From the Captured Economy to a Freedom Budget

For more information about this campaign in the Illinois 5th District, which has been endorsed by the Illinois Berniecrats: schwartzbergforcongress.com
From the Captured Economy to a Freedom Budget
The contrast between two books on economic reform that I have just finished reading is striking. The first, addressing the “captured” economy as it stands at present, offers hope in a return to a more liberal and less corrupt capitalism. The second, focusing on a program of reform advanced by leaders of the Socialist Party in the 1960s—a Freedom Budget—offers a much more profound hope of changing not merely the American economy but even the ways we relate to one another as human beings. I believe we can learn from both books and should adopt policies that draw on both approaches.
Seeking to reduce the extent to which our economy has been captured by the financial sector is a first step toward the reform of the American economy—a first step toward making that economy serve the common good instead of the 1%. Ultimately, our sights should be set on the realization of the full promise of American democracy. This will require winning the support of the American people for the strategy behind the Freedom Budget.
In The Captured Economy, two economists, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles (one a libertarian and the other a liberal), work together to clarify some of the ways in which the government putting its thumb on the scales to favor the rich has contributed both to increasing inequality and to slow economic growth: “This favoritism obviously exacerbates inequality, but its side effect is to reduce the competition and dynamism upon which economic growth depends. Accordingly, we now have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. If we can scale back regressive redistribution [basically governmental policies that amount to Robin Hood in reverse], we can enjoy more growth and a more equal society.” As an example of a change in the rules of the game benefitting the rich and harming the economy, Lindsey and Teles note that one of the consequences of the change in the tax code since Eisenhower has been to incentivize companies to bid competitively for CEO and administrative talent—to increase their salaries far beyond those of the ordinary worker (and far beyond any value added that they could actually provide). This is, in my opinion, one reason why we should restore Eisenhower era tax rates and tax income from capital gains at the same rate as income earned by work.
The data Lindsey and Teles present on the excessive growth of the financial sector is dramatic. Between 1980 and 2006, the financial sector’s share of GDP rose from 4.9 percent to 8.3 percent. By 2004, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned more than all the CEOs of the S&P 500 combined. Financial executives and professionals constitute 14 percent of the top 1 percent of earners and 18 percent of the top 0.1 percent. Beyond inadequacies in governmental regulation and oversight, the financial sector has grown as governmental bailouts have artificially reduced the risks of excessive leverage. If the government had bailed out Main Street as well as Wall Street, the damage would have been less severe, but there would still have been distortions that worked to the advantage of those relying excessively on short term debt. This is particularly true as compensation practices in the financial sector involve return on equity as a major factor in determining executive compensation, providing executives with a personal incentive to lever as much as possible. As Lindsey and Teles argue:
“In short, financial firms’ extreme reliance on debt makes them a house of cards that any stiff breeze can topple…. But there is no necessary reason why loans, by banks or anybody else, have to be funded by short-term liabilities. Institutions funded purely by equity, or funded by equity to a considerably greater extent than banks are today, are perfectly capable of making loans…. A bank with much more equity financing than is the norm today, say equal to 30 percent of assets, would still face liquidity risk as its short-term liquid liabilities would usually far exceed its liquid assets. Yet its insolvency risk would be much lower than that of a typical bank today because its relatively large equity cushion would allow it to weather a sizeable downturn in the value of its assets.”  This is a direction in which American policy should move. It will mean shrinking the size of the financial sector, which will be painful for those within it, but this will benefit the real economy by making crashes like the Great Recession less likely and by moving people into more productive careers.
