Jeff Ballinger, speaking to the Concord Wicked Local on Aug 2, Maintains that Money in Politics is a problem

Jeff Ballinger says money in politics is a problem

Of course, “single payer,” repeal the tax-cut and improve education – here’s what sets me apart from the field:

I think Congress has to debate the issue of Afghanistan, it is not enough to have the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction issuing 200-page reports every six months. When I was there for a year, I was willing to go toe-to-toe with our ambassador and tell him we needed to build up the mining industry. We have been helping that Ministry of Mines for 17 years, spending tens of millions of dollars and still no mining law has been enacted. So, if you want to have a mining business you have no legal framework to work within. They need to stop the smuggling to develop “regular” mining jobs and collect the revenue.

My biggest problem with American foreign policy has to do with money in politics. I believe that there’s no other issue that can explain the following: one year ago, 60 percent of House Democrats voted for a defense budget $50 billion more than Donald Trump proposed. The only explanation for such a vote is to curry favor with defense contractors; until we get money out of politics we really cannot reform the Department of Defense, the way it needs to be reformed.

Recently, Rep. Jim McGovern spoke very boldly about how we need to deal with Pentagon waste, fraud and abuse; nothing like that is going to happen as long as the defense contractors have friends on both sides of the aisle. So I really think this is the major problem: money in politics.

I pledge to be vocal in defense of workers: Right here in our district, the technology of a local wind turbine company was stolen by its biggest customer, SINOVEL. This was in 2011 and they lost 700 jobs. We just won this case in January; the Department of Justice worked on it for 7 years. It’s historic because it is the first criminal “intellectual property theft” case ever won against a Chinese company in a U.S. Federal Court. What makes me angry is that no Democrat from the House Energy and Commerce Committee said, “Let’s call the CEO and some workers down to Washington for a press briefing to put heat on the Trump administration to get the full $800 million in damages the court found.” Partly because of their dissolute posture, AMSC agreed to a settlement of just pennies on the dollar: $57 million! Whether I win or lose in this race, I pledge to fight for restitution for those cheated workers.

We have a lot of good laws, they are just not enforced very well. And look at the Internal Revenue Service. We keep cutting the staff there while every $.45 you spend on the IRS yields $100 in revenue. Enforcement is also important in the North Korea context: We are actually stopping ships using satellite technology. This means that we are stopping ships that are offloading goods – transferring to other ships while at sea; this deals a devastating blow to sanctions-busting. This is what got Kim Jung Un to the bargaining table – stopping the flow of luxury goods that keep his generals loyal.

The Department of Justice needs to establish a Corporate Crime Database and Annual Report (first introduced in the 112th Congress). Prominent among the crimes to watch and report on are: union-busting – often a form of psychological persecution of union supporters and, also, the refusal of bosses to bargain, even after workers win bargaining rights. Both are addressed in the new ″Workplace Democracy Act,″ recently introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

SDUSA is Proud to Endorse The Congressional Candidacy of Jeff Ballinger, our former Executive Director, in the Sept. 4th Democratic Primary in Massachusetts 3rd Congressional District.

Social Democrats,USA proudly endorses the candidacy of Jeff Ballinger, our former Executive Director, in the September 4th Democratic Primary in Massachusett’s 3rd Congressional District.

Jeff grew up seeing mistreatment of workers by companies that raked in profits. He decided early on to fight for the little guy. Starting with voter registration in college, he became a national student coordinator for a boycott of an unfair clothing manufacturer.

Jeff joined the Textile Workers Union of America and assisted on the real-world “Norma Rae” campaign. He attended New York School of Law at night with a focus on international and human rights, graduating in 1983.

Jeff founded and ran the non-profit Press for Change that helped force Indonesia’s strongman, Suharto,  to nearly triple the country’s minimum wage, from 86 cents per day to $2.46.

Jeff knows the global nature of our economic problems at home and is ready to take on the corruption of big money in politics. Unbeholden to special interests, he will focus on the interests of regular people in the district.


