Saturday, April 29, 2017

Enlighten Radio:Labor Beat Podcast -- WV Legislature with Bob Beach -- DC Labor Film Fest

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Enlighten Radio Podcasts:Podcast: Paris on the Potomac: the Climate March, Guv Shutdown, and more

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Brexit: the egocentric framing error [feedly]

Brexit: the egocentric framing error

Chris Grey decries the stupidity of Brexiters:

So insular has the discussion in the UK been before and since the referendum that one might think that Brexit is simply a matter of the UK formulating its demands.

What's going on here is a specific example of a more general error. It's what David Navon has called egocentric framing – a tendency to see problems only from our own point of view rather than to put ourselves into others' shoes.

We've all been stuck in traffic on a motorway and changed lanes only to see a few minutes later than the lane we left is moving faster. The mistake we make in those cases is to forget that other drivers are trying to solve the same problem as us with the same evidence and so make the same choices – thereby adding to congestion.

Investors make the same mistake. One of the best-attested stock market anomalies is the tendency for newly-floated shares to fall (pdf) in the months after being issued. A big reason for this is that buyers don't put themselves into the seller's position. They see what looks like an attractive business but fail to ask: if this company is so good, why is the man who knows most about it willing to sell? Simply asking that question would save people money.

The same thing is true in games. When I play chess, I find that I do better if I put myself into my opponent's position, and ask: what moves is she planning? What weaknesses trouble her?

It's common for intelligent people to regard Brexit negotiations as an exercise in game theory. And they're right. But the essence of game theory is to think yourself into the position of the other party. That means doing the precise opposite of egocentric framing.

Doing so is doubly beneficial.

For one thing, it gives us insights into what the other party wants and what they are willing to trade. It leads to some of the principles set out by Fisher and Ury in Getting to Yes (pdf): separate the people from the problem; focus on interests not positions; and invent options for mutual gain.

For another, putting yourself into the other person's shoes will lead you to act like him, or at least give off cues that you're like him. This will lead to better results simply because people tend to be more generous to those who are like us in some way. Some researchers have found that waitresses who repeat customers' words earn bigger tips (pdf) than others. And other experiments have found that mimicking (pdf) the body language of your interlocutor can improve the outcome of negotiations. As the authors of that latter study say:

Mimicking can be a highly effective tool in negotiations. Negotiators often leave considerable value on the table, mainly because they feel reluctant to share information with their opponent due to their fears of exploitation. Yet building trust and sharing information greatly increases the probability that a win–win outcome will be reached…Our research suggests that mimicking is one way to facilitate building trust and consequently, information sharing in a negotiation. By creating trust in and soliciting information from their opponents, mimickers bake bigger pies at the bargaining table, and consequently take a larger share of that pie for themselves.

But Brexiters are doing the exact opposite of this. Little Englanderism, the assertion of our specialness and the imbecilic antics of Johnson all serve to create a distance between us and the EU, when we should be seeking to minimize that distance. As Chris says, "every screaming headline and every bellicose punch-drunk interview from a Brexiter politician damages us more."

And here, my patience runs out. Yes, government is a tricky business in which mistakes are inevitable. But we've a vast body of research which warns us of those mistakes, and which should equip us to at least avoid the obvious errors. The Tories, however, don't seem able to do even this. The idea that they are best able to negotiate Brexit is not obviously founded in evidence. There's more to negotiating than making strident demands.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

California Single-Payer Healthcare Bill Passes First Committee Test

California Single-Payer Healthcare Bill Passes First Committee Test

Portside Date: 
April 28, 2017
Melanie Mason
Date of Source: 
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
LA Times

A sweeping measure that would establish government-run universal healthcare in California cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday as scores of supporters crammed into the Capitol to advocate for a single-payer system.

The Senate Health Committee approved the measure on a 5-2 vote after a nearly three-hour hearing, but Democrats and Republicans alike signaled unease with the major question still unanswered in the legislation: how the program would be paid for.

The bill, SB 562, would establish a publicly run healthcare plan that would cover everyone living in California, including those without legal immigration status. The proposal would drastically reduce the role of insurance companies [1]: The state would pay for all medical expenses, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, dental, vision, mental health and nursing home care.

The measure says the program would be funded by "broad-based revenue," but does not specify where that money would come from.

"How can we go forward with this bill without a fiscal analysis, a detailed financing plan?" asked Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), a coauthor of the bill, said a detailed financial study would be completed in May, before the bill is heard in the Appropriations Committee, a key fiscal panel.

"Sen. [Toni] Atkins and I are not just going to do this on a whim," Lara said, referring to his coauthor, a Democrat from San Diego. "We want to make sure it's sustainable."

With the significant unanswered question of funding still looming, lawmakers turned their focus to the implementation of such a system, with ideas including the use of electronic health records and securing waivers from the federal government to administer Medicare and Medi-Cal funds.

"Because I ask questions about how we operationalize the bill, it should not call into question my commitment to healthcare for all," Sen. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said, emphasizing that her inquiries were on "the issue of how we get it done."


