Category: Economy

Tom Perriello is a fighter for Virginia. Period.

Today, Virginians will go to the polls to vote on major-party nominees for Governor of Virginia and other state offices. The most intriguing race on the Virginia ballot today is the Democratic primary for governor, in which Lieutenant Governor Ralph Shearer Northam is seeking a promotion against Thomas Stuart Price “Tom” Perriello, a former U.S. Representative and U.S. State Department official.

At first glance, the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary might seem to an internet observer of Virginia politics, such as me, like a rerun of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries/caucuses, where Hillary Clinton easily won the Virginia primary against Bernie Sanders. However, Ralph Northam is no Hillary Clinton, and Tom Perriello is no Bernie Sanders.

Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, wrote this primer piece about the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary, and here is how he described the candidates:

Likewise, the contest isn’t a race between a liberal or a moderate, or between heterodoxy and orthodoxy. Both (Ralph) Northam and (Tom) Perriello have blemishes on their records that render them imperfect avatars of the progressive movement. Northam backed George W. Bush for president in 2004, and Perriello voted for an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Both have apologized for their respective apostasy. Both, if elected, would be among the most liberal governors in the state’s history, having campaigned on free community college, a $15 minimum wage, and extensive job training.

Where they differ is in their larger view of where the state’s problems lie. Northam roots Virginia’s ills in gridlock and bills himself as the candidate best able to break that gridlock. “The politics of getting things done in Richmond can be very complicated, and it takes someone who has spent the time to know the issues and develop the relationships with key members of both parties to make progress,” said the lieutenant governor in a Washington Post interview.

Perriello, however, takes a broader view, seeking to change a political culture that is beholden to corporate interests and monopolistic power. “We have a crazy system in Virginia, where we allow unlimited corporate contributions,” said Perriello in a March interview with the American Prospect magazine (full disclosure: (Bouie) worked there from 2010 to 2013). “In an era of deep partisanship in Richmond, the only truly bipartisan consensus is taking money from Dominion Power.” Perriello has positioned himself against entrenched interests and for the small towns, rural enclaves, and inner cities that encompass the state’s landscape. It’s a variation on the populism of Bernie’s campaign, one that captures the spirit of Sanders’ appeal even if it doesn’t match the particulars.

(added context mine)

Again, you do see common themes of the 2016 presidential primaries/caucuses at play, but one thing that Perriello has done that Sanders completely failed at was actually trying to win over a diverse coalition of Democratic voters, which is necessary in Virginia, since a significant majority of Virginia Democratic primary voters are female and people of color are typically around one-third of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate and could be as much as 40% of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate this year. Very early on in his campaign, and unusually for a candidate who has also tried to win over white rural voters, Perriello wrote a Medium post about the strong correlation between income inequality and racial inequality in Virginia. Even if you are, like me, not from Virginia, I strongly recommend reading Perriello’s post, because it’s an important lesson for progressive outreach to people of color.

I encourage Virginia voters who have not already cast an absentee ballot to vote in the Democratic primary for Tom Perriello today!

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Thoughts on Trump’s Paris Accord exit from an isolationist redneck in a coal town in Illinois

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally published at DailyKos, and this blog post has been republished to The Progressive Midwestern by its original author.


Given the fact that I am a staunch isolationist when it comes to foreign policy, as well as the fact that I live in Westville, Illinois, which, while there hasn’t been large-scale coal mining around here in many years, was originally built up around coal mining, you may be surprised to find that I’m actually opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

Even though I firmly believe that Trump just won re-election in 2020 (unless the planet becomes uninhabitable before November 2020, that is) with his decision, there are a large number of reasons why I fundamentally disagree with Trump on his decision to pull the U.S. out of the primary instrument of international law to combat global warming. There are four reasons why I believe that Trump will politically benefit from his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement:

  • Many Americans either believe that global warming isn’t occurring and/or believe that global warming is not caused by human activity.
  • Many Americans have a negative view of the concept of international law and don’t like the idea of the U.S. being told by other countries what to do.
  • Many Americans believe that Trump is trying to save the U.S. coal industry.
  • Many Americans believe that Trump is trying to save automobile racing in the United States.

I’ll counter each of those arguments in this article.

Global warming is legitimately occurring, and human activity is causing global warming

The above headline contains two indisputable facts. I don’t need to explain further.

No country can address climate change by itself

Normally, I’m staunchly opposed to multilateral international agreements of any kind, and of course I, like many Americans, revere popular sovereignty, our country’s independence, and the U.S. Constitution’s status as the Supreme Law of the Land within the jurisdiction of the United States. However, climate change is an issue that affects all of Earth, not just the U.S. or any other single country. A well-implemented agreement between as many countries as possible is necessary to reduce the rate of, if not halt or reverse, global warming. The Paris agreement is similar to the U.S. Constitution in a way: it’s a legal framework. The U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land that establishes the U.S. federal government’s form of government, but is not every single federal law applicable to the United States. The Paris agreement is a framework for a global strategy to combat global warming, but it’s up to sovereign and non-sovereign governments around the world to, if they have the power(s) to do so, implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their jurisdiction in order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

Coal isn’t coming back

There hasn’t been a large amount of coal mining activity in the area around my hometown for many, many years. In fact, a coal-fired power plant northwest of my hometown closed permanently several years ago. There are other, cleaner ways of generating electricity than via coal. The decline of coal in the U.S. is due to, among other factors, technological advances leaving fewer and fewer viable and necessary uses for coal, not due to international law or environmental regulations. Instead of pulling out of the Paris agreement, the federal government should create an economic development bank to provide loans to new businesses operating in economically-depressed areas, such as rural America and former mining and manufacturing areas. Coal isn’t coming back, and Trump is trying to destroy the planet to save a dying industry, which simply won’t work for anybody.

