Saturday, February 18, 2012

4 Recent Victories Signal Hard Truth About Rebuilding Labor Movement

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For the first time in my journalism career, during one week I wrote four stories about workers winning tough fights. The victories include GE and Cablevision workers unionizing after several failed organizing attempts, the end of the bloody Longview Port longshoremen dispute and the State Department issuing new rules governing student guest workers after last summer's strike by young Hershey foreign workers.

This extraordinarily rare string of victories leads me to believe that despite major attacks on workers’ organizing and collective bargaining rights, unions can take advantage of workers' backlash against these attacks and win big victories. They can still organize.

This is not to say the tide is turning for labor because of the overreach of anti-union forces. During the same period of these small but significant victories for workers, others suffered a number of large defeats. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation aimed at gutting the power of private-sector unions, and Senate Democrats passed a bill rolling back the organizing rights of airline and rail workers.

But the key lesson of these these small victories is this: When workers develop individual strategies for their own workplace—rather than rely on gran master plans from union leaders—they're more likely to win. It's to study the GE, Cablevision and the the longshoremen union (ILWU) campaign in Longview to understand what works.

In one of the smartest union campaigns I have ever covered, the Communication Workers of America organized 282 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn that had been trying to organize into a union for 13 years. CWA first built a strong shop floor committee to build solidarity in the workplace before even attempting to file for an election.

Then CWA employed the support of prominent Democratic politicians to make statements against the intimidation these workers were experiencing as they attempted to unionize. The result was that Cablevision couldn't stymie the organizing drive by firing workers, and workers voted 3-to-1 to join CWA.

Not only did CWA win the Cablevision union election, but it inspired another a group of 120 nonunion Cablevision contractors to go out on a wildcat strike in Bronx demanding union recognition and the restoration of a 30-percent wage cut proposed by the company. (See my story here).

After a bitter seven-month struggle that sometimes involved breaking the law, the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was able to prevent port company EGT from opening the first terminal on the West Coast not to be represented by the union. On one occasion last July, more than 100 union members were arrested for breaking down a fence and invading the grain terminal in an effort to shut it down. On other occasions, hundreds of ILWU members confronted baton-twirling riot police as they attempt to blocked railroad tracks to prevent goods from moving; workers at ports in Vancouver and Tacoma went on wildcat strikes to show solidarity with the Longshoremen. On another occasion unionists vandalized trains carrying grain to the port. Throughout the confrontations, more than 125 protesters were arrested.

Union leaders, of course, rarely encourage union members to vandalize property and break the law. Workers in Longview decided that that's what they wanted to do. Ultimately, the prospect of more confrontations between the company, police and union members prompted Washington Governor Christina Gregroie to finally push the company to settle.

Also earlier this month, I covered how GE workers in Kansas City won an organizing drive by a margin of 44-41. The workers at a small service plant in Kansas City had attempted to organize three times before; finally on the fourth time, pro-union workers won an election.

The organizing success was the result of older pro-union workers on the first shift who were willing to stay late into the night after their last shift to talk to younger workers, as well other unionized GE workers from different plants visiting to talk to workers about joining a union. There was no big master plan in the GE organizing victory. The organizing success was the result of rank-and-file worker action.

Likewise, last year I covered how cultural exchange guest workers at one of Hershey’s warehouses in Pennsylvania decided to strike by themselves after receiving only $20-40 a week (after housing and other costs were deducted from their paychecks). They reached out to the local labor community to support them, but the plan to strike came from workers themselves.

The action was wildly successful receiving widespread media attention. It ultimately caused the State Department to announce it will review all policies regulating the J-1 student guest visa program, and will limit the type of work that nearly 350,000 "cultural exchange" workers who enter this country annually are allowed to do. (The State Department also debarred guest worker recruiter Council for Educational Travel from the J-1 program; CETUSA had provided the students to Hershey.)

People inside of America's labor movement are always searching for the big solution of how to organize lots of workers quickly, or win fights quickly through a grand leverage scheme designed to force employers to agree to voluntary union recognition through card check neutrality, rather than hard-fought NLRB union elections.

A few years ago, I traveled to Boston to cover an attempt by top SEIU strategist Stephen Lerner to organize bank workers at Santander, a foreign-owned company. The organizing committee meeting I attended had nearly twice as many union organizers and community allies in the room as actual bank workers. It was clear that the campaign to organize Santander workers was driven mainly by SEIU staffers, not by workers. The campaign collapsed, and is now largely forgotten.

“Organizing right now is characterized by great ideas, fancy power points, one-year investment and then moving on to grand scheme. It works for professional organizers, but it doesn’t work for actually organizing workers,” ILWU Organizing Director Peter Olney told me earlier this year. “The fundamental moving force in any labor struggle has to be the workers. [But] the art of listening to workers and analyzing their power is gone in the labor movement today.”

All too often I see unions announce huge organizing drives that intend to organize a whole group of workers. A plethora of press releases are released, millions of dollars are committed to organizing an industry, even before the union has organized committees of workers in the industry. Whether it's SEIU's bank industry plan or UAW's strategy to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the right-to-work South, it seems that union leaders often have big strategies to win huge gains—but rarely are those strategies crafted by the workers unions seek to organize. Often, these campaigns involve getting an employer not to intimidate workers instead of working to help people overcome anti-union intimidation campaigns. As UAW President Bob King recently told Reuters about how the struggling union will organize southern plants: "It really is ultimately up to the companies.”

But perhaps the best way to make large gains is to focus on a lot of small workplaces where workers really want to organize. These victories show that the key to success is giving them the skills to organize, and sticking with the organizing campaign of workers, whether it takes four years like it did with the GE shop in Kansas City, or 13 years like it did with Cablevision workers in New York City.

“I think there is a lot of truth in that model of moving slowly forward. You play small ball and all of a sudden that starts adding up to a lot of workers,” says CWA District 1 Organizing Director Tim Dubnau.

The truth is—and it’s a tough one for labor leaders to accept—is that there is no real strategy to rebuild the labor movement other than to support workers to the max in their attempts to organize – however small or unsexy they are. If we are going to rebuild this labor movement, workers are going to have to do it themselves.

How Ron Paul is secretly taking over the GOP

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Evidence is mounting that Mitt Romney's 194-vote victory over Ron Paul was prematurely announced, if not totally wrong. Washington County canceled their caucus on Saturday on account of three inches of snow (hardly a blizzard by Maine standards), and other towns that scheduled their caucuses for this week have been left out of the vote count. Now, it looks like caucuses that did take place before Feb. 11 have also been left out of final tally.

As the full extent of the chaos unfolds, sources close to the Paul campaign tell Business Insider that it is looking increasingly like Romney's team might have a hand in denying Paul votes, noting that Romney has some admirably ruthless operatives on his side and a powerful incentive to avoid a fifth caucus loss this month.

According to the Paul campaign, the Maine Republican Party is severely under-reporting Paul's results — and Romney isn't getting the same treatment. For example, nearly all the towns in Waldo County — a Ron Paul stronghold – held their caucuses on Feb. 4, but the state GOP reported no results for those towns. In Waterville, a college town in Central Maine, results were reported but not included in the party vote count. Paul beat Romney 21-5 there, according to the Kennebec County GOP.

