Book: “The Deficit Myth”

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy

by Stephanie Kelton 

New York Times Bestseller
The leading thinker and most visible public advocate of modern monetary theory — the freshest and most important idea about economics in decades — delivers a radically different, bold, new understanding for how to build a just and prosperous society.

Stephanie Kelton’s brilliant exploration of modern monetary theory (MMT) dramatically changes our understanding of how we can best deal with crucial issues ranging from poverty and inequality to creating jobs, expanding health care coverage, climate change, and building resilient infrastructure. Any ambitious proposal, however, inevitably runs into the buzz saw of how to find the money to pay for it, rooted in myths about deficits that are hobbling us as a country.

Kelton busts through the myths that prevent us from taking action: that the federal government should budget like a household, that deficits will harm the next generation, crowd out private investment, and undermine long-term growth, and that entitlements are propelling us toward a grave fiscal crisis.

MMT, as Kelton shows, shifts the terrain from narrow budgetary questions to one of broader economic and social benefits. With its important new ways of understanding money, taxes, and the critical role of deficit spending, MMT redefines how to responsibly use our resources so that we can maximize our potential as a society. MMT gives us the power to imagine a new politics and a new economy and move from a narrative of scarcity to one of opportunity.

(Goodreads.com)

MLB moving 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia voting law

April 2, 2021 11:59 AM PT (espn.com)

  • Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer

Major League Baseball announced Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to a new Georgia law that has civil rights groups concerned about its potential to restrict voting access for people of color.

The 2021 MLB draft, a new addition to All-Star Game festivities this year, will also be relocated.

In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is “finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.” A source told ESPN that the 2022 All-Star Game is still planned for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and that that site won’t be moved up to fill the void this summer.

“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said in his statement. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

The Atlanta Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” by the outcome.

“This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said in a statement. “The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.

“Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

The Players Alliance, consisting of more than 100 current and former players who have united in an effort to empower Black communities, came out in support of MLB’s decision with a statement that read in part: “We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition of the recent Georgia legislation that not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws based largely on widespread falsehoods and disinformation.”

The White House said President Joe Biden supports the decision as well.

“The President has made his concerns about the bill passed in Georgia clear, given its extreme provisions that impact the ability of so many citizens to cast their votes,” the White House said. “He said earlier this week that if the decision was made by Major League Baseball to move the All-Star game, he would certainly support that decision – and now that MLB has made that choice, he certainly does.”

In a statement, former President Donald Trump blasted the move and urged his supporters to “boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections.” Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, lauded the decision as honoring the legend of Braves great Hank Aaron.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last week a sweeping, Republican-sponsored bill that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run. The bill, which also prohibits volunteers from distributing food and water for voters waiting in line, was finalized on March 25 roughly 15 miles from the Braves’ stadium, Truist Park.

The new voting law, SB202, came in the wake of the first Democratic victories in presidential and Senate elections in Georgia in a generation, which triggered repeated unproven assertions by Trump that the state’s election was fraudulent. Supporters of the new law have said it merely ensures election integrity and stamps out potential fraud, while critics have described it as a voter-suppression tactic that would make it more difficult for minorities, particularly people of color, to vote, citing how it reduces ballot access in urban communities that lean Democrat.

A recent examination of the 98-page bill by The New York Times identified 16 provisions that either hinder Georgians’ right to vote or strip power from state and local elections officials and give it to legislators.

The governor said in a statement that MLB “caved to fear” by moving the All-Star Game.

“I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied,” Kemp said. “We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections. Earlier today, I spoke with the leadership of the Atlanta Braves who informed me they do not support the MLB’s decision.”

Stacey Abrams, a Democratic former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist, tweeted about her disappointment but understanding over MLB’s decision.

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star game; however, I commend the players, owners and League commissioner for speaking out,” Abrams wrote. “I urge others in positions of the leadership to do so as well.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said she supports MLB’s decision. Atlanta will no doubt share in the economic loss, though the Braves’ home stadium is now located outside the city, in suburban Cobb County.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is to guide the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game from Georgia.

“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard — and in this particular case, people of color — for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” said Roberts, the son of a Black father and Japanese mother.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said last Friday that he “would look forward” to discussions around moving the Midsummer Classic — slated for July 13 — out of Atlanta. Five days after that, Biden, who won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes, told SportsCenter he would “strongly support” such a decision, calling the new bill “Jim Crow on steroids.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who has an ownership stake in the Boston Red Sox, was among those expressing support for MLB’s decision on Twitter.

Despite moving the All-Star Game, Manfred said that “MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward” and that Aaron, who died in January, would still be celebrated during the All-Star festivities.

Atlanta has previously hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1972 and 2000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alison Collins’ strange and terrible $87M lawsuit

Eerily similar 2010 precedent does not bode well for embattled S.F. Board of Education commissioner

by JOE ESKENAZI APRIL 2, 2021 (missionlocal.org)

Alison Collins’ Wednesday lawsuit vs. the San Francisco Unified School District and five of her Board of Education colleagues was so convoluted that it forced everyone to create a word problem of the sort we endured in junior high school to tally up its monetary demands. 

If Alison sues the San Francisco Unified School District, City and County of San Francisco and five fellow school board commissioners, and seeks $12 million in general damages from each defendant and $3 million in punitive damages from each board member defendant, what are the total damages sought? 

