Maria-Elena Letona

Our Movement Moment: Beyond Neo-Liberalism & Trumpism

Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor Action and vice president of People’s Action, speaks about “Our Movement Moment: Beyond Neo-Liberalism & Trumpism” at the People’s Summit in Chicago, Illinois on June 10, 2017. Letona, who has more than twenty-five years of experience in grassroots organizing, has also served as executive director for Centro Presente, a Boston-based immigrant rights organization. She holds a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts, and is the author and co-author of numerous articles on organizational and community capacity building.

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Tony Pierce

Winning Clean Energy & Climate Justice for All

Rev. Tony Pierce, the co-senior pastor of the Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship in Peoria, Illinois and of board chair of Illinois People’s Action and Fair Economy Illinois, speaks about “Winning Climate Justice for All” at the People’s Summit in Chicago, Illinois on June 10, 2017. Rev. Pierce’s congregation was formed in 2005 by the decision of African-American and Anglo congregations in Peoria to merge into a single multiracial and multicultural congregation, in the wake of racial unrest in the city. It was the first time that two racially disparate congregations had elected to take such action in Peoria’s 300 year history. Rev. Pierce, Illinois People’s Action and Fair Economy Illinois played key roles in winning the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Package in Illinois last December.

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Liz Ryan Murray

What They Want to Hide Tells You Who They Are

The Treasury Department has released their report on financial regulations they want to scrap. Spoiler alert: the Wall Street sharpies who Trump put in charge of our economy, who made fortunes on both ends of the housing collapse, think pretty much all regulations on banks, including home lenders, should go. Photo credit: U.S. Department of the Treasury This report was driven by Craig Phillips, who packaged and sold billions in bundled home loans for Morgan Stanley before he moved over to hedge fund giant BlackRock. His boss is former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin, who made his bones by aggressively foreclosing on homeowners at IndyMac after the 2008 financial meltdown. These guys think we should go a lot easier on the poor, poor megabanks, who’ve suffered enough, and toughen up on the real culprits – middle-class families.

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Richard Eskow

Cuomo Wants to Privatize Penn Station; That’s a Bad Republican Idea

New Yorkers face a “summer of hell”  as Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie seek to hand over the city’s historic Penn Station to private investors. This “hell” is the result of our leaders’ “bipartisan” reluctance to invest in needed government infrastructure. Donald Trump is working with his fellow Republicans in Congress to enact a “privatization” program that could become the largest giveaway of public resources to private corporations in our nation’s history. (See Part 1 of this privatization series.) Why wouldn’t they? Republicans claim to hate “big” government, and privatization – the dismantling of government and giveaway of publicly owned resources to corporate interests – has been a core part of the Republican agenda for years.  Unfortunately, a number of corporate-friendly Democrats have also embraced the idea.

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Alyssa Aguilera

How We Can Help, Not Punish, Drug Users

More people die in the United States from drug overdoses every year than from car crashes or guns. Over half a million lives were lost between 2000 and 2015; data suggests 2016 will have the most overdose deaths in American history. These deaths have spiked because of a “perfect storm” of addiction: the over-prescription of pain-killers, the growing availability of the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, and failed drug-war tactics that prioritize punishment over public health. At VOCAL-NY, we have been organizing people to combat harmful drug policies for nearly two decades. We know the War on Drugs is a failure. It has exacerbated rates of HIV & Hepatitis C transmission, fueled mass incarceration, and diverted trillions of dollars from public health to fund overpolicing and prisons.

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Richard Eskow

The Koch Brothers & Trump: The Men Who Sold the World

When he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump gave a speech so filled with falsehoods that it triggered detailed rebuttals by publications ranging from Politifact to Scientific American. The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” column, which hands out “Pinocchios” for false or misleading statements, was forced to note that “we do not award Pinocchios in roundups of speeches.” But by then Trump probably had more Pinocchios than the Disneyland gift shop. Sign at Tompkins Square Park protest. Photo credit: Meshae Studios, flickr But Trump is not the only truth-denier in the Republican Party.

