Welcome to the February 2017 issue of the Washington Socialist, the free monthly email newsletter of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America
NOTE A CHANGE IN OUR MEETING LOCATION SUNDAY, FEB: 12 -- 3-4:30 p.m. at Southwest Branch Library, 900 Wesley Pl. SW
As Metro DC DSA has moved adaptively into the Trump Crisis, the rhythm of our socialism has changed
A pace we had become used to – some outreach education, frequent internal discussion, coalition action – has shifted rapidly through the exhilaration and disappointment of the Sanders candidacy and the surge in interest in democratic socialism that followed his decontamination of the S-word, doldrums of the dreadful campaign and the shock of recognition that a confluence of contingent, often malign forces had brought us an actual Trump presidency.
What happened after Nov. 8 has been dizzying, exhilarating and a test of our local’s resilience as an organization. National DSA’s doubling of membership in a space of several months has been mirrored by the evidence in our region that this crisis is instilling the lesson: Progressive campaigns for single issues can only survive in concert, because of their intersections in the wealth-power nexus. That’s our trademark, and it is being recognized.
So it is a humor-inspiring twist that this unifying impulse, which has brought Metro DC DSA so much new energy (and caused our median age to plummet), has nevertheless divided us in a very good way. In order to get quickly to work, a number of working groups/”committees” have emerged on specific issues and functions and they in turn have identified and addressed specific crisis points associated with the corporate-capitalist coup that is the Trump ascendancy.
Several of our working groups – economic justice and climate change – are the subject of reports in this issue. The communications committee, more process than ideology, is building out from our grounding in the email/online newsletter and Facebook/Twitter platforms both to improve our external communication in both nontraditional and traditional media and strengthen our nimbleness in internal communication as well. Committees on antiracism/antibigotry work and socialist feminism are growing and active as well. Each of our last two membership meetings has broken out into committee work quickly and productively and committees are meeting separately as well.
These are not precisely the kinds of exciting times we would have chosen, but they are churning with change and opportunity and the opening for socialism is significantly wider than anticipated. The path of most resistance is forward.
-- Woody Woodruff
THE MONTH AHEAD
THE LOCAL’S EVENTS
Sunday Feb 12: Metro DC DSA monthly membership meeting 1 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library 901 G St NW, Washington, DC (map)
Sunday Feb 12 Socialist Book Group Discussion 3 p.m. RSVP National Portrait Gallery Kogod Courtyard 8th St NW & F St NW, Washington, DC (map) Join us for a discussion of Four Futures: Life After Capitalism by Peter Frase.
Thursday Feb. 16 Socialist Salon on Full Employment & Basic Income 6:30 p.m. at Young Chow , 312 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC (map)
Wednesday, Feb. 22 DSA Happy Hour 6:30 p.m. RSVP at The Big Hunt 1345 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC (map) Join us as we relax and enjoy some brews with our brothers and sisters of DC DSA. No agenda, no schedule, no topic, just some good conversation and beer. Learn more
Sunday, Feb. 26 Intro to DSA: Socialism 101 1:30 p.m. RSVP 13 spots left Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library ,4450 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC (map) Are you new to our group and wondering just what the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is all about? Are you interested in continuing the political revolution... Learn more
FROM OUR ALLIES
SAT, Feb. 4, 10:30 a.m Our Revolution inaugural Prince George's regional meeting 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at The Atrium, Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park. Stamp Union is at the center of campus. Free parking is available in Lots 1 and Z. RSVP to OurRevolutionMDteam@gmail.com, via Facebook or map.revolution.com .
Monday, February 20 – The Reel N Meal at the New Deal shows Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary 13TH (see more below) at the New Deal Café, Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt. Film is free and begins at 7; a community buffet meal is served ($14) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Info here.
Tuesday, February 21 The local labor community’s Bread & Roses series shows the film 13TH (6-8 pm at Busboys and Poets in Takoma, 235 Carroll St. NW). Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director, will introduce filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s movie (at this writing an Oscar nominee in the documentary category) which explores the history of racial inequality in the United States and within our nation’s prison system, which alone is exempted by the Constitution’s 13th Amendment prohibition of involuntary servitude. The screening of 13th is free, but those who wish to attend must RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/dclaborfest13th
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IN THIS ISSUE
TRUMP AND SOCIALISM: OUR PATH
It can be pretty irritating, as Bill Mosley says here, to be a resident of the District of Columbia and to have organizations begging you to “call your Senator” about the latest Trump outrage. Statehood for the District is more important now than ever, as the Senate rubber-stamps Trump’s toxic nominees to run the US government. Read complete article
Maryland is supposed to be a Blue-ish state and a locus of resistance to the catastrophe of the national government. But as we face up against Trump to we in Maryland have to watch our backs for betrayals and sellouts from Democrats? Woody Woodruff works up a little rant… Read complete article
It’s hard to overstate how critical the effects of climate change will be, says Harry Baker. Plans for social change, no matter how well formulated, could be upended by the human catastrophe that will ensue as rising temperatures make large areas of the planet unlivable, and the people there act out of desperation with outcomes that are hard to imagine. Read complete article
The head of the Minneapolis Fed – a Bush functionary – has brought forward a plan to fail-safe the mega-banks against another 2008-style financial meltdown by giving them the choice of breaking into smaller pieces or cushioning themselves with enough cash reserves to trim their swagger. Andy Feeny reports some GOP members of Congress are taking a look. Could “too big to fail” become history? Read complete article
Longtime members of the local, including Bill Mosley, watched with amazement as the January membership meeting swelled to over 100. As he reports, it’s the Trump surge. Read complete article
One of the committees that gathered at that January meeting hit the ground running the next day, joining allies in pushing back against a veto of a Montgomery increase in the minimum wage. Austin Kendall reports. Read complete article
