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Can The Democrats Get Organized? An Interview With Marshall Ganz

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In the spring of 2007, famed union organizer Marshall Ganz began meeting with the Obama campaign. Ganz persuaded them to create a field operation using the techniques that Ganz had developed with the United Farm Workers in California. Thus the army of thousands of volunteers that helped Obama win the Democratic primary and the presidency in 2008 was born. Ganz, 73, is from Bakersfield, California, the son of a rabbi. He dropped out of Harvard in 1964 to work with a Southern student civil rights group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The next year he moved back to California to join Cesar Chavez's fledgling movement to organize the state's migrant farm workers into a union, eventually becoming the United Farm Workers' Director of Organizing. In 1991, Ganz returned to Harvard to get his B.A. and in 2000 received a Ph.D. in sociology. For three decades, he has been lecturing in the principles of organizing at Harvard's Kennedy School, while remaining deeply involved in organizing projects in the United States and overseas. I wanted to ask him about the prospects of the left, liberals and the Democratic Party in the face of Donald Trump's presidency and Republican control of Congress and the majority of statehouses.

Judis: We talked a few years ago after the Occupy movement fizzled about a Tahrir Square phenomenon [in Egypt], where protests rise up and then die off and achieve results contrary to what they intended. We now have tremendous protests against the Trump administration. What is going on? And what can come out of this?

Ganz: It takes a little hubris to say what is going on. It seems to be that what is happening is this overwhelming reaction to Trump's assault on just about everybody other than his supporters in just about every way. It has created a solidarity in the face of a shared threat. One of the things that was interesting was that for the people who went to the Women's March it wasn't just about women's issues and for the people who showed up at the airports it wasn't just about immigration issues. There seems to be a moment of much broader recognition of the values that a progressive or democratic politics stands for. I think that is a great opportunity.

But the challenge is crafting that reaction into the capacity for strategic response. Unless this solidarity can become solidarity for shared purpose, we are going to dissipate a lot of it. Ever since the 1960s and 1970s, the problem on the progressive side, of fragmentation based on each group pursuing its own separate issue, seems to be far more substantial than on the other side.

Organizing opposition to Trump

Judis: How do you see this solidarity coming to pass. Doesn't there have to be leading organizations at this point? One suggestion I've heard is that progressives have to focus on transforming and taking control of the Democratic Party.

Ganz: I don't think so. There are a couple of places to look for instruction on this. For one thing, the rise of the conservative movement didn't happen through the RNC [Republican National Committee]. Conservatives successfully created a more or less coherent network of organizations linked to local, state and national politics, which is a traditional form of effective political organization in the U.S. There was the Christian Coalition which started with school boards and moved upwards to take over the Republican Party. Or there is the Koch Brothers' network. Not to mention the Tea Party or the NRA or ALEC.

The point is that it didn't happen through the RNC. It happened through movements and movement organizations structured outside that could develop a coherent or at least semi-coherent strategy. If you go back to the civil rights movement, there was the Leadership Council for Civil Rights, it was everybody from the Urban League over to SNCC, and it lasted for a number of years. At least they knew what everybody was doing. They could disagree, but at least there was some sort of possibility of coherence, and occasionally they could converge, as they did on the March on Washington.

You look in vain for something like that on the progressive side. There is such a proliferation of groups, all kinds of groups, some of which take up space without filling it. Our challenge is to put together that combination of local, state and national organizations that can, first of all, handle defense, especially in terms of immigration because that's an immediate threat to people’s security, and there is resistance on many fronts, but what needs more attention is initiative. If we expect the Democratic Party to do that we are smoking something because the closest they ever got was Howard Dean and his 50 state doctrine. I don't think that's where it happens. It happens through the stepping up of leadership at all levels to bite the bullet in a coherent way so that we can turn this opportunity to some real purpose.

The success of Indivisible is evidence of the enormous numbers of people out there who want to take action who are connected to no existing group.

Judis: What is Indivisible?

Ganz: They are a bunch of congressional staffers, one is an SEIU [Service Employees International Union] guy. They got the idea of doing to the Republicans what the Tea Party did to the Democrats. The put out a very simple, accessible manual of how to do that, and they got it out there in a very timely way, and it really clicked with people. They weren't asking people to send emails or sign petitions. They are asking people to organize locally in the form of those town meetings they are having with the Republicans just like the Tea Party did. And it really took off. They’ve scaffolded some 7,000 groups. They are in every congressional district except for one. What they have done is to scaffold a barebones structure enabling people to focus on a specific tactic. Now the question is how they can take it to the next step. But that's a very helpful development because of its scale, its depth and its simplicity. [For more on Indivisible, see this article. Or see their own site.]

