Sunday, February 28, 2010

Van Jones, Still the Driving Force for Green Jobs


After Right-Wing Smears,

Van Jones gets a second chance


By Katrina vanden Heuvel

The Nation

Van Jones, who resigned from the White House Council on Environmental Quality last fall in the face of a coordinated smear campaign by conservative activists, has reemerged from his self-imposed exile. He'll be teaching at Princeton University and taking up a senior fellowship at the Center for American Progress, where he will head a "green opportunity initiative."

And today, Jones will accept the NAACP President's Award from Benjamin Jealous, who mounts an eloquent defense of Jones in an op-ed.

A founder of "Green for All" and the online civil rights group "Color of Change," Jones penned a bestseller, "The Green Collar Economy," which provided a blueprint for using green technologies to bring jobs to deindustrialized American cities and create pathways out of poverty. He was a driving force behind the passage of the 2007 Green Jobs Act and one of America's most pragmatic environmental visionaries.

As we wrote in The Nation soon after Jones was run out of his job by clownish demagogue Glenn Beck,

The idea that Van Jones...was some kind of crypto-radical bent on subverting American capitalist democracy from the inside has as much relationship to the truth as the notion that Obama is hatching a plan for mandatory euthanasia of America's seniors. In giving him the NAACP's President's Award, Jealous referred to Jones's missteps, including political statements made years ago. Yes, it was a misstep to sign a petition. But Jones repudiated his signature and said the petition's wording didn't then and doesn't now represent his views. In a saner political environment, that would have been the end of it. Or, as the NAACP'S Jealous put it, "we can never afford to forget that a defining trait of our country is our collective capacity to practice forgiveness and celebrate redemption. This is a nation built on second chances."

It is good news that Jones has gotten that quintessentially American second chance. I am sure he will be a force working "outside" the White House -- oxygenating the grassroots with his fertile ideas.

Yet I remain sad for my country. Jones is one in a line of would-be public servants, stretching from Lani Guiner and Jocelyn Elders all the way back to those harassed by Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), who were driven out of public office because right-wing demagogues targeted and distorted their views. How is it that a man working to help Americans invest in a green collar economy ended up branded as an untouchable radical? How is it that such attacks led a skittish White House, admittedly battling attacks on many fronts, to jettison a powerful voice for environmental justice?

What a victory that was for the demagogues among us. Van Jones is back, but there will be other targets and well-coordinated attacks that Americans must resist, instead of giving in to those who would debase our politics through smears.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel | February 26, 2010; 12:58 PM ET


Friday, February 26, 2010

Obama Pressed by US 'Long Warriors'


Threat to Iraq

Withdrawal Plan


By Tom Hayden

Peace & Justice Resource Center

Was it too good to be true? In February at Camp Lejeune, our new President Barack Obama surprised all observers by pledging to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by 2012, in accord with a pact secretly negotiated at the end of the Bush era. Previously, Obama was promising to withdraw all combat troops, leaving a "residual force" dominating Iraq for years.

Obama has restated his commitment to the full withdrawal on several occasions. But heavy pressure is building to make the president drop his commitment.

The most ominous sign of the gathering campaign to make Obama cave in came in an Feb. 24 op-ed piece in the New York Times by Thomas Ricks, the pre-eminent mainstream historian of the war. Given the political gridlock and growing turbulence in Iraq, Ricks says that breaking his campaign promise is the "best course" for Obama to pursue.

Ricks says "it would be best to let [read: pressure] Iraqi leaders to make the first public move to re-open the status of forces agreement" under which US combat troops will soon be departing.

"As a longtime critic of the American invasion of Iraq, I am not happy about advocating a continued military presence there", Ricks writes. Perhaps he is forgetting his 2009 book celebrating Gen. David Petraeus, The Gamble, in which Ricks predicted that Obama would have to break his vow to remove all combat troops to avoid "abandoning Iraq." Or his prediction in the same book that the US is only "halfway through" the Iraq War.

Ricks' epilogue was titled "The Long War", making him one of the earliest warrror-journalists to embrace the notion of a 50-80 year war projected by top counterinsurgency advisers to Petraeus and the Pentagon.

Everyone including Ricks agrees that the American public is completely soured on the Iraq War. Just this week a federal agency noted that the $53 billion spent on Iraq reconstruction, the largest aid effort since the Marshall Plan, has been squandered. [NYT, Feb. 22, 2010]

That doesn't phase our ideological fanatics who believe in permanent war until all their ideological fanatics are dead.

