SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS

By Jason Sibert  

The subject of housing should be at the top of the list of priorities for the incoming Biden/Harris Administration.  There is no guaranteeing that it will be a priority, despite the fact that the middle and low ends of the income spectrum are being priced out of both the buying of homes and affordable rental housing. Thousands in our cities, especially the more expensive cities, are homeless, as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York all have large homeless populations.  

Radical urban theorist Peter Marcuse, along with sociologist David Madden, penned a book called In Defense of Housing (2016) that provides a wonderful guide to the problems we currently face. The two asked us to rethink our attitude toward housing. The book makes a very important point that should worry any good social democrat: “there is no United States state where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford to rent or buy a one-bedroom dwelling.” This is particularly disturbing because the non-traded domestic service sector employs a great number of the members of the working class, and they make at or near minimum wage. The housing crisis is even worse in the most expensive parts of the country.     

The basic conflict Marcuse and Madden addressed is the struggle between the house as a mode of profit production – real estate – and the house as a home. The housing crisis came about because housing was defined as an investment that outweighs all other claims about it. In Defense of Housing covered the partial decommodification of housing in the 1930s when governments on both sides of the Atlantic invested in public housing, but in the second half of the 20th century, real estate became a global force – the main factor driving our economy. This helped build the fortunes of people like President Donald Trump. This hyper-commodification produced a lot of inequality in a time of stagnating wages.  

In Defense of Housing analyzed how the state uses four ways to reinforce hyper-commodification of housing to make housing an oppressive force. First, the state deregulates mortgage lending, ends rent control and privatizes public housing in the U.S. and the U.K. Second, the state allows financialization of housing such as banks pooling mortgages and selling them as “liquid assets.” Third, the state allows globalization of housing with foreign investors speculating in U.S. housing or buying luxury housing as an investment which were never meant to be lived in. Fourth, the state allows gentrification to increase landlords’ profits with huge rent increases. Mayors often argue that more housing will solve the housing crises, but Marcuse and Madden point out that this will not work if housing is a commodity.  

Housing has sparked activism in our country before. The New York radical immigrant labor movement starting in 1916 created 40,000 units in non-profit cooperative housing. The 1917-1920 New York rent strike terrified the city’s real estate establishment who then allowed the first eviction regulations. During the 1930s and 1940s, U.S. housing activists allied with leftist political parties and won national rent control, national building of public housing, and building maintenance.  One can see something similar brewing today in the growth of tenants’ unions around the country.  

Liberal nationalist thinker Michael Lind also gives us some wonderful ideas on the housing crisis in his story “Why This Man was Prescient (Hint: It has to do with Your Rent).” He points out that spending on rent, as a percentage of income, increases as income goes down. The rule of thumb is that one should spend more than 30 percent of one’s income on rent. However, Lind points out this is not possible for the large number of people who work for low wages.  In addition to public housing, as mentioned in Marcuse and Madden’s book, low-income people are helped in another way. There are housing choice vouchers and the fact that the government gives housing developers tax credits to develop affordable housing units – the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Lind cites the bipartisan policy of pushing home ownership instead of renting, including the policy of selling houses to those with no jobs, assets, or income  

In addition, Lind advocates a housing policy that would help the middle-class and poor because universal programs that help large segments of the population are more popular – think Social Security and Medicare! A new housing policy would not discriminate between owners and renters. Lind proposes a universal federal tax credit that would help the middle-class and poor. This would keep political conservatives from pitting the middle-class against the poor in the name of the rich. This tax would be refundable like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, meaning people too poor to pay income taxes would receive checks from the federal government.  

Some form of federal regulation would be needed to keep landlords and home sellers from raising their prices to compensate for the size of the tax credit. Commissions on tax reform have often talked about replacing the current tax credit for mortgages -which helps many middle-class and upper-middle class people buy homes but do little to help the increasing number of low-income people – with a more simple tax credit. In addition, homeless shelters should be constructed for those who have no money at all.  Lind’s ideas provide some concrete steps on how to stop the commodification of housing, the goal of Madden and Marcuse.

I myself penned a story with some relevant ideas in 2013 called “Addressing Housing Affordability Using Cooperatives.”  According to the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC), cooperative housing is defined as when “people join together on a democratic basis to own and control the housing or community facilities where they live.” Each month those who live in a housing cooperative pay their share of the expenses while sharing the benefits of the cooperative. According to the NAHC, 1.2 million families live in cooperative housing in the United States. I suggested the formation of a Cooperative Housing Authority, with funding from Fannie Mae, that would purchase old houses and turn them into coop housing.  Coop housing could also be built from scratch. Such housing is more affordable to working people because the profit motive is eliminated. Such housing can come in apartment form or in the form of single-family housing.  Some will question the affordability of such a proposal.

