Category Archives: Class

Trump appointee ensures a Citizens United regime


No surprise here.

American politics has become a plaything of plutocrats, and the latest Trump appointment ensures that things will only get worse as one citizen, one vote is fully transformed into one dollar, one vote.

From the Intercept:

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

From 2008 to 2013, McGahn was one of the six members of the Federal Election Commission, the government agency in charge of civil enforcement of campaign finance laws. While there, he led a GOP campaign that essentially ground enforcement of election laws to a halt.

“I’ve always thought of McGahn’s appointment as an FEC commissioner as analogous to appointing an anarchist to be chief of police,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president at Common Cause. “He’s largely responsible for destroying the FEC as a functioning law enforcement agency, and seemingly takes great pride in this fact. McGahn has demonstrated a much stronger interest in expanding the money-in-politics swamp than draining it.”

Elaine Weintraub, a current FEC commissioner, overlapped with McGahn’s entire tenure. McGahn and his two fellow GOP appointees, she recalled, possessed a “very strong ideological opposition to campaign finance laws in general.”

This ideology — that essentially all limits on campaign contributions and spending are unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment — was developed by a loose affiliation of conservative lawyers including McGahn, beginning in the late 1990s. It started bearing fruit a decade later with a series of court decisions, including the Citizens United ruling in 2010. McGahn’s page on his law firm’s website describes him as one of the “architects of the campaign finance revolution.”

Chart of the Day: The elephant in the room


blog-econ

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, offering a sharp critique of neoliberalism which notes:

U.S. leaders seemingly assumed that economic inequality among citizens would not significantly increase as a result of their policies. This is because they believed in the “trickle down” theory, whereby an increase in the number of wealthy people and large corporations would stimulate the economy and gradually benefit poor people and smaller businesses.

But this trickle down never happened.

Manufacturers moved their production facilities to emerging economies with cheap labor, such as China. Laborers in developed economies were forced to take lower-paid work. Investors started demanding more dividends from successful companies, leading them to prioritize payments to investors over increasing the salaries and benefits of their employees. Large corporations transferred their profits to tax havens to evade taxation.

>snip<

[W]hite laborers — the driving force of Trump’s victory — have fallen to a position of vulnerability over the past 30 years of neoliberalist policy. Perhaps it was a matter of course that their distrust of established politics could not be overturned.

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is undoubtedly a “winner” in the stratified society. The policies he proposes, such as improving infrastructure, have the potential to boost the economy for the time being. But they also include generous tax reductions for the rich and lower corporate taxes, which could go in the opposite direction of the attempts to rectify disparity.

The many contradictions contained in Trump’s policies are the result of an attempt to attract a wide range of voters.

Headline of the day: Family Feud, plutocratic edition


From the London Daily Mail:

Rockefellers at war: Famous family feud after some descendants speak out against ExxonMobil – the company to which they owe their fortune – for downplaying climate change truth

  • Some members of the Rockefeller family are speaking out against ExxonMobil, which grew from ancestor John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil 
  • The descendants had funded research, showing that ExxonMobil knew more about global warming earlier than they let on 
  • They now want the company to apologize for its past 
  • Not all in the family agree with this contingent however 
  • ‘I don’t think denouncing a family legacy is the best way to go about doing this,’ Ariana Rockefeller said

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime


We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Headlines of the day: Oh, isn’t that rich? Really rich


“That” being the Trump cabinet.

First from the Washington Post:

Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history

  • Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago.
  • Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
  • Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.

And from BBC News:

Trump assembles America’s ‘richest cabinet’

  • US President-elect Donald Trump took a populist tone on the campaign trail, pledging to stand for a beleaguered working class abandoned by the elite.
  • Mr Trump, of course, brings immense wealth to his new role. The property tycoon’s worth is estimated at $3.7bn (£3bn) by Forbes magazine, with more than 500 businesses in his empire.
  • But he might not be the richest member of his team. His nominee for education secretary, Betsy Devos, is the daughter of Richard DeVos, who founded the Amway retail giant. Forbes puts their family wealth at $5.1bn.
  • Next up is Wilbur Ross, the president-elect’s pick for commerce secretary. Forbes puts the wealth of Mr Ross, who headed Rothschild Inc’s bankruptcy practice before starting an investment firm, at $2.5bn.
  • Mr Ross’s deputy will be Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, who has an estimated wealth of $1.75bn.

Finally, the front page headline on the New York Times:

Trump Cabinet Choices Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite

  • Donald J. Trump picked Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, to run the Treasury and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor, to head the Commerce Department.
  • The choices have been cheered by investors, but they stand in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran.

