000 carts in Houston.

By 1997, Clark moved production of his all-purpose movable carts to China. After all, isn’t this what most businesses were doing to increase profit margins?

After 11 years of dealing with the frustrations of manufacturing halfway around the world, Clark obtained a new set of plastic molds for the carts and moved production back to the United States.

Welcome home Jack.

Clark now builds his Mighty Max Carts in Dallas, where he was born and raised. A lifelong Texan, Clark rediscovered the Longhorn State mantra that you “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

“I’ve been doing this for 20-something years, and we sold about 50,000 to 60,000 of the Chinese carts, but we couldn’t replace the parts fast enough,” Clark recalled. “The carts would just finally collapse. This new American-made cart is awesome.

“In China, the first two or three thousand carts they made were fine, and then they just kept getting cheaper and cheaper in quality. I would be standing on the cart just showing someone how it works, and the handle would crack off in my hand.”

More ...

Out of Ottawa, Some Deflating New Stats on Life in the World’s Richest Nation

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

South of the border, here in the United States, we Americans tend not to pay much attention to our northern neighbors. Entire election cycles can come and go without anyone running for national office saying anything significant about Canada.

But that all has changed of late. Canada now looms large in our politics, mainly because many more of us have realized that Canadians enjoy a health care system far superior to our own, by every meaningful yardstick of fairness and efficiency. Canada’s single-payer approach to health care has become — for progressives in the United States — a guiding inspiration. We want what the Canadians have. We need what the Canadians have.

And we need what Canadians have, an innovative new study suggests, on more than just health care. Average Canadians, this research relates, now enjoy higher incomes than their counterparts in the United States.

The new report — Household Incomes in Canada and the United States: Who is Better Off? — comes out of the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards and essentially challenges the conventional wisdom on economic well-being. That wisdom, report author Simon Lapointe notes, typically defines well-being as GDP per capita.

To calculate this GDP yardstick, economists take the sum total of the goods and services a nation produces, divide that total by the nation’s population, and tell us that the resulting number measures how well a nation’s people are doing economically.

By this standard measure, Americans are doing much better than Canadians. In 2016, the latest year with comparable stats available, GDP per capita in the United States ran over 20 percent higher than GDP in Canada, $57,798 to $47,294, in U.S. dollars adjusted for what economists call “purchasing power parity.”

But GDP per capita can obscure reality as most households live it, especially in a deeply unequal society like the United States. Lapointe acknowledges in his new Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards report that American households certainly do rate as richer than Canadian on average. But “much greater incomes at the top of the income distribution” in the United States, he points out, are driving the difference in the Canadian and U.S. averages.

More ...

Unions, EPI Back Warren Bill to Crack Down on Private Equity Funds

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

So-called “private equity” investment funds, one of the worst manifestations of anti-worker corrupt corporate capitalism, left Madelyn Garcia and her co-workers without jobs. And she came to Washington in August to help launch legislation to curb their robberies.

Garcia, you see, spent 30 years at a Toys R Us store in Boynton Beach, Fla. She rose to store manager and made sure it was profitable and workers had decent jobs and pay. But a fund swooped in, bought the chain, stripped it of assets, shuttered her store and the rest of the chain – and left Garcia and thousands of other Toys R Us workers out on the street.

If they hadn’t raised public hell, Garcia says, they wouldn’t have even gotten severance pay.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants to put a stop to such financial robbery of workers for profit. So Garcia, now a member of a financial reform group, joined unions – notably The News Guild -- workers and the Economic Policy Institute in lining up behind Warren’s legislation, the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, to do so.

"I put 30 years of my life into Toys 'R' Us and built my store into a beloved part of my community. Wall Street profiteers threw that love and value away when they bled Toys 'R' Us dry for profit,” Garcia told a D.C. press conference in early August.

“If we hadn't spoken out, they would have left tens of thousands of us on the street without the severance and respect we had earned. This bill is about giving working people a better chance to stand up to billionaire predators and fight for our jobs, our livelihoods, and our dignity. This bill is what standing up for working people looks like."

Warren’s measure would protect some 5.8 million workers whose 35,000 firms are now owned or controlled by private equity funds, EPI President Thea Lee said in her think tank’s detailed analysis of the rapacious investors. That doesn’t count Toys R Us, now dead thanks to the funds’ avarice.

Warren’s bill is part of her continuing campaign against corporate greed and the “rigged economy” against workers she constantly discusses on the campaign trail as she marshals support for her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

More ...

Watchdog groups sound the gerrymandering alarm on ALEC’s ‘redistricting’ workshops

Danielle McLean

Danielle McLean Investigative Reporter, ThinkProgress

The shadowy group responsible for crafting many of the Republican Party’s most extreme, far-right laws is holding panels on redistricting at its annual conference next week, a sign that the group may be taking part in the GOP’s efforts to gerrymander in 2021, according to open government experts.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is hosting two workshops during its annual meeting in Austin, Texas, teaching Republican legislators how they should navigate the redistricting process. Lawmakers in a number of GOP-controlled states gerrymandered congressional and legislative district lines at historic proportions the last time the maps were redrawn in 2011 in an attempt to insulate their control over state legislatures.

The two closed-door courses called “How to survive redistricting” and “What is redistricting and why must you do it?” will teach Republican legislators “the nuts and bolts” of redistricting, including the “legal aspects, the census process, demographic landscape and mapping process,” according to ALEC’s website. Lawmakers will also learn from “veterans of redistricting” about methodologies, resources, and strategies “to lead a successful redistricting cycle in your state.”

