LABOR ISSUES AND THE ECONOMY : UNITY IN NEW YORK

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^ center left pact ? unity in New York as Bill Clinton swears in mayor Bill deBlasio

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By asking Bill Clinton to swear him in as New York City’s new Mayor, Bill deBlasio has already made history. On this one move, deBlasio has assured that the Democratic Party will not split between wings “Labor’ and “Centrist.”

This is good news for all Americans who want to see economic progress come to their lives, not just the very favored top earners. Many Americans — myself included — are pushing legislation and referenda to relieve the huge rush of money to the top, money away from everybody else. These moves cannot take the field as an opposition movement within the only political party placed to bring them about. Bill deBlasio and Bill Clinton have signalled that they understand this and will move forward as Democrats together. The initiatives the two men agree on could not be more vital :

1.raise the Federal minimum wage to $ 10.10 n hour and index it to inflation.
2.protect unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed, many of whom have been without work so long that they already require job retraining in order to maintain skills currency
3.commit all the Federal spending needed to repair and improve America’s infrastructure
4.maintain the Federal food stamp program, do not cut funding for it

To which I could add the following :

1.fully staff the National labor relations baord (NLRB) to monitor and protect the organizing and bargaining rights of workers in organizable industries
2.make it an unfair labor practice to (a) reduce workers’ hours to part-time levels so as to avoid paying benefits or providing health insurance (b) make such workers “independent contractors” rather than W-2 employees
3.extend the “earned income” credit to incomes up to 150 % of Federally defined “poverty” level.
4.pass a comprehensive immigration bill that provides all undocumented immigrants other than those with a felony criminal record a pathway to citizenship, and immediately grant social security numbers, access to drivers’ licenses, and access to health care to all such immigrants.

The initiatives that deBlasio and Bill Clinton jointly advocate, and those that I have added to the list, purpose to do the right thing by many millions of our neighbors; they will grow the economy strongly. Did we need Jeb Bush –a Republican — to point out, as he did at last year’s CPAC Conference, that undocumented immigrants are a boon to the economy, in the work that they do and, yes, the taxes that they pay ? That by their young demographic, they help rescue the Social Security fund ? Jeb Bush said that. Why it needed saying, I’ll never understand. It’s common sense ! The economy is ALL of us. If millions cannot participate in it except at the margins, the economy suffers. Time and again I have editorialized that consumer spending = two thirds of our ENTIRE economy. You want jobs created ? Consumer spending creates them. businesses do not hire people because taxes drop. They hire people because demand increases for their products and services.

Why can’t the funders of today’s Republican party get this ? The businesses that have pushed most current Republicans to fight every move that puts more money into more people’s budgets are blind to their own interests. Any business exec with half a brain knows that his or her employees are the strongest asset, that employee turnover is a huge and largely unnecessary expense; that prosperous and loyal employees buy what they make or the services they provide; that they spread the company’s good reputation by word of mouth to everyone they talk to.

May I add, as I’ve said before, that if the Republican-funding business execs don’t like unions, don’t make your workers organize one in order to get paid what they deserve ? Otherwise, expect a union and all the hassle, drama, and — unhappily — oppression and even intimidation that comes with union organizing and job actions.

Granted that almost all of the new job descriptions being formed in the technology world are not union work. They’re as individualistic as innovation in the raw always is. New economy jobs also pay well. There’s no lack of venture funding for innovation work. I also note that many, maybe most, innovation venturists work with the Democratic party now. They’re not the breed of CEO that funds self-defeating money PACs.

In Boston, in our Mayor election, these innovation capitalists and the start-up world that they fund split with union and union-organizing interest groups about which man to support. Nor do we have available a Bill Clinton to swear in Marty Walsh and reunify our state’s Democratic party. But the issue that divided Boston’s Democrats in the mayoral election wasn’t part of the economic progress agenda that Bill Clinton and Mayor deBlasio have shaken hands on. Here the issue was the part that public worker unions should play in the City’s budget and what level of influence they should have on City policy governance. On the economic progress agenda, Walsh and John Connolly fully agreed.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

PS : many of the innovation venturists and execs who supported John Connolly were and are of a mind to support some Republican candidates, at least locally in Massachusetts; possibly even nationally. Why the current Republican consensus cannot connect to these innovation capitalists, I’ll never understand. It would help, of course, if the party could ditch the lifestyle bigotry and lose the opposition to women’s reproductive rights. Fortunately, those obstacles mine no ground in Massachusetts. Charlie Baker, if he hopes to be our Governor, is free to embrace innovation capitalism, discard Scrooge agendas, wave off the anti-immigrant talk, and embrace diversity, economic dispersion, and the future. He might just do that. His excellent plan to end homelessness in Massachusetts is a promising first step.

