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The Greatest Neoliberal in All Neoliberalland

[ 159 ] April 20, 2017 |

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That Tom Perez, he sure is a neoliberal sellout!

The move is one of many small shifts that Perez has undertaken to steer the Democrats slightly more to the left. Already, Perez is sounding more like the president of the AFL-CIO than DNC chairs of past years.

“I mean, there is an unmitigated assault on the labor movement. It’s an assault that just got a big weapon in the form of the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Now there are five votes on that court to make it very, very hard for public-sector labor unions to collect dues,” Perez tells me as we sit in the lobby of the Louisville Hilton.

It’s an attack that has Perez deeply worried.

“And they aren’t gonna stop at public-sector unions,” says Perez. “The way to take down the progressive movement is to attack those community pillars, whether it’s Planned Parenthood or the labor movement. This is not coincidence—who is getting attacked.”

Critics on the left continue to criticize Perez for being a tool of the Democratic Party’s corporate wing, following a contentious DNC election in which he beat progressive stalwart and Bernie-backed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Now, Perez has attempted to distance himself from that label by getting involved in labor struggles.

It’s almost as if Tom Perez was never in fact a tool of Democratic Party’s corporate wing, what with being arguably the most best Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins.

In Perez’s first week at the DNC, he declared his solidarity with the historic 5,000-person “March on Mississippi” against Nissan, an event organized by the United Auto Workers in Canton, Miss.

Perez says that he was inspired to get involved in the struggle by a meeting he had with a Nissan temporary worker, who he later invited to an event at The White House.

“Robert was his name, but I don’t recall his last name,” says Perez. “He’s what they call a ‘permatemp.’ That’s an oxymoron—it should be an oxymoron. How can you be a permanent temporary employee? He is a second-class citizen in the Nissan plant.”

Perez’s pace of speech begins to pick up rapidly as he’s agitated by the issue.

“He has had the indignity of training permanent employees, who make much more than him,” says Perez. “He has to work something like 55 hours to make what someone doing identical work makes in 40 hours. That’s not right, that’s not who we are. Nissan is making a tremendous amount of money and they don’t need to make money on the backs of their workers.”

Yep, pretty clear that Tom Perez only serves the Al Froms and Rahm Emanuels of the world!

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Assistant Professor of Centrist Democrat Studies at Rahm Emanuel University

[ 136 ] April 19, 2017 |

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 10:  White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reacts after reading  "Duck for President," by Doreen Cronin and  Betsy Lewin, to students from Raymond and C.W. Harris Elementary schools during a Reading to the Top event at the Department of Education August 10, 2009 in Washington, DC. The department's Reading to the Top program, which runs through Sept. 11, features various children's books read by the Secretary Duncan, other Cabinet members and top Administration officials.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Guys, Freddie is a little upset, claiming I am “obsessed” with him in a long rambling post that includes a long defense of his commitment to assessment (i.e., worthless paperwork that takes professors away from doing useful things like teaching classes), and various other bizarre musings and that also references me by name at least 7 times. Projection, you say?

Then there’s this:

None of this, of course, will matter to Loomis. I could have gotten a job that perfectly matched with his politics – say, Assistant Professor of Centrist Democrat Studies at Rahm Emanuel University – and he would have been mad.

You might want to console our poor boy. Or back away slowly. Or laugh at him. Whatever works for you this Wednesday evening.

Ladies: Work Will Set You Free

[ 57 ] April 19, 2017 |

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Above: The most feminist factory collapse of all time

Why didn’t anyone tell me it is “Women Will Be Freed by Labor Exploitation Day?”

Example A on ‘the feminist side of sweatshops” (!!!)

Fears of exploitation now often center on South and Southeast Asia. Human Rights Watch recently published a piece condemning Cambodia’s garment factories. True, factory work is difficult and sometimes deadly—just as it was in the Industrial Revolution.

“But ask the woman,” economist Deirdre McCloskey suggests, “if she would rather that the shoe company not make her the offer … Look at the length of queue that forms when Nike opens a new plant in Indonesia. And ask her if she’d rather not have any market opportunities at all, and be left home instead entirely to her father or husband.”

Factory work, though arduous, often represents an improvement for women. Research from Yale University suggests the rise of the garment industry, dominated by female factor workers, helps explain the falling rate of child marriage and rapid increase in girls’ educational attainment in Bangladesh.

Regrettably, well-intentioned calls for export restrictions and boycotts can harm the very women they seek to help, many of whom fear the loss of factory work and a return to rural penury and stricter gender roles. Already, automation threatens the jobs of nine million, mostly young and female, garment factory workers. Boycotts worsen this situation.

Harriet’s arguments still apply today. As long as work is “voluntarily assumed” and laborers maintain the “liberty to withdraw” from it, we should not reject a potential force for women’s empowerment in developing countries in an attempt to protect them. Women everywhere have too much independence for that.

