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The Importance Of Economic And Social Factors

MLK guaranteed incomeNews reports often separate economic and social issues. Yet the term, socio-economic, dating back to the 1880s, indicates a linkage. And a strong political connection exists between economic and social issues.

Recent public opinion polling shows that the economy, followed by job creation, remains the dominant issue for voters. These attitudes are not surprising in a time of chronic job insecurity, stagnant wages, and shredded social safety nets. How do we as a nation make sure people have a decent standard of living regardless of work status or economic conditions?

Polling results reveal that our economy today no longer works for vast numbers of average Americans. The rich and powerful have more wealth and power than ever. Between 2009 and 2011, income fell for ninety-nine percent of the population while it rose eleven percent for the top one percent. The behavior of many one-per centers brought on the financial crisis. Yet they received a government bailout, and now their wealth continues to skyrocket once again. Meanwhile, working people find themselves floundering, trapped in economic misery.

Responses to the economic crisis in the political arena vary. Republicans tend to worship markets and demonize government. For them, economic recovery involves an austerity program, dismantling or scaling back universal social welfare programs, cutting taxes, reducing regulations, and ending collective bargaining.

Democrats strive to advance the common good and human rights for all. For them, restoring material security means shoring up social programs while promoting good jobs and wages, government regulations, and unions.

In his final book, Martin Luther King wrote that the problem of economic inequality can be addressed by creating full employment or creating guaranteed income. He recognized the critical economic role of consumption, which today accounts for nearly three quarters of our economy.

King called for a “revolution of values.” We need the social vision to pay adequate wages to every American worker regardless of their job title. Every American family should have an adequate and livable income.

King saw the guaranteed annual income as the simplest and most effective way to eliminate poverty. In order for the guaranteed income to function as a “consistently progressive measure,” requires “two conditions.” It must be based on “the median income of society, not at the lowest levels of income.” Also it must be indexed for inflation, “automatically increasing as the total social income grows.”

Today’s advocates of a guaranteed basic income see it as a viable policy of economic justice/fairness. People with a basic income can more easily care for their families, stay healthy, and improve their education. The money they spend stimulates the economy by increasing the demand for goods and services, by bringing more workers into the labor force, and by boosting tax revenues. The benefits to society include better educational outcomes, decreased mental illness, and a decline in social ills like domestic abuse and criminal activity.

While news accounts often measure the economy by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the economic measurement that matters for most people remains whether enough Americans hold jobs with decent pay and benefits. A low-work, low-wage economy, with most people struggling to meet their basic needs and a few people living in luxury, threatens our democracy.

Americans want a sustained economic recovery and a government that will work to achieve it. Everyone should have access to employment, health care, food, housing, and a decent standard of living.

The political and cultural struggles waged by liberals have significantly contributed to making American society more humane and less oppressive. The progress made in securing basic human rights for blacks, women, the elderly, the disabled, immigrants, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people stands as a testament to their courage and commitment.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U. S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta.  He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University.  His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque.  Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

Move To Amend’s Barnstorming Tour Coming To Iowa City

On Thursday April 17, David Cobb will be making a stop in Iowa City as part of Move To Amend’s spring barnstorming tour.

The event will be at noon at the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A.  This event will be open to the public, and is especially intended to give elected officials and others interested in the legislative process an opportunity to meet David Cobb, hear about Move To Amend’s work and progress around the country, and hear a summary of what has developed in Iowa’s legislature and several cities and towns.  We think this will be a great opportunity to hear about Move To Amend’s work and for Move To Amend to learn about what is developing in Iowa.

If you plan to attend, an RSVP would be helpful, so we know how much pizza we should order, but definitely not needed:  we’d like anyone interested to stop in!

Move to Amend is the organization that originated the drive for a constitutional amendment to address out-of-control corporate spending and influence in our elections – the result of the US Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” ruling among others.  The organization is working for the adoption of an amendment that will clarify that corporations are not people; and money is not speech.

