Rewriting the Rules

Rewriting-rulesNew Orleans              The AFL-CIO has already begun the process of vetting potential Presidential candidates, offering the opportunity to any of the score that has an interest in coming by, which so far means all the Democrats and Republican ex-Arkansas Governor and current TV commentator Mike Huckabee. Interestingly, Rich Trumka has indicated that the AFL’s key benchmark flows from a new report spearheaded by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz of Roosevelt University with the input of a host of others. The report is called “Rewriting the Rules,” so let’s take a look at its proposals.

Not surprisingly, Trumka and the house of labor are no doubt pleased to see the ringing endorsement of expanded labor rights and promotion of collective bargaining as important principles to re-establish in the economy. The clearest proposal in this area recommended that the federal government add clear conditions not only to governmental subcontracts but to development grants to protect and advance union protections and bargaining. The rest was predictable.

The point of the report is that the rules matter. No rules, which is what the long desert of deregulation in so many sectors produced, tilted the economy to the 1% and allowed Wall Street and other cowboys to herd us into the Great Recession. Remember it wasn’t just “no rules,” but “bad rules,” which is the point here, too. “Rewriting the Rules” is an argument that in order to re-balance the economy and its myriad winners-and-losers, our politicians and the government need to put new regulations in place that would allow us to prosper and to do so more equitably.

Perhaps most interesting were the recommendation for reforming the financial sector, because this is right in the wheelhouse for Stiglitz and many of his helpers:

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnd “too big to fail” by imposing additional capital surcharges on systemically risky financial institutions and breaking up firms that cannot produce credible living wills.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMBetter regulate the shadow banking sector.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMBring greater transparency to all financial markets by requiring all alternative asset managers to publicly disclose holdings, returns, and fee structures.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMReduce credit and debit card fees through improved regulation of card providers and enhanced competition.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnforce existing rules with stricter penalties for companies and corporate officials that break the law.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMReform Federal Reserve governance to reduce conflicts of interest and institute more open and accountable elections.

 

Some of those recommendations would make a difference, particularly impacting on banking and credit access and affordability. The report also takes some clear shots at what is needed to rein in the quick buck artists of business for the protection of the economy and the public.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMRestructure CEO pay by closing the performance-pay tax loophole and increasing transparency on the size of compensation packages relative to performance and median worker pay and on the dilution as a result of grants of stock options.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnact a financial transaction tax to reduce short-term trading and encourage more productive long-term investment.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEmpower long-term stakeholders through the tax code, the use of so-called “loyalty shares,” and greater accountability for managers of retirement funds.

 

I wouldn’t hold my breath about any of this, but it is reassuring that labor at least is asking the right questions and pointing the way to some hard decisions and clear policies.

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Please enjoy Rickie Lee Jones’ J’ai Connais Pas (I Don’t Know).

Thanks to KABF.

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Another Crossroads for Immigration Reform Strategy and Tactics

2013-04-10t214708z_730655525_gm1e94b05i901_rtrmadp_3_immigration-rally.38038077002New Orleans    Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO lambasted the Republican “principles” on immigration reform as a non-starter virtually creating a permanent apartheid of immigrants inside the country.  There was a time when the vigorousness of labor’s opposition would have signaled the death of such a bill.  This time though President Obama was encouraging to the Republicans, even signaling that he might be open to the door being shut on undocumented workers here now, as long as it wasn’t permanently locked.  The president is obviously desperate to get something done on immigration in a time of political peril for his presidency with the countdown already beginning on whether or not his time is running out even though three years remain.

More troubling for reformers committed to more meaningful reform were comments made by Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who more than any other politician has made reform his issue in every way possible.  Gutierrez essentially seem to be cautioning reformers that they need to lose the last of their illusions and be prepared to make a deal with the Republicans anyway they can, no matter the fact that they might be covering their noses, eyes, and mouths to do so.   This seems to be the emerging Washington beltway consensus voiced as well in part by longtime advocates, Frank Sharry of America’s Voice and Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress.

In five years, the immigration reform movement seems to have devolved from a position of calling for comprehensive reform to trying to get a patchwork quilt to cover array of issues faced by 14 million undocumented immigrants in the country.  Some of this isn’t news.  Advocates have been strategically withdrawing for some time to be willing to embrace reform in separate packages rather than as part of a comprehensive measure.  Chris Newman of NDLON, one of the leading groups behind any reform and one of the most aggressive, argued that this would be a necessary strategic shift months ago in an interview with me.

The Republican principles though are not what he had in mind, and you can take that to the bank!   Even Ross Douthat, the Republican cheerleader and conservative op-ed columnist for the New York Times, argued that these principles were essentially a collection of special interests concessions without any pretense of fixing the problem.

The only place where there seems to be an emerging winner may be for the DREAMers, the children of undocumented immigrants brought to this country and raised here.  Their courage, activism, and continued direct protest has convinced politicians of all stripes that the morality of their cause is something they cannot no longer escape.  Direct action tactics, including the recent fast by Eliseo Medina and others, seem to have value in keeping a heartbeat for other protests, but do not seem to be moving the needle for more extensive reform.

Unfortunately though if we’re now negotiating from weakness, we’re facing a hard spring followed by at best a meager harvest.

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