In their history, A Freedom Budget for All Americans, Paul Le Blanc and Michael Yates, tell the story of the great civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph’s call for a national commitment to abolish poverty in America within ten years with specific investments in public education, in housing, in health care, and in job creation—guaranteeing a job for everyone who wanted work through a budget designed by Leon Keyserling, who had been the chairman of Harry Truman’s Council of Economic Advisors.
A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Max Shachtman, Michael Harrington, and Tom Kahn—all of them but King leaders of the Socialist Party—were the moving forces behind the strategy behind the Freedom Budget. Le Blanc and Yates summarize that strategy as follows:
“The Jim Crow system, politically vulnerable as it was, and standing in clear violation of the intentions of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was the obvious first target for a movement dedicated to the elimination of racism in the United States. The nonviolent but unrelenting assault on one of the pillars of institutional racism, in an extended campaign employing moral, religious, and democratic rhetoric so central to the culture and history of the United States, would be able to mobilize considerable popular support.”
“This strategy would intensify the personal racism of some individuals, bringing it out into the open and consequently making it easier to address and deal with than if it remained submerged. For others, all of this would cause them to examine and move away from aspects of their own personal racism, and in many cases to commit themselves to the popular struggle to overcome the racism that had been so central to American society for so many years.”
“The consciousness and momentum of this crusade against the Jim Crow system could stand as a preliminary stage for confronting the other aspects of institutional racism, which would require a more fundamental social and economic transformation.”
“This transformation could only be realized effectively by attacking racism’s underlying economic roots, which in turn could only be done effectively by developing a broader program for economic justice: decent jobs, housing, education, and health care for all, as a matter of right. Though such a program would be initiated by blacks, it would be powerfully relevant to a majority of whites. The resulting interracial coalition for economic justice would have the dual function of eliminating the roots of institutional racism and creating an atmosphere of idealism and common struggle that would help to further push back various forms of individual racism. If there was abundance and a decent life for every person, then the fearful competition for scarce resources, an essential breeding ground and one of the material bases of racism, would be eliminated, and this would strengthen the sense of interracial solidarity generated through the shared struggle for a better life for all people.”
That was the strategy behind the Freedom Budget in the 1960s and it remains the strategy behind calls for a Freedom Budget for the 21st century; calls the Democratic Party must embrace.
In the late 1970s, I had the great good fortune—as a political activist in high school with the Social Democrats, USA—to get to know both Bayard Rustin, the group’s national chairman, and Tom Kahn, another amazing orator who was particularly influential with the organization’s youth group. The vision of social democracy, or democratic socialism, that they offered has shaped my life. My first book was described in Foreign Affairs in 2005 as the work of “A passionate pro-labor Social Democrat.” As Tom Kahn once suggested, in conveying Max Shachtman’s view, it’s all about realizing the promise of democracy:
“Freedom and democracy—they were not abstractions; they were real and could therefore be destroyed. Communist totalitarianism was not merely a political force, an ideological aberration that could be smashed in debate; it was a monstrous physical force. Democracy was not merely the icing on the socialist cake. It was the cake—or there was no socialism worth fighting for. And if socialism was worth fighting for here, it was worth fighting for everywhere: socialism was nothing if it was not profoundly internationalist.”
This faith in the universal promise of social democracy remains, together with my religious faith, at the foundation of my view of the world and my reasons for running for Congress in the Illinois 5th District. For those who are interested, I addressed what I see as the connection between religion and politics in a speech on “America and the Kingdom” that I gave to the 144-year-old Chicago Literary Club in October 2017 that is available here: http://www.schwartzbergforcongress.com/news-letters/