I really want to underscore the significance of Indivisible. It's the same experience we had with Obama in 2007 and 2008. You create a plausible pathway to action and all kinds of people come out of the woodwork. The problem is that there haven't been many plausible pathways to action. And that's a strategic responsibility, and it requires creating enough structure so that that kind of strategy can be developed and articulated.

Judis: What about Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders organization?

Ganz: I don't know enough to know what is happening. I know the Sanders campaign didn't turn their mobilization into organization like Obama did. They did a lot of mobilizing, but the campaign wasn't committed to organization. It was an Old Testament prophet at the head of the great multitudes.

Judis: Their focus seems to have been on getting Keith Ellison elected as the DNC chairman.

Ganz: The DNC is a distraction. If you look at what the RNC did for the Republican resurgence, it was not much. If you expect the DCCC or the DNC to do it for the Democrats, you'll be disappointed. Dean temporarily defied the logic with his 50 state strategy. The usual business about not campaigning in every district is so counter-productive. If you look at it from a purely financial standpoint, we have to invest the money where there is the greatest marginal payoff, but it is all short-term. It is not looking at base building, so all these red areas never even hear a counter argument because nobody runs. It is not shocking that all they have is the Fox view of the world. It's not being challenged.

Democratic politics depends on contention and challenge. One way to do that is through campaigns. It takes people with courage to run for school board. That is one piece of that I just don’t see happening through the DNC.

The goal is to organize, not just mobilize

Judis: The Republicans were rooted in Chambers of Commerce and the churches. Wasn't that a big advantage to their resurgence?

Ganz: The Republicans had the evangelical churches, the religious schools that Betsy DeVos helped sponsor, the gun clubs, and the NRA. There are local gun clubs everywhere. There is this local infrastructure for their politics, and other than the unions, Democrats haven't really developed much. Which is not to say they couldn't.

Judis: Where does the impetus come from?

Ganz: It has to come from both the top and the bottom. But without the foundation at the base, it is just nothing. Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating collective capacity. That's how you sustain and grow and get leadership. That's how you make things happen. Organizers have known this for years. But then Green and Gerber at Yale showed that face to face contact with a voter, especially if relationally embedded, increases voter turnout. Broockman and others at Stanford showed interpersonal conversation— what they call “deep canvassing”—can change deep gender attitudes.

The gun clubs and the churches also have a reason to exist aside from advocacy. Part of the challenge for Democrats is to grapple with that. We did a study for the Sierra Club and we found that the groups that were most successful developing leadership were the ones with recreational activities. . The advocacy groups tend to be governed by rugged individualists far less interested in interpersonal activities. One of the things people loved about the first Obama campaign was that that they were campaigning for Obama but they were also interacting with each other, they were learning, they were growing. They built these local groups, they were being effective, and that's what we want from our lives. We want to feel we are effective. So I think Democrats can do a hell of a lot better job than they have been doing.

Judis: Besides Indivisible, are there any other things that you see on the ground that could be the basis for this movement building.

Ganz: Surely the whole mobilization around immigration and Muslim-bashing, the immigration challenge, I know there is a lot of infrastructure there, a lot of it is organized to resist what looks to be coming. There are groups like Our Future that are trying to get together a lot of the more traditional advocacy groups. I don't know how to assess that. I do hear that there are lot of people in Washington going to a lot of meetings, but whether it translates into anything effective beyond Washington remains to be seen.

The action in purple and red states has to be old fashioned organizing. There is an article in the Nation by Jane McAleevy that is really good. She distinguishes between organizing and mobilization, and she talks about Wisconsin and all this mobilization that took place, but that when it got down to the base, the capacity to defeat Governor Scott Walker wasn't built. It's like organizing a union.

When you are organizing a union, a workplace, you have got to organize who's there. One of the troubles with the progressive groups is that they respond to those who already agree with them, but don't have much incentive to actually go out and build a base by persuading and engaging and converting those who don't. If you are organizing a union, you have to do that, because that's how you win. Now ignoring all these red and purple states is like pretending you don't need them to win, but you do. That takes organizing. it's intense, it's relational.

