fresh voices from the front lines of change








Tom Conway

American Democracy is Not A Charity Case

America’s very democracy is dying because billionaires amass ever more wealth—and thus ever more political power—while everyone else struggles with less. Less money. But, just as importantly, less clout in government. To preserve a functioning democracy, everyone, including billionaires, must pay a fair share of taxes so that America has the money it desperately needs to address shared priorities, reinvigorate the middle class and repair the social fabric torn by income inequality. And we need real limits on campaign contributions to stop the nation’s slide from democracy, where many have a voice, to oligarchy, where only the rich are heard. In a functioning democracy, everyone gets a voice in these kinds of decisions through proper representation and taxation. Taxes are an obligation for the common welfare. Everyone contributes a fair share so that the pool is big enough for the people—through their duly elected representatives—to address shared priorities, from national defense to public schools. But Americans don’t have an equal voice. And they will never get a just tax policy as along as the rich can buy whatever political policy they want with unchecked campaign contributions and loads of lobbyists. The U.S. Supreme Court gave the rich this gift – the power to spend unlimited amounts on campaign ads and use corporations to inject unlimited dark money into politics. The rich have used piles of money to muffle individuals, even large groups of individuals. Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg gave $200 million in Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which asserts: “A healthy democracy is dependent on all community members influencing public policy decisions that affect their lives and neighborhoods.” Zuckerberg’s charity isn’t going to make that true nationwide, however. Americans must change the system corrupted by big money.

Twin Crises As Congress Returns

Trump faces twin crises as Congress returns. Politico: "Congress returns Tuesday to an impeachment inquiry moving into high gear and a rapidly unfolding foreign policy disaster in Syria that’s undermining President Donald Trump’s standing in his own party. House investigators are scheduled to hear crucial testimony this week from several key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal, including Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a major GOP donor. And a number of top Trump officials and associates — including Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney — are facing deadlines this week to comply with Democratic demands for documents related to the president’s efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. So far, polls show support rising for Trump’s impeachment, yet the public remains ambivalent about actually removing him from office. And the GOP base remains solidly behind Trump, as do Republican lawmakers. For Republicans, Trump’s behavior is growing more unpredictable even as his reelection campaign moves forward, making it harder to defend the president even as their political futures are increasingly tied to his own. Trump’s pullout from Syria, which has left the U.S.-allied Kurds to fend for themselves, has angered Republicans more than any action he’s taken since assuming office in January 2017, rattling the GOP national security and foreign policy establishments to the core."

Impeachment Inquiry Pace Accelerates

House Democrats tap impeachment gusher. Axios: "The White House is tense — and some aides are frantic — as Democrats on Capitol Hill tap a gusher of revelations that paint an increasingly vivid portrait of President Trump's unrestrained conduct of foreign policy. Why it matters: Democrats are moving fast. Letters to potential witnesses reveal the breadth and speed at which the inquiry is unfolding, a stark contrast to the Mueller report which stretched over nearly two years. The probe now reaches into the Pentagon, with Democrats sending a letter demanding the appearance of Acting Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger. Some White House officials are demoralized, amid unusual chaos and uncertainty, even for this West Wing, according to a former top Trump official. 'Others ... are girding for a fight and confident in their boss and the likely political outcome,' the official said. Mulvaney has complained to people that White House counsel Pat Cipollone is developing the impeachment legal strategy with Trump and not sharing information with key staff. Mulvaney and Cipollone, Trump's two most vital strategists for impeachment, aren't getting on, as documented by the Times and others. And tensions are rising between Cipollone and those who think he has been playing this wrong. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, House Democrats tell Axios that every witness has bolstered the case against Trump, with what Democrats contend is little contradictory evidence. Our takeaways: If everyone agrees to appear, Democrats will have interviewed 11 Trump administration officials by the end of next week."

Giuliani, Mulvaney Created 'Shadow Foreign Policy

Bolton objected to Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani ‘a hand grenade’. NYT "The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday. Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony. The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony. 'I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,' Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition."

Immigrants Key To Urban Renewal

The immigrants Trump denounces have helped revive the cities he scorns. NYT: "President Trump has turned repeatedly throughout his tenure and his re-election campaign to two targets: immigrants whom he has described as 'invading' the country, and American cities he has called out of control. Through his language, the two are linked. His foils are depicted as violent and infested, and in some deep sense at odds with American values. But to the extent that each presents real policy challenges — how to integrate foreigners, what to do about struggling places — cities and immigrants are intertwined. The president’s two oft-cited problems have historically been solutions to each other. 'There’s this symbiotic relationship that immigrants need cities in order to acclimate to a new society, and cities need new immigrants,' said Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington. Research by Dowell Myers at the University of Southern California has shown that immigrants increase home values in sagging markets, and Mr. Vigdor’s work at the county level has shown that their arrival encourages U.S.-born residents to follow, spurring population growth where it had been declining. Other studies have shown that some of the biggest urban crime declines have been in neighborhoods where new immigrants have arrived. That’s most likely because foreign-born residents have lower crime rates than native-born ones, and their population growth in neighborhoods previously full of vacant properties can help restore eyes on the street."

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