But, then again, housing is not the only area where we see hyper-commodification. The defense industry is another area where it is rampant. Defense should be about defending our country, but we cannot have a defense that deforms the society it is trying to defend.  Felix Salmon and Hans Nichols’ story “The Defense Industry Worries About Biden” tells us much about how the defense industry operates.  The story points out that the biggest defense companies – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics – usually see revenue increases under Republican administrations and that those companies are worried that a Biden Administration will not be as generous to them as the Trump Administration.  The four defense contractors are now collectively worth $304 billion. That is down $70 billion, or 19 percent, from the February 2020 high. These companies are quite naturally pushing an agenda where they draw as much revenue as possible!  

There is little discussion in our country about what type of defense is needed or not needed. The discussion is controlled by the defense companies that provide money for political campaigns and that purchase advertising in our media. What we have is a huge military-industrial complex that produces profits for a few companies and a defense structure designed to fight the Soviet Union in a world where it does not exist. We really need to rethink the meaning of security.

Let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the literature of the New Left. The Port Huron Statement, the document created by Students for a Democratic Society, called for participatory democracy where everyone becomes engaged in issues that affect all people – in civil rights, in political accountability, in labor rights, and in nuclear disarmament. Let us be involved in a movement to bring both housing and defense back to the people!  

 Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis. 

BIDEN/HARRIS WON – NOW WHAT?

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend 

Opponents of President Donald Trump have every right to be happy about the election of Joe Biden to the office of President of the United States.  Biden flipped Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia. The Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket ran close in Florida and North Carolina and did better than the Clinton/Kaine ticket in various states. Mr. Biden won the popular vote by three percentage points and will most likely win it by about around six million votes. The Democratic Party picked up two seats in the Senate on election day and maintained control of the house. Grassroots organizing for the Democratic Party was at an all-time high. It put together an even larger coalition than the Barack Obama coalition and there was a huge effort to turn out the vote, even in a time when Covid-19 was ravaging the country.

Congratulations to all of those who worked to elect Joe Biden President and Kamala Harris Vice-President. Some worked to turn out the vote, gave each other rides to the polls, and worked for change with a lot of energy to turn back the tide of Trumpism. Biden has made commitments to turn back Trump-era rules via executive order. We support the Grassroots Law Project’s Federal Policy Plan, and we want Biden to move forward on climate change, criminal justice reform, and comprehensive immigration reform, ext.  Biden must also be pushed on healthcare, housing, childcare, eldercare, and research and development.   

Now for the bad news: the Democrats failed to seize control of the Senate, and the party lost seats in the House of Representatives. It’s sad to see infighting in the party as to why it didn’t do better in many races. The bickering is counterproductive – here’s why: the United States has a large diverse culture with many races, religions, political ideologies, two major political parties, several third parties and many people who are apolitical. The center-left side of the political spectrum must work to bring the country together with an economic agenda that fights poverty and expands the middle class. Expanded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other forms of health insurance, expanded collective bargaining and workplace representation, and affordable housing should be at the top of the agenda. Social democrats must also stand for civil rights for nonwhites, women, and gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered Americans. We must also fight for the legalization of undocumented immigrants. While we support our brothers and sisters in the progressive wing of the party – we will always have Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s back –  we must also recognize the fact that not all Democrats are progressive and not all progressive Democrats can beat Republicans just anywhere in this country. 

Party infighting does our cause no good! Bernie Sanders can win a statewide election in Vermont and AOC can win in a congressional district in New York City. However, Mark Kelley can win in a state like Arizona and Conner Lamb can win in a district that includes Pittsburg and the surrounding suburbs. While the energy of the Democratic Party is certainly with the progressives, party supporters must realize what a diverse country we are and that different candidates win in different parts of the country. For instance, former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill lost her race in 2018 by five points in 2018 and Democratic statewide candidates lost by 17 points in 2020. (Let us not forget that 55 percent of women voted for Donald Trump). Progressives have pushed their ideas in the realm of the Democratic Party and have made policy proposals like Medicare for all, a substantially higher minimum wage, and expanded collective bargaining rights a part of the national discussion. Progressives should try to push the moderates in their direction on those issues and many more. If the two sides win together, then Americans would benefit. The Socialist Party of America included people of many different views when it was able to make a minor dent in the electoral system in the days of Eugene Debs, as there were revolutionary Marxists, sewer socialists, and people of other stripes active then. If we want to see the progressive dream come to life, we must stand in solidarity and work together like our lives depend upon it – just as we have done in 2020!   