The goal of Move to Amend’s Barnstorming Tours is to educate, inspire action, and assist local organizers with Move to Amend affiliate groups.

Originally from Houston, Texas, David Cobb began his legal  career after working as a waiter and shrimper.  He has worked with the Project on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), the Sierra Club and, more recently, with Move To Amend as one of their chief speakers and educators.  As part of his commitment to democracy and human rights, he also works with a team facilitating anti-racism workshops throughout the country.

For more information about Move To Amend:

Labor Update: The Looting Of Art And Pensions

A portion of the north wall of Rivera's murals in the DIA
When Detroit became the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy last year, it triggered a process by which all the city’s assets would be thrown out on the lawn like a foreclosed home whose contents would be pilfered through by neighbors and strangers alike for their potential value.

And as the objects that made the house a home are reassessed in this new shameful context, what was once considered essential – priceless, in fact – is now valued at pennies on the dollar to expedite the financial settlement so everyone can quickly move on.

Such is the context for the extraordinarily painful negotiations taking place in Detroit right now as the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection has become the city’s main bargaining chip for the billions of dollars in unfunded debt on pension and health benefits owed to current and future retirees. The publicly-owned collection includes Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance,” Rodin’s “The Thinker,” a self-portrait by Van Gogh, and Diego Rivera’s masterpiece mural depicting Detroit’s since-collapsed auto industry – more than 66,000 pieces altogether.

If accomplished, this will be the largest liquidation of public art in US history, and the most recent looting of art since Iraq’s Museum was vanquished in 2003.

Stealing art during moments of crisis is nothing new. In fact it’s the norm. This was sentimentally portrayed recently in George Clooney’s film, Monuments Men, in which a troop of loveable art historians are commissioned to protect and recover stolen art from the Nazis in the waning months of WWII.

But like any good art depicting a historic event, Monuments Men should have been a commentary on the present – a kind of plea to human conscience the way Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” was during the McCarthy Era. But it wasn’t.

Instead, Monuments Men was a pat on the back to the Good Americans for beating the Bad Nazis and Bad Russians. There was no subtext to help us understand the looting of both the public worker’s pensions and the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection taking place today by bankruptcy judges, lawyers, hedge fund managers, investment bankers.

It contained no metaphor for Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s unelected City Manager who was appointed by Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder under the state’s controversial Emergency Manager law. “Everything is on the table,” Orr has repeatedly said regarding the negotiations.

To his credit, Governor Snyder has proposed a “Grand Bargain” that would maintain the art in the museum under the management of a private foundation and prevent its liquidation. However, creditors have accused Christies Auction House of low-balling the value of the art in the $816 settlement that would monumentally underfund the pension obligations.

And the discussion of salvaging the art at the expense of workers’ pensions has caught the ire of union leaders fighting to protect workers’ pensions. “The elevation of the city’s art above our hard-earned pensions and health care is unfair, offensive and elitist,” said Jeff Pegg, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, reading from a statement signed by four labor leaders representing the public sector workers.  “We appreciate the city’s art collection. But, stated bluntly: Art is a luxury. It’s not essential, like food and health care.”

So, in steps Financial Guaranty Insurance Company last Wednesday, which has asked the bankruptcy judge to force the city to instead sell all the Detroit Institute of Arts’ property (building included) to corporate buyout firms including Catalyst Acquisitions and Bell Capital Partners.

These negotiations are completely unprecedented, so it’s easy to forget that the monetization and liquidation of public art to ensure pensioners a dignified retirement is a most sublime corruption. We are expected to believe that the only option is to sell this art to fund constitutionally protected retirements.

Perhaps the acrimony caused by these insane negotiations will bog it down in so much red tape that people come to their senses and realize this entire bankruptcy is illegal, immoral, that the sale of the art that belongs to the people of Detroit is blocked?

Perhaps Congress will propose a federal bailout for the workers’ pensions, similar to the one they passed in 2008 to bail out the very banks who are now clamoring to get their hands on their very own Van Gogh?

