Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Furlough of Congressional Pay Next Shutdown

153 US House members and 50 US Senators are millionaires

Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks at a rally on October 1, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks at a rally on October 1, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

 

US Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for congressional salaries to be put on hold during the next government shutdown.

The US government went into a partial shutdown at midnight on Friday after President Trump refused to sign a spending bill that did not include $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He had long claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall.

“It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

“Have some integrity,” she added, calling for salaries to be furloughed for the next shutdown.

Members of the House and the Senate are paid $174,000 a year. According to Roll Call, 153 House members and 50 senators are millionaires.

More than 420,000 federal workers who are considered “essential” will continue working — but without pay, according to CBS News. Those employees may eventually receive back pay. However, an additional 380,000 workers will be furloughed and may miss a paycheck depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

Ocasio-Cortez, who will join Congress in early January  as the new representative for New York’s 14th District, has been a vocal critic of the demand for $5 billion for a border wall. When the House passed a short-term spending bill with $5.7 billion for border security, Ocasio-Cortez challenged the GOP trope that the federal government simply doesn’t have the money to implement bold progressive policies such as Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.

“And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But notice how no one’s asking the GOP how they’re paying for it.”

On Friday, she outlined another way the $5.7 billion could be spent instead of Trump’s proposed wall.  “For the wall’s $5.7 billion, every child in America could have access to Universal Pre-K. Yet when we propose the SAME $, we’re told Universal Edu is a ‘fantasy’ & asked ‘how are you going to pay for it.’ Education is investment in society that yields returns,” she tweeted. “Walls are waste.”

 

FRENCH POLICE TO STAGE “BLUE VEST” PROTEST DEMANDING BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS

Police officers across France will take to streets but will not perform their duties except for responding to emergency calls.

Source: Euronews

December 18, 2018 (mod.media)

In France, police plan to protest, following the “yellow vest” movement. On December 19, they will take to streets across France to stage protests “Act 1”, using the same naming convention given by the “yellow vests” movement, according to Euronews.

Police unions earlier complained about working conditions. The recent protests encouraged them to act. Policemen say  they are exhausted, overworked and underpaid after five weeks of confronting “yellow vests” protesters. Police want better compensation and working conditions.

“Police are not doing well and nobody is listening,” says Frederic Lagache, a member of the Alliance union.

Union leaders fear the situation may worsen and call on the Senate members to vote against cutting the police budget (€62 million) next week.

John Laurits Interview with Revolt Against Plutocracy’s Victor Tiffany

For readers who missed the Facebook live-stream, here is a video wherein I am interviewed by Victor Tiffany of Revolt Against Plutocracy, the group that organized 2016’s #BernieOrBust initiative, about my recent article “Journalism Is Never Objective.” In it, we unpack the ideology behind ‘journalistic objectivity’ and dig into how social class and other facets of identity influence and distort how we understand the world around us.

In solidarity, 
John Laurits

How Come So Many Bernie Bros Are Women and People of Color?

Despite data to the contrary, the media continues to distort Sanders’ politics and the diversity of his supporters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at “Workers’ Right=Civil Rights” rally in Canton, Mississippi on March 4, 2017. (Photo: Youtube/Screenshot)

 

recent CNN poll shows that among potential Democratic candidates in Iowa caucuses Senator Bernie Sanders has the highest approval rating from people of color. And the diversity of the Sanders-inspired left was on display at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington Vermont earlier this month, which I covered on my podcast, The Katie Halper Show.

But empirical evidence has not stopped much of the corporate press—including many “liberal” or “progressive” outlets and commentators—from condemning the senator as having “a race problem.”

Over the past week we saw Jonathan Martin of the New York Times (who happens to be white) claim that Sanders “has done little to broaden his political circle and has struggled to expand his appeal beyond his base of primarily white supporters.” Meanwhile, Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones (also white), recently presented not only Sanders’ supporters but the left movement in general as white. Linking to a written exchange between two Splinter journalists about Sanders, she tweeted, “In which white lefties have a debate that somehow does not discuss the fact that Bernie has no real purchase among the POC base of the Democratic party. And that problem has not improved for him, if anything it seems larger…”

Even those who openly mock the concerns of the white working class, undermine their own alleged commitment to marginalized voices when they ignore the diversity of Sanders’ supporters.

But despite evidence like the new CNN poll, in which Sanders had the highest approval among non-white voters, outlets reporting on the survey studiously avoided mentioning that key finding which undermines the media narrative about Sanders’ struggle to appeal to minority voters. While it’s only one poll, and his favorability among voters of color isn’t far ahead of Joe Biden’s, it’s newsworthy and significant precisely because it undermines the media narrative about Sanders’ alleged struggle to appeal to non-white voters. On social media people who happily call Sanders #FakeJews, and defend Hillary Clinton’s use of prison slave labor, continue to vilify Sanders as somehow “racist.”