Champion For Labor

Jeff helped support the birth of the Polish labor union, Solidarnosc and changed the face of Europe. He brought teacher-union leaders from the West Bank to meet with Paul Tsongas in his Senate office, in a quest for peace in the Middle East. Jeff became deeply involved in labor movements – here and globally – with the goal to end exploitation of the workers who make our clothes, electronics, appliances, and so much more.

Organizer

The most moving experience Jeff had was going door to door on the gritty West side of Indianapolis to register voters. Time and again he heard African-Americans tell him how it was the first time they registered to vote since coming North in the 1950s.

Thought-leader

Jeff has appeared as an expert commentator on global political economy issues on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and CNN. He has appeared in documentaries by Japan’s NTK, UK’s Channel Four and ARTE (French/German). His writing has been published in Harper’s, NY Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Dissent, Brown Economic Review and Los Angeles Times.

His Vision and Plan

Here is a heartbreaking headline that pretty much sums up why I chose to run: “Money Pouring into Massachusetts for a Key Race.” My number one issue will be changing the word “money” to “activist.”  We can do this partly through public financing of campaigns but principally by getting both parties to stop seeking contributions from banks and insurance companies and Wall Street.

Before unions were seriously weakened, labor provided the Democrats with most of the help they needed to compete with Republicans. We need a Corporate Crime Database at the Department of Justice with an emphasis on psychological persecution often used to thwart union organizing campaigns.  It’s no coincidence that the defeat of Labor Law Reform in 1977 began an ever-widening wealth gap in America.

Along with the increase in corporate control of politics in D.C. came virtual impunity for crimes against workers, consumers and the environment. There’s been almost no Democratic pushback against four decades of Republican anti-government and anti-regulation rhetoric.

As a life-long activist and organizer, I feel uniquely qualified to draw attention to this issue and, indeed, lead the fight!  We need workers and unions back fully on board with the Democratic Party and I will fight to make this a reality.


KEY ISSUES

MONEY IN POLITICS

 

Corporate contributions to political campaigns have been an unmitigated disaster for our party and America. Corporate influence drove the enactment of unfettered free trade policies like NAFTA, thereby alienating workers and their unions further from the party which used to represent the Left in American politics. This party is now virtually indistinguishable from the party traditionally dependent on contributions from banks, insurance companies and Wall Street firms. Public financing of campaigns is an essential element of getting money out of politics. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School has done a deep dive into the issue of public financing of campaigns. I recommend their work highly.

Additionally, my biggest problem with American foreign policy has to do with money in politics. I believe that there’s no other issue that can explain the following: one year ago, 60% of House Democrats voted for a defense budget $50 billion more than Donald Trump proposed. The only explanation for such a vote is to curry favor with defense contractors; until we get money out of politics we really cannot reform the Department of Defense, the way it needs to be reformed.


LABOR RIGHTS

We need to rebuild union power by reversing years of anti-union policies – first by reestablishing the National Labor Relations Board’s Division of Economic Research. Our workplaces and the very nature of work itself is changing so rapidly that unions need to get reliable information about organizing targets and new opportunities for growth.

Secondly, the Department of Justice needs to establish a Corporate Crime Database and Annual Report (first introduced in the 112th Congress). Prominent among the crimes to watch and repot on are: union-busting – often a form of psychological persecution of union supporters and, also, the refusal of bosses to bargain, even after workers win bargaining rights.  Both are addressed in the new ‘‘Workplace Democracy Act,’’ recently introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

We also need to revive the Division of Economic Research of the NLRB (shut down during the Red Scare); our new workplaces and often-precarious employment relations need to be studied with an eye toward leveling the playing field for workers in addressing management prerogatives. Much can be done to increase skills-training for low-income youths, but we need to define what types of resource training to provide.