Or perhaps Clooney will make another movie before he heads back to Darfur that more artfully depicts a public and cultural crisis of catastrophic dimensions?


Can’t We Just Say The Branstad Administration Is Corrupt?

branstadIt’s not mismanagement. It’s not incompetence.  It’s corruption.  Iowans need to wise up about Governor Branstad.

Listen to Senator Hogg explain how things are.

“Why is the Assistant Director of the Iowa law Enforcement Academy, Mike Quinn, who has committed and and been confirmed to have committed repeated sexual harassment, and threatened to slit the throat of a female worker who exposed it, why is he still working at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy?  …Why have you done nothing, Governor?”  

This and more:  Watch.

Branstad Using Religion To Get Votes

This is just plain weird.

Weekend Hodgepodge

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Congratulations to Congressman Dave Loebsack on being named the ranking member on the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Maybe not a flashy position, but one where he can have an effect on Iowans lives in a good way. We know there is work that needs to be done due to the way that that education has been treated under the last Republican administration and with the obstruction of the Republicans in the Senate and the House. Good Luck, Congressman.

Branstad Doesn’t Seem To Know Much
Our Governor just doesn’t seem to quite have a handle on what is going on around him these days. His drivers driving too fast, not knowing he just can’t shut down a state facility, not knowing what is going on with personnel within his administration. I think Terry is suffering from burnout from being too long in the job. I know I am suffering burnout from him being in the job too long.

Civil Rights Act 50 Years Old.
Last Thursday the Civil Rights Act turned 50 years old. Probably one of the most reviled laws in our history. Probably directly responsible for the Republican Patry’s infamous Southern Strategy and all the consequence of that including today’s Tea Party. This is one Act that has tried to reconcile the gap between the promise of America (“all men created equal”) and its reality of racism and vast inequality of resource distribution. It has worked well at times, but is now under direct attack from the Roberts Court. May it re-emerge to be a guiding light to the good that is in men and women, rather than a magnet for the hate.

Paul Ryan Visits Iowa
No report here, but we know what he stands for:
(from democraticunderground)
paul ryans budget

Succession Matters
This fall before you vote, remember that succession is a factor to consider. Before voting for Terry Branstad, remember that Kim Reynolds is his chosen successor. Ms. Reynolds is very right wing.

Before voting for a republican for the US House, remember that is a vote for Boehner (or worse) as the second in line to succeed the President. That is a scary thought. Think about the consequences of your votes.

Bernie Sanders:
Reminding us what counts in elections, people.

bernie sanders on money in politics

Limbaugh Upset About Colbert
Apparently no one has told Limbaugh there are buttons that turn the TV off and that also change the channel.

Sunday Funday – Happy Birthday, Part Deux

just not sure

just not sure

I think we all had a bit of fun bouncing all over in the time machine last week. The bruises on my head have recovered and I am ready to go again. And no, I will not wear a helmet nor ask directions for I am a man.

Buckle up and let’s hop in the old time machine once again.

1) Just this week we had one noted person quit a job and a replacement hired. Who will replace David Letterman on CBS’ late night show?

2) On April 10, 2004 a Presidential Daily Briefing from August 2001 is declassified. What is the headline for the Briefing?

3) One day you are nobody, next day you are in the news. This week Mike Carroll became well known to Iowans. Why?

4) In April of 2004, fighting continued in this city that had started when a convoy of American contractors was ambushed coming into the city. What city had this siege?

5) The Party Is Over! What came to a crashing end Wednesday night up in Ames?

6) On April 14, 2004 then Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft put the blame on who for the 9/11 attacks? (before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks)

7) 2004. The US is still using a color coded advisory system of terrorist activity. Can you name the colors in order from least to worst terrorist potential?

8) What European nation pulled its troops from Iraq in April 2004 following the election of a leftist government?

9) Back to Iowa this week. During an interview on IPR Governor Branstad said he might consider signing a bill making limited used of what legal?