The trick here is that, while it’s confusingly worded, “City and County of San Francisco” isn’t actually a party to this suit (so far). So the equation looks something like this: 6($12 million) + 5($3 million) = $87 million. 

The lawsuit was not delivered by a train leaving Cleveland at 60 miles per hour. Alas. You can’t have everything. 

Reading through Collins’ complaint, however, she may end up with nothing. This lawsuit is an amazing document, and not in a good way — and all the more so because three different law firms were involved in its crafting. That’s on par with four writers being credited with the screenplay of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

The legal text is scattered with biblical scripture and inspirational sayings of the sort one would expect to find on cross-stitch samplers; it opens, unsubtly, with the recitation of the illustrious Pastor Martin Niemöller quote regarding acquiescence in the face of Nazi atrocities.

This is an odd and grating choice in both style and substance: Whatever the hell is going on with our schools and our Board of Education, it’s not exactly as bad as Hitler. 

Nor is this lawsuit. But it’s still bad: There are typos and misspelled names and nonsensical turns of phrase (“beyond a pixel of a doubt”)  and pages upon pages of cut-and-pasted, irrelevant court decisions with the Westlaw citations still embedded within them.

But, more substantively, it’s bad on facts. And bad on law. And that’s just plain bad. 

But, first, the backstory. 

The year 2020 was rough for everyone. But for the school board, it was the 2020 of rough years. 

There was the vote to rename 44 schools, despite provably deficient historical research, an arbitrary and sloppy process from the renaming committee, and despite the fact that, you know, all the schools are closed. There was the acrimonious decision to scrap the merit-based entrance system at Lowell High School. And there is the long-running misery regarding the city’s shuttered schools, spaced-out Zoom students, declining enrollment, parents’ (read: mothers’) imploding careers and the school board’s deliberate decision to not bring in a consultant to form pandemic plans.

And then, in March, 2021, came Alison Collins’ tweets

The Dec. 4, 2016, tweetstorm — written two years before Collins was elected to the school board — laments anti-Black and anti-brown attitudes and behaviors at San Francisco public schools and, particularly, in among Asians. But, in doing so, Collins — the only Black woman on the school board — deployed sweeping generalizations that Asian Americans felt played into reductive stereotypes and negative tropes.

“This isn’t really a lawsuit. It’s more of an op-ed pretending to be a lawsuit.” UC DAVIS LAW PROFESSOR ASH BHAGWAT

These tweets were unearthed by extreme partisans mounting a recall effort of Collins and two of her colleagues, and vehemently opposed to altering the status quo at Lowell. This was neither an organic nor a good-faith effort; the tweets were, additionally, dropped during a glut of anti-Asian violence, resulting in inevitable conflations of words written in pre-Trump 2016 and the volatile, post-Trump situation on the ground in 2021. 

That was unfortunate. As was the decision by media outlets to reflexively label the tweets “racist,” and preclude a more complex discussion. It’s also unfortunate that partisan operatives essentially dictated a story and forced everyone to react. 

But Collins’ behavior in 2021, at which time she is an elected official and overseeing a plurality-Asian school system, was perhaps the most unfortunate of all. Numerous Asian elected officials and/or community leaders said Collins either blew them off or was dismissive and defensive. Calls for her resignation soon grew nigh-unanimous among city leaders, who long ago lost patience with the Board of Education. On March 25, Collins’ school board colleagues voted to strip her of her title of vice president and her committee positions — though, it should be noted, not remove her from the board altogether. 

Après ça, le déluge. 

So that’s the backstory. But it’s at this point that, to employ a very technical legal term, the cheese slips off the plaintiff’s cracker. Because, reading through the suit, it well and truly appears to claim that the school board’s March 25 vote was the culmination of a conspiracy — perhaps a years-long conspiracy. 

The suit recounts several lengthy 2016 instances of Collins and other Black public school parents speaking out against anti-Black and anti-brown attitudes and bullying. 

And then this: 

For all the world, this reads as if a group of future school board commissioners, who hadn’t been seated yet in 2016, hatched a conspiracy to sink Collins, who also hadn’t been elected or seated yet. Several of them would, in fact, endorse her in 2018.  

And even if it’s just convoluted and poorly written and the alleged conspiracy didn’t commence until more recently, it’s still nonsensical. Three of the defendants who voted to bump Collins out of the VP slot also voted along with her to end merit-based admissions at Lowell. 

It certainly must come as a surprise to Commissioner Kevine Boggess, who is a Black parent, to learn that he was party to a conspiracy to discredit Collins due to her advocacy for Black parents. Just as it must come as a jolt to Commissioner Mark Sanchez, a Latino, to discover he had it in for Collins due to her work on behalf of Latinos. 

But it grows more nonsensical still: It wasn’t Collins’ colleagues on the Board of Education who “launched a scorched earth (sic) search for evidence to silence Ms. Collins, including raiding the Twitter account of Ms. Collins” (insofar as one can “raid” items posted on social media for all to see). And it wasn’t the school district writ large doing this. 

It was the pro-recall, pro-merit-based Lowell partisans, who admitted it and even boasted about it. 

