AP Photo/John Locher Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee take the stage before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. T here were plenty of issues that those in the labor movement were eager to see addressed in last night's first Democratic debate. There was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Clinton recently disavowed, partly in response to Sanders’ labor-friendly trade views, partly to put Joe Biden, who has to support the TPP, in a box. There were Obamacare reforms. Clinton, following Sanders, came out against the Cadillac tax, which is a big sticking point for labor unions. Then there was the minimum wage—Sanders and O’...
Yesterday, TheNew York Times dropped an investigative bombshell that confirmed in detail what most of us already know: The ultra-rich are in control of our electoral process.
As the Times reports, just 158 families have contributed nearly half of all the money raised so far for the numerous presidential campaigns. “Not since before Watergate,” the story states, “have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.”
Not surprisingly, these donors are overwhelmingly white, male, old, Republican, and rich—very, very rich. These are the people who have made their wealth by cashing in on the under-regulated frontiers of fracking and speculative finance. And they are backing candidates who will ensure that their interests are kept at the front of the agenda.
“[R]egardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.”
Most of these donors are concentrated around only nine cities, and if you combine the neighborhoods—elite, mostly white enclaves—that these political benefactors live in, it would be roughly equivalent to the area of New Orleans. Here’s a great breakdown of just where these donors come from, and how they’ve made their fortunes.
We’ve known for some time now that the mega-rich, who have a very specific political agenda, have captured the campaign-finance system. This investigation serves, however, to turn that notion from an abstract to a very tangible concept and brings these political power-players out from the shadows.
Yesterday, at a campaign event in Iowa Republican contender Jeb Bush said he didn’t think the Voting Rights Act—a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement—should be reauthorized by Congress after the conservative Supreme Court gutted it in 2013.
Here’s exactly what he had to say: “If it’s to reauthorize it to continue to provide regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960, because those were basically when many of those rules were put in place, I don’t believe we should do that. There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting, exponentially better improvement, and I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places.”
On this issue, Jeb is not only straying from his brother’s position—given that George W. Bush signed reauthorization of the VRA in 2006—but he’s also outflanking the Republican’s resident crazy-talker, Ben Carson.
As the CNN reported yesterday, a policy divide has emerged within the party on the issue of restoring and protecting voter rights. "Of course I want the Voting Rights Act to be protected. Whether we still need it or not or whether we've outgrown the need for it is questionable," Carson told CNN. "Maybe we have, maybe we haven't. But I wouldn't jeopardize it."
For The Nation, Ari Berman explained exactly why Jeb Bush’s notion that the VRA is no longer necessary is an absolute abomination. From 1965 to 2013, the section of the VRA that was struck down by the Supreme Court had stopped 3,000 discriminatory voting changes from happening. One only needs to look at what Alabama did last week to refute Bush. Berman also notes that in the past four years alone, 468 new voting restrictions have cropped up in 49 states—one of the most severe was in Jeb’s home state of Florida.
“It’s sad, but not surprising, that the same guy who said African Americans just wanted ‘free stuff’ from the government is now claiming that the VRA, the country’s most important civil-rights law, is no longer necessary,” Berman writes.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik President Barack Obama speaks during a conversation co-hosted by Coworker.org at the White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, October 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. N obody knew quite what to expect at Wednesday’s White House Summit on Worker Voice, which brought labor leaders, worker rights organizations, low-wage workers, and “high-road” employers together to talk about how to ease workers’ path toward collective action. Some labor advocates openly worried that the focus of the event would skew toward newer organizing avenues and cast collective bargaining as a clunky relic of labor’s past. Others were skeptical about the authenticity of the event, wondering if, in light of the recent agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, this was just the White House’s attempt at appeasing disgruntled labor leaders. But for many in attendance, those apprehensions were allayed. “I am a big believer … of collective bargaining...