The new climate change committee has likewise seized opportunities and begun building alliances to work locally and nationally on issues ranging from Trump’s truly awful environmental policies to state-level matters in Maryland and Virginia. Andy Feeney has the story. Read complete article
Cecily McMillan, a YDS member and Occupy Wall Street veteran at a young age, was jailed at New York City’s infamous Rikers Island prison after a bogus charge and put her experience in the book she brought to DC recently. Kurt Stand recounts her story. Read complete article
We probably will not be protesting less in the immediate future, right? Austin Kendall has tips offered in a “Protesting 101” session recently courtesy of an ACLU director and a seasoned defense attorney. Read complete article
The Maryland General Assembly kicked off its three-month session in mid-January and progressive organizations are mobilizing to get pro-people legislation out of election officials whose re-election inevitably depends on keeping the forces of business capital happy. Woody Woodruff reports. Read complete article
REVIEWS AND ESSAYS
Donald Trump’s grandiloquent gestures toward keeping jobs in the US mask a long-term and destructive trend in the auto industry that has eroded the power of workers and typifies trends in US manufacturing. Austin Kendall outlines the history of a savage restructuring of this core US manufacturing segment. Read complete article
When Frank Zeidler, a socialist, was elected Mayor of Milwaukee at the beginning of the Cold War, he looked like continuing the social-democratic, growth-friendly urban trend of the years since the Depression. But he ran into a concerted effort by business to erode those gains. Kurt Stand reviews a new book that traces that organized postwar pushback from capital that ended “sewer socialism,” union progress and much else. Read complete article
Good Reads for Socialists – recent articles with links and summaries of interest to leftists and progressives. Read complete article.
The Washington Socialist encourages submissions on topics that relate to current issues or historical topics. Authors are asked to keep their submissions to 2,000 words (or less) and to respect the perspectives of democratic socialism, as articulated by the national Democratic Socialists of America. Send submissions to: email@example.com ("newsletter submission" in subject line) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Washington Socialist <> February, 2017
By Bill Mosley
If I get one more email asking me to call or write my senator to stop a Trump cabinet nomination, I will scream.
To be sure, Trump’s nominations and appointments have been, if anything, worse than feared. His mix of corporate CEOs, retired generals and conservative ideologues promises four years that almost (but not quite) engenders nostalgia for George W. Bush years. If all of the nominees are confirmed, Trump will have the whitest, most heavily male cabinet since the Reagan administration – and the first since Reagan to include no Latinos, not especially surprising given Trump’s anti-Hispanic diatribes. Paul Waldman, writing in the Washington Post, called Trump’s cabinet “the worst in American history.” And it got worse when Trump announced his pick for the Supreme Court vacancy: the arch-conservative Neil Gorsuch.
I would like to do my civic duty and try to stop these nominees in the time-honored manner of American democracy. But there is a problem: The Senate has the “advice and consent” power over presidential nominees. And as a DC resident, I have no voting Senators. Nor, for that matter, do I have a real representative in the House, only a delegate who can vote in committee but not on the House floor.
It is at time like these that DC residents are most disenfranchised. Unlike other Americans, we are locked out of any say in the selection of officials who will prosecute our laws, protect our safety, keep us out of war and defend us should war come. And while Cabinet members come and go, Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court could be voting to strike down progressive legislation and hand more power to corporations through several presidential administrations.
This is why everyone from moderate Democrats through the socialist left should be demanding DC statehood. Ideally, all Americans who value democracy – and that should be all Americans, period – should support full citizenship for the District strictly out of principle. But we all know that Republicans will oppose DC statehood tooth and nail, because DC is certain to send an all-Democratic delegation to Congress.
That means a bill for statehood will pass only when there is a Democratic president, a Democratic majority in the House and a filibuster-proof total of 60 Democrats in the Senate. It could happen – and did happen, during the early part of Obama’s first term. Alas, due to the shortsightedness of District officials, who campaigned for a doomed bill to provide only a single vote in the House of Representatives, the moment was lost. And had it passed, it still would have left us without senators – and today we see how critical Senate representation is to full democratic rights.
This is an issue not only for DC residents, but for everyone. Think of how the dynamic of the voting on Trump’s nominations might be different if, instead of the Senate being divided 52-48 in favor of the Republicans, the margin was instead 52-50. Trump would have a narrower tightrope to walk to get his more controversial nominees confirmed. As the Socialist goes to press, most Democrats have already rolled over on a few of the less-contentious picks, but such still-pending hopefuls as Rex Tillerson (State), Jeff Sessions (Justice), Betsy DeVos (Education) and Tom Price (HHS) have encountered friction during their confirmation processes, and not all of it from Democrats. When Trump’s inevitably horrible Supreme Court pick comes down, the chances of blocking it would be better if DC had voting senators.
Having senators would provide District voters with elected officials responsible to them not only for nominees for the Cabinet and the Supreme Court, but also for the rest of the federal courts, as well as international treaties and the removal of the President under impeachment (that one can’t come soon enough). That the District lacks such representation should be a cause for outrage among not only DC residents, but for all Americans with a conscience.
I wonder at the insensitivity of organizations that send messages to District residents urging us to “call our senators.” Are they really that ignorant of DC’s disenfranchisement? For some organizations, their email lists might not identify which recipients live in DC, or they don’t care to tailor their messages appropriately. A few of the more savvy groups suggest DC residents contact the Senate majority and minority leaders, or the heads of committees. But folks in DC delude themselves if they think this gets them anywhere: The only citizens that the Senators heed, if they heed any at all, are those who can vote for or against them.
