Monthly Archives: May 2014

The economy works for those who own it

Image: Wikimedia Commons

BY GARY ENGLER | | MAY 21, 2014

picture-35204Gary Engler is an elected union officer with Unifor Local 2000, the B.C. Media Union. Before spending 20 years as a journalist at the Vancouver Sun, Engler began his writing career as a playwright, with works performed at Theatre Calgary and Factory Theatre Lab. He is the author of one novel, The Year We Became Us (Fernwood 2012). Economic Democracy focuses on building the working-class alternative to capitalism.

Do people exist to serve the economy or
does the economy exist to serve people?

This question came to me as the left side of my brain was reading Thomas Piketty’s important new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century while the right side of my brain watched the news.

There was an item about the B.C. government chopping money from university arts programs to fund apprenticeships because it would produce more taxpayers, which would be good for the economy, followed by a commercial touting the Northern Gateway pipeline, which also would be good the economy. As my right brain soaked in the TV images my left brain was digesting statistics that demonstrated conclusively most wealth is owned by a few people and this inequality is growing.

Do people exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve people?

When the two sides of my brain began acting together I realized this is not merely a rhetorical question.  Rather, even raising the issue is subversive, or at least impertinent to those who maintain the status quo.

Continue reading The economy works for those who own it

Asa Philip Randolph: The often overlooked inspiration for the March on Washington

UPI/file A. Philip Randolph stands next to President John Kennedy during a meeting that resulted from the March on Washington in 1963. With them were Martin Luther King Jr. (left), American Jewish Congress Rabbi Joachim Prinz (second from left) and labor leader Walter Reuther (right). The Washington march turned out to be a pivotal event in the struggle for civil rights.

As time passes, history often simplifies or even distorts events.

By Mark Woods  |  The Florida Times-Union  |  Sat, Aug 24, 2013

Christopher Columbus did sail the ocean blue, but he didn’t discover America. And although Paul Revere did go for a midnight ride, he wasn’t alone. Not that a couple of centuries later anyone remembers William Dawes or Samuel Prescott.

It has been 50 years since an estimated 250,000 people converged on the capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. With each passing year, the story of that day becomes the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his iconic speech.

If you have any doubts that this is what time has done with Aug. 28, 1963, look no further than what Time, the magazine, has done to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that day.

The magazine published a special “I Have a Dream” issue. The cover, with a photo of MLK Jr., says “Founding Father.” And inside there are a series of stories with the headlines: ONE MAN. ONE MARCH. ONE SPEECH. ONE DREAM.

Open the magazine and flip past some black-and-white photos of the scene on the mall to a color photo, a posed shot after the march, the Oval Office. President John F. Kennedy is standing in the middle of the men who led the march. King is in the front row, with several feet and two people between him and the president.

The caption says: “King and his lieutenants meet with Kennedy …”

The people in the photo would have chuckled at such a description — King and his lieutenants? — not because they didn’t admire King, but because there was one man who clearly had led them to this moment. One man whom they considered The Founding Father of the civil rights movement. One man who for more than two decades had been dreaming of such a march on Washington.

It wasn’t King. It was the 74-year-old man standing next to Kennedy.

Asa Philip Randolph.

Continue reading Asa Philip Randolph: The often overlooked inspiration for the March on Washington


obamacare-limitsPublished On May 21, 2014 | By Marty Harrison | Socialist Alternative

By Marty Harrison
Registered Nurse and PASNAP Member
Philadelphia, PA

Over 71 million people previously without health coverage now have insurance despite Republican objections and sabotage. Many will see this as a clear victory against the right-wing politicians. However, there are limits to what “Obamacare” can provide, and the biggest benefactors are insurance companies.

Since March 31, enrollment in the Affordable Care Act insurance plans has closed, and anyone still without health insurance will be charged a penalty on next year’s tax bill. The Obama administration has repeatedly assured the public that this deadline, unlike deadlines for business compliance with various provisions of the Act, will not be extended. The penalties start at $95 per adult and $47.50 per child this year, but swell to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child in 2016.

The insurance corporations demanded the narrow enrollment period to prevent people from buying health insurance only when they need it. They want your money all year, whether you need their insurance all year or not.