The need for a Bernie politics

Judis: You talk about engaging and converting those who disagree with you. One of the big issues where Trump voters and Clinton voters disagreed was illegal immigration, and you mentioned immigration groups as leading the charge now against Trump. Many union voters backed Trump because of his outspoken opposition to illegal immigration. How can liberals and Democrats engage these voters when they won't even use the term "illegal immigrants," and generally don't talk about the need to enforce America's borders.

Ganz: I guess the way I see it is that the anti-immigrant stuff is a function of the neo-liberal politics of the last forty years. These politics haven't addressed the real questions of inequality that include race, economics and immigration all together. They have created this setting where the frustration over inequality turns into an attack on immigrants. That's a very old tradition in American politics going back to the Irish and even before.

That is a kind of standard deflection that the powers-that-be employ. So the challenge is to engage with people in what the real problem is. You have to challenge the relationship of Hillary [Clinton] and Goldman Sachs. You need a Bernie [Sanders] politics. Maybe we need a combination of Bernie and Obama and Hillary at their best, some sort of plausible motivational alternative to Trump's solution to the problem. If you have that going, then you have something to talk about.

If you are just saying “Don't hate immigrants,” well don't hate immigrants. If I am convinced that's the source of my impoverishment, it's a problem. The reality is that it's not. And that's why I say it's a lot like union organizing. When you are organizing a union, the bosses are always trying to divide. It's a time-honored tactic, and the only way to fight back is to have an alternative moral and strategic account of why we are the way are. We got some of that from Bernie. We didn't get any of it from Hillary.

You need a story about a future that can be built based on democratic values, Bernie articulated some of that. But it's most powerful if it can be enacted locally as well as nationally. I think one of the smart things the Christian Coalition did was starting to organize locally around school boards. Because then you can take over the schools and change the text books. That was a step toward this whole national mobilization that was going to happen.

Democrats need to learn to tell a story that links shared values with plausible goals, like JFK’s Peace Corps or Man on the Moon; Bernie’s free college, universal health care and good jobs; or Trump’s wall in the South, Muslim ban and trade deals. It's not 500 pages of policy documents.

Judis: So we came closest to that with the story Bernie Sanders told during the campaign?

Ganz: Yes, Bernie was the closest to it. Of course, Bernie had a problem incorporating the stories of racial and gender equality, especially racial equality along with economic inequality. My own view is that that stuff came apart in the late '60s and early '70s, when King was assassinated and Bobby Kennedy was killed. Economics became disaggregated from race and gender. That didn't even deal with the problems of most women and people of color, which has to be dealt with in economic terms So the focus on gender and race facilitated an openness to the most resourced of their communities coming up through hierarchies, but not on restructuring the hierarchies. So we have to do something to bring race, gender and economics back together.

We also have to create structures that enable us to strategize and organize, and we a need strategy that targets every district. It's like what Indivisible seems to be doing. Everyday you get stuff, and there are people trying to coordinate groups and activities. I'm impressed with that. Indivisible seems to combine local and national scale and seems to be creating some organizational foundation.

Comparing Obama and Trump

Judis: I want to introduce a somewhat different subject. You have criticized what happened when Obama made the transition from campaigner to President. In one column, you accused him of not using the bully pulpit, compromising rather than advocating and demobilizing the movement his campaign had built.

Ganz: [Saul] Alinsky said you have to polarize to mobilize and depolarize to settle. Obama was depolarizing when he needed to be mobilizing. It's galling to remember how Republicans have come in with a one-vote majority or no majority at all, and they have treated their election as a mandate, and Democrats have come in with a solid majority and they have treated it like something they have to prove they are entitled to. Obama's whole approach was to minimize opposition rather than to maximize support. He was in a position to maximize support, but what he did was try to get everyone who was opposed to support. It was a feckless task, and it led to the weirdness of the ACA [Affordable Care Act] and the rest of it.

Obama also failed to take on the economic problems in the country. That's where everybody's head was, but there was this disconnect with where he was and where the American public was in terms of urgent needs that needed government action. He got the stimulus, but it was never marketed, it was never explained, nobody ever understood it. He turned the role of advocate and change agent into something that was quite the opposite. And the organization that was built was just left hanging. And it really had nothing to do. They used it a little bit on the healthcare thing. But to have given it life would have required separating it from the administration.

When politicians lose they are all for separate organizations, when they win, they don't like them so much. Obama wasn't going to go with a separate organization. His White House's need for control was so huge. They thought they were just going to do the whole thing, and the tables that had been assembled in DC, the environment, immigration and labor reform, were neutered.