Supporters of the bill turned out in force at the Capitol, many wearing red shirts identifying them as members of the California Nurses Assn., a powerful labor group sponsoring the bill. Other labor groups, including the California Labor Federation, and consumer groups also backed the effort, as well as members of the grass-roots Our Revolution group inspired by the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

A wide array of business groups opposed the measure, including health insurers, manufacturers and the California Chamber of Commerce, which called the bill a "job killer."

The hearing came on the heels of a fact-finding trip to Canada by Lara, who, who along with two other Democratic senators met with health officials in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec to learn about their single-payer healthcare systems.

In an interview, Lara described how his spring break trip to Canada helped inform his views on public healthcare. He said his Canadian hosts acknowledged their healthcare system was not perfect, pointing to long wait times to see specialists as a legitimate concern.

But other fears, such as whether public healthcare would dampen research and innovation, were assuaged by a visit to a high-tech cardiac center in Toronto, he said.

"It was refreshing for me to see that … under a public system that research and state-of-the-art facilities and care can also exist," Lara said.

None of the Canadian experts warned the senators away from pursuing a single-payer plan, but they recommended a cautious approach, Lara said, particularly when it comes to deciding at the outset what type of care would be covered under the public plan.

The advice was to "be very diligent and thoughtful in terms of what you're going to offer — because once you offer it, you can't take it away," Lara said. They also advised looking to other models — not just Canada's — in crafting a plan for California. Lara said he intends to examine Taiwan's healthcare system, as well as Maryland's "all-payer" system, in which all private insurers pay the same rate for hospital procedures.

Melanie Mason covers state government and politics in Sacramento. She first began working for the Los Angeles Times in 2011 in Washington, D.C., where she covered money and politics during the 2012 presidential campaign. She is originally from Los Angeles and is a graduate of Georgetown University and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. @melmason

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

The Winners and Losers Radio Show
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Learning from China’s Industrial Strategy [feedly]

GENEVA – While the world watches anxiously for signs of US President Donald Trump's next move vis-à-vis China, Chinese leaders remain focused on the next stage of their country's ongoing economic transformation. What they do should interest everyone – especially US policymakers.

China's industrialization process, like that of other successful East Asian economies, has combined profit-led investment, active industrial policy, and export discipline. But that approach has its limits, exemplified in the numerous developing countries that have attempted to climb the same development ladder, only to become stuck on the middle rungs or even to fall back, owing to what Harvard University economist Dani Rodrik has called "premature deindustrialization."

As part of CM2025, policy and financial support will be provided to spur technological breakthroughs in ten key areas, including next-generation information technology; high-end computer-controlled machine tools and robotics; space and aviation equipment; alternative-energy vehicles; and bio-medicine and high-performance medical devices.China hopes to avoid this fate, with the help of "China Manufacturing 2025" (CM2025), a roadmap released by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015 to guide the country's industrial modernization. The strategy focuses on developing advanced manufacturing sectors, but also considers how producer services, services-oriented manufacturing, and green technologies can complement that process.

CM2025 has sometimes been portrayed as a return to old-school top-down mercantilist practices and import-substitution policies. But that reading overlooks China's active experimentation with industrial and financial policies. In fact, that experimentation may hold valuable lessons for policy evaluation and innovation elsewhere. Not only are many developing countries now devising their own strategies for industrial upgrading and diversification; some developed economies, including the United States, are currently seeking to revive their manufacturing bases.

Start with industrial policy. According to China's strategy, by 2025, the country should have a set of internationally competitive multinational firms that have made progress in upgrading their positions in global value chains. Moreover, by that date, key Chinese industries should adopt international efficiency standards related to energy and material consumption and pollution. By 2035, China expects its economy to be fully industrialized.

These broad objectives are underpinned by an array of specific domestic (and international) targets for market share in key areas. For example, production of integrated circuits should rise to 75% of domestic demand in 2030, compared to 41% in 2015.

One of CM2025's less-noticed components, financial-policy guidance, is also one of its more innovative. In order to reduce the cost of capital for manufacturing firms, the strategy calls for the creation of new financing channels, while instructing China's development-finance institutions to increase their support for particular ends. Specifically, the Export-Import Bank of China should strengthen services for manufacturing firms to invest overseas, while the China Development Bank (CDB) should increase loans to manufacturing firms, with a view to "guiding" financing from other institutions, such as venture-capital and private-equity funds.

This approach, China hopes, can drive progress toward its objectives for upgrading and reform, by creating a set of purpose-built financing vehicles – so-called government guidance funds (GGFs) – that are responsible for allocating public investment funds. As a report by McKinsey & Company puts it, this "more market-based investment approach" is a "bold experiment designed to improve the likelihood of success."

Exemplifying this approach, China's state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup recently secured CN¥150 billion ($21.8 billion) in new financing to support upgrading in the country's semiconductor industry. Of that financing, CN¥100 billion came from the CDB and CN¥50 billion came from the National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund. a national-level GGF created in 2014.

The role of GGFs will only grow. In 2015, 297 GGFs were created with slightly more than CN¥1.5 trillion of available capital – a fivefold increase from 2014. Municipal-level GGFs were the most numerous; but provincial-level GGFs led the way in terms of funding.