The lack of voting members of Congress isn’t the only outrage that the District’s citizens suffer under our colonial status. Congress also can override the DC government’s legislation, and pass legislation that can be imposed on us over our objections. For the last eight years President Obama was generally reliable in vetoing the most egregious violations of DC’s home rule. But now, with Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, our self-appointed overseers are preparing another of their periodic assaults on DC’s self-governance. Congress is currently plotting to gut the District’s gun restrictions, ban our funding of abortions for poor women, and overturn our recent law providing for death with dignity for terminally ill patients – and that’s just for starters.
For more than two centuries, the US government has made, enforced and interpreted laws without the consent of the residents of the nation’s capital – today accounting for 700,000 taxpaying citizens, more than the number living in fully enfranchised Wyoming or Vermont. This should be an outrage to all Americans. The persistence of this fact is a blot on American democracy. It’s time for all Americans who love justice to get behind DC statehood, for their own good as well as ours.
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Woody Woodruff
The news can be pretty dizzying and putting trends together is not easy. But here are a few things we, as progressives and activists, know that help us put some filters on the everyday buzz of events.
Fighting Trump is going to be the existential struggle for progressives in the next four years, or however long he lasts. What is emerging as a corporate capitalist coup under his show-runner management means we’ll have to be in struggle all the time. It’s going to be exhausting and exhilarating to be involved in what Prof. Clarence Lusane, of Howard University, called the imperative of “permanent mobilization” on WPFW radio a few weeks ago.
Some of the most important weapons we have in this mobilization are our local institutions – state government, local governments, neighborhood activism, the nonprofits and public interest organizations -- a bottom-up solid front against the assaults that are sure to come from the total takeover of the federal structure by the barbarians. (If you think that’s too strong a word, we invite you to just wait a bit and see how you feel then.)
We have a strong array of such institutions in Maryland and in the District, distinct as their politics and structures are. But we may feel we can count on them in the fray against Trump.
So that’s why the news, taken together, is a little disconcerting. A lot of what we are seeing and hearing about those local institutions in Maryland makes us feel as though we are going to have to watch our backs while presenting a front of resistance to the worst that Trump & Co. can offer.
The Sun has a poker-faced article about a group of CEOs from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. getting together to make the region even more attractive to business. As with Gov. Larry Hogan’s use of the Augustine Commission (created by the Democratic leadership in the Assembly!), the outcome of business-fueled activism like that is usually further plans to weaken workers and strengthen bosses. Trump, a rabid union-buster, will be pleased.
Looking to the Maryland General Assembly to push back against the Right (in the form of Larry Hogan, or otherwise) may be a losing game too. It is really pretty quiet on that front. There seems remarkably little appetite for defiant behavior in the upcoming legislative session in January, where issues like Hogan’s backpedaling from RGGI, the regional climate pact with other states, heels dug in on full funding for schools, or advancement of weak rules to control fracking that could endanger our water and air quality don’t seem to be rousing much outrage. And if you are holding out hopes that national Democrats will resist Trumpism, don’t.
Hogan is doubling down on his plan to privatize education, inch by inch, having already extracted an open barn door from the Assembly leadership on that, too – proposing to devote more public money to private schools. And Montgomery County, usually the last line of progressive defense, has knuckled under to Hogan’s absurd demand that all schools start after Labor Day, a clear violation of local autonomy in education and more evidence that decentralized school authority simply makes kids more likely to be victimized by adult shenanigans. Can’t wait to see what Trump’s Education Department brings to the table to complement the so-far-unopposed Hogan takeover.
It would be great if Democrats at the state and local level could be trusted to keep the pernicious effects of Trumpism and Hoganism at bay. Alas, not so. One of Prince George’s County’s most powerful legislators, Dereck Davis, who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee (where pro-worker legislatin goes to die), has filed a pre-emption bill that would forbid local governments from setting their own minimum wage and benefits (read: paid sick leave) laws.
County Council members in Prince George’s, a majority of whom are pretty much in the pockets of business and developer interests, have not objected to Davis’s authoritarian move, though Baltimore’s council definitely has.
As we’ll read elsewhere in this issue, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett vetoed a $15/hr minimum wage bill on spurious, pro-business grounds in one of the most expensive counties to live in in the country. Many forces, including the Metro DC DSA Economic Justice working group, are publicly urging him to reverse his course.
These, as we said, are all Democrats.
So the bottom line appears that as progressives, we may have to watch our backs if we resist the Trump administration without first consolidating our base, bucking up our chicken-hearted elected and appointed officials and let them know that rolling over for Trump, or looking the other way, will bring quick action in the streets and lasting action when election time comes around.
“Permanent mobilization,” indeed.
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Harry Baker
Donald Trump's decision to tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State has upset a lot of people. So far his candidacy has faced some semblance of opposition from the Senate, even from Trump's own party. There is a lot to criticize. His ties to Vladimir Putin are most offensive to the establishment, compounded by the daily revelations linking Trump's campaign to the Russians. It's certainly interesting that a man whose company lost billions of dollars due to sanctions against Russia will be responsible for renegotiating them. Tillerson, and Trump himself, may very well be compromised Russian assets, or at least useful idiots—but it's been surreal watching this be the issue that drives our political elite hysterical. I can understand why Cold Warriors like Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham would be wary, but Tillerson's self-admitted crimes against humanity pale in comparison to any supposed treason.
My one consolation is that Tillerson, unlike many others in the GOP, actually believes in Global Climate Change. He was actually ahead of the game compared to most liberals, since Exxon discovered the effect of fossil fuels on the planet a few months before it became common knowledge. This man, who is about to become one of the most powerful people on Earth, made his fortune slow-roasting the planet with full knowledge of the consequences.
