Elizabeth Warren unveils bold new plan to reshape American capitalism

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/15/elizabeth-warren-accountable-capitalism-act-richest-companies

Accountable Capitalism Act would bring about ‘fundamental change’, redistribute wealth and give more power to workers

in New York
Wed 15 Aug 2018

Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator tipped as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, has unveiled new plans for legislation aimed at reining in big corporations, redistributing wealth, and giving workers and local communities a bigger say.

Warren will introduce the bill dubbed the Accountable Capitalism Act on Wednesday. The proposal aims to alter a model she says has caused corporations to chase profits for shareholders to the detriment of workers.

Under the legislation, corporations with more than $1bn in annual revenue would be required to obtain a corporate charter from the federal government – and the document would mandate that companies not just consider the financial interests of shareholders.

Instead, businesses would have to consider all major corporate stakeholders – which could include workers, customers, and the cities and towns where those corporations operate.

Anyone who owns shares in the company could sue if they believed corporate directors were not meeting their obligations.

Employees at large corporations would be able to elect at least 40% of the board of directors. An estimated 3,500 public US companies and hundreds of other private companies would be covered by the mandates.

In an article announcing the bill, Warren said she was looking to reverse “a fundamental change in business practices” dating back three decades that made corporations beholden to the bottom line at the expense of better worker wages and local investment.

“The obsession with maximizing shareholder returns effectively means America’s biggest companies have dedicated themselves to making the rich even richer,” she wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal would create a new Office of United States Corporations within the Department of Commerce, which would be responsible for granting the charters – and which could revoke a charter if a state attorney general requests it, and the office finds the firm has a history of egregious and repeated illegal conduct and has failed take action to correct it.

Large companies dedicated 93% of their earnings to shareholders between 2007 and 2016 – a shift from the early 1980s, when they sent less than half their revenue to shareholders and spent the rest on employees and other priorities, Warren said.

“Real wages have stagnated even as productivity has continued to rise. Workers aren’t getting what they’ve earned. Companies also are setting themselves up to fail,” she wrote.

Corporations currently get their charters at the state level.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/15/elizabeth-warren-accountable-capitalism-act-richest-companies

Something is rotten at Fox News

FBI, other agencies investigating threats against Oklahoma trans girl

From The Dallas Voice:  https://www.dallasvoice.com/update-fbi-other-agencies-investigating-threats-against-oklahoma-trans-girl-10256758.html

Aug 14, 2018

Several agencies, including the FBI are “stepping in” to investigate threats made online against a 12-year-old transgender girl in Achille, Okla., to determine if those threats constitute a hate crime, according to Sherman, Texas TV station KXII Channel 12, a Fox TV station.

The same TV station reported Monday, Aug. 13, that officials with the Achille Independent School District have decided to close school — which just opened for the school year in the middle of last week — until Wednesday, Aug, 15, due to safety concerns. There are also reports that a rally in support of the child and her family is planned for Wednesday morning when school reopens.

The girl, Maddie, is now in the 7th grade and has been attending school in Achille since 5th grade. Her mother, Brandy Rose, told KXII that her daughter has been living as a girl for years and that when they moved to Achille and the child started school there, there was no problem until another student accused Maddie of peeking under a bathroom stall. The mother explained that her daughter “leans very far forward to use the bathroom. I can understand why someone seeing her lean forward would think, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s trying to look under.’”

She said Maddie didn’t get in trouble then, but school officials did make arrangements for her to use the staff restroom after that. But when school started last week, she was in a building that was new to her and did not know where the staff restroom was, so she used the girl’s restroom. Another student’s mother found out and posted online in the Achille ISD Parent Group on Facebook.

The woman, Jamie Crenshaw, wrote: “The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY . . . Looks like it’s gonna be a long year.” Responses to Crenshaw’s post, all from adults, included insults like calling the trans girl “a thing,” “it” and “a half-baked maggot,” along with actual physical threats against her, with one man suggesting that other children be encouraged to “kick ass in the bathroom.”

One man even wrote: “If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.”