And while not headlines, two of this morning’s tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders add some perspective:

blog-sanders-cabinetblog-sanders-rigged

As does the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump gets comfy in the Washington swamp

blog-horsey

Trump and his allies want to kill organized labor


And given their impending control of all three branches of the federal government, they just might accomplish it, warns Raymond Hogler. Professor of Management at Colorado State University, in an essay for the open source academic journal The Conversation:

I’ve written before on how the decline of organized labor beginning in the late 1970s gave birth to the backlash that fueled Donald Trump’s election.

Labor’s deterioration weakened worker protections, kept wages stagnant and caused income inequality to soar to the highest levels in over eight decades. It also made workers feel they needed a savior like Trump.

In other words, his unlikely victory follows a straight line from the defeat of the Labor Reform Act of 1978 to the election of 2016. That bill would have modernized and empowered unions through more effective recognition procedures accompanied by enhanced power in negotiations. Instead, its death by filibuster became the beginning of their end.

It’s a sad twist of irony that Trump’s election and Republican dominance across the country may finally destroy once and for all the institution most responsible for working- and middle-class prosperity. It will likely be a three-punch fight, ending with a fatal blow: the expansion of right-to-work laws across the country that would permanently empty the pockets of labor unions, eroding them of virtually all their collective solidarity.

How we got here

In 1980, union membership density stood at 23 percent of the work force; some 40 years later, just over 11 percent of American workers belong to unions. During the same period, wealth inequality in the U.S. continued to accelerate largely on a social class basis.

White males without college degrees reacted to their ongoing misery in 2016 with a political transformation unrivaled since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s electoral victory in 1932. The election’s postmortem pundits offered differing explanations for Trump’s victory, including racism, sexism and the ennui of Hillary Clinton supporters.

A popular narrative argues that deteriorating economic conditions provided the fuel for the Trump conflagration as it swept through the former union strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Three blows for labor

Despite the enthusiasm of his working-class supporters, Trump’s economic policies would bring them a raw deal, not a New Deal. Three key areas will play a crucial role in union diminution and workers’ bargaining power during Trump’s administration, with further declines in real hourly earnings.

The first is regulatory. On his inauguration, Trump has the opportunity to appoint two new members to the National Labor Relations Board now controlled by Obama appointees with administrative discretion to implement pro-labor decisions. With their new majority, Republican appointees will have a smorgasbord of past cases and regulations to repeal and replace. Trump’s future replacements undoubtedly will promote a business-friendly agenda, and the board’s shift in emphasis will be immediately apparent.

The second is the Supreme Court. If Trump fills the vacant seat with someone in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, the new court will likely uphold what in my view is the rickety constitutional theory of union dues put forth by Samuel Alito in Knox v. SEIU. Alito’s rule holds that public sector union members have a constitutional right to decline dues payments unless they consent to do so. Or, in Alito’s words, dues payers will be deemed to “opt out” of dues unless they “opt in.”

In early 2016, the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which would have mandated a constitutional right-to-work rule, stalled out with Scalia’s demise, but a similar case is moving through the lower federal court system that raises the matter once more. The litigation will eventually work its way back to the Supreme Court, and the new Trump justice can affirm the undoing of public sector union dues.

The third and most lethal blow against unions, along with board and court hostility, is the expansion of right-to-work laws as a by-product of Trump’s victory.

Trump ran on a platform of making America great again by restoring incomes through innovation and deregulation.

Continue reading

Economy: Spain’s Millennials live with parents


While Eurocrats have hailed Spain’s “recovery” from the Great Recession, lauding themselves for accomplishing a miracle with bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank, the reality is quite different.

The draconian austerity regime dictated by the by the financial oligarchs effectively destroyed the futures of millions of young Spaniards.

From El País:

For the first time in 12 years, less than 20% of people aged between 16 and 30 are living outside the family home. In the second quarter of 2016, the figure was 19.6%, a 4.84% increase on the period in 2015, says Spain’s Youth Council. It adds that of those who have managed to leave their parents, only 16.7% are living alone.

The official unemployment rate among the under-30s is 34.4%, but the reality is that only two out of every 10 under-24s is working, and more than 55% of them are on short-term contracts, while 60% are earning less than €1,000 a month.

Victor Reloba, of the Youth Council, says that while unemployment has fallen slightly, young people are unable to leave the family home because even if they are in work, they will likely be on zero-hours contracts, short-term contracts, or earning money from a number of different activities. “One in four young people is poor,” he explains.

Most under-30s who have managed to leave home are living in shared accommodation with two or more other people.