God help us, but a lawsuit demanding $87 million in damages from a cash-strapped school system that hasn’t even managed to open its buildings, let alone properly ventilate them, doesn’t seem to know who it’s suing. 

Perhaps the relevant documents were lost on that train from Cleveland. Join Mission Local in keeping reported news alive.

Your humble narrator reviewed Collins’ suit with half a dozen Constitutional scholars. They were not amused. 

“This isn’t really a lawsuit,” summed up UC Davis law professor Ash Bhagwat. “It’s more of an op-ed pretending to be a lawsuit.” 

Among the more minor problems with this problematic suit is that Collins’ attorneys describe the school district, which pays board members $500 a month, as her “employer” — and structure their technical claims thusly. And yet, state law expressly exempts “persons elected by popular vote” from the definition of “public school employee.”  

The suit’s defamation-like claims also baffled law professors; Collins’ colleagues are free to label her or her tweets as “racist,” if that’s how they see it (and vote accordingly). Collins, moreover, is a public figure — rendering the burden of winning on a defamation-like claim nigh-impossible. 

“If Jerry Falwell can’t get damages for Hustler magazine and Larry Flynt saying he lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse, I don’t know how she will recover from her fellow politicians saying ‘we think this was a racist statement and we don’t agree with it,’” summed up San Francisco State political science professor Nick Conway, a former attorney and administrative law judge.

The Mission has been at the center of the pandemic in San Francisco.

Mission Local has been here to cover it.Keep us on the scene.I’m not interested

Similarly, Collins’ claim of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” from her colleagues struck scholars as bizarre in the context of elected office. “This is absurd,” said Joel Paul, a UC Hastings professor. “You can’t complain when people express opinions about you that are hostile. That is part of the job of a public official.” 

So, those are the smaller problems. A bigger, Constitutional problem is in Collins’ claim that she was denied due process and deprived of her property in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. A government employee’s job is, in fact, considered “property” — but, remember, Collins didn’t lose her “job,” only her titles. She is still being paid, and is still voting (she even voted on the resolution stripping her of her titles). 

Collins is entitled to be on the Board of Education; the voters put her there. But she is not entitled to any specific position on that board, especially a position chosen through an internal vote of board members. So, those claims crumble. 

As does Collins’ overarching claim that her First Amendment rights have been trampled. Yes, there are Supreme Court cases protecting public employees from retaliation for their personal speech. “But that doesn’t apply to policymaking employees,” explains Zachary Price, a UC Hastings professor. “She’s more like a legislator. And legislators, I’m sure, get stripped of committee assignments all the time based on things they say.” 

Indeed they do, and you don’t have to hunt far and wide for a germane example. In 2007, after Supervisor Chris Daly insinuated that Mayor Gavin Newsom was a coke fiend, Board President Aaron Peskin removed Daly from the consequential position of Budget Committee chair, stating that friction between Daly and the mayor’s office had grown untenable. 

Daly did not sue his colleagues on First Amendment grounds and demand scores of millions of dollars. That would have been ridiculous: Deliberative bodies such as the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education are entitled to select the committee members, presidents and vice presidents of their choosing — or unselect them, as it were. Simply put, deliberative bodies tend to choose the leaders who reflect their preferred ideologies or worldviews. This is often a political matter. But it’s hardly revelatory that there’s politics involved in politics. 

There’s also a relatively recent legal precedent that spells this out expressly — and is so analogous to the Collins case that it nearly beggars belief. That would be the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2010 ruling in the Blair vs. Bethel School District matter. 

In this case, an elected member of the Bethel District (Washington) School Board named Ken Blair was stripped of his title of vice president in a vote of his colleagues, and then turned around and filed a suit claiming he was being retaliated against for his protected First Amendment activity. 

Yes, that’s astoundingly similar: An outspoken school board vice president voted out of his position by his colleagues, but who remains a voting member of the board, and sues on First Amendment grounds. 

He didn’t demand $87 million, no, but this is downright eerie. 

“I have represented families of people who have been executed by the police in misconduct cases. And even in those cases we didn’t get a sniff near $87 million.S.F. STATE POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR AND FORMER ATTORNEY NICK CONWAY

And Blair lost. At every level. The 9th Circuit panel ruled that Blair’s First Amendment rights were not chilled, and his colleagues were entitled to strip him of his leadership position in favor of a “vice president who better represented the board’s majority view.” 

The ruling finds that while “the First Amendment protects Blair’s discordant speech as a general matter; it does not, however, immunize him from the political fallout of what he says.” 

And furthermore: “The Board’s action didn’t prevent Blair from continuing to speak out, vote his conscience, and serve his constituents as a member of the Board … [but] the First Amendment doesn’t shield public figures from the give-and-take of the political process.” 

Blair (unsuccessfully) filed his suit under the very same federal statute Collins is deploying: 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Fascinating. 

“If I was an attorney for the School Board,” says S.F. State’s Conway, “this is the first case I’d cite.” 

So, that’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of this lawsuit. But, truth be told, there seems to be plenty more of the latter two. 

“A lot of stuff in here seems highly extraneous,” sums up Bhagwat. “It makes one think the audience is not just the courts.” 

If the legal experts are correct, the courts won’t think much of this lawsuit. So, it remains to be seen what the general public makes of it. 

As such, we’ll learn how city residents respond to a suit aiming to siphon $87 million from San Francisco’s school system. 