Judis: Now let's talk about Trump. If you heard his inaugural address or his speech in Melbourne on Feb. 19, Trump was doing a lot of what you wanted Obama and the Democrats to do. He was telling a story about "making America great again." He was calling for a movement. He was using the bully pulpit. He was advocating not compromising. Isn't he doing exactly what you wanted Obama to do after he got elected? Isn't he following your script?

Ganz: Pretty much. I think the big difference other than the specific values is that at the core, Trump is saying “Follow me and I will take care of you.” It's mobilizing, but it's building a movement around dependency. It's a fear-based movement. Obama or Bernie were inviting their followers to greater agency and autonomy, not less. And that makes all the difference in the world. Their campaigns weren't about creating dependency on some great leader who is going to save you from everything.

There is a very good book by Robert Paxton, “The Anatomy of Fascism.” If you look at his analysis of fascist politics and how it works, there is a lot of resonance with this guy. I mean a lot. It's not Germany in 1933, but it helps understand what is going on, the performative character of it, the unpredictable character of it, the leader-centrism, the demand for utter loyalty and obedience. It’s tribal in its hold.

Judis: He is not organizing a movement the way Hitler or Mussolini did.

Ganz: This doesn't seem to be there, and yes, before television, everyone had their movements. There was always tension between the fascist movement and the government. Trump doesn't have that to deal with because he doesn't really have a mass organization. If he built one, that would be something. I can't imagine him doing so, but a lot of things have happened that I can't imagine.

The Trump voters

Judis: What about his base? I hear a lot of liberals saying that Trump's movement is based on white nationalism or white supremacy. How much that is the case?

Ganz: Racism plays into what are in essence economic and status grievances. There has always been racism in America. There was always ethnic sentiment in Yugoslavia before Tito died, but then every local politician hoping to build a base had an interest turning ethnic identity into the nightmare it became. So it is more a question of what makes it salient, dominant and powerful in a particular time and place.

Generations change. We saw how younger white people in South Carolina voted for Obama while their parents didn’t. Eventually, the tide is turning in the right direction. But what has given racism salience is the way Trump uses it as a basis for fighting back against the status loss and economic uncertainty. When it comes to organizing at the base, it goes back to what I said earlier, you have to have an alternative account. You have to have a different story of why things are screwed up. Bernie came closest to that of anybody recently.

Judis: And the Clinton campaign ignored having an alternative account?

Ganz: They neither motivated their own base nor did they take on his base. They didn't try to promote Hillary. They tried to undo Trump, but not by offering a powerful alternative. There were ads saying this guy is a racist. What does that do for me?
Bernie was talking alternatives. Hillary wasn't talking alternatives.

Judis: Trump has talked about certain issues that the left would talk about, including NAFTA, drug prices and runaway shops.

Ganz: Yes, of course, but it remains to be seen what that turns into. In organizing, you hear the bosses talk all the time about these things they would do through company unions. Doesn't it seem like it is all going to be a big tax rip-off? To the extent the infrastructure gets built at all, it will be built in sort of a kleptocratic fashion. It remains to be seen, but it would hard for me to believe that he could deliver at all, and that whatever he delivers would look even vaguely progressive.

Judis: Yes those issues have not been talked about by liberals except for Bernie.

Ganz: Look at the Kennedy School. They teach neoliberal economics. Ever since the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council] and the Clinton presidency. What [Dwight] Eisenhower did for [Franklin] Roosevelt by accepting the New Deal, and Clinton did for [Ronald] Reagan. He accepted that government is the problem, and all this neoliberal stuff flows from that period.

Judis: And the Trump people, and Bannon, understand that?

Ganz: Oh yes.

Judis: And that is some of their appeal?

Ganz: You got to take it on, it's not enough to tear it down. You have to have your alternative. You can't convince people by saying just don't do that.

Identity politics and issue silos

Judis: Is identity politics a problem for the Democrats?

Ganz: I think it is real, but it means different things. It is critical to find ways to show that racial and gender and economic inequality are deeply interconnected, and that you really cannot deal with one successfully without dealing with the others. We dealt with economics until the 1960s and 1970s and then we shifted more to race and gender. So the message here is that you got to get it all together. It is about power. If you say, okay, I'm going to fight racial disempowerment but I am going to ignore economics, you are also ignoring the disempowerment of huge portions of the black community.

The problem is coming up with a whole that is less than the sum of its parts. It is not to deny the validity of identity politics. The question is: how do we do what we want to do unless we attack inequality on all its faces. That is what democratic politics demands.

Judis: And what about an issue-oriented politics?

