Voting for Bernie

by Bob Roman

Chicago DSA has taken a few calls about voting for Bernie Sanders delegates. In Illinois, primary election voters will vote for the person they desire to be nominated for President. They will also vote for the delegates to the national convention. Nominally, the delegates are the ones who make the decision, so the callers were confused. There are more Bernie candidate delegates on the ballot than there are to be voted for. Who to vote for?

It turns out this is probably true for about two thirds of the Illinois Congressional Districts: more Bernie candidate delegates than spots to fill. I don’t know why but it seems to be deliberate. Each delegate on the ballot must be approved by the campaign they’re supporting. Without approval, they would be dropped from the ballot. The people on the ballot are those for whom Bernie supporters circulated petitions, minus one or two in several Districts.

Possibly it has something to do with the Democratic National Committee encouraging the representation of previously under-represented constituencies, something they’ve been doing since 1992. The Illinois Democratic Party uses a formula based on the turnout in the previous primaries. Thus the delegation, as a whole, should include 60 African Americans, 17 Hispanics, 1 Native American, 9 Asian / Pacific Islander, 10 LGBT, 6 disabled. Shortfalls in any category can be made up in the at-large delegates. The total number of District level delegates (and the Illinois delegation as a whole) needs to be equally divided between men and women.

It turns out there are several classes of delegate to the Convention.

There are the delegates elected in each Congressional District. 102 of the 181 total delegates from Illinois are District level delegates. The important thing to remember is: For Illinois Democrats, this primary is a binding preferential election. That is: It’s binding because the elected Sanders and Clinton delegates are obliged to vote for their candidate. It’s preferential because the delegates elected from each District is proportional to the popular vote in that District for each Presidential nominee candidate, unless that candidate gets less than 15% of the vote. Those don’t count.

So your most important vote is at the top of the ballot: Vote for Bernie. I suspect it would be unwise to skip voting for the delegates, but it becomes somewhat less important just which of the delegate candidates you vote for. This year the process is a bit less complicated as there is no election for District level alternate delegates, though there will be for Republicans.

Another class of delegates are the Pledged and Unpledged Party Leaders. The Unpledged total 25 and the Pledged total 20. The Unpledged are basically Illinois’ Congressional Delegation, Democratic National Committee members, Senator Durbin, President Obama, and others. The Pledged subcategory includes people drawn from State government, county and municipal officials, and party officials from those levels. The selection of the Pledged group takes place after the primary, in May, by the elected District level delegates and will reflect the state-wide vote. Candidates receiving less than 15% are not considered. This is another reason why the top of the ballot is your most important vote.

Unpledged, incidentally, does not mean uncommitted. It just means those delegates can change their minds at any time.

And then there are 34 At-Large delegates, apportioned by the statewide vote for Presidential nominee. Once again there’s a 15% threshold of the statewide vote to receive delegates, and these at large delegates are selected at the same meeting where the Pledged Party Leaders are chosen. 13 at-large alternates will also be selected. Once again, your preference at the top of the ballot is important.

The Illinois Democratic Party is taking applications for these positions through 5 PM on April 11. You will, however, need the approval of the Sanders campaign.

For more of the gory details of this process, see the Illinois Democratic Party 2016 Delegate Selection Plan and the Illinois State Board of Elections 2016 Candidate’s Guide. This is a very nice selection process for a Convention that, since the 1980s, has become nothing better than an overpriced, boring info-mercial for an already victorious nominee and a Platform that is forgotten even before the event is over.

Remember: Vote for Bernie. And the delegates, too, but don’t sweat the selection.

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How Might Jesus Vote?

by Bill Barclay

Jesus of Nazareth said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

Let’s think about this for a minute. It is a statement about inequality. After all, one is only rich or poor, in material goods, by comparison to others. Jesus’ statement is one of the most stinging criticisms of huge inequality in a very few words that I know of. And it is not alone in the Good Book. According to a friend of mine, there are over 2000 verses in the Bible about our responsibility to those who have less, who are hurt by inequality.

MORE.

What Would Sanders Do?

What would be the consequences of a Bernie Sanders victory? At the Center for Popular Economics, Gerald Friedman examines the dynamic effects of Sanders’ economic program HERE.

Brother Bernie Is Better

At Politico, Cornel West begins:

The future of American democracy depends on our response to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. And that legacy is not just about defending civil rights; it’s also about fighting to fix our rigged economy, which yields grotesque wealth inequality; our narcissistic culture, which unleashes obscene greed; our market-driven media, which thrives on xenophobic entertainment; and our militaristic prowess, which promotes hawkish policies around the world. The fundamental aim of black voters — and any voters with a deep moral concern for our public interest and common good — should be to put a smile on Martin’s face from the grave.

