What we get from the Victory: Immigration, Wage Action, Student Loans, Infrastructure, Etc

New Orleans     We had this, and I’m with Nate Silver of the 538 column and blog of the Times: this was not “too close to call” unless we got rid of the Electoral College and didn’t tell anyone. Watching Obama win every single battleground state except North Carolina, pretty much cheek and jowl with all of the state by state poll predictions over recent weeks, should say something about analysis versus hucksterism. One gets the feeling that the television news commentators and news people are basically just an arm for the marketing division and trying to sell as many ads as possible regardless of the effect. It’s the ground game, stupid!

So what do we get from this win? Most of what I’ve had to hear and read far says we get nada, nothing, goose egg, but that’s not true in my view. We may not get what we want and four years with Obama have taught us that, but you can look at the base that delivered the win, and I’ll guarantee that we can predict some key wins, even if not in the unadulterated versions we might want.

Count on the fact that Obama will finally embrace immigration reform in the way he gave the half-hug for healthcare to hold the 70-30 margin he got from Latino voters for the future of his party and legacy. Senator Rubio and most Republicans who want to be re-elected are going to have to make some concessions here. At the least, it would be that we get a version of the DREAM Act and not just the existing, confusing executive order. Voters going to the ballot in Maryland and affirming this notion should be enough to put the icing on this cake. We need to figure how much is enough to make the deal, but Rubio is our new partner on the right, replacing McCain, and his nose is wide open for the future, so this is a deal we can make.

We will get a minimum wage increase.  Since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, every Democratic Administration has delivered an increase, as have many Republican Administrations.  It took Clinton until his 8th year, and it may take Obama the same, but we will get an increase before the 2nd term is over. Obama’s majorities on income groups came heavily from families making less than $50,000 per year and even higher from families making less than $30,000 per year.  We also will get “wage theft” enforcement. That doesn’t require Congress, but does require a shakeup at the Department of Labor. We will get a better deal for home health workers on minimum wages. Almost none of this is because of any union payback. Density for workers in families making less than $50,000 is not that high…those are service workers and their rates of unionization is in single-digits. Union’s get to keep Obamacare, along with the rest of us, and that maybe the only thing unions can claim other than having the Senate and the President as a goal line stand against continued corporate attacks.

We should get some voting and election reform. Surely Obama and the President have woken up now to realize that there are few victories in the future if they continue to allow the right to shrink and suppress the electorate.

We will get a better deal on student loans and it will include some forgiveness. The under-30 base for Obama is crying for this, as are Asian-Americans who voted more solidly for Obama even than Latinos did.  Something big is going to happen here.

We will get a new appointee over mortgage regulation and a new Secretary of Treasury so we will finally get some relief on mortgages and some rightsizing of loans to market values. The President hopefully will finally realize that his legacy is not in the Wall Street bailout and there is no hope for their support, so it is time to finally erase one of the darkest marks of his presidency and deal with foreclosures by sweeping away these two dudes who are blocking progress.

We will get infrastructure investment, which will help with jobs, unions, and communities; especially around the coasts even if it has to be masked as hurricane and climate change expenditures, rather than stimulus. We will also get more tax justice for upper incomes, even if not what we need, just because the Republicans can’t have it both ways.

We will get soldiers home and I have heard Obama talk about a peace dividend, and peace is important, even if that’s all we get there.

Something modest is going to happen around drug policy. You can’t just let California and Washington go wild out there and young people do vote!  Same for gay marriage and women’s rights, including on reproduction. Republicans can’t continue to deny that the country has gone the other way from them on all of these issues. They may not embrace any of them, but with the right strategy and tactics, they will no longer be able to stand in the way. So, yes, the country is divided, blah, blah, blah, but government has to actually govern and even if there are no slam come our way, we will once again put some important points on the scoreboard as Obama pays back over the coming year.

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Obama: He’s Got This!

New Orleans  After Romney’s 47% comments went viral, I thought the campaign was done, and you could put a stick in it.  I still think he may have lost the race there by showing both his disregard for huge parts of the electorate and coupling that with his choice of Paul Ryan, pushing seniors and others with a stake in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid the final distance towards Obama.