No matter that both Iraq and Afghanistan are trillion-dollar wars and, according the latest federal budget analysis, there is "virtually no room for domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors." The neo-conservative stealth strategy of destroying government programs by "strangling the baby in the bathtub" [the phrase of Grover Norquist] is working. 

The reason US military combat may continue in Iraq is that the Pentagon has not won the war. On the one hand, the US has installed a brutal authoritarian Shiite-dominated coalition in power in Baghdad, one closely aligned with the Pentagon's strategic enemies in Iran. That's not a victory. That same Shiite coalition has used its power to purge the minority Sunni candidates from running in the elections scheduled for next month. Gen. Ray Odierno recently stated the obvious, that the key Iraqi politicians purging the Sunni candidates "clearly are influenced by Iran." [NYT, Feb. 17, 2010]

Not surprisingly, the top Iraqi blocking Sunni participation, according to Gen. Odiorno, is the same Ahmed Chalabi who conspired with the neo-cons to pass along false information leading to the 2003 invasion.

These events may drive the Sunni community to revive its insurgency, which was contained by US funding of the "Awakening" movement and promises of protection. The return of insurgency would mean civil war. The alternative may be more likely, a demand from the Sunnis that their former enemies, the Americans, stay in Iraq to protect them from the Shiites. This scenario would be in accord with the doctrine advocated by Petraeus advisor Stephen Biddle [see Foreign Affairs, Mar.-April 2006]. Divide and conquer may succeed.

What are the chances Obama will keep to his commitment? At this point, the most likely withdrawal we can expect from the President is not from Iraq but from his previous commitment. How can he politically succeed in withdrawing against warnings from all sides that chaos and bloodshed will be the result? The Long War advocates have him where they want him.

The peace movement may protest, and public opinion may be unenthusiastic, but cannot be counted on to stop this Long War plan for Iraq if Obama caves. Last month there were only five American deaths in Iraq; for 2009, the count was 149 [compared to 822 in 2006].

If renewed American intervention cannot be stopped, neither can a reckoning down the road, however. The cost of occupation is more than a fiscal one. A permanent American occupation of Iraq will be like a giant breeder reactor generating deadly and unpredictable opposition from Iraqi nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism for years to come.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

People Power Vs. 'The Long Warriors'

How To Rebuild

The Peace Movement

From the Bottom Up


By Tom Hayden

Peace and Justice Resource Center

Here at the PJRC we are exploring ways to implement communications with peace activist at local or regional levels, including a series of conference calls. In the meantime, let me share some specific thoughts about building the peace and justice movement from the bottom up.

Social movements always depend on leadership, a commitment by a single individual or small group to continue their work in the face of all odds. Then there's the question of a strategy for being effective. We always have to measure our capacity against the goals we set.


The bottom-up strategy which I propose is building the pressure of people power against the pillars of policy that prop up the Long War.

The key pillars for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan include, first, the pillar of public opinion; second, the pillar of budgetary support; and third, the pillar of our military resources. Other pillars include the mainstream media, religious institutions and, of course, the required stability of America's ally Kabul.

In the end, it's about public opinion. We have to argue that the American people are not any safer for having fought these wars, and we cannot afford the cost in casualties and tax dollars.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tea Party Factions Prepare for 2010 Vote and Beyond

Revival and Revolt:

Inside the Tea Party

National Convention

By Devin Burghart
Huffington Post

Feb. 10, 2010, Nashville - The rancor and division among Tea Partiers that erupted in the weeks leading up to the first Tea Party National Convention was nowhere to be found inside the expansive biosphere-like confines of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Squabbles set aside, at least for the moment, the real business of the February 4-7 convention was three-fold: culture warring, movement building, and campaign winning.

Organized by Judson Phillips, a Nashville attorney, and his wife Sherry, Tea Party Nation (or TPN) is one of several different Tea Party factions vying to be the voice of those angry white voters wanting to “take America back!”

TPN describes itself as a “user-driven group of like-minded people who desire our God given Individual Freedoms which were written out by the Founding Fathers. We believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the 2nd Amendment, our Military, Secure Borders and our Country!” These threads ran through the convention.

The crowd of roughly six hundred came to Nashville from across the country. Among the TPN conventioneers was an attorney from Virginia, an IT professional from Atlanta, a retired executive from Lansing, a veterinarian from rural Pennsylvania, a power plant engineer from Houston, a teacher from rural Idaho, and snowbirds from Arizona.  The crowd skewed slightly older, primarily from the 55+ demographic range, and was split almost evenly between men and women.


