Isaac Park

Isaac Park is an editorial intern at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

Clinton Wins Illinois, but Chicago Feels the Bern

Hillary Clinton carried Illinois, swept through three other states, and kept Bernie Sanders at bay in a too-close-to-call race in Missouri. But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who endorsed Clinton, cannot revel in the presumptive Democratic nominee’s home state victory anytime soon. Instead, he will face questions about the blowout defeat of the incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. The county prosecutor and ally of the mayor became the target of Chicagoans’ fury after a video of the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, was released to the public late last year, more than a year after the shooting occurred.

The state’s attorney race turned into a referendum on Emanuel himself, exposing the political vulnerabilities of a man who was once a key Democratic Party operative. Alvarez lost to challenger Kim Foxx in the Democratic primary by nearly 20 percentage points. Voters did not take kindly to the mayor’s defense of Alvarez, who charged the officer with murder only after the local outrage attracted national attention. After he was forced to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for footage of McDonald’s death residents accused Alvarez and Emanuel of a cover-up. In the months following the video’s release, the city’s police superintendent stepped down and a series of protests calling for Alvarez’s and Emanuel’s resignations engulfed the city.

Sanders seized on this political turmoil to close Tuesday’s gap to two points in a state where Clinton led by a two-to-one margin as recently as last week. In a series of relentless attacks on the mayor, Sanders made clear that Clinton’s former surrogate’s brand was toxic. “Hillary Clinton proudly lists Mayor Rahm Emanuel as one of her leading mayoral endorsers,” Sanders told reporters at a news conference in the city. “Well, let me be as clear as I can be: Based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel’s endorsement if I win the Democratic nomination.”

That aggressive strategy worked: Barack Obama’s first chief of staff and a former senior advisor to Bill Clinton (who was even rumored to be a potential running mate for Hillary) couldn’t even get face time with the Democratic frontrunner when she campaigned in the city.

Sanders’s attacks were part of a shrewd strategy to score points with the city’s African American voters, after the mayor’s February approval ratings dropped to 20 percent among blacks. Sanders has struggled with black voters, especially in Southern states where he has experienced deep losses.

Sanders lost the Prairie State by only two percentage points, and Chicago by eight. These margins were much smaller than those in other large minority-majority cities in the Midwest. Last week in Detroit, Sanders lost by nearly 60 percentage points and in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) he lost by nearly 30 percentage points.

Emanuel’s fall from grace in the Democratic Party also underscores the growing clout of the Black Lives Matter movement. With Alvarez out of the county prosecutor’s office, local youth activists will undoubtedly focus their attention on a weakened Emanuel as they set their sights on the 2019 mayor’s race.

Illinois Governor Pushes Anti-Labor Agenda Amid Budget Standoff

Bruce Rauner's slate of labor-busting measures has touched off a lengthy budget impasse in Springfield. 

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
In Illinois, schools are open, public employees are being paid, and roads are under a seemingly perpetual state of repair and construction. But the unremarkable scenes throughout the Prairie State belie a slow-moving disaster of cutbacks, shortfalls and legislative gridlock, as lawmakers struggle to pass a budget more than eight months after the fiscal year began on July 1 last year. A fierce partisan battle between the state’s Democratically controlled legislature and its Republican governor, its first in more than a decade, lies at the heart of the standoff. As the state lurches toward its March 15 primaries, the budget deal—and the separate issues to which the governor insists the budget be linked—looms large over a number of local races. Bruce Rauner, the venture-capitalist-turned-governor, has been adamant about attaching a slate of labor-busting measures he contends are necessary to his budget, which the legislature has shown no inclination to enact. “...

Illinois Universities Face Closures, Layoffs as State Budget Impasse Continues

As lawmakers in Springfield fail to pass a 2016 budget, college students are "being held hostage." 

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green,File
An eight-month-long state budget standoff in Illinois could shut down a 148-year-old, predominately African American university on Chicago’s South Side if state lawmakers cannot resolve a funding dispute soon. The impasse affects the entire Illinois public higher education system, with many colleges and universities facing layoffs, furloughs, and class cancellations. Students at Chicago State University recently held a rally demanding an end to the stalemate after the university’s board of directors declared financial exigency, or “ college bankruptcy .” “We are being held hostage,” says Paris Griffin, a Chicago State senior who helped organize the demonstration at the governor’s offices in the Windy City. Illinois colleges and universities have been in crisis-mode since Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic state lawmakers who dominate the General Assembly failed to pass a budget for the 2016 fiscal year that began last July...