A prediction: Not charitably. 

“Let me put it to you this way,” says Conway. “I have represented families of people who have been executed by the police in misconduct cases. And even in those cases we didn’t get a sniff near $87 million.” 

George Floyd’s family, in fact, agreed to a $27 million settlement.

Collins has truly overachieved in personifying and popularizing a recall initiated by fringe political forces. This is part of why so many left-leaning figures had called for her to step down. 

In the meantime, San Francisco students and parents eagerly await the day they can return to school in-person for truncated daily schedules, and from only two to four days a week. It’s a major haul to get everything into place in the coming days. And now, a school board, which has not exactly acquitted itself with distinction, is in the midst of tearing itself apart.  

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That appears to be beyond a pixel of a doubt.  

JOE ESKENAZI

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior… More by Joe Eskenazi

Health Care for All California

Support Single-Payer Universal Health Care

Health Care for All – California believes that every resident of California should be guaranteed affordable, comprehensive, high quality health care. A single-payer financing system has succeeded in countries throughout the developed world. Multiple findings illustrate that people in these countries have better health and enjoy a lifestyle free of anxiety and worry about how to pay for a health crisis. All of this is accomplished at a lower cost to the people and businesses. Please join this movement!Donate

Our Mission

Health Care for All – California (HCA) is dedicated to achieving universal health care through single-payer public financing. Our goal is for all California residents to have guaranteed, high quality, comprehensive health care.

Who We Are

HCA is a statewide non-partisan, non-profit organization of volunteers. The HCA board of directors is made up of elected representatives from regional chapters. We are supported by donations and fundraising activities. We encourage all single-payer supporters to become HCA members by donating! Learn more about Health Care for All – California →

What is Single Payer?

A single-payer system finances health care for an entire population by using one public agency to collect all contributions and pay all bills. Learn more →

Action You Can Take

More actions →

Book: “The Enigma of Capital”

The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism

The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism

by David Harvey 

For over forty years, David Harvey has been one of the world’s most trenchant and critical analysts of capitalist development. In The Enigma of Capital, he delivers an impassioned account of how unchecked neoliberalism produced the system-wide crisis that now engulfs the world.
Beginning in the 1970s, profitability pressures led the capitalist class in advanced countries to shift away from investment in industrial production at home toward the higher returns that financial products promised. Accompanying this was a shift towards privatization, an absolute decline in the bargaining power of labor, and the dispersion of production throughout the developing world. The decades-long and ongoing decline in wages that accompanied this turn produced a dilemma: how can goods–especially real estate–sell at the same rate as before if workers are making less in relative terms? The answer was a huge expansion of credit that fueled the explosive growth of both the financial industry and the real estate market. When one key market collapsed–real estate–the other one did as well, and social devastation resulted.
Harvey places today’s crisis in the broadest possible context: the historical development of global capitalism itself from the industrial era onward. Moving deftly between this history and the unfolding of the current crisis, he concentrates on how such crises both devastate workers and create openings for challenging the system’s legitimacy. The battle now will be between the still-powerful forces that want to reconstitute the system of yesterday and those that want to replace it with one that prizes social justice and economic equality. The new afterword focuses on the continuing impact of the crisis and the response to it in 2010.
One of Huffington Post’s Best Social and Political Awareness Books of 2010
Winner of the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2010
Praise for the Hardcover:
“A lucid and penetrating account of how the power of capital shapes our world.”
–Andrew Gamble, Independent
“Elegant… entertainingly swashbuckling… Harvey’s analysis is interesting not only for the breadth of his scholarship but his recognition of the system’s strengths.”
–John Gapper, Financial Times

(Goodreads.com)

A TRAILBLAZING LESBIAN HERO’S STORY, FINALLY COMING TO FILM

Sally Gearhart’s incredible, multifaceted life—lesbian separatist, gay lib icon, sci-fi author—gets a doc.

By MARKE B.

APRIL 1, 2021 (48hills.org)

“I don’t think there are any other films with animated flying psychic lesbians,” filmmaker Deborah Craig told me over Zoom. “We really couldn’t pass it up.”

Craig was speaking about Sally, the film she’s working on, along with coproducer Jörg Fockele and coproducer-editor Ondine Rarey, that chronicles the rambunctious, curious, and inspiring life of unsung radical lesbian hero Sally Gearhart, who is entering her ninth decade. (A Kickstarter campaign to finish the film ends Tue/6; an online birthday party for Gearhart takes place Sun/2.)

The flying lesbians in question are to illustrate Gearhart’s groundbreaking, 1978 speculative fiction novel The Wanderground, a classic of radical feminist separatist literature, in which a group of women flee from male-dominated cities to the forest to live in harmony with the natural world. Also, they have superpowers.

Rediscovering radical lesbian sci-fi is all the rage right now (witness Octavia Butler’s recent climb up the New York Times bestseller list 15 years after her passing), but penning an archetypal vision of queer ecofeminist utopia, and several follow-ups, is just one of the many milestones in an outspoken, intellectual, irascible life marked by both iconic activism and puzzling retreat.