Friday, February 12, 2010

A Organizing Tool to Win the Democracy Battle

If We Had A Bell:

The Democracy Charter

CIO Poster: The Campaign for FDR's Second Bill of Rights.

By Zach Robinson

CCDS Mobilzer

December’s National Coordinating Committee (NCC) meeting opened December 4, 2009, by taking up Jack O’Dell’s essay “Democracy Charter." O’Dell, a member of the CCDS National Advisory Board, participated by tele-conference. The following day, the NCC considered a resolution outlining a plan of work around the Democracy Charter. It generated strong support and was adopted by the body.

In his NCC presentation, O’Dell pointed out that these times of multiple crises are pregnant with hopes as well as fears. He characterized the 2008 elections as a “moment of promise,” and said that the strategic goal of the Democracy Charter is “to enable the coalition that achieved that moment to become a movement… to transform the electoral victory into a movement of direct action inseparable from electoral activity.”

Segmentation developed in the progressive movement under conditions when focused, issue-based activity yielded tangible results. In today’s conditions, however, a segmented structure can reduce the effectiveness of movement campaigns. For example, facing expansion of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, the peace movement would seem naturally allied with organizations seeking better funding for public schools. Yet fears that their constituency might not understand the classic guns-vs-butter problem can make leaders in the education movement shy of taking an anti-war stance. And some in the peace movement may not be sufficiently aware of how lack of real educational opportunity creates people who can be treated as cannon fodder by the military.


Pamphlet to populate the South African Freedom Charter.

The various activities of the progressive movement have always had something in common: the democratic aspirations of diverse constituencies. Yet it requires special conditions for that general commonality to take on an organized character greater than the temporary alliances of numerous electoral campaigns over the last few decades. In his historic speech at the 1963 march on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “the fierce urgency of now.” That is the urgency of today. Deep economic and environmental crises reach all aspects of human society and by so doing, provide the material connections and the psychological basis for organizing a realignment. The Democracy Charter is a touchstone.

By bringing the many struggles together under the banner of expanding democracy from a formal to a substantive level, the strategic concept of the Democracy Charter opens a way to organize the greater unity that is needed. O’Dell writes, “The Charter proposal is designed to acknowledge and enhance the effective work that is already being done in many areas of Movement activity. When harnessed to the grassroots organizing tradition, the Democracy Charter can bring new energy that is transformational in its possibilities for social change in our nation.”

President Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” is a key point of historical reference for O'Dell, as it is for Michael Moore in his documentary film “Capitalism: A Love Story.” O'Dell related Moore’s answer to the reporter who asked, in light of his blistering critique of capitalism, what it was that he wanted: a higher form of democracy.
At the end of World War II, labor unions led a massive mobilization in favor of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights. But after his death, that promise was buried by the Cold War’s nuclear-armed military alliances and McCarthyist pressure toward political conformity. The Cold War stifled the hope for progress that was embodied in the diplomatic alliances and popular movements that brought victory against fascism in the 1940s.

Chartist mass meeting, Kennington Common, London,
1848. The Chartists were a British working class-based
organization that backed the six-point People's Charter.
Chartists met with Frederick Douglass during his European
tour of the 1840s. Rising political consciousness in the
Chartist movement prompted Marx and Engels to write the
Communist Manifesto in 1848. This movement laid the
foundation for mass opposition to British intervention on
behalf of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War.


Yet, as O’Dell writes in his essay, three signal events of 1955 made a breakthrough: (i) the Montgomery bus boycott in the U.S., which, through direct action, put realization of the Reconstruction-era Constitutional amendments on the agenda, (ii) the Congress of the People in South Africa, which ratified the Freedom Charter that guided the anti-apartheid movement, and (iii) the Bandung Conference, in which representatives of 29 African and Asian countries articulated a 7-point manifesto that gave birth to the Non-Aligned Movement, establishing the prospect of a victorious struggle to abolish colonialism. This history shows that united action behind a people's agenda can change the balance of forces.

The NCC resolution cites views of several panelists at the July, 2009 symposium “Building the Progressive Majority” in San Francisco. Bill Fletcher, co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal and the Black Radical Congress, characterized the Democracy Charter as a polemic against post-modernism, the notion that there is no over-arching way of linking struggles. He urged us to integrate the Democracy Charter into discussions with our constituencies, and to develop working people’s assemblies and working people’s agendas. Steve Williams, executive co-director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), said that the Democracy Charter can build a core of people active in working class communities, in communities of color, and gay and lesbian communities who will build a progressive majority. Jackie Cabasso, executive director of the nuclear disarmament group Western States Legal Foundation, noted that the Democracy Charter contributes to a causal analysis of the levers of social change, and to a comprehensive vision that allows people to see the interconnectedness of issues in a way that undermines neo-liberalism, individualism and privatization.