It’s a mystery to me how Obama allowed Romney to get back into the race with the first debate.  I thought talking was Obama’s forte?  The debate once again exposed his tentativeness around conflict, which has been a consistent vulnerability throughout his first term, exploited continually by the hardcore, ideological Republican opposition.  Obama does dial down the enthusiasm everywhere when he says, “I’ll fight for you,” and it becomes so obvious that he just plain doesn’t like to fight.

Anything can happen in an election, but having come back in-country, caught up on a lot of the papers and studied the polls, I think Obama’s got this one locked down for this Tuesday, all except the shouting.

No small reason for me finally feeling confident about the race lies in what looks like insurmountable leads in the key battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida that are now trending more than 5 points ahead for the President, comfortably past the margin of error.  Additionally, it appears that based on known Democratic registrations, Obama is leading comfortably ahead of Romney on what has become the critical early voting numbers, which are key tests of organization and have people finally “voting with their feet.”  The hard facts that 23,000,000 voters have already cast ballots and Obama is likely significantly ahead, I take is important.

Governing is a whole different problem.  Looking at a map in my local paper showing where Obama is leading or leaning versus Romney, it is startling how similar the overlay of a map of the residual labor union strength would be.  Not that Obama is going to do much for unions even though they are critical to any Democratic victory now or in the future.

On the other side I read the column by the former solid sports reporter in my hometown paper, who now writes op-eds for them from a hard right, whack perspective and I tried to puzzle out his absurd argument that we should vote against Obama because he was a “collectivist.”  Huh?  “By the people, of the people, for the people” is now a bad thing, so anarchy hooray, I guess.  Obama and the Democrats got lucky that the conservative wing is so whack now that they are pushing away as many votes as they are holding.  Eventually the conservatives in the Republican Party are going to hose them down or force them out so that they have a chance again at the White House.

Until then, we’ll win with Obama on Tuesday, and it won’t necessarily decide much of anything other than how bad the alternatives might have been.

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Hating on ACORN as Election Countdown Nears in USA

Victoria   We are hardly more than a week until the USA Presidential election and predictably the conservative rightwing is pulling out the big guns and narrowing their sights for the kill, but surprisingly many are still aimed at ACORN, now almost two years gone.  Sure, it’s not as bad as it was four years ago.  One long screed I read this weekend even bemoaned the fact that ACORN did not come up in the debates between Obama and Romney as it did last time, but it’s pretty amazing how much hating on ACORN and grinding their teeth on the organization is still commonplace on the whack right.

For some of these commentators, almost of all of whom quote each other in this vicious circular fringe firing squad, it almost seems like nostalgia for them.  They want the old days back, when ACORN was alive and kicking, big and bold, and they could feel their own reflection in that sun.  Now they are left pathetic and pleading as the clock winds down on the last minutes of any interest in what they have to say.  They harrumph at the fact that Project Vote “didn’t even change its name” and neither did ACORN International.  Yet after their harrumphing, everything they say is time dated.  They have no capital letter, big sub-heads on their reports that even point a finger at work that Project Vote is doing now.  They simply roar signifying nothing.

They also rant and rave about the fact that some of the former state organizations have changed their name and managed to survive organizationally.  Sadly, they say don’t even try to lay a glove on any of them for any activity in this Presidential election cycle.  They have nothing to say about any of the rebranded organization’s work in voter registration or GOTV work.  There are no new accusations, just rocks thrown from an old discard pile.  I say, sadly, because it also may mean that many have not been engaged in these vital activities in the way low-and-moderate income families desperately need them to be.

One commentator tried to get a head of steam going about candidates for the US Senate who had been friendly to ACORN.  One sad thing about the ACORN reorganization is how few of the rebranded state organizations survived at a viable level for this contest two years later.  They can whine about Ohio deciding the election, but there is nothing alive of the vestiges of ACORN in that critical state where ACORN was so important previously.  The same could be said for Nevada, Colorado, and Michigan, all of which have been listed as battleground states.   Florida and Arizona are shadows of what they once were.  In fact if they looked at their own list, ACORN organizations largely survived, even if diminished, most robustly in states that mattered least in this contest because they were already dark, dark blue or bright, bright red:  New York, Illinois, California, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and so forth.  Our friends in Pennsylvania may be one of the only strong operations still in a state that makes the list as critical in this election.   Nonetheless, hating on ACORN as a parlor sport of the right goes on, largely unimpeded by any contemporary rational analysis.