10) Making a bid to be the first man to lose to two different women in two different states (in two years might I add), who threw his hat into the New Hampshire Senate race Thursday?

11) Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Home Run no. 715, what baseball great compared Obama’s critics to the KKK that threatened him in 1974?

12) In sports this week the starting guard for what division I school came out as gay?

13) In another step backwards for the women’s vote this fall, Republicans blocked what legislation this week?

14) Kiss and Tell. A Republican representative from Louisiana was caught on tape kissing an aid. What happened to the Aid?

15) Ten years later they did it again. What school won both the Men’s and Women’s college basketball tournaments?

16) Authenticated as ancient papyrus, this document indicates who was married?

17) You can’t go back to Kansas, Toto. What did Kathleen Sebelius do before she became the secretary of HHS?

18) Worldwide carbon dioxide levels average 400 PPM last week. This is the highest levels in how many years?

19) April 29th of 2004 what car company made its final car, ending over a century in business?

20) April 1st of 2004 what email service is launched?

Whew – It was a busy week. Well how about some answers?

1) David Letterman announced he would retire and CBS picked Stephen Colbert to replace him

2) “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”

3) He was the head of the Department of Administrative Services in Iowa and was fired by Branstad over the secret payoff scandal.

4) Fallujah

5) Veishea

6) President Clinton and Jamie Gorelick

7) Blue, least concern then green, yellow, orange and red.

8) Spain

9) medical marijuana

10) Scott Brown

11) Hank Aaron

12) University of Massachusetts

13) Equal pay for equal worth

14) She was fired by the representative

15) Connecticut

16) Jesus

17) Governor of Kansas

18) 800,000

19) Oldsmobile

20) gmail

See you next week!

Happy Birthday, Blogforiowa

birthday cake
Just a brief note on how blogforiowa and I crossed paths. I think the process I went through may be a process that many have gone through in the recent years. I have not been a highly political person all my life. I have been someone who tries to listen to arguments, evaluate them with what I know to be true and thus evaluate their validity.

Briefly , I was quite active on the college campus during the late ’60s and early ’70s against the Viet Nam War and for equal rights for all. Following the end of the War and what looked like real advancements in rights for all, I dropped out of politics and did what many others did. It was time for a job, a home and a family. We had some severe health adversity in our lives, so we did not in any way have a nice normal life. But we endured and raised a couple of fine young women.

Our kids finished college about the time that George W. Bush was given the presidency. It was not as though I was looking for something to do. I was quite happy to have an empty nest and some time of my own to work with. However, while we struggled through the ’80s with our problems, I could not help but notice a change in the attitudes of my fellow workers and the company I worked for. Things were less friendly. People all around seemed less giving, especially toward those who were poorer.

I must interject here that I spent 12 years in Catholic schools. One thing that stuck with me throughout all those years were the Church’s teachings on social justice. While the Church and I have long since parted ways, teachings on social justice have been my constant companion. At the base of these teachings is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

We rolled into the 2000s and like many I was not closely following politics day to day, but the trumped up impeachment had piqued my interest. The whole idea of impeaching a president on a personal matter was out of bounds. This was a signal that things were way out of whack in Washington. Folks I was working with couldn’t see a problem. They were mostly mouthing what they had heard on the TV or radio.

This was the beginning of the feeling of isolation that I would feel for the next several years. The internet was new, but we were not yet connected. Thus I was unable to see that the feelings that we were going through were shared by millions. As the Bush presidency proceeded we became more and more uncomfortable with our political situation. The direction that our country took after 9/11 had us truly puzzled.

Then one day I was substitute teaching and the regular teacher had left his computer up on the internet. He had left a site up called I found kindred spirits. One of the links was to, AKA the orange Satan. Once more I found thousands of kindred spirits. I also began reading material I had seen nowhere else. One of my real problems was that I knew as the Bush group led us to war that we were being lied to, I just didn’t know what the truth was.