Most politicians could “do better,” when it comes to addressing and speaking about racial inequities, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and classism. But the claim that Sanders is exceptionally problematic is absurd, given, for example, that Biden opposed integrated busing in the 1970’s; mistreated Anita Hill during the confirmation process of Clarence Thomas; called Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”; and said “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Sanders’ critics smear him as blinded by straight, white, male privilege. The mere mention of class gets Sanders and others condemned as class reductionists. The irony is that many of the most vocal critics attacking him for being insufficiently intersectional fail to address class altogether as an aspect of identity.

It’s cruel, immoral and politically disastrous to dismiss the experience of working class people of all colors and backgrounds. But even those who openly mock the concerns of the white working class, undermine their own alleged commitment to marginalized voices when they ignore the diversity of Sanders’ supporters. By ignoring the people of all ages, backgrounds, genders, sexuality, and ethnicity who support Sanders, they engage in the very erasure and marginalization of the women, people of color, LGBTQ people (and all the intersections thereof) that they claim to oppose.

The real story is very different, as I found at the Sanders Institute Gathering. Organized by Jane Sanders and David Driscoll, the 3-day event was more about the movement that Sanders helped spark than it was about the man. Though Sanders delivered the keynote and participated in several panels, the gathering focused on issues, bringing together leaders, thinkers, organizers and activists. Participants included physician and public health activist Abdul El-Sayed; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz; actor and activist Danny Glover; executive director of Good Jobs Nation, Joseph Geevarghese; Our Revolution director, Nina Turner; Presente.org’s executive director Matt Nelson; and many others. Over the weekend, the panels and roundtables addressed healthcare, climate change, criminal “injustice,” civil rights, immigration, Puerto Rico, the housing crisis, the international progressive movement, and other issues with attention to class, race, and gender.

The following are excerpts from my interviews, which you can hear in full here and here:

Bernie Sanders: Bringing people together

The first person I ran into at the gathering was, believe it or not, Bernie Sanders himself. I told the senator, “One of the things that’s really frustrating to progressives who support you is this narrative about your not being a feminist or not being anti-racist.” Then I asked, “How can we push back on that, given how much the corporate media seems to be interested in that narrative?”

“What we are fighting for is to bring people together—Black and White and Latino, Native American and Asian American—around an agenda that speaks to the needs of ordinary Americans and not just the one percent.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
To which he replied:

What we are fighting for is to bring people together—Black and White and Latino, Native American and Asian American—around an agenda that speaks to the needs of ordinary Americans and not just the one percent. We want Medicare for All, we want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, we don’t want our kids to be living in a planet ravaged by climate change. So we are making progress. We expect opposition to continue. And we’re gonna do the best in this fight that we can.

When you look at corporate media, you’re looking at media owned by large, often international corporate conglomerates, which are owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country or in the world. They will do anything and everything they can do to protect their own interest and they will say anything about anybody that they want.

During a panel discussion later that day, he went spoke further about the dangers of divide-and-conquer strategies deployed by the enemies of equality:

When people are pushed aside, when people are hurting, you have demagogues who step in and say “Our problem is that Mexican who is picking strawberries.” So you take that anger and frustration and pain that people are feeling and you turn them against people who are in worse shape than [they] are. And our job is to bring people together and say, “No. It is not some Mexican who is picking strawberries who is our enemy. It is Wall Street, it is the fossil fuel industries, it is the drug companies, it’s the insurance companies.” Let’s stand together and take those people on.

Mayor Michael Tubbs: We absolutely have to be intersectional

I also interviewed Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, who—as he put it during a panel at the Gathering in Burlington—grew up a “poor black child on the south side of Stockton with an incarcerated father and a mother who had me at sixteen as a teenager. The things we fight for like affordable healthcare, affordable childcare, entitlement programs like WIC and Head Start all paved the way for me to be here today.”

After the round table he spoke to me about how Sanders’ 2016 run pushed him to embrace bolder more progressive ideas:

Senator Sanders came and spoke in Stockton in a presidential campaign, which was unheard of—someone running for president to come to Stockton. And I was able to introduce him. And I was also impressed with the number of people who were at that rally in the middle of the day like five- or six-thousand people. And Stockton’s not a super rabid political town and I was like, “Wow, this message is resonating.” And I think that gave me the confidence to be a little more bold in my policy prescriptions or pilot programs that we’re doing in the city because I saw the hunger and the want for a government that is actually responsive and works for regular everyday people.