These simple ideas must be pushed forward in the weeks, months, and years ahead. In less than a year, we will have more elections and a midterm election in 2022. Donald Trump has already said he might run again in 2024. The former president is likely to be a force in American politics in the years to come. Right-wing media is locked and loaded, so let’s put up a united front in opposition to Trumpism!

Let’s not forget the upcoming Senate elections in January. If Mitch McConnell remains in control of the Senate, our entire progressive agenda is in peril.   Again, we must commit ourselves to working for the Democrats as if our lives depend upon it! To find out how to become involved in the Georgia Senate Races, link to the Georgia Democratic Party – https://www.georgiademocrat.org/take-action/ 

Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis. 

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

Protect the Results Organizing to Protect the Results of the 2020 Election

Protect the Results

Organizing to Protect the Results of the 2020 Election

We are building a coalition of voters ready to mobilize if Trump undermines the results of the 2020 presidential election.    

WE’RE NOT ACTIVATING NATIONAL MOBILIZATIONS YET — BUT BE READY

Americans across race and zip code turned out in historic numbers to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Election officials are continuing to count votes across the country, and the outcome of this election will be decided by the voters. While the coalition will not be activating its national network, some local organizers may still hold “Count Every Vote” events in their community.

Find An Event Near You

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Learn more about how you can help protect the integrity of the 2020 election with our Protect the Results Event Host Toolkit. LEARN MORE

Preventing a Constitutional Crisis

Throughout American history, when a president has lost re-election, he has always stepped down willingly. Accepting the will of the people, and allowing a peaceful transition of power, is a hallmark of American democracy.

But today, Trump routinely ignores democratic norms and continues to chip away at democratic institutions. In 2016, Trump repeatedly threatened to undermine the election results, and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has warned Congress that “given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Most recently, Trump even threatened to “deploy the United States military” against the American people to quash peaceful protests. There is no line he won’t cross.

With COVID-19 poised to wreak havoc for months to come, the threat to our democracy is particularly acute. As Congress works to expand mail-in voting and in-person early voting, we must prevent Trump from using this moment to sow discord, confusion, and doubt on the November election results.

We cannot ignore the threat that Trump poses to our democracy and a peaceful transition. We will stand together to ensure that if Trump loses the 2020 presidential election he will not throw our country into a constitutional crisis. We will honor the valid results of the 2020 election, ensure that every vote is counted, and show up to demand that the losing candidate put their ego aside and concede for the good of our country.

“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election . . . if I win.”

— DONALD TRUMP, OCTOBER 2016

Photo by Gage Skidmore

“Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told her party to prepare for the possibility that Trump contests the 2020 results.”

— Politico

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Count Every Vote

Trump threatened to undermine the results in 2016. He claimed the election was “rigged” and “millions of people” were voting unlawfully. Afterward, he claimed—without evidence—that he actually won the popular vote in 2016.

Trump has repeatedly hinted that he will not leave the White House willingly. He warned that “people would demand that I stay longer” and even mused about being president for 20 years.

In 2020, we will not allow Trump to follow through on those threats. We will demand that every vote be counted, even if it takes days or weeks to get an accurate count from critical states, especially given the expansion of mail-in and absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will organize to ensure that the loser concedes, and that Congress, the Electoral College, and state officials honor the accurate, final vote count.

“I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance. A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility.”

— Senator John McCain

About Us

Protect the Results is a joint project of Indivisible and Stand Up America to protect the valid results of the 2020 election.

Indivisible and Stand Up America are committed to strengthening our democracy and supporting progressives and progressive causes. All Americans—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—must be prepared to protect and defend the valid results of the election whether their preferred candidate wins or loses.

If Trump loses, he must accept those results. Our democracy depends on it.