News from our Congressional Candidate Steven Schwartzberg

Dear David and Rick,

Please circulate these two links.  The first is to a video interview I did with Hard Lens Media last week (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2Rbj203tf0&feature=youtu.be).  The second is to a speech I gave on Monday on what I call the unconstitutionality of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831—the decision that paved the way for the Trail of Tears and Death—a decision that must be understood and repudiated if we are to move toward respect for the rule of law in our relations with the native peoples.  The text of my speech is available for download as the second item under the newsletters and speeches tab on my webpage (http://www.schwartzbergforcongress.com/news-letters/).
I hope to have another newsletter on the Freedom Budget out tomorrow…
In solidarity,
Steve

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Releases Report Detailing Two Decades of Putin’s Attacks on Democracy, Calling for Policy Changes to Counter Kremlin Threat Ahead of 2018, 2020 Elections

January 10, 2018

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Releases Report Detailing Two Decades of Putin’s Attacks on Democracy, Calling for Policy Changes to Counter Kremlin Threat Ahead of 2018, 2020 Elections

U.S. Remains Vulnerable to Russian Interference without Unequivocal Presidential Leadership, Learning Lessons from European Democracies 

Top Foreign Relations Committee Democrat Makes Series of Recommendations to Counter Putin’s Asymmetric Arsenal, Bolster Defenses Ahead of Future U.S., European, Elections

 

WASHINGTON – A Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff report released Wednesday and commissioned by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Committee’s ranking member, details Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country. The report comes one year after Senator Cardin introduced the Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, which served as the basis for the sanctions package signed into law last August, and makes a series of recommendations to adequately bolster U.S. and European defenses and counter the growing Kremlin threat to democratic institutions.

Putin’s Asymmetrical Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security,” finds that President Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the threat posed by the Russian government has hampered efforts to mobilize our government, strengthen our institutions, and work with our European allies to counter Putin’s interference in democracies abroad.

Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president, and without a strong U.S. response, institutions and elections here and throughout Europe will remain vulnerable to the Kremlin’s aggressive and sophisticated malign influence operations.

“As the extent of Russia’s obvious meddling in the 2016 U.S. election continues to be investigated, it is imperative that the American people better understand the true scope and scale of Putin’s pattern of undermining democracy in Russia and across Europe. That is why I commissioned this report shortly after the 2016 election,” Senator Cardin said. “This threat existed long before President Trump took office, and unless he takes action now, it will continue long after his administration.  While President Trump stands practically idle, Mr. Putin continues to refine his asymmetric arsenal and look for future opportunities to disrupt governance and erode support for the democratic and international institutions that the United States and Europe have built over the last 70 years.

“President Trump must be clear-eyed about the Russian threat, take action to strengthen our government’s response and our institutions, and – as have other president’s in times of crisis – mobilize our country and work with an international coalition to counter the threat and assert our values,” Cardin continued.

Across eight chapters and several appendices, the report meticulously details the tools the Russian government has repeatedly deployed from its asymmetric arsenal, and how the Kremlin has learned and perfected its techniques attacking democracy both internally and abroad. Such tools – drawn largely from a Soviet-era playbook, but updated with new technologies – include military incursions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups, and the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime and corruption.

Putin first developed his techniques at home, against his own people. In Russia, he repressed independent civil society, journalists, and the political opposition, while manipulating cultural and religious institutions, the media, and fueling a corrupt kleptocracy to bolster his regime and increase his net worth. Putin’s increasing aggression abroad is directly related to his need to maintain power at home. As he looks to maintain power in Russia, he is likely to step up his attacks on democracies around the world.

Some European countries have shored up their democracies with a strategic, whole-of-government approach: publicly warning Moscow of consequences if it meddles; mobilizing various sectors of society to neutralize and push back against Kremlin disinformation; and confronting Russian efforts to use corruption as a tool of influence. It is time for the United States to take similar actions.

The report includes more than 30 recommendations for the U.S. and its allies.  Key recommendations include:

  • First, Mr. Trump must demonstrate presidential leadership by declaring it is U.S. policy to deter all forms of Russian hybrid threats and begin to mobilize our government in defense. He should establish a high-level inter-agency fusion cell, modeled on the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), to coordinate all elements of U.S. policy and programming in response to the Kremlin’s malign influence operations.
  • Second, the U.S. government should provide assistance, in concert with allies in Europe, to build democratic institutions within those European and Eurasian states most vulnerable to Russian government interference. As part of this effort, the President should convene an annual global summit on hybrid threats, modeled on the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL or the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) summits. To reinforce these efforts, members in the U.S. Congress have a clear responsibility to show U.S. leadership on values by making democracy and human rights a central part of their agendas. They should conduct committee hearings and use other platforms and opportunities to publicly advance these issues.
  • Third, the United States and our allies should expose and freeze Kremlin-linked dirty money.  The U.S. Treasury Department should make public any intelligence related to Mr. Putin’s personal corruption and wealth stored abroad, and take steps with our European allies to cut off Mr. Putin and his inner circle from the international financial system.
  • Fourth, the U.S. government should designate countries that employ malign influence operations to assault democracies as State Hybrid Threat Actors and subject them to a preemptive, escalatory sanctions regime that would be applied whenever the state uses asymmetric weapons like cyberattacks to interfere with a democratic election or disrupt a country’s critical infrastructure. The U.S. government should also produce yearly public reports that detail the Russian government’s malign influence operations in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Fifth, the U.S. government and NATO should lead a coalition of countries committed to mutual defense against cyberattacks, to include the establishment of rapid reaction teams to defend allies under attack. The U.S. government should also call a special meeting of the NATO heads of state to review the extent of Russian government-sponsored cyberattacks among member states and develop formal guidelines on how the Alliance will consider such attacks in the context of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision.
  • Finally, U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years, and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments, and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.