The mayor sees such bold progressive policies as crucial to defeating the equally bold but opposingly reactionary policies of Trumpism. There is “no middle ground,” Tubbs said, when you’re battling fascism. “Some of Trump’s supporters wanted to see—and I don’t think that discounts racial resentment—something bold, shocking, say something that’s different, that’s not vanilla.”

“We absolutely have to be intersectional in how we think about things. It’s not just one thing, we have to be intersectional in our policies and programs.”
—Mayor Michael Tubbs

The president’s rhetoric and policies are xenophobic, Tubbs continued, and his solutions are bad. “But some of the problems he articulated with trade deals and the way they impact regular people are clear problems that we have to address,” he said. “So I think it’s about how do we give people something bold that relates to their everyday life that says [to them]: ‘I am seen. I am heard. This leader cares about what I’m dealing with.'”

Tubbs sees intersectionality and multiracial organizing as challenging but crucial.

“Historically since Bacon’s Rebellion,” Tubbs explained, “poor white folks have voted against their best interest and I don’t think we’ve done enough work to actually show people why is it in your best interest to cast your lot with these folks that don’t look like you. We absolutely have to be intersectional in how we think about things. It’s not just one thing, we have to be intersectional in our policies and programs.”

Mayor Gus Newport: Neoliberals are single-issue people

Right before speaking to the mayor of Stockton, I interviewed the former mayor of another California city. Eighty-three year old Eugene “Gus” Newport worked with Malcolm X, is the great grandson of a slave and was the mayor of Berkeley from 1979-1986. He and Sanders were mayors at the same time and Newport had stumped for Bernie earlier during Sanders’ unsuccessful runs for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976.

Newport recalls that as the two campaigned in Burlington, a reporter asked Sanders, “Why does a Jew from Brooklyn, who’s a Socialist, invite Gus Newport, a former black nationalist and a socialist from Berkeley to campaign for him in a state that is 97% white?” Bernie’s answer was short: “Because we’re gonna talk about the issues.” After that, Newport explained, the reporters had no more questions. “I’ve loved him ever since,” he said.

“Why does a Jew from Brooklyn, who’s a Socialist, invite Gus Newport, a former black nationalist and a socialist from Berkeley to campaign for him in a state that is 97% white?” Bernie’s answer was short: “Because we’re gonna talk about the issues.”

Sanders would later appoint Newport to the Democratic Unity Commission in 2017 in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump. “I found out more than I ever wanted to know about the Democratic National Committee than I ever wanted to know,” he said, but “nobody in the Democratic Party has ever spoken to all the issues in the depth that Bernie Sanders has.”

When I asked him what he thought about the claim, often perpetuated by the media, that socialism is a white project, Newport responded:

The media—look who they work for, that’s corporate America. You must remember Malcolm X was a socialist and Martin Luther kIng was moving towards socialism when he talked about the war against Vietnam. But a lot of Black leaders didn’t go along. We’ve got to educate our own to become an integral part of this. And we’re gonna do it. Danny Glover and I, we’ve gone down to Mississippi and South Carolina with Bernie. And the minute it appears that Bernie’s going out there [to run in the 2020 primary], we’re gonna go organize. I’m gonna be ready to campaign 9 to 10 months out of the year. I’m going to rehab now for this bad knee but as soon as I can—I’ll do a lot of walking.

While some smear Sanders for being a “single issue” candidate, Newport believes it’s the centrist “neoliberal” Democrats who deserve that label. “They are a single issue people,” he declared. “They do not work around other issues [like class or poverty]. They’re usually not a part of the working class. We’re looking for real people.”

Newport was thrilled that the Gathering—for which “Jane Sanders needs to be given all the credit in the world”—provided participants with “a challenge to pull ourselves together and make sure there’s a worthwhile future for the next generation.”

Though people often consider the intersection of race, gender and sexuality—class and age are often excluded. A popular narrative which pits people of different ages against each other is that of the spoiled, entitled and lazy millennial. Newport has sympathy, empathy and righteous outrage for the bleak economic reality that millennials face.

As he said at the Democratic Unity Commission, it is time to get “past our own egos and look at the issues.” He added, “Too many of us who get into body politic eventually just focus on ourselves. We got retirement for life, we got healthcare for life. But what about the people? You gotta think of the reality: the millennials have had enough. Many of them know they won’t be able to buy a house in their life times. They gotta pay student loans. So I’m proud. But we have a lot more work to do.”

Naomi Klein: connecting the dots between all issues

In some ways climate change affects us all, as writer and journalist Naomi Klein told me: “Climate change impacts everything because we’re all inside the climate so there’s no prying anything apart from it.”