It’s ok though.  Better for the right wingers to beat on a dead horse, than continue to hammer at some of our fewer and fewer progressive institutions that can claim to be “alive and well.”

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Voter Suppression as a Poll Tax

New Orleans  Finally as the campaigns begin to grip the likely closeness of the election, there is some pushback against the massive state-by-state efforts to suppress or drive down the likely voters, especially among lower and minority citizens.  Attorney General Eric Holder in triggering federal litigation in several states has correctly referred to such measures, especially the resistance to allow equity in voting in Texas, as equivalent to instituting a “poll tax.”  I have to wonder though whether this is too little and too late with the election only months away.

The poll tax argument has arisen in Texas, given the costs and inaccessibility of trying to obtain the newly mandated picture identifications before voting.  Distances are huge in Texas and many lack transportation.  A number of counties have spotty hours for offices where IDs could be obtained.  In South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states of the Old South, the Voting Rights Act barring racial discrimination bars such conduct and gives the Justice Department some handles in trying to suppress the vote, so we’ll have a cliffhanger running up to the election, as these efforts hopefully come to a cropper.

In what used to be known as fair minded, if not liberal, states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, there is no such natural leverage so the pushback is harder to develop.  It was heart rending to read the story in the Times of a 90+ year old Pennsylvanian who had never had a driver’s license, gone through various names due to marriage and adoption, and had her social security card and other IDs stolen at a grocery store last year, who has now reacquired a birth certificate, but still likely lacks enough to be able to vote in Pennsylvania.  She is convinced that her problems are deliberately meant to strip votes away from Obama.  No, duh?  This has become too obvious.

Partially because Republicans who have been advancing this strategy, as we have frequently discussed, since 2008 can’t keep themselves from chortling, the transparency of the effort to disenfranchise voters has become crystal clear.  Quoting the Times:

The argument by the Pennsylvania law’s proponents that it has nothing to do with partisan politics took a blow late last month when Mike Turzai, the majority leader of the state’s House of Representatives, addressed a group of fellow state Republicans.  Listing the accomplishments of the Republican-controlled legislature, he said, ‘Voter ID – which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.

These are all real people with a real problem who are trying to access the voting booth but being denied.  Meanwhile the Republicans keep harping about voter registration “fraud,” and waving their ACORN “bloody shirt” despite the frequently established fantasy of it all.

Somehow  it is easy for both parties to join in chants of “let the people vote” when it comes to Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Russia, but here at home…silence reigns.  Democracy is for someone else.  Winning by any means necessary, fair or foul, is the current motto here.

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Little Hope for New NLRB Rules, SEIU Convention, & Canadian Initiatives

New Orleans  It is time to examine the results of all of the sound and fury of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions that conservatives claimed would bring the end of world as they knew it.  The conclusion to date is that there is no change whatsoever!

Step back for a minute and remember that on the eve of Obama’s election many unions thought that changes in federal labor law were imminent.  Some pushed for this to be Job #1 for the new administration.  Obama, Biden, and others had committed to the passage of much needed amendments to the labor law.  Organizing unions like SEIU had task forces, staff assigned, and organizing plans developed.  Top staffers can remember the discussions with the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel finally signing off on the potential legislation.  Then there was the deluge with the 2010 midterm elections debacle and any remaining hope for legislative relief was long gone.

The strategy morphed into the distant second best of regulatory changes issued by the NLRB on rule making procedures.  The right demonized Craig Becker, a labor leaning board member with ties to SEIU and the AFL-CIO.  Out of these elephantine labors came two major initiatives the NLRB trumpeted.

The first, a much ballyhooed minor posting of workers’ rights that the NLRB had ordered to be posted on the bulletin boards of employers throughout the country has still not occurred and is lost in the courts.  The second, a much diluted but more rapid election schedule which largely benefited the more infrequently organized large bargaining units where hearing and unit appeals can postpone elections for years, is now also held up by court orders questioning the quorum and majority on the NLRB that made the final decisions.  Truthfully, business protests too much.  Neither of these changes were game changers, though they were nice enough and certainly better than nothing by many miles.