Ganz: It's also a problem when people define themselves in terms of their issue. I am a tree person. There is someone else who is a school person. What it does is fragment the hell out of stuff. You saw in Obama in 2007 and 2008, it was very energizing for people to get out of their issue silos and come and work with other people with whom they shared basic values on a common strategic goal, which was to get the guy elected President. The power is in choosing issues strategically, not based on defining yourself by your issue. That's been another big problem for progressive groups.

It is reinforced by a funding system that funds people based on product differentiation. So you'll only get funding if you are different from other group. There is a proliferation of groups out there just because funders think they should exist.

Judis: How has that worked?

Ganz: The civil rights movement was funded by labor and churches, a couple of small foundations and the Kennedy-sponsored Voter Education Project It was the movement driving the funding, not the funding driving the movement. But what has happened in the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a real shift.

It began with Reagan's campaign to defund the left, a campaign to systemically do away with funding sources for progressive and community organizing and all the rest of that. During that time, a lot of groups did canvassing to raise money. Then as the wealth began to accumulate in the 1990s, the wealthy came along and said, “Well I have made so much money, and want to do this about schools, and I want to do that about the environment.” They use their wealth politically to fund this candidate rather than that one and to fund groups to do what they think needs to be done. So there is all this pressure on groups that don't know how to organize their own constituency to listen to the wealthy donors. The whole idea of constituency-based, member-based organizing, which unions exemplified, has just disappeared from the advocacy world. So everybody is dependent on the funders and writes their proposals to fit what they want. And in the process, these groups haven't really built a constituency they can mobilize and represent.

Immigration as a divisive issue

Judis: I want to return in conclusion to the issue of immigration as a key dividing line between Trump voters and liberals or the left. When you were with the Farm Workers, Cesar Chavez was very critical of illegal immigration. And you only got a union when the government ended the Bracero program, which brought guest workers in. Do liberals and the left give sufficient recognition to the concerns that people have about illegal immigration?

Ganz: To me, it still comes back to the same thing. The immigration reform bill that almost got passed was not some radical thing, but what it did offer was a pathway to citizenship and normalization of the whole scene. To me that is really the only option.

Judis: But we are not talking now about policies. We are talking about stories. If you listened to Hillary Clinton you never heard about how we have to protect and secure our borders. You did hear about we have a path to citizenship. Isn't there a way in which the issues themselves get presented that make it very difficult to reach over to the other side, that creates a kind of polarization that you don't want?

Ganz: I think that certainly can happen. Anytime there are movements, you are going to have various versions. We certainly had that in the civil rights movement. But it seems to me the point is to recognize reality. There is very little support for the notion that the presence of undocumented immigrants here affects wages. The wiping out of unions affects more than that. To me, it represents the painting of a false issue, and things said about them are the same that were said about the Irish and everybody else. They are part of the economies of Arizona and California and Texas.

I hear what you are saying. It's a good issue for them to use. What we have to do is to take the issue away from them not by agreeing with them, but by putting it in a different context, which is not immigration. To me it underscores even more the need to offer an alternative economic account not in the sense of competition from undocumented workers, but economics in terms of corporate profits, in terms of labor law, in terms of all the stuff that they have taken away for the last forty years.

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4 hours ago
Sooo, no?
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - On the Etiology of Fuckers

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

The author of this paper is named Et Al.

New comic!
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It's new BAHFest Video Day!


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3 days ago
So timely
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Socialism Is Bad

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I get a worrying sense that socialism is becoming cool again. You can see it all over social media where people brag about joining the Democratic Socialists of America, and in the popularity of the socialist magazine Jacobin. If Trump fails terribly, I worry that left populism will be what replaces it and the end result will be a more socialist U.S. That’s bad because socialism is bad. Given the growing popularity of socialism, I think it’s worth talking about why socialism is bad specifically.

Matt Bruenig has written a useful piece on socialism that I think is a jumping off point. As usual with Matt, it’s written with clarity and specificity that is appreciated. Unlike a lot o vague paeans to how socialism is good and we should have it, Matt offers specific plans for how we could get to government ownership of business.

The plan calls for the gradual socialization of existing companies, and Matt tells me on twitter that this would apply only to large firms. It may be appealing to think of a massive, centralized company like Apple and assume that it wouldn’t matter whether the government slowly became the sole shareholders. After all (ignoring the importance of options in executive compensation for the moment) the shareholders aren’t doing the innovating, the employees are. What does it matter who the dividend checks go to?

