Category Archives: Socialists

The de Blasio balance sheet

Danny Katch looks at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first six months, in an article written for Truthout.  Mirrored from Socialist Worker.

July 31, 2014

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Mayor DeBlasio visiting a public high school

WHEN BILL de Blasio was elected mayor of New York City last November, speculation began about whether his victory would lead to a resurgence of genuine liberalism within the Democratic Party or whether de Blasio would be unable–and perhaps unwilling–to make a sharp break with the business-first policies of his billionaire predecessor Michael Bloomberg.

Call it the Obama question. In 2008, Barack Obama was entrusted with the dreams of a generation. Six years of bank bailouts and drone bombings later, the sound of those dreams shattering on the pavement still echoes wherever a politician attempts to renew hopes about peace and equality.

De Blasio came out swinging at the beginning of his term, grabbing headlines with proposals that ranged from major (raising taxes on the rich) to minor (adding more affordable housing to a Brooklyn real estate deal.) Now that de Blasio has been in office for half a year, however, it is becoming apparent that his overall strategy is to pursue progressive policies to reduce inequality without provoking conflict with the city’s rich and powerful who benefit from that inequality. If this contradictory strategy sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same one used by the current occupant of the White House, with disappointing results.

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Setting the Bar Low

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SHOCKING STATISTICS OF BLACK YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Capitalism’s Criminal Neglect

Published On March 15, 2014 | By Albert L. Terry, III | Socialist Alternative

Mobile, Alabama

A report released recently by the Chicago Urban League has shed a new and blinding light on the failures of capitalism to provide for working people, particularly those of color. The report revealed that the unemployment rate of black male teenagers in the city of Chicago is at an astounding 92%. This means that only about one in thirteen black males aged sixteen to nineteen hold some form of legal employment, even if it’s employment with few hours and low pay.

Black-unemployment
Source: BLS Labor Force Statistics, Current Population Survey, Unadjusted, http://bls.gov/data/#

An equally appalling released in this study highlights the similarly dire situation for this demographic nationwide, with 83% of black males aged sixteen to nineteen being unemployed. Indeed, there are fewer jobs for these teenagers to fill as more and more adults with families, often with four-year college degrees, seek out “teenager jobs” in food service, retail, and hospitality due to the lack of jobs in their own traditional fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 that the number of college graduates working minimum-wage jobs in 2012 was 71% more than in 2002, and more than twice as many as had been in 2006, before the Great Recession.

Shortly after the release of the report, a Fox News affiliate in Chicago interviewed an eighteen-year-old black male that happened to have two jobs, asking him his thoughts on the situation. It was noted that these two jobs combined earned the young man less than $1,000 in the previous year.

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A TALE OF TWO PAYCHECKS

July 4, 2014, by Elizabeth Schulte, from Socialist Worker

Their checks had the same company name at the top, but that’s about the only thing that Pam Davis and Rob Walton ever had in common. Elizabeth Schulte explains.

Tale-of-two-paychecks-Rob-and-Pam“I MADE $10.45 an hour as an overnight stocker, because of the night differential. I wasn’t making enough money, so I took on another job. The day job wanted me to work 34 hours, so I had two part-time jobs that I wasn’t making hardly any money from. I was never able to pay for my own living space, and I didn’t have my own car.”

For Pam Davis, a grandmother of three, Walmart meant never being able to catch up, always worrying about the next expense.

For Rob Walton, the eldest of the five heirs to the family fortune and current chair of the company, Walmart means never having a care in his life.

With an estimated net worth of $34.2 billion, S. Robson Walton has a getaway for all kinds of weather–one in Aspen, Colo., another in a place called Paradise Valley, Ariz. He’s also a vintage sports car enthusiast–and so enthusiastic that he owns at least half a dozen cars, including, reportedly, a custom gold Ferrari.

In 2012, Walton took a careless turn on the track in his Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe–one of only five ever made–and wrecked the $15 million car. The cost of repairs was a couple million dollars–an amount that, as Raymond Bravo of OUR Walmart pointed out, “would take 194 years for a Walmart employee working around the clock to earn.”

Davis, a former Walmart worker in Richmond, Calif., and also an activist with Organization United for Respect (OUR) Walmart, worked hard for her small paycheck. Walton, on the other hand, got his money the old-fashioned way: His daddy gave it to him.

Rob’s father, Walmart founder Sam Walton, built his empire on the basis of driving wages down and keeping unions out. And Rob, who took over as chair of the company when his father died, keeps things running the way his daddy did–by squeezing Walmart employees. With its “associates” earning an average wage of $8.81 an hour, Walmart’s motto “Everyday Low Prices” really should be “Low Wages, Every Day.”

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ENDORSEMENT OF CUOMO DIVIDES WORKING FAMILIES PARTY

Published On June 30, 2014 | By Pete Ikeler | Socialist Alternative

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“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…?”

Little other than shame can be directed at the leaders of New York’s “Working Families Party”(WFP) for their decision to support Andrew Cuomo – again. Four years ago they gave him their ballot line under acute pressure from Democrats and union officials (who financially back the organization). Since being elected Governor his “gifts” have been public sector take-backs, reduced taxes on the wealthy, denying cities the right to set minimum wages, and an expansion of charter schools. As one of the nation’s most prominent Democratic “centrists” with presidential ambitions, Cuomo’s biggest backers are also Wall Street banks, which have “help[ed] him build a campaign treasury in excess of $30 million” (Washington Post, 6/5/14).

At the same time, 41% of delegates at the recent Working Families Party convention voted against Cuomo and for Zephyr Teachout, a liberal professor who opposes Cuomo’s subservience to Wall Street. She has now declared she will challenge the governor in the Democratic primary. The developments in the WFP reflect the broader shift to the left that has led to many developments. These include the election of an open socialist, Kshama Sawant, to the Seattle City Council and the emergence of a clearer left-populist wing of the Democrats including prominent figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, the recently elected mayor of New York City.

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Breaking out of the two-party (ballot) box

June 24, 2014  –  Jen Roesch examines recent breakthroughs and advances for the left in electoral politics and what they mean for the future, in an article for Jacobin.

elephant donkey logos fusedNEARLY SIX years into Obama’s neoliberal presidency, there are growing signs of discontent within the Democrats’ traditional voting base. While both of Obama’s electoral wins can be attributed to the turnout of young, female, Black, Latino/a and working-class voters, these are precisely the groups that have most suffered from the economic crisis and his administration’s commitment to austerity. This is part of the reason why, for the first time since 2000, there is a space opening up in mainstream politics to the left of the Democratic Party.

In Seattle, socialist Kshama Sawant’s campaign for City Council was able to gain support from constituencies, including some unions, that would normally support the Democrats. In Lorain County, Ohio, union activists angered by their local Democratic mayor and City Council broke ranks and ran their own independent slate of two dozen labor candidates–nearly all of whom won. This represents a flexing of labor muscle in the face of Democratic betrayal, rather than a firm break, but it points to the potential working-class audience for an independent political alternative.

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THE LIMITS OF “OBAMACARE”

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.

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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 Worker.org  |  May 13, 2014

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Seattle supporters of a $15 minimum wage on the march (15Now.org)

“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.

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OBAMA, THE DEPORTER-IN-CHIEF

deportationNation

Published On April 10, 2014 | By Teddy Shibabaw, Socialist Alternative

2010-05-20-immigchart5602Obama is setting the record for the most deportations of any president in U.S. history. This is a legacy even more brutal than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who deported over two million immigrants (MotherJones.com, 4/4/2014).

Spending on immigration enforcement has outstripped all other aspects of federal law enforcement – $17.9 billion in fiscal year 2012 compared to $14.4 billion of combined spending for the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Economist.com 2/8/2014).
Private Prison Profits

A big part of the spending goes to private companies profiteering off the misery of undocumented immigrants. For-profit prison operators hold “almost two-thirds of all immigrants detained each day in federally funded prisons as they face deportation” (Bloomberg.com, 9/23/2013).

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OBAMACARE: WE DESERVE BETTER – FIGHT FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

Obamacare

Published On November 27, 2013 | By Marty Harrison, Socialist Alternative

A smooth rollout of the federal on-line health exchange, a key element of Obama’s signature legislative victory, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), had the potential to be a much needed triumph for the President. Instead, problems with the website snowballed into the “debacle” described by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in her testimony before an irate Congress.

2.8 million people visited the website in its first 8 hours on-line, but according to Republican estimates, fewer than 250 people were able to sign up for a plan. That 55 contractors were unable to complete the project linking consumers, health insurers, government agencies and private NGO’s securely and on budget by the October 1 deadline was no surprise to Computer World magazine which declared, “Healthcare.gov didn’t have a chance in hell.” (10/21/2013)

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A NEW REVOLT IS COMING!

US-of-inequality-1

Published On April 22, 2014 | By Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative

slow-employment-recoveryWorking people in the US are fed up. After six years of mass unemployment and collossal cuts in education and social programs, we are told a “recovery” is under way. But the truth is that over 90% of the new wealth created has ended up in the pockets of the richest 1%. Profits are at record levels. Meanwhile, the majority of new jobs created are in the low-wage sector. Worldwide, an economic slowdown is underway in China, and the European markets continue to falter in crisis. A new financial reckoning and even full-scale depression is possible. Even during the current “recovery”, there is no feeling of lasting stability or substantial growth.

Working People want a Bigger Share

It is no wonder then that working people are beginning to demand a larger share of the wealth created in the recovery. “Raise the Wage” groups are gathering steam throughout the country, and 15 Now in Seattle and nationally stands as a shining example of determined struggle for low-wage workers. There is a mass discussion in US society taking place on the subject of economic inequality.

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