Last year, two more national-level GGFs were created: a $30 billion state venture capital investment fund and a $50 billion state structural adjustment fund. In both cases, the main shareholder is a holding company owned by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. In January, China's Silk Road Fund – along with other Chinese investors, as well as investors from Singapore and Japan – founded the $800 million Hou'an Innovation Fund, to invest in technology start-ups in areas like the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, Big Data, and artificial intelligence.

China's experiments with industrial and financial policies may end up providing emerging economies with valuable insight into how to avoid the middle-income trap. But, for a US concerned with its eroding manufacturing base, the lesson is already apparent. As Brad DeLong and Stephen S. Cohen have outlined, the US should act now to revive its pragmatic industrial-policy tradition, put finance back to work for the real economy, and invest in new activities that can reinvigorate a struggling middle class.Much remains to be seen about CM2025 and the use of these various new investment vehicles. But China appears poised to boost investment significantly in a range of new and advanced technologies in strategic sectors, while retaining equity stakes as they are developed and commercialized. If it succeeds, it will have laid the institutional foundations for new sources of growth. And, as the benefits of innovation are diffused throughout the economy, China will move closer to its goal: becoming a high-income country.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Trade, Jobs, and Inequality Video [feedly]

Trade, Jobs, and Inequality Video

Courtesy of Mark Thoma: Trade, Jobs, and Inequality Video

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Richard Wolf Podcast: Economic Update - Rising Costs of Capitalism’s Failures - 04.30.17 [feedly]

Economic Update - Rising Costs of Capitalism's Failures - 04.30.17

Updates on courts blocking Trumps attack on sanctuary cities, selling Whole Foods, Jack Ma and blaming technology for jobs collapse, falling department store jobs since 2000, British queen's enterprise award to UK worker coop, Suma. Major discussions: Trump's corporate tax "reform," crisis as millions of new entrants into global job markets find too few jobs, SSDI crudely targeted by Trump budget director, populism as an elite-vs people formatting of elections.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Bloomberg: No One Can Trust Trump on Immigration [feedly]

No One Can Trust Trump on Immigration

No One Can Trust Trump on Immigration


 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Big Oil Heads for Back-to-Back Profit Triumphs as Fortunes Turn

Gee, with Exxon's capture of Trump foreign and energy policy, who is surprised?

Big Oil Heads for Back-to-Back Profit Triumphs as Fortunes Turn

Fresh off Big Oil's best quarter in years, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. may be poised for a repeat.

One-third of the way into the second quarter, crude prices -- the prime driver of explorers' profits -- are 25 percent higher than a year ago. If global supplies continue to contract and demand inches up through the end of June, the two dominant U.S. drillers will book a second straight quarterly victory in late July or early August.

Already, analysts are forecasting profit blowouts even larger than those registered when Exxon and Chevron disclosed first-quarter results on Friday. Exxon is seen lifting per-share earnings by 132 percent while Chevron is expected to post its biggest second-quarter profit in three years.

"It's cutting costs, it's getting more for every dollar you spend, it's getting more from each well and getting it out faster," said Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis. "It just shows how these companies have had to adapt to a new environment."

Exxon, the world's biggest oil producer by market value, earned 95 cents a share during the first quarter, outperforming all but one of the 19 analysts' estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Chevron, the second-largest U.S. driller, swung to a profit in a big way, scoring its largest quarterly gain since 2014 and a per-share result that was 64 percent higher than the average estimate.

Brent crude, the benchmark for most of the world's oil, has averaged $53.82 a barrel since the current quarter began on April 1, compared with $43.10 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Production Drop

As charter members of the elite supermajor clique that also includes Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Total SA, Exxon and Chevron are among the biggest beneficiaries of the escalation in crude prices. Total reported a 56 percent profit increase on April 26 and if the trend holds, Shell and BP would post impressive results next week.

Exxon's profit surged even as oil and natural gas production fell 4 percent from the same period last year, according to a statement from the Irving, Texas-based company Friday. Exxon cut capital and exploration expenditures in the quarter 19 percent to $4.2 billion.

"In both cases, the earnings beat was largely from realized pricing rather than production," said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc. in Houston. "Pricing is always a proverbial black box for multinational oil and gas producers, and it is not something that companies can themselves control."

While benchmark Brent crude rose more than 50 percent last year to more than $50 a barrel, prices are down about 9 percent in 2017 as a resurgence in U.S. shale production threatens an attempt by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to eliminate a global oversupply.

Debut Quarter

In his debut quarter, Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods is focusing on prospects in places as diverse as offshore Guyana and the New Mexico desert to replenish reserves that last year underwent the deepest cut in Exxon's modern history. Woods' predecessor Rex Tillerson retired in January to become U.S. secretary of state. Two weeks later, the company announced the $5.6 billion purchase of acreage in New Mexico.

The company's board expects to make a final investment decision on the 1.4-billion barrel Liza discovery off Guyana's coast around the middle of this year, said Vice President Jeff Woodbury.