Republicans have indicated that they fully intend to continue gerrymandering the next time the district lines are drawn in 2021, after the next decennial census. ALEC, meanwhile, is responsible for some of the most extreme right-wing laws in the country, including voter ID laws intended to stop African American and Latinx voters from casting a ballot.

More ...

The Myth of the Rugged Individual

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

The American dream promises that anyone can make it if they work hard enough and play by the rules. Anyone can make it by pulling themselves up by their “bootstraps.” 

Baloney. 

The truth is: In America today, your life chances depend largely on how you started – where you grew up and how much your parents earned.

Everything else – whether you attend collegeyour chances of landing a well-paying jobeven your health – hinges on this start. 

So as inequality of income and wealth has widened – especially along the lines of race and gender – American children born into poverty have less chance of making it. While 90% of children born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents, today only half of all American adults earn more than their parents did. 

And children born to the top 10 percent of earners are typically on track to make three times more income as adults than the children of the bottom 10 percent.

The phrase “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” itself is rubbish. Its origins date back to an 18th-century fairy tale, and the phrase was originally intended as a metaphor for an impossible feat of strength. 

Other countries understand that the family you’re born into as well as the social safety nets and social springboards you have access to play large roles. 

Children born poor in Canada, Denmark, or the United Kingdom – nations without America’s degree of inequality, nations which provide strong social safety nets and public investments – have a greater chance of economic success than children born poor in America. 

More ...

Can the Wealthy Hardwire Inequality into Our DNA?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Remember the college admissions scandal? Earlier this year we learned that awesomely affluent parents have been spending small fortunes on scams to get their undeserving teenage offspring into America’s most elite colleges and universities.

This admissions scandal crept back into the news cycle earlier this week when Vanity Fair reported that the wealthy parents of one California teen had plotted with a top admissions “consultant” to get their white — and distinctly non-athletic — daughter accepted by elite schools as a black tennis champ.

In this case, the rich parents overreached. Their scam failed. But plenty of other sports-related scams, we now know, worked quite well. Rich families paid to have their kids’ faces photoshopped onto the bodies of real high school athletes. They conspired with college tennis, soccer, and water polo coaches to get their kids admitted under false pretenses into schools like Yale and Georgetown.

All these kids had no outstanding athletic talent. But what if wealthy parents had the ability to give their kids that athletic talent? What if our nation’s rich could use emerging 21st-century “gene-enhancement technology” to make their kids physically bigger, stronger, or faster? What if they could even use that same technology to make their kids smarter? Would they?

The answer the college admissions scandal makes plain: Many of the richest among us will stop at nothing to perpetuate their privilege. Spend a fortune to make their kids genetically superior? Of course they would.

Should we be aghast at this prospect? Of course we should.

What used to be pure science fiction — the ability to edit our DNA — has now become science reality. A generation ago our hippest young programming hotshots were working in computer code. Now the high-tech hip are busy working to reprogram our genes.

More ...

If Inequality Continues to Grow at Current Rate, Richest Americans Will Own 100% of US Wealth in 33 Years: Analysis

Jake Johnson Staff Writer, Common Dreams

If wealth inequality in the United States continues to soar at its current rate, the top 10 percent of Americans could own 100 percent of the nation's net worth by 2052.

That's according to an analysis by Dallas Morning News finance columnist Scott Burns, who wrote Sunday that the wealthiest Americans "will truly 'have it all' just 33 years from now."


"If they continue to gain share at that rate," Burns added, "they'll have the remaining 22.8 percent of net worth held by the other 90 percent in just 12 more surveys, give or take an upheaval or two.""However you slice it, the rich have been getting richer. Lots richer," wrote Burns, citing Federal Reserve data. "Here are the basics. From 2013 to 2016, the top 10 percent of households increased their share of total wealth from an amazing 75.3 percent to a stunning 77.2 percent. That's a share gain of 1.87 percent in just three years."

Burns's analysis is just the latest evidence that wealth inequality in the United States, juiced by President Donald Trump's massive tax cuts for the rich, is reaching unprecedented heights.

In February, University of California, Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman published research showing the top 0.00025 percent—just 400 Americans—owns more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

As Common Dreams reported in June, Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project, pointed to Federal Reserve data to show that the bottom half of Americans lost $900 billion in wealth between 1989 and 2018.

Over that same period, Bruenig found, "the top one percent increased its total net worth by $21 trillion."

***

Reposted from Common Dreams

Union Matters

He Gets the Bucks, We Get All the Deadly Bangs

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre has had better weeks. First came the horrific early August slaughters in California, Texas, and Ohio that left dozens dead, murders that elevated public pressure on the NRA’s hardline against even the mildest of moves against gun violence. Then came revelations that LaPierre — whose labors on behalf of the nonprofit NRA have made him a millionaire many times over — last year planned to have his gun lobby group bankroll a 10,000-square-foot luxury manse near Dallas for his personal use. In response, LaPierre had his flacks charge that the NRA’s former ad agency had done the scheming to buy the mansion. The ad agency called that assertion “patently false” and related that LaPierre had sought the agency’s involvement in the scheme, a request the agency rejected. The mansion scandal, notes the Washington Post, comes as the NRA is already “contending with the fallout from allegations of lavish spending by top executives.”

***

More ...

Corruption Coordinates

Corruption Coordinates