Progressive Breakfast for February 19

Morning Message

This Is How Democracy Breaks; This Is How We Fix It

This President’s Day, I stood with two hundred and fifty Idahoans on the steps of our State Capitol in Boise to protest our president’s demand to build a wall between the United States and the the world. This is a #FakeTrumpEmergency – the latest sideshow in the Big Trump Circus. Indeed, this would all be laughable, if it didn’t reveal the deep, dark vein that runs through his administration. This is a power grab, and the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. Let’s not put lipstick on a pig. What Trump and his cronies want in this country is white supremacy. It should be a huge wake-up call that Trump said his declaration of emergency will end up in the Supreme Court. He’s not joking: that’s exactly what he wants. What this made-up “emergency” puts to the test is whether the Far Right’s 30-year campaign to take over the judiciary from within is finally complete. They’ve already locked up State Legislatures and lower courts all across the country. 250 may not sound like a lot, but we are proud that for each one of us, there was a gathering in a different city, in each of the 48 states that answered the call from People’s Action and MoveOn, where people of good faith who feel the same as we do gathered to say so. Together, we are millions, and we are strong. We are from every marginalized group, and we represent the full scope of the this country that is trying to be silenced. We are people of color, we are women, we are the poor and working class, and we are LGBTQIA. We are people with disabilities, we are young and we are aging. We are people of every faith and tradition. We are Native. We are all Asylum seekers and Immigrants. We are every one of us. So whoever you are, whatever you love, and especially if you love the promise of America, this is your time. This is the moment where you decide who will you be in it. What will you do? What will you give? How will you make a difference?

States Sue To Stop Trump’s Border Wall

16 states sue to stop Trump’s use of emergency powers to build border wall. NYT: “A coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall. The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending. Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said in an interview that the president himself had undercut his argument that there was an emergency on the border. ‘Probably the best evidence is the president’s own words,’ he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech on Feb. 15 announcing his plan: ‘I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.'”

WV, Oakland Teachers To Strike

V. teachers go on strike over state education bill. NPR: “West Virginia public school teachers are striking over a new bill that paves the way for charter schools and private school vouchers in a state that relies primarily on public education. In anticipation of the strike, almost all of the state’s 55 public school systems have canceled classes for Tuesday. The state’s House of Delegates and Senate have been going back and forth on different versions of a bill that would overhaul West Virginia’s educational system. According to the Charleston Gazette Mail, the education bill raises pay for teachers and increases funding for public schools, but also permits the creation of charter schools in the state, which currently has none. The bill also funnels public money into a voucher system, called educational savings accounts, that could be used for private and online schooling. The new proposals are unacceptable to the state’s teachers unions, which called for the strike to begin Tuesday. ‘We are left with no other choice,”‘ said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter, according to The Associated Press. In Oakland, Calif., 3,000 teachers plan to walk off the job Thursday over teacher pay, class size and lack of support staff.”

Sen. Sanders Enters 2020 Race

Sanders launches second presidential campaign. CNN: “After months of deliberation, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Tuesday that he is running for president again in 2020. It will be Sanders’ second consecutive bid for the Democratic nomination after losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016. ‘I am asking you to join me today as part of an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will begin with at least a million people from across the country,’ he wrote in an email to supporters following an interview on Vermont Public Radio. Sanders enters the 2020 race as one of the frontrunners — a remarkable turn for the democratic socialist who, three years ago, was viewed as a protest candidate from the political fringe. Today, Sanders is one of the most popular politicians among Democratic voters and his policy agenda — a suite of progressive proposals to expand health care, broaden the social safety net and make higher education free — has been embraced by many of the Democratic party’s leading figures. ‘I can tell you very happily, and I think any objective observer would confirm what I’m saying, is that in the last year and half or so, the Democratic party has moved in a far more progressive direction than they were before I ran for president,’ he said in an interview with CNN last year. But in the run-up to his announcement, Sanders and top aides insisted the decision would ultimately turn on a much simpler question: whether he was the best candidate to defeat President Donald Trump next year.”

Big Corn And Big Oil Fight For EPA’s Love

Oil, ag lobbies square off over EPA’s Wheeler. The Intercept: “The Republican Party’s biggest corporate allies — agribusiness and the fossil fuel industry — are waging an epic, if obscure, battle in the halls of Congress. And Big Oil, through its proxies in the Senate, has taken a hostage: Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. After the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced Wheeler’s nomination for permanent EPA chief on a party-line vote, a group of five senators issued a veiled threat to the nominee: Promise to rewrite regulations on renewable fuels that are more favorable to oil refineries, or forget about being confirmed. It’s a fight without a decent resolution for any human being needing to breathe clean air or inhabit a sustainable planet. The prodigious amount of energy used in producing corn-based biofuels is not much cleaner than the energy from burning oil-heavy gasoline. The fight is more over who will get to earn more money in the final, dying days of dirty energy dominance. It’s also a preview of the kind of battles that the advocates of a Green New Deal will have as they take on entrenched incumbent industries who have been spending heavily, for years, to generate government favors they are loathe to see disappear. The regulation at issue is called the renewable fuel standard, or RFS, which requires all gasoline sold in America to contain a minimum volume of renewable sources — which are dominated by corn-based ethanol. Big Ag wants the standard to be higher; Big Oil wants to be free from the corn burden.”

Coal Miners Stripped Of Benefits

Who else might like Medicare for All? Retired coal miners who just had their health benefits ripped away. Common Dreams: “On Friday, a ruling by a federal bankruptcy judge in Texas showed why retired coal miners led to believe their health benefits would be with them for life were wrong and at least one advocate for Medicare for All noted that this is just one more reason why a healthcare system that includes everyone and excludes nobody would be a lifeline for workers which capitalism has pulled the rug out from under. As the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming reported over the weekend, retired union members who worked at the local Kemmerer coal mine in Lincoln Country, Wyoming ‘likely lost their company health benefits’ after Judge David R. Jones of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston ruled that the Westmoreland Coal Co.—now up for auction under bankruptcy proceedings—could eliminate retirement health care and a union contract in order to sell the mine. According to the Star-Tribune, In order to sell the Kemmerer mine to new operators, Westmoreland has argued that it must eliminate union agreements that affect the nearly 300 employees of the western Wyoming mine as well as obligations to retired miners and dependents, many of whom still reside in the region. United Mine Workers of America had argued that responsibilities to employees and former miners of Kemmerer are protected in binding contracts between the miners and owners of the mine. That argument now becomes one for a Virginia billionaire to hear instead of the judge. That billionaire is Virginia businessman Tom Clarke, who said that while he recognizes the nullification of the coal miners’ health package and union contract is “painful,” it’s necessary for the sale to be worthwhile to an investor like him.”