It’s not a threat to automobile racing

NASCAR’s fan base might be 80-90% Republican, but I’m a big fan of NASCAR despite being very progressive politically. I’m not as big of a fan of other forms of automobile racing, although I do watch at least one IndyCar race and at least one Formula One race per year on television. The Paris climate agreement wouldn’t hurt automobile racing. If automobile racing were threatened by the Paris accord, Monaco, a tiny European country which hosts the most important Formula One race on that form of auto racing’s calendar each year, wouldn’t have signed the Paris agreement (they did).

Don’t blame Canada for Wisconsin’s dairy crisis

The Canadian news program The National, which airs on Canada’s public broadcaster CBC in Canada, recently did a feature story about the dairy crisis in Wisconsin, which President Donald Trump is trying to falsely blame on Canada and their policies regarding trade of ultra-filtered milk from the United States to Canada.

The CBC featured a pair of Wisconsin dairy farm families, the Sauer family of the Waterloo, Wisconsin area and the family of Sarah Lloyd and Nels Nelson of Columbia County. Having watched the video on the CBC website more than once, it’s inherently clear to me that overproduction, not international trade policies, are responsible for Wisconsin’s dairy crisis. Despite the real problems facing Wisconsin dairy, Trump has tried to blame Canada for the struggles that Wisconsin dairy farmers have faced, and it’s clear to me that Trump has no real understanding of how the dairy industry works.

Additionally, as farmer and Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) regional director Chris Holman stated on the WFU website, state government policies in Wisconsin have only made the overproduction problem in the Wisconsin dairy industry even worse, and have also led to fewer dairy farms producing more of Wisconsin’s milk:

Here in Wisconsin, state programs like the Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20 Initiative have made the situation even worse. Beyond pushing Wisconsin dairy farmers to reach 30 billion pounds of milk production by 2020, the initiative—with no sense of irony—provides grants “to improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s Dairy Industry.” If you dive into data from USDA and the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistic Service, we’ve lost 2,411 dairy farms since March 2012 when the 30 x 20 initiative was announced. That’s an average of almost 500 dairy farms per year. We are growing our production but it is being done by fewer and fewer, larger farms.

The Wisconsin Farmers Union is an organization that seeks to improve the quality of life of family farmers and rural communities in Wisconsin.

Trump can blame Canada and sing the Green Acres theme song all he wants, but it’s not going to change the fact that he doesn’t understand the real problems facing Wisconsin’s dairy farm families.

Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

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Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

Self-driving cars are a threat to the American way of life

President Obama recently pinned an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praising self-driving cars as “an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live”.

Personally, I believe that self-driving cars are a grave threat to the American way of life.

Thousands of Americans are employed as taxi drivers, pizza deliverers, and in other similar professions. If self-driving cars were to become the norm, you can kiss thousands of American jobs, many of which are among the few American jobs nowadays that do not require a college degree, goodbye. Their jobs would be effectively replaced by computers manufactured in China or other foreign countries.

Also, who would want to watch a NASCAR race in which actual race car drivers are replaced by computer-driven cars? NASCAR would no longer be an actual sport if computers replaced drivers; instead, it would become effectively as scripted as WWE, but without the soap opera-esque storylines to keep the audience engaged. There’s a lot more entertainment watching real race car drivers compete against each other than computers competing against each other.

Another instance where self-driving vehicles are a threat to the American way of life is the all-American family farm. If tractors, combines, and other motorized farm implements are replaced with computer-driven machines, then it would be a lot easier for large agribusiness corporations like Bayer (which recently acquired Monsanto) to sweep in and take over family farms across the country.

While Obama has cited elderly people and disabled people (although I’m not elderly (I’m 26 years of age), I have Asperger’s syndrome, and I don’t drive) as two groups of people that might benefit from self-driving cars, the sobering reality is that there’s a lot more people who would be negatively impacted than those who would be positively impacted by self-driving vehicles. In fact, many of those who could benefit from self-driving cars don’t have cell phones that would be needed for them to get a ride in a self-driving car, either for cost reasons (most elderly and disabled people are very poor), or the nature of their disability makes it virtually impossible for them to operate a cell phone.

Donald Trump: The ultimate anti-globalization hypocrite

As I write this blog post, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is, with the aid of a teleprompter, giving a major speech outlining his anti-globalization views and his economic agenda.