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In The News

  • Reuters, Americans Plan Widespread Protests If Trump Interferes With Election
  • The Hill, Over 170 events planned nationwide by advocacy groups after election to make sure all ballots are counted
  • Newsweek, Over 200 Protests Already Planned If Trump Attempts to Dispute Election Results, Prematurely Declare Victory
  • Vanity Fair, Democrats are Girding for Post-Election Chaos
  • The Nation, Is Trump Planning a Coup d’État?
  • The New Yorker, What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results
  • NYTimes, Trump Might Cheat. Activists Are Getting Ready.
  • Axios, Trump declines to say he’ll accept results of election: “I have to see”
  • Washington Post, Refusal to concede? Vote counting delays? Groups brace for the worst
  • NYTimes, Will Trump Ever Leave the White House?
  • NYTimes, Pelosi Warns Democrats
  • NYTimes, Populists Don’t Lose Elections
  • CNN, Donald Trump: ‘I will totally accept’ election results ‘if I win’
  • NBCNews, GOP Slams Trump: Not Accepting Election Results Would Be ‘Beyond the Pale’
  • Politico, What if Trump won’t accept 2020 defeat?
  • Newsweek, Trump Jokes Being President for 16 Years, Adds, “I’m Not Looking to do it, Unless you Want To Do It.”
  • Slate, What Happens if Trump Won’t Step Down?
  • CNN op-ed, What if Trump refuses to accept defeat in 2020?
  • Vice, The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Loses in 2020 and Refuses to Concede
  • NYTimes, Could Donald Trump Reject the Election Results? Yes. Would It Do Any Good? Nope.
  • Slate, Trump’s Jokes About Defying Election Results Could Create Chaos
  • NYMag, Odds of a Contested November Election Are on the Rise
  • Slate, What Happens in November if One Side Doesn’t Accept the Election Results?
  • NY Post, Schiff ‘worried’ Trump may try to keep people from voting in 2020
  • U.S. News and World Report, Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Threaten Election Legitimacy?
  • Washington Post, We need to prepare for the possibility of Trump rejecting election results
  • New York Magazine, Trump Is Laying the Groundwork to Contest the Results of the Election
  • Vox, Will He Go? A Law Professor Fears Meltdown This November
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“NOBODY PUTS LENIN IN A CORNER!”

by Michael Mottern

Movie Review: Red Dawn –> “How a Kid of the Cold War can teach an entire class on this historic action film starring that Dirty Dancing duo, Patrick Swayze & Jennifer Gray, plus Charlie Sheen and countless other recognizable stars.”

Red Dawn, the 1984 version, is one of my all-time favorite action movies. As a “Kid of the Cold War,” this movie seemed very realistic for its time, and after watching it with my grandmother when I was six (or maybe seven), I now hope it didn’t bring back bad memories from her past. She. after all, was smack dab in the middle of it, as a 7-year-old during the Soviet invasion of Estonia in 1940, the beginning of Stalin’s regime in the Baltic after the Hitler-Stalin Pact ended. 

The film is very good, not because it’s done well or even made with a high budget ($17 million to be exact). However as Charlie Blakemore, a social liberal buddy of mine from Dartmouth Film School told me when I was in high school, the film was “b*******!!”. Charlie, an intellectual, a film critic, and a person with a bias who did not have a personal connection with the Soviet Union like I did, tend to think in ways opposite from me, although none of us are like old Cold Warriors like my father.  Charlie, like most social liberals, is not overly concerned about the issues of the Cold War and the awesome power of the Soviet Union and the million dollar question of the movie: could the Russian motherland with the help of the Cuban and Nicaraguan armies actually invade the US? That by far is well conceived, especially in the brief historical introduction before the famous parachute scene. With the help of a good soundtrack, Red Dawn comes ‘parachuting’ into our living rooms with a genuine Russian invasion that comes across as very realistic. 

After Gorbachev (a reformer) came to power, US/Soviet tension started to fizzle away. But in 1983-84 because of the US and Soviet nuclear arsenal, the Doomsday Clock was closer to midnight, so Red Dawn was the perfect film for the US and Hollywood at that time. Not because of the lack of historical evidence, but the fact that it was all too real by 1984 standards. When talking to Marxists,  neo-Marxist and some social liberals like Charlie, they all immediately say the same thing: “Well it never happened…” The fact that any such invasion didn’t happen is by far a miracle unto itself, considering what could have happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in West Berlin during the Cold War. We saw it in the hawkish policies of Reagan administration in the early years of the 1980s, when Reagan remilitarized Western Europe with nuclear weapons in West Germany. 

When I say I could teach an entire class on this film, it’s not about the cinematography but about the historical realism of it – the introduction of the movie is a real treat! The beginning of the movie starts with a pretty cool soundtrack, and an introduction that reads like cold war manuscript. The movie’s intro:

1. “Soviet Union suffers from the worst famine in 75 years.” 

2. “Labor riots and food shortages in Poland.” 

3. “Cuban and Nicaraguan armies reach troop strengths up to 500,000.”

4. “Mexico plunges into revolution.” 

5. “Greens take over parliament in Western Germany and demands all US missiles withdraw from European soil.” 

6. “NATO dissolves! United States stands alone.”

Other than the part about the Greens taking over Parliament in Germany and NATO dissolving, the introduction sounded very historically accurate and in some parts very scary and familiar. The US was hated in Nicaragua due to its backing of the Somoza dynasty, with the Sandanistas subsequently turning to the Soviets. In Germany, as we know, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the Solidarity union arose in Poland.

Directed by John Milius, I give the movie an A+ for historical accuracy, and award it 4 stars out of 5 as a great action film!! I would refer it to all my friends and family. The movie is rated PG-13 and because of violence may not be suitable for younger viewers

Michael Mottern is Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA.

TURKEY AND NATO

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend  

The essence of social democracy is the idea that citizens must take control of their lives through democratic systems.  Social democrats believe in the extension of democracy into the economic realm via labor unions, social insurance, social welfare programs, public ownership in a handful of areas and the regulation of business.

The democratic world currently faces challenges from authoritarian and totalitarian systems the world over. One of these problems is Turkey. Their current leader, Recep Erdogan, represents a tendency that some call authoritarian democracy – a semi-democratic form of government where a faction wins power democratically and then uses its power to undermine segments of democratic rule. Turkey currently belongs to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but there is a powerful argument to be made that it does not belong there.  Former French Socialist President Francois Hollande said Turkey should be stripped of membership since it attacked Kurdish militias in Syria. The Kurds were a strong ally (fighting forces) in the war against the Islamic State. In our country, even US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for bipartisan sanctions and a suspension of Turkey’s membership in NATO.  

Matters are not as simple as kicking Turkey out.  While many multilateral institutions allow for the suspension of wayward members, NATO has no such rules. However, some NATO. members have put diplomatic pressure on wayward members at times. One way to expel Turkey would be to look toward the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, an international agreement regulating treaties between states. Although the 1969 treaty was never ratified by our nation, we usually follow at least some of it as customary law. The Vienna Convention codifies several standards of international law. NATO member states at the organization’s 70th anniversary in 2018 reinforced the ideas behind Vienna: democracy, the rule of law and human rights.  If Turkey is in violation of the Vienna Convention – and it is – then it can be expelled from NATO.  

One must look at Turkey’s other alliances. The country is in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Russia (a NATO opponent), China and Iran. Turkey recently purchased a missile system from Russia! The Jerusalem Post reported on this provocative transaction. Turkey is also in possession of several nuclear warheads that should not be in the hands of such an anti-democratic, anti-Western, and anti-American power. It is acting like a power that is purely pursing its own interest at the expense of some of its allies because it is trying to create a modern-day version of the Ottoman Empire. While Turkey said it was opposed to Islamic State during the fight against it, Turkish customs officials let ISIS fighters cross the border into Syria throughout that very fight. Turkish intelligence also gave support to ISIS, who was fighting the Turks’ nemesis – the Kurds. Turkey both wants to be a NATO member because it wants to be a part of a powerful economic block and also be able strike out at enemies at any time with impunity. Even under Erdogan’s Islamist government, Turkey has no intention of living in the Dark Ages like the Taliban in Afghanistan; at the same time, the country wants to be able to pursue its interests by other means.  

There seems to be no end to Turkey’s current destructive behavior. It currently backs Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia. The war is deadlier than it would ordinarily be because of Turkey’s involvement, making it harder for diplomacy to resolve the conflict. Turkey’s behavior is partially motivated by ethnic hatred of the Kurds and the Armenians and religious bigotry against Arab Christians. Erdogan aims for the ethnic cleansing of all that he hates.  

There is a segment of Turkey that does not agree with Erdogan. His Law and Justice Party was dealt a string of defeats in municipal elections in 2019. At one time, Turkey applied for European Union membership, as a portion of the country looks to the West. Until such time as a legitimate democratic opposition party/coalition comes to power, Turkey should be expelled from NATO in the good name of the form of government known as the democratic republic.

Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis.  

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.