“[The left has to] deepen its analysis of what racial capitalism means. Too often race is an add-on. Too often gender is an add-on. And we have to take that on board and do a better job.”
—Naomi Klein
In some ways, climate disasters don’t discriminate: “As anyone who’s lived through a hurricane knows, no matter how rich you are or how powerful you are those winds are absolutely terrifying; no matter how rich you are or how powerful you are if the flames are coming towards your house in Malibu, you’re not safe.” But, Klein added class perspectives to her analysis. “Climate change doesn’t affect all of us equally.” She explained:

It’s tricky. [Climate change] isn’t a leveler. In the short term what it does is exacerbate pre-existing inequalities. It’s already here for people who are very precarious and who have no protections. And it is true that wealth can buy you protection for a couple of generations. And in the meantime there are enormous profit potentials. It’s not very comforting that there’s such a keen interest in Mars. Because that really does start to feel like a Plan B. Not that it’s a realistic one.

Ultimately this is a system that will collapse on everyone’s head… eventually. But in the short term there are definitely rooms that are going to collapse first.

I’m not making the argument that it has to be the issue to trump all other issues. I think we need to have an analysis that is all about connecting the dots between all of these issues.

Klein pointed to the distinctions among Democrats that the Sanders campaign exposed. There were liberal centrists who were liberal centrists “because they honestly didn’t believe that more progressive, more redistributive policies were popular or possible. But when they saw that they might be, they got on board.” And then there were liberal centrists who didn’t shift to the left because, it turned out, they “just opposed those ideas.”

“We’ve all have our eyes opened by that,” Klein said. “And then you realize, we’re not all on the same side.”

Roseann DeMoro: The duplicitous Bernie Bro smear

Former executive director of National Nurses United and of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, Roseann DeMoro does not mince words when describing the dishonesty of the latter group.

“I was just talking to Susan Sarandon,” she explains. “We were all accused of being Bernie Bros. It’s to delegitimize us. It’s a lie. It’s a duplicitous, ugly, malicious, horrendous, calculated lie. It’s a calculated lie by the DNC. It’s a PR campaign masquerading as politics.”

I agreed that many of the people who spread the Bernie Bro smear are, indeed, disingenuous and malicious. Others, however, are more misinformed by the coordinated propaganda campaign which portrays Sanders as “bad on race and gender” whose supporters are a monolith of white men or people who want to curry their favor.

DeMoro objected to prioritizing identity over policy and profits over people. “People are suffering across the spectrum,” she said. “They can’t take care of their families or of themselves. Their personal dignity is going down the drain. Ultimately, what we were supposed to do was to buy into a neoliberal paradigm to elect a neoliberal woman who didn’t share our values because she was a woman. Well, Margaret Thatcher was a woman.”

Of course, as DeMoro and I agreed, one of the differences between Clinton and Thatcher is that neither Thatcher, nor her fans, ever claimed the Iron Lady was a feminist.

An ardent supporter for Sanders to run again in 2020, DeMoro is prepared for more of the smears which started in 2016 and never really went away. “They’re gonna throw everything at us, when it comes to Bernie, and we’re gonna be like Wonder Woman and bounce ’em right back. So put on your bracelets.”

Maria Svart: You can’t understand class without understanding gender and race and vice versa

I also interviewed Maria Svart, the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), for The Real News Network and my podcast. She also criticized the Bernie Bro narrative.

“Look at Bernie Sanders,” Svart said, “the most popular politician in the country. And yet people that support Bernie are called Bernie Bros. You look at DSA. I am a Latina. I’m leading the organization. And there are many women of color in leadership, and yet we are characterized as a bunch of Bernie Bros.”

Svartz went on to describe her own intersectional identity:

“You look at DSA. I am a Latina. I’m leading the organization. And there are many women of color in leadership, and yet we are characterized as a bunch of Bernie Bros.”
—Maria Svart, Democratic Socialists of America

You can’t understand class without understanding gender, and race—and vice versa. How can you possibly understand, for example, the life experience of my grandmother, who was an undocumented Mexican immigrant, without understanding the much bigger picture, the whole systems of our society, whether it’s white supremacy or xenophobia or capitalism? They all intersect. And we need to talk about the complexity of that reality all the time, and we have to push back against lean-in feminism, mainstream feminism, all the time.

Whether or not Sanders decides to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination (and in case you can’t tell, I hope that he does), the movement he sparked is deepening its understanding and analyses of the intersectionality for the electoral and organizing work ahead in 2020 and beyond.