Profit from Exxon's overseas production climbed $1.51 billion, offsetting a loss from U.S. wells. U.S. crude output climbed 2.6 percent during the quarter as oil production dropped in every other region of the world. Exxon's cash balance was up 32 percent during the quarter to $4.9 billion.

First-quarter net income rose to $4.01 billion, or 95 cents a share, from $1.81 billion, or 43 cents, a year earlier, according to the statement. Exxon had been expected to post per-share profit of 86 cents, based on the average of 20 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chevron Slims Down

Chevron curbed operating expenses by 14 percent and drove drilling outlays down 30 percent during the January-to-March period, the San Ramon, California-based company said in a statement on Friday. The company reiterated plans to lift full-year output by 4 percent to 9 percent, excluding the impact of asset sales.

For Chevron, 2016 was a painful year. The company posted its first annual loss in at least 36 years and failed to replace all the crude and natural gas it pumped with new discoveries. As a result, Chief Executive Officer John Watson vowed to cut spending by 15 percent this year to cope with the lingering cash flow impacts of the worst oil market crash in a generation.

Watson has also said he's devoting 75 percent of the 2017 drilling budget to U.S. shale fields and other projects that will generate cash within two years. That's a titanic shift for an operator renowned for its proficiency in constructing massive, intricate crude and gas projects that produce for decades.

On Friday, the company swung to a profit of $2.68 billion, or $1.41 a share, in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $725 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier, according to the statement. The company had been expected to disclose per-share profit of 86 cents, based on the average of 22 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The profit result included a $600 million boon from an asset sale, which accounted for about 32 cents of the per-share gain, according to Bloomberg calculations.

"The sweet-spot of financial firepower -– and therefore higher returns to shareholders –- still requires significant price recovery," Alastair Syme, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., said in an April 19 note.

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

The Winners and Losers Radio Show
7-9 AM Weekdays, The EPIC Radio Player Stream, 
Sign UP HERE to get the Weekly Program Notes.

Open letter: Screw You, Frank Rich. – Holler from the Hollers!

Friday, April 28, 2017

President Trump’s Dramatic Retreat on Trade [feedly]

President Trump's Dramatic Retreat on Trade

President Trump's Dramatic Retreat on Trade

Dean Baker and Jeff Hauser
The Hill, April 25, 2017

See article on original site

Trade was a major theme in President Trump's campaign.

He repeatedly complained that our trade negotiators were stupid and therefore had negotiated bad trade agreements. These bad trade deals are the cause of our trade deficits, which have cost us millions of manufacturing jobs over the last two decades.

Trump made very specific promises to turn things around once he was in the White House. In "Donald Trump's Contract with the American Voter," his "100-day action plan to Make America Great Again" included two very clear trade-related promises: 

"I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator" and "I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205."

As we approach the 100 day mark of the Trump administration, there is no evidence of progress in fulfilling either promise.  Trump's failure to act on core campaign promises while he and his family continue to wheel and deal in the private sector raises questions about whether Trump is sacrificing the interests of his voters to the wishes of his business partners.

Trump's retreat on the currency issue with China has been dramatic. After meeting with China's President Xi Jinping earlier this month, Trump announced that there was no reason to press China on the value of its currency because it was helping the United States in dealing with North Korea. His Treasury department declined to name China a currency manipulator in its annual review. 

While there are legitimate questions as to how China is now managing its currency (in the last year it has actually intervened to raise rather than lower its value relative to the dollar), Trump has essentially abandoned his commitment to force China to raise the value of its currency to make U.S. goods and services more competitive. 

Without a change in the value of China's currency, it is very difficult to see how Trump could possibly make good on his promise to bring back the jobs we lost. It was always questionable how many jobs could be returned even if the dollar fell against the Chinese yuan. But if we don't even see the first step, there will be no progress in reducing our $300 billion trade deficit and increasing manufacturing employment.  

However, if life is a series of "deals," there are reasons to imagine that Trump's posturing about China paid dividends both electorally and financially.

The fashion line of President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, is rapidly accelerating sales globally while being produced primarily in China. Ivanka Trump and the President have each achieved notable victories in the area of trademarking their names and products in China during the same period of time in which China and Trump have become more amicable.

The president's son-in-law, Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner, also has had cause to speak up on China's behalf.  Kushner was on the verge of a $400 million investment from a Chinese insurance company (Anbang) with close ties to the Chinese government in a debt-laden Manhattan property of his until the deal collapsed under heavy press scrutiny in March.  

In December, Kushner was negotiating with Anbang while also serving as the Trump Transition's point person in addressing China's "deep displeasure" at then President-elect Trump speaking directly with Taiwan's President, a violation of longstanding "One China" policy.

After that phone call, having seemingly secured China's attention, Trump as President returned to the longstanding "One China" policy.

There have been fewer fireworks in Trump's promise to renegotiate NAFTA, although it is certainly clear the promise has been broken.

The NAFTA agreement has an explicit opt-out provision under which any of the countries can trigger with six months notice. As of yet, Trump still has not given formal notice of his intention to pull out or renegotiate what he repeatedly decried as a terrible deal. Apparently it has not been the priority he claimed it would be during the campaign.