"It's too common," senior advisor Doug Wead told Business Insider. "If it was chaos, we would expect strong Romney counties to be unreported, and that's not what's happening."

The Maine Republican Party won't decide which votes it will count until the executive committee meets next month. But Wead points out that even if Mitt Romney holds on to his slim lead, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

"He will have disenfranchised all of these people," Wead said. "It could be a costly victory — it is a mistake."

The (alleged) bias against Paul may also be the product of an organic opposition to the libertarian Congressman and his army of ardent fans. Paul volunteers tend to be young and relatively new to party politics, and their presence has many state GOP stalwarts feeling territorial.

"People feel threatened — they don't want to see a bunch of kids who may have voted for Barack Obama take over," Wead said. "They feel a sense of ownership over the party — but there has to be an accommodation."

But state party machinations are already starting to backfire. The Paul campaign believes it has won the majority of Maine's delegates — and the perceived election fraud has galvanized Paul supporters to demand their votes be counted in the state's straw poll 'beauty contest.'

Caucus chaos has also proved to be fertile ground for Paul's quiet takeover of the Republican Party. Since 2008, the campaign and Paul's Campaign for Liberty PAC have made a concerted effort to get Paul sympathists involved in the political process. Now, tumult in state party organizations has allowed these supporters to rise up the ranks.

"We like strong party leadership when it comes from us," Paul campaign chair Jesse Benton told Business Insider. "Our people work very hard to make sure that their voice is heard."

The fruits of this labor are evident in Iowa, where Paul's former state campaign co-chair A.J. Spiker was just elected as the new chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. Spiker replaces Matt Strawn, who stepped down over this year's Iowa caucus dustup. In Nevada, the state chair has also resigned over caucus disaster, and several Ron Paul supporters are well-positioned to step up to fill the void. These new leaders not only expand Paul's influence at the state level, but also help protect Paul and his hard-won delegates from state party machinations as the delegate-selection process moves to district and state conventions, and eventually the Republican National Convention this summer.

"We are always trying to bring people into the party," Benton said. "I think that is a very positive thing for Republicans. Ron is the person who can build the Republican base, bring new blood into the party. That's how you build the party."

In Maine, the caucus disaster has made the state GOP prime for a Ron Paul takeover. And that means that Paul's hard-won delegates will be protected as the delegate selection process

"We are taking over the party," Wead told BI. "That's the important thing — and that is what we are doing in Maine."

Maddow wonders whether Maine GOP ‘rigged’ caucuses

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Instead of Being Disgusted by Poverty, We Are Disgusted By Poor People Themselves

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Empathy has crashed. No more cruel to be kind. We must simply be cruel

She is there whenever I go the shops. Every time I think she can't get any more skeletal, she manages it. Wild eyes staring in different directions, she must have been pretty once. I try not to look, for she is often aggressive. Sometimes, though, she is in my face and asking me to go into the shop, from which she has been banned, to buy her something. A scratchcard. She feels lucky. "Maybe some food?" I suggest pointlessly, but food is not what she craves. Food is not crack. Or luck. She has already lost every lottery going.

An addict is the author of their own misfortune. Her poverty is self-inflicted. All these hopeless people: where do they all come from? It is, of course, possible never to really see them, as their distress is so distressing. Who needs it? Poverty, we are often told, is not "actual", because people have TVs. This gradual erosion of empathy is the triumph of an economic climate in which everyone, addicted or not, is personally responsible for their own lack of achievement. Poor people are not simply people like us, but with less money: they are an entirely different species. Their poverty is a personal failing. They have let themselves go. This now applies not just to individuals but to entire countries. Look at the Greeks! What were they thinking with their pensions and minimum wage? That they were like us? Out of the flames, they are now told to rise, phoenix–like, by a rich political elite. Perhaps they can grow money on trees?

Meanwhile, in the US, as this week's shocking Panorama showed, people are living in tents or underground in drains. These ugly people, with ulcers, hernias and bad teeth, are the flipside of the American dream. Trees twist through abandoned civic buildings and factories, while the Republican candidates, an ID parade of Grecian 2000 suspects, bang on about tax cuts for the 1% who own a fifth of America's wealth. To see the Grapes of Wrath recast among post-apocalyptic cityscapes is scary. Huge cognitive dissonance is required to cheerlead for the rich while 47 million citizens live in conditions close to those in the developing world.

This contradiction is also one of the few things we in the UK are good at producing. I heard a radio interview recently with a depressed young man with three A-levels (yes, in properly Govian subjects) who had been unemployed for three years. The response of listeners was that he was lazy and should try harder. Samuel Beckett's "fail better" comes to mind. Understanding what three years of unemployment does to a young person does not produce a job, any more than the scratchcard will change a crackhead's life. But pure condemnation is divisive. This fear and loathing of those at the bottom is deeply disturbing.

Three years ago I was on a panel with Vince Cable at The Convention of Modern Liberty, when Cable was still reckoned a seer for predicting the recession. He said then that the financial crisis would mean civil liberties would be trampled on. But what stuck in my mind was a sentence he mumbled about the pre-conditions for fascism arising. Scaremongering? The emotional pre-condition is absolutely this punitive attitude to the weak and poor.

Our disgust at the poor is tempered only by our sentimentality about children. They are innocent. We feel charitable. Not enough, perhaps, as a Save the Children report tells us that one in four children in developing countries are too malnourished to grow properly. Still, malnourishment isn't starvation, just as anyone who has a mobile phone isn't properly hard-up. Difficult to stomach maybe, but isn't all this the fault of the countries they live in?

At what point, though, can we no longer avoid the poor, our own and the global poor? Or, indeed, avoid the concept that frightens the left as much as the right: redistribution, of wealth, resources, labour, working hours. Whither the left? Busy pretending that there is a way round this, a lot of the time.

The idea that ultimately the poor must help themselves as social mobility grinds to a halt is illogical; it is based on a faith for which there is scant evidence. Yet it is the one thing that has genuinely "trickled down" from the wealthy, so that many people without much themselves continue to despise those who are on a lower rung.

The answer to poverty, you see, lies with the poor themselves, be they drain-dwellers, Greeks, disabled people, or unemployed youth. We will give them bailouts, maybe charity, and lectures on becoming more entrepreneurial. The economy of empathy has crashed, and this putsch is insidious and individualised. No more cruel to be kind. We must be simply cruel.

The argument that there is enough to go round is now a fairytale, like winning the lottery. Poverty is not a sign of collective failure but individual immorality. The psychic coup of neo-liberal thinking is just this: instead of being disgusted by poverty, we are disgusted by poor people themselves. This disgust is a growth industry. We lay this moral bankruptcy at the feet of the poor as we tell ourselves we are better than that.

Face Masks, Snipers and Aerial Surveillance: Chicago's Newest Anti-Protest Measures Revealed

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Each time a new measure that the city of Chicago is preparing for the coming NATO and G8 summits is unveiled, the tension in the city ratchets up a notch. The latest news comes in the form of reports that Chicago has purchased face shields, and may be considering the implementation of airborne surveillance technology.