For almost a century now Russia has been painted as the existential threat to the United States, and the institution of democracy itself. People have difficulty seeing how anything can be worse than Russian meddling in our elections. People need to have a little more imagination. Individuals like Tillerson are far greater threats to humanity than the likes of Putin. Short of nuclear war, Global Climate Change is the only truly existential threat the human race faces, but you wouldn't know it from the way it's discussed. Most Americans understand that they can survive the sea levels rising a few feet and temperatures getting a little bit hotter. The misperception is that the devastation of climate change in the West--if it happens—is going to look like Mad Max, when in fact it's going to look like Children of Men: the refugee crisis brought on by climate change will bring down civilization long before our planet turns to desert.
It's true: most of the world can survive the temperature creeping up a few degrees. That's not the case for the millions of people living in the Middle East, where temperatures are increasing at twice the global average. These people are going to need to go somewhere when their homes become literally uninhabitable. Europe's refugee problem today pales in comparison to what lies ahead, and far-right nativist groups are already threatening to destroy the post-war liberal order. I don't even want to think about what politics are going to look like in the coming decades, but we must prepare for them. Denying these refugees sanctuary will amount to genocide. Liberal democracy, if it survives Trump's social policies, will not be able to survive his environmental ones.
We need to start treating the fight against climate change like the war that it is. We need to be marching by the thousands in protest and organizing general strikes, as if it were the Vietnam War, because this is a war, and the Rex Tillersons of the world are winning. Every day we sit idly by we cede ground we will never regain. We need to bring home the severity of the crisis we're facing as a species. We should be rationing energy and resources as if we were fighting the Nazis. This crisis cannot be treated like a business opportunity, as some national Democrats like to say. We need to commit to fully transitioning to sustainable energy even if it is unprofitable. As a nation, we need to treat green energy technology like it was part of the defense industry. I'm not sure how many solar panels you could build with what a single F-35 costs, but if we're going to get out of this without blood on our hands we need to understand the fight in these terms. The last time our country tried to stop a genocide of this scale, in the 1940s, the top tax rates were 90%. Today’s capitalism is simply not prepared to solve the upcoming crisis we've made for ourselves – especially considering capitalism is what caused it.
At a certain point it's not simply about reining in the excesses of the oil industry, it's about examining the values that allowed and encouraged people to let this happen. The free market will not save us. Anything less than total mobilization will not be enough. We are most likely past the point of “solving” climate change, but we can at least hope to mitigate and prepare for the disasters to come.
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Andy Feeney
Ending “too big to fail” banks, and the practical necessity of taxpayers bailing them out in future financial crises, was a significant focus of Bernie Sanders’ campaign last year. Probably not by accident, the Republican Party platform in 2016 echoed Bernie by calling for reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act’s prohibition on banks combining regular deposit banking -- the kind most people in the US rely on for checking accounts -- with the far riskier business of investment banking. Like Bernie, many prominent Republicans at least claim to oppose banks being so big and important to the economy that taxpayers will again have to rescue them in case of emergency.
But now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, will they truly take effective action to end too-big-to-fail banks? Or will they allow the government and the financial industry to kick the can down the road until the nation and the world face another big crisis like that of 2008, and the biggest banks need bailing out again?
The question is triggering a certain amount of interest in the business and financial media, especially now that George W. Bush’s former chief of the 2008 bank bailout effort – Neel Kashkari, who headed up the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP) – has unveiled a detailed plan to force the largest banks to carry so much capital on their books, relative to their lending activity, that they will be much better insulated against failure in any future financial crisis.
Kashkari, a Republican and former Goldman Sachs vice president who is now the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, last year oversaw a lengthy review of the financial industry by Minneapolis Fed analysts. Last November, shortly after Trump’s victory, Kashkari released an ambitious plan to force the biggest banks either to split or to issue very large amounts of common equity – stockholders’ capital – to cover their future losses in a financial meltdown.
As New York Times reporters Michael Corkery and Virginia Finkle noted in a Times story on Nov. 17, the Minneapolis Fed / Kashkari proposal would compel banks with $250 billion or more in assets – i.e., in lending activity to individuals and institutions who promise to repay – to increase the percentage of common equity on their books from 13 percent to 23 percent – a near doubling. Kashkari’s proposal also would prevent giant banks from counting long-term debt as part of their required capitalization levels, on the grounds that this can prove problematic in a crisis.
The Times article strongly suggests that Kashkari’s idea would result in the dismantling of the biggest banks, since their managers and CEOs would likely want to avoid the increased costs associated with keeping so much capital on hand. But in the event that the biggest banks chose to accept Kashkari’s requirement rather than breaking themselves into smaller pieces, they would be much sturdier in the event of a future 2008-style financial panic.
Kashkari, in introducing his proposal, stated that before Congress approved the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill during the Obama administration, the risks of the U.S. suffering from another big banking crisis amounted to some 84 percent. The enactment of Dodd-Frank significantly reduced such risk to just 67 percent, Kashkari added. But this is still much too high, especially given the ability of major financial crises to cause trillions of dollars in losses to the U.S. economy and the world. Under his proposed reform, Kashkari believes, the risks of the U.S. economy suffering another 2008-style financial crash could be reduced to 9 percent.
With Trump having made campaign promises about improving the U.S. economy for the average American, is there a chance that Kashkari can sell his proposed banking reform to a Republican-dominated Congress, which has made a major overhaul of Dodd-Frank a priority?
In recent statements to the New York Economic Club, which were covered by Reuters and CNBC on Jan. 7 of this year, Kashkari expressed optimism that as Republicans move to dismantle Dodd-Frank, his ideas could end up becoming law. In their Times story from last November, however, Corkery and Finkle expressed doubt about the idea’s future, given that most Republicans are promoting deregulation of business as a way of prompting faster economic growth.