The full report and some accompanying summary documents can be found at the following links:

###

Press Contact

Sean Bartlett, 202.224.4651, Sean_Bartlett@foreign.senate.gov

 


    helloworld


Steve Schwartzberg,”A Passionate Pro-Labor Social Democrat for Congress

“A passionate pro-labor Social Democrat.” That is how Steve Schwartzberg was described in an October 2005 review of his first book in the journal Foreign Affairs. Throughout his writings—whether he is talking about American support for the postwar land reform in Japan that benefited millions of small farmers, or American support for democratic working-class movements in Latin America in the 1940s, or the failure of the United States to respect tribal sovereignty that culminated in the genocidal Trail of Tears and Death in the 1830s—Steve has shown himself to be a consistent champion of social justice and of social democratic principles.

As a high school student active in the SDUSA in the late 1970s, Steve helped lobby the Congress to help rescue the “boat people,” the hundreds of thousands of Indochinese refugees risking their lives on the South China Sea to escape communist totalitarianism. As a college student in the early 1980s, he helped raise funds to be smuggled into Poland to help the Solidarity underground in its fight for democracy and free trade unions. In recent years, he has volunteered, and helped organize volunteers, to provide free clothes and free food to the homeless, canvassed door-to-door for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and then canvassed for Hillary Clinton in the general.

Steve has championed Medicare for All. He has championed a Marshall Plan for America involving massive investment in the nation’s infrastructure as well as a national commitment to “decarbonize” our economy. And he has championed a Freedom Budget for the 21st Century with which to begin to abolish poverty through investments in education and housing and job training. Steve has always stood for what the American people could do to help themselves, and the rest of the world, to build a more just, prosperous, and ecologically-sound future.

Having fought for many worthy causes over the decades, both at home and abroad, the SDUSA is delighted to endorse Steve Schwartzberg in the Democratic primary in the Illinois 5th District.

New Year’s Letter to our Members & Friends Announcing the Contract between ProQuest & SDUSA to Digitize the SP Papers & Documents that are Archived at the Library at Duke University

Dear Comrades & Friends;

We are writing to wish you a Happiest of Holidays and a great New Year and to inform you of a major development for our organization and its members. 2017 was a difficult year for all of us. We have suffer through the first year of the Donald Trump Administration. We still cannot believe that this man is our president. Therefore, we have been an essential part of the Resistance opposing him. In fact, we began this resistance, immediately after the 2016 election with our “Keeping the Political Revolution Alive” conference that was held on November 19, 2016 in Buffalo N.Y, that was organized by SD’s 1st Vice Chair, Comrade Michael Mottern. We held our National Convention in August and were able to share a video of the public forum to all of our members and friends on our website. We passed various resolutions at the Convention, including “Religion and Reproductive Justice,” “American Drug Policy,” endorsing the “People’s Platform.” Specifically controversial was the introduction of a resolution, “After Fifty Years of Occupation, A Social Democratic/Democratic Zionist Case Critically Endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.” This resolution was sent to the National Committee where it was passed by a very narrow margin. At the same time, the members who opposed this resolution were encouraged to write a minority report with their alternative proposals to critically endorsing the BDS movement. No one was ostracized for their opinion on this very contentious issue in our discussion on the BDS resolution. However, the fact that this kind of resolution was submitted to our national convention and later approved by the NC, is prove positive that the reorganized Social Democrats, USA, has evolved and can no longer be charged as being neoconservative. On the other hand, the SD remains explicitly committed to the survival and security of Israel alongside a state of Palestine on the West Bank & Gaza with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. And we remain firm in our critique of the political anti-Zionism that is expressed on both the Alt-Right and much of the Left, as oppose to constructive criticisms of aspect of Zionist ideology and history of the movement that still affirms the right of the Jewish people to self determination.