Continue reading THE LIMITS OF “OBAMACARE”

The Case for a 21st Century New Deal – 5.1 Million Jobs for Revitalizing America’s Cities

                  Once Again

As you may have noticed, towns and cities across the nation have been dying slow deaths for a long time. They are decayed and blighted because the neighborhoods around them have been hit with decades of rough times going back to the 1960s and 1970s. This is not only inner city, but suburbs too.  A lot of historic landmarks have been hit hard.

In the case of Detroit, hard times started when automakers began pulling up factories and sending jobs south to right-to-work states to pay lower wages. The effects cascaded locally from affecting the tax base to the loss of jobs. All that resulted in cuts for schools, an increase in poverty, more abandoned houses in neighborhoods, negative effects on local businesses leading many to close. People had less money to spend and the downward spiral started and grew.  Communities suffered greatly.

In Detroit’s case, it ended with the city in bankruptcy.

Continue reading The Case for a 21st Century New Deal – 5.1 Million Jobs for Revitalizing America’s Cities

Evidence that the Meritocracy is Made Up of Poor People

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from

Many wealthy Americans believe that dysfunctional behavior causes poverty. Their own success, they would insist, derives from good character and a strict work ethic. But they would be missing some of the facts. Ample evidence exists to show a correlation between wealth and unethical behavior, and between wealth and a lack of empathy for others, and between wealth and unproductiveness.

workThe poor, along with a middle class that is sinking toward them, make up the American meritocracy. Here is some of the evidence.

1. The Poor Don’t Cheat As Much

An analysis of seven different psychological studies found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” A series of experiments showed that upper-class individuals were more likely to break traffic laws, take valued goods from others, lie in a negotiation, and cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize.

And this doesn’t even begin to examine the many, many significant cases of fraudulent behavior in the banking industry. Or private equity firms that cheat their investors over 50 percent of the time. Or the many unscrupulous corporate tax avoidance strategies.

Continue reading Evidence that the Meritocracy is Made Up of Poor People

The Story of Maria’s Libraries

Reprinted courtesy of: Policy Innovations  via

By: Eva Kaplan

They call themselves the Library Ninjas, and they come to the Busia Community Library to watch movies, eat bananas, and drink clean water. The library opens at nine in the morning, and on Thursdays each week a crowd of kids is already waiting.

1.17 F1 These kids live on the streets and make their money begging and running small errands at the border between Kenya and Uganda, which runs through Busia Town. The movies don’t start until 11, but the kids show up early each week, even before the librarians.

For the Library Ninjas, the Busia Community Library (BCL) is the only safe public space they have. Some of the Ninjas attend school, despite living on the street, but for most of them the library is also the only place where they can access books. While waiting for the movie to begin, the kids read and use computers.

The Ninjas are not the only group to have found sanctuary in the library. Currently located in two small rooms in a government office building, the library hosts an average of 30 visitors on a typical day, from a broad spectrum of the community. The patrons come for a variety of reasons—from researching farming practices to checking email to accessing materials regarding government services or laws. One government official comes to the library every day during lunch to read books about human biology, out of personal interest.

During school vacations, the number of visitors leaps dramatically, sometimes exceeding capacity. On those days, library users check out their books and sit in the parking lot.

Continue reading The Story of Maria’s Libraries

All Hail the PUBLIC Library

The public library is a uniquely American creation. Now we have to fight to keep it public.

Reprinted courtesy of: On the Commons via

By: David Morris

“The word ‘public’ has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. 
Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times.” 
From the Media release on the rebranding of the Fort Worth Library.

1.3 f1Fort Worth, you leave me speechless. You’re certainly correct about one thing. The public library is indeed an institution that has not kept up with the times. But given what has happened to our times, why do you see that as unhealthy? In an age of greed and selfishness, the public library stands as an enduring monument to the values of cooperation and sharing. In an age where global corporations stride the earth, the public library remains firmly rooted in the local community. In an age of widespread cynicism and distrust of government, the 100 percent tax supported public library has virtually unanimous and enthusiastic support.

This is not the time to take the word “public” out of the public library. It is time to put it in capitals.

