Gosh, I haven’t seen conservatives this mad at the Supreme Court since Brown v. Board of Education.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
And yet, as of this morning, four justices — Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas — insisted on doing exactly that. The four dissenters demanded that the Supreme Court effectively throw out the entirety of the law — the mandate, the consumer protections, the tax cuts, the subsidies, the benefits, everything.
To reach this conclusion, these four not only had to reject a century of Commerce Clause jurisprudence, they also had ignore the Necessary and Proper clause, and Congress’ taxation power. I can’t read Chief Justice John Roberts’ mind, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the extremism of the four dissenters effectively forced him to break ranks — had Kennedy been willing to strike down the mandate while leaving the rest of the law intact, this may well have been a 5-4 ruling the other way.
Roberts’ motivations notwithstanding, it’s important that Americans understand that there are now four justices on the Supreme Court who effectively want to overturn the 20th century. Based on the flimsiest of arguments, the four dissenters want to kill progressive legislation basically because their political ideologies tell them to do so.
There are some who argue that this year’s presidential election isn’t especially important. I hope those who believe this consider what today’s court minority was prepared to do, and what they will do with just one more vote.
I have a lot of criticisms of this administration, but anyone who says that this election doesn’t matter or that Romney and Obama are basically the same need to think again. The radical right on the Supreme Court and in Congress want to return the nation to the Gilded Age. Obama does not. That’s a pretty freaking huge difference.
CNN, why do you still exist? Your ratings are garbage and rotting daily. You don’t represent any constituency except for Beltway elites. You cover up for shoddy reporting and hackish analysis by investing in new technology that are meant to help us forget how bad you are. You whine about partisanship on FOX and MSNBC without actually producing quality coverage.
And then, after all that whining about the decline of cable news, you wrongly announce that the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Obamacare?
Christ, you’d all do better if you just handed Nancy Grace the keys to the building, let her talk about missing white women 24 hours a day.
But I’m sure that making your election night coverage 3-D will make us all forget this and start watching you again.
“I urge every governor to stop implementing the health care exchanges that would help implement the harmful effects of this misguided law. Americans have loudly rejected this federal takeover of health care, and governors should join with the people and reject its implementation.”
I wonder what else DeMint would like states to nullify….
Yet again, the Republicans roll back a piece of the 20th century. Congress agreed to freeze student loan rates for a year. At first, I figured, whatever, typical kicking the can down the road. I should have known better.
Even as Congress moves to prevent undergraduate student loan rates from doubling, lawmakers have decided to eliminate two federal subsidies that will increase the cost of higher education.
One would hit the same college students who are benefiting from the interest rate freeze. Though their rates will be only 3.4 percent, they will be responsible for paying that interest as soon as they throw their graduation caps in the air — a change that is expected to cost them more than $2 billion.
Meanwhile, students hoping to earn the advanced degrees that have become mandatory for many white-collar jobs will no longer be eligible for federally subsidized loans. That means graduate students are facing an $18 billion increase in interest rate payments over the next decade, about three times the amount at stake in the debate over undergrad interest rates.
Both measures will take effect Sunday.
Yep, that’s right. No more federally subsidized student loans for graduate students.
But hey, this managed to freeze student loan rates for one whole year! I’m sure that next year at this time, we’ll see a much better deal for students!!!
And once again, thanks to the Democratic Party for standing strong for everyday Americans…..
Jonathan Martin has a pretty good piece at Politico about why the Democratic Party has gone AWOL in the class war. As the Republicans look to return us to the Gilded Age, both Democratic politicians and the grassroots seem unable or unwilling to respond. Occupy Wall Street was a moment of hope and I don’t take the lack of occupations of public space this spring to mean much of anything because we don’t know what people are doing behind the scenes, but it’s hardly revolutionizing the nation right now.
Fundamentally, Martin wonders what happened to economic populism within the Democratic Party. He highlights 4 broad reasons:
*The political infrastructure doesn’t exist. Class-based partisan appeals by Democrats in the early and mid-20th century were typically supported by a robust and well-organized labor movement. That doesn’t exist in any similar form these days.
