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12-point Platform

De Blasio's pathetically inadequate "Progressive Agenda" vs. The 12-Point Platform

Bill de Blasio, sensing, in his muddled way, some opportunity for influence or office -- presumably in a Clinton administration -- has rolled out a "Progressive" "Agenda."

Even though de Blasio's (shallow, mobile-friendly) web site qualifies the phrase "Progressive Agenda" with "to combat income inequality," media coverage frames it as a "progressive agenda," period, and since coverage was presumably driven by de Blasio's public relations effort, I'll assume de Blasio is putting forward a universal agenda he'd like all "progressives" to adopt.

If progressives do, they'll be selling working people down the river. But then you knew that. To show why, I'll compare the "agenda" to the 12-Point Platform in the form of a handy table, after first briefly describing the rollout.

Here's how Politico describes de Blasio's day on the Hill:

Bill de Blasio’s roadshow stopped in Washington on Tuesday, as the New York mayor unveiled a “Progressive Agenda” designed to guide Democratic candidates and lawmakers — but which many have read as a road map for Hillary Clinton.

Of course, since de Blasio is a "progressive" Democrat, the "agenda" is sloppy, unsystematic, and full of holes. In fact, a hack job, as even de Blasio's colleagues were not shy about pointing out:

De Blasio said the agenda was drafted by progressives who met at Gracie Mansion on April 2, and admitted it was still a work in progress, as some speakers pointed out omissions, such as public education and police accountability.

("Public education" is covered in the 12-Point Platform by point #7: "Free Public Education, pre-K-16." And "police accountability" is covered by #10: "End the Wars," which includes ending police militarization, and #9: "Enforce the Bill of Rights.")

Anyhow, some Democrats "stood with" de Blasio:

More than a dozen progressive leaders spoke at the press conference beside de Blasio and signed the billboard next to the podium outlining the 13 progressive principles[1]. Among the attendees were former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, activist Al Sharpton, and Oakland California Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Al Sharpton, corrupt exemplar of the Black Misleadership Class. That tells you all you need to know, doesn't it? (Hoho, how could you?)

Oddly, none of the reporting seemed to list the actual 13 points (none of the sources above, and not CBS, not the Times, not HuffPo ), probably because -- as I found on the site -- the individual points aren't numbered, and they're poorly written. (Clearly, Correntians working together over many months are superior to progressives meeting at Gracie Mansion for a day. Shocker, huh?) For example, take the second bullet point in the group numbered (1) -- please:

• Reform the National Labor Relations Act, to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class.

This item combines a vague policy proposal ("Reform the National Labor Relations Act") with an even vaguer benefit ("to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class." See here for what Democrats mean when they say "middle class." ) Compare #4: "Job and Income Guarantee," which states the policy so crisply as to imply the concrete material benefit. You'll also notice that the 12-Point Platform benefits all workers, which reforming the National Labor Relations Act, laudable as that may be, does not.

Anyhow, enough background and parsing of words. Here's a table that outlines the differences between the hasty output of de Blasios's "progressives" at Gracie Mansion, and the 12-Point Platform: Read more about De Blasio's pathetically inadequate "Progressive Agenda" vs. The 12-Point Platform

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Conrad Hughes Hilton III strutting around like The Compleat Asshole he has grown up to be

In the 12-Point Platform we advocate:

3. Tax the Rich

and we have also urged that one good reason for a steeply progressive effective tax rate is "for the psychological and spiritual well-being of the children of the rich themselves." Conrad Hughes Hilton III is one person who would clearly have benefited from the 12-Point Platform. He's an asshole, to be sure, but he's clearly troubled, and his family's inherited wealth is clearly part of the problem.

I'll spare you most of the detail on Paris Hilton's truly world-class in-flight meltdown, but here are some of the highlights. From NBC: Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Conrad Hughes Hilton III strutting around like The Compleat Asshole he has grown up to be

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Handing over weapons caches to ticked-off locals who want to kill us

Via Nippersdad, the Guardian:

Chaos in Yemen has left the US military unable to monitor the vast arsenal it has spent years providing to its Yemeni counterpart.

To end the wars, end blowback. To end blowback, dismantle the self-licking ice cream cones

Given that the 12-Point Platform has this plank:

10. End the Wars

I've come to the conclusion, with a sense of dawning horror, that I actually have to develop some views on defense policy.* Which is complicated. However, since we're now entering the budget season, it seems natural to take a look at the defense budget. And leaving aside from squillion-dollar anecdotes, like the F-35 boondoggle, what seems really remarkable, to my naive eye, is that the Pentagon doesn't actually know what it's sending that trillion dollar budget on. In contrast, Obama just decided to publish yearly physican payment data under Medicare. OK, fine, but how come the Pentagon gets a pass when it comes to "yearly contractor payment data," anyhow?** Seems like a double standard...) Foreign Policy:

The Pentagon has never been audited, despite having a budget larger than any other federal agency anywhere in the world. Despite a coalition spanning Ralph Nader to Grover Norquist, the agency has resisted the fiscal accountability requirements imposed by law on every other branch of the government. The Defense Department has for years slow-rolled demands to get its books in order, though now claims to be on the verge of readiness to have independent auditors come in to inspect and validate its accounts. But signs of dysfunction, waste, and corruption persist, and a complete audit during the next two years is not guaranteed.