According to Klein, the left has to “deepen its analysis of what racial capitalism means. Too often race is an add-on. Too often gender is an add-on. And we have to take that on board and do a better job.”

No matter what the landscape looks like in 2020, Klein continued, “we have to spend 2019 building as broad a coalition as possible, understanding as deeply as we possibly can that all these issues are so profoundly intertwined. To me what’s clear is that if we fail, it is not because our ideas are unpopular. It is because we failed as organizers.”

 

Depressed and Then Diagnosed With Autism, Greta Thunberg Explains Why Hope Cannot Save Planet But Bold Climate Action Still Can

“We do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden realized at a young age the enormous gap between what climate experts were warning and the actions society was taking. The difference was so drastic in her opinion that she decided to take matters into her own hands. (Photo: Youtube/Screenshot/TEDxStockholm)

 

As youth climate campaigners in the U.S. city of Brooklyn on Wednesday plan to continue a climate strike at least partly inspired by the ongoing vigil begun by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden earlier this year, a new TEDx Talk released this week reveals that what inspired the Swedish teenager to take action was as simple as it was profound: she fell into sadness as she saw the leaders of the world—even those who admitted human-caused global warming was an “existential crisis”—continue to act and make policy decisions as though no emergency existed.

“I think in many ways we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange—especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis.” —Greta ThunbergEveryone keeps saying, Thunberg declares in the 11-minute talk, that climate “is the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on as before. I don’t understand that. Because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.”

As a key part of the talk, Thunberg describes how at the age of eleven, several years after learning about the concept of climate change for the first time, she fell into a depression and became ill. “I stopped talking. I stopped eating,” she explains. “In two months, I lost about ten kilos of weight. Later on I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism—that basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary.”

After a short pause, she adds, “Now is one of those moments.”

Watch the full talk:

“For those of us on the spectrum,” Thunberg explains to the audience, “almost everything is black or white. We aren’t very good at lying and we usually don’t enjoy participating in the social game as the rest of you seem so fond of. I think in many ways we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange—especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis.”

Towards the conclusion of her talk, Thunberg says that “this is when people usually start talking about hope—solar panels, wind power, circular economy, and so on—but I’m not going to do that.”

And continues, “We’ve had thirty years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now—they haven’t.”

Finally, she says: “Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

 

Critics Say Bernie Sanders Is Too Old, Too White, and Too Socialist to Run for President in 2020. They’re Wrong.

By

BURLINGTON, VT - NOVEMBER 04: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gives a speech at a "Get Out The Vote" campaign event with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist on November 4, 2018 in Burlington, Vermont. Hallquist made history in August after winning the Democratic nomination, becoming the first openly transgender person nominated by a major party in a governor's race. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders gives a speech at a “get out the vote” campaign event with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist on Nov. 4, 2018 in Burlington, Vt.  Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

WHO WILL BE the Democratic nominee for president of the United States in 2020?

Will it be Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came second in 2016? A growing number of voices, both liberal and conservative, loudly disagree. “I think his moment is passing,” says Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. “Bernie Sanders is Shrinking,” declared a headline in the Weekly Standard (only a few weeks before the neocon magazine, ironically, closed down). “Democrats will soon decide that Bernie Sanders is an indulgence they cannot afford,” opined The Economist.

Yet the arguments that these diverse critics offer against another Sanders bid for the White House seem to be either overstated, irrelevant, or flat-out false. Consider five of the most common criticisms of the independent senator from Vermont:

He’s Behind in the Polls

It is Joe Biden, and not Bernie Sanders, who has been ahead in almost all of the opinion polls so far. A new survey out of Iowa finds the former vice president leading the field with 30 percent support from Democratic voters, followed by Sanders far behind at 13 percent, and rising star Beto O’Rourke, snapping at his heels with 11 percent.

Other polls have produced similar results. But not all of them. A new straw poll of progressives by Democracy for America, released on Tuesday, gave Sanders a 21-point lead over Biden.

But here’s the bigger question: Are the polls really relevant at this stage? The election is 23 months away, and none of the main runners and riders have formally announced that they’re even running yet.

For comparison, guess who came top in a CNN survey of potential Republican presidential candidates in December 2014, 23 months before the 2016 presidential election? It was Jeb Bush, at 24 percent, with a double-digit lead over his nearest rival, Chris Christie. Ted Cruz, who would end up coming in second in the 2016 GOP primaries, was eighth place with 4 percent. Donald Trump’s name didn’t even make the list.

He’s Too White

“Mr. Sanders fought Mrs. Clinton to a draw among white voters,” concluded an examination of the exit poll data by the Wall Street Journal in 2016. “The decisive edge for Mrs. Clinton: She won African-Americans by more than 50 percentage points.”