MORE.

Oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership

by Tom Broderick

There are plenty of reasons to oppose passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the TPP will facilitate large corporations in closing down jobs in the United States and off-shoring them to countries with lower labor costs and/or fewer regulations. This will result in more income inequality in the U.S. and greater corporate power globally.

MORE.

The Decline of Labor

At Talking Points Memo, Rich Yeselson observes:

With the brief exception of the late 1930s followed by the anomalous period of the Second World War when the government needed the active support of unions to maximize military production, labor has never had a juridical and statist presumption that it should institutionally survive, let alone flourish. For much of its history, and to this very day, the courts, business, and conservative media and politicians have sought to diminish labor’s power, if not crush it outright. With the exception of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (which opponents immediately sought to undermine and whose legal fate was unresolved for two years), there has never been a statist framework in the US that explicitly sought to ensure labor’s institutional viability across the branches of the federal government and state governments. And without that statist presumption, unions had to confront what historian Nelson Lichtenstein has labeled a special form of “American exceptionalism”: “the hostility managers have shown toward both the regulatory state and virtually all forms of worker representation.” Lichtenstein goes onto note that the absence in the U.S. of “self regulation or cartelization” found in Europe and parts of Asia. Decentralized “competitive disorder” made non-rationalized wage and benefit increases imposed by firm-by-firm unionization (rather than the sectorial model of collective bargaining found in Europe in which the extra cost burdens of unionization was socialized across economic sectors) a great threat to companies and triggered a particularly vicious, sometimes violent, response. The brief period of labor’s zenith did not diminish the desire of its enemies to undermine it—on the contrary, it was a persistent provocation: a reminder of the power business had lost and wished to regain. Thus when, via the decline in manufacturing and a corresponding loss of political influence, unions weakened in the 1970s, the business class seized that moment and, by the construction of politically and intellectually influential think tanks and a massive increase in their congressional lobbying, counter-mobilized to crush them. It only took a decade or so of labor’s increased vulnerability to prove how wrong Eisenhower’s benign notion was that “only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries” wished to bust American unions. In fact, the entire business class of the United States, large and small companies alike, wished to bust American unions and when, given a chance to do so, seized it.

MORE.

Scalia No More

Corey Robin, who has a focus on American conservatism, has a lot to say about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:

If you want to understand how Donald Trump became the soul of the Republican Party, you need look no further than Antonin Scalia. Scalia is the id, ego, and super-ego of modern conservatism. He was as outrageous in his rhetoric (his unvarying response to any challenge to Bush v. Gore was “Get over it!”) as he was cruel in his comportment. Sandra Day O’Connor was the frequent object of his taunts. Hardly an opinion of hers would go by without Scalia calling it — and by implication, her — stupid. “Oh, that’s just Nino,” she’d sigh helplessly in response. Even Clarence Thomas was forced to note drily, “He loves killing unarmed animals.” He was a pig and a thug. (Sunstein, by contrast, believes “he was a great man, and a deeply good one.”) And he was obsessed, as his dissent in PGA Tour v. Casey Martin shows, with winners and losers. They were the alpha and omega of his social vision. He was the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court.

MORE.

Oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership

by Tom Broderick

There are plenty of reasons to oppose passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the TPP will facilitate large corporations in closing down jobs in the United States and off-shoring them to countries with lower labor costs and/or fewer regulations. This will result in more income inequality in the U.S. and greater corporate power globally.

The TPP will increase the importation of food into the U.S. while decreasing safety inspection. The governments of the other eleven countries included in the agreement would be allowed to declare the food safety inspection process of their countries the equivalent of ours. These eleven other countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Nothing personal, but I’d feel safer if food inspection was carried out by U.S. trained food inspectors responsible to our populace.

Large pharmaceutical corporations will be granted new monopoly rights and patent extensions to keep lower cost generic drugs off the market. This will lead to higher priced medicines needed to save lives.

Our federal government has a “Buy American” policy that calls for U.S. tax dollars to be spent, where possible, at U.S. based companies that produce goods or provide services. This means that we are investing in the people of the United States, simply a smart practice. The TPP calls for an end to this, and that is a recipe for an economic system that grossly favors return on corporate investment over the common good.