MEDICARE

There are over 40 million under-insured Americans and almost 30 more with no health insurance at all.  The expansion of Medicare must not be prevented by lobbyists from the Medical and Insurance industries. Medicare for all would create enough bargaining power to lower drug prices and many other costs in the medical care system.

America has the most expensive and one of the least-efficient medical care delivery systems in the world. We need to eliminate health insurance companies who do nothing but add complexity to the system while making some of the highest executive salaries of any industry.  Additional reforms will also be necessary to avoid corporate subsidies on a massive scale.


ENVIRONMENT

As the chief rule-of-law officer for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni Province 2012-13, I had a significant economic development portfolio. When we turned our attention to Afghanistan’s mineral development possibilities, I took a careful look into the province’s two promising “lithium brine” salt lakes. (Afghanistan was dubbed “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” by the Pentagon in 2009.) After checking with the US Geological Survey, I discovered that the northern lake in our province was an important “wetland preserve”. After months of back-and-forth with an Afghan PhD student working at the USGS, I made certain that this was an important factor in our “mineral resources exploitation” report.


IMMIGRATION

Our country suffers greatly from a bitterly divisive issue. When we need to come together and make progress on many fronts we are being pulled apart. We need legislation that extends temporary protective status and also addresses the need to get the DACA people settled in.

It should be noted that we are suffering an immigration crisis mainly because nothing was done for almost two decades.  The unauthorized population grew and neither party addressed the issue. There have been numerous “path to citizenship” bills introduced with bipartisan support under both of the last two Democratic & Republican administrations. What happened to stop their passage? They were killed by lobbyists for corporate interests that benefit from people living in the shadows. These migrant workers can be paid lower wages, bosses don’t have to worry about workers organizing, and there is virtual impunity from prosecution for employers.  We must come together to overcome the special interests and fix this now.


Weatherization = Climate Action + Jobs

This is an urgent issue and there is abundant “low-hanging fruit.”  Hundreds of rich institutions in the Northeast and Upper Midwest (many pay no taxes, but that’s another issue) should be required to do detailed energy audits and remediation plans.  Cornell University is a very positive example.


We must address income inequality

President Donald Trump has crowed that the U.S. economy has never been so strong – never in such great shape, “and jobs are flooding back.”  Yet, there’s nothing on the horizon that suggests a reversal of 30+ years of growing income inequality.  We must address this now.


Congress needs to debate the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

I’ve lived 11 years in Muslim-majority countries.  I was in Ghazni for 10 months in 2013 – side-by-side with our troops.  When John Kerry, then Secretary of State, visited Afghanistan, I told him about the murderous Haqqani network operating in our province; they’re worse than the Taliban because they corrupt local officials and warlords.  Smuggling is rife – partly because after a decade and tens of millions of dollars to the Mines Ministry, there is still no mining law!

ghz shake hands.jpg

A Modified Look

Notes from the Administrator:

Over the past months you may have noticed some appearance problems at our blog-site. These were caused by software incompatibilities with the widgets. Today I changed WordPress themes in order to fix those problems. Everything other than the look should be the same. All previous blog posts, comments, media, and site contents are retained. If you run into any problems, please let me know.

I came across this pictue that I thought was interesting. It shows our torch logo as it originally appeared. This is a flyer for the Social Democratic Party in Peekskill, New York in 1900. Compare it to our current logo on our home page.

And finally, a reminder that Subscribe and Unsubscribe functions are User-Controlled on our home page in the right hand column.

In solidarity,
Rick

 

Massachusetts Social Democrats Kicks Off Web Site, Seeks Members

Following a successful tabling at the Democratic convention in June, Massachusetts Social Democrats unveiled its new web site and Facebook page last Saturday. Eldon Clingan, Chair of the Bay State group, said that its purpose is to disseminate social democratic ideas to the progressive movement and to provide space for their discussion. “We welcome social democrats from several activist groups in our state,” he said. “We don’t seek to supplant such groups but to supplement their efforts with education and advocacy.” He said that MSD is planning future distribution of social democratic printed materials, in addition to its web site, and that the group is hoping to sponsor a conference on the future of progressive politics after the fall general election. He pointed out that MSD has made arrangements with Dissent Magazine to provide each member with a digital subscription, normally a $19.95 value, as a member benefit. “Since member dues are only $20 a year, we think that’s a good deal,”. Clingan said.

