Labor Movement

Trump Appointments That Declare “War”: Health And Human Services, Education, Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, Interior, Justice, Energy

Donald Trump has made a horrific list of cabinet and other appointments that have declared “war” on domestic concerns that extend from the time of Theodore Roosevelt through to Barack Obama, with particularly great threat to the heritage of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society.

The appointment of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services endangers Social Security. Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps–affecting the poor, elderly and sick.

The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education endangers public education at all level, and concerns about college debt burdens for millions of college and university students, and promotes the “Christianization” and charter school movement against American traditions of two hundred years.

The appointment of Tom Puzder as Secretary of Labor endangers the whole labor movement advancements of the past century, including unionization, minimum wage, sick leave, overtime, and safety conditions.

The appointment of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and of Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior endangers the environment, and our national park and national forest system in massive ways that are incalculable.

The appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States endangers the enforcement of civil liberties and civil rights, and will be particularly dangerous to the rights of racial minorities, women, and gays and lesbians.

The appointment of Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy endangers the nation, as Perry is totally ignorant of science and nuclear energy, and wanted to destroy the department, based on his statements during Presidential debates in 2011 and since.

We are faced with a nightmare scenario, as probably the most that might be expected is the blocking of potentially one or two of these nominees at the most, but the clear cut possibility that all of them will be confirmed by the Republican majority in the US Senate, and the Democrats will not be able to stop any of them from destroying our domestic future!

The Rehabilitation Of President Calvin Coolidge: Is It Legitimate?

In an age of conservative talk radio and Fox News Channel, and the constant conservative attempt to transform our law, our science, our history, our politics, our economics, our educational system, the charge is on to rehabilitate a hero of conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and many others.

That “hero” is our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, who served five and a half years in the White House, from August 1923 to March 1929, succeeding President Warren G. Harding, and winning an easy victory over Democratic nominee John W. Davis and Progressive Party nominee Robert La Follette, Sr. in the 1924 Presidential Election.

Calvin Coolidge can be given credit for several things:

His administration paid off the national debt by the time he left office, a debt built up by our involvement in the First World War.

His Presidency was a clean one, and the corruption of the Harding Administration, the greatest since Ulysses S. Grant, was fully prosecuted, leading to convictions and prison terms for some of the Harding personnel.

Coolidge picked a distinguished Vice President, Charles G. Dawes, who would have made an outstanding President.

Coolidge selected Harlan Fiske Stone as his Attorney General, and then appointed him to the Supreme Court, and Stone was later elevated to Chief Justice in 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, turning out to be one of the all time, outstanding Supreme Court Justices in American history.

However, Coolidge also was responsible for:

The promotion, by his tax policies under Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, an earlier version of “Reaganomics” and “Bushonomics”.

The raising of protective tariffs to their all time high, leading to the revival of monopoly capitalism in America, harming small business, labor and consumers alike.

The refusal to regulate big business in any form, by his appointments to the Federal Trade Commission and the Interstate Commerce Commission, and his decision NOT to use the Clayton Anti Trust Act and Sherman Anti Trust Act in lawsuits against corporations.

His refusal to help depression ridden farmers, by his veto of the McNary Haugen plan, which was desired by farm state Republicans.

His criticism of organized labor set back the labor movement until the time of FDR.

A new book by Amity Shlaes, is the most detailed and strong defense of Calvin Coolidge, but it fails to recognize that the Great Crash of the stock market, eight months after Coolidge left the Presidency, and Herbert Hoover became President, is not due only to Hoover, but much more to Coolidge and his policies in office.

Herbert Hoover has taken too much blame for the Great Depression. He can be blamed for his slow reaction to the collapse of the economy, but it is clear that Coolidge, with his doctrinal belief in “Laizzez Faire”, would not have been willing to take even the belated actions that Hoover took in 1931-1932, for which conservatives condemn him, by saying Hoover was the forerunner of the New Deal of FDR!

Just because Amity Shlaes, who is connected to the George W. Bush Institute, loves Calvin Coolidge does not make Coolidge, suddenly, a great or near great President. And neither does the fact that Ronald Reagan displayed his portrait, in place of Thomas Jefferson, add to Coolidge’s appropriate rating as, at the best, a below average, or even, a mediocre President.

In fact, to put Herbert Hoover lower really is a miscarriage of justice, as Hoover became the victim of the short sighted Coolidge policies!

Transformative Presidents In Domestic Affairs: Impact On American Democracy!

With Presidents Day coming up on Monday, it is a good time to reflect on which Presidents were transformative in domestic policy making.

The list of Presidents who made a real difference in domestic affairs would include the following, chronologically:

George Washington—under whom a National Bank and protective tariff, promoted by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, were adopted, having a long range effect on America’s growth.

Thomas Jefferson—under whom recognition of the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton’s economic policies was recognized.

Abraham Lincoln—under whom a promotion of the transcontinental railroad, adoption of the Homestead Act providing free land for settlers, revival of a centralized banking system, and the enactment of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, occurred.