As part of the expanded powers given to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the May summits, [4] the city has authority to accept contracts for goods or services without approval of the City Council or the expected competitive bidding process. The face shields and aerial surveillance technology are the first use of this allowance.

Chicago police officers, and any law enforcement the city chooses to deputize under the measures put in place for NATO/G8 [5], will be equipped with 3,000 new face shields that "will fit easily over gas masks," according to The Chicago Sun-Times [4].

The nearly $200,000 contract with Super Seer, a Colorado-based company, was made as an "emergency purchase for the G8 summit," according to Super Seer President Steve Smith.

Chicagoist [6] also reported that Chicago will get the latest in aerial surveillance equipment, according to the press release from a company called Vislink [7]:

The airborne units will transmit to four strategically located ground-based receiver sites providing city-wide coverage and the ability to simultaneously receive real-time images from two aircraft for viewing at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) operations center. An additional three receive systems will be installed in the city's mobile command vehicles to facilitate field operations.

These measures will be in addition to "snipers that will stand guard from above," reported ABC [8]. Overarching security jurisdiction for the summits, which have been designated a national security event, has already been handed over to the Secret Service.

How the Politics of the Super Rich Became American Politics

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At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation -- drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% -- electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80% of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.

If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organizing and cyber-activism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is "the year of the big donor," when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his super PAC. “In this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,” wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.

“This really is the selling of America,” claims former presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. “We’ve been sold out by five justices thanks to the Citizens United decision.” In truth, our democracy was sold to the highest bidder long ago, but in the 2012 election the explosion of super PACs has shifted the public’s focus to the staggering inequality in our political system, just as the Occupy movement shined a light on the gross inequity of the economy. The two, of course, go hand in hand.

“We’re going to beat money power with people power,” Newt Gingrich said after losing to Mitt Romney in Florida as January ended. The walking embodiment of the lobbying-industrial complex, Gingrich made that statement even though his candidacy is being propped up by a super PAC funded by two $5 million donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It might have been more amusing if the GOP presidential primary weren’t a case study of a contest long on money and short on participation.

The Wesleyan Media Project recently reported a 1600% increase in interest-group-sponsored TV ads in this cycle as compared to the 2008 primaries. Florida has proven the battle royal of the super PACs thus far. There, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, outspent the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, five to one. In the last week of the campaign alone, Romney and his allies ran 13,000 TV ads in Florida, compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-two percent of the ads were negative in nature, with two-thirds attacking Gingrich, who, ironically enough, had been a fervent advocate of the Citizens United decision.

With the exception of Ron Paul’s underdog candidacy and Rick Santorum’s upset victory in Iowa -- where he spent almost no money but visited all of the state’s 99 counties -- the Republican candidates and their allied super PACs have all but abandoned retail campaigning and grassroots politicking. They have chosen instead to spend their war chests on TV.

The results can already be seen in the first primaries and caucuses: an onslaught of money and a demobilized electorate. It’s undoubtedly no coincidence that, when compared with 2008, turnout was down 25% in Florida, and that, this time around, fewer Republicans have shown up in every state that’s voted so far, except for South Carolina. According to political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, negative TV ads contribute to “a political implosion of apathy and withdrawal.” New York Times columnist Tim Egan has labeled the post-Citizens United era “your democracy on meth.”

The .01 Percent Primary

More than 300 super PACs are now registered with the Federal Election Commission. The one financed by the greatest number of small donors belongs to Stephen Colbert, who’s turned his TV show into a brilliant commentary on the deformed super PAC landscape. Colbert’s satirical super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, has raised $1 million from 31,595 people, including 1,600 people who gave $1 each. Consider this a rare show of people power in 2012.

Otherwise the super PACs on both sides of the aisle are financed by the 1% of the 1%. Romney’s Restore Our Future Super PAC, founded by the general counsel of his 2008 campaign, has led the herd, raising $30 million, 98% from donors who gave $25,000 or more. Ten million dollars came from just 10 donors who gave $1 million each. These included three hedge-fund managers and Houston Republican Bob Perry, the main funder behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, whose scurrilous ads did such an effective job of destroying John Kerry’s electoral prospects. Sixty-five percent of the funds that poured into Romney’s super PAC in the second half of 2011 came from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, otherwise known as the people who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007-2008.

Romney’s campaign has raised twice as much as his super PAC, which is more than you can say for Rick Santorum, whose super PAC -- Red, White & Blue -- has raised and spent more than the candidate himself. Forty percent of the $2 million that has so far gone into Red, White & Blue came from just one man, Foster Friess, a conservative hedge-fund billionaire and Christian evangelical from Wyoming.

In the wake of Santorum’s upset victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7th, Friess told the New York Times that he’d recruited $1 million for Santorum’s super PAC from another (unnamed) donor and upped his own giving, though he wouldn’t say by how much. We won’t find out until the next campaign disclosure filing in three months, by which time the GOP primary will almost certainly be decided.

For now, Gingrich’s sugar daddy Adelson has pledged to stay with his flagging campaign, but he’s also signaled that if the former Speaker of the House goes down, he’ll be ready to donate even more super PAC money to a Romney presidential bid. And keep in mind that there’s nothing in the post-Citizens United law to stop a donor like Adelson, hell-bent on preventing the Obama administration from standing in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, from giving $100 million, or for that matter, however much he likes.

Before Citizens United, the maximum amount one person could give to a candidate was $2,500; for a political action committee, $5,000; for a political party committee, $30,800. Now, the sky’s the limit for a super PAC, and even more disturbingly, any donor can give an unlimited contribution to a 501c4 -- outfits defined by the IRS as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” and to make matters worse, that contribution will remain eternally secret. In this way, American politics is descending further into the darkness, with 501c4s quickly gaining influence as “shadow super PACs.”

A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that, at a cost of $24 million, 40% of the TV ads in the presidential race so far came from these tax-exempt “social welfare” groups. The Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, a leading conservative super PAC attacking Democratic candidates and the Obama administration, also runs a 501c4 called Crossroads GPS. It’s raised twice as much money as its sister group, all from donations whose sources will remain hidden from American voters. Serving as a secret slush fund for billionaires evidently now qualifies as social welfare.

The Income Defense Industry

In his book Oligarchy, political scientist Jeffrey Winters refers to the disproportionately wealthy and influential actors in the political system as the “Income Defense Industry.” If you want to know how the moneyed class, who prospered during the Bush and Clinton years, found a way to kill or water down nearly everything it objected to in the Obama years, look no further than the grip of the 1% of the 1% on our political system.

This simple fact explains why hedge-fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, or why the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a single-payer universal healthcare system, or why the planet continues to warm at an unprecedented pace while we do nothing to combat global warming. Money usually buys elections and, whoever is elected, it almost always buys influence.

In the 2010 election, the 1% of the 1% accounted for 25% of all campaign-related donations, totaling $774 million dollars, and 80% of all donations to the Democratic and Republican parties, the highest percentage since 1990. In congressional races in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spent the most money won 85% of House races and 83% of Senate races.

The media loves an underdog story, but nowadays the underdog is ever less likely to win. Given the cost of running campaigns and the overwhelming premium on outspending your opponent, it’s no surprise that nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median net worth of a U.S. Senator is $2.56 million.