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Isaiah J. Poole

People’s Summit Drives New Wave of Progressive Candidates

The Cook Political Report, one of the most respected handicappers of political races, doesn’t count New Jersey’s fourth congressional district – which encompasses most of central New Jersey – as even plausibly competitive for a Democrat. It’s now represented by a Republican, Christopher Smith, who is in his 19th term. In 2016, the district voted 56 percent for Donald Trump. But Jim Keady – a restaurant owner who has also been active with New Jersey Organizing Project, a People’s Action affiliate – believes he can unseat Smith as a Democrat by throwing out the traditional “centrist” playbook political consultants say you have to use to win in a district like the New Jersey Fourth and instead running boldly as a progressive, Bernie Sanders-style populist.

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Tobita Chow

Working Together in a Time of Crisis

Tobita Chow delivered the following speech to the “From Resistance to Power” session at the People’s Summit, a gathering of more than four thousand progressive activists in Chicago over the weekend of June 9-11, 2017. We live in a time of crisis. Billionaires and white nationalists have gone from lobbying the White House to living in the White House. This is an old story. Time and time again, the One Percent have tried to divide us by race and nationality, to get us to point the finger at one another, in order to consolidate their own power. But we have found the enemy, and it is not each other. It is corporate power and the billionaire class, which sow division between us and profits off the suffering of our communities. Together we will defeat them and take power.

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Leo Gerard

Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it. He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars. That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

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Erica Nanton

What I Learned Carrying a Cross From Chicago to Springfield

The two hundred miles I walked from Chicago to Springfield with my dear friends from Fair Economy Illinois have special meaning to me. We marched fifteen days to demand a budget for our state that puts people and planet first. Throughout this beautiful and grueling journey, I carried a wooden cross in memory of my cousin, Elijah Murphy Jr. Elijah was a father of four and the light of his family. Early one morning last November, on his way to work in Chicago’s Back of the Yards, he was shot to death in front of his eldest daughter. I carried Elijah’s cross because I know his life – and the lives of the nearly 800 loved ones we lost in Chicago to gun violence last year – could have been saved. And the first step to saving lives is for our elected officials to step up, do their jobs and provide our communities with the resources they need.

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Jeff Bryant

DeVos Education Hires Bode Ill For Students’ Rights

U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos had another rough day in Congress this week when Senators grilled her on the details of her budget, which slashes over $9 billion from the education department and diverts $1.4 billion to privately operated schools such as charter schools and private schools. Even Republican senators expressed strong reservations for cuts to Special Olympics, after-school programs, and a cluster of programs for supporting low-income and first-generation college students. But the fireworks in the media focused primary on what DeVos said about enforcing federal government laws related to discrimination in schools. Senators pointed out that her ideas for diverting public money to private institutions could result in federal dollars going to schools that discriminate against students on religion, their sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

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Richard Eskow

Kitchen Logic: Don’t Let Trump’s GOP Privatize America

If you needed a new stove or refrigerator, you wouldn’t give the keys to your kitchen to Olive Garden, then pay them to let you eat. You’d be opening your wallet for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of logic Donald Trump and his party are using to give away our shared wealth. Privatization – the transfer of government-owned resources to private interests – is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Governments use it to get an expense item off their books, but citizens often find themselves saddled with all sorts of additional costs for years to come.  It’s mostly deficit hawks who oppose any kind of spending by government who praise this kind of move. Billions of dollars worth of U.S.

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Michelle Chen

How States Can Fight Climate Change On Their Own

Confronting the climate crisis shouldn’t be rocket science — to push society to decarbonize, just treat greenhouse gases the way governments treat liquor and cigarettes: Raise the price. With the climate-change movement at an impasse as the Paris climate treaty clashes with Trump’s anti-science agenda, the bottleneck around carbon policy today is more political than technological. And despite Trump’s rejection of the Paris Treaty, the global backlash shows that even the economics are coming around. Photo credit: Eric Wüstenhagen / flickr A new state-by-state analysis by the Carbon Tax Center (CTC) shows that carbon taxation, while often dismissed as a political nonstarter, could actually be a common-sense policy measure for local communities.