The public library is a singularly American invention. Europeans had subscription libraries for 100 years before the United States was born. But on a chilly day in April 1833 the good citizens of Peterborough, New Hampshire created a radical new concept—a truly PUBLIC library. All town residents, regardless of income, had the right to freely share the community’s stored knowledge. Their only obligation was to return the information on time and in good condition, allowing others to exercise that same right.

By the 1870s 11 states boasted 188 public libraries. By 1910 all states had them. Today 9,000 central buildings plus about 7500 branches have made public libraries one of the most ubiquitous of all American institutions, exceeding Starbucks and McDonalds.

Continue reading All Hail the PUBLIC Library

FDR’s 1932 Commonwealth Club Address

From American Rhetoric online

Delivered 23 Sept 1932, San Francisco, CA

“Every man has a right to life; and this means that he has also a right to make a comfortable living.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My friends:

I count it a privilege to be invited to address the Commonwealth Club. It has stood in the life of this city and state, and it is perhaps accurate to add, the nation, as a group of citizen leaders interested in fundamental problems of government, and chiefly concerned with achievement of progress in government through non-partisan means. The privilege of addressing you, therefore, in the heat of a political campaign, is great. I want to respond to your courtesy in terms consistent with your policy.

I want to speak not of politics but of government. I want to speak not of parties, but of universal principles. They are not political, except in that larger sense in which a great American once expressed a definition of politics, that nothing in all of human life is foreign to the science of politics…

The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government of economics, or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women. This question has persistently dominated the discussion of government for many generations. On questions relating to these things men have differed, and for time immemorial it is probable that honest men will continue to differ.

Continue reading FDR’s 1932 Commonwealth Club Address

The road to 15 in Seattle

Chris Mobley examines the details of Ed Murray’s $15 minimum wage plan for Seattle–and looks at the discussions among activists about what strategies to pursue.

Socialist  |  May 13, 2014

Seattle supporters of a $15 minimum wage on the march (

“SEATTLE WORKERS are getting a raise,” Mayor Ed Murray announced at a May 1 press conference held hours before marchers swarmed downtown Seattle streets to take part in the annual May Day march for immigrant and workers rights.

But a look at the fine print of the proposal negotiated by the mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee has low-wage workers and their supporters asking questions: Will we get $15? Which workers? All of us? How soon? Are there catches? And looming over them all: Is Murray’s plan a done deal? Or can Seattle business still find a way to torpedo it?

The labor and social movement activists who built the Fight for 15 struggle from the grassroots, including City Council member Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative, celebrated the announcement of a deal to achieve a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle as a vindication of many hard months of organizing that finally forced the political establishment to listen.

But Sawant and others grouped around the 15 Now campaign say Murray’s plan comes up short. It contains unnecessary concessions to business and loopholes that will leave some workers behind.

We can do better than the Murray plan–which is why 15 Now has filed the paperwork to get a stronger, faster and less conditional proposal for a $15 minimum wage on the November ballot.

But that initiative will face a difficult battle, in the face of hostility from business, the city’s Democratic Party establishment and sections of organized labor that are going along with the mayor–all of which raises pressing questions that labor activists and the left need to answer in the weeks to come.

Continue reading The road to 15 in Seattle

Privatization is the problem, not the solution

BY MARK TALIANO |   | MAY 16, 2014

Photo: flickr/401(K) 2012

Canadians are forever being informed, explicitly or implicitly, that the solution to the crisis of the day, or decade, is a freedom-sounding word called “privatization.” This, the free-marketeers tell us, will solve our problems.

The reality is invariably the opposite. “Privatization” — also known as bailed-out, highly subsidized corporatism — is in fact the problem, not the solution.

Furthermore, the crises being addressed are often manufactured for the express purpose of rolling out a parasitical regime of corporatization that profits from calamity, even as its “host,” the public, is fleeced.

Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein identifies the process as the “shock doctrine” and/or “disaster capitalism”; author, environmental activist and economist Winona LaDuke calls it “predator economics”; writers call it neoliberalism and corporate media pretends it doesn’t exist.

A tattered thread is woven into a seemingly endless series of crises, and it is the public sector, the commons, that is invariably being exploited.

Continue reading Privatization is the problem, not the solution