Rumblings on the Democratic Left?

A strong challenge may be building in the Democratic Party to the corporate interests that have dominated the Party during the Clinton and Obama administrations. MoveOn.org has polled its membership regarding a Presidential run by Senator Elizabeth Warren, and, not too surprisingly, a large majority was enthusiastic about such run. On a more practical level, Senator Warren is sharpening her opposition to the White House nomination of a Lazard Freres partner to a high position in the Treasury Department, pointing out that it is a conspicuous example of the revolving door between Wall Street and government. In the meantime, Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders is casting loving eyes on Iowa’s Democrats and has issued a sharp-edged statement that could serve as a national platform.

All such movements toward a left revolt in the Party are positive and should be welcomed by Social Democrats. At our recent convention, we determined to work toward a social democratic platform for the Democratic Party in 2016. As important as such work is, the nature of our national political process is that a flesh and blood candidate is the best communicator of programs. In Senators Warren and Sanders we have articulate, principled
prospective candidates who understand the real problems of the American people.

At the least, a left candidacy would force Senator Hillary Clinton to forsake the mush-mouthed rhetoric that she would otherwise favor and that brought defeat to so many Democratic candidates in the last election.

Posted in Uncategorized by Eldon Clingan. 3 Comments

Mass. Voters Give Thumbs Up to Sick Pay

Amid the gloom of the recent elections, there was at least a small light: Massachusetts voters, by a 59 percent majority, approved a ballot question to allow almost 900,000 workers to earn up to 5 days of paid sick leave each year. This question appeared on the ballot and was victorious because of a strong effort by a coalition of labor and progressive groups, including Massachusetts Social Democrats.

Earlier in the year, the same coalition gained an enormous victory when the state legislature, faced with a companion minimum wage ballot question, voted to increase in stages the minimum wage to $11 per hour. The coalition had been obliged to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to bring the two measures to the voters, but cooperation between labor and progressive organizations paid off, largely for better lives for low-wage families.

At least two lessons can be drawn from the Massachusetts victories. First, local action is a way around Washington gridlock. Second, proposals that clearly benefit the people have electoral appeal. The Democrats who tried to blur the issues in the election and who went down to defeat should take careful note.

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SDUSA Convention 2014

On October 23/24 of this year, Social Democrats USA held its biennial convention in Pittsburgh— more specifically, Carnegie, Pennsylvania.  The first day consisted of internal working meetings of our organization.  But Friday was reserved for a Public Forum. The forum has two sessions, spliced together into a single video. The total duration of the video is 2 hours and 53 minutes. Our thanks to Jordan McMillen at Cut N Run Studios for the video work. And thanks to Hans Gruenert for the use of the Theater.

Session I focuses on political issues; it features:

Dr. Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science, Barnard College
Dr. Berman is an expert on the development of Social Democracy in Europe; she is also a member of the SDUSA Advisory Council

Herb Engstrom, member of the Executive Committee of the California Democratic Party, and an SDUSA member

Joe Ryan, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at St. Francis College, and an SDUSA member

Session II (starting at 1:40:00) focuses on labor issues; it features:

A video that the SEIU made to publicize the plight of UPMC workers

Ben Brewer, SEUI Asst. Organizing Director of health care workers in Pennsylvania

Jim Staus, former UPMC worker who was fired for engaging in labor organizing

Jeff Ballinger, international labor rights activist, and former SDUSA Executive Director

We will be editing this 3 hour video into smaller pieces to make it a little easier for consumption.  But for now, enjoy. CLICK HERE

Where have all the social dems gone?

Yesterday I saw a tweet from Ed Miliband, leader of the British Labour Party, urging Scots to vote “no” on the independence referendum. Most Britons (or should I say Englanders?), left and right, have been hoping that the Scots will stay. Is Miliband’s plea coming from a sincere belief that the “Better Together” campaign represents true social democracy? Or is it coming from a fear of the diminished status of a smaller UK? Or is he simply a mouthpiece for the bankers who are now running pretty much everything in the West? Specifically, here’s his retweet of the Labour Party post:

Miliband Labour scaremongering

Miliband Labour scaremongering

So, Miliband is saying that Scotland would lose the commercial banks that have wrecked the economy of the West through their irresponsible and criminal behavior, caused massive unemployment, and shifted incredible amounts of wealth from average citizens to the 1%. Is that something that Scots should be fearing— that the cancer would up and walk away from Scotland? I’m quite sure Mr. Miliband, that if there’s money to be made in Scotland, the banksters will be on the spot with a smile. The entire “No independence” campaign has been embarrassing.  The primary tactic is to make Scots afraid of a future without London. The same scare tactic has been used in every country that broke from the crown, including the U.S. “Is it worth the risk”? is the question they’re asking.  Let’s rephrase that. “Is having the right to control your future really that important? Isn’t it better to just let London tell you what to do?” Signs for the Better Together campaign politely read, “No, thanks”, as if to say, “thanks for asking me if I want freedom, but no thanks, I don’t want to think for myself”. Even the TV spot that they ran last week has everyone shaking their heads as the woman in the video says, “My Paul wants to know if I’ve made a decision on how I’ll vote. But I’m busy and there’s only so many hours in a day”. That’s right, she has to cook oatmeal for the children. She really doesn’t have time to think about the future of her country; that’s mens’ business. Take a look #PatronisingBTLady for a funny, but sad, look at the Better Together argument.nothanks

Another facet of the BT campaign has been to accuse the Yes voters of being right wing xenophobes like the National Front in France or Jobbik in Hungary. But of course, the driving motivation of those parties is a hatred of Muslims, Romas, and Jews. There is no comparison between the extreme Right and the Yes voters in Scotland. The Scots just want their autonomy. Because the BT campaign has no substantial arguments against Scottish independence, they’ve cooked up these bizarre accusations. What the BT campaign should be saying is, “If you want your independence, that’s fine. We respect that. If you vote “yes” on Thursday, we hope that you will join us in coalition for our mutual defense and any other projects that we can do better together.” Isn’t that what Better Together should mean?

yes-scotland

One has to wonder what has happened to Labour. Whatever virus they have contracted, it appears that the French Parti Socialiste has contracted it as well. Yesterday, French parliament gave a thumbs-up to the Socialist government to go forward with a plan to cut corporate taxes by €50B and pay for it by cutting social services by the same amount. The business-friendly socialist finance minister (now that’s an interesting creature) Manuel Valls believes it will spur jobs growth. Perhaps he should take a look at how repeated corporate tax reductions in America have created NO jobs, but have made Wall Street incredibly wealthy. The wealth disparity in the U.S. is now comparable to what it was in the 1800’s during the era of the robber barons. There are two things that creates jobs. One, increased government spending on things like highways, schools, health care. Two, put more money into the pockets of consumers by increasing wages. Discounts to billionaires is not one of those things. Social democratic parties do themselves no favors by courting the rich. As the voters realize what you’re doing, they will abandon you. French newspapers report that as many as 30 Socialist MPs abstained from yesterday’s confidence vote rather than support their own party in such scandalous behavior. What is the message that the PS is sending to the people? If you are concerned with your health, education, pension, and the future of your nation, you should switch to the Communist Party.  This is the wrong message!

Social democracy has a great and true tradition of working for the welfare of all citizens, not just 1% of the citizens. Social democratic parties such as Labour, PS, and SPD, must look at their roots and basic guiding principles and come back to the left. The same is true for the U.S. Democratic Party. Let us not be afraid of the New Deal. Let us not be afraid of “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Let us not be afraid, period.

 

 

Bay State Workers Win Min Wage Victory, Prepare for Sick Pay Fight

Almost half a million Massachusetts low-wage workers won a significant victory on June 26th, when Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill to raise the minimum wage in stages to $11 per hour in 2017, the highest minimum wage in the country. His signature was the culmination of a two-year campaign by thousands of labor and progressive activists, including Massachusetts Social Democrats, who gathered thousands of signatures on petitions to put a minimum wage question on the ballot. While the state legislature moved to forestall action on the minimum wage by the voters, it did not respond to the companion campaign for a paid sick leave proposal, which will be on the ballot in November. The activist coalition is gearing up for that fight.

As important as the new law is, it has several shortcomings:
First, it contains no provision for indexing the minimum wage.
Second, even $11 per hour will not raise a family of four above the totally inadequate poverty level of $23,492.
Third, as Massachusetts Social Democrats pointed out at the legislative hearing on the bill, given the higher rate of unemployment among low-wage workers, they cannot rely on getting a nearly sufficient annual income at the new minimum wage. A full employment program is an essential complement to an adequate minimum wage, MSD observed.

Much work remains to be done, starting with winning paid sick leave in November.

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