One issue is that the government would not just own but control companies, and this plan doesn’t tell us what they would do with that control. And yes, Matt does see this control as a benefit and not a cost to be avoided. Would Apple be free to innovate with the government controlling it? Or would they be forced to onshore all their production? It would be a lot easier for Trump to push Ivanka’s clothing line if the government owned and controlled Nodstrom, Sears, and K-Mart. It is hard to both desire control presumably as a means to some unspecified end and also to assume this control won’t have negative consequences for productivity.

Second, even if we could easily socialize every large company in the U.S. without negatively affecting them, this does not tell us about the future large companies who don’t exist yet. If socialism was in place in 1995 would we have Google today? If we were socialist in 1975 would we have Apple today? Why would small business founders grow their businesses knowing that this would cause them to be socialized? This is especially true given that you can’t socialize the globe at once and companies on the cusp of growing large enough to be socialized would be free to locate in, say, New Zealand.

Fast growing, small companies are a very important source of new job creation and innovation. More productive firms are more likely to grow, and less productive ones more likely to exist. Telling firms to stay small or be socialized is going to give small, successful companies incentive to avoid the important growth dynamics that are essential to a productive economy. To take one recent example for how costly inefficiencies like this can be, Garicano, Lelarge, and Van Reenan examine laws in France that affect only firms with 50 or more workers. They find that this creates more small firms than would otherwise be the case, and the distortions lower GDP by 3.5% by increasing unemployment and keeping productive firms below their optimal size.

Indeed, a broad literature shows that the inability of small successful companies to grow is an important factor that holds back economic development. Hsieh and Klenow show that in the U.S., as manufacturing firms age they get bigger. The effect can be seen in the graph below, from Charles Jones “The Facts of Economic Growth”.  Hsieh and Klenow estimate that if U.S. firms expanded as slowly as they do in India and Mexico, total factor productivity in the U.S. would be 25% lower.


Because he is Matt Bruenig, I know exactly how he will reply to this: if reducing firm size along some margin is bad, then making firms be bigger must be good so let’s just mandate all firms be large somehow. Of course this ignores the fact that it is not arbitrary size that is good, but a system that incentivizes the most productive firms to grow and the least productive to shrink or exist. It is the productivity increasing selection mechanism of capitalism that matters, and not just the mere outcome of firm size that should be mandated by politicians like some kind of dial to turn up or down.

Socialism is bad and it is bad that socialism is becoming cool again. Nevertheless I enjoy reading Matt Bruenig and other new socialists who clearly lay out their ideas for how it all would work. I think entrepreneurship, productivity, dynamism, and reallocation are first order factors for economic growth and socialists should address these issues. There are many other reasons why socialism is bad, but I think this is an important place to start.

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10 days ago
Companies need to have lifespans like other living things. Different legal instars. Moultings and matings.
10 days ago
10 days ago
Please don't confuse true Socialism (aka Venezuela) with a large social safety net (aka most of EU). Higher taxes and more government services != government ownership and management of major industries.
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4 public comments
10 days ago
People are rightly unnerved by companies with too much power, because we've seen how it can go wrong. Well, the largest company in the world by revenue is Walmart with $482 billion in revenue last FY. US government revenue in FY2016 was $3270 billion. Include state and local, and that jumps to $7030 billion.