Many observers and lobbyists in the banking industry, Corkery and Finkle report, have dismissed Kashkari’s idea as a “non-starter.” The Times story quotes Laena Fallon, press officer for the industry trade group the Financial Services Forum, as warning: “For those looking to accelerate economic growth and job creation, tripling bank capital levels – already double from pre-crisis levels – will make it much harder to meet those goals.”
Whether Kashkari’s ideas or the banking industry’s preferences prevail in Congress is likely to hinge on the position taken by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who last year introduced his own “Financial CHOICE Act” as an alternative to Dodd-Frank, and as a supposed cure for the problems caused by banks being too big to fail.
A visit to Hensarling’s congressional web site is likely to be discouraging for most DSA members and other progressives: in recent press releases, Hensarling voices strong support for the elimination of abortion rights, for GOP plans to repeal Obamacare, and for other socially and politically regressive legislation.
An overview of Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act on his web site also includes loud praise for the legislation from Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, the Conservative Coalition, Heritage Action, the National Taxpayers Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the National Association of Realtors and several banking industry trade associations – that is, from many of the same organizations that promoted financial deregulation measures that almost crashed the economy in 2008.
On the other hand, both the Financial CHOICE Act and many of Hensarling’s public statements show a strong rhetorical commitment, at least, to ending the problem of “too-big-to-fail” banks and protecting the taxpayers from underwriting future bailouts.
At first glance, Hensarling seems to believe that tougher bankruptcy laws and a willingness to see big banks die, regardless of the impacts on the larger society, are the best ways to address the problem. But the CHOICE act also proposes to require that banks somewhat increase their capital ratios to escape from being labeled of “systemic importance” under Dodd-Frank, and thus subject to increased regulatory oversight.
One of Hensarling’s major themes is that excessive regulations, particularly under Dodd-Frank, are choking the financial industry and reducing the amount of lending large banks do to support expanded economic activity and job creation. Yet Hensarling, at least in his rhetoric, shows himself to be aware of the risks that excessively large banks pose to the economy.
The CHOICE Act therefore proposes to increase capital requirements for the banks to a degree – from 7 percent to 10 percent, a rough glance at the bill suggests, with no added requirement that the banks avoid reliance on long-term borrowing to enhance their capitalization levels, as Kashkari has proposed.
For democratic socialists with the patience and the financial backgrounds to follow the rival proposals, a PDF of Kashkari’s plan can be found on the web site of the Minneapolis Fed, among other menu items, at https://www.minneapolisfed.org/.
A transcript of Kashkari’s Nov. 16, 2016 speech introducing the plan is accessible here: https://www.minneapolisfed.org/news-and-events/presidents-speeches/neel-kashkari-presents-the-minneapolis-plan-to-end-too-big-to-fail .
Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act, at least as introduced last year, is summarized here: http://financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/financial_choice_act_comprehensive_outline.pdf .
The New York Times story from November, by Corkery and Finkle, can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/17/business/dealbook/minneapolis-fed-chief-proposes-eliminating-too-big-to-fail-banks.html .
Progressives this year obviously have enough to do already in terms of resisting the worst parts of the Trump agenda, and it may be hard to rally the enthusiasm of new DSA members for tackling a financial issue that’s likely to seem complicated and obscure to all too many of us. But with the administrator of George Bush’s hated bank bailout plan now essentially echoing Bernie’s campaign rhetoric about the importance of curbing dangerously oversized banks and reducing the risks of another 2008-style financial crunch, it might be worth the effort if some democratic socialists could look into what Kashkari is suggesting.
he Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Bill Mosley
Metro-DC DSA capped off Anti-Inauguration Weekend with a membership meeting on Sunday, January 22 at Martin Luther King Memorial Library that drew over 100 people – the largest turnout for a local membership meeting in the memories of even long-time members. A few of the participants were out-of-town DSA members visiting DC for the protests and other anti-Trump resistance activities, but nearly all were from the Washington area, including a few prospective members.
The meeting’s emphasis was on involving new members in the local’s activities. Much of the meeting consisted of breakout sessions for the local’s committees: Racial Justice, Economic Justice, Communications, Climate Change and Environmental Justice, and Socialist Feminism. The influx of new members into the local promises to make Metro-DC DSA a major factor in resistance to Trump in the Washington area.
If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, there is still time! Send a message to email@example.com and let us know how you can help.
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Austin Kendall
I. Sunday Session
On Sunday, January 22nd, about 24 socialists gathered after the Metro DC DSA general meeting to discuss next steps for the Economic Justice Committee. The round of introductions revealed that the meeting was attended by organizers, researchers for non-profits and government employees and contractors. All were interested in organizing and spreading socialist ideas. A few attendees were visiting and said that they planned to join DSA then and there after the meeting.
Sam Nelson began the proceedings with information about two campaigns open to DSA members, Jobs With Justice’s Solidarity Squad and DC May Day Committee’s International Workers Day March. As Sam put it, Solidarity Squad is, “a volunteer rapid response group that can quickly mobilize to defend immigrants from deportation raids and workers in general from attack. Joining means committing to being rapid response, attending a training, doing know your rights outreach, and attending demonstrations. Metro D.C. DSA is a full member of D.C. Jobs With Justice.” DC May Day is an “all volunteer group that bottom lines organizing DC's International Workers Day march. At this moment, the key needs are outreach to join the committee and getting unions and organizations to commit to turning people out to the march and endorsing it.”
Continuing on updates on works-in-progress, Leo Gurtner spoke on his upcoming attendance of the Jobs With Justice Steering Committee, and our close work with them. Leo also spoke about our plans to have Rights-At-Work trainings for DSA members and the general public. That trainings on organizing were in talks excited the attendees, as many are non-unionized workers in the non-profit sector or government contractors who would like to be represented by a union. It was agreed that a better understanding of labor law would be beneficial for all, in order to understand how DSA can aid organizing campaigns.