Would you be shocked to note that the author of this piece is a CATO hack? No, no you wouldn’t. This isn’t of course to say that wage labor can’t lead to greater freedom in women’s lives. But the feminist position to take is that these workers shouldn’t die when their sweatshops collapse around them. The feminist position is that these women shouldn’t have their union organizers beaten and killed when they try to organize. The feminist position is that these women shouldn’t be subjected to forced pregnancy tests, rampant sexual harassment, and rape as part of their job. In fact, there may be some difference between actual feminism and a plutocratic ideology that just so happens to serve the interests of sweatshop owners and CATO ideologues!

And then there’s Example B. What is holding back American women? The Fair Labor Standards Act!

This blog will be the first in a three part series taking a fresh look at the FLSA, with a particular focus on its negative impact on working women, and how real change could be a real boon for women. This “Part 1” will examine the history of working women, address why women are leaving the workplace, and what women want from their employers to attract them to stay.

Part 2 will discuss relevant business needs and trends in general in today’s world marketplace.

Finally, Part 3 will bring everything together and explore how the FLSA works against women in achieving their professional goals as well as better work-life balance. It will also consider alternatives to the current structure of the FLSA and the positive impact real change could have on U.S. businesses and women alike.

Given that the rest of Part 1 examines nothing about the history of working women, I know I can’t wait for Part 3! Nothing is bringing women down–and I mean NOTHING–like the minimum wage, overtime pay, and a ban on child labor!!!

Affordable Housing

[ 139 ] April 19, 2017 |

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Affordable housing lotteries in New York are really a sign of just how woeful the housing situation is in that city for the poor, not to mention the middle class.

In a January press message, the developers of Pacific Park Brooklyn suggested “the demand for affordable housing in the borough is tremendous,” citing more than 84,000 applications for 181 units at 461 Dean and “roughly 95,000 applications” for 297 apartments at 535 Carlton. These are among the first four residential buildings in the 15-tower project, which will contain 2,250 below-market units among 6,430 apartments in Prospect Heights.

But such catch-all statistics—regularly used in depicting the hunt for below-market units—camouflage how low-income applicants face crushing odds compared to middle-income ones.

Exactly 92,743 households (not quite 95,000) entered the lottery for the “100 percent affordable” 535 Carlton tower, city data show. But only 2,203, according to City Limits’ analysis, were eligible for 148 middle-income apartments, such as one-bedrooms renting for $2,680 monthly and two-bedrooms at $3,223, affordable to those earning six figures. (The massive Excel spreadsheets, with names redacted, were obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.)

Also, 4,609 entrants vied for 44 units in the building’s other middle-income “band,” which includes one-bedrooms at $2,170 and two-bedrooms at $2,611, with rents set at approximately 30 percent of household income.

For less costly apartments, the competition was fierce. For the 15 moderate-income units, including seven one-bedrooms at $1,320, some 18,680 households applied.

More starkly, nearly 67,000 households, some 72 percent of the applicant pool, aimed at the 90 low-income units, including one-bedrooms at $589 and $929, for singles earning $21,566 to $25,400 and $33,223 to $38,100, respectively.

A good number of them were ineligible because their incomes either were too low or they fell between the two low-income “bands.” Also, 15 low-income units will ultimately be distributed outside the lottery, designated for homeless households under a new city policy.

While New York may be the worst city when it comes to affordable housing (or second, outside of San Francisco) it’s a growing problem throughout the urban core of our nation. The problem is that the new building is too unregulated, in that it allows developers to set the market, where the profit is all on the high end. What we actually need is a new round of public housing building, except that this time, the government needs to actually fund the housing instead of assuming it will generate the expenses needed to keep it up, which was the main problem with the notorious mid-twentieth century public housing projects that gave the whole concept a bad name when they fixed with white flight to make these buildings a living hell for residents. It’s good that there is some requirement for affordable housing, but it flat out isn’t enough and it never will be until the government mandates it.

On Philanthropy

[ 73 ] April 19, 2017 |

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Americans love philanthropy because we love individualism and we love our rich. We indeed think that could be us with some luck and hard work. Bootstrapism remains a powerful mythology within our society and goes a long ways to understanding why the United States is more economically conservative than Europe. And if you are rich, you are seen as an expert. Thus Bill Gates gets to set a global agenda on health care and Mark Zuckerberg somehow knows something about education. But while individual philanthropists can influence the world for good, the larger impact is really problematic, allowing the wealthy to create policy developing out of wankfests like the Aspen Institute. In the end, every dollar that goes toward rich people’s philanthropies is a dollar that the government should have taxed and spent to create social programs that make philanthropy unnecessary. Imagine a government actually funding public broadcasting instead of a system that relies on fundraising all the time. Imagine government funding higher education instead of forcing university presidents to do the bidding of the wealthy so they can get the donations they need to keep the school running. Imagine the U.S. government declaring war on disease instead of letting Bill Gates set the agenda. Instead Betsy DeVos is running our education system because she is rich and wants to get everyone in religious schools. Great.