It is time for those of us in labor to come to some hard conclusions.  The rules are NOT likely to change.  The game has to change and by that I mean the fundamental labor organizing model, as I’ve argued frequently.

SEIU the premier organizing union of recent decades is now meeting in its quadrennial convention and for the first time in over 30 years they will be “celebrating” a declining membership.  This should never have happened!

Unions in Canada may be acting faster and smarter than their US counterparts and learning some lessons from the US experience that down south we are still trying to deny.  Interestingly in the merger discussions between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers (CEP) which would create a Canadian super-union,  the key incentive for the merger seems to be a recognition that the organizing model has to change.

Millions of Canadian workers, like part-time workers and contract workers, have no effective possibility of forming a traditional union,” said CAW economist Jim Stanford. “These unorganized workers should not be cannon fodder for unethical employers. We can find other ways for them to use the power of numbers.

They are still a good distance from figuring it out, but at least they are singing the right tune, while I can hear a funeral dirge in the background in union halls throughout America.

SEIU rally in LA

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Obama, Drugs, Indians, Frank Langella, Lauren Bacall, R. Crumb, Walmart, and Joplin

Chief James Allan of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe

New Orleans   In this week’s continuing experiment with new forms and focus “under the headlines” for the daily blog, here’s more:

  • Jackie Calmas in the New York Times on a meeting expected between Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama:  “they are expected to force a discussion Mr. Obama is not eager for in an election year, on decriminalization of drugs.  Their push is based on the widespread belief that the military approach of the American-led war on drugs in the region has failed.”
  • Chief James Allan of the Coeur d’Alene tribe on their part of the $1 billion settlement with 41 Indian tribes on governmental mismanagement of natural resources on tribal lands:  “They have kept their promises to Native Americans to ensure we are heard in Washington.  He [Obama] has not made treaties with us, but he gave us his word.  And his word has been golden.”
  • Frank Langella, the actor in his memoir, Dropped Names:

“In the less forgiving light of cold reality, I have lived my life as many actors have:  available and waiting, and often in a sort of emotional wilderness, feeling alone and apart.”  Interesting to think about how often they, and others, are waiting in the wings, and so rarely on the big stages.

He quotes Maureen Stapleton’s saying about working with Lauren Bacall, “I stay out of her way till they feed her.”  Vivid!

Charles Isherwood of the Times with a dead-on observation on memoirs:  “This is a true memoir, or rather a collection of memoirs.  The word has been corrupted these days to mean essentially the recounting of anything traumatic or even vaguely interesting that happened to the author, but it used to be more commonly used to describe recollections of famous figures:  other people.”

  • R. Crumb quoted by Elaine Sciolino for a piece in the NYT on the cartoonist’s retrospective in Paris:  “Death?  Afraid of death?  When you get older, you dry up.  You die.  That’s it.  I’ve lived my life.  I’ve lived it out.  I’ve left my mark.  I’ve had great sex.  I got a great record collection…”
  • “Wal-Mart’s environmental push has helped transform public opinion of the company, easing the way for it to open stores in urban areas like Chicago and Los Angeles.  About a quarter of Americans now have a favorable impression of Wal-Mart, about double the percentage that did in 2007…”  Let me see, in 5 years they went from 12.5% to 25% approval in 2012 meaning that 75% still disapprove, and that’s now considered a sufficiently successful image rehab?!?
  • According to Stephanie Clifford NYT: “The head of the fund [Environmental Defense Fund] took Mr. Scott [Walmart’s ex-CEO Lee Scott] on a trip to Mount Washington in New Hampshire, where the two bunked in a cabin and discussed how climate change would affect products Wal-Mart sold, including coffee….”   Eeeeewwww!
  • Two professors comparing the “recovery” efforts in Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and arguing for why Joplin has done so much better by encouraging immediate, pedal to the metal rebuilding, versus Tuscaloosa’s program of moratorium, delay, planning and consultant sclerosis and quoting another Joplin resident in the Wall Street Journal:  “When you have the magnitude of that disaster, really the old ways of doing things are suspended for a while until you create whatever normal is…The government was realistic to know that there is a period of time when common sense, codes and laws that are in place to protect people are suspended for the sake of the greater good.”  That my friends is something fascinating to wrap your minds around.

    Joplin Recovery

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