Theodore Roosevelt—under whom conservation of natural resources became a major policy, the first regulation of meat, food and drugs took place, the first intervention in labor disputes without an anti labor attitude evolved, and first anti trust law suits succeeded in breaking up monopolies.

Woodrow Wilson—who accomplished the most domestic reforms until his time, including labor laws, agricultural credit legislation, the Federal Reserve being created, and the first regulatory commission for big business (the Federal Trade Commission) was created.

Franklin D. Roosevelt—under whom the New Deal transformed America domestically with a myriad of programs, including labor laws, Social Security, agricultural aid, and public works programs, with anti trust law suits being pursued.

Lyndon B. Johnson—under whom the Great Society programs, including ideas of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy not accomplished in their terms in the Presidency, were passed into law, including civil rights, education, Medicare, the War on Poverty, and numerous other programs, including consumer and environmental legislation, the most change since the New Deal.

Richard Nixon—under whom the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Occupational Safety Health Administration, and Affirmative Action were passed into law.

Barack Obama—under whom a national health care law was passed, the most significant legislation since the 1960s.

Other Presidents who had an impact, to a lesser extent, include:

Grover Cleveland
William Howard Taft
Harry Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Jimmy Carter
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush

Rand Paul Makes A Fool Of Himself In Response To The State Of The Union Speech Of President Obama!

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul continues to amaze people with a head on their shoulders, as he is rapidly becoming a major embarrassment to his own father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and to the Republican Party base, which he seems determined to destroy in his quest to become President!

Having already made clear when Hillary Clinton testified about Benghazi, Libya, that he would have fired Clinton if he were the President at the time, an amazing statement to make in the first place, now Rand Paul has responded to the State of the Union Address of Barack Obama, as well as the response of Florida Senator Marco Rubio for the Republican Party, as chosen by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner.

Paul told us he would not have allowed the use of drones against Anwar Al Awlaki, a declared terrorist of American citizenship who we know planned various terrorist attacks, and that somehow, he is going to stop the President from being the Commander in Chief of military affairs. One can disagree with what Obama did, but Paul has the gall to think that somehow he is going to stop the President from what are his powers under the Constitution?

Calling Obama a “King”, Paul makes clear that while the President should not have such power over the military, there should be absolutely no movement on gun regulation or safety in any form, portraying the government as the enemy of the Second Amendment, when all that is being asked is reasonable regulation, not the taking away of people’s rights to own guns, if they are mentally stable!

Paul also advocated massive cuts in spending, including in defense, which fits his image of being a modern day isolationist. Sure, there can be defense cuts, no question about it, and other cuts, but Paul fails to understand the threats this nation faces, and the massive problem of real harm to the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged, were we to pursue his drastic cuts, which almost no one in the Republican Party advocates, including Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee!

Rand Paul also said Barack Obama is Robin Hood, when we actually need Adam Smith, the author of THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, advocating “Laissez Faire” economics, an idea of the late 18th century, which is totally unrealistic in the modern world of the 21st century!

The major news networks failed to carry Rand Paul’s speech, which in itself is a commentary on how he stands in the minds of serious people. He and his Tea Party followers represent a viewpoint which, if enacted, which will not happen, will permanently eradicate the Republican Party as an alternative to the Democratic Party. If there is the desire to prevent what conservatives call a “one party state”, then they need to adapt to reality and stop sounding like and advocating loony ideas that take us back to the 19th century, when America was suffering through the Gilded Age of unregulated capitalism and a weak labor movement!

Sadly, we are likely to be plagued by a Rand Paul Presidential candidacy in 2016, which just might make the political circus of 2012 seem only like the preview of comedy entertainment!

Labor Day: Its Meaning

Tomorrow is Labor Day, a moment to commemorate the role of America’s working people, and to mourn the rapid decline of American labor unions, under constant attack by corporations and the Republican Party.

If it were not for labor unions, the kinds of benefits that America’s workers have had—including minimum wage, maximum hours, holidays, sick leave, vacations, occupational safety and health, the end of child labor, promotion of equal pay for women—and others, would not have existed.

But it has become much more difficult for labor unions to overcome the ignorance and hate that has emerged since Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic control controllers who went on strike in 1981, and has continued to face attack by Republican Governors, including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and others, who have managed to propagandize that public labor unions are an evil that must be destroyed. It is extremely ironic that the only President to be the head of a labor union—The Screen Actors Guild—-was the one who started the rapid decline of labor organizations in America!

Despite all this, this is a time to reflect on and remember and honor the labor movement, which has had such an impact on America, and to understand that the labor movement is in trouble, but not ready to give up the struggle for America’s workforce over the coming years!

The Wisconsin Disaster And What It May Portend

The failure last Tuesday to remove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker from office by recall is a major blow to the labor movement and to progressivism.

It is a warning sign that workers, whether union or non union, whether public service workers or those employed by private employers, can expect that many of the hard won reforms of the 20th century could be taken away by Republican Governors, a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican President in the future.