The NCC resolution projects a role for the CCDS in launching the Democracy Charter into a national conversation in such a way that it can be owned and acted upon by a much broader array of social forces, building connections among the progressive majority. The resolution outlines a plan of work on two tracks. One track is based on winning endorsement by noted figures. The other, primary track is based on a step-by-step organizing process of outreach to local activists in labor, the human rights movements, peace and multi-issue formations. The grassroots organizing proceeds from developing a cadre of activists who can promote work around the Democracy Charter, offering the Democracy Charter to their local organizations for study. The goal is to organize across the country 500 educational meetings of 5 people each. Building on this framework, regional conferences can be held with the Democracy Charter as a central organizing document. This work would culminate in national meetings. For example, the Democracy Charter can be brought to the People's Assemblies being organized in preparation for the meeting of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, and then to the Detroit national meeting in June, 2010.

We have a bell to ring all over this land!

(Print This Article)


Monday, February 8, 2010

Obama's Speech: The Practical and the Problematic


The Good and

the Not So Good 

State of the Union


By Carl Bloice

First the good stuff.

"Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse," President Obama told the country. "Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations - they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America."

I about fell off my chair when I heard that. He was speaking the truth, telling us all something that we should wrap our collective brains around.

You don't really need the comparative statistics. Travel outside the country, to say Shanghai, Berlin, Tokyo or Copenhagen and it quickly become obvious that, despite all their real problems, others are moving into the 21st Century and we're lagging behind.

"No president has ever delivered so direct a strike to the soft underbelly of contemporary American conservatism, or one that resonates more with Americans' hopes for their nation.," commented Alan Meyerson, co-editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine.

Obama's got both the diagnosis and the prescription right. I think he means it. He thinks the lag can be overcome within the strictures of the capitalist market system. And, he's much better suited to try that than the craven, self aggrandizing lot that make up most of the U.S. Congress and the timid politicians that comprise the bulk of the rest.

"We need to encourage American innovation," the President said. "Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history - an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched.

"And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy - in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives."

And then came the problematic.

"And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country," he said. "It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies." There are a lot of people who would disagree. Each of these presents serious technical, safety and environmental quandaries that he did not address and which will be debated in the months and year ahead. Still we should welcome his call for passage of a "comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."

Those other countries are not investing in green technologies merely "because they want those jobs." They also want to pass on to future generations a clean and safe environment and they recognize the physical and political consequences of perpetual reliance on petroleum (and coal) as our principle source of energy. It should be the same for us. However, right now nearly everything we contemplate doing is seen through the prism of the economy and employment.

Yes, a longer range view that links our future to green technologies, sustainable agriculture and the like is essential but so is the hard fact that over one out of every ten people in the country can't find a way to earn a living. There shouldn't be a contradiction between addressing both problems at once. Indeed, if the latter is not addressed with the urgency it requires all hell will break loose and neither President Obama nor anyone else will be in a political position to do anything about the future.

Critics used to make fun of socialist counties' five year plans but right now we could use something like that.

And then there is what's necessary and possible.

In an editorial titled, "Opposite of Bold" that appeared the day before the State of the Union, the New York Times said, "The danger is that the initiatives announced so far this week will move to center stage, eclipsing more difficult and more important needs. It is Mr. Obama's job to make sure that does not happen."

"There is a crater in the economy where the job market used to be, a hole so deep that it would take at least 10 million new jobs to fill it," wrote the Times editors. "There are more than six jobless workers for every job opening, which means prolonged spells of unemployment for many of the nation's 15.3 million jobless workers."

"A lack of jobs also means delays in getting hired or lower entry-level wages for millions of high school and college graduates - long-lasting setbacks. It portends little to no wage gains well into the future for millions of underemployed Americans, and even for the majority who have held on to their jobs as the economy has tanked. It means intractable budget deficits - because without new jobs, economic performance and tax revenues will remain inadequate.

"Even the $154 billion jobs bill passed by the House in December is only a starting point for the repair and recovery work that needs to be done.