Achille Public School Superintendent Rick Beene clarified that contrary to initial reports, only Jamie Crenshaw’s initial post was made to the parents group, which has since been shut down. He said the other messages and responses came from people in other parts of Oklahoma and in Texas, according to The Washington Post.

Jamie Crenshaw’s original post was shared on a relative’s Facebook account, which then drew many of the other derogatory responses, according to reports.

Can liberals please work out how to win back the working class?

I would think a good start would involve actually being liberal and representing the people instead of the corporate interests. It might also help to actually campaign in places outside of the enclaves where Democratic support is pretty much a given.  Here in Texas Beto O’Rourke is actually giving the humanoid lizard Ted Cruz a serious challenge.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/liberals-donald-trump-rightwing-populism

I’m taking a pause from journalism – while I’m gone, can someone please tell the Democrats that they need to stop betraying the movements that support them


Fri 27 Jul 2018

The other day I noticed, with something of a shock, that Brett Kavanaugh, the supreme court nominee, is almost exactly the same age as me. I have always scoffed at those of my generation who cynically hitched their star to the conservative movement but now, as I take my leave from this space, it occurs to me that maybe they played the game right after all.

I started out in journalism in the orange-fingered sunset of the Reagan era. The rise of the right, I felt back then, was the most consequential development of my lifetime, and understanding it was where I came to focus my energies.

What came to fascinate me was the paradox of the thing. Republicans had successfully inverted their historical brand-image as the party of the highborn, remaking themselves as plain-talking pals of the forgotten people who had so spurned them during the Great Depression. Republicanism’s payload, however, was the same as it had been in 1932. And just look at what conservatism proceeded to do to those average people once they welcomed it into their lives.

But understanding the perversity of rightwing populism only brought me to another mystery: the continuing failure of liberals to defeat this thing, even as its freakishness and destructiveness became apparent to everyone. My brain twirls to think that rightwing populism is still running strong in 2018 – that it’s even worse now than it was in 1988 – that the invective and the journalism and the TV shows and all the mournful books about the decline of the middle class have amounted, basically, to nothing.

We had the perfect opportunity to reverse course in 2008, after a deregulatory catastrophe sent the billionaires shrieking for handouts and ruined middle America as collateral damage. That was the perfect moment for liberals to reclaim their Rooseveltian heritage by governing forcefully on behalf of ordinary people, by warring against over-powerful corporations, by demonstrating the power of the state to build a just and humane society. But they didn’t do it.

I know the excuses: those Republicans were so clever, they wouldn’t vote for Obama’s proposals, etc. But from the long-term perspective, what really mattered was the absence of Democratic will. Instead of doing what the moment required, Democrats chose to help the banks get back on their feet and to stand by as inequality soared; they scolded their base for wanting too much and they extended their hand instead to Silicon Valley and big pharma. The task of capturing public anger was one they regarded with distaste; they left that to Tea Party demagogues and to Donald Trump.

We are going to pay for that failure for a long time. The GOP should have been ruined by the financial crisis; instead the culture wars are raging all over again, with dog whistles and fights over the flag and the persecution mania of the populist right blaring from the TV screen. We’re right back where we started. The crisis went completely to waste.

For all their cunning, Republicans are a known quantity. Their motives are simple: they will do anything, say anything, profess faith in anything to get tax cuts, deregulation and a little help keeping workers in line. Nothing else is sacred to them. Rules, norms, traditions, deficits, the Bible, the constitution, whatever. They don’t care, and in this they have proven utterly predictable.

The Democrats, however, remain a mystery. We watch them hesitate at crucial moments, betray the movements that support them, and even try to suppress the leaders and ideas that generate any kind of populist electricity. Not only do they seem uninterested in doing their duty toward the middle class, but sometimes we suspect they don’t even want to win.

(This is more than just a suspicion, by the way. As none other than Tony Blair has said, “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”)

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/liberals-donald-trump-rightwing-populism

Christine Hallquist, a Transgender Woman, Wins Vermont Governor’s Primary

Yet another reason why Vermont is one of the coolest places in the nation.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/us/politics/christine-hallquist-vermont.html

By Jess Bidgood
Aug. 14, 2018

BURLINGTON, Vt. — On a cloudy afternoon this summer, Christine Hallquist, a former utility executive from Vermont, listened closely as Danica Roem, the Virginia state delegate who won national recognition when she became the first transgender person elected to her state’s Legislature, offered tips as the pair canvassed a stark residential neighborhood here.

Ms. Hallquist is transgender, too, but Ms. Roem’s advice had nothing to do with gender identity. Try a light, rhythmic knock. Leave a handwritten note with campaign literature if no one is home. Try to earn every vote.

“I have so much to learn,” Ms. Hallquist said, duly incorporating Ms. Roem’s lessons with each new knock.

On Tuesday, those lessons paid off, and Ms. Hallquist, a Democrat, made history of her own. She became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship by a major party, beating three other candidates in Vermont’s Democratic primary, according to The Associated Press.

“Tonight, we made history,” Ms. Hallquist said, addressing supporters at an election night party in Burlington. She added, “I am so proud to be the face of the Democrats tonight.”

It is a remarkable milestone, even for an election year already dominated by an influx of women and a record number of candidates who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or queer.

“Christine’s victory is a defining moment in the movement for trans equality and is especially remarkable given how few out trans elected officials there are at any level of government,” said Annise Parker, the chief executive of the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Fund, which trains and supports gay and transgender candidates, in a statement on Tuesday evening. “Yet Vermont voters chose Christine not because of her gender identity, but because she is an open and authentic candidate with a long history of service to the state, and who speaks to the issues most important to voters.”

Ms. Hallquist was not the only transgender candidate on the ballot in the country in recent days. In Hawaii on Saturday, Kim Coco Iwamoto, a lawyer, lost her bid to be the Democrats’ nominee for lieutenant governor.

And more transgender candidates will be on the ballot soon, including Alexandra Chandler, a former naval intelligence analyst who is running in Massachusetts’s Third District. Ms. Chandler is trying to differentiate herself in a crowded congressional primary in early September by emphasizing both her national security bona fides and the historic nature of her candidacy. “I’m running for Congress,” she said in a recent campaign video, “to be a voice for trans kids out there.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/us/politics/christine-hallquist-vermont.html

Why do white supremacists hate Jews? Because we Jews can fight them.

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/white-supremacists-hate-jews-but-weve-got-more-power-than-most-to-fight-back/


August 16, 2017

Anti-Semitism is again back in the news.

Some of the posters at the Charlottesville white supremacist demonstrations this weekend featured a man taking a hammer to a Star of David — the biggest threat, the thing that needs to be destroyed. Marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil!”, a direct translation of the Nazi slogan “blut und boden,” which plays on the notion of Jews as powerful, dangerous interlopers.

This comes toward the end of a summer that included the Chicago Dyke March ejecting participants with a Star of David on a gay pride flag on the misguided-at-best grounds that it went “against the march’s anti-racist core values” and heated debates about whether Gal Gadot, an Ashkenazi Israeli, is a person of color. Particularly in recent years, there has rightfully been increased talk about the ways in which many Ashkenazi Jews in America do have white privilege.

So are we oppressed? Or what? The reasons that question may feel complicated go back around a thousand years. Since the dawn of modern anti-Semitism, hatred toward Jews has been deeply intertwined with the idea of Jews having unique sorts of advantages.

In the Middle Ages, Jews were barred from many trades and professions, and it was sometimes illegal for Jews to own land. It was convenient for local authorities to permit Jews to work in trades that were repugnant to Christians — most notably moneylending, which was associated in the Christian world with depravity and sin.