Big investment firms want to roll back Wall Street reforms that seek to impose regulations on large banks. These Wall Street banksters want to be able to engage in high risk gambling that puts Main Street in jeopardy. Why wouldn’t they? Being too big to fail means everyday tax payers will be expected to bail them out again.

Perhaps the most insidious provision is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Foreign corporations will be able to by-pass our judicial system and directly sue the U.S. government before tribunals overseen by private/corporate lawyers acting as judge and jury. The tribunals could compel our government to hand over tax dollars to corporations claiming loss of revenue due to regulations that cover issues ranging from a clean environment to public health to public interest policies.

According to Global Trade Watch, the TPP would “newly empower more than 1,000 additional corporations in TPP countries, which own more than 9,200 additional subsidiaries in the United States, to launch investor-state cases against the U.S. government.” Such cases would never appear before our judicial system.

Falsely called a trade agreement, of the thirty chapters in the TPP, only six deal with traditional trade issues like tariffs and duties The agreement was crafted behind closed doors with the assistance of 500 “official” U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests. The public and our elected officials were kept in the dark. The TPP can only be enacted by our elected Congressional Representatives. We can stop this corporate power grab with public pressure.

Below are the names and local phone numbers of the U.S. Representatives from Illinois. Find your representative, call their office and tell whoever answers the phone that you want to speak to someone about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Tell that person that you oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership and want your Congress person to represent your voice when and if the vote comes to the floor.

Rep. Bobby Rush, Democrat, 1st Congressional District, Chicago office: 773 224 6500.

Rep. Robin Kelly, Democrat, 2nd CD, Matteson office: 708 679 0078.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Democrat, 3rd CD, Chicago office: 773 948 6223.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Democrat, 4th CD, Chicago office: 773 342 0774.

Rep. Mike Quigley(1), Democrat, 5th CD, Chicago office: 773 267 5926.

Rep. Peter J. Roskam, Republican, 6th CD, West Chicago office: 630 232 0006.

Rep. Danny K. Davis, Democrat, 7th CD, Chicago office: 773 533 7520.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth(2), Democrat, 8th CD, Schaumburg office: 847 413 1959.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat, 9th CD, Chicago office: 773 506 7100.

Rep. Bob Dold, Republican, 10th CD, Lincolnshire office: 847 793 8400.

Rep. Bill Foster, Democrat, 11th CD, Aurora office: 630 585 7672.

Rep. Mike Bost, Republican, 12th CD, Carbondale office: 618 457 5787.

Rep. Rodney Davis, Republican, 13th CD, Champaign office: 217 403 4690.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, Republican, 14th CD, Compton Hills office: 630 584 2734.

Rep. John Shimkus, Republican, 15th CD, Danville office, 217 446 0664.

Rep. Adam Kinziner, Republican, 16th CD, Ottawa office: 815 431 9271.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, Democrat, 17th CD, Peoria office: 309 966 1813.

Rep. Darin Lahood, Republican, 18th CD, Peoria office: 309 671 7027.

Also call your two U.S. Senators. Follow the same steps as outlined when calling your Representative.

Sen. Richard Durbin, Democrat, Chicago office: 312 353 4952.

Sen. Mark Kirk, Republican, Chicago office: 312 886 3506.

If you don’t know who your Representative is, CLICK HERE.

(1) Rep. Mike Quigley is the only Illinois Democrat to vote in support of Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track), which was a procedural vote to allow only an up or down vote on the TPP. He joined all the Illinois Republicans with his vote. He also supports passage of the TPP. And for what it’s worth, his father was a union worker whom he credits for helping put Mike through college. Good wages?

(2) Rep. Tammy Duckworth is running for the U.S. Senate. If successful in the primary, she will face Sen. Mark Kirk. When talking with Rep. Duckworth’s office, mention that you’d like her to vote against the TPP whether she is in the House or the Senate. And perhaps wish her well in her Senate race.

How Might Jesus Vote?

by Bill Barclay

Jesus of Nazareth said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

Let’s think about this for a minute. It is a statement about inequality. After all, one is only rich or poor, in material goods, by comparison to others. Jesus’ statement is one of the most stinging criticisms of huge inequality in a very few words that I know of. And it is not alone in the Good Book. According to a friend of mine, there are over 2000 verses in the Bible about our responsibility to those who have less, who are hurt by inequality.

More than two millennia later, Senator Bernie Sanders opened his presidential campaign by saying:

The issue of income and wealth inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time.

