Tag: middle class

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

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Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

Illinois State Representatives should vote NO on wage theft bill

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether or not Illinois should become a right-to-work state, or what I like to call a wage theft state. In a wage theft state, non-union workers at unionized workplaces would be legally allowed to steal wages and other benefits negotiated by the union without paying union dues or some other form of payment. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly called for legislation allowing for local governments to enact local wage theft ordinances, which Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes would violate federal labor laws.

I strongly encourage members of the Illinois General Assembly to vote NO on the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan wage theft scheme.

While Madigan, the Democratic state house speaker, hasn’t advocated for the passage of the legislation, the fact that he’s scheduled a vote on wage theft is downright alarming. Wage theft legislation would do absolutely nothing to improve our state’s economy or fix our state’s fiscal problems. Instead, it would drive down wages, make workplaces less safe, create an even bigger burden on taxpayers, cost our state thousands of jobs, and severely hurt our state’s economy. That’s because when wages are driven down, workers have less to spend on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services, resulting in both the state and the private sector making less revenue.

Bruce Rauner wants to put Illinois in the same league as third-world countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh, from an economic standpoint. Illinoisans simply can not afford Rauner’s corporate agenda of driving down wages, busting unions, and destroying what little of our state’s middle class remains.

ENDORSEMENT: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States

I am pleased to announce that multiple media outlets are reporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will announce his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday.

I’m also pleased to announce that I am probably the first person in the entire country to officially endorse Bernie’s presidential bid.

While most Americans are not yet familiar with Bernie and his style of politics, those who know him know that he’s a progressive firebrand who wants to put the American government in the hands of the people, not just political elites and the wealthy. As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie helped make Burlington one of the most attractive places in America to live. As a member of both houses of Congress, Bernie has fought for progressive policies to rebuild the American middle class, protect American consumers and workers, and provide for the well-being of all Americans. Most recently, as a U.S. Senator, Bernie has railed against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for President Obama’s Global Trading Regime. The TPP and other proposed free trade deals, if fully implemented, would destroy much of what little American economic sovereignty remains and cost America thousands of jobs. In his upcoming presidential campaign, Bernie has promised to make universal health care, rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, making the U.S. Tax Code more progressive, and putting Americans back to work.

For those of you who doubt Bernie’s ability to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nomination contest of any kind in the entire country, usually see extremely low turnout, which means that, if Bernie can get Iowa progressives to turn out in a big way, he could very well win many of Iowa’s delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). After Iowa is the New Hampshire primary, which will be held in a state that is trending more and more Democratic thanks to people from Bernie’s home state of Vermont moving to New Hampshire and bringing their progressive political views with them. If Bernie can win both of those contests, he’ll be in a hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination, if not the favorite for the nomination.

I hope that I’ll be able to vote for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in the Illinois primary next year. I’ve longed for a Democratic presidential candidate who is more than willing to make the wealthy and the political elites squeal, and now we’re going to have one!

House Democrats push for progressive tax reform

For far too long, the tepid Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill has lacked any real comprehensive plan to overhaul the federal tax code to increase taxes on the wealthy and provide real tax relief to middle-class Americans.

As if someone turned a light on, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland unveiled a progressive tax reform plan yesterday. This plan would repeal tax breaks that benefit the wealthy and institute a new fee on stock trades in order to provide tax relief for middle-class Americans:

Senior Democrats, dissatisfied with the party’s tepid prescriptions for combating income inequality, are drafting an “action plan” that calls for a massive transfer of wealth from the super-rich and Wall Street traders to the heart of the middle class.

The centerpiece of the proposal, set to be unveiled Monday by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is a “paycheck bonus credit” that would shave $2,000 a year off the tax bills of couples earning less than $200,000. Other provisions would nearly triple the tax credit for child care and reward people who save at least $500 a year.

The windfall — about $1.2 trillion over a decade — would come directly from the pockets of Wall Street “high rollers” through a new fee on financial transactions, and from the top 1 percent of earners, who would lose billions of dollars in lucrative tax breaks.

Unfortunately, since Republicans control both houses of Congress, this is going absolutely nowhere for at least the next two years. However, for Democrats to simply advocate such a bold plan is a big step forward towards combating the rampant problem of income inequality in this country and restoring the American middle class.

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.