Will Fischer of IUPAT (Painters and Allied Trades) made an appeal to build a strong relationship with AFGE to support them in the dark days ahead. Discussion of how to do this followed, but the first step was agreed to be having guests from AFGE and other unions speak to DSA and in order to come to an analysis of how DSA can best support them. Will also pointed out that connections with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be made, and that he could lead on this, as a veteran of those wars. Points were made that we should undertake similar steps with AFSCME. One gentleman raised the point, however, that we need to support people who have not yet unionized.
This led to a discussion of the Fight for 15. Different ways of getting involved with the Fight were discussed, though one was admitted as having risks -- some remarked that the Northern Virginia effort is being led by Socialist Alternative and there was some question of how to engage with them. It will have to be discussed in a location for more deliberation on tactics. We discussed the Fight for 15 in Maryland, and many were interested in contacting Montgomery County’s County Executive Ike Leggett to tell him not to veto the County Council’s bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Ben Spielberg offered to get DSA in contact with Councilman Marc Elrich, the sponsor of the bill, in order to get Elrich’s opinion of how DSA can support the bill and the Fight in Montgomery County. The persons to meet with Elrich are to be decided at the next meeting.
II. Monday Mobilization
The next day, members of the Economic Justice Committee shared Leggett’s contact information, encouraging DSA and community members in the DMV to call Leggett and implore him not to veto the bill. Contact information came from a variety of sources, from other DSA members sharing details over Slack, to this writer acquiring the number for Leggett’s liaison from an employee contacted through a fortunate error in the Montgomery County website directory.
But around 7 o’clock that night it was announced that Leggett had vetoed the bill. Before the veto was announced there was a discussion of a letter writing campaign in the Economic Justice Committee online forum. After the veto, members quickly decided that letters should be sent to Leggett and open letters to the public challenging the reasoning of the veto. Moreover, it was decided that an information gathering project be started in order to have necessary details to respond to the revised bill. Unsurprisingly, but still inspiring, is many members of the Economic Justice committee command an incredible knowledge of wage-level economics and the history of the Fight for Fifteen campaign, and immediately offered to write letters and did catalogue and share information on minimum wage economics.
After this quick huddle, it was decided that a statement be put out to denounce Leggett’s veto, and a group collaborate on writing a letter to Leggett expressing DSA’s disappointment. Josh Crotty wrote a statement for the committee, while this author spoke with Communications Co-Chair Woody Woodruff on getting the statement out. After a lightning round of approvals from members of the Economic Justice, Communications and Steering committees, the statement was sent out to local media contacts that night. The next day the statement was sent out on the local’s social media channels, where it was shared widely. Ryan Mosgrove led the letter campaign to Leggett, writing an impressive notice that will be brought to the next meeting and signed onto by agreeing members.
III. Monday Meeting
The Economic Justice Committee met at the DSA DC headquarters on Monday, January 30th, at 6 pm. News of that, which overleapt the newsletter production deadline, in the next issue. Stay tuned.
Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee Begins Local Activism and Outreach; Fights Trump Agenda
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Andy Feeney
F. Scott Pruitt, the veteran foe of environmental rules who Donald Trump wants to be the next EPA administrator, bears a disturbing resemblance to George W. Bush when you see him on television. The close-cropped, graying hair and smoothly shaven cheeks are similar, to start with. Pruitt’s soft-spoken Southern politeness that seems rooted in a certain sort of conservative Christianity, or at least a certain sort of conservative hypocrisy, is a good deal like Bush’s speech at its most insinuating. For me, Pruitt also resembles our 43rd president in an apparent willingness to lie his fool head off for what he probably considers a good cause, while politely and stubbornly insisting the Earth is probably flat and the multiplication tables open to interpretation.
At least that’s how Pruitt seemed to me as he presented himself at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Jan. 18, while a huge group of anti-Pruitt environmental activists gathered outside the hearing and most of us had to watch the proceedings on closed circuit TV from an overflow room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The anti-Pruitt demonstrators, by the looks of us, represented the Sierra Club, the climate activist group 350.org, Food & Water Watch, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and (among other green organizations) the Moms Clean Air Force, an organizing project of the Environmental Defense Fund. Women and a few men with the Moms Clean Air Force crowded one wall of the nearly packed corridor outside the hearing as 350.org supporters, each wearing a white face mask with lettering saying “Stop Pruitt,” hugged the opposite one. The masks technically violated a ban on protest signs inside the Dirksen Building, a policewoman told me, but the Capitol police weren’t likely to enforce the regulations. The T-shirts worn by Moms Clean Air Force members counted as clothing, though, not protest signs, and weren’t subject to the same restrictions.
What motivated my appearance at the anti-Pruitt protests, besides personal interest, was the initial program of activism and outreach that our DSA chapter’s new Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee adopted at our second meeting early in January.
In that meeting, we organized work groups focusing on outreach to already existing environmental and climate activism groups in the DMV area, on one hand, and on efforts at the national level to oppose Trump’s appointments of anti-environmentalists to federal regulatory agencies, on the other.
Our climate committee is still a very new one, but in the past month members have taken part in anti-Trump protests and organizing meetings of several different green groups operating both at the federal level and locally in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District.
Committee members have protested with 350.org’s Action team at potential cabinet member hearings and at the offices of individual lawmakers, participated in conference calls with organizations such as Friends of the Earth, NRDC and CCAN (the CCAN call was for DMV area green activists and featured a guest presentation by 350.org founder Bill McKibben) and attended organizing meetings at Sierra Club and for Our Revolution groups in Arlington and Silver Spring. At least two of our members also attended a Jan. 18 open house at Capitale Bar in the District hosted by the Center for Biological Diversity.