A study recently commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors predicts jobless rates in most urban areas are likely to cease rising some times this year but it will be a long time before they return to what was normal in the 1990s. Furthermore, in places like the inland portions of California, it will remain above 10 percent at least through 2013. The Congressional Budget Office says unemployment will remain above 9 percent for at least the next two years.

A record 40 percent of the jobless still looking for work have been on the streets for at least 6 months. Twenty percent of the 25 o 54 year old men in the country are not working.

And, it goes without saying - but should be repeated anyway - joblessness is highest proportionately for communities of color, young workers, and women who head households.

Nearly one third of all people in the country now live below the federal poverty line, according to a recent Gallup poll. Close to one in five say they lacked the money to buy food at some point in the last year. Over 38 million people - one in eight - now receive food stamps, the highest portion ever.

Economist Dean Baker commented last week that the latest data on unemployment insurance filings indicate that the economy is still shedding jobs. "With final demand growth remaining weak, there is little prospect for a turnaround of employment in the near future." he wrote.

"To create jobs, Mr. Obama must make it clear that he will not abandon the states at this time of budget crises," said the Times editorially. "Bolstered aid to states is unpopular. But it is among the surest ways to preserve and create jobs because the money is pushed through quickly to employees, contractors and beneficiaries. The alternative is recovery-killing spending cuts and tax increases on the state level."

To students of all ages in California the portion of the President's address devoted to education must have seemed like a sick joke of some kind. Amid all the lofty talk about increased funding and educational "reforms," the state is responding to the financial crisis by decimating its school system from kindergartens to graduate schools. It's hardly clear what Obama's call for increased commitment to community colleges is going to mean in a state where student are finding teachers laid off and classes cut that they need to complete their degrees, or, in some cases to qualify for student loans. Students here - at all levels - are planning a massive day of protest next month.

Following the President's speech, American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, said she welcomed the Administration's call for increased spending on education but added: "Our future depends on education and we know that kids don't get second chances. So we are looking for that ongoing commitment to public education." Further, she said, a federal freeze on spending will do harm. "There's still a lot of folk that are suffering. I am confident that the president wants to do the best he can under this circumstance. But ultimately the cuts are real and they're going to hurt people."

The President said he would use part of the $30 billion in bailout funds the big banks paid back to the federal government to create small business loans and has proposed a new small business tax credit directed to more than a million small businesses that hire new employees or raise wages. Economist Robert Reich commented in his blog last week that "targeted tax cuts," mostly for small business, are good to the extent they give businesses a nudge toward creating more jobs. But businesses won't begin to create lots of jobs until they have lots of customers. And that won't happen until lots more Americans have work. The only way to get them work when businesses aren't hiring is for government to prime the pump.The best and fastest way for government to prime the pump is to help states and locales, which are now doing the opposite. They're laying off teachers, police officers, social workers, health-care workers, and many more who provide vital public services. And they're increasing taxes and fees. They have no choice. State constitutions require them to balance their budgets. But the result is to negate much of what the federal government has tried to do with its stimulus to date.

"We need a second stimulus directed at states and locales.

In an email message last week, NAACP President, Benjamin Todd Jealous, observed, "The Supreme Court has unleashed unlimited amounts of corporate dollars into the political landscape with its ruling this month on campaign finance reform, money sure to undercut and distort the real priorities of our democracy. President Obama has vowed to fight. He has pledged to reverse the worst impact of the Supreme Court decision. Yet without each of us fully engaged, billions of dollars will be harnessed to crush his agenda and those who support it for simply daring to do the people's will."

"Still, we can win. Organized and educated people ultimately trump misdirected money.

"But without you and all your friends and neighbors back on the battlefield, harnessing the power of we, there is no guarantee progress will continue. Like every great wave, the one that made it possible for an African-American family to live in the White House must be regenerated, or it will ebb. More importantly, our communities' and families' fates, which are in perilous condition, will ebb with it.

Last Friday, the Campaign for America's Future announced it was launching a grassroots campaign to get the Senate to pass the House jobs bill and embark on a comprehensive long term job strategy comprising key goals of rebuilding the nation's schools, roads and energy systems, closing state budget gaps to prevent mass layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters, directing public sector hiring to expand services that strengthen our communities and using revenue to "Buy American" and revitalize our manufacturing industry.

Last week, AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, pledged that the labor federation will "continue to be an independent voice for middle class Americans and fight for the change working families need - and we are ready to do more."

