fresh voices from the front lines of change








Tom Conway

Facing Retirement With Fear

Glen Heck spent 28 years sweating in a Campti, La., paper mill that he likes to say was “hotter than nine kinds of hell.” The Democratic-controlled House passed—with bipartisan support — a commonsense plan to save Heck’s pension and those of another 1.3 million workers, retirees and widows. But Republican leaders in the Senate refuse to consider it. In the meantime, the futures of workers and retirees like Heck hang in the balance. Under the bill passed by the House, the Butch Lewis Act, the Treasury Department would loan money to troubled plans. The plans would use the money to meet their obligations to retirees, and they would repay the loans over 30 years. But instead of passing the Butch Lewis Act to fix the pension crisis, Senate Republicans introduced legislation that would make the problem worse. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee want to increase the premiums that retirement plans pay - something that would push currently healthy plans into financial ruin and put more workers’ retirements in jeopardy. The added costs also would propel some employers into bankruptcy, costing workers their jobs. Grassley and Alexander also want to increase taxes on pensions, taking a bigger slice of the benefits workers earned and imposing a greater burden on retirees unable to afford it. Workers and retirees didn’t create the pension crisis. But Grassley and Alexander want them to pay for it.

Senate Rebukes Trump On War Powers

Senate rebukes Trump, votes to limit Iran war making ability. Reuters: "The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Thursday to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war against Iran, rebuking him weeks after a strike against an Iranian military commander and Tehran’s retaliation raised fears of broader regional conflict. Eight of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Democrats to pass the war powers resolution by 55-45. The measure would require Trump to remove U.S. troops engaged in hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or passes a specific authorization for the use of military force. Trump has promised a veto, and there is not expected to be enough support to muster the two-thirds Senate super majority to override. Fifty-three of the 100 senators are Republicans, who rarely break with the president."

Trump's "Health Reform Vision?" Slash $1 Trillion

Trump’s “Health Reform Vision” Includes $1 Trillion in Cuts to Medicaid and ACA. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "For months, the Administration has promised that it has a plan for Americans’ health care if it wins its lawsuit seeking to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The President has also pledged to pursue ACA repeal legislation in 2021 if Republicans control Congress. The President’s new budget doesn’t outline a health care plan. Instead, it includes an 'allowance for the President’s health reform vision': a line of numbers backed up with minimal policy specifics. But despite the lack of detail, the budget sheds light on what the President’s vision for health care entails, including significant cuts and an empty promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions. The centerpiece of the President’s vision is deep cuts: $1 trillion less funding for Medicaid and the ACA over ten years. The 'allowance for the President’s health reform vision' calls for $844 billion in cuts (from 2021 through 2030); the budget indicates that the large majority would come from Medicaid, including the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to low-income adults, while the rest appears to come from other ACA coverage programs. The budget’s other Medicaid proposals account for another roughly $150 billion in cuts. The total Medicaid and ACA cuts would grow rapidly over time, to about $165 billion annually by 2030."

White Supremacist Messaging Seeps Into Mainstream

An invasion of propaganda: Experts warn that white supremacist messages are seeping into mainstream. USA Today: "Colin P. Clarke has been teaching a course on terrorism and insurgency at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for four years, and much more of his class these days is devoted to white supremacy than in the past. So Clarke was not one bit surprised when a new report by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism revealed that efforts to spread white supremacy propaganda – often through discriminatory fliers, banners and posters – more than doubled from 2018 to last year. 'It’s concerning because, for all the people who don’t move on to become threats of violence, some will, and some will get their start by seeing pieces of propaganda that will alert them to the fact this group exists,' Clarke said. The ADL report represents a sobering warning about the reach of white supremacist groups, which can take advantage of the efficiency and anonymity provided by social media to disseminate their ideology with little fear of backlash. Last year the ADL recorded its highest number of propaganda incidents ever with 2,713 cases, compared to 1,214 in 2018. College campuses, full of impressionable young minds open to new ideas, are a favorite target, receiving about one-fourth of the propaganda against minority groups like immigrants, blacks, Jews, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community. The report also said all states except Hawaii registered instances of this kind of messaging, which is often cloaked in patriotic themes and serves as a recruiting tool. In addition, the ADL said the use of announced white supremacist rallies has given way to flash demonstrations, which are less likely to draw counter-protests and negative media coverage."

AG Barr Uses Law As Tool Of Class Warfare

The critical legal theory of Bill Barr. The Atlantic: "At the law schools of the 1980s, a militant faction of professors taught a harsh lesson. Law, they argued, is a myth that property owners invoke to protect themselves and oppress those without property. The legal reasoning that we students were so frantically working to absorb was in fact a deception, an expensive drapery concealing the brute realties of political and class power. Some students indignantly rejected this teaching. Others accepted that it contained some truth, mixed with much exaggeration and propaganda. But young William Barr—George Washington University Law School, Class of 1977—seems to have absorbed the radical message with perverse enthusiasm: Alrighty then! Let’s do it! As attorney general, Barr has focused on two missions: on the one hand, cracking down on crimes by the poor and the foreign-born; on the other, going easy on the crimes of President Trump’s associates. This administration likes to call itself 'tough on crime' and to revile its Democratic opponents as 'the party of crime.' But toward its own many crimes, the Trump administration is genially indulgent. Like the gangsters around the table in the first Godfather movie, the Trump administration is able to convince itself that its victims are animals without souls—and that its own lawbreaking is a necessary, even honorable, accommodation to the facts of life."

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