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Liz Ryan Murray

CHOICE Act Is a Lump of Coal in Our Stocking

“Wall Street wrote their wish list, and to Congress they’re flocking: But this Christmas in June, let’s put coal in their stocking!” Republicans in the House want make the deepest desires of Wall Street sharpies, loan sharks and big banks come true.  They are poised to vote on what they call the “CHOICE Act,” which is in fact the most extreme pro-Wall Street, anti-consumer bill this country has ever seen. Fearless Girl Statue by Kristen Visbal, Wall Street. Photo credit: Anthony Quintano Representative Maxine Waters is on target when she calls it the “Wrong Choice Act.” It turns back the clock to before our country’s financial near-collapse in 2008, effectively ‘repealing and replacing’ the curbs put in place to keep Wall Street avarice from crashing the economy while fleecing the public again.

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Angela Simaan

Trump’s Family Leave: An Empty Envelope for American Workers

The White House budget dispels any hopes Trump might keep his promise to extend a helping hand to the nation’s millions of small business workers with a family and medical leave act that works for them. Instead, the Trump team hands American workers an empty envelope. Photo credit: Pixabay Small business owners had reasons to hope: since the campaign, rumors have swirled the president might support a federal paid leave program. Candidate Trump had endorsed a call by his daughter Ivanka, who paints herself as an empathetic business owner, mother of three, and tuned-in working woman, to enact paid family leave. Earlier this year, progressive lawmakers in the Senate also introduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.

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LeeAnn Hall

Rural Communities Lose Most With Health Repeal

The GOP health bill won’t just roll back Obamacare – it will end Medicaid as we know it. For thirty years, I’ve helped people fight for health care. In one of my proudest moments, I worked with people in small towns across Idaho to expand Medicaid for children. So I’ve seen what people can accomplish when we demand that elected representatives do the right thing. Photo credit: Ted Eylan / Flickr Together, we can save lives. We need to show that power now more than ever, as Congress considers legislation that would strip coverage from millions of people. Those of us who live in small towns and rural communities have the most to lose — and the greatest reason to fight. The repeal bill passed by the House will push 23 million people off their coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Pre-existing condition protections will be tossed out the window, too.

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Josh Hoxie

The Unpleasant Impact of an Unserious Budget

If you can get past the fuzzy math, Trump’s budget means certain pain for most families — and big tax cuts for the wealthiest few. Federal budgets, while boring and wonky, can have a serious impact on our lives. They dictate our collective priorities for how we choose to spend our public resources in support of the common good. That is, good budgets do that. But you’d be hard-pressed to call the most recent budget from the Trump administration good. To be clear, it’s hard to even refer to this budget as serious. Sure, it’s written in official-looking thick blue books, and it outlines spending figures using precise numbers. But that’s about where the formality ends. Tucked into the formal budget is a set of assumptions that present a fantastical approach to simple arithmetic. Estate Tax Two-Step Take the estate tax for just one example, also known as the inheritance tax.

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Robert Borosage

Is Britain Also Feeling the Bern?

Bernie Sanders is in England for sold-out speaking engagements to boost Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party’s candidate for prime minister in the snap election scheduled for June 8. Corbyn is surging in British polls, and running a populist campaign that pledges radical economic reform. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons The tides of British and American politics often rise and fall together. Conservative Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power in Britain was followed one year later by the stunning victory of her “political soulmate” Ronald Reagan. The two launched the modern conservative era, declaring, in Thatcher’s famous formulation, that “There is no alternative.” The 1992 victory of Bill Clinton’s New Democrats was echoed by the rise of Tony Blair’s New Labour four years later.

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Daniel Doubet

Open Letter From Pittsburgh to the President on Paris Climate Pullout

Mr. President, when you took our country out of the global agreement to stop climate change, you said you  “represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” As a proud native of western Pennsylvania, I strongly disagree. You do not represent Pittsburgh. Our people overwhelmingly rejected you at the ballot box, and we have seen your brand of charlatanism before. Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri, Wikimedia Commons For generations, glorified highwaymen like you have come to exploit the people and land of western Pennsylvania, and gorged themselves on their spoils. These salesmen claimed gold would rain down on us, if only we let them dump toxins in our rivers. We didn’t buy it then, and we don’t buy it now. I was born and raised about 20 miles from the first American oil wells, in Titusville, PA.

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Leo Gerard

Workers Want a Green Economy, Not a Dirty Environment

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.   Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times. Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible.

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