I recognize this is the society in which we live and given the real world I don’t begrudge anyone going after donations. But it’s really not a good scene and is part and parcel of the New Gilded Age.

The Lesson Is, Never Try

[ 235 ] April 19, 2017 |

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The Simpsons is celebrating 30 years on the air. If “celebrate” is the right word for a show that has been pointless to terrible for the last 15 years. In fact, it’s been bad for so long that it’s almost easy to forget just how wonderful it was. Here is a ranking of the top 100 Simpsons episodes. Tellingly, not a single episode in the top 100 happened after Season 9. If only the show had ended there, or at least by Season 12 or so when it was clear that it was dead except for cheap gags and celebrity appearances. Of course, one could say the same about Woody Allen films. Anyway, if it ever ends, it will be easier to go back and remember its greatness without being reminded of what it has become.

The Democratic Party: Labor’s Frenemy

[ 119 ] April 18, 2017 |

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I have a long piece in the Boston Review on the complicated relationship between organized labor and the Democratic Party. The basic thesis is that unions have no real choice other than working within the Democratic Party even when the Democratic Party does not pay off that support. In the end, what other choices does labor have? The political wilderness. An excerpt that starts by considering the paradox that despite the Obama administration doing a lot for workers in the second term, unionization rates still declined in the last 8 years:

This mixed bag for American workers suggests both the possibilities and limitations of labor unions’ integration into the Democratic Party. Nothing in American labor history suggests unions can succeed if the government opposes their causes, but unions have consistently failed to further a pro-labor agenda within the Democratic Party. And without a realistic alternative—the Republican Party, after all, has waged a multi-decade war on workers—unions have no choice but to keep working within the Democratic Party.

Historically unions have faced three fundamental challenges within the Democratic Party. First, and perhaps most importantly, they are politically isolated, thanks to geographical limitations. Unions only ever held significant power in a handful of states in the Northeast and Midwest, with smaller numbers on the West Coast. This meant that politicians throughout the South, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain states could ignore unions, attract companies to their states by claiming they would remain non-union, and pay no political price for hostility to organized labor.

Second, the Democratic Party has lacked a coherent industrial policy for the last half-century that would foster union growth. Both Democrats and Republicans have helped companies move their union factories to overseas locations while having no realistic job plans for those workers left behind.

Third, and as a result of the other two issues, the labor movement has remained a junior partner in the Democratic Party, unable to be the kingmaker it hoped to be after World War II. Without meaningful input or control of the Democratic agenda, it remains reliant on the goodwill of national Democrats and the few allies it does manage to cultivate to promote its agenda.

I go on to discuss how the failure of unions to organize the South in face of widespread racebaiting and anti-Semitism meant that Democrats like Carter and Clinton rose to power owing basically nothing to unions and how that, combined with the lack of a meaningful industrial policy or any real plan to deal with globalization, deindustrialization, and automation, means that Democrats have a lot of responsibility for the problems workers face today. Yet, what else is there for unions to do but to keep trying to make the Democratic Party better? Not much.

I also argue that the progressive politics of the small, grassroots donor is basically a consumerist politics that privileges middle class white people over workers and the collective action that only unions can provide.

The reality of the post–Citizens United world even further marginalizes organized labor within the Democratic Party. Democratic candidates are increasingly reliant upon both corporate grandees and small donors to run election campaigns. But while progressives mostly like the small donor model, which worked so well for Bernie Sanders, what this really means is that legions of middle to upper-middle class white donors will be funding grassroots Democratic campaigns. Without a strong union influence over candidates, union workers, who are increasingly African-Americans and Latinos and who lack the resources to donate to candidates individually, will be shut out of the process. Such a model might be good for progressive initiatives such as gathering support for minimum wage hikes, but significantly less so for union-specific legislation such as passing card check legislation or reversing a national right-to-work bill if Trump were to sign one. If unions could not reverse legislative setbacks during the Johnson or Obama eras, it seems even less likely that they will be able to the next time Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.

And yes, this may be the first ever political article or at the very least article about labor unions to use the word “frenemy” in the title. I feel like getting that title through the editors is a victory for 21st century language.

Made in the USA

[ 132 ] April 18, 2017 |

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Sure, I roll my eyes at companies saying they can’t actually make their products in the United States because they can’t get their supply chains here. Well, you can always make the parts yourself. But despite this, it’s true enough that one of the biggest problems with Made in the USA rhetoric is that what consumers actually want is whatever is cheapest and they don’t care how many workers die producing the goods because they won’t ever know about it. So if production is moved back to the U.S. and everyone wants the cheapest goods possible that means only one thing–automation. This sort of economic nationalism won’t actually help bring many good jobs back to the working class. The problem however is that the anger of the working class toward a lack of good jobs is not only legitimate but also a major point of social upheaval that is not going away. This is why the left needs a real economic program to deal with these problems that starts with a revived original draft of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act that makes the government the employer of last resort. Because if you liked the 2016 election, you will love what continued desperation and anger loves to our future.

