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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!