It is a sign also of the power of wealthy corporate interests to destroy our political system, with the assistance of the right wing Supreme Court which allowed the Citizens United decision in 2010, which has now led to the right wing takeover in many states, in the House of Representatives, and was able to help Scott Walker survive, despite the abuse of power by him and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature. The ability of wealthy individuals to contribute large amounts of money without limit distorted the whole political process!

The fact that Mitt Romney was able to raise more money last month than Barack Obama for the first time is another danger sign that everything progressives and liberals have fought for could be going down the drain!

It is hard not to be very pessimistic about the short term and long term future, but those who believe in the rights of workers, women, minorities, children, the elderly, and wish to promote education, health care and the environment, cannot sit back and mope over the results!

If the forces for democracy decide to give up, instead of mobilizing for the upcoming campaign, and if they do not convince citizens how important it is to vote for their own futures, then indeed the country will be moving closer to a form of corporate fascism that will destroy the great progress made over a long period of generations of hard fought struggles!

Finally! Democratic National Committee Provides Support For Tom Barrett In Scott Walker Recall Election In Wisconsin!

It has been a long haul to get the Democratic National Committee to recognize that they must provide funds and ground support to the massive effort to help Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee unseat Governor Scott Walker in the recall election in Wisconsin on June 5.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC Chair, announced such support yesterday, a crucial element in the upcoming Presidential election, as if this recall election is lost, it will be a major blow to the Obama re-election campaign.

It is not as if that loss, if it occurs, is a guarantor of trouble in November, but it would be a major setback for progressive forces, as Scott Walker represents the worst of the “Bully Governors” and the Tea Party Movement, which has been the major negative force since the midterm Congressional and state elections of 2010.

The labor movement, the role of education, the effect on women, the role of powerful special interests (including the Koch Brothers), and so many other strands of politics are tied together with the Wisconsin recall race, only the third time there has been a recall election in the history of the United States.

The other two times, in North Dakota in 1921, and in California in 2003, the cause for recall was far less serious than the case is in Wisconsin, but both efforts succeeded.

A victory by Walker would show the power of the wealthy special interests to corrupt our system of government and make life more comfortable for the “one percent” against the “99 percent”, and would set Wisconsin back to before the time of Governor Robert La Follette, Sr., who made “progressivism” a cause that would impact the state and the nation numerous times over the next century.

The battle for progressive reform, and to keep it strong, is a never ending battle, but it is good that the DNC has finally entered the fray!

The Wisconsin Recall Elections: Good Sign For The Future

In the past 100 years before yesterday, there were only 20 state recall elections, and only 13 officeholders were removed.

Yesterday, in Wisconsin, in reaction to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s anti labor, anti education, and anti public worker legislation forced through the legislature, we saw six Republican state legislators in the state Senate face a recall, and two were defeated, narrowing the Republican edge to one vote, 17-16.

While it was disappointing that the Democrats failed to win control of the state Senate by one vote, needing three seats, and only winning two, one must recognize the massive amounts of money brought in by corporate interests, including the Koch Brothers, and the fact that the six state Senate districts had been solidly Republican for years, in some cases more than a century.

So winning two seats was close to a miracle, and it shows that the labor and progressive movement in Wisconsin begun more than a century ago by Robert La Follette, Sr. is alive and well.

It is a sign that when people organize and fight, progress can be made, and the hope is that the recall movement can lead to an election to attempt to force Governor Scott Walker out of office next year, instead of completing his term at the beginning of 2015.

It is also a warning to John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Paul LePage in Maine, as well as Chris Christie in New Jersey, that the middle and working class will fight their reactionary, fascist like attack on ordinary citizens and workers!

What Labor Day Means: Has It Been Forgotten? Sadly, Yes! :(

Today is Labor Day, a holiday first developed in the 1880s to honor the contributions of American workers to the development of our economy!

Workers then were in the process, a long struggle, to develop labor union organizations to represent the interest of workers, something bitterly fought by corporations and government, as a “conspiracy in restraint of trade!”

Only slowly, starting with the administration of Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of the 20th century, did labor begin to be treated with dignity and respect, but still with many setbacks during the conservative 1920s!

During the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, labor union organizations finally gained acceptance as partners in collective bargaining, but remained the “enemy” in the South and in many interior states across the nation!

Labor unions at one point had one third of all workers, and their influence led to state and federal legislation that made life better for union workers, as well as non union workers! Their peak could be said to be in the 1960s and early 1970s, followed by a long period of rapid decline in influence, particularly due to the administration of Ronald Reagan, ironically a labor leader himself (the Screen Actors Guild)!

Today, organized labor has only about 12 percent of the labor force as members, and workers in general have seen backwards steps in relations with their employers, particularly in these difficult economic times of the Great Recession! πŸ™

Labor is now struggling to be more significant, and to help promote the agenda of the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party, but ironically, many workers continue to avoid voting, or find the emotional appeal of the Republican party on issues such as gay rights, abortion, illegal immigration, and Islamophobia as their major motivation, a sad development! πŸ™

So the work of the labor movement, which is always bad mouthed by conservatives and Republicans, remains a challenge for the future!