While Trump talks a big game about how globalization is a threat to America, and the truth of the matter is that globalization is a threat to America, Trump is a total hypocrite when it comes to globalization. Here’s one example of Trump’s anti-globalization hypocrisy:

Donald Trump blasts companies like Ford and Apple for manufacturing products outside the United States. He even threatened to stop eating Oreo cookies after he learned some production was moving to Mexico.

But Trump does the same thing. Many of his products are made outside the United States. Most Donald J. Trump ties are made in China. Some Donald J. Trump suits are also made in China.

Donald J. Trump signature men’s dress shirts are made in China, Bangladesh or “imported,” meaning they were made abroad.

Yes, you read that correctly…Donald Trump, who gained political fame by railing against countries like China and Mexico stealing U.S. manufacturing jobs, has his name emblazoned on clothing manufactured in countries like China and Bangladesh!

Donald Trump isn’t the solution to America’s globalization problem. He’s part of the problem, and he’s a total hypocrite about it.

Ben Carson apparently thinks that abolitionists are only worth one-tenth of a person

For the first time in a century and a quarter, a woman will be on the face of U.S. paper currency. For the first time ever, the woman on the face of U.S. paper currency will be a woman of color.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced that Harriet Tubman, a slave, abolitionist, and pro-women’s suffrage activist who is best known for her roles in the Harper’s Ferry raid and the Underground Railroad, will replace Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States whose legacy includes the Trail of Tears forced removal of Native Americans from the South, on the front the $20 bill. $20 bills currently in circulation with Jackson on the front will still be legal tender, however.

While both Democratic presidential candidates have praised the Treasury Department’s decision to place Tubman on the most widely circulated form of U.S. paper currency, failed former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, now a Donald Trump supporter, went on FOX Business Network and said that he thinks that the Treasury Department should have put Tubman on the rarely-circulated $2 bill instead:

…During a Fox Business Network interview Wednesday, the failed presidential candidate turned Trump surrogate lamented to Neil Cavuto that Jackson was “a tremendous president” and “in honor of that we kick him off the money.” Asked whether he is, by extension, anti-Tubman, the retired neurosurgeon replied: “No. I love Harriet Tubman, I love what she did. We can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill?”…

Many Americans don’t realize this, but the $2 bill, which currently features Thomas Jefferson on the front of the bill, is actually legal tender in the United States. However, the $2 bill is rarely circulated (in fact, I’ve not seen a $2 bill in many years).

Now, back to the main point of this blog post…right-wingers have officially gone from believing that people of color are three-fifths of a person to believing that people of color are one-tenth of a person. Personally, while Tubman wasn’t my first choice for the new $20 bill (Sacajawea was my first preference), I don’t think that there’s a better way to honor Tubman, who is one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived, than to put her on the front of the most circulated form of U.S. paper currency. Oh, and I believe that people of color are full people.

Obama Administration bullying, and even bribing, businesses to stop criticizing TPP

The Obama Administration is doing everything possible to silence businesses and business leaders who oppose free-trade giveaways like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In at least one documented instance (sources here, herehere, and below), the Obama Administration offered serious consideration for a Defense Department contract to a company if the company would quit publicly criticizing the TPP:

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Email courtesy of Fight for the Future

New Balance, which manufacturers some of their sneakers in the United States, was offered serious consideration for a Defense Department contract to manufacture athletic shoes for members of the U.S. Armed Forces if New Balance executives shut up about how TPP would force companies like New Balance to compete with companies that manufacture in countries like Vietnam, whose minimum wage is the equivalent of 65¢/hour. Prior to being offered consideration for the contract, New Balance officials had been critical of TPP, but they backed off of their criticism of the TPP once the Defense Department considered them for a contract. Now, New Balance officials are renewing their fight against the TPP after they alleged that the Pentagon is intentionally delaying the purchase of shoes from New Balance.

If this is even remotely true, then this represents the kind of corrupt, Chicago-style machine politics that has no place anywhere in America.

Hillary is about to go extremely negative on Bernie

It’s official…the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and their allies in the Democratic establishment and the corporate media are about to go extremely negative on Bernie Sanders in the lead-up to the Wyoming Democratic caucuses and the New York primary:

Even worse, Hillary’s henchpeople have gone as far as to say that they regard party unity as being completely irrelevant right now, and they’ll worry about party unity once the race for the Democratic nomination is settled. That is an extremely dangerous move for Hillary, as there are many Bernie supporters who already have nothing but contempt for the Democratic establishment, and going extremely negative on Bernie would only further outrage them.

Personally, I believe that the Sanders campaign needs to go as far as to openly question Hillary’s patriotism. Already, the corporate media, as if they got the cue before most of us did, is wasting no time launching blatantly unpatriotic attacks on Bernie by attacking his staunch opposition to free-trade giveaways as hurting the economies of third-world countries. Contrary to what imperial and corporate-minded politicians like Hillary, Paul Ryan, and Ted Cruz believe, it’s not the responsibility of the federal government to stimulate the economies of third-world countries or any other foreign countries. It’s the job of the federal government to ensure that America’s economy is strong.

If Hillary is going to attack Bernie on guns, then it’s best for Bernie to attack Hillary on her complete lack of economic patriotism.