LEFT-TEA-ING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS A REALLY BAD IDEA

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^ apostasy to party ? to most of us, it’s the way things should be. To the activists, just the opposite

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The Democratic party looks on the verge of cleaving, Left versus Left-center, even though the Left’s avatar, Senator Elizabeth Warren, will not be a candidate for President. I seriously hope this does not happen. The Democratic party’s unity is the major factor holding America steady on forward. Splitting the party can only impede. Sometimes it seems as though those who would move the Democratic party to the Left want America to NOT proceed. This is a huge policy mistake.

One sees the signs. Senator Warren has done a lot of talking, challenging the money interests at every turn, and though much of what she talks about needs saying, at a time when the Congress is finally of a mind to take small, fragile steps forward, Warren’s insurgency seems as ill-timed as Ted Cruz’s in October. Warren acolytes abhor the comparison, but I am hardly the first or only one to make it.

Both Cruz and Warren are fanning flames that want to be flamed and which would likely find other bellows if Cruz and Warren were not stoking. At a lower level, here in Massachusetts, in Boston, the decision by newly elected Councillor Michelle Wu to support the “conservative” — but Democratic — Bill Linehan for Council President has generated a huge flare of Left flame, even though the selection of a Council President has almost no policy consequences.

This Left split is not new. I wrote of it three months ago, during the Mayor of Boston campaign, noting attacks, by Left-minded Democrats, upon John Connolly for his school transformation call — a policy advocated by Democrats for Education Reform as part of what Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, was seeking. Connolly was also attacked as the candidate of moneyed interests generally : yet the bulk of moneyed interests supporting his candidacy was Democratic. All of this sounded strange in a local, one-City campaign. But there it was.

The polarization of national party politics have no business deciding a purely local election. Yet for the Left, polarizing party politics were a key to victory for their candidate, who, after a primary in which the Left made various personal choices with few partisan consequences, became Marty Walsh. He was well advised to take advantage of the opportunity. By no means do I criticize him or seeking out that support : it’s what he had to do. But at the time, I noted that the potential Democratic party split was a rehearsal for a wider split in 2014 and 2016 and a direct consequence of the Tea Party capsizing the GOP. As I wrote, “you can’t radicalize an electorate in one direction only.”

The timing could not be worse for those who, like myself, desire a workable forward national agenda. Even as the Democratic party split aggravates, the split in the GOP is resolving, in favor of the pragmatists. The Tea Right is under serious attack from all quarters — business, incumbents, centrist money PACs, even from evangelicals — and is losing as GOP House (and Senate) incumbents free themselves from the fear of a serious primary challenge. Many states are considering legislation similar to California’s, in which all candidates run in the same primary and then a final between the top two. This process has already made California’s parties move to the center and away from domination by “base” activists.It would hardly be good for Democrats if the nation and the GOP are moving toward unity while the Democratic party is splitting. But activists do not care about consequences. For them, it’s their way or the highway.

I prefer the highway.

You may argue against me, that in the Budget Deal that passed the Senate today, the Democrats stood united, the GOP quite split. True enough; yet the Budget Deal was criticized often and loudly for its omission of unemployment insurance extension. Democrats voted “yes’ as a bloc because to reject the deal might have made any deal impossible, given the fragility of the House GOP’s new pragmatism. My thinking is that the more the House GOP commits to pragmatism, the more that Left Democrats will feel that they can split the Democratic party without endangering the nation.

The warning signs are there. People continue to Cruz-ify Elizabeth Warren.