The influence of super PACs was already evident by November 2010, just nine months after the Supreme Court’s ruling. John Nichols and Robert McChesney of The Nation note that, of the 53 competitive House districts where Rove’s Crossroads organization outspent Democratic candidates in 2010, Republicans won fifty-one. As it turned out, however, the last election was a mere test run for the monetary extravaganza that is 2012.

Republicans are banking on that super PAC advantage again this year, when the costs of the presidential contest and all other races for federal posts will soar from $5 billion in 2008 to as high as $7 billion by November. (The 2000 election cost a “mere” $3 billion.) In other words, the amount spent this election season will be roughly the equivalent of the gross domestic product of Haiti.

The Myth of Small Donors

In June 2003, presidential candidate Howard Dean shocked the political establishment by raising $828,000 in one day over the Internet, with an average donation of $112. Dean, in fact, got 38% of his campaign’s total funds from donations of $200 or less, planting the seeds for what many forecast would be a small-donor revolution in American politics.

Four years later, Barack Obama raised a third of his record-breaking $745 million campaign haul from small donors, while Ron Paul raised 39% from small dollars on the Republican side. Much of Paul’s campaign was financed by online “money bombs,” when enthusiastic supporters generated millions of dollars in brief, coordinated bursts. The amount of money raised in small donations by Obama, in particular, raised hopes that his campaign had found a way to break the death grip of big donors on American politics.

In retrospect, the small-donor utopianism surrounding Obama seems naïve. Despite all the adulatory media attention about his small donors, the candidate still raised the bulk of his money from big givers. (Typically, these days, incumbent members of Congress raise less than 10% of their campaign funds from small donors, with those numbers actually dropping when you reach the gubernatorial and state legislative levels.) Obama’s top contributors included employees of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, hardly standard bearers for the little guy. For obvious reasons, the campaign chose to emphasize the small donors over the big ones in its narrative, as it continues to do in 2012.

Interestingly enough, both Obama and Paul actually raised more money from small donors in 2011 than they did in 2008, 48% and 52% of their totals, respectively. But in the super PAC era that money no longer has the same impact. Even Dean doubts that his anti-establishment, Internet-fueled campaign from 2004 would be as successful today. “Super PACs have made a grassroots campaign less effective,” he says. “You can still run a grassroots campaign but the problem is you can be overwhelmed now on television and by dirty mailers being sent out... It’s a very big change from 2008.”

Obama is a candidate with a split personality, which makes his campaign equally schizophrenic. The Obama campaign claims it’s raising 98% of its money from small donors and is “building the biggest grassroots campaign in American history,” according to campaign manager Jim Messina. But the starry-eyed statistics and the rhetoric that accompanies it are deeply misleading. Of the $89 million raised in 2011 by the Obama Joint Victory Fund, a collaboration of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama campaign, 74% came from donations of $20,000 or more and 99% from donations of $1,000 or more.

The campaign has 445 “bundlers” (dubbed “volunteer fundraisers” by the campaign), who gather money from their wealthy friends and package it for Obama. They have raised at least $74.4 million for Obama and the DNC in 2011. Sixty-one of those bundlers raised $500,000 or more. Obama held 73 fundraisers in 2011 and 13 last month alone, where the price of admission was almost always $35,800 a head.

An increase in small donor contributions and a surge of big money fundraisers still wasn’t enough, however, to give Obama an advantage over Republicans in the money chase. That’s why the Obama campaign, until recently adamantly against super PACs, suddenly relented and signaled its support for a pro-Obama super PAC called Priorities USA.

A day after the announcement that the campaign, like its Republican rivals, would super PAC it up, Messina spoke at the members-only Core Club in Manhattan and “assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign,” reported Bloomberg Businessweek. “Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions.”

In other words, don’t expect a convincing return to the theme of the people versus the powerful in campaign 2012, even though Romney, if the nominee, would be particularly vulnerable to that line of attack. After all, so far his campaign has raised only 9% of its campaign contributions from small donors, well behind both Senator John McCain, 21% in 2008, and George W. Bush, 26% in 2004.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Romney outraised Obama among the top firms on Wall Street by a margin of 11 to 1. His top three campaign contributions are from employees of Goldman Sachs ($496,430), JPMorgan ($317,400) and Morgan Stanley ($277,850). The banks have fallen out of favor with the public, but their campaign cash is indispensable among the political class and so they remain as powerful as ever in American politics.

In a recent segment of his show, Stephen Colbert noted that half of the money ($67 million) raised by super PACs in 2011 had come from just 22 people. “That’s 7 one-millionths of 1 percent," or roughly .000000071%, Colbert said while spraying a fire extinguisher on his fuming calculator. “So Occupy Wall Street, you’re going to want to change those signs.”

Waiting on the Wealth Hoarders

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I’ve never been proficient with a musical instrument, but I’ve discovered that I am a near genius when it comes to turning a bullhorn on people who are entering a boycotted hotel. A few months back, Isaac Gomez, an organizer for UNITE HERE, Local 11, asked me to participate in a two-hour picket line at the Hyatt Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood, where I work as a waiter in the RH restaurant.

The bullhorn is a magical device that gets lots of attention from hotel guests, managers and sometimes police officers. I felt like Eric Clapton when his hands first touched a guitar. We were meant to be.

I’ve used the bullhorn a few times since that day. It’s always an interesting experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a general strike or a meager two-hour picket that employees can participate in during meal breaks.

I once shamed a couple on the sidewalk for going into the Hyatt Andaz only to realize I was almost late for work. I quickly changed into my uniform, got onto the restaurant floor and discovered that the irate couple was my first table of the evening. The manager shook his head and laughed at me. He’d been watching my amplified protests against customers all afternoon through the window.

“You know you did this to yourself, right?” He nodded toward the angry guests.

When I greeted the table, the red-faced man did a double take. His wife’s mouth fell open. She watched me like I was a rabid dog ready to bite.

I did my job perfectly. I smiled. I went into the details of each special dish. I suggested great spots to visit while they were in West Hollywood. I asked them about themselves. Where were they from? How long were they staying? Did they have kids?

After dessert they left me a 20 percent tip and scratched their heads on the way out. I proudly brought the check over to my manager.

“You know, you should nominate me for employee of the month for turning around such an awkward situation.”

He frowned and walked away.

The Hyatt Andaz hotel has been stalled in contract negotiations with my union for almost three years. Hyatt refuses to pay workers what they’re worth. In my department alone, each employee works three or four jobs with no extra pay. In a single shift I am a waiter, a busser, a food runner, a host and sometimes a bartender. I’m afraid one day I’ll discover that I’m the manager with no comprehension of how I got the title.

Frankly, I’m tired of being taken advantage of by Hyatt. When its CEO makes more than $6 million a year and I see the rest of us struggling day by day just to pay the rent, it irks me.

Workers across the country know this is a bigger problem than one hotel chain, but Hyatt’s owners, the Pritzker family, aren’t small players. They’re billionaires. Last September, Forbes magazine listed the 400 richest Americans, and 11 of them were Pritzkers. Forget the top 1 percent, they are in the top .01 percent. They are living, breathing examples of why trickle-down economics is a naïve and dangerous idea. We’re letting diagnosable hoarders of wealth control our very lives.

If I didn’t feel so personally affected, I’d feel sorry for the super wealthy in this country. I think they have a disease. I don’t see much of a difference between alcoholics stashing booze around the house and hoarders of wealth hiding their funds in offshore bank accounts. They need every dime, untaxed.

In a diary for the Daily Kos, a writer who goes by the pseudonym MinistryOfTruth lashed out at Republican front-runner Mitt Romney for just this kind activity. “If you hide money you took out of the American economy overseas you are not a patriot.” The author wrote this after Romney released his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, revealing not only that he is taxed at a lower rate than many middle-class Americans, but he buried piles of his wealth in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.

I’ll echo that sentiment. Mitt Romney is not a patriot, and neither are wealthy barons who cut costs by making their employees work three or four jobs at a time while building more and more hotels overseas. You are not a patriot if you prize profits over people. You are a hoarder of wealth.

Hyatt’s behavior toward my brothers and sisters across the country is just one of the many reasons that I am willing to pick up a bullhorn and risk my job. Last July at the Chicago Park Hyatt, workers picketing under the awning of the building were stunned when a manager turned on heating lamps as a tactic to get them to disperse. It was already one of the hottest days of the summer, but apparently not hot enough for the Hyatt Corp.

More recently, Hyatt threatened to pull its health care for its Chicago employees unless UNITE HERE stopped its national boycott. Essentially, Hyatt was playing a game of chicken with workers’ health care.

I also put a bullhorn in my hand because it works. In a letter dated the 25th of January, Hyatt attorney Mark Whitefield conceded that the corporation would allow the workers’ health care to continue despite the boycott.

“Be advised that Hyatt intends to continue payment of the monthly amounts required by the UNITE HERE Health fund, beyond February 29, 2012, so that Hyatt Chicago employees’ health coverage continues without interruption,” Whitefield’s letter said.

It seems that the Hyatt Corp. also felt the heat and did not want to be known as the company that held workers’ health care for ransom.

While I believe that utilizing a bullhorn is an essential skill for a union activist, I’m also of the opinion that it’s time to teach our members the importance of getting our message out to a broader audience.

I know plenty of elderly union men and women eager to learn about Facebook and Twitter—people whose legs are failing them but their fingertips are not. A few of them taught me how to use the bullhorn this past year. I plan on returning the favor by showing them how to tweet their messages far and wide. Apparently you can teach old dogs new tricks.

Apple’s China Comes Home to Haunt Us

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Four decades ago Richard Nixon, a once famously hawkish Republican president, cut a deal with the Communist overlords of China to reshape the world. The result was a transformation of the global economy in ways that we are only now, with the sharp critiques of Apple’s China operation, beginning to fully comprehend.

At the heart of the deal was a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism, the rival ideologies of the Cold War, to empower the individual as the center of decision-making. Instead, the fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites with scant reference to the needs of ordinary working folk.

It was understood by both parties to this grand concord that monopoly capitalism could be constructed in China to be consistent with the continuance in power of a Communist hierarchy, just as in the West capitalism was consistent with the enrichment of an ostensibly democratic ruling class. Sharp income inequality, the bane of genuine reform movements bearing the names populist, socialist and democratic, came to be the defining mark of the new international order.

The current controversy over Apple’s treatment of its 700,000 foreign workers, mostly in China, is a manifestation of that cross-ideological betrayal. The ironies are manifest. Not the least of which is that businessmen from Taiwan, the bastion of anti-Communist Chinese during the Cold War and still the pretend reason for a U.S. military presence in the region, are the essential organizers of mainland China’s workforce. But in the pursuit of profit, and at a time when the startling success of China’s hybrid communist-capitalist model keeps the U.S. Treasury afloat, few questions are asked.

Indeed, the pressure is now on to better emulate that model within the United States, to keep still more jobs from being shipped abroad. The human rights concerns of the U.S. have by now been opportunistically tailored to exclude any serious concern about the rights of workers to organize unions to make their job conditions more humane. China’s labor practices are now to be admired rather than scorned, lest the American economy decline further in the new world order.

As The New York Times pointed out last month in its devastating overview of Apple’s shift from its once proud claim of making its products in the USA to near total dependence on China: “It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.”

Parse that language to find the excuse to run roughshod over environmental protections, workers’ rights and occupational safety standards in order to allow “flexibility” at the massive Foxconn and other plants in China where robotic work is performed by humans under conditions that even Apple has conceded in an internal audit are unacceptable under modern industrial standards.

In reality the multinational corporations prefer China’s state-sponsored model of capitalism, which assures them an endless supply of docile workers unprotected by those pesky unions and restrictive government regulations. As Steve Jobs told President Obama last year, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” The reason that Jobs supplied in his 2011 approved biography is that the Chinese government is so wonderfully acquiescent to the development plans of foreign corporations. Not as in the U.S., where, Jobs claimed, “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for companies to operate. That the result of China’s deregulation is poisoned air, worker suicide and a massive waste of resources is deemed to be beside the point.

Oddly enough, Jobs, who succeeded in business without attending more than part of a single college semester, also blamed a U.S. educational system “crippled by union work rules” for what he proclaimed to be the sorry state of our domestic labor force. One of the basic human rights being violated by the Chinese government is that of workers to organize unions responsive to their needs; rather, they are at the mercy of phony organizations tolerated by the Communist government. It is sad, and not encouraging, that Jobs endorsed a blatantly anti-union position by claiming that until the teachers’ unions were broken, there would be almost no hope for education reform.

Considering the workforce employed by Apple, one has to question what sort of properly trained graduates Jobs had in mind. If the habits required of Apple’s workforce in China are to be emulated, the U.S. military, or perhaps our outsized prison system, should become the essential schooling system for American workers to better compete with the properly disciplined assemblers of iPhones in China.

Abstractions Versus the "Real World": Economic Models and the Apologetics of Greed

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Economists build models by subtracting from reality the characteristics they deem unessential to the economic situations they model. The result is a bare bones description consisting of what economists deem economically essential. Everything that is discarded (not taken into consideration in the model) is called an "externality." So the models only work when the externalities that were in effect before the models are implemented do not change afterward. The realm of economic models can be likened to the realm of Platonic Ideas. Both realms are static and unchanging throughout all time. Unfortunately the real world constantly changes. Since externalities are excluded from all economic models and can be expected to change after any model is implemented, all economic models necessarily fail. Economists are frauds and economics amounts to nothing but an apologetics of greed.

In the 1980s, manufacturers of apparel began offshoring their production to underdeveloped countries, one of which was Bangladesh. Economists endorse this practice; they have a model that justifies it.

Offshoring production to underdeveloped nations gives needy people jobs, increases their incomes, reduces poverty, and expands their nations' GNPs. It also enables people in developed nations to purchase products produced offshore at lower prices enabling them to consume a wider range of things. As a result, everyone everywhere is better off.

Convinced? Most economists are, but it hasn't worked that way. Everyone everywhere is not better off—as the whole world now knows. Why?

In the latter part of the 80s or early part of the 90s, a large retailer (don't remember which one) thought it would be a good idea to bring an employee of a factory in Bangladesh to America to see how the clothing the factory was producing was being marketed to Americans. So a Bengali woman was selected to represent her factory and brought to America. This idea didn't work out well. The woman not only saw how the products were being marketed but how much they cost and she was infuriated. She knew what she and her coworkers were being paid, about two percent of the price of the garments. She did not remain silent and was quickly sent back to Bangladesh. Here is the gist of her story:

She said she and her coworkers were not financially better off after being hired by the factory. Yes, the wages were better than those that could have been earned before, but they weren't much benefit. Why? Because when the paychecks began to arrive, the local landlords and vendors increased prices on everything, so just as before, all of their incomes went to pay for basic necessities. The landlords and vendors got the money; the workers were not better off, and those in the community who were not employed by the apparel factory were decidedly worse off. It fact, it quickly became apparent that the workers were working for nothing. They did the work; the landlords and vendors got the pay. But, of course, the country's GNP was better, which is all that matters to economists who still claim that Bangladesh's economy is improving.

And although Americans were able to buy the apparel more cheaply than they could have before the manufacturing was offshored, the American apparel workers who lost their jobs are decidedly not better off.

Two conclusions follow from this scenario: employment alone is not a sufficient condition for prosperity; full employment can exist in an enslaved society along side abject poverty, and an increasing GNP does not mean that an economy is getting better. Remember these the next time the unemployment rate and GNP numbers are cited. Those numbers mean nothing.

More than thirty years has now passed and nothing has changed in Bangladesh. Most Bengalis still continue to live on subsistence farming in rural villages. Despite a dramatic increase in foreign investment, a high poverty rate prevails. Observers attribute it to the rising prices of essentials. The economic model described above just does not work, not in Bangladesh or anywhere else. Explaining why reveals what's wrong with economics and why current economic practices, which have not essentially improved mankind's lot over the last two and a half centuries, won't ever improve it.

Economists build models by what they call "abstraction." But it's really subtraction. They look at a real world situation and subtract from it the characteristics they deem unessential. The result is a bare bones description consisting of what economists deem economically essential. Everything that is discarded (not taken into consideration in the model) is called an "externality." So the models only work when the externalities that were in effect before the models are implemented do not change afterward.

For instance, had the Bengali landlords and vendors not raised their prices after the factory was opened, the employees would have been better off. But the greed of the vendors and landlords was not taken into consideration by the model. The realm of economic models can be likened to the realm of Platonic Forms or Ideas. Both realms are static and unchanging throughout all time. Unfortunately the real world, as Heraclitus knew, is not static—change is ever-present, "No man ever steps in the same river twice." Since externalities are excluded from all economic models and can be expected to change after any model is implemented, all economic models necessarily fail. Economists are frauds and economics amounts to nothing but an apologetics of greed. The world that economists model is imaginary, not real.

Don't believe that what I have described takes place only in the underdeveloped world; it takers place everywhere a profit driven economy exists. I well remember working in Washington, D.C. as a staffer for a U.S. Senator. One year, a pay raise was scheduled to take effect the coming January. Shortly after Thanksgiving Day, prices began rising in all the area's stores. The workers who received the raise were no better off in January that they were in October. The raise was siphoned into the pockets of vendors.

Free market economic conditions create a situation in which vendors always prevail. In the end, they get all the money. The economy's business is business and it is protected by the legal system. Because prices cannot be controlled in a free market economy, vendors can always set them high enough to get all the money. Economists call it inflation, and the only way it can be controlled is by reducing the amount of money available for the taking. Reducing the amount of money available for the taking reduces wage levels and keeps workers poor. The business cycle is an excuse business uses to take back any gains workers have acquired. The American financial industry bribed the Congress to amend the Bankruptcy code in 2005 even though no financial institution was in any danger of collapse because of consumer bankruptcy filings. In 2008, the same financial industry brought down the world's economy, began foreclosing on people's houses, and forced thousands into bankruptcy. After reading this article, do you believe that both revising the bankruptcy code and the financial collapse were coincidental? The whole point of a free market economy is to take back all the money paid to employees so that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. What happened in Bangladesh happens everywhere all of the time. Humanity is enslaved by these economic practices but the enslavement is carefully and continuously hidden. Workers, those whose efforts keep the society functioning and produce all of its wealth, are mere fodder—farm fodder, factory fodder, and when necessary, cannon fodder.

As a result,

"most of the new jobs being created are in the lower-wage sectors of the economy – hospital orderlies and nursing aides, secretaries and temporary workers, retail and restaurant. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain working only because they've agreed to cuts in wages and benefits. Others are settling for jobs that pay less than the jobs they've lost. Entry-level manufacturing jobs are paying half what entry-level manufacturing jobs paid six years ago.

Other people are falling out of the middle class because they've lost their jobs, and many have also lost their homes. Almost one in three families with a mortgage is now underwater, holding their breath against imminent foreclosure.

The percent of Americans in poverty is its highest in two decades, and more of us are impoverished than at any time in the last fifty years. A recent analysis of federal data by the New York Times showed the number of children receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million in the last school year, up from 18 million in 2006-2007. Nearly a dozen states experienced increases of 25 percent or more."

In America, just as in Bangladesh, the vendors have emptied the people's pockets. All economic models can be rendered ineffective by how the actions of people change externalities. Governments try to restrain such uncontrolled changes by enacting regulations, but conceiving of effective regulations that cover all eventualities and that cannot be gamed is impossible. All market economies motivated by profit are founded on unfairness as should be easily seen. In any financial transaction between two parties motivated by profit, one party wins and the other party loses, because it is mathematically impossible for both parties to profit at the same time. One person's profit is another person's loss. So if bettering the human condition is an economic goal, no economy motivated by profit will succeed in doing it. Unless people stand up for humanity, most humans will always be slaves. People should honestly be asked whether this is the world they want to live in. No economist, apparently, has the courage to stand up and ask. Why is that? If you know a working economist, please ask her/him!

Some Of The Things Americans Are Doing Just To Survive

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You might not want to read this article if you have a weak stomach. Most Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on in the dark corners of America, and when people find out the truth it can come as quite a shock. Many of you will not believe some of the things Americans are doing just to survive. Some families are living in sewers and drain tunnels, some families are living in tents, some families are living in their cars, some families will make ketchup soup for dinner tonight and some families are even eating rats. Some homeless shelters in America are so overloaded that they are actually sending people out to live in the woods. As you read this, there are close to 50 million Americans that are living below the poverty line, and that number rises a little bit more every single day. America was once known as the greatest nation on earth, but now there is decay and economic despair almost everywhere you look. Yes, money certainly cannot buy happiness, but the lack of it sure can bring a lot of pain. As the economy continues to decline, the suffering that we see all around us is going to get a lot worse, and that is a very frightening thing to think about.

The following is a half hour documentary produced by the BBC entitled "Poor America". Trust me, this is a must watch. Your heart will break as you hear some American children talk about what they have to do for food....

Wasn't that video absolutely mind blowing?

Those of us that still live comfortably are often completely unaware of what life is like out on the streets of America at this point.

There are millions upon millions of Americans that have lost all hope and that are living on the very edge of life and death.

And more join the ranks of the hopeless with each passing day. This upcoming weekend approximately 80,000 people in the state of Michigan will lose their unemployment benefits.

So what are those people going to do after that?

They have already been unable to find work month after month. Their savings are most certainly gone. Now the only money they had coming in is going to be eliminated.

Yes, I have written many times about how the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt and cannot afford to be giving out so much money. My point here is to show the other side of the equation. There are millions upon millions of Americans that are barely hanging on and there are no jobs for them. The suffering that those families are going through is very real.

Millions of other families are trying to get by on the incomes they pull in from part-time jobs. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that are working part-time jobs but that would like full-time jobs is now higher than it has been at any other time in the last two years. The number of the "working poor" just continues to increase, but most Americans don't have much sympathy for them because they "have jobs".

Well, when you are making 8 bucks an hour it can be incredibly tough to make it from month to month.

Just look at how much it costs to buy the basic things that we need.

Without gasoline, most of us would not even be able to get to our jobs. The price of gasoline has increased 83 percent since Barack Obama first took office, and it is poised to soar even higher. Right now, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is $3.51. Never before has the average price of gas gone above $3.50 so early in the year. Many believe that we could set a new all-time record this summer.

But last year was bad enough. In 2011, the average American family spent over $4,000 on gasoline.

So when you are making just a few hundred dollars per week, it can be a massive struggle just to put gas in your car and food on the table.

The article that I wrote the other day about the decline of Detroit really struck a nerve. All over America, people can see similar things happening to their own neighborhoods. People are scared and they want some answers.

Well, the truth is that we should have never allowed tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth to be shipped out of the country.

Just check out this stunning photo which compares the decline of Detroit to the rise of Shanghai, China.

Do you think that it is just a coincidence that Detroit is falling apart and that cities in China look sparkly and new?

No, the truth is that it is a natural consequence of our foolish economic policies.

There are hundreds of communities all over the country where third world conditions are setting in. For example, the following is how one blogger describes what life is like in a decaying suburb of Phoenix called Maryvale....

Crime and gangs are widespread. Most houses have either fallen into disrepair, or been remade with outside walls sporting spikes and ironwork. Many of the front lawns are now just dirt (or worse, gravel), the pools green and lethal.

Now we stand on the precipice of another major global financial crisis. Economic conditions in America are going to become significantly worse. The politicians in Washington D.C. may make sure that the boys and girls on Wall Street are always taken care of, but there will be no bailouts for the large numbers of Americans that are about to lose their jobs and their homes.

If you want an idea of what is coming, just look at what is happening in Greece. 25 percent of the businesses have shut down, one-third of all money has been pulled out of Greek bank accounts and unemployment and poverty are absolutely rampant.

For years, a lot of prominent voices out there were screaming and yelling about the dangers posed by our soaring trade deficits and our soaring budget deficits.

But the American people did not listen. They just kept sending the same politicians back to Washington D.C. over and over.

As a result, soon millions of those same Americans will find themselves doing things that they never dreamed that they would do just to survive.

How the 1% Destroys Jobs and the Real Heroes are Everyday People

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For three decades, we have been told that “trickle-down” economics that benefit the wealthy is the key to creating jobs. But that's baloney. The evidence shows that ordinary people, not the rich, are the real job creators.

Conservatives like to promote a simplistic view that all you need are capital (cash or goods that produce income) and entrepreneurship in order to create wealth. They maintain that wealth, in turn, spurs rich people to do productive things, like creating jobs, and so the more concentrated wealth is, the more jobs are created. If you tax the rich, they argue, then jobs will be destroyed. Mitt Romney frequently echoes this line of thought by promoting economic programs that would give enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest 1% and concentrate wealth in their hands. Romney, who paid 13.9% in taxes in 2010 and likes to tout himself as a job creator, has just announced a plan that calls for preserving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, lowering the corporate tax rate, and repealing the estate tax.

Turns out, this 'trickle-down' mythology it is horribly wrong, and the 99 percent has paid for it. There’s a reason why the Wall Street Journal acknowledged that George W. Bush, the last trickle-down president, had the worst job creation record in U.S. history. So before we consider having another trickle-downer in the White House, let’s talk about the failure of this idea and why if you want to see a real job creator, you should look in the mirror.

Who Really Creates Wealth and Jobs?

Let’s start with the first contention – that capital and entrepreneurship are all you need to create wealth. At best, this is a half or quarter truth. Capital and entrepreneurship are certainly factors in the creation of goods and services in our economy, along with labor, resources, technology and social capital, among others. But they are by no means the most important factors. The most important factor in the whole list is labor – the human beings who create products or offer services and are paid in wages.

If you really want to see a wealth creator, just look at the grocer, the nurse, the software developer, the accountant, and the civil engineer. They are all creators of wealth. Chances are, you are a wealth creator.

And remember, creating goods and services is just half the story in producing wealth. Right now, businesses are far less worried about a lack of cash than a lack of confidence that consumer demand will pick up in the future. Unless there is consumer demand, there is no production and no wealth at all. No one is going to make a new MP3 player unless people want to buy it and have the money to make purchases. In this sense, consumers are job creators, too.

As Nick Hanauer, founder of Second Avenue Partners, recently told Bloomberg:

“I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.”

In other words, job creation is related to demand. When regular people have spending power, they demand products and services, which leads to more jobs for others to make the things they want.

Does Making the Rich Richer Create Jobs?

Conservative economic policies are often aimed at concentrating wealth into the hands of the few. Does that create jobs? If you look at the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of income distribution in the U.S. through 2007, you can see that the concentration of wealth in the 1 percent has reach a 100 year high, and that the concentration of wealth has really taken off in the last couple of decades.

So why didn’t job creation take off, too? The fact is that whatever role of capital plays in job creation, concentration of wealth is not necessary – and may even be counter-productive. In a modern economy, capital comes from a variety of sources including internal funds of corporations, the banking system, and the financial markets. Rich people really only play a substantial role in the last source – financial markets. When more and more money is funneled into the hands of the rich, they tend save and invest in financial assets, rather than in job creating businesses. Concentrated wealth has been directly associated with causing wages in America to stagnate and has resulted in wealthy people shipping jobs overseas to improve their personal profits. In reality, it has been a job destroyer.

The rich have largely gotten richer through an explosion in the compensation of CEOs and other high ranking corporate officials – which the very same people who controlled publicly held companies in the U.S. awarded to themselves in the form of outlandish “performance” bonuses. The companies justified these levels of compensation to their shareholders and to the public by relying on increases in the price of their companies’ stock and the corresponding increase in shareholder value of their companies. And, indeed, the period starting in the 1980s corresponded to an historic bull market run in U.S. stock markets.

The single most important factor determining the level of stock prices is corporate earnings. That's why the historic increase in stock prices also corresponded to the highest recorded levels of corporate profits in U.S. history. And how did corporate management in the U.S. increase corporate earnings during this period? By strictly controlling labor costs, the biggest single factor in the cost of production. The corporateers held down labor costs by subjecting U.S. operations to foreign competition and by outsourcing production to foreign countries. So, at the same time that corporate compensation was sky- rocketing, salaries and wages to rank and file workers were stagnating or declining. As an economist might say, the economic return to capital went up at the expense of economic return to labor. Corporate chieftains cleverly camouflaged the situation and made it more palatable to shareholders and regulators by paying the bonuses in the form of stock options which corporate management liberally priced (in many cases after the fact, illegally and adversely to the interests of then-existing shareholders ) to take full advantage of stock market increases.

Bottom line: Rather than creating jobs and raising all boats, all this 'trickle down' economics has benefited the 1 percent only – and tends to sink everybody else. That's why the rich are now flush with private jets and more money than they can possibly spend, while ordinary Americans have been left with flat wages and food stamps.

America's DNA

So why does the trickle-down myth hang on? President Obama recently suggested it's because this fairy tale “speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government.” The President thought that this was "in America's DNA." But the President seems to have forgotten that Roosevelt's New Deal, a series of programs designed to promote economic equality and benefit ordinary people rather than the rich, was the most popular political program in the history of the United States. If we remember that, it becomes very clear that there is something else in our DNA -- a sense of fairness and a notion that the hard work of honest citizens is worth more than fatcat financiers hoarding resources and shipping jobs overseas.

We are not a country of aristocrats and peasants who labor at their pleasure. We are a country of proud and free citizens whose labor, investment, and ideas really drive the American economy. Not Mitt Romney's latest Goldman Sachs windfall.

Research: Roundup Diluted by 450-Fold is Still Toxic to DNA

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New research released ahead of print and published in the journal Archives of Toxicology indicates that Roundup, the most common formulation of the herbicide glyphosate, is not only more toxic than its constituent ingredients, but is capable of damaging DNA within a human cell line when diluted down to 450-fold lower concentrations than presently used in GMO agricultural applications. In the researchers' own words, Roundup has "genotoxic effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture."

The chemical - glyphosate - is the highest-selling herbicide in the world and has been identified as having a wide range of potential adverse health effects -- largely minimized and/or under-reported -- which include over two dozen diseases. Glyphosate's primary properties of concern are its carcinogenicity, genotoxicity and endocrine disruptive actions.

Roundup contains a surfactant known as polyoxyethyleneamine which functions to reduce the surface tension between Roundup and the cells exposed to it, making the cellular membranes more permeable to absorbing glyphosate and other chemicals within the formula.

The surfactant in Roundup may therefore be responsible for increasing the toxicity of glyphosate by several orders of magnitude higher than it exhibits by itself.

This new research sheds light on a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general).

Namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.

Moreover, toxicological risk assessments on novel chemicals are based on the concept of determining "an acceptable level of harm," instead of protecting those who would be exposed to a chemical by implementing the precautionary principle, i.e. if there is reason to believe that a chemical could cause harm (determined by animal and in vitro studies) then they should be regulated as if they do cause harm to humans. The precautionary principle would require that the manufacturers of these chemicals prove their product is safe to humans before being allowed to release it onto the market or into the environment, rather than putting the burden of proving it unsafe on the consumer and/or exposed populations, as is presently the case.

Glyphosate exposure is now ubiquitous due to the fact that 88,000 tons of it were used in US in 2007 alone, and likely billions of additional pounds globally. Accumulating evidence indicates it is resistant to biodegradation and now contaminates the air, rain and groundwater throughout the areas where it has been applied.

TSA Says Woman Has ‘Cute Figure,’ Asks For Three Body Scans

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Women passengers complain that TSA agents are targeting them for extra screening.

The Transportation Security Administration has a policy to randomly select people for extra screening, but some female passengers are complaining. They believe there is nothing “random” about the way they were picked.

A Dallas woman says TSA agents repeatedly asked her to step back into a body scanning machine at DFW International Airport. “I feel like I was totally exposed,” said Ellen Terrell, who is a wife and mother. “They wanted a nice good look.”

When Ellen Terrell and her husband, Charlie, flew out of DFW Airport several months ago, Terrell says she was surprised by a question a female TSA agent asked her. “She says to me, ‘Do you play tennis?’ And I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘You just have such a cute figure.’”

Terrell says she walked into the body scanner which creates an image that a TSA agent in another room reviews. Terrell says she tried to leave, but the female agent stopped her. “She says, ‘Wait, we didn’t get it,’” recalls Terrell, who claims the TSA agent sent her back a second time and even a third. But that wasn’t good enough.

After the third time, Terrell says even the agent seemed frustrated with her co-workers in the other room. “She’s talking into her microphone and she says, ‘Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go. Come on out.’”

When TSA agents do a pat down on a traveler, only female agents are allowed to touch female passengers. But the TSA allows male agents to view the images of female passengers.

Ellen and Charlie Terrell are convinced that the extra screenings were unnecessary, possibly even voyeuristic. “I think it’s sexual harassment if you’re run through there a third or fourth time,“ responded Texas State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth. “And this is not the first time I have heard about it,” said Burnam, who adds that a number of his constituents have voiced concerns about privacy.

CBS 11 News dug through more than 500 records of TSA complaints and found a pattern of women who believe that there was nothing random about the way they were selected for extra screening. TSA redacted the names of the passengers who complained, but here are quotations from several complaints.

  • “I feel I was targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because I am a semi-attractive female.”
  • “The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also “randomly selected.”
  • “TSA staff ‘trolling’ the lines looking for people to pull out was unprofessional.”
  • “After that, I saw him going to the private room where x-rays are, to speak to the guy on that room.”
  • “I know he went to that room to see my naked body through the machine with the other guy.”
  • “When I looked around, I saw that there were only women that were “told” to go through this machine. There were no men.”
  • “Maklng American citizens unwilling victims of a peep show by TSA employees using full body imaging devices is an over-the-top invasion of privacy to which I strenuously object.”

CBS 11 News first contacted the TSA in mid-January to request a one-on-one interview on camera. A TSA spokesperson told us that no one was available for that kind of interview. The TSA held a news conference the following week. “Privacy issues is the main point,” said Amy Williams, Federal Security Director for Dallas Love Field.

At the news conference, the TSA announced that DFW and Love Field airports now have all-new scanning machines. The updated technology shows a only a generic-body outline which highlights potential threats. “With the old technology, we had to have an image room that was separate from the equipment,” says Williams. The older scanners, which create more detailed individual x-ray like images, are still used in 39 airports across the country.

“It just makes me wonder what’s going on. Are they doing this all over the country? They’re missing their focus,” said Charlie Terrell.

“You just feel like your privacy has been violated,” says Ellen Terrell.

Ellen Terrell told CBS 11 News that she did not file a complaint because she did not realize that she had that option. Passengers may not be aware that they also can opt out of the scanner by requesting a pat-down screening instead.

The TSA provided CBS 11 News with the following statement in response to our investigation.

“TSA does not profile passengers. All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images. Even prior to this upgrade, officers reviewing the images were located in a separate room and would have never seen the passenger being screened. To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images. The technology remains optional to all passengers.” — Kristin Lee, Assistant Administrator, Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs, Transportation Security Administration

A TSA spokesperson told CBS 11 News that it is not protocol to send a passenger back into a scanner more than once. He said the agency takes all complaints seriously and urges consumers to file complaints if they have a problem. He said airports store video of checkpoints for at least 30 days and complaints filed within that timeframe may be reviewed using the video. He added that passengers can notify a TSA supervisor on location to make a complaint.