Therefore,we hope that 2018 is fruitful and positive for all of us, with a continuing resurgence of the Left in the United States, ending the year with the defeat of the Republican majority in Congress and many state governments. We have been doing our part in achieving this goal. Despite, the small size of the SD, our treasurer Rick D’Loss has been a elected member of the city council of Carnegie, Pennsylvania since 2009, as a socialist in the Democratic Party. Steven Schwartzberg, a SD member since the 1970s, is running for Congress for the Illinois 5th District, under the slogan, “Stands Where Bernie Sanders Does: Social Democratic Leadership for the Illinois 5th District.” Comrade Schwartzberg states, “I am running for Congress because I am a social democrat who thinks that it is time for a moral as well as a political revolution in this country. I believe that my background and skills will enable me to help advance that twin revolution better than any of the other candidates in the race.”

Please go to http://www.schwartzbergforcongress.com/#home for information about Steve and his campaign.

This is the first of a series of letters to our members & friends discussing how the SD can grow and prosper politically in 2018 and beyond. We also need to hear suggestions, ideas and proposals from you. We know that this is a very dangerous time for the U.S and the world. You can reach me at DHacker300@aol.com or 516-669-1748. The aurora of authoritarianism is coming from the White House, while the Republican Congress seeks to undo the entire legacy of the New Deal. Yes, the Class Struggle is real. And we know which side we are on. The side of Workers and the poor of all races, sexes, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. But we need your help. Whatever you can donate-especially if you have not paid your dues for 2017. Please send in your donations to Rick D’Loss at 225 E. Main St. Carnegie, Pa. 15106.

We are also writing to let you know that ProQuest, a Ann Arbor, Michigan-based global information-content and technology company founded in 1938 as University Microfilms has chosen Social Democrats,USA as the sole and rightful heir to the original Socialist Party of America and its legacy and ownership of the SP papers & documents that are archived at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and University Archives at Duke University. This is not only a wonderful and meaningful honor. It has great legal/practical implications and benefits. – not the least of which will be future funding streams for the SDUSA and the access it will afford our members and others will be priceless. ProQuest has signed a contract with Duke University to scan and digitize the following materials: Socialist Party of America Papers (1897-1963)

Socialist Party of America Papers, Addendum (1919-1976).

As the legally recognized Licensor of these papers, the SD has to agree to give ProQuest permission to scan and digitize this archival collection. We have signed an agreement with ProQuest to proceed with this project. This is the agreement:

As for royalties from sales of the digitized collection, we reached the following agreement

This means that both the SD and Duke University will get 10 percent of the revenue of any sale of the Licensed SP papers. In addition, all members of Social Democrats USA will have free access to the digitized SP Papers archives. We have also discussed with ProQuest scanning and digitizing the Social Democrats, USA Records, 1937-1994 (Bulk 1970-1994) that are also at Duke University Library’s Rubinstein Archives.

We encourage you to use this amazing collection after the completion of the project in 2020. In the meantime, there are collection of Leftist papers, books, organizational journals, newsletters, etc. even art and political posters available to all of you, and accessible from your home. If you need recommendations and/or help visiting these collections, do not hesitate to contact David Hacker. I cannot overstate how important this agreement with ProQuest and their choice of us as the legal heir to the historic Socialist Party of Eugene V Debs & Norman Thomas. Comrades, this is hugh! The debate over which organization is the legal successor of the SP is over. The SDUSA is the historic SP. In future letters, I will discuss the full political meaning of this fact and how it gives our organization the flexibility to both work in the Democratic Party and also run independent local campaigns under the SP logo.

Yours in Solidarity;

Patty Friend, National Chair: SDUSA David Hacker, National Secretary: SDUSA