Insofar as he has raised issues with NAFTA, his list has not involved items that have concerned the deals opponents. For example, he has not indicated any intention of getting rid of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that provides foreign investors an extra-judicial process for contesting laws and regulations. The Canadian company that wants to build the XL pipeline was using the ISDS to sue the U.S. government for $15 billion after Obama denied authorization. 

While key Trump voters across states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin might be upset with this reversal if they were aware of it, it's likely that veteran multinational business leaders surrounding Trump in the White House are happy.

And if we had full transparency into the operations of the Trump family business, we would know if happy business leaders are improving the Trump Organization's bottom line.

Dean Baker, co-Director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, which promotes democratic debate on important economic and social issues. Jeff Hauser is the executive director of the Revolving Door Project — a project housed at CEPR that investigates conflicts of interest in administrations and issues of transparency.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Policy Watch: President Trump has had help implementing his anti-worker agenda [feedly]

Policy Watch: President Trump has had help implementing his anti-worker agenda

Tomorrow marks the 100th day of Donald Trump's presidency. EPI released a report examining President Trump's actions in his first 100 days in office and their impact on U.S. workers and our economy. The report reveals that Trump's top priorities include rolling back worker protections, advancing a budget proposal that would dramatically cut funding for the agencies that safeguard worker's rights, and nominating individuals to key posts—even to the Supreme Court—who threaten workers' wages, safety, and bargaining power. But, it is important to remember that President Trump did not accomplish this alone—Congress has been instrumental in advancing this agenda.

Congressional Republicans passed each of the resolutions Trump signed blocking much-needed worker protections. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after refusing to allow Senate consideration of President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, set a new precedent in the Senate in order to confirm a Supreme Court justice with a record of ruling against workers. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta to serve as labor secretary, despite the fact that Acosta failed to answer basic questions regarding how he would run the Labor Department.

As we evaluate Trump's first 100 days in office, we should consider the important role Congress has played in helping the president accomplish his priorities. Because of the Congressional majority, federal contractors who violate labor and employment laws will continue to be rewarded with taxpayer dollars, unemployment insurance applicants will have additional hurdles to navigate in obtaining earned benefits, and workers will be more likely to be injured or killed on the job. The Perkins Project Policy Watch will continue to track the Trump administration and Congress and provide information on how their actions impact on our nation's workers.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Tony Pecinovsky: Sen. McCaskill demonstrates the limits of neo-liberal centrism

Tony asks the right questions, although I suggest discarding the term "neo-liberalism". It's meaningless politically -- no ordinary person knows what it means. It's almost meaningless economically since every economist defines it differently. Use Austerity instead -- its the part of "neo liveralism" that workers see.

Sen. McCaskill demonstrates the limits of neo-liberal centrism

Tony Pecinovsky

Recently at a town hall forum in Fulton, Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill demonstrated the limitations of neo-liberal political centrism.

When asked about the prospect of free college tuition, something Sen. Bernie Sanders and others have argued for, McCaskill quipped, "We can't just start having the government pay for everything."

At the heart of McCaskill's comment are a number of interconnected and overlapping issues related to the role of government in a democratic society, as well as the class content of policy decisions often designed to benefit the wealthy.

In full disclosure, it isn't hard to infer from McCaskill's larger campaign contributions the class dynamics at work in her reluctance to support government funding of higher education. She has received nearly $120,000 from Washington University in St. Louis and over $61,000 from the University of Missouri from 2011 to 2016.

Cumulatively, McCaskill has received over $400,000 from educational institutions, their employees and families since 2011.

It would strain the boundaries of credulity to sincerely believe these bountiful campaign contributions didn't influence McCaskill's rather limited and limiting vision of higher education funding.

Unfortunately, McCaskill's perspective on this and other issues isn't unique. And her disingenuous comments only serve to demonstrate the boundaries in which democracy is placed if we limit our discourse to neo-liberal political centrism.

Arguably, neo-liberalism – as embodied by the Democratic Party – is on the decline. Hundreds of thousands of people have either left the Democratic Party or are actively trying to reshape it, especially, at a local level, into a vehicle for progressive social change. Local State Rep. and Aldermanic elections here in St. Louis exemplify the latter trend, while the near complete collapse of the Democratic Party in rural Missouri exemplify the former.

A similar contest for the direction of the Democratic Party is taking place all over the country, the Tom Perez – Keith Ellison DNC arm-wrangling is but one recent example.

Simultaneously, however, and probably not coincidentally, 'alt-right' radicalism is feeling emboldened, and possibly ascending. They know politicians like McCaskill offer little alternative to the status quo, to the policies that have already failed working families. They know people are eager for change, regardless of the direction and/or form that change takes.

They know the Democratic Party is in disarray.

They see an opportunity to deepen the chasm between deep-pocket, centrist Democratic Party stalwarts like McCaskill and the emerging grassroots leftist trend sweeping local ballots.

How we respond can and will define the terrain of struggle moving forward.

Arguably for us, those on the left, fundamental questions are emerging within the body politic, questions that could have long-lasting repercussions for our democracy.