Hence the longstanding narrative that Sanders has a problem with black folks.

Except … that’s not quite true. A whole host of prominent African-American figures — including Keith EllisonCornel WestTa-Nehisi Coates, and Spike Lee, among others —  backed Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner and then-press secretary Symone Sanders were key surrogates of his.

In 2016, the Vermont senator’s problem was with older black voters — not black voters per se. In fact, according to polling by YouGov, Sanders “fought Clinton to a near draw with people of color between the ages of 18 and 44,” and according to polling by GenForward, “among African American young adults who indicated they voted in the primaries, a majority, 54 percent, said they voted for Bernie Sanders.”

Since 2016, Sanders has worked hard to make further inroads into African-American communities, helping to bolster the insurgent campaigns of up-and-coming black politicians, such as Florida’s Andrew Gillum. Last week, a CNN poll found that Sanders had a higher approval rating, at 58 percent, with nonwhite voters than any other major candidate. So, will this latest survey put an end to the black-voters-dislike-Bernie canard? I doubt it. As my colleague Briahna Gray has observed: “Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a black problem — he has a pundit problem.”

He’s Too Old

Come Election Day, November 2020, Sanders will be 79 years old, which would make him the oldest person to ever run for the White House.

Yet his likely Republican opponent, Trump, will be the previous record-holder. He was 70 in 2016 and will be 74 in 2020. Yes, the overweight sitting president, who eats junk fooddoesn’t exercise, and refuses to releasehis medical records.

In terms of the Democratic primaries, Sanders will be 79 in 2020, but Biden will be 77 and Elizabeth Warren will be 71. Oh, and did you know that Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and her top deputy Steny Hoyer are both older than the Vermont senator?

So why should his age be held against him?

He Isn’t a Democrat

So what? He may be an independent but he caucuses with Senate Democrats and is their chair of “outreach.” He won 13 million votes in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

Despite refusing to join the Democrats in the wake of the 2016 election, the party’s base still adores him. As of October 2018, he had a whopping 78 percent approval rating with Democratic voters.

He’s a Socialist

Again, so what? While it may indeed harm him in the presidential election, with a clear majority of Americans claiming that they wouldn’t vote for a “socialist,” it certainly won’t hurt him in the Democratic primaries. According to polling from Gallup, a majority of Democrats have a positive view of socialism — in fact, Democrats have “a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism.”

Even in the presidential election itself, I suspect Republicans would find it difficult to demonize Sanders with the S-word, having deployed it to try and smear the centrist Barack Obama for eight long years. Going beyond the label itself, Sanders’s left-wing policy agenda is hugely popular with the electorate — even with hardcore Republicans.

LET ME REPEAT, however, something I said in a recent column on Warren and 2020: I am not endorsing Bernie Sanders for president or saying that he is the perfect person to battle Trump. The Republicans will throw the kitchen sink at him, and the “socialist” attack line might get some traction with independents. Some of the candidates he backed in the midterms won historic victories, but plenty of others lost.

The junior senator from Vermont has also made his own series of gaffes and misjudgments, especially on race and identity issues, and needs to do much more to woo older black voters in the South. He has been far too reluctant to challenge the racism and bigotry of the Trump base and far too eager to blame the president’s 2016 victory on “economic anxiety.” On foreign policy, Sanders has moved further to the left since his clash with Clinton and is “quietly remaking the Democrats’ foreign policy in his own image,” but he still has a long way to go.

There is also a strong case for the Democratic candidate who takes on the racist and sexist Trump in two years to be a woman, a person of color, or both.

Nevertheless, the case for Sanders in 2020 is as strong as it was in 2016 — if not stronger. He now has much better name recognition, a standing army of loyal and experienced activists, an unrivaled social media presence, an authenticity that cannot be bought or taught, and a string of substantive policy wins under his belt, from big-name Democratic support for his “Medicare for All” bill to the Stop BEZOS Act to the historic Senate vote on Yemen last week.

Will he emerge victorious? In an age of Trump, predictions are a fool’s game. The Democratic primaries will feature more than a dozen talented, ambitious, and experienced presidential wannabes, from a bevy of senators and governors to a popular former vice president.

But ignore the opinion polls and the bogus arguments against him: whether you like him or not, Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner right now.

FIVE BARE-BREASTED WOMEN STAGE SILENT PROTEST IN PARIS

LOB’s thinks famous performance artist Déborah de Robertis may stand behind the protest staged in solidarity with “yellow vests”

The Marianne protest near Paris’s Champs-Elysées. Source: LP/Philippe de Poulpiquet

December 17, 2018 (moc.media)

On December 15, five silver-painted women wearing red low-neck hoodies marched down the Champs-Elysées and stopped in front of the police cordon, Le Parisien reports.