One would think that, given the recent election, progressives would be backing away from philosophies that vests undue power in the government. We've just seen how easily those reins can be taken by a malefactor. We've also seen lots of large companies step up against that malefactor.
10 days ago
duke, the vast majority of federal spending is for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - all that spending goes to individuals who then spend it in the private sector. Then there's Defense spending. Do you think Apple, Amazon or Google should be providing money to people instead? Do you believe they should be running our military? And at the local level, government spending goes almost entirely to schools, social services, roads, police and fire departments. You want Walmart to do that? Weird.
10 days ago
salsa, you're putting words in my mouth. I consider myself a moderate. Example: I support Dodd Frank and ACA, and think that neither went far enough. My point was that the US government is by far the largest organization on Earth, and it's fair to be skeptical of any attempt to increase its power further due to the risk of its abuse. - And yes, funds dedicated to SS, Medicare/Medicaid, schools, roads, etc are still under government discretion, and are a source of government power. I don't care if Amazon gets ripped off by their purchasing manager by giving a bid to their cousin, because I don't own Amazon; but if that happens to government, that's the people's money.
3 days ago
dukeofwulf, your metric of government power ($'s spent) is just too simplistic particularly in regard to comparisons to the private sector. The public sector is not driven by profit motive or investors' best interest; instead, it is driven by poltical choice of the electorate - that's why most of government dollars go to safety nets and Defense spending at the federal level and schools and roads at the local level. No other entity is going to do that anywhere near the levels of the government because there is not enough PROFIT in it. What you are saying by confusing power with government spending is that you want less safety nets, less Defense, less education. less roads. If what you are concerned about is government power, you need metrics that address regulatory power. Whether you like it or not, Dodd Frank provides enormous government power and comparable at little actual government spending. The ACA is something in the middle, it has considerabe government spending in the form of subsidies to individuals buying health insurance and it provides considerable government regulatory power over the insurance sector. I'm just suggesting that if you become a tad clearer on what is actually power, you may find your government to be a tad less scary. On the other hand, if you delve into the power of information, you may find Amazon to be a tad more scary.
3 days ago
Uh... so you agree that the government has a scary amount of power, not only by the virtue of its massive budget but also due to its power to enact and enforce laws and regulations? You seem to be proving my point. Regardless, you continue to take my simple observation and expand it into a political philosophy that I simply don't hold.
11 days ago
this post is wrong :)
SF Bay Area
11 days ago
Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of "socialism is bad" without much supporting evidence.

There's a middle-ground between 100% laissez-faire capitalism and complete government ownership of all businesses.
11 days ago
Having just lived in the UK, I lived to say there's absolutely nothing wrong with socialism.
10 days ago
The weirdest thing about these propaganda posts is the way they completely ignore all of the other countries available for comparison. I mean, maybe Denmark has taxes which are too high but just how bad can it be when everyone seems pretty content with it and surprised by, say, Americans pleading online for donations to cover their medical bills?

Someone Is Paying Strangers Online to Beg For Betsy DeVos's Confirmation

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Swagbucks.com and Instagc.com are sites where users can, in exchange for a few cents, complete small tasks such as filling out forms or surveys and—as of yesterday—begging the Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee. Someone is paying these sites to pay people to go to SupportDeVos.com, a website run by the formerly DeVos-led American Federation for Children, to express their support for her nomination.

The campaign was first spotted by a user over at Daily Kos, who found the offer on Swagbucks. Several Reddit users claimed to have discovered the same thing on Swagbucks and similar sites yesterday.

Screenshot: Daily Kos
Screenshot of Instagc.com: Reddit

Users who clicked on the offer were redirected to a website urging them to tell government officials to confirm DeVos’s nomination:

Once at SupportDeVos.com, all you have to do is enter your name and address, hit submit, and sit back while the quarters roll in. In the meantime, some “official” (presumably in the Senate) receives this:

Dear Official,

I am writing to ask and encourage you to confirm Betsy DeVos as our next Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos is one of the most accomplished and dedicated advocates for children and education reform in America. Mrs. DeVos has nearly three decades of experience successfully improving our nation’s education system and ensuring all children have access to a quality school, especially the most disadvantaged children in our country.

Betsy DeVos believes the best education decisions are made at the state and local level and she will fight relentlessly on behalf of all families. Mrs. DeVos is an experienced, proven and dedicated leader who will empower parents, protect students and support teachers.

You can change the letter to say whatever you like—and some people have done exactly that as a protest against her nomination—but if you’re filling out forms for pennies online, you’re probably more concerned with how many forms you’ve filled out than what they say.

You’re also probably not overly concerned with who is paying the indexing sites to get you to fill out their forms or surveys. But once you’re at SupportDeVos.com, you might notice that the website is funded by the aforementioned American Federation for Children, a 501(c)4 “social welfare organization” and one of the standard bearers of the school privatization movement. DeVos was the organization’s chair until November 30, 2016, when she was succeeded by Bob Oberndorf, an old friend of hers who founded the AFC-affiliated 501(c)3, Alliance for School Choice. Oberndorf contributed half a million dollars to All Children Matter, the super PAC DeVos co-founded to astroturf for pro-school voucher candidates.

The DeVos family has spent the last 20 years refining the art of political spending, not at all unlike the Kochs and the Mercers. “I have decided,” DeVos wrote in Roll Call in 1999, “to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.” Since 1989, the DeVos family has given at least $20.2 million at the federal level alone to Republican candidates, party committees, PACs, and super PACs. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the family’s spending increased significantly in the past two years—at least $14 million in political contributions since 2015.