"This is the time for a broad movement of Americans demanding jobs and an economy that works for all, and we're ready to put our energy and leadership into building that movement - taking the fight to the doorstep of the banks that are exploiting struggling homeowners, of corporations that are running away from communities and of lawmakers who choose to back them up," Trumka said. _____________________ Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a National Co-Chair of the Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Obama: For Victories, We Need More Than Crumbs

The Message of

Massachusetts: Jobs


By Leo W. Gerard

Bill Clinton saw it clearly when he was running for president against Bush I. It became his mantra: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Clinton wanted to reform health insurance, too. But he understood that during a recession, the first priority is jobs.

Politicians and commentators continue to blather obtusely about the meaning of Senate candidate Martha Coakley’s loss in Massachusetts to a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. Like Coakley and her advisers, they have failed to see the obvious, failed to learn from Clinton’s victory:

It’s the economy, stupid.

Poll results show that Massachusetts voters punished Coakley—and Democrats—for neglecting the issue most vital to them: jobs. If politicians had studied earlier polls or attempted to actually get in touch with mainstream, Main Street Americans—or just listened to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s address at the National Press Club on Jan. 11—they’d have known to focus on jobs. The message of Massachusetts should be clear: If Democrats want to save their own jobs in the midterm elections this fall, they must create jobs now.

A [1] poll taken in the first week in December exposed voters’ anger over the economy. The bipartisan Battleground Poll showed this: A huge majority of those surveyed ranked improving the economy and jobs as the most important tasks for Congress. It was 40 percent, compared to healthcare reform, at just 15 percent.

Here’s what pollster Celinda Lake said about the results:

The number one thing Democrats have to do is prove they really have a jobs program and an economic program that is going to sell on Main Street.

That was a month before the Massachusetts vote. In the meantime, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced unemployment numbers for December—and they were worse in 43 states than they had been in November. Joblessness in Michigan, a high-population Heartland State, was the highest in the country at 14.6 percent. In Rhode Island, it was 12.9 percent; in South Carolina, 12.6 percent. In California, one of the dozen largest economies in the world, it was 12.4 percent, significantly higher than the U.S. average of 10 percent.

People are hurting. Pay attention, politicians. Pay attention.

They didn’t. In the Massachusetts race, they were talking about terrorism and baseball.

In a Research 2000 [2] poll done for, 95 percent of Massachusetts residents surveyed ranked the economy as either important or very important to their candidate choice. Research 2000 questioned 1,000 registered voters—half of whom voted for Republican Scott Brown and half of whom did not vote at all.

Among those who voted for Obama in 2008 but Brown this month, 51 percent said they believed Democratic policies helped Wall Street more than Main Street.

It’s the economy, stupid. The Main Street economy.

Similarly, in a Hart Research Associates [3] poll conducted on election night in Massachusetts, 79 percent of voters said electing a candidate who would strengthen the economy and create more good jobs was the single most important factor in their decision. The were looking for someone who would fix the economy.

The Great Recession of Bush II is more than two years old now. Workers are frightened and angry. They see bailouts for Wall Street, big bonuses for bankers and unemployment continuing to rise.

They will vent their frustration on politicians. Massachusetts showed it. Trumka [4] warned about it earlier this month in his talk at the Press Club:

At this moment, the voices of America’s working women and men must be heard in Washington—not the voices of bankers and speculators for whom it always seems to be the best of times, but the voices of those for whom the New Year brings pink slips and givebacks, hollowed-out health care, foreclosures and pension freezes—the roll call of an economy that long ago stopped working for most of us.

He went on: “Working people want an American economy that works for them, that creates good jobs, where wealth is fairly shared.”

Trumka recommended immediate implementation of the AFL-CIO’s [5] five-point jobs program, a plan that would produce 4 million jobs and includes dramatically increasing investments in federal infrastructure and green jobs and direct lending of the refunded bank bailout money to small and medium-sized businesses that can’t get credit because of the financial crisis.

Just as important is implementation of the recommendations in the report issued by the White House manufacturing task force in December, [6] Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing. That report contains concrete measures to revive manufacturing in the United States to generate real wealth, not the illusory paper assets counterfeited on Wall Street.

Trumka called for immediate action, not going slow, not taking half steps. Those who seek delay are “harming millions of unemployed Americans and their families,” he said, and jeopardizing economic recovery.

He ended with this warning:

The reality is that when unemployment is 10 percent and rising, working people will not stand for tokenism. We will not vote for politicians who think they can push a few crumbs our way and then continue the failed economic policies of the last 30 years.

Workers executed that warning in Massachusetts.

What Americans want is jobs.

Article printed from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG:


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