The activists portrayed Marianne, the symbol of the French Revolution and the embodiment of the national motto Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. LOB’s suggests it is Déborah de Robertis, known for her naked performances in cultural and public spaces, who stands behind the protest.

Watch Le Parisien’s video of the silent protest below

CUBAN ARTISTS PROTEST AGAINST NEW OPPRESSING DECREE ON ART

New federal Decree 349 criminalises independent cultural activity in Cuba. Artists are protesting, the government is arresting the most active protesters. The confrontation goes on

Cuban activists protesting against Decree 349. Source: Artforum

December 13, 2018 (mod.media)

The government of Cuba tries to soothe artists by revising the most the most heavily criticised parts of Decree 349. The Ministry of Culture has remained silent since president Miguel Díaz-Canel signed the decree in April, according to Artforum.

Artists and cultural figures continue to protest, while the authorities arrest them. A public outcry is growing on social media.

The authorities promise to apply the law in exceptional cases, like stopping racism or sexism. Most artists, however, do not believe them.

Last week, the government detained several activists, including Tania Bruguera, Amaury Pacheco, Michel Matos and Bienal de La Habana organisers Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, who planned a sit-in at the ministry of culture in Havana. Police prevented the protest by detaining most activists preventively. Also, several musicians who openly criticised the decree were detained.

In response to the government’s actions, artists and art institutions launched a petition, which was signed by 23 international art professionals and 139 supporters. Besides calls to repeal the law, the petition urges the government to stop oppressing Cuban citizens.

While cultural figures have to wait for the authorities to revise the law, others are prepared for further struggle. For example, Tania Bruguera, who was detained twice last week, pulled out of the Kochi Muziris Biennale to stand with Cuban colleagues.

International art organisations around the world have voiced their support for artists. They demand that the Cuban government give artistic freedom to Cuban citizens.

Protesters return to streets as Hungary’s Orban digs in

Date created : 

Peter Kohalmi, AFP | Protesters march in downtown Budapest on December 21 during a demonstration against what opponents have the dubbed a “slave law”. The law signed by the Hungarian president on Thursday hikes the amount of overtime employers can demand.

This Radical Plan to Fund the ‘Green New Deal’ Just Might Work

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is part of a group of Congress members pushing for a “Green New Deal.” (Charles Krupa / AP)

By Ellen Brown

December 16, 2018 (Truthdig.com)

With what author and activist Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. Her plan would give a House select committee “a mandate that connects the dots” between energy, transportation, housing, health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee and more. But even to critics on the left, it is merely political theater, because “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible.

That may be the case, but Ocasio-Cortez and the 22 representatives joining her in calling for a select committee also are proposing a novel way to fund the program, one that could actually work. The resolution says funding will come primarily from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”

A network of public banks could fund the Green New Deal in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt funded the original New Deal. At a time when the banks were bankrupt, he used the publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corp. as a public infrastructure bank. The Federal Reserve could also fund any program Congress wanted, if mandated to do so. Congress wrote the Federal Reserve Act and can amend it. Or the Treasury itself could do it, without the need to even change any laws. The Constitution authorizes Congress to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof,” and that power has been delegated to the Treasury. It could mint a few trillion-dollar platinum coins, put them in its bank account and start writing checks against them. What stops legislators from exercising those constitutional powers is simply that “everyone knows” Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation will result. But will it? Compelling historical precedent shows that this need not be the case.

Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has studied the hyperinflation question extensively. He writes that disasters such as Zimbabwe’s fiscal troubles were not due to the government printing money to stimulate the economy. Rather, “Every hyperinflation in history has been caused by foreign debt service collapsing the exchange rate. The problem almost always has resulted from wartime foreign currency strains, not domestic spending.”

As long as workers and materials are available and the money is added in a way that reaches consumers, adding money will create the demand necessary to prompt producers to create more supply. Supply and demand will rise together and prices will remain stable. The reverse is also true. If demand (money) is not increased, supply and gross domestic product (GDP) will not go up. New demand needs to precede new supply.

The Public Bank Option: The Precedent of Roosevelt’s New Deal

Infrastructure projects of the sort proposed in the Green New Deal are “self-funding,” generating resources and fees that can repay the loans. For these loans, advancing funds through a network of publicly owned banks would not require taxpayer money and could actually generate a profit for the government. That was how the original New Deal rebuilt the country in the 1930s at a time when the economy was desperately short of money.

The publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corp. (RFC) was a remarkable publicly owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. First instituted in 1932 by President Herbert Hoover, the RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times, until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose.