*Even populist politicians need money. Conspiracy theorists who believe campaign contributions drive the agenda aren’t altogether wrong. It is virtually impossible to be a successful national Democrat without relying heavily on business interests, including the financial industry, for campaign funds.
*The president, a man comfortable in elite circles, is not temperamentally inclined for the kind of sustained, rough-edged partisan combat that true populist politics requires. So, while he is tempted by populist appeals on some days, he often turns ambivalent and changes his message the next.
*Most important of all, lots of Democrats simply do not support populism, on either ideological or stylistic grounds. Many upscale Democrats believe that Washington needs less combat, not more, and populist messages strike them as irrelevant at best, demagogic at worst. Even some working-class voters have their assets in the stock market, because of their 401(k)s and IRAs, making even the most traditional of Democrats believe their interests are more in line with Wall Street than opposed.
Smaller reasons Martin discusses include the fact that the remnants of our unionized workforce are mostly government bureaucrats who don’t elicit a lot of sympathy, the focus on cultural issues over economics for the Democratic base, too much of an emphasis on individualism on the left, and Obama’s comfort with expertise and surrounding himself with the economic elite.
On a broad level, I agree with all of these things to a greater or lesser extent. But the one thing Martin doesn’t do is ask why labor has declined. He emphasizes the decline of organized labor as the biggest issue behind the lack of left-populism–without the structure of organized labor, who directs this anger? Occupy Wall Street articulated the anger well, but eschewed directing other people toward change (in fact, I’d argue that the influence of anarchism upon young people is a small but important reason for the lack of an organized response to populism. I’ll leave that for the present though unless someone wants a further discussion).
Martin just sort of presents labor’s decline as a reality in the present. But there’s a history behind falling union numbers and it has nothing to do with corruption and very little to do with union complacency, even if both of those things might have been problems in the past. What we see today is the culmination of a half-century war on American unions that corporations concocted in the years after World War II to repeal the gains labor made during the 1930s and 1940s. It was a slow, steady, stealthy plan that has proven almost impossible to stop. It was largely bipartisan, couched in terms of trade that centrist and conservative Democrats like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama love.
This war is called Globalization.
When did this war begin? We could start it at so many times (Taft-Hartley would be a good place) but it probably begins with the Border Industrialization Program in 1965, when the Mexican government discovered it could attract American businesses who wanted to escape labor (and increasingly environmental) obligations by building plants just across the border. President Johnson supported the BIP as a solution to the problems of the Bracero Program and American corporations began moving union jobs south. Union numbers had already begun to decline slightly through companies moving operations to right-to-work states in the South, but after 1965, the numbers plummet. Corporations began lobbying the U.S. government to expand these programs and create free trade deals that would allow for the massive exportation of American jobs, of which the most notorious was the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, also passed under a Democratic president over labor’s protests. NAFTA also served to create a huge labor force for Mexican factories. By undermining corn prices since agribusiness could dump cheap corn on the Mexican market, NAFTA drove farmers off the land and into the maquiladoras, creating a cheap, exploited labor force with few realistic options. Today, President Obama wants a huge free trade agreement with countries in east Asia; not that there’s too many industrial jobs left to export, but this policy certainly won’t bring those jobs back.
Now I’m not going to say that there is no benefit at all to globalization. But it is absolutely the biggest reason why unions aren’t there today to lead a populist fight against our plutocrats.
If we want to talk about the lack of economic populism, Martin is right that we need to tie it to labor’s decline. But to understand labor’s decline, we have to indict the system of globalization, something that most Democratic politicians don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole.
The Texas Republican Party announced its 2012 platform. This is otherwise known as the standard Republican policy narrative circa 2015. It is very special. So special that no one can really explore the whole thing without losing their mind. Here’s 11 brilliant moments. But there are so many more. See Misty.
11. Gestational Contracts – We believe rental of a woman’s womb makes child bearing a mere commodity to the highest bidder and petition the Legislature to rescind House Bill 724 of the 78th Legislature. We support the adoption of human embryos and the banning of human embryo trafficking.
10. Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
9. Rights Versus Products — We oppose calling welfare and other income and product redistribution schemes “rights” or “entitlements”. We know that fundamental human rights are inherent to individuals and are granted by God and are protected by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. They are not products of others labor. Unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property rights, free speech, religious freedom, self-defense, etc. do not impose on others rights whereas income and product redistribution invariably do so.
