Tag: 1%

The State of the American Worker

On this Labor Day, the 122nd Labor Day commemorated as a federal holiday, the state of the American worker is not good.

Over the past few decades, the American worker has had to deal with stagnant wages that haven’t kept up with inflation or increasing productivity, free trade policies that have cost America millions of jobs, union-busting efforts at all levels of government, a lack of true workplace equality, and increasingly rampant income inequality.

The wages of the American worker have been stagnant, while prices of goods and services have risen, and the productivity of the American worker has risen. Simply put, the amount that workers are paid in this country hasn’t kept up with the costs of providing for their families or their own productivity. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and indexing the minimum wage to productivity, in order to set a minimum wage that values work, instead of valuing a low-wage economy.

The “global trading regime”, as anti-worker U.S. Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin once described free trade policies, has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs to foreign countries over the past few decades. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and other free trade policies like Most Favored Nation status for China have resulted in American companies moving jobs to countries like Mexico and China, so that those companies can pay workers low wages. I support repealing free-trade policies and restoring the constitutional ability of the federal government, as outlined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, to unilaterally set tariffs and other U.S. international trade policies.

Over the past few decades, politicians, most of them Republicans, have tried, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to bust unions and weaken the power of the American worker. Some of the more notable examples of this include the busting of the air traffic controllers’ union by then-President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public employees four and a half years ago. I strongly support the existence of labor unions and the right of unionized workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. However, the right-wing wage theft agenda also includes other measures to weaken the power of the American worker, such as repealing prevailing wage laws. I strongly support prevailing wage laws and other laws designed to protect the American worker.

The American workplace is still far from equal. Working women are, on average, still paid considerably less than working men, and unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers are still considerably higher than those for white workers. Even worse, many employers are still discriminating in their hiring practices based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and, believe it or not, military service. I strongly support strengthening equal pay for equal work laws and prohibiting all forms of workplace discrimination.

Over the past few decades, income inequality has become one of the most serious issues facing our country. The top 1% of income-earners in this country now control nearly half of the nation’s wealth, while the middle class is being destroyed, and more and more people are entering the ranks of the poor. Government policies like tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare for large corporations and major sports teams are major reasons why income inequality has become a serious issues in this country. I support raising the federal income tax rate on those who make over one billion dollars per year to 70% and eliminating federal income taxes on those who make less than $25,000 per year.

Because of the weakening of labor unions, corporate greed, and government policies that bust unions and encourage corporate greed, the state of the American worker is not good. However, enacting more progressive policies when it comes to the minimum wage, workers’ rights, international trade, workplace equality, and wealth distribution, we can rebuild America’s middle class, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and make the American worker better off!

As he launches his presidential campaign, Scott Walker compares Wisconsinites to special interests

Approximately 19 seconds into Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign announcement video, an unnamed narrator for the Walker campaign said that Walker “beat the special interests” over a video clip of progressive protesters supporting the unsuccessful recall attempt against Walker in 2012. At around the 39-second mark of the video, Walker himself spoke in front of the camera and talked about taking “power out of the hands of big government special interests”.

In reality, Walker compared the people of his state to special interests, while allowing special interests like big business interests and the school voucher lobby to benefit from the very big government that Walker rails against.

For Walker to compare Wisconsinites to special interests is not only false, it’s also offensive. More specifically, Walker compared Wisconsin progressives to special interests, and, having followed many of them on blogs and social media for the past few years, I can certainly say that they are not special interests. They’re people who want to make their state and their country a better place to live. They care about their communities, and they support workers’ rights, women’s rights, the middle class, open government, equality, and other progressive ideals. As Meghan Blake-Horst, a co-founder and the market manager of the MadCity Bazaar flea market in Madison, Wisconsin, put it, “Yes, we have special interests in feeding, educating and providing our kids a healthy place to grow up. And running our small businesses.” Comparing people like Blake-Horst to special interests dehumanizes people.

The truth about Walker’s record is that he and his political allies in Wisconsin have given special interests, such as big business interests and the school voucher lobby, effective control over Wisconsin’s state government. Those special interests have, in turn, helped Wisconsin’s state government, among other things, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy, give out tons of corporate welfare to businesses, privatize and cut funding from public K-12 education, cut funding from higher education, strip tenure away from college professors, make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, make it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want, bust unions, drive down wages, hurt Wisconsin’s economy, run up massive state budget deficits, and destroyed Wisconsin’s reputation. Martha Laning, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), didn’t mince words one bit in her statement criticizing Walker as he launches his presidential campaign. Laning stated that Walker’s record “is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity”. Laning also took Walker to task over “stagnant” wages in Wisconsin, “job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation”, a corporate welfare agency “that’s known more for scandal than economic development”, and a massive Wisconsin state budget deficit “created by his failed policies”.