These questions are: Can we afford to limit ourselves to the prescribed boundaries of neo-liberal political centrism? Can we afford to give politicians like McCaskill a pass? How do we challenge "centrism," while not emboldening the right? And, most importantly, what is our vision of the role of government in a democratic society? What is our alternative? And how do we articulate it?

McCaskill obviously has one set of answers, some of which were put forth in Fulton. And while we may agree with her on other issues, like workers' rights to form and join unions, that doesn't mean we should support her unconditionally.

We would bode well to remember that political alliances are temporary and often guided by expediency and power.

Simply put, McCaskill could be more in tune with the shifting of the political winds, at least in rural Missouri, where the right is undoubtedly ascendant – as illustrated by the multi-year right-wing Republican domination of our state house. She could simply see political expediency as providing her with a better chance to serve another Senate term. She undoubtedly knows that Missouri's unions are in a weakened position, and are largely unwilling to challenge her on anything unrelated to their core issues – primarily keeping Missouri from becoming the next so-called 'Right-to-Work' state, maintaining prevailing wage and project-labor agreements.

Additionally, she knows the left is relatively weak – protests against the Trump administration notwithstanding – except in the urban core, where progressive organizational infrastructure and capacity currently has the potentially to play an outsized role, if utilized strategically.

Further, she knows urban voters, predominantly African American, constitute only a percentage of the votes she needs for re-election next year. The political calculus of shifting to the right seems to be a sound strategic move on her part – if her goal is to stay in office.

Complicating matters though, is a reluctance by some on the left to deal realistically with the question of organizational political power.

Protests outside of McCaskill's office won't accomplish much, nor will spoiler campaigns that split the Democratic Party ticket.

Running candidates inside or outside of the Democratic Party framework can and will likely have different results in different geographies, depending on the grassroots organizational capacity and infrastructure of coalition candidates – something recent local elections here clearly demonstrate.

Further, protest tactics in and of themselves are a poor substitute for deep organizing. We can rally, protest and march until we're blue in the face without challenging any of the structural components of oppression. Protests devoid of strategies designed to alter power relations and compel concessions are at best nothing more than self-satisfying.

Unfortunately, rooted in neo-liberal political centrism is a tendency towards moderation and inertia, a slow-motion train wreck if you will, which renders some incapable of a more nuanced and deliberate approach to social change, an inability to challenge power in a fundamental way.

While the ultra-right, currently embodied by the TrumpaAdministration and its Republican lackeys, are the main threat to democracy at this moment, McCaskill's comments in Fulton reek of political hypocrisy and special interest pandering, part and parcel of neo-liberal political centrism – a dead end, as we well know.

However, we can do better if we're willing to do the work!

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

The Winners and Losers Radio Show
7-9 AM Weekdays, The EPIC Radio Player Stream, 
Sign UP HERE to get the Weekly Program Notes.

Larry Summers: Trump is undermining his own treasury secretary

Larry Summers: Trump is undermining his own treasury secretary

President Trump's tax proposals were rolled out yesterday by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and NEC Director Cohn. For reasons of long run budget health, fairness and economic impact, I think they are extraordinarily ill-advised. I am certain that the substantive concerns I have will be extensively addressed in the debates to come.

As I read about the proposals and thought back over the tax discussions of the last year, I found myself feeling sympathetic to Mnuchin. Some of the most difficult moments for any Cabinet officer comes when the president fails to respect his department's desire to do serious policy work, when political circumstance forces the repudiation of his major past statements, and when he has to out of loyalty support absurd propositions. All three of these things happened to Secretary Mnuchin this week.

By all accounts the Treasury was on a path working with other agencies to come forth by June with a set of tax reform proposals. Treasury officials were shocked when the president, speaking in the Treasury building, announced last Friday that the administration would unveil its tax plan today. There was no time for specification of a proposal, let alone consultation on its merits, estimates of its revenue impact, or evaluations of its economic impact. Instead the treasury secretary was asked to lend his prestige and that of his department to a one page document that would have been judged skimpy on detail if it were a campaign proposal. I can only imagine how demoralized the Treasury tax staff — a group that rightly prides itself on its professionalism and analytic seriousness — must be.

Mnuchin has stated on multiple occasions that the administration's tax proposals would not favor the rich. Whatever its other virtues, distributional neutrality is not a feature of the plan announced yesterday. Indeed, between massive corporate rate cutting, big tax cuts for the highest income individual taxpayers, elimination of the estate tax and other incentives, it is a certainty that the vast majority of the benefits of the plan will go to a very small fraction of tax payers.

Mnuchin also stated last week, in what appeared to be a scripted interview, that tax cuts would be so good for growth that they would come very close to paying for themselves. This of course is the famous Laffer curve idea. In the context of an economy with 4.5 percent unemployment, it is absurd. Ronald Reagan asserted that tax cuts could pay for themselves during his campaign but his Treasury Department was far too serious to ever make such a statement. His administration recognized that large tax cuts would raise deficits unless offset by spending cuts. So did the George W. Bush Administration. So have House and Senate Republicans. So has every reputable economist who has addressed the subject in the last several decades.