At least one other member of our group is active with a Climate Stewards group in Annapolis that is rallying religious progressives around the state’s anti-fracking moratorium. Another member based in Virginia is becoming active with the state Audubon Society on environmental protection issues, and several of our members are environmental engineers and/or solar energy entrepreneurs.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, with very little advance notice from protest organizers, a half-dozen members of our committee attended a last-minute demonstration organized by a host of environmental groups, Native American organizations and racial justice advocacy organizations to protest Trump’s recent actions aimed at reviving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
At a session of the DSA general membership meeting on Jan. 22, which attracted more than 100 DSA members and/or supporters, the Climate Change committee attracted around 25 people, including at least 18 new members. At that session there was little time for anything except introducing ourselves, but we agreed to hold our next full committee meeting on Sunday, Feb. 26, probably at the Kogod Courtyard, and to hold work group meetings on environmental justice issues and outreach efforts, respectively, on Sunday, Feb. 5.
The leader of our Environmental Justice Work Group has recently emailed members of the group inviting them, and others with a potential interest in environmental justice, to a group meeting from 1:30 - 3 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Kogod Courtyard. There should be pizza at the work group meeting.
The group leader added that group members and other activists who would like to do some background reading before the meeting are encouraged to look at a report from the Yale School of Forestry called “The Nine Types of Americans” regarding differing environmental attitudes of different demographic groups. A PDF of the report is readily available online:
The Outreach Work Group will meet on Feb. 5 from 1:30 - 3 p.m. at the Kogod Courtyard, though separately from the EJ Work Group. Outreach Work group members look to continue information-gathering efforts while coalition building with local, regional, national, and international environmental organizations that have ongoing campaigns in the Metro DC-area relating to a wide variety of issues touching on climate change.
Members are encouraged to join the emailing lists of organizations such as CCAN, 350.org, Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club while bolstering our social media presence by following such environmental organizations on Facebook and Twitter. A short “Ecosocialist Manifesto” published by activists Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy is also recommended.. http://green.left.sweb.cz/frame/Manifesto.html .
For our full committee meeting on Feb. 26, which probably again will be at the Kogod Courtyard, we are hoping to hear a presentation by David Schwartzman, a longtime environmental activist, local Green Party member and emeritus professor of environmental studies at Howard University. David is expected to discuss particular environmental justice issues inside the District, including lead contamination and air pollution linked to elevated levels of asthma in low-income and predominately African American communities.
The leadership of the Climate Change Committee is hoping to persuade Jeremiah Lowery, a Sierra Club board member and organizer for CCAN in the District, to speak about CCAN’s efforts to get a carbon fee adopted by the DC Council, with provisions to prevent any economic harm to low-income DC residents. However, Lowery as of this writing has not yet agreed to speak, so this plan is provisional.
Our committee’s leadership also has discussed the possibility of having former AFL-CIO official and environmental activist Joe Uehlein, founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), address a future meeting about ways to bring together environmentalists and labor activists to address “jobs vs. environment” issues and promote climate progress in ways that are sensitive to employment and social justice concerns. However, our discussions about getting Uehlein to speak are still in the early stages.
Another issue that committee leaders hope to address in future meetings is DSA participation in the People’s Climate March scheduled for Washington on April 29. Local labor activists who are promoting the march emphasize that it will address labor and social justice concerns as well as climate issues, making it another opportunity for democratic socialists to embrace an “intersectional” approach to curbing global warming.
In Maryland, some of our committee members plan to attend an environmental lobbying night on Feb. 13 at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis, on working for a permanent fracking ban in Maryland to replace the current fracking moratorium. On Feb. 20, some of us also will be on hand as the Maryland Sierra Club hosts its annual lobbying night in Annapolis from 5-8 p.m. The Sierra Club lobby night is at the Miller Senate Building, 1st floor East. Those interested in attending should RSVP at their website. Carpooling is available.
In Virginia, several of our committee members plan to attend a Feb. 6 event sponsored by Our Revolution in Arlington featuring radical economist Gar Alperovitz, a long-time advocate of coops and worker-owned and worker-managed enterprises. Alperovitz, a participant in the national Next System Project along with veteran environmentalist Gus Speth and other radical thinkers, argues that such alternative enterprises can form part of the basis for a gradual economic transition away from our current system of corporate capitalism.
Also in Virginia on March 18, the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia will host a meeting on environmental advocacy cosponsored by the Audubon Naturalist Society, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Prince William Conservation Alliance, Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter, and the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.
At least one of our committee members has plans to attend that event, primarily to learn about the perspectives these different Virginia groups are bringing to environmental activism. The meeting will occur from 1 to 4 p.m. at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., in the Annandale area of Alexandria.
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Kurt Stand
Marches, rallies, demonstrations of all sorts have greeted the new Trump Administration and will likely only grow in the future. Accounts of how people become involved in organizing and what that involvement means has therefore taken on new meaning for ever greater numbers of people. Social justice activism can come with costs, but can also enrich a life was the message absorbed by the 50 people who attended a talk by Cecily McMillan December 13 at Busboys & Poets in Takoma. Under the sponsorship of the Metro Labor Council's monthly Bread & Roses program, the Atlanta-based social justice activist and DSA member spoke about and read from her memoir, The Emancipation of Cecily McMillan (Nation Books, 2016). It describes her upbringing in Texas, her burgeoning political awareness, engagement in Occupy Wall Street and her subsequent arrest and imprisonment at Rikers Island in New York City.
