fresh voices from the front lines of change








George Goehl

The People's Forum Is Letting Voters' Voices Be Heard, Not Just Candidates

Many low-income and working-class people – black, Latinx, Native, Asian, as well as many white folks – feel unseen in our politics. We often bemoan the low voting rates in this country, and we try to fix it with more money for voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. These are important strategies and I support them, but they don’t address the more fundamental fact that people do not see themselves or their concerns represented in our politics. That is why People’s Action, the working-class people’s organization where I serve as director, has created a new kind of presidential debate. Last month, more than 2,000 people gathered in person – with thousands more watching via live stream – for a People’s Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by People’s Action, Iowa CCI Action Fund and Student Action. In a candidate-centric political culture, we want to make sure that we can hear the voices of the people, not just the voices of candidates. In a much-needed twist, we asked candidates to agree that there would be no stump speeches – or any speeches, for that matter. Big kudos goes out to Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for agreeing to this format. Candidates spent roughly the same amount of time listening as talking, and all their answers had to respond to personal experiences from everyday people from all walks of life. Our next People’s Forum will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 26 October. If we truly want more people to engage in elections, we need to center people in the process. As many said at the forum, we have found the leaders we are looking for, and it’s not the candidates, it’s all of us.

Read more in The Guardian

Congress Doing DOJ's Job In Impeachment Inquiry

As Trump impeachment probe heats up, some say Congress is doing inquiry the Justice Department should've done. USA Today: "At the time, the disclosure was offered almost as a footnote to the explosive contents of a phone call in which President Donald Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden. As a summary of the call was released by the White House last month, senior Justice Department officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, said prosecutors had reviewed whether the president’s solicitation of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was a potential crime. The review, done at the request of the inspector general of the Intelligence Community, was narrow. It was based entirely on the written summary of the call, which even the White House indicated was imperfect. Authorities conducted no interviews to learn why a whistleblower took the extraordinary step of taking his concern to the inspector general for the nation's intelligence agencies. And it took only a few weeks for prosecutors to conclude there was no violation of campaign finance law. Yet in the month since that decision was made public, a fast-moving House impeachment inquiry and a separate criminal investigation raise serious questions about the Justice Department’s assessment of the president’s conduct. 'In hindsight, the decision by prosecutors was premature and ill-advised,' Richard Ben-Veniste, one of the Watergate prosecutors, said. 'The information provided by the whistleblower cried out for further inquiry.'"

ICE Holds Juveniles In Secret Detention

'Secret and unaccountable': Where some immigrant teens are being taken by ICE: Angelina Godoy started digging for answers more than a year ago. The human rights researcher had heard that ICE agents occasionally swept up migrant kids and locked them up in juvenile detention facilities, but she had no idea why. One of the places ICE supposedly housed these young people, Godoy learned, was a few hours from her home in Seattle. She searched online for information about the detentions, but couldn't find anything that explained what was going on. She then filed a series of public records requests with officials at the juvenile detention center closest to her, hoping they could shed light on what ICE was doing and why these minors were being held in places run more like jails than the shelters most migrant children end up in when they are detained. She had specifically requested detailed detainee files, with names and personal information redacted, and the facility was ready to share them with her. But what happened next stunned her: ICE blocked the facility from sharing the records and the federal government even went to court to keep the information secret. Unbeknownst to Godoy, she had stumbled upon an obscure pocket of the immigration system, where little is known, and little is divulged. For more than a decade, ICE has been taking a small number of immigrant teens it deems to be dangerous far from their families and detaining them for months at a time. For immigration attorneys and human rights experts such as Godoy, the practice is alarming."

Chicago Teachers Take On Wall Street

How Chicago Teachers Are Taking On Wall Street. The Intercept: "Chicago’s massive school strike, tens of thousands of teachers and staff converged downtown on Wednesday to picket outside City Hall. Inside, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was delivering the first budget address of her term, which began in May, to the city council. As chants echoed from demonstrators outside, Lightfoot issued a resolute message: There is no more money to meet the strikers’ demands, which include class-size caps; more nurses, librarians, and social workers; and a pay bump for support staff making poverty wages. Speaking to reporters following the address, Lightfoot emphasized that the city did not intend to give money to Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, which has a separate budget but whose board is appointed by the mayor. 'What we’ve been very clear about, is they’ve got to live within their means, whatever those means are and they can’t exceed that, and look to the city to bail them out,' Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, bristled at the term. 'A bailout? For smaller class size? Come on, that’s not a bailout — that’s an investment in the future of our country,' CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates shot back in an evening press conference. The mayor’s words hit at the heart of a theme that has become central to CTU’s organizing: the city’s tendency to provide bailouts and financial incentives for Wall Street and corporate entities, rather than invest in public services. Ever since the Chicago teachers staged a landmark strike in 2012, they have expanded the scope of issues — and enemies — the union is taking on, deploying a strategy known as “bargaining for the common good.' This time, the CTU’s 25,000 members are on strike alongside 7,500 special education assistants, custodians, and other school support staff represented by SEIU Local 73. As the strike enters its second week, a contract victory may depend on unions and their allies winning their larger political argument: that there’s plenty of money in the city, it’s just concentrated in the wrong hands."

DeVos Held In Contempt For Student Loan Violations

DeVos held in contempt for violating judge's order on student loans. Politico: "A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt of court and imposed a $100,000 fine for violating an order to stop collecting on the student loans owed by students of a defunct for-profit college. The exceedingly rare judicial rebuke of a Cabinet secretary came after the Trump administration was forced to admit to the court earlier this year that it erroneously collected on the loans of some 16,000 borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges despite being ordered to stop doing so. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote that "the evidence shows only minimal efforts to comply with the preliminary injunction" she issued in May 2018 ordering the Education Department to halt its collection of the loans. DeVos is named in the lawsuit in her official capacity as secretary of Education. She will not be personally responsible for paying the $100,000 in monetary sanctions, which will be paid by the government. The judge ordered that the fine go to a fund held by the former Corinthian students’ attorneys. It’s meant to help defray the damages and expenses associated with the improper collection of the loans, she said. The judge ordered the government and the attorneys to come up with a plan for administering the fund."

Education Dept. Official Resigns, Calls For Student Debt Forgiveness

Trump administration official resigns, calls for massive student debt forgiveness. CNBC: "A senior government official appointed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned Thursday, saying the current student loan system is 'fundamentally broken' and calling for billions of dollars in debt to be forgiven. A. Wayne Johnson was hired as the chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, which manages the country’s $1.6 trillion outstanding student loan portfolio. He later worked in a strategic role, directing how student loans are serviced for borrowers. Johnson told The Wall Street Journal he reached his conclusion after watching climbing defaults and realizing that a majority of student debt will never be repaid. Indeed, five years into repayment, half of student loan borrowers haven’t paid even $1 toward their debt’s principal, according to the Education Department’s own data. And 40% of student loan borrowers could default by 2023, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution. 'We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody … but it rides on their credit files — it rides on their back — for decades,' Johnson, who wrote his dissertation at Mercer University on student debt, told the Journal. 'The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity,' he added. Johnson proposes forgiving $50,000 in student debt for all borrowers, about $925 billion, according to the newspaper. For people who’ve already repaid their debt, he suggests offering them a $50,000 tax credit. The plan would be paid for with a 1% tax on corporate earnings."

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