From there we actively sought out those of our persuasion. The first place I looked was the Democratic Party in our county. Our county was quite red at the time, which had enhanced our isolation. I rather pushed my way in. Later I would attend candidate meet and greets and other gatherings. One of my personal concerns was that the almost total control of the media by right wing groups be broken up. The fact that we could not find information on what was really happening in the world was evidence to me that access to information in the United States was sorely lacking.

At one meet and greet there was an appearance by a group called Iowans for Better Local Television. Folks that were almost on my wavelength. We made friends with these folks and remain close today. 2004 was coming and I had decided that it was time to get back into the political saddle. When I heard Howard Dean enumerating the sins of Bushco that we had learned the hard way, we hooked on to his campaign and stayed on to the end and beyond.

We worked for Kerry that year, but Dr. Dean was still the one who had our hearts. Since those days we continued to run into various friends we made through the Dean campaign. Trish Nelson asked me to write an article or two for blogforiowa. There was no reason to be a shrinking violet anymore. We have kids, and we wanted to do what we could to change the direction of the country. This seemed like a good place to start.

I am learning so much every week doing this. Like most bloggers, it is a labor of love. Plus I get to run a weekly trivia page which I so enjoy.

Iowa Families Struggle to Meet Basic Needs‏


Today we put out the second installment of our Cost of Living in Iowa report, which found 1 in 6 Iowa households do not make what is needed for a basic-needs household budget (3 out of 5 single-parent households).

Basic RGB

As co-author Peter Fisher noted in our news release:
“No one discussing issues such as the minimum wage, and eligibility for child-care assistance, can reasonably ignore the economic realities facing these families.”

Find the report here:

Kind regards,
The IPP Staff

Mike Owen
Executive Director

The Stink In The Air? Koch Money In Iowa Politics!

It seems like it is almost impossible to turn on the TV in Eastern Iowa right now without hearing what a supposedly bad man Bruce Braley is. Night and day, day and night the spots play endlessly pounding the message over and over. Welcome to the world where those with too much money have been given a green light to spend as much money as they want thanks to two horrible Supreme Court decisions, Citizens United and McCutcheon.

Through various think tanks, action committees, 501c4 committees and who knows what other venues, Charles and David Koch are able to use their money to constantly drive their message into our homes. To me it is like them coming into my house and farting over and over and over. They expect me to love the smell of their stink because they are so rich that whatever they do is beatiful because of their money. They also seem to believe they can put a mask over their faces in the form of a front organization and we won’t figure out that it is Charles and David who are actually doing the farting.

But the masks have been pulled back and there are Charles and David bald faced, stinking up the air. I do not want them im my house anymore and I am betting that they have stunk up the air so badly in Iowa that most Iowans want them to take their stink somewhere else. Bruce Braley is not the only one the Kochs are trying to harm with their stinking money. Braley is only the best known one they are going after. Remember last fall when Koch money tried to buy some seats in the Coralville municipal election? That sure stunk when it was uncovered.

No doubt whoever is Braley’s Republican opponent this fall will have the weight of the Koch brother’s stinky money to run with. Sure many may think that having the constant drumbeat of smelly “educational” PAC advertisements is a good thing. But it will be a two edged sword. Iowa voters will know that there will be some expected payback for all the money the Kochs will spend. It makes no difference which of the Tea Party candidates is picked to run against Braley, they will dance to the Koch Brother’s tune.

The Tea Party candidate will avoid issues so that should they win, they will be able to be manipulated by the Kochs while claiming they are not breaking campaign promises. It makes no difference who the candidate is, they will be owned by the Koch Brothers and will be totally beholden to them.

The Koch Brothers’ money stinks, their front groups stink, their PACs stink, their attempts to buy politicians in Iowa stink. Iowans proudly have a fiercely independent streak. To think that the Koch brothers feel they could ‘sneak’ into Iowa behind patriotic sounding front groups to buy an election from a bunch of rubes stinks big time.

Go away Koch brothers, take your money and your anti-middle-class attitudes back where you came from. Iowans do not want it. And, yes we will be watching.