Oregon Militia Standoff Spotlights Federal-Tribal Quandary over Artifacts

Leaders of Oregon's Paiute tribe are demanding that authorities investigate whether the armed occupiers have stolen or damaged any of the protected artifacts housed at the wildlife refuge.

(Photo: AP/Manuel Valdes)
While the remaining Oregon militia holdouts negotiate with federal law enforcement officials, the Burns Paiute tribe is anxious to find out whether the militants damaged any of the thousands of tribal artifacts housed on public lands since the standoff began in October. Tensions reached a boiling point in late January when state police killed one member of the group and arrested 11 others. The conflict over management of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge thrust the tribe into the middle of an impasse between federal officials and anti-government forces. The episode also illuminates the complexities of smaller American Indian tribes’ relationships with federal authorities because they rely more heavily on the government’s assistance. Those tensions are on full display in the Beaver State. The Burns Paiute leaders and prominent archeologists have compared the Oregon extremists to the Islamic State militants who have destroyed countless ancient sites in Iraq and Syria,...

Report: Gender Wage Gap Shrinks Because Men Earn Less

The wage gap between men and women is finally starting to close—but only because male wages are falling, according to a new briefing paper released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute.

“No one in this country should work full-time and live in poverty,” said Massachsetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren at a Capitol Hill press conference to release the report, which sets forth a policy agenda for both closing the gender wage gap and boosting bargaining power for low- and moderate-income workers. Also on hand were House Democrat Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut, and labor organizers with the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.

Dubbed “Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond,” the EPI white paper and manifesto found that despite a shrinking gender wage gap, wage gains have remained stagnant over the last decade. In 1979, median hourly earnings for women were 62.7 percent of men’s hourly wages. That gap narrowed in the two decades that followed, but since 2000 it has hovered in the 80 percent rage. In 2014, women’s median hourly earnings were 82.9 percent of men’s.

The wage gap is more severe for women of color, the report found. On average, white female workers make 81.8 percent of a man’s hourly wage, compared to 65.1 percent for black women and 58.9 percent for Hispanic women.

“The problem we have is not just in one little area or one specific group,” said Warren. “This is across education levels, this is across occupations, this is across income levels [where] women are persistently paid less than men.”

The EPI paper spells out out a dozen policies aimed at closing the gender wage gap by promoting broad-based wage growth across the board. These include increasing the minimum wage, restoring collective-bargaining rights, and expanding access to paid family and sick leave.

Raising the minimum wage is of particular importance to women, the report argues, because women make up the majority of the largest low-wage professions, which include child-care work, cashiers, bartenders, and food preparers.

Participants, who included AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz, also spelled out a political strategy to achieve their goals. Tuesday’s event came just a week after a string of nationwide strikes by Fight for $15, the minimum wage campaign organized and partly underwritten by the SEIU. The campaign has been credited with local victories in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and state-level proposals and executive orders in California, New York, and Oregon.    

“The commitment to continue building this movement will stay all the way to 2016, from the streets to the ballot box,” declared Saez.

The report also found that productivity and wages, which grew in tandem from the middle of the last century until the mid-1970s, are no longer linked. Between 1979 and 2014, productivity grew 62.7 percent, while hourly compensation only grew 8 percent.

Interestingly, though, the only earnings gains in that time period were for women. While white women saw a 30.2 percent increase in hourly median wages, between 1979 and 2014, white men saw their wages shrink by 3.1 percent, according to the report. And while black women saw a more modest increase of 12.8 percent, black men saw an alarming 9.8 percent wage decrease.

“The truth is that the policy agenda we’ve outlined is good for women and men,” said Valerie Wilson, Director of EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.

The report estimates that 40 percent of the progress made in closing the wage gap since 1979 was due to men’s falling wages.

“It didn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t have to be that way moving forward,” said Elise Gould, an EPI senior economist who coauthored the paper. “It’s clear that gender wage parity does not improve women’s economic prospects to the greatest possible extent if wages for men and women remain equal, but stagnant into the future.”

It remains to be seen whether calls for a minimum wage increase, for one, will translate into policy action. Though Saenz stressed the importance of a higher minimum wage, the SEIU recently announced its support for Hillary Clinton, who has demurred from supporting a federal minimum wage of $15, instead advocating for $12. This move and other Clinton endorsements by large unions have caused some consternation among rank-and-file members. 

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