Finally, Journalists Are Paying Attention to White Trump Voters

[ 100 ] April 18, 2017 |

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The New York Times may actually have a narrower range of articles concerning the aftermath of the 2016 election than it does on the op-ed page, as it publishes its approximately 798th article on white Trump voters in Rust Belt states since November 8.

It’s good to know that black or Latino voters or Democratic voters are not ever worth attention.

Today in Terrible Democratic Responses to Trump

[ 98 ] April 18, 2017 |

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Earl Blumeanuer has a very, very bad idea.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House’s two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office.

“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Blumenauer’s proposal stems from concern that the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted five decades ago, would fall short in cases of emotional or mental incapacity.

The amendment states that the vice president assumes the Oval Office in the event a president is removed from office, dies or resigns.

Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officers can also jointly declare that a president is unfit to serve. The vice president would then take over as president in such a case.

In the event a president refused to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote to force the resignation.

But Blumenauer posited that the mechanism wouldn’t be effective if a mentally unstable president simply fired all the Cabinet members. He argued it’s also possible that Cabinet members might feel pressured to stand by the president in the polarized political environment despite their own personal misgivings.

“Because the cabinet can be fired by the president, there is a natural bias that would make them reluctant to acknowledge the president’s inability to serve. It’s time to revisit and strengthen the Amendment and make sure there is a reliable mechanism in place if the president becomes unable to discharge the powers and duties of office,” Blumenauer said.

First, this is a horrible bill on the face of it. Yes, I want to see Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle make decisions on who is fit for the Oval Office! What could go wrong? Because this committee would just reflect partisan politics, it would be completely ineffective against someone like Trump. Moreover, the only way it could be effective is if one party had dominated politics for enough time to control the committee and thus serve as a veto to get rid of a president from an opposing party. The consequences of that would be one-party authoritarianism.

Second, this is indicative of a lot of reaction to Trump from Democrats since November 8. The amount of grasping at desperate straws has been disheartening. The idea that an electoral college revolt would reject Trump was the worst moment in this, but relying on the 25th Amendment is almost as bad. This kind of desperation shows how reluctant liberals are to deal with the real problem–the Republican Party. Donald Trump is nothing more than a slightly worse Republican than normal. That’s why the Republican base supports his agenda and why congressional Republicans are unwilling to buck him on most issues–except from the right! Getting rid of Trump solves nothing except some exceptional kleptocracy. But until I see Republicans outraged by Trump’s support of Erdogan, I’m not believing that they care one iota about emerging authoritarianism. It’s what they want if they can be the authorities.

Let’s get serious about fixing this nation and quit pretending like the problem is just in the Oval Office.

Schilling

[ 163 ] April 16, 2017 |

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Travis Waldron follows the career of Curt Schilling from regular old white Republican to insane mouthbreather who lost the entirety of his New England hero status by becoming totally unhinged. Worth a read.

Labor: Preparing for Bad Times

[ 47 ] April 16, 2017 |

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This article on SEIU’s budget cuts confirms what my own internal sources at the union have told me: it is cutting back big time because Friedrichs II is on the way and is going to ravage public sector unionism.

“After spending big on Clinton, Obama, SEIU now facing steep budget cuts,” the Free Beacon published, referencing a recently posted federal filing and launching a flurry of aggregated posts.

But connecting those events — SEIU’s support of Democratic politicians and its upcoming cuts — is misleading, said Joseph Slater, a labor-focused professor at the University of Toledo’s College of Law.

“This isn’t a union financially in trouble because of money spent on the election,” Slater said. “That money was budgeted for the election, and the SEIU has a long history, as do most other labor unions, of supporting candidates.”

Rather, he said, the union is bracing for a monetary blow in the near-future — brought on, in part, by Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

Judge Gorsuch, who was sworn in this week, could cast the deciding vote in a case that concerns whether public sector unions can collect “agency fees” from workers who don’t want to bankroll the union’s political activities. One such case in Illinois could land before the court as early as this year.

By spending freely, one of the things meant is the Fight for $15. People have talked about this as a new frontier in union activism (as well as for the side of the labor movement that hates BIG EVIL PURPLE it’s another sign of SEIU perfidy). But this also costs a lot of money and SEIU really doesn’t get anything in return in terms of member dues. Actually organizing a McDonald’s is something that has never been done. So how much can the union serve as a bank account for outside efforts with no pay off, even if they are socially the right thing to do?

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