David Duhalde, Deputy Director of DSA (a co-sponsor of the event) introduced McMillan and spoke about first meeting her at a DSA Youth conference – that connection being important, for McMillan distinguished herself at Occupy by her commitment to nonviolence and by her insistence that radical protest movements must make demands upon established power if they are to have relevance for working people far beyond the circles of the already committed. This aspect of her talk (and in her memoirs) is of particular importance when trying to develop strategies to respond to the challenges posed by the Trump Administration. Her recounting of the inner dynamics of Occupy addressed the need to combine a Utopian vision of a better world with a concrete program that can have a political impact in the here and now.
Of perhaps most interest to those in attendance, however, was McMillan's description of her early life and the process by which she became politicized in Southern communities where left-wing organizations and activism were more absent than present. As she related, this was due both to the empathy she developed for those being pushed around at an early age as she tried to cope with her own displacements and hardships, and by her personal readiness to challenge received wisdom and act on her beliefs. Her account of how she learned from 9/11 the need to oppose all forms of hatred and racism, including Islamophobia, and her recognition that racism within the US constitutes its own form of terrorism that must be condemned as such, was particularly compelling in painting a picture of her politicization.
McMillan was arrested a year after Occupy during a police sweep of the area in which it had taken place. Although herself a victim of police brutality, McMillan was arrested, charged and convicted of assault on a police officer -- her treatment and trial an expression of all that is unjust in our criminal justice system. But during the two months in which she was locked up, McMillan became friends with and learned from the other women held on New York’s infamous Rikers Island prison, women whose crime can be summed up as being trapped in a life of poverty, a life without resources. The "Emancipation," referred to in the book’s title, speaks to what she gained from these women. The evening ended with Cecily’s talk of that time and the need for all to continue to fight to end the injustices perpetrated by the prison system itself.
This theme will be addressed again at Bread & Roses’ February 21 event when the film 13TH will be shown (6-8 pm at Busboys and Poets in Takoma, 235 Carroll St. NW). The movie, so titled because the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution allows one exception to the abolition of “involuntary servitude” -- those who are in prison. Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director, will introduce filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s movie (at this writing an Oscar nominee in the documentary category) which explores the history of racial inequality in the United States and within our nation’s prison system, giving greater historical background to the prison life McMillan described. The screening of the 13th is free, but those who wish to attend must RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/dclaborfest13th
More information on McMillan’s book is at: http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/hardcover/the-emancipation-of-cecily-mcmillan/9781568585383
The Washington Socialist <> February 2017
By Austin Kendall
Three days before the Trump inauguration, the DC chapter of the American Constitution Society hosted a “protesting 101” lecture with two first amendment lawyers -- Art Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU DC, and Mark Goldstone, a defense attorney who has represented a range of protesters over three decades.
Spitzer began the event with a quick history of large protest movements that converged on the nation’s capital, noting Coxey’s army, the Bonus Marchers, the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, the 1971 May Day protests, and the March for Women’s Lives.
Goldstone built off Spitzer by noting the terrain of protesting in the District of Columbia, saying that protesters ought to consider whose property they are protesting on to prepare themselves for which law enforcement body they will face. Goldstone and Spitzer agreed that the Park Police are the most accommodating, that the Metropolitan Police (DC’s municipal force) facilitate protest and that the least receptive are the Capitol Police.
Goldstone got into tactics, pointing out that the law says that the police must treat those without a permit as if they had a permit. The benefit of a permit is the presence of police protection. Worth noting, though, is that a permit is required to protest outside of a residential home.
Goldstone quickly switched gears and stressed that the “dividing line” in outcomes of being arrested was determined by whether one commits property destruction or violence. In order to not cross this line one should know the legal definitions of terms, in particular that obstructing or intimidating a police officer is considered assaulting an officer. This point was stressed: do not seek ‘street’ justice with an officer in any form. In terms of property destruction, Goldstone reminded the audience that any damage over $1000 is a felony.
One of the main points that Goldstone stressed was taking advantage of “post and forfeit,” a procedure that allows you to pay around $50-$100 to have the case against you dropped without admitting guilt or being convicted. If you have cash on you, you can pay at the station and pretty much be done with the matter without repeated trips to court. The drawback is that the arrest can stay on your record. Goldstone also noted that pre-trial diversion programs, including monitored volunteer work, could get a case dismissed.
Other warnings were made, including that one can be charged for “unlawful entering” of a public area if a police office makes a “lawful order” for you to leave and you remain. One might also be charged with violating municipal regulations related to traffic if you do not obey lawful orders. Goldstone quipped that officers have broad authority to direct protesters actions. He did repeatedly say, however, that the Metropolitan Police intend to facilitate protest.
Spitzer and Goldstone agreed that if your intention is to be arrested in order to show commitment to the issue, one should communicate this to the authorities in advance. They remarked that there is a three-warnings rule in most cases, and without “pre-notification” it can take some deal of effort to be arrested. What is more, pre-notification is a good idea to ensure that no one is hurt or charged with serious offenses when officers do not know the intention of protesters. On the subject of police violence Spitzer noted that police officers frequently lie, and that a common lie is that they cannot be photographed. They can be photographed and they must give you their name and badge number if asked, but you have to be careful not to interfere with arrests, lest you be charged with assaulting an officer.
In their concluding remarks, Goldstone argued that there will be drastic changes to the court system, but it will take years to filter down. He worried that there would be a crackdown on post-and-forfeit programs. Spitzer agreed that there would be a dramatic change in the courts, and remarked that sentencing has gotten easier in the last decades, but sentences will get stiffer.
Spitzer brought an ACLU pamphlet entitled “Demonstrations in DC: Know Your Rights” which is available online and worth reviewing. It recommends following five steps to protect your rights:
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