While Scott Walker compares the people of his home state to special interests, the truth of the matter is that Walker is beholden to real special interests that own him and his political allies, and they’ve completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. If Walker is elected president, Walker, his political allies, and big-money special interests will turn America into a third-world country by enacting the same far-right political agenda they enacted in Wisconsin.

Wealth inequality isn’t just an American problem…it’s also a Canadian problem

As many of you already know, wealth inequality is a serious problem here in the United States. In America, the wealthiest 1% of the country’s population own more wealth than the poorest 90% of Americans.

However, wealth inequality is also a serious problem north of the border.

The Broadbent Institute, a Canadian progressive think tank based in Ottawa, Ontario, produced this YouTube video highlighting the serious wealth inequality problem in Canada:

While, according to the Broadbent Institute’s survey, most Canadians realize that there will always be people that are wealthier than others, they believe that the wealthiest 20% of Canadians should have roughly three times as much wealth as the poorest 20% of Canadians do. They also believe that the middle 60% of Canadians should have roughly 60% of the total wealth in the country.

According to the Broadbent Institute’s data, most Canadians also think that wealth distribution is more unequal than what the believe is ideal. They think that the wealthiest 20% has ten times as much wealth as the poorest 20%. They also believe that the wealthiest 20% holds a majority (no exact number provided; judging by the pie chart provided in the video at the 1:19 mark, approximately 55%) of the country’s wealth.

However, wealth distribution is even more unequal than most Canadians think it is. The poorest 20% of Canadians own less than 1% of the country’s total wealth, in fact, the bottom 10% actually has more debt than assets. Additionally, the poorest 50% of Canadians own only 6% of the country’s total wealth. On the other hand, the top 1% of Canadians own 20% of the country’s total wealth, and the wealthiest 20% own nearly 70% of the country’s total wealth. Furthermore, the top 10% of Canadians hold 60% of the country’s total financial assets (which includes financial instruments like stocks and bonds), and the average Canadian CEO makes a staggering 206 times as much money as their average employee.

One of the reasons that income inequality has become a major problem in Canada in recent decades is, as cited by the Broadbent Institute, the declining amount of government spending on social services, such as health care, housing, transportation, and education. Additionally, recent polling by the Broadbent Institute shows that, 80% of Canadians support raising personal income taxes on those in the highest Canadian income tax bracket (all three of Canada’s largest political parties oppose this) and 75% of Canadians support raising the corporate income tax rate in Canada (the New Democratic Party of Canada supports a corporate tax increase at the federal level in Canada).

Just like here in America, wealth inequality is a major problem in Canada. Additionally, just like the major political parties in America, the major political parties in Canada are asleep at the wheel when it comes to the wealth inequality problem.

John Oliver: The Left’s New Hero

John Oliver may not be a U.S. Citizen, but he’s already earned a large following on the American left. As the host of the HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight (which also has a YouTube page with nearly 800,000 subscribers), Oliver has, among other things, railed against rampant corruption at FIFA (the international soccer federation), has exposed the Miss America pageant for fluffing their claim about how much money in scholarships they provide, and has taken on the wealthiest people in America and their political influence, while, at the same time, injecting quite a bit of humor into his show.

Right before the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament began, Oliver did this piece on the protests against the World Cup in the host country of Brazil and the rampant corruption within soccer’s international governing body:

Several days after the 2014 Miss America pageant, Oliver did this piece on the rampant sexism in beauty pageants and Miss America’s false claim that they provide more money in scholarships to women than anyone else:

Additionally, Oliver has done pieces on the payday loan industry, the massive student debt problem in this country, and the massive wealth gap in this country:

While Last Week Tonight is a comedy show and not a news program, I’ve found Last Week Tonight to be far more informative than actual news programs in this country, with more actual investigative journalism than on any actual news program in this country. Additionally, Last Week Tonight is considerably funnier than any news program as well.

John Oliver has become the Fighting Bob La Follette of comedy, and that’s why he’s the American left’s new hero.