8. Homosexuality ― We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.
7. UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child ― We unequivocally oppose the United States Senate’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
6. Health Care and Nutritional Supplements ― We deplore any efforts to mandate that vitamins and other natural supplements be on a prescription–only basis, and we oppose any efforts to remove vitamins and other nutritional supplements from public sale. We support the rights of all adults to their choice of nutritional products, and alternative health care choices.
5. American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.
4. We support the principles regarding the public economy as stated in the Republican Party Platform of 1932 to wit:
Resolution Regarding the Public Economy
Whereas, constructive plans for financial stabilization cannot be completely organized until our national, State and municipal governments not only balance their budgets but curtail their current expenses as well to a level which can be steadily and economically maintained for some years to come.
We urge prompt and drastic reduction of public expenditure and resistance to every appropriation not demonstrably necessary to the performance of government, national or local.
The Republican Party established and will continue to uphold the gold standard and will oppose any measure which will undermine the government’s credit or impair the integrity of our national currency. Relief by currency inflation is unsound in principle and dishonest in results. The dollar is impregnable in the marts of the world today and must remain so. An ailing body cannot be cured by quack remedies. This is no time to experiment upon the body politic or financial.
Source: Republican Party Platform of 1932
June 14, 1932
3. United Nations Agenda 21 -The Republican Party of Texas should expose all United Nations Agenda 21 treaty policies and its supporting organizations, agreements and contracts. We oppose implementation of the UN Agenda 21 Program which was adopted at the Earth Summit Conference in 1992 purporting to promote a comprehensive program of sustainable development projects, nationally, regionally and locally. We oppose the influence, promotion and implementation of nongovernmental organizations, metropolitan and/or regional planning organizations, Councils of Government, and International Council for Local Environmental initiatives and the use of American (Texas) citizen’s taxes to promote these programs.
2. Israel – We believe that the United States and Israel share a special long-standing relationship based on shared values, a mutual commitment to a republican form of government, and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. Our foreign policy with Israel should reflect the special nature of this relationship through continued military and economic assistance and recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. We believe that the US Embassy should be located in Jerusalem. In our diplomatic dealings with Israel, we encourage the continuation of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but oppose pressuring Israel to make concessions it believes would jeopardize its security, including the trading of land for the recognition of its right to exist. We call on the U.S. to cease strong arming Israel through prior agreements with the understanding of delivering Palestinians on the West Bank. We support the continuation of non-recognition of terrorist nations and organizations. Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.
And No. 1:
Voter [sic] Rights Act – We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.
I mean, what’s the Texas Republican Party without misspellings and white supremacy?
This is an unquestionable victory for those of us interested in truly public higher education that is something more than a training ground for American corporate capitalism.
However, as I stated previously, this is just one battle of hundreds raging right now as corporations look to remake higher education. Sullivan will still face major pressure from Board of Visitors (and it’s not like future Bob McDonnell appointees to the BoV are going to be anything other than corporate hacks) to implement corporate-friendly changes and eviscerate departments like German and Classics in order for new majors in Strategic Dynamism or whatnot.
One would hope that Sullivan now becomes a national voice for public education, like her co-author Elizabeth Warren has stood up for consumer protections and the working-class in her public service. Whether she’s up for that fight, I don’t know.
As a side note, I’m glad this went down today instead of tomorrow, when the healthcare decision will come down from principled jurists like Antonin Scalia and Sam Alito.
Yglesias summarizes the horrible federal court injunction that retroactively applies new rules for airline organizing, rules created during last summer’s ridiculous FAA standoff when Democrats caved on yet another labor issue to pacify Republicans, to the current American Airlines campaign to stop a unionization campaign by its passenger service agents with the Communication Workers of America. I don’t see how retroactively applying the law is legal except in the sense that it agrees with current Republican orthodoxy which is good enough for most of the federal courts and the Supreme Court in 2012.