The treasury secretary's credibility is an important national asset that could be needed at any moment. I am very sorry to see it squandered on behalf of a set of tax reform proposals that are at best a bargaining position.

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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Links for 04-27-17 [feedly]

Links for 04-27-17

Minimum Wages and the Distribution of Family Incomes in the United States [feedly]

Minimum Wages and the Distribution of Family Incomes in the United States

Arindrajit Dube at Equitable Growth: 

Minimum wages and the distribution of family incomes in the United StatesIntroduction The ability of minimum-wage policies in the United States to aid lower-income families depends on how they affect wage gains, potential job losses, and other sources of family income, including public assistance. In contrast to a large body of research on the effects of minimum wages on employment,1 there are relatively fewer studies that empirically estimate the impact of minimum wage policies on family incomes. 
In my new paper, I use individual-level data between 1984 and 2013 from the Current Population Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau to provide a thorough assessment of how U.S. minimum wage policies have affected the distribution of family incomes.2 Similar to existing work, I consider how minimum wages influence the poverty rate. Going beyond most existing research, however, I also calculate the effect of the policies for each income percentile, adjusting for family size. This highlights the types of families that are helped or hurt by wage increases. I also calculate the effect on a broader measure of income that includes tax credits and noncash transfers. I quantify the offset effect of higher wages on the use of transfer programs and the gains net of the offsets by income percentiles, painting a fuller picture of how minimum-wage policies affect the U.S. income distribution and the overall well-being of U.S. families.
Overall, I find robust evidence that higher minimum wages lead to increases in incomes among families at the bottom of the income distribution and that these wages reduce the poverty rate. A 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduces the nonelderly poverty rate by about 5 percent. At the same time, I find evidence for some substitution of government transfers with earnings, as evidenced by the somewhat smaller income increases after accounting for tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and noncash transfers such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The overall increase in post-tax income is about 70 percent as large as the increase in pretax income. ...

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Congress should oppose Acosta’s confirmation and demand a pro-worker secretary of labor [feedly]

Congress should oppose Acosta's confirmation and demand a pro-worker secretary of labor

Alexander Acosta will not be the secretary of labor that working people need, and for that reason, senators should oppose his confirmation. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, the test is not whether Acosta is better than Andrew Puzder, a truly abysmal, insulting choice to lead the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The test must be whether he will be a strong advocate for working Americans, someone who will use the power of his department to improve their lives. The evidence from Acosta's confirmation hearings and his past service in the government shows that he will not. The best we might hope for is that he will not politicize the agency and will be a caretaker until an administration that believes in the Labor Department's mission is elected. That is not enough.

It isn't even clear that Acosta will be a good caretaker of the agency whose mission is to foster and promote the welfare of the nation's job seekers, wage earners, and retirees. At Acosta's confirmation hearing, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked whether Acosta would defend the DOL against the draconian 21 percent budget cut called for in President Trump's preliminary budget. Acosta refused to say he would, despite professing concern about reducing the already tiny number of OSHA compliance officers in New Hampshire. Even Scott Pruitt, who spent years in state government attacking and suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before his appointment as EPA administrator, cared enough about his mission to publicly oppose the EPA budget sent to Congress by Trump's Office of Management and Budget. DOL's Wage and Hour Division has fewer than 1000 inspectors for 7.3 million workplaces, and wage theft is a nationwide epidemic costing workers tens of billions of dollars a year. Yet Acosta would not commit to work to preserve the meager resources devoted to protecting workers from abuse.

Read more

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Enlighten Radio:Climate March, Guv Shutdown, Labor Film Fest

John Case has sent you a link to a blog:

Blog: Enlighten Radio
Post: Climate March, Guv Shutdown, Labor Film Fest

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Labor, Socialists and Immigration [feedly]

Labor, Socialists and Immigration

Dr. Duane E. Campbell, April 19, 2017

In spite of the economic boon for the wealthy, working people in the U.S. have yet to receive a significant improvement in their standard of living for over 30 years. At the same time, democratic forces are once again confronted with anti immigrant campaigns- this time fostered and promoted by a President of the U.S.

As socialists, we stand with and among the US working class in opposition to the rule of the transnational corporations and their exploitation of the economy and their despoliation of our lives, our society and our environment.

We are currently experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy directed by the transnational corporations to produce profits for their corporate owners. The impoverishment of the vast majority of people in pursuit of profits for a small minority has pushed millions to migrant in search of food, jobs, and security. Global capitalism produces global migration. Along with wars NAFTA and other "Free Trade" deals each produce a new waves of migration.

Socialists support the rights of working people to organize, to form unions, and to protect their rights and to advance their interests. Unions have always been an important part of how socialists seek to make our economic justice principles come alive. Working people- gathered together and exploited in the capitalist workplace-are well positioned to fight their common exploitation.

Current immigration laws and practices, imposed upon us all by the corporations and their control of our government, often prevent working class unity by dividing workers against each other and by creating categories of workers with few rights to organize and thus to protect their own interests.