While renowned as a stirring feminist writer-speaker and separatism proponent—eventually establishing her own utopian space in the wilds near Willetts, California—she was by no means a stranger to working side-by-side with gay men in the liberation movement, including Harvey Milk during his final years. As a professor at San Francisco State University, Gearhart helped develop one of the first women and gender studies programs in the United States. Those are just some of the accomplishments covered in Sally, which also showcases a fiercely independent yet infectious personality.

The film is in the middle of production, moving ahead despite COVID interruption, with several more interviews slated, Craig told me. “We started out with a bit of a leg up, because my previous film was a short documentary called A Great Ride, that featured Sally. In that film, she’s one of the lesbian characters navigating the aging process. She was just such an incredible personality with this obviously rich history. After that film, Jörg, Ondine, and I put our heads together and said, we really have to continue this and focus on Sally.

Help us save local journalism!

Every tax-deductible donation helps us grow to cover the issues that mean the most to our community. Become a 48 Hills Hero and support the only daily progressive news source in the Bay Area.Learn More

“This new film follows the whole arc of her life. She came to San Francisco in the 1970s from Texas, and we’re going back to really explore where she came from, all her accomplishments, and what’s going on with her now. It’s really a fascinating trajectory,” Craig said. “The things she’s done have been so important. She’s this brilliant, smart, funny, charismatic person. And we’re here now and she’s almost 90.

“We need to do this while we still have her with us, so she gets the recognition she deserves and people get to know her,” Craig said.

Sally and Deborah Craig, 2018. Credit: Lynn Mortensen 

Gearheart was intrinsic to the fight, alongside Harvey Milk, to defeat the 1978 Briggs Initiative, the California ballot proposition that would have banned gay teachers from schools, famously debating rabidly homophobic initiative sponsor John Briggs himself on television. Gearheart handed Briggs’ ass to him, but she and other women activists of the time, like Black lesbian leader Gwenn Craig, appear to be disappearing from the history.

“Sally was right there with Harvey especially during the last year of his life,’ Fockele, who was also on the Zoom call, said. “One of his biggest successes was beating the Briggs initiative and it would never have happened without Sally. Yet in the movie Milk, she’s nowhere to be found. They shot the whole famous KQED debate segment with Briggs, and everyone was there except Sally. Yet in reality she was the one who was front and center, keeping her calm, talking about religion being funny and charming. They did the same with Gwenn Craig, who was also part of the struggle. She’s nowhere in the movie.”

The question of why Gearhart has been generally passed over in the lore of the gay liberation struggle—beyond the narrative limitations and systemic sexism inherent in writing a Hollywood entertainment—”is something that has no easy answers,” Craig said. “Obviously, Milk is just one of the many, many examples of the erasure of women, just like the erasure of people of color and and queer people. It’s essential that the narrative be corrected.

“But in Sally’s case, the more you learn about the issue, the more complex it is—and that’s true about her in every aspect. She was an adamant separatist who loved men, who had male friends and even Republican friends. Separatism has a very complicated history that many people shy away from. And she left town. She had started her own refuge with no electricity, no heat, growing food and living with other women, and when she retired at 60 she moved up there full-time.

“She removed herself from the center of gravity of the gay rights movement and academia to go live in the woods and write fantasy novels and basically say, ‘Fuck it all.’ Now she’s still up there, with people checking in on her, completely living alone, the last one on the land. That’s how we got to know her, for the first film about aging. I called her up and said, ‘I heard you’re in your 80s and cutting your own firewood with a chainsaw, can I see that?’ and then we found out who she was.”

Sally and crew, 2018, credit: Deborah Craig

Gearhart, a feisty personality who apparently loves to flirt with any woman in front of or behind the camera, was totally fine with opening up about her life. She especially appreciated that Craig is working with almost all women on the film. “It was important to me that my crew is women, especially in the context of what Sally was fighting for,” Craig said. “She felt comfortable.”

Fockele said, “Right now it seems the only reference we have to that older generation of activists is through movies. Something I’ve experienced, especially around HIV, is that younger generations of queer folks see AIDS as this far away memory, and I feel it’s the same way with queer pioneers, including Sally. Deborah and I are right on the brink of a generation who may have heard of Sally, and there are older people, especially women activists and feminists, who know her. But the most powerful way remember her and present her to younger generations is through film.

“You can look at something like Milk which is important to the activists of the time who were in it, and also so vital to teaching young people who Harvey was. We want to record the actual history and people behind these events before they fade away.”

(Fockele is definitely right about the importance of film in remembering queer heroes—my own first encounter with Gearhart was a PBS rebroadcast in the 1990s of filmmaker Peter Adair’s 1977 Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, in which Gearheart, then a women’s studies professor at San Francisco State, giving a fiery speech that made a lasting impression on my tiny gay brain.)

The story of Sally Gearheart as lesbian activist also holds personal resonance for Craig, a longtime filmmaker who specializes in queer stories. “I came out as a lesbian in my teens,” she told me. “I was not a separatist, I was very immersed in the worlds of music and photography, which was a very male world. I never really understood separatism. I’m 30 years younger than Sally, so that wasn’t really my world.

“But getting to know Sally has helped me understand the purpose of separatism, and its historical perspective. Although I knew her name, in the beginning I didn’t know who she really was, how important and multi-faceted her personality and accomplishments were,” Craig said.

“So this has been a process of discovery for me, following her life through all these movements and stages that have so much significance to LGBT history. It’s been about digging into my own queer roots and realizing that Sally’s work in a way gave me the luxury of not having to care about separatism as I was growing up as a lesbian.”

Find out more about the Sally movie Kickstarter campaign here, and Sally’s Sun/2 online birthday party here.

Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

San Francisco rolls out a guaranteed income program giving artists $1,000 a month

Tony Bravo March 25, 2021 Updated: March 26, 2021 (datebook.sfchronicle.com)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed: “The arts are critical to our local economy.”Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle 2018

More than 100 San Francisco artists will be guaranteed $1,000 a month for six months under a pilot program set to launch in May, following similar efforts by StocktonOakland and Marin County to support struggling residents during the pandemic.

The guaranteed income program, announced Thursday, March 25, by Mayor London Breed, is accepting applications now through April 15 via the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ website.

“This program is one of several guaranteed income pilots that we’re developing in San Francisco,” Breed told The Chronicle, noting in an earlier statement that “the arts are critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery.”

YBCA will manage the program and use a partially computerized system to determine eligibility to select 130 local artists, with the process randomized in the later stages, said YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan.

Deborah Cullinan, head of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, will assist in administering funds under the new pilot program.Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Qualifications for the program include being a resident of San Francisco and being an artist “whose artistic practice is rooted in a historically marginalized community,” which Cullinan noted does not exclude anyone from any cultural or racial group but is meant to encourage artists from underrepresented communities to apply.

Artists are defined as “someone who actively engages with the community through music, dance, creative writing, visual art, performance art, installation, photography, theater or film,” according to the program’s website.

Teaching artists and arts educators, as well as “culturally based craft workers and makers,” may also apply.

Applicants must fall below certain income levels to qualify: For a single-person household, the income limit is $60,900; for a two-person household, the limit is a combined $69,600. Those income limits were determined by researching other guaranteed income programs’ best practices across the country, including in Stockton, where 125 residents were given $500 a month and showed an improved quality of life, according to a study commissioned by the city.

“At the end of the day, we want everyone in San Francisco to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives, without worrying about how they’ll pay rent or get food on the table,” Breed said. “I’m committed to making San Francisco a more equitable, just and thriving city, and we’re exploring this guaranteed income model to see if it can help us advance those goals.”

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will manage the pilot program.Photo: Jessica Christian, The Chronicle

The pilot program is a collaboration among the Office of Racial Equity at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, YBCA, Grants for the Arts and the San Francisco Arts Commission. The program will be paid for from the Arts Impact Endowment, which was established by Proposition E, a 2018 measure that reallocated 1.5% of the existing 8% base hotel tax to arts and cultural services, money that is jointly administered by the Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts.

To develop the program, YBCA worked with organizations including SOMA Pilipinas, the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Dance Mission Theatre, Galería de la Raza, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company, the African American Art and Culture Complex, and members of the Racial Equity in the Arts Working Group. Bay Area poets Tongo Eisen-Martin and Kim Shuck also worked closely with the groups involved for the pilot.

“We talked about different ways we were gauging how we could reach BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), disabled, LGBT people, people displaced and below the poverty line,” said San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company co-founder Rodney Earl Jackson Jr. “A lot of artists fall in those categories.”

Poet, activist and San Francisco native Tongo Eisen-Martin helped in developing the new pilot program.Photo: Jessica Christian, The Chronicle

The initiative is in line with policy recommendations by San Francisco’s Economic Recovery Task Force, which the city issued in October 2020. The task force advised identifying new funding and revenue streams for the arts “to catalyze neighborhood recovery through the Arts,” as well as investing further in communities of color.

According to the San Francisco Arts Commission, the city’s creative sector generates $1.45 billion in annual economic activity as well as supporting almost 40,000 full-time jobs.

“COVID-19 has severely threatened this important sector,” Ralph Remington, the commission’s director of Cultural Affairs, said in a statement, “and the Guaranteed Income Pilot, with other programs like it, allows artists to focus on their creative work and supports the recovery of the sector overall.”

Cullinan said the YBCA staff is prepared for a swift rollout despite an anticipated large influx of applications.

“We will be ready for direct deposits, getting checks out to people and working with people who don’t have bank accounts immediately,” she said.

Following the launch of the pilot, YBCA plans to study the process and its impact on artists to determine how the program can better adapt in the future.

“There are people living in challenging circumstances right now,” Cullinan said. “We want to move as quickly as we can to get them the resources they need.”

Apply: Visit www.ybca.org/guaranteed-income-pilot. Application deadline is April 15.

  • Tony BravoTony Bravo is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: tbravo@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @TonyBravoSF

Richard D. Wolff lecture on Occupy, Bernie Sanders and 21st Century Socialism

Levy Economics Institute Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Friday, April 22, 2016 4:45​–6:30 pm Levy Economics Institute Conference Room Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. Wolff has also taught economics at Yale University, City University of New York, and the University of Paris I (Sorbonne). Wolff has published many books and articles, both scholarly and popular. Most recently, in 2012, he published Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (Haymarket Books) and Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian, with Stephen Resnick (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT University Press). He writes regularly for Truthout.org and has been interviewed on The Charlie Rose Show, Up With Chris Hayes, Bill Maher’s Real Time, RT-TV, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, Al Jazeera English, Thom Hartman, National Public Radio, Alternative Radio, and many other radio and TV programs in the United States and abroad. The New York Times Magazine has named him “America’s most prominent Marxist economist.” Sponsored by: Economics Club; Economics Program; Hannah Arendt Center; Levy Economics Institute. For more information, call 845-758-7714, or e-mail khitaris@levy.org.

Corporate Dems Show Progressives How To Play Hardball

Progressives politely refused to wield power to secure a $15 minimum wage, now conservative Dems are wielding power to secure tax cuts for the wealthy.

David Sirota and Andrew Perez March 31, 2021 (The Daily Poster)

This report was written by David Sirota and Andrew Perez.

Earlier this month, progressive lawmakers refused to withhold their votes on must-pass COVID-19 stimulus legislation until the bill included a $15 minimum wage. A few weeks later, conservative Democratic lawmakers are now threatening to withhold their votes on must-pass infrastructure legislation until the bill includes large tax cuts for the wealthy. 

The contrast in tactics spotlights a decisive asymmetry in congressional politics right now: The right wing of the Democratic Party is willing to play hardball on behalf of the affluent, to the point of threatening to take down one of President Joe Biden’s signature legislative initiatives, an infrastructure and climate plan he will detail on Wednesday. 

By contrast, the left wing of the party has not yet been willing to play the same kind of hardball on behalf of the working class — and that refusal ultimately helped kill a promised wage hike in the recent pandemic aid bill and could similarly imperil other progressive priorities. 

“Does Not Have A Position”

The tax issue revolves around federal write-offs for state and local taxes — colloquially called SALT deductions. Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill limited such deductions to $10,000. The move was perceived as a mean-spirited shot at blue states, which often have higher state and local levies to fund more robust public services. But on the merits, the policy serves to limit tax deductions primarily for higher-income households

As The Daily Poster reported back in January, congressional Democrats in states like New York and New Jersey have been pushing for a repeal of the SALT deduction caps. Biden declined to include the SALT cap repeal in the American Rescue Plan. 

If the SALT cap was fully repealed, nearly all — 96 percent — of the tax benefits would flow to the top quintile of earners, and more than half of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of earners, according to data from the Brookings Institution. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation found that the majority of the benefits of a SALT cap repeal would flow to households earning more than $1 million.

On its face, the notion of passing a massive tax cut for the wealthy — one that would reportedly cost $139 billion over two years — should sound wildly offensive after Democrats spent so much time over the past few months debating whether to cut off COVID survival checks to individuals who earned more than $50,000 in 2019, because some conservative Democrats were allegedly concerned that cash might go to some people who don’t need it. 

But amazingly, despite the regressivity of eliminating the SALT deductions — and even though there are progressive alternatives to fix some of the purported problems with the SALT cap — progressive lawmakers are split on the idea of a repeal. 

Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said Tuesday her caucus “does not have a position” on the tax breaks, according to Aida Chavez, a reporter for The Nation.

Some progressives, such as New York Reps. Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman, support the repeal, in solidarity with other lawmakers in their states. But New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted against repealing the SALT caps in late 2019, citing data showing that it would primarily enrich the wealthy — and she continues to oppose a repeal.

Now, three conservative Democrats — Reps. Bill Pascrell and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and New York Rep. Tom Suozzi — are saying they will vote against any tax-related legislation that does not eliminate the caps, according to Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein. 

Their position could threaten Biden’s ambitious new plan to spend $2 trillion to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, rail lines and utilities. The White House intends to fund the program through new tax hikes, including raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent for the 15 years. In a narrowly divided House — currently split 219-211 — those three Democratic votes could prove decisive.

“No SALT, no deal,” Suozzi said in a press release Tuesday. “I am not going to support any change in the tax code unless there is a restoration of the SALT deduction. The cap on the SALT deduction has been a body blow to New York and middle-class families in New York.”

Actually Wielding Power

Whatever side of the issue you may be on, one thing is clear: This trio of lawmakers is leveraging their position and demonstrating how Congress actually works. 

All the press releases, tweets, cable TV appearances and fancy Washington titles can trick the casual observer into thinking rank-and-file lawmakers have all sorts of levers of power — but in reality, most members of Congress have very little real-world legislative power other than their vote. The more narrowly divided the House, the more power each individual lawmaker has, because congressional leaders need their votes to pass legislation. 

In this situation, three relatively obscure, low-profile legislators who are not major social media brands are utilizing that power to defend the interests of the wealthy. Sure, it’s grotesque — but in terms of pure power politics, they are taking a stand and seizing a spot at the negotiating table not by merely tweeting about it or making vague promises to “push” for something, but by wielding their voting power to try to force the Biden White House and the congressional leadership to deal with the issue in a bill the party sees as a necessity.

This is the opposite of what congressional progressives did on the minimum wage during the debate over the American rescue plan. 

Progressive lawmakers sent a letter asking Vice President Kamala Harris to ignore the Senate parliamentarian’s advice and allow a $15 minimum wage to stay in the bill. But they never drew a line in the sand and said they would be — or would even consider — withholding their votes on the bill if a $15 minimum wage was excluded. 

And because they didn’t wield power in the way conservative Democrats are wielding power on SALT deductions, the Biden White House knew these progressives could be ignored and the $15 minimum wage was eliminated from the legislation. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, after the $15 minimum wage was killed, Jayapal gave cover to Biden by insisting after the fact that he is still “committed” to the wage hike, even though he didn’t lift a finger to make it happen when it had its best chance under Senate reconciliation rules. 

How To Be At The Table, Rather Than On The Menu

Last week, progressive lawmakers got a special, feel-good meeting with White House chief of staff Ron Klain to talk about the $15 minimum wage. While he reportedly reiterated Biden’s commitment to a wage hike, there has been no indication out of Washington yet that Democrats have a real plan to pass such a measure. 

The only hint of a plan to raise the wage so far is not encouraging. The Intercept reported Monday that Senate Majority Chuck Schumer is considering attaching the $15 minimum wage measure to Biden’s new infrastructure package — legislation that will likely be passed under the budget reconciliation process by a simple majority vote, as the American Rescue Plan was. 

However, just last month, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said that in her opinion, a $15 minimum wage increase did not comply with reconciliation rules. Instead of ignoring that opinion or simply replacing her, Senate Democrats took the measure out of their bill. Then, eight Democrats joined Republicans to reject an amendment to add the minimum wage measure back to the bill, helping create a new precedent excluding minimum wage hikes from reconciliation legislation. 

Schumer now insists he sees some “glimmer of hope that the parliamentarian would rule differently this time: The new legislation is focused on infrastructure, and setting wages is directly related to the budget impact of any infrastructure spending,” according to The Intercept. 

But unless the whole Democratic caucus in the Senate is now committed to supporting the overall infrastructure package with a wage hike — no matter what the parliamentarian says — Schumer’s idea should be considered a way to make it look like Democrats are fighting to pass a $15 minimum wage without ever actually using their power to make it happen. 

As we wrote last week, the best chance Democrats have to pass a $15 minimum wage starts with eliminating the filibuster. Short of that, progressive lawmakers can talk all they want about how important it is to finally raise the minimum wage, but until they start threatening to vote down must-pass legislation — or actively doing so — no one will take their demands seriously.

This isn’t rocket science. This is negotiation 101. Whether a labor-management tussle, a business pact or a legislative debate, if you aren’t willing to condition support for a final deal on a set of clear demands, then your demands will likely be ignored. 

Conservative Democrats fighting for tax cuts for their wealthy donors seem to understand this. Progressive Democrats who say they are for a $15 minimum wage but never made firm demands either did not understand this, or were willing to sacrifice their stated priority for the good stuff in the final bill.

Maybe that latter decision is justifiable, maybe not. But until progressives are willing to play the same kind of hardball as their conservative Democratic opponents, they should expect to continue being on the menu, not at the table — and the $15 minimum wage will probably remain in limbo.


This newsletter relies on readers pitching in to support it. If you like what you just read and want to help expand this kind of journalism, consider becoming a paid subscriber by clicking this link.

Got this email from a friend? Click here to subscribe.

Subscribe now

San Franciscans launch letter in support of District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s vision to improve public safety and justice system reform

Chelsea Boilard 

March 31, 2021

Public letter from over 100+ SF residents, as support continues to grow

San Francisco—On Wednesday March 31st, over 100 San Franciscans are releasing a letter in support of District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s vision to improve public safety and reform the justice system. 

View the letter at this link.

The letter is being organized by a newly formed group, SF Safe for All, and comes as a campaign has been started by conservative and Republican leaders who are organizing big dollars to recall DA Boudin and override the democratic will of the San Francisco voters who elected him in 2019. These San Franciscans aim to fight the fear-mongering and big money campaign with grassroots support for DA Boudin’s reform-minded policies. From the start, DA Boudin has faced incredibly vicious attacks–led by the reactionary and conservative SF Police Officers Association and Republican forces—who are threatened by the change that he represents. 

“As we can see with the recall efforts led by Republicans against Gov. Newsom, these types of attacks are not new. However they are very destructive because they spread misinformation, waste taxpayers’ money, and attempt to override a democratic election where the majority of voters elected Chesa Boudin as District Attorney. That’s why I’ve signed onto this letter and I intend to oppose the recall efforts,” says Laura Goldin, a homeowner who has lived for 36 years in the Richmond District. 

The letter indicates facts to combat myths that have been circulating and highlight positive changes that happened since Boudin took office. These include:

  • Overall crime in San Francisco is down by 23 percent. Rape, robberies, thefts, auto burglaries and assaults are all down by record numbers. 
  • District Attorney Boudin has instituted reforms that prioritize public safety including expanded victim services such as securing housing during the pandemic for domestic violence victims, helping obtain financial support for small businesses who have experienced break-ins, and launching a Community Liaisons program to connect prosecutors to the communities they serve.
  • Boudin is maintaining his commitment to the people by holding police who use excessive force accountable, and filing homicide charges against an on-duty officer for the first time in San Francisco’s history.

To learn more about the letter, visit link.  

The letter was organized and written by SF Safe for All, a group of San Franciscans who believe we can reform the justice system, provide safety for all our communities, ensure victims’ rights, implement restorative justice and an end to cash bail and more. Signers believe that public safety must include more than just police and jails, and that public safety is about services, support and second chances. The letter signers want an end to racial injustice and a dehumanizing criminal justice system that cycles people in and out.