After the 2008 election, some of the super PAC’s staffers went to work for American Federation for Children. “Now that our efforts are better organized, it’s been working really, really well,” DeVos continued. All Children Matter still owes the state of Ohio $5.3 million in fines for violating campaign finance regulations.

For the most part, the American Federation for Children kept a low national profile under the Obama administration. After spending $120,000 on Washington lobbyists in 2007, AFC spent went quiet for seven years. The group was heavily involved in state politics, however: A 2012 election impact report distributed to potential donors boasted that AFC had spent almost $2.4 million in state legislative races in Wisconsin, for example—far more, as it happens, than the $345,000 it had disclosed to regulators.

Although it’s not out of character for AFC to spend money to buy influence, this kind of campaign—paying a third-party to get other people to fill out online forms for pennies—is unusual. “I’ve never seen this sort of thing before,” Adam Smith, communications director at Every Voice, a nonprofit tracking money in politics, told Jezebel. “With normal astroturfing you see promoted posts on Facebook, on Twitter,” he said, but this is “fairly unique.” It’s also indicative of the weakness of her support: “The only people that support her are people that she gives money or the people that work for her.”

Calls to AFC were returned by Dean Petrone, CEO of GoBigMedia, who described himself as “a media vendor to the campaign.” Petrone said “with absolute certainty” that “these ads are not the property of AFC.” Two other media strategists working on DeVos’s behalf—DCI Group and America Rising Squared—did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “Obviously, there’s a lot of shenanigans going on, so it would be important for you to verify this with these sites,” Greg McNelly, a longtime DeVos aide, told Jezebel. Swagbucks.com declined to comment.

Curiously, as soon as the offer started gaining steam around Reddit, all the offers to Support DeVos on the various affiliate-indexing sites seemingly disappeared. The original poster of the screenshot told Jezebel that he had last accessed the offer around 11 p.m. last night, but that it’s now “been taken down from all the websites I’m aware that had it.”

You can, however, still see the remnants of what got picked up by what appears to be an affiliate offer search engine.

Screenshot: Affplus.com

There is no way to definitively know who paid for the ads, so there’s always the possibility that some random, anonymous citizen just loves Betsy DeVos so much that they felt compelled to spend their own money to pay other people to campaign for her support. (The American Federation for Children declined to comment on whether or not they were the organization behind the offer.)

“Mrs. DeVos is no longer affiliated with American Federation for Children, nor does she have to pay anyone to support her,” McNelly, the DeVos aide, went on, “In fact, she has received more letters of support to the Senate HELP committee than all U.S. Secretaries of Education combined.”

The DeVos family has given six senators sitting on the HELP committee $256,400, filings show. Betsy DeVos herself has given five HELP Committee senators $31,400.

The Senate is expected to vote on Betsy DeVos’s confirmation this coming Monday. If you have any information about Betsy DeVos or anything else, you can let us know here or here.

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20 days ago
As it is said, Politics is a contact sport
20 days ago
New York, NY
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4 Comments and 18 Shares

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20 days ago
True... But then again this attitude is an evolutionary dead end.
19 days ago
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3 public comments
19 days ago
Alternately... I have a kid. But she's fairly self reliant, and can handle herself if I sleep in.
St Louis, MO
19 days ago
Who wants my fucking kids
Philadelphia, PA, USA
20 days ago

This was actually my same train of thought this morning, when I slept until 11am.
Richmond, VA

Ethnic Cleansing

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It's what they're trying to do, and I get livid when people respond with "wahh wah you're minimzing the real episodes of ethnic cleansing in history." No, I'm doing my best to put a stop to yet another incident. They want all the brown people out, especially but not just Muslims, and they'll use whatever authority they can to do it. They didn't just prevent new people from coming in, they tried to prevent legal long term residents (green card holders) from returning. They've revoked who knows how many existing student and H1-B visas. Again, not just new arrivals or even people trying to re-enter, but revoking the legal status of people already here - people who have invested time and money in education and careers. Those people can be declared in violation, and even if they aren't being deported momentarily, they will be unable to return due for years or ever due to visa violation they weren't even aware they had made. Employers will have workers who have no right to work here - again, unknown to them. Families will continue to be ripped apart.

They don't like any immigrants not married to Donald Trump, but they'll start with the Muslims - because they can pretend to justify that - and keep going unless they're stopped.

They've basically said this stuff without even hiding it. We can continue to pretend to be confused, or not.

..now they say you can still stay on the visa terms, just not leave and return.
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21 days ago
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1 public comment
21 days ago
what @Atrios said.
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