MSD’s Secretary/Webmaster is Michael Passarini, a student at the University of Massachusetts- Boston. The web site can be found at masocialdemocrats.org.

Report from the Left Forum

On Sunday, June 3rd, Patty Friend, Sheldon Ranz, and I got ready to present our second panel of the weekend: “Domestic Violence: How Capitalism Fails Survivors.” This panel was a little different than most that were offered at Left Forum. Following this year’s theme of “Towards a New Strategy for the Left,” the SD, USA decided to present a series of panels that focused on real, pressing issues and how, as leftists, we can rally to find solutions. Domestic Violence, though not a new concern, is finally gaining national attention. We felt that a discussion about how American Capitalism protects abusers and falters survivors, and to outline some practical solutions, would be a fitting addition to the conference.

Well, it seems we were wrong. Fifteen minutes after we were supposed to start, we were looking at an empty room. While some panels, debating obscurities of leftist purity were packed to standing-room-only, no one showed up until we had already broken down and called it a loss.

The day before, we had a good turn out at our panel “Mental Health in America: The Capitalist Crisis and Socialist Solutions.” We were booked in a day-long series of healthcare related panels. We had a surprising amount of doctors, social workers, and mental health professionals in attendance and we were able to facilitate some great discussion. We also had the opportunity to see a panel, moderated by Howard Waitzkin (author/editor of the book “Health Care Under the Knife”) which offered an array of insight into America’s long-broken health care system.

Coming out of the first day, we were hopeful that the engagement we experienced would continue, but I started seeing the growing bark of sectarian squabbles first thing Sunday Morning. I went to a panel that morning entitled, “What’s left of the Left?” hosted by a delegation from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). They discussed the current state of affairs in Germany and parallelled them with what is going on here, suggesting that anti-establishment conservatism is on the rise.
One of the speakers also suggested that a huge base of support for people like Trump and Merkel are more interested in finding people from “outside the system” and that is why Trump and Bernie had a lot of the same supporters.

Here is where people in the audience began to push back. For some reason, a “revolutionary” in the audience was so angered at the mention of Bernie Sanders as an outsider, he interrupted them to tell them “Bernie is not an outsider! He is a part of the system, too!” Regardless of your opinions of Bernie as an outsider (and I definitely have some) this outburst speaks volumes about the revolutionary left: they are much more concerned with calling out enemies within the left than they are with actual enemies from the far right. The man had no issue with Trump being seen as an outsider, worthy of popular appeal, but someone who speaks about socialism from a two-party podium could not be stomached.

Someone asked the panel “Why not participate in a REAL leftist party? Isn’t the SPD a bunch of neoliberals?”

To this, the panelist said “Because, I want to get shit done!”

I clapped. Alone.

The point of the conference was coalition building, to connect and strategize so that we can move “Towards a New Strategy for the Left.” I believe the conference was run well and that the organizers are in the right place. The big-ticket panels, featuring Kali Akuna, Ajamu Baraka, and Jane Sanders, were productive and featured a variety of approaches and suggestions on how we can all move forward together. Unfortunately, this message was lost on petty protestors who took these opportunities to grandstand instead of listen and disruptors who had no intention of contributing to the conversation, but came to take away from it.

I commend Left Forum on the unyielding amount of dedication they put into this and I appreciate the opportunity I had to participate. I also plan on attending in the future. Hopefully, as the need for unity and actual progress becomes more apparent, more of the attendees will come in the name of Solidarity.

Audio of the Mental Health panel: https://youtu.be/fK43xHFItJA