"Never been audited." What could go wrong? Read more about To end the wars, end blowback. To end blowback, dismantle the self-licking ice cream cones

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

When in the 12-Point Platform we say:

#10: End the Wars

we mean all the wars, including the so-called War on Terror, and the so-called War on Drugs; all the self-licking ice cream cones. (Ending the War on Drugs, besides sparing many thousands of citizens from having an arrest on their permanent record, would also strike major blows at the streams of rental extraction controlled by the prison-industrial complex and the surveillance state.) Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

This story from 2014 made my blood boil. Here it is again:

Josiah Corbin spent a lot of weeknights over the past four years sleeping in his car in a Walmart parking lot.

Thanks in part to his routine, the 23-year-old will graduate from the University of Maine with a biology degree, and without debt, on Saturday.

Corbin, a fifth-year student who took his last exam Thursday, got a work-study job in his second year of school that kept him on campus late — sometimes past midnight. His family’s Dover-Foxcroft home is about an hour drive from the UMaine campus. Once he decided on a science major, he found many of his required classes were only available at 8 a.m., which meant very little sleep, especially when he had to factor in drive time and studying.

Corbin didn’t get as much financial aid as he hoped and didn’t want to incur student debt over his next four years of school. So he made an unusual decision — hunker down in the car.

He started out sleeping in a parking lot near Alfond Arena on campus, curling up in his car, a rusted-out 1987 Toyota Corolla. By pulling out his front passenger’s seat, he was able to lay down a small “mattress,” which isn’t much more than a body pillow. By wrapping up in a couple of sleeping bags, he was able to make himself “relatively cozy.”

After a few weeks in a UMaine parking lot, police found Corbin in his car late one night and told him he couldn’t sleep in his vehicle there. So Corbin relocated to Walmart in Bangor, which has a relatively steady population of overnight sleepers, according to Corbin. Some come in recreational vehicles, others in their cars. A surprising number of them, especially in warmer months, are from Canada, he said.

Walmart policy allows recreational vehicles to park in its lots as space allows, but the policy doesn’t say anything about people sleeping in cars. Walmart says on its website that sleepover policies and regulations largely are up to individual stores and local laws. Corbin said no one from Walmart ever bothered him about sleeping there overnight in his car.

Corbin estimates he probably saved about $8,000 per year avoiding room-and-board costs, avoiding a meal plan and cutting down his commute. That works out to $32,000 through the course of his college career, most of which he would have needed loans to cover.

Tell me its not a great country! Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

This is the second part of a two-part post that explores the rationale for a Post Office Bank, #8 of the 12 Point Platform:

8. Post Office Bank

which I started working on because I thought it would be easy, instead of doing more work on #1: A Living Wage, which entails a definition of wage labor as a social relation. Anyhow, Part I of this post was a potted history of the Post Office, and it's good I just set the bar low there with "explores," because when I wrote Part I, I didn't yet know about Save the Post Office, and so along with a lot of other excellent material I missed these two excellent long-form backgrounders:

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone here that the Post Office privatizers are full of shit; what came as a surprise to me is just how full of shit they really are. Read those two pieces; you'll see too.

Part I took us all the way to 2012, where there was an interesting but all-too-temporary Post Office Bank boomlet (link, link, and link for example) touched off by this report (PDF) from the Post Office Inspector General[1] (and not, mind you, the neo-liberal infested USPS management). For our purposes, we can reduce the report to four points. From the 2014 version: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

[I've sworn off reacting to the news on a daily basis, because it keeps me reactive, and that's a distraction from the 12 Point Platform, which is what I really want to work on, am working on, and is a book-length effort. However, the "theory of everything" posts to back up each point take a lot of work, as chapters in books do, and the consequent absence of posting doesn't keep the hot air balloon at the altitude I prefer, i.e., not crashing into the ground. So, I'll try to react to the news at least once daily, but framing the post so that it advances the 12 Points. New editorial formula! --lambert]

Payday loans are grossly usorious. MLive:

Using names like Check 'n Go, Cash Advance and Payday Loans, there are companies throughout Detroit and beyond that specialize in immediate, high-cost, shot-term loans with interest rates often reaching 30 percent or more.*

"Michigan is one of 35 states across the country that authorizes payday lending in some form," Michigan United said in a statement Monday. "While some states and cities have worked to put a stop to predatory lending, federal laws still largely allow payday lenders to prey on vulnerable communities and benefit from borrowers' financial hardship - with annual interest rates that routinely reach 400 percent or more."

Michigan United says the industry thrives on the poor, entraps them in a "cycle of debt."....

A Google search for of payday loan centers yields nearly 70 such businesses located in Detroit, some operating 24 hours a day. Their loans are accessible online with automatic bank deposits. In-person cash loans are available at on-site locations.