But for as awful as this is, the real issue is the ability for unions to organize the private sector. Yglesias:
As a policy matter, the whole story illustrates how fundamentally bleak the outlook for American unions is. Political polarization has given Republicans a clear-cut partisan interest in doing whatever they can to block unionization efforts, completely apart from questions of ideology and business interests. And the basic tactic of changing rules midstream and applying them retroactively can be used in an endless number of permutations to block major organizing efforts. The CWA and the organizing workers will, of course, appeal the decision. But the conservative majority on the Supreme Court proved last week that it’s no more sympathetic to the union cause than the rest of the American right. The result is a set of political and legal situations in which it’s difficult to see how any major private-sector organizing battle can be won unless the Democratic Party has a sudden change of heart and starts fighting equally aggressively on the other side of these issues.
While I tend to eschew language about the end of unions, Yglesias does sum up the fundamental problem Americans unions face today–a Gilded Age problem one might say, when industry and the state are combining to destroy labor unions. Ideally, Democratic politicians would understand what is at stake here, but they continue either to not understand or not care, figuring that a future of corporate donations can make up for the grassroots political advantages unions provide. Again, Yglesias:
Point being that the future of the labor movement will be determined in the private sector, and that future is extremely bleak if there’s going to be post hoc legal changes every time a large bloc of workers gets close to organizing
He’s absolutely correct on the point about private sector organizing determining the future of the labor movement. Public sector unions are important and what happened in Wisconsin and Ohio is absolutely vital for understanding modern labor and how it is fighting back. But the only way to bring labor back in this country is to organize private sector workplaces. There’s no easy answer for that right now, particularly in the face of state repression.
On this day in 1894, the American Railway Union, headed by Eugene Debs, called a nationwide boycott in solidarity with their striking members at Pullman, Illinois. This action turned a small strike into one of the largest labor actions in the nation to that date, led to the pioneering use of the injunction to crush labor unions, and ended with President Grover Cleveland calling in the U.S. military to serve as a private army for the railroads, ending the strike.
The railroad-caused Panic of 1893 was not only emblematic of how corrupt railroads controlled the American economy in the Gilded Age, but how plutocrats expected the poor to sacrifice during hard times. George Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, which made sleeper cars for the railroads, created his own company town, south of Chicago. He provided workers everything they would need–housing, schools, stores. He also charged them high rates to live there, would not employ someone if they did not rent from him, and would evict them if they left his employment. When the Panic of 1893 hit, Pullman began losing money. His response was to lower wages by 25% while keeping the rent for his housing unchanged. In protest against this, as well as against working days that sometimes reached 16 hours, Pullman workers attempted to meet with the big boss, but Pullman refused to talk to them and fired three of the leaders.
Pullman workers leaving their workplace for the day.
Many of the workers had become members of the American Railway Union, the nation’s first industrial union. Led by a young Eugene Debs, the Pullman workers went on strike on May 11, 1894. Union members refused to run trains with Pullman cars which didn’t really affect rail traffic all that much as trains without union cars were let through. When the switchmen were disciplined for not running the Pullman cars, the entire ARU went on strike on June 26. By June 29, 150,000 workers were on strike and the American train system ground to a halt. Sympathy strikes across the nation damaged rail traffic even more. Basically, American workers, who rightfully blamed the rail companies for the Panic of 1893, started taking out their frustrations on the rail industry, the cause of many of their sufferings.
President Grover Cleveland had named Richard Olney, general counsel for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway as his Attorney General. With this kind of fair and impartial background on the matter, in his great wisdom Olney decided to issue an injunction against the ARU support of the strike. To justify the injunction, Olney used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, which while intended to limit monopolies, became a favored tool of industry and government to crush unions instead. The federal courts and Supreme Court supported this interpretation. No doubt Antonin Scalia would have been proud to be a member of the Gilded Age federal court system. When Debs and the ARU refused to obey the injunction, Olney and Cleveland called out the military over the objection of Illinois Governor John Altgeld, who was sympathetic to the strikers. Commanded by General Nelson Miles, 12,000 U.S. troops, aided by U.S. Marshals, came in and ended the strike on the pretense that the Pullman Strike interfered with the delivery of the mail and violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Pullman strikers confronting the National Guard outside the gates to the Pullman factory.
