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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DREAMs Coming True

lines outside Casa de Maryland

Little Rock       How about some more good news in these crazy days?

It was wonderful to see a woman with a Casa de Maryland t-shirt on the front page of my hometown paper.  Having done some work with Casa and their great director, Gustavo Torres, I could just feel their excitement at seeing the crowds and being able to play a role in helping people find a clear path here.   In another paper there were pictures of the long lines in Los Angeles in the smallish office of our old ally, CIRLA, the Coalition for Immigration Reform in Los Angeles, and their wonderful director, Angelica Salas, our old friend, who also has been tireless in fighting for immigrant rights in the United States.  Smiles were everywhere.  One could almost sense palpably that hope was being reborn.

The real hope has to be that this slight reprieve for these young DREAMers will create some momentum for reform and justice here that can no longer be denied.  For all of the right wing handwringing about President Obama’s executive order here, this is a happy day for sure but the reality is that this is a small step, a breath of fresh air, and an opportunity to stand safe in the sun.  This is not amnesty.  In fact this is all very temporary.

These thousands of young people are applying for “deferred action,” which confers a two-year reprieve for younger immigrants from prosecution and fears around their undocumented status based on their educational or military status.  No one knows what may happen in two years, unless there is real immigration reform or passage of the DREAM Act in some form or fashion.  Furthermore even this “deferred action” is contingent.  For students, school has to be mastered with satisfactory attendance and grades.  For others, degrees obtained can now be used and employers are also safe in hiring, as I understand it, at least during this period.

All “deferred action” stands for is what it really says.  It is “deferred action” for deportation for successful applicants under this newly initiated policy for children brought to the United States and raised here by their parents.  Their circumstances where not a part of conscious choices on their part, but a matter of adaptation in the way of all children moved to a new location which in this case meant a new country different than where they were born.

Obama’s order was more a simply expression about human rights than it was a step towards immigration reform.   This temporary reprieve lifts the weight of fear from police arrest and prosecution and family separations from millions in this situation.  It is not a permanent “get out of jail” pass, but it is a “walk free in the sun” opportunity.

Our excitement lies in the belief and hope that having taken this step, there can now be no going back, but there are many long fights before there is genuine and permanent relief for these young people and many other immigrants who have made their contributions here and have made America their home.  No DREAM has come true, but here’s hoping!

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