Sanders is the only presidential candidate that is taking on – defining – his political vision and goal in terms of dramatically reducing inequality.

Now we all probably have a pretty good idea of what Sanders meant when he said that income and wealth inequality is the great political issue of our time. An example: Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire whose wealth comes from running casinos, plans to spend $150 million – that’s million – on the 2016 presidential election.

And most of probably have a good idea of what Sanders meant when he said that income and wealth inequality is the great economic issue of our time. We’ve heard, by now, much about the extent of economic inequality that afflicts the U.S. I won’t bore you with more facts and figures, but instead I want to leave you with one image that underlines Sanders’ message.

Do you know how long does it take for the typical CEO of a large company to be paid – I’m not going to say “earn” – to be paid, the same amount of money as his (and is almost always a he) average worker will make during the entire year? How many days or weeks does that CEO have to work to get the same income an average employee will need a whole year to earn?

Think about this for just a minute and, in your mind, write an answer.

Here is the answer: Until just about lunch time on the second working day of the year.

I don’t think that Jesus would be very happy about that. I know that I’m not.

But what about Sanders’ claim that income and wealth inequality is the great moral issue of our time? This may seem less obvious – but he’s right.

Income and wealth inequality is the great moral issue because this inequality insulates political leaders from the consequences of immoral acts. One example: Rick Snyder, the governor of the state of Michigan, decided to take over the poor, largely African-American city of Flint. He didn’t think that the people of Flint could be trusted to run their own city; he knew better than they. He appointed an emergency “city manager” who chose – deliberately chose – to switch the Flint water supply from Detroit‘s lake water to the Flint River. The Flint River is full of corrosive water the leached the lead out of the pipes and into the drinking water of the city. Now, lead poisoned water is bad for all of us but it is especially bad for young children whose brains are still in formation. And Rick Snyder knew about it but wasn’t worried – because the people of Flint didn’t count in his political calculus: many are very poor.

Income and wealth inequality is a great moral issue because it allows the mayor of Chicago to oversee a school system where teachers I’ve talked to have told me they’ve had to supply toilet paper to the bathrooms their students use. Mayor Emanuel can oversee the closing of more than 50 public schools – while sending his own children to the University of Chicago’s private Laboratory School. Tuition for each year: $30,750 for grades 6 through 8.

Finally, income and wealth inequality is the great moral issue because it has left the U.S. as the only high income, wealthy country in the world that is unwilling to invest in the well-being of our families and children from the day they are born. Every other wealthy country – and many such as India, Turkey or Mexico that are much poorer than us – provide paid maternity leave. And many require the father to take part of that leave. That’s a good thing.

Paid leave gives parents the chance to bond with their new born children at the earliest age. And they can do so without risking loss of jobs and income. For the U.S. not to have any such policy is a moral failing of our political leaders – from both parties. This failure on the part of our elected leaders is shameful, and it is only possible because the very rich, the 1%, really don’t care about the lives of the rest of us. This failure says more about our leaders’ commitment to family values than all the high flying rhetoric you hear from them every four years when an election is coming up.

Bernie Sanders is committed to changing this, to building – with us – an economy that works for all. That’s why he should be our next president.

Editor’s Note: On February 7, three DSA members (Bill Barclay, Paul Sakol, and Peg Strobel) and an organizer for IIRON (James Nelson from Illinois/Indiana Regional Organizing Network) were invited to talk at three African American churches on the West Side of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood. This is excerpted from Bill Barclay’s presentation.

164-1 Politics

The New American Economy by Tom Suhrbur

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing drove the U.S. economy. Steel, railroad, textiles, automobiles and countless other enterprises made the U.S. the leading industrial power of the world in the 20th Century. Industry also gave rise to labor unions. Following WWII, a third of the workforce mostly in the private sector was unionized. Strong labor unions shifted income from capital to labor. The U.S. working class enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world in the 1960s.

Today, a growing portion of American business profits is derived from financial transactions instead of manufacturing. In 1947, the U.S. financial services industry comprised only 10% of total non-farm business profits. Today more than half of all profits are derived from investment, trading, rent, student loans, mortgages, brokerage, credit cards and other financial transactions.

MORE.

Citizen Action Endorsements

Chicago DSA is a member of Citizen Action/Illinois, and our representative, Ron Baiman, participated in their endorsement meeting on January 16. Endorsement requires a super-majority of 60%, and a move to endorse Bernie Sanders failed by two votes. Citizen Action/Illinois is making no endorsement for the Presidential nomination. You can find the rest of their endorsements HERE.

Citizen Action/Illinois has also released its Illinois legislative scorecard, available HERE.

Bernie Sanders

Rickey Hendon and Elaine Shaw have filed objections to the nominating petitions for Bernie Sanders. These objections are apparently directed at the petitions placing Sanders’ name on the ballot, not toward his delegates.

Early voting begins February 4.

Time to End the Illinois Hostage Stand-Off

At The Shriver Brief, John Bouman writes:

Like most hostage-takers, Governor Rauner knew that if his demands were not met, at some point the hostages would have to begin to die, literally or figuratively. And, sure enough, the dying is underway.

MORE.

#Black Workers Matter

Last September, the Institute for Policy Studies held a two-day convening on race and organizing at the historic Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, which has a decades-long tradition of progressive stands on social issues.  The Black Workers Matter: Organize the South convening focused on fresh, new strategies for supporting organizing as a means of lifting up black workers in this region, known for its high levels of poverty, low wages, and low unionization rates. Read the highlights and conclusions from the conference HERE. (PDF)

Save Jobs at the Chicago Nabisco Plant

From the Chicago Federation of Labor:

Mondelez, the maker of Nabisco brands products, intends to eliminate more than 600 good paying jobs on the Southside of Chicago and send these jobs to Salinas, Mexico. For more than 60 years, the South Kedzie Street Bakery made cookies and crackers enjoyed by families in our area and across the country.

By making the decision to send production to Salinas, Mexico, Nabisco is eliminating hundreds of middle class jobs in this heavily African-American and Hispanic community in southwestern Chicago.

Mondelez plans to send these jobs to Mexico and then to bring the products produced there back to the U.S. for sale in the very communities where the laid-off American workers reside.

To learn more and to join the fight, visit fightforamericanjobs.org.

To listen to their new radio ad:

The New American Economy

by Tom Suhrbur

Deindustrialization! Globalization! Post-industrial economy! Service economy! These are just a few phases used to describe the radical transformation of the U.S. economy over the last 35 years.

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing drove the U.S. economy. Steel, railroad, textiles, automobiles and countless other enterprises made the U.S. the leading industrial power of the world in the 20th Century. Industry also gave rise to labor unions. Following WWII, a third of the workforce mostly in the private sector was unionized. Strong labor unions shifted income from capital to labor. The U.S. working class enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world in the 1960s.

Today, a growing portion of American business profits is derived from financial transactions instead of manufacturing. In 1947, the U.S. financial services industry comprised only 10% of total non-farm business profits. Today more than half of all profits are derived from investment, trading, rent, student loans, mortgages, brokerage, credit cards and other financial transactions.

In 1975, the total value of stock trading in the US was $171 billion – less than 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); in 2014, it increased to almost $27 trillion (about 1.5 times or GDP). Besides stock market trading, there is a largely unregulated market in over the counter trading (OTC) in equity-based derivatives include forwards, futures, options, swaps, and variations of these such as synthetic collateralized debt obligations. In 2010, the value of the derivative market was estimated at $21 trillion. Speculation, in effect gambling, guides much of this trading activity. Day traders, hedge fund managers and high frequency traders have turn Wall Street into the biggest casino on earth. Managers of private equity firms and hedge funds become mega-millionaires and billionaires almost overnight. Lord Turner, UK’s senior financial regulator, dubbed this speculation as “socially useless.” So powerful is the financial services sector that, when the economy crashed in 2008 as a result of the reckless behavior, no one was prosecuted. Instead, the federal government bailed them out.*

This new economy has winner and losers. The biggest winners, by far, are those who earn much of their income from financial assets. The biggest losers are bottom 80% — the working class as well as many college-educated lower middle class who are deep in debt and stuck in low paying jobs. The bottom 80% relies almost exclusively on earnings from wages and salaries. They own just less than 9% of all stocks. Less than 1% of their income is derived from capital gains and dividends.

A large portion of the income for top earners, on the other hand, comes from investments. The top 10% wealthiest possess 80% of all financial assets. The top 1% own over 35% of all stock. Those in the top 0.1% receive most of their income from their financial assets. Given this situation, it is not surprising that those who own the most financial assets are reaping the greatest benefits in the growing financial services economy. According to a 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation report, 80% of total income growth went to the top 10% from 1975 to 2007.

The shift in wealth and income to the top earners is intentional. It was guided by conservative economic policies. Tax cuts during the Reagan and Bush II administrations were designed enrich the rich. Sold as “supply side economics,” Reagan cut the top income tax bracket from 70% to 39%. Bush I, and Clinton cut capital gains. Bush II not only cut capital gains but also the income tax and the estate tax. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, capital gains tax cuts were the single most important contributor to the growing income inequality since 1996.**

Free trade agreements have globalized the labor markets without any meaningful labor or environmental standards. As a result, millions of manufacturing jobs has been transferred overseas. American workers cannot compete with desperately poor and oppressed workers in South America and Asia. Clothing, electronics, appliances and many other consumer products are no longer made in the U.S. Small American flags handed out at 4th of July Parades are made in China.

While cheap foreign labor has enriched the investor class, it has devastated working class wages and unions. Millions of good paying manufacturing jobs have outsourced to low wage nations. Wages in the U.S. have stagnated. Many workers have been forced to work two or more jobs, typically in the service economy, to pay their bills. College education is no longer a guarantee of the good life. Many educated lower middle class students are strapped with huge college loans debts but end up working low paid jobs. The standard of living has fallen for many.

In the private sector, outsourcing jobs to low wage countries has given employers a powerful tool to fight union organizing and to force concessions in bargaining. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor unions represent just 6.6% of the workforce. Total union membership has dropped from 17.7 million in 1983 to 14.6 million in 2013. Most of the successful organizing has been in the public sector employment. Unions represent over 35.7% of public employees. Not surprising, the public sector unions are now the chief target of conservatives and the business community.

For the bottom 80%, the further down you go on the income ladder the worse off it gets. The income gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is greater than in any other developed country. According to U.S. Census, half of the U.S. population lives in poverty or are low-income with no real savings and barely able to pay their bills. According to a survey by the Associated Press, four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives. In 2013, child poverty reached record highs, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels.

The election of President Reagan in 1980 signaled the triumph of conservative, free market economics. The so-called Reagan Revolution did not end when he left office. Every presidential administration that followed enacted free market policies that created the new economy. Despite opposition from Labor Democrats, many so-called “New Democrats” joined Republicans in support of free (but not fair) trade agreements, banking deregulation and tax cutting. Conservative Republicans carried free market policies much further attacking labor union rights, environment regulations, the social safety net and other public policies that infringe upon their free market ideology and corporate prerogatives. The 2016 election could be a watershed in American politics. Will the Republican Party win the White House controlling all three branches of federal power? Will the slide into plutocracy accelerated with a conservative election victory? Will unionism survive? Will the Democratic Party coalesce around a working class agenda?

*See the movie “The Big Short.” It does a good job covering some of the issues raised in this article.

**Supply side is a cute way of saying trickle down economics. It claims that, by supplying them with money through large tax breaks, the rich will create jobs through investments and personal spending thereby creating prosperity for others. Of course, they may use the money to speculate in securities and land, purchase a yacht on the Mediterranean, or buy a chalet in the s Swiss Alps. They may invest the money overseas manufacturing. Nothing guarantees that they will create jobs for Americans. But the lost revenue will restrict governmental investments in research, education, infrastructure and other socially beneficial spending in the home economy.

A Note on Taxing the Wealthy

The ACA Proves It Can Be Done

by Bill Barclay

The news item that has excited many economists –- you can be excused for missing it –- was the release by the IRS of the data on income and taxes for the 400 highest income filers in 2013. Of course it was interesting to learn that the income needed to be admitted into this select group dropped to a mere $105 million (AGI), down from $135 million in 2012, undoubtedly letting in a lot of riff-raff.

But, the big number was the effective tax rate: 22.9%. Now, you may be thinking, “What? … Why was it so low?” But in 2012 it was only 16.7%. The revenue difference? More than $6.5 billion or about $16.5 million for each of the 400 filers.

Did the 400 simply decide to come clean and pay up? Hardly. The increase came about for two reasons: first, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the highest income groups and, second, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare).

I see the perplexed look on your face –- Obamacare? Yes, because the ACA contained two little-noticed, by many, very progressive tax regulations designed to finance Medicare. The first is a 2.35% tax on wage income above the usual cut-off for Social Security and Medicare, $118,500 in 2016. This tax raised only a modest amount from our 400 because most of their income is not in the form of wages and salaries. But a second Medicare tax of 3.8% that covers both investment and wage income did raise a lot of money from this group. And all of us should welcome a tax that doesn’t privilege unearned income over wage income because it reverses the trend in tax policy that goes back to the Reagan days.

And you wonder why they want to repeal the ACA.