Most require proof of a steady income and establishment of a bank account before loan approval

So you can imagine the problems the precariat has, let alone the System D people, or the millions without a bank account in the first place. And lest it be though the "new economy" and "big data" haven't notices, check this out from the New York Times: Read more about With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

I'm being triply non-linear now, because "Tax the Rich" is #3 in the Twelve Point Platform:

3. Tax the Rich

and so not only am I not beginning at the beginning with #1: A Living Wage, I'm not writing part two of my first attempt on #8: Post Office Bank, either (here is part one). Soon! Moreover, I'm reacting, albeit way too slowly, to the news, seeking to use it as a hook to raise larger issues. (These posts might be better thought of as first drafts for a book, rather than as blog posting.)

In any case: In Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) speech we have a seemingly populist tax proposal. Here is the headline summary from AP:

Obama in State of the Union: Tax wealthy, help middle class

And that's a fair summary. But there are some problems with this formulation, among them:

  1. Obama's proposals are fundamentally unserious
  2. The concept of "middle class" is hazy
  3. The unstated premise is that Federal taxes raise revenue (they don't)
  4. There are good reasons to tax the rich, even if raising revenue is not one of them
  5. We don't know how much Obama will really tax the rich
  6. Obama's proposals are unlikely to help "the middle class," however defined
  7. Concrete material benefits should be our focus, not a "tax fight"

Let's take each of these points in turn. Read more about Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

A Post Office Bank is actually #8 of the 12 Point Platform, and not #1 ("A Living Wage"):

8. Post Office Bank

but who said I had to be linear? This is not, let me say at once, the definitive, "final" supporting document for the Post Office Bank, but the result of my current research, such as it is. In fact, I picked this topic because I thought it would be easy, low hanging fruit. In this part, I'll put the Post Office in political context (comments from readers very welcome; this is complicated). In the next part, I'll describe the policy, and what happened when the Post Office proposed it.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution enumerates the power of the United States Congress to:

To establish post offices and post roads;

Although there was considerable debate in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries over what "establish"[1] meant, by the time that Rural Free Delivery was initiated in the 1886, and then Parcel Post in 1913, the current paradigm that we think of when we think of "the Post Office" was set: Universal service, physical plant in the form of retail branches, sorting centers, trucks, etc., and a uniformed civil service staff, unionized. Note that the Post Office was transformed by Nixon, at the dawn of neo-liberal political dominance, although this paradigm still applies: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

The New Year and a Change of Direction

First, let me apologize for the weird Call to undefined function tribune_menu_load() some of you were getting yesterday; I spent a few hours last night upgrading all the site modules to their most recent versions (the site itself comes next) and the tribune module was on the list of those that could not be upgraded. Unfortunately, when I uninstalled that module, it left little bits of itself lying about in caches and the database, and even though I killed it off in the database, it somehow rose from the grave. All should now be well.

More centrally, I apologize for going walkabout. I think I complained about the food poisoning, and then about the poison ivy and (I am convinced) subsequent cellulitis on my right (typing) hand and arm, but as it turns out I boasted prematurely about dodging the hacking cough, because of my clever purchase of a bellows. In fact, I got the worst hacking cough ever -- the kind where, typing, one feels that little chunks of lung are spattering the screen -- and had to go back to the Helen Hunt clinic again, for more pills of a different kind and an inhaler. I can't remember having been to the doctor twice in one month! I couldn't talk for days. My lack of comfort with this sighting shot from mortality aside, I wonder if I was telling myself something with all those photographs of rot and decay I had been taking, beautiful though they are; specifically, I wonder if all the insulation I installed had the unintended side effect of forcing me to breath fine dust and micro-organisms that would otherwise have been blown around and away by drafts! Read more about The New Year and a Change of Direction

A $15 an hour minimum wage is a middle-of-the road compromise position (#12p1)

Or would be, in a sane society. Bangor Daily News:

If the minimum wage had kept pace with worker productivity, the minimum wage would be $22 per hour today,” said Asher Platts, chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party and a state Senate candidate. “So where is all that extra value? … Wall Street holdings are the highest they’ve been in decades. This isn’t a recession; this is a robbery.”

There you go. So we're not even asking for justice, let alone shared prosperity, or decreasing the Gini Co-efficient that measures the distance between rich and poor (that is, between capital and labor). Read more about A $15 an hour minimum wage is a middle-of-the road compromise position (#12p1)

The 12-Point Platform

Happy birthday, Social Security!

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"The 12-Point Platform" is a simple and self-explanatory list of common-sense programs that will benefit every American, no matter their class, gender, race, or age. "The 12 Reforms" are the programs needed to secure the benefits of the Platform. The Single Value ties the Platform and the Reforms together: Government is to be used for "public purpose," and not for privilege (which means "private law").

The 12-Point Platform

  1. A Living Wage
  2. Medicare for All
  3. Tax the Rich
  4. Job and Income Guarantee
  5. Debt Jubilee
  6. Retirement Security
  7. Free Public Education, pre-K-16
  8. Post Office Bank
  9. Enforce the Bill of Rights
  10. End the Wars
  11. Clean Air, Water, Soil, and Food
  12. Carbon Negative Economy
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