From a Jewish perspective, moneylending was a useful line of work for two reasons. First, it was somewhat portable, and when times were lucky it enabled our ancestors to have liquid assets — both of which were practical during an era when expulsions of Jews from villages and even whole countries were not uncommon. It was also profitable. Most late medieval and early modern European polities taxed Jews at jaw-droppingly high rates, so loaning out money was essential for communities’ survival. A very small subset of Jews began handling money because it was a viable option and a practical necessity. And then they were resented for it — and identified with the work in a way that Christian bankers never were. Even as early as 1233, anti-Semitic drawings depicted the usurious Jew, using many of the same themes one might find in a quick Google search.

Most Jews throughout history lived a fairly precarious existence, economically and otherwise. Many times in history we have been tolerated, and even embraced, by the rulers and locals of our host country. But we have also been subject to expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions and genocide many times over — often, indeed, fueled by the trope of the greedy, crooked Jew serving as the scapegoat for other stresses and complexities in society. Often, the shift from living in peace to the bottom dropping out happened very quickly.

So here’s the paradox: Anti-Semitism and Jewish privilege are, and have long been, two sides of the same coin. Even now, I feel it keenly.

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/white-supremacists-hate-jews-but-weve-got-more-power-than-most-to-fight-back/

Single Payer Is Actually a Huge Bargain

From The Nation:  https://www.thenation.com/article/single-payer-actually-huge-bargain/

It would save both dollars and lives compared to our current system.

By Steffie WoolhandlerDavid U. Himmelstein and Adam Gaffney<
August 10, 2018

Last week, Charles Blahous at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University published a study suggesting that Bernie Sanders’s single-payer health-care plan would break the bank. But almost immediately, various observers—including Sanders himself—noted that according to Blahous’s own estimates, single payer would actually save Americans more than $2 trillion over a decade. Blahous doubled down on his argument in The Wall Street Journal, and on Tuesday, The Washington Post’s fact-checker accused Democrats of seizing “on one cherry-picked fact” in Blahous’s report to make it seem like a bargain.

The Post is wrong to call this a “cherry-picked fact”—it’s a central finding of the analysis—but it is probably right that single-payer supporters shouldn’t make too much of Blahous’s findings. After all, his analysis is riddled with errors that actually inflate the cost of single payer for taxpayers.

First, Blahous grossly underestimates the main source of savings from single payer: administrative efficiency. Health economist Austin Frakt aptly demonstrated the “bewildering complexity of health care financing in the United States” in The New York Times last month, citing evidence that billing costs primary-care doctors $100,000 apiece and consumes 25 percent of emergency-room revenues; that billing and administration accounts for one-quarter of US hospital expenditures, twice the level in single-payer nations; and that nearly one-third of all US health spending is eaten up by bureaucracy.

Overall, as two of us documented recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a single-payer system could cut administration by $500 billion annually, and redirect that money to care. Blahous, in contrasts, credits single payer with a measly fraction of that—or $70 billion—in administrative savings.

Our profit-driven multi-payer system is the source for this outlandish administrative sprawl. Doctors and hospitals have to negotiate contracts and fight over bills with hundreds of insurance plans with differing payments rates, rules, and requirements. Simplifying the payment system would free up far more money than Blahous estimates to expand and improve coverage.

Next, Blahous lowballs the potential for savings on prescription drugs. He assumes that a single-payer system couldn’t use its negotiating clout to push down drug prices, ignoring the fact that European nations and the US Veterans Affairs system achieve roughly 50 percent discounts relative to the US private sector. (Single payer’s only drug savings, he argues, will come from shifting 15 percent of brand-name prescriptions to generics.) Hence Blahous foresees only $61 billion in drug savings in 2022, even though tough price negotiations would likely achieve threefold higher savings.

Third, Blahous underestimates how much the government is already spending on health care. For instance, he omits the $724 billion that federal agencies are expected to pay for employees’ health benefits over the 10 years covered by his analysis, which would simply be redirected to Medicare for All. He also leaves out the massive savings to state and local governments, which would save nearly $3.6 trillion on employee benefits and another $5.3 trillion on Medicaid and other health programs. Hence, much of the “new money” needed to fund Sanders’s reform is already being collected as taxes.

Continue reading at: https://www.thenation.com/article/single-payer-actually-huge-bargain/