All of this you would expect to go away were the President to exert his power of office effectively, as he sometimes knows how : in foreign policy always, during the “shut down” too. His weak management of the Federal bureaucracy — ah, the Annals of Health.gov — has opened an effectiveness  gap, however, into which people are stepping who really don’t like the President’s agenda all that much anyway. It’s a cliche now that President Obama’s most activist supporters wanted a messiah but got a mishugas. In other words, a President ; but they don’t want a president, they still want a messiah. When that happens in American politics, we usually get an anti-messiah instead. With Obama, an Abraham Lincoln saved us. Unless things change, I doubt we’ll be as lucky in 2106.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

ANNALS OF 2016 : CHRIS CHRISTIE RISING

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^ working with Democrats when that’s what gets the job done : Chris Christie with New Jersey’s new senator, Cory Booker

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Right now, watching Governor Chris Christie rise to the top in New Jersey, winning re-election with 60 % of the vote, I have to pinch myself to remember that he is a Republican. By which I mean, a Republican of now. 30, 50, 60 years ago there were many Republicans with an agenda like Christie’s. His entire stance is that of an insurgent; an optimist; “getting the job done for people.” Yes, his rhetoric sometimes sounds like recent GOP talk, and he’s a bit of a social conservative — but so are many ethnic city Democrats — yet on the ground he is a man who works with whoever he needs to work with to get progress done.

Christie’s talk, stance, and method are those of Fiorello LaGuardia — a fellow Sicilian and northeastern Republican — who, coincidentally, looked a lot like Christie. Stubby, chubby, full-faced. The GOP hasn’t seen someone who looks and talks like Christie in maybe that many decades.

Like LaGuardia and his fellow Progressives, Christie doesn’t suffer fools. He calls out the House GOP and Ted Cruz nonsense in Washington — as it needs to be called out. At times he sounds as though he were running AGAINST the Republican party rather than with it. Of course the Tea folks are running against the Republican party as well; but they are running against it for trying to govern; Christie runs against the party for REFUSING to govern. A huge difference.

You might expect that a man so out of phase with what we have come to think of as the modern GOP would be a fringe character in its 2016 Presidential nomination, but you would be wrong. Christie currently leads the field in almost every poll, and he polls significantly better against potential Democratic nominees than any of his rivals. No, he is not the candidate of GOP think tanks, of planners of principle, of testers of litmus. He does not think the Democratic party treasonous, socialist, or contemptible. The right wing charlatans of entertainment demagoguery hate him — a hate which he sees, rightly, as an asset for him. He’s about as unlike a pastor of bigotry as it’s possible to be. He has no patience for those who would tell people how to live their lives. He doesn’t think poor people are lazy, homeless people useless, gay people damned. He doesn’t think that you need an ID to vote and if you don’t have one, you’re committing vote fraud. He doesn’t sling the word “patriot” around like a vomit grenade, doesn’t fart about 1776, doesn’t throw shoes at undocumented immigrants.

Yet he is a Republican. Of now. And not JUST a Republican; maybe, just maybe, he is THE Republican. His surge to the top of most polls tells me that the Republican electorate, if not yet its crowd-fund queen bees, has moved on from bitterness, contempt, ignorance; from vileness of all sorts; that the Republican electorate actually wants its leader to be ABOUT something; to want to “get the job done for people.”

There are signs aplenty that such is the case. Tea folk are losing primaries : in Alabama and in Louisiana, no less. Anti-Tea money is coming into the picture big-time. The GOP national committee is moving to make primaries the method of choosing an ominee, not caucuses. So far the change hasn’t nicked the House GOP much at all; but in the Senate the push back to normality has been huge, and lasting. Today the Senate’s Republiacn caucus can often be counted on to “get things done for the people.” (And let us give credit here to John McCain, who has had maybe his best and certainly most influential Senate year in his long career there.)

In New Jersey, Christie has formed alliances with whichever Democratic legislators and interests he needed to ally with in order to move his State’s agendas forward. He has done so even in preference, at times, to members of his own party Famously, this week he decided not to support Tom Kean, Jr., an influential Republican state senator and son of New Jersey’s revered former Governor Thomas Kean, Sr., as Senate President: because that was what the state senate’s Democratic leader, Steve Sweeney, insisted upon. Sweeney and Christie have frequently worked together on New Jersey legislation. the combination continues.

It would surprise me if this “get the job done for people” mantra did not pretty soon become the top theme for a party that has all but abased itself to the point of no return. In politics, the great thing about points of no return is that, return is then the ONLY option. Thus the move to Chris Christie, the man who embraced President Obama when it made a huge point and who still embraces him, with respect to the rocky rollout of Obamacare. Why ? Because he sees a President who is trying to “get the job done for the American people.”

Just as he, chris Christie, promises to do. Not a bad promise at all for ANY serious politician to make to the American people.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere