Category Archives: Economic justice

The Case Against Hillary: a Compendium of 175 Articles, 2005-2016

For those of you who want to immediately begin digging, please do proceed.

This compendium consists of 175 articles from 2005-2016 taken from independent news websites, blogs, and other sources and focuses on Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State (2009-2013) and as a Presidential Primary candidate in 2008 and 2016. Her Senate record (2001-2009), though also important, is barely covered, but you can search her Senate votes and sponsorships online. In addition, the twitter feed Defeat the DINOcrats includes some graphics about Clinton’s votes on major legislation.

Topics covered include the economy, trade, politics, foreign affairs, diversity, justice, ethics, the environment, health insurance, and others.

Many of the news and opinion sources for this compendium rely on reader contributions to bring us the kind of insightful and independent reporting and commentary that isn’t available in the mainstream corporate media, so please consider giving to them. These organizations include
Alternet
Truthdig
Truthout
Democracy Now!
Pro Publica
Foreign Policy in Focus
The Nation, and
OtherWords.

LINKS
Compendium: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/cpdm00000045
This page: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/00000045, http://wp.me/s1XWDT-00000045

My Letter to Bernie Sanders

I am posting a letter that I wrote to U.S. Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders in late October. Although I will likely vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election, I would like to see Sanders win the Democratic Primary. Having Stein and Sanders together on a nationally televised debate stage would be a breakthrough that would elevate policy discourse from political expediency to undaunted progressivism.

In the letter that follows, “CORE” is an acronym for Congress of Racial Equality, an organization that Sanders led to oppose racial segregation in off-campus housing owned by the University of Chicago.

Dear Senator Sanders:

After weeks of procrastination, I am finally getting around to sending you a letter and a check for $100. America cannot afford eight more years of compassionate conservatism, which is what we’ve been getting since 1981. Nor can we afford continuation of the endless wars in Afghanistan and Syria, which remind me of the endless war of Orwell’s 1984.

Hillary Clinton has suddenly become more outspoken on gun control, and I’m glad that she is doing so. However, I believe that your positions on firearms are constituent-driven rather than corporate-driven.

Clinton also is popular among African-Americans, although articles that I’ve read describe your courageous activism for civil rights. If you can dig out more evidence of this, like the photo on your website of your leading a CORE meeting, I believe that you can use these materials to help you tell your story of activism.

Most importantly, however, addressing the current economic plight of African-Americans could help you diversify your support. Portraying your activist experience and your commitment to prosperity for all in a television ad might be an effective way to reach African-Americans.

Finally, I would like to see you personalize the issues that you talk about, using stories that supporters have written to you, some of which I’ve seen in your e-mails.

What the Muck?

I started this blog nearly four years ago intending to post my own original commentary, but I saw a comment on the website of NPR/WNYC’s On the Media that I could not leave buried in obscurity.

The comment criticizes the media’s lack of coverage of the plight of the lowest-wage workers in the U.S., in light of “On the Media” host Bob Garfield’s discussion on how a New York Times story about hazardous working conditions in nail salons became widely read. The commenter’s initialism “USCFM” apparently stands for U.S. Corporate-Funded Media, but I cannot decipher “ICBW”.

Garfield compares the NYT’s work on manicurists to the great muckrakers of the fin-de-si├Ęcle-beore-last, missing a *major* difference. Persons like Tarbell[1] and Sinclair[2] publicly declared their intent to fundamentally change their society and their pain when their work produced only token reforms: Sinclair famously despaired that (in The Jungle) he had aimed at his nation’s heart but merely hit it in the gut. ICBW, but I strongly suspect that the Times (and WNYC, and the rest of the US corporate-funded media) aims no higher than the nation’s toenails.

The “buried lead” (of which the NYC manicurists’ story is but a nail-clipping) is that mass migration to the US–especially illegal immigration–is driving down wages and working conditions (and increasingly living conditions) while driving up rents and housing costs, especially at the bottom of US labor and housing markets. (Mass emigration also drains energy, skills, and political oppositions from the source nations, but the discourse of “brain drain” appears to be banned from today’s USCFM.) ICBW, but I strongly suspect the NYT et al are going nowhere near that engine of inequality: it’s just too profitable for their 1% advertisers and funders. Instead of attacks on the *economics* of importing a new underclass–and especially on the bosses and landlords who profit most–the USCFM will deliver only xenophobic attacks on immigrants (but not those who exploit them) from the likes of Fox News and the Murdoch[3] press, and defenses of immigrants (but not the native-born underclass) by its more socially-liberal organs.

In 1906, President Roosevelt told the muckrakers to “know when to stop raking the muck”[4]. With increasingly few exceptions (like Seymour Hersh[5]–thanks for doing that, OTM!), the USCFM of 2015 don’t need to be told: they know to stop long before its stench afflicts the comfortable.

[1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Tarbell
[2]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair
[3]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch
[4]: en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Man_with_the_Muck_Rake
[5]: onthemedia.org/story/podcast-extra-seymour-hersh

Ten Years and Ten Months Overdue

I just sent a letter (PDF) to Representative Peter Gallego (D-TX23) and to Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, about hiring and employment abuses that have bothered me for a long time.

Some of the abuses that I address include the following.

  • Requiring employees to wear clothing or shoes of a particular color and pay for these items out of their own pockets
  • Deletion of overtime hours or refusal to pay overtime earnings
  • Hourly employees’ being forced to work on our national holidays
  • Lack of transparency in the workplace and in hiring
  • Incomplete job advertisements
  • Putting applicants’ confidential data at risk
  • Employers’ invasions of applicants’ privacy
  • Excessive use of background checks

I also urge the Congressman and the Senator to consider a $15 per hour minimum wage, as demanded by the striking fast-food and retail workers. President Obama’s proposal of $10.10 is 10 years and 10 months too late.

More banking reform, please?

I just mailed letters to Senator Tim Johnson (D), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee*, and my representative, Peter Gallego (D-TX), calling for proportional banking fees and government-administered credit reporting. In my letter, specifically, I suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau collect consumer credit data and provide free credit reports.

* Full name: U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

The Real Wal-mart Ad

A new Wal-mart television ad attempts to paint a rosy picture of working conditions in the company, but none of the employees featured in the ad appear to be full-time, non-supervisory, hourly associates. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the median hourly wage at Wal-mart is about $8.80.

Anyone earning $8.80 per hour probably could not afford the gym membership that the logistics lady enjoys and likely would be on the receiving end of her charitable giving. And I’d bet that the coffee shop lady’s 401(k) retirement plan wouldn’t amount to much if she were paid $8.80 per hour. These apparently white-collar employees, along with the pharmacist lady, are more able to afford health insurance than the hourly employees are.

The playground lady works part-time at Wal-mart probably to supplement her income from a full-time job, from two other part-time jobs, or from a spouse. The well-dressed-lady in the ad claims that 400 Wal-mart employees are promoted everyday, but that number could be attributed to the company’s size or to turnover among managers. Based on what I’ve observed in my retail experience, employee advancement at Wal-mart is not extraordinary because promotion-from-within seems to be common in the industry.

In my experience, furthermore, I have worked with several managers who are women. However, both of the Wal-mart employees in the ad who identified themselves as managers are men, which doesn’t surprise me because of the recent class-action lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against women in promotions.

By avoiding the most outrageous injustice at the company, the low wages of its full-time hourly associates, the Wal-mart television ad fails to improve the company’s reputation. For more information, visit the UFCW’s “Making Change” website, or see “The High Cost of Low Price”, a documentary film by Robert Greenwald.

The Digital Divide–from the Other Side

Much of the discussion about the “digital divide,” the disparity in internet access between the rich and the poor, is framed in terms of availability of a high-speed connection through DSL or cable. However, internet access depends on hardware and software as much as it does on connection speed.

DSL and cable are not the only ways to connect to the internet. Unless you are planning to exchange large music and video files online, dialup works fine for the individual user. Dialup is more efficient than it has ever been, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s available to anyone who has a telephone line.

Your hardware and software affect your access to the internet as much as connection speed does. As new versions of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Adobe Flash are implemented, new versions of web browsers are needed to render the websites that use these technologies. Unless you upgrade or replace your computer often, the latest version of your favorite web browser may not be available for your hardware or operating system.

I recently had to retire my turquiose-blue G3 iMac simply because I could no longer use the internet with it. Otherwise, it is an excellent machine loaded with useful software. I could afford a newer machine, a laptop, only because of the $600 tax rebate that I received in 2008. When I no longer can use the laptop on the internet, will I be able to afford a replacement?

Your ability to pay for a state-of-the-art computer determines your access to the internet as much as your connection speed does. Used computers and inexpensive tablets are available, but for how long will they be usable?