On July 3, the military entered Chicago, which outraged the previously pretty peaceful strike. Between July 4 and July 7, fires raged through parts of Chicago as workers used them to try and protect themselves from the troops and were just generally extremely angry. One of these fires burned several buildings from the previous year’s World’s Columbian Exposition. Only July 7, the military fired into the crowd, killing at least 4 strikers and wounding around 20. The same day, the military arrested Debs and other ARU leaders and the strike began to fall apart. On August 2, the Pullman plant reopened. 13 strikers were killed and 57 wounded during the strike and its repression. Debs went on trial for conspiracy to obstruct the mail, but these U.S. Attorney dropped these charges, supposedly because a juror got sick, and instead the court sentenced Debs to 6 months for violating the injunction.
Federal troops crushing the Pullman strike.
Serving his prison sentence, Eugene Debs read Karl Marx, became a socialist, and emerged as perhaps the greatest leader for working-class rights the country had seen to that date. He would become a 5-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, running in 1920 from prison where he was sentenced for violating the Sedition Act of 1918 when he criticized World War I.
The injunction would become the greatest tool the capitalists had to crush labor and in the aftermath of Taft-Hartley, it remains a powerful weapon against organized labor today.
Still enraged by Cleveland’s actions, Altgeld successfully prevented the renomination of Grover Cleveland as the Democratic nominee for president in 1896, though one would be silly to credit him entirely given the rise of the Populists and the mania for silver coinage, along with general outrage at Cleveland’s mishandling of the Panic of 1893.
You can visit the Pullman site today in a limited way. A couple of the original buildings still exist but you can’t go in them. The company housing today makes up a somewhat enjoyable neighborhood to wander around in. There’s a small museum that was closed when I visited. There has been a bit of talk of using the site for the Obama Presidential Library or perhaps to turn it over to the National Park Service; in any case, too much American history exists here to let it rot into the prairie.
This series has also discussed the Pittston Strike of 1989 and the beating of the women and children at Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.
A long, long time ago (the Gilded Age) in a land far, far away known as Montana there was a man named William Clark. Not the Lewis & Clark guy but instead a mining capitalist. Born in Pennsylvania in 1839, he followed his family to Iowa as a teenager and then went to the Colorado gold mines during the gold rush in 1859. Clark found he enjoyed the mining world and thus went north to Montana Territory to pan for gold in 1863. He quickly realized that panning gold was for suckers. The smart move was to invest in the mines or sell things to the miners. Clark began running a supply service between Montana and Salt Lake City and made a good bit of money in it. He used that capital to become a banker where he began buying up defaulted mining properties and by the 1870s was raking money in hand over fist in the copper industry.
Clark became one of Montana’s three Copper Kings, the territory’s (state in 1889) version of monopolists John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie. Unlike most of the period’s plutocrats, Clark had personal political ambitions. But very similarly to his fellow capitalists, he felt that he should just be able to purchase his political will. He started this by running a powerful Butte newspaper, where he had built a resplendent mansion while the miners who made his fortune lived in conditions nearing slavery. But that wasn’t enough for Clark. He wanted to be a senator. Now remember that before the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, state legislatures chose U.S. senators. One of the big reasons why reformers pushed this amendment was because of William Clark.
When Clark wanted to become senator, he figured the easiest way to do it was to get out his checkbook. Literally. He bought the votes of the Montana state legislature for the 1898 election for about $140,000. Even for the Gilded Age, this was beyond the pale of acceptable corruption. When this came to light early in 1899, the Senate refused to seat Clark. That didn’t stop him though; acting with slightly less obviousness, he managed to get the state legislature to reelect him in 1900 and he served a single term in the Senate. As Clark said, “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.”
For reformers, William Clark was Exhibit A for the terrible depths to which the American political and corporate world had sunk. Mark Twain hated Clark with special vigor, writing:
“He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed’s time.”
When Clark died in 1925, he was worth $150 million. Today, that would equal $3.482 billion. His Butte mansion is now a bed and breakfast.
This is the world the 5 Republican Supreme Court justices long to recreate through Citizens United and today’s decision to overturn the century-old anti-corruption laws Montana passed to keep this embarrassment from happening again.