The neoliberal capitalist economic system now being created by the relentless merging of the world's markets also impoverishes the majority of U.S. workers. The average U.S. worker has experienced a decline in their real wages since 1979. Quality industrial jobs have moved to low wage, anti union areas in the U.S. and to Mexico, China, Singapore, Vietnam, India and other nations. At present the U.S. has no significant controls on capital flight. Indeed, the US government subsidizes some corporations to move jobs to Honduras, El Salvador, and the Caribbean.

The economic restructuring of Asia, Africa, and Latin America has pushed millions to migrate to the U.S. and Europe in search of a decent standard of living. In the two decades leading up to 2008, the U.S. experienced a major increase in immigration matching the immigration influx to the US of the period from 1890-1910. The large scale immigration was largely from Asia and Latin America. It has changed the ethnic and cultural make up of the labor force and the working class in many states and urban areas.


At the same time in both Europe and the U.S., among others, we see an intensification of narrow economic nationalism and the blaming of immigrants for the economic troubles of capitalism.

U.S. economic policy (called neoliberal capitalism) promotes the movement of capital and goods across borders to increase profits while at the same time it increases barriers to worker mobility . Since 2004 there has been a militarization of the US- Mexican border, a proposal to build a wall, and the significant increase in in arrests and internal enforcement threatening immigrant labor. The result is a situation in which workers on both sides of this border and around the world have been disempowered and impoverished.

In the current climate the economic forces of global corporate capitalism (neoliberal capitalism) are unrestrained. Corporations encourage the movement of capital, and thus jobs, to low wage areas. When workers attempt to exercise their power against these conditions via forming unions and organizing to withhold labor, their efforts are easily undermined by repression and the ever-looming threat of factories moving overseas. Labor unions and even local governments lose their power to hold capital accountable and all workers are forced to accept ever worsening wages and working conditions.

Current border enforcement makes exploitation possible by dividing the global working class into competing sectors and thus inhibiting the possibility of building a united working class movement.


As socialists, as internationalists, we know that rather than building walls and more prisons, what would really help workers to raise wages and improve living conditions is much stricter enforcement of worker protection and anti-discrimination laws including the right to form democratic unions.

Contrary to the Trump Administration narrative, immigrants create new jobs in the US by, buying homes, spending their income and paying taxes. A legal flow of immigrants based upon workforce demand will strengthen the U.S. economy by keeping productivity high and countering the negative impacts of the aging U.S. populations.


Threats by employers who use immigration status to keep workers from organizing unions or protesting illegal conditions should be a crime.  When there's no punishment for violating labor rights, workers have no rights. We should prohibit immigration enforcement during labor disputes or against workers who complain about illegal conditions.


The problem with our economy is not immigration; the problem is our broken immigration laws that allow business to exploit workers who lack legal status, driving down wages for all workers. If every immigrant were allowed to participate in our system, pay their dues, and become a citizen, we could block the corporation's exploitation and eliminate the two-tiered workforce while building a united labor movement that raises wages and living standards for all workers.


In the end, we need an immigration policy that brings people together instead of pitting workers against each other. We need an immigration policy that benefits migrants, their home communities, and working people here in the U.S. And we need a national policy that limits U.S. military and economic interventions in other parts of the world.


As socialists we support reforms that would grant immediate permanent resident status to all current undocumented workers and their children and that would establish an expeditious and non punitive route to citizenship for these workers and their families.


As socialists, we struggle for a system that produces security, not insecurity.  We need a commitment to equality and equal status for all.  We need to make it easier for workers to organize and protect themselves through unions. All workers must have full labor rights, including the right to organize, the right to protest unjust labor conditions, the right to change employers, and the right to form unions of their choice. We will work with immigrant rights organizations to promote family reunification, to halt deportations, to demilitarize our borders, and to help all of our children- regardless of legal status- to realize the dream of attaining a university education.


The Immigrants' Rights Committee of DSA is working to defend the rights of all workers and working families in the U.S. Their current project is to support the work of Cosecha in promoting a Day Without Immigrants ( Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes) https://www.lahuelga.comfor May 1, 2017. We request your support in locations around the country. You can contact our committee at


A working paper of the Immigrants' Rights Committee of DSA. Suggestions are welcome. Please send them to

We know that several DSA local chapters are participating in May Day efforts organized by a wide variety of coalitions partners. This approach is consistent with our strategy of distributed organizing. Local DSA chapters are marching in Chicago, Los Angeles, East Bay, Sacramento, and more.

Our national DSA effort has focused on working with Cosecha and the Dia Sin Inmigrantes. We encourage DSA chapters to also assist in this worker protection efforts of Cosecha. By this message we are asking our members of the Immigrants' Rights Committee to contact DSA local chapters in their area and encourage them to support the DSA/Cosecha efforts. We welcome and encourage DSA locals chapters to work with and remain in communication with the Immigrants' Rights Committee to foster coordination of efforts. We can't encourage others to join your work if we do not know about it. We encourage DSA members to join the Immigrants' Rights Committee at the e mail below.

You can get in touch with the Immigrants' Rights Committee here

Thank you for the work that you do.

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