Tag: wealth inequality

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!

Bernie Sanders PWNS pro-Donald Trump heckler

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the first blog post of the year 2016 on The Progressive Midwesterner!


As chronicled by a member of the progressive political website DailyKos, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was heckled by a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a Bernie rally on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst). Yet, that didn’t stop Bernie from getting in a memorable line about Donald Trump’s gigantic personal wealth:

Bernie Sanders and his supporters dispatched a Donald Trump heckler at his ‘Future to Believe’ Rally at the University of Massachusetts,  in Amherst.  The heckler was shouting ‘Shame on you.’ After the crowd erupted, he was escorted out without incident.

Bernie Sanders did not get off message but had a very good comeback for the guy. “Here is a Trump supporter,” Sanders said. “Worried about Mr. Trump’s money.” More on that later.

You can view a video of the part of the rally in question here:

 

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!

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.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wants to make income inequality even worse

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced yet another bid for the Republican presidential nomination earlier today. This time, he’s trying to appeal to working-class voters, saying that “working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money”.

However, Rick Santorum is not a real champion of the working class.

For starters, Santorum has a long history of taking far-right positions and making offensive remarks on various issues, especially on social issues like abortion and marriage equality. For example, Santorum has staunchly opposed marriage equality, going as far as to claim that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to people marrying dogs, which is absolutely false and absurd. On LGBT rights in general, Santorum has claimed that the Boy Scouts allowing openly gay people to join the Scouts would “murder” the organization, another absolutely false and absurd claim. On abortion and reproductive rights, Santorum has staunchly opposed the idea that women should be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, going as far as to say that survivors of rape who get pregnant via rape should “accept what God has given”, effectively saying that he thinks that women should be forced to carry an unwanted fetus to term.

When it comes to economic issues, Santorum’s “appeal” to working-class Americans is phonier than a $3 bill. For starters, Santorum supports eliminating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and instituting a flat federal income tax rate. I have two things to say about this ridiculous idea. First, a flat income tax would make income inequality, already a serious problem in this country, even worse, because the wealthiest Americans would receive most, if not all, of the tax cuts from a flat income tax. Second, who the hell would be responsible for collecting taxes if the IRS were eliminated?

Rick Santorum is a phony and a far-right crackpot who would make an absolutely horrible president.

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!

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.