The Reconstruction Finance Corp. Act of 1932 provided the financial organization with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was borrowed, chiefly from the government itself. Bonds were sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public, although most were held by the Treasury. All in all, the RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

In this arrangement, the Treasury was therefore the lender, not the borrower. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The financial organization was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small-business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of $690,017,232 on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms and much more, and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

The Central Bank Option: How Japan Is Funding Abenomics with Quantitative Easing

The Federal Reserve is another Green New Deal funding option. The Fed showed what it can do with “quantitative easing” when it created the funds to buy $2.46 trillion in federal debt and $1.77 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, all without inflating consumer prices. The Fed could use the same tool to buy bonds earmarked for a Green New Deal, and because it returns its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs, the bonds would be nearly interest-free. If they were rolled over from year to year, the government, in effect, would be issuing new money.

This is not just theory. Japan is actually doing it, without creating even the modest 2 percent inflation the government is aiming for. “Abenomics,” the economic agenda of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, combines central bank quantitative easing with fiscal stimulus (large-scale increases in government spending). Since Abe came into power in 2012, Japan has seen steady economic growth, and its unemployment rate has fallen by nearly half, yet inflation remains very low, at 0.7 percent. Social Security-related expenses accounted for 55 percent of general expenditure in Japan’s 2018 federal budget, and a universal health care insurance system is maintained for all citizens. Nominal GDP is up 11 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2013, a much better record than during the prior two decades of Japanese stagnation, and the Nikkei stock market is at levels not seen since the early 1990s, driven by improved company earnings. Growth remains below targeted levels, but according to Financial Times, this is because fiscal stimulus has actually been too small. While spending with the left hand, the government has been taking the money back with the right, increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Abenomics has been declared a success even by the once-critical International Monetary Fund. After Abe crushed his opponents in 2017, Noah Smith wrote in Bloomberg, “Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has figured out a novel and interesting way to stay in power—govern pragmatically, focus on the economy and give people what they want.” Smith said everyone who wanted a job had one, small and midsize businesses were doing well; and the Bank of Japan’s unprecedented program of monetary easing had provided easy credit for corporate restructuring without generating inflation. Abe had also vowed to make both preschool and college free.

Not that all is idyllic in Japan. Forty percent of Japanese workers lack secure full-time employment and adequate pensions. But the point underscored here is that large-scale digital money-printing by the central bank to buy back the government’s debt, combined with fiscal stimulus by the government (spending on “what the people want”), has not inflated Japanese prices, the alleged concern preventing other countries from doing the same.

Abe’s novel economic program has done more than just stimulate growth. By selling its debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government, the Japanese government has, in effect, been canceling its debt. Until recently, it was doing this at the rate of a whopping $720 billion per year. According to fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article:

The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40%). BOJ holdings are part of the consolidated government balance sheet. So its holdings are in fact the accounting equivalent of a debt cancellation. If I buy back my own mortgage, I don’t have a mortgage.

If the Federal Reserve followed suit and bought 40 percent of the U.S. national debt, it would be holding $8 trillion in federal securities, three times its current holdings from its quantitative easing programs. Yet liquidating a full 40 percent of Japan’s government debt has not triggered price inflation.

Filling the Gap Between Wages, Debt and GDP

Rather than stepping up its bond-buying, the Federal Reserve is now bent on “quantitative tightening,” raising interest rates and reducing the money supply by selling its bonds into the market in anticipation of “full employment” driving up prices. “Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. But the economy has now hit that level and prices are not in the danger zone, despite nearly 10 years of “accommodative” monetary policy. In fact, the economy is not near true full employment nor full productive capacity, with GDP remaining well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10 percent below the 2006 forecast of the Congressional Budget Office, and it shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

In 2017, U.S. GDP was $19.4 trillion. Assuming that sum is 10 percent below full productive capacity, the money circulating in the economy needs to be increased by another $2 trillion to create the demand to bring it up to full capacity. That means $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. New supply would just be generated to meet the new demand, bringing GDP to full capacity while keeping prices stable.

This annual injection of new money can not only be done without creating price inflation, it actually needs to be done to reverse the massive debt bubble now threatening to propel the economy into another Great Recession. Moreover, the money can be added in such a way that the net effect will not be to increase the money supply. Virtually our entire money supply is created by banks as loans, and any money used to pay down those loans will be extinguished along with the debt. Other money will be extinguished when it returns to the government in the form of taxes. The mechanics of that process, and what could be done with another $2 trillion injected directly into the economy yearly, will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

Ellen Brown
Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including “Web of Debt” and “The Public Bank Solution.”
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