Societies that value their workers tend to enshrine protections for their workers’ health into law. One of the most common protection, but foreign even in an ideological sense to the United States, is paid or even subsidized vacation. In the Soviet Union, all workers received 2 weeks of paid vacation and workers in the more dangerous industries received 4 weeks of paid vacation. Cuba gives its state employees a month of paid vacation and guarantees a week of paid vacation to private sector employees. In Bolivia you receive 15 days of vacation your first 5 years of work, 20 days your second five years, and 30 days if you have worked more than 10 years. The wealthier social democracies of Europe give even more expansive vacation to their citizens, the most infamous example being Italy as documented in Michael Moore’s most recent movie. In many of these countries, the vacation is not seen as a luxury, but rather as preventative medicine, and medical professionals are often present at the various resorts and spas to guide the visiting workers in how to relieve the various mental and physical stresses that have built up from their labor. And despite being dominated by the influence of for-profit companies, most medical journals agree that there are enormous health benefits to regularly taking vacation.
The Rebellious Lawyering Conference (RebLaw) began yesterday at Yale Law School, bringing together law students, lawyers, and community organizers to discuss a plethora of social justice issues. The author attended two of the sessions, which were amazing and yielded interesting legal perspectives and strategies worth elaborating on (and of course there were many simultaneous sessions which you can check out here). And tomorrow I’ll give a similar summary of the sessions I attend today.
Things are looking worse and worse for the liberal advocates of legalism and reform as direct action continues to win over and over and over again while doing things through the proper channels continues to fail. The latest blow is the resignation of Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel K. Tarullo. Mr. Tarullo’s term was supposed to continue until 2022 but, for undisclosed reasons, he has left prior to that expiration. Know for his rigorous (or haphazard, at least according to the bankers) stress tests that he conducted against the banks to test how they would weather various economic emergencies, Mr. Tarullo was the closest thing to a public advocate on the Fed. Admittedly not a high bar, but nevertheless with his departure things will likely get worse for the working class.
Liberals have been having a collective meltdown since the US presidential election made it that much more difficult for them to hide from their political ideas of formal equality and respectability imploding. The resistance, pardon the pun, has taken the form they love the most: collective, media-hyped outrage. From Russian hacking that is not actually Russian hacking to moderate rebels that are not actually moderate rebels, the party determined to stamp out “fake news” does not seem to have any qualms about using it for their own purposes, regardless of its source.
Kevin Drum made a rather bold claim recently in an article for centrist malcontents Mother Jones: the Affordable Care Act is untouchable despite the imminent Republican control of all three branches of federal government. The basic idea is that (1) Republicans cannot repeal the pre-existing conditions protection; (2) insurance companies need a substantial federal healthcare infrastructure in order to afford taking on clients with pre-existing conditions; therefore (3) Republicans cannot substantially repeal the Affordable Care Act because it would cause the individual insurance market to collapse.
Aetna has joined many other major insurers in pulling out from most of the markets created by the Affordable Care Act. The right wing mainstream media is predictably depicting this withdrawal as a sign that the Affordable Care Act was too ambitious. Aetna for its part blames the Affordable Care Act’s risk-adjustment system. The truth is much more simple. Universal healthcare and the free market are incompatible ideologies: trying to create a hybrid of the two was as likely to succeed as pairing ice cream with industrial waste. The removal of profit motive is the only means of ensuring healthcare coverage for all people.
Though we tend to forget since liberals united behind it during the repeated attacks by the Tea Party and others, the Affordable Care Act was such a deplorable compromise that even Left-liberals like Dan Savage called it “Less evil. But still evil.” And Savage easily identifies the main flaw: it is as dependent as the Republican’s suggested alternative on people “not getting sick.” This is indefensibly shameful when the corporations behind these plutocrats have had free reign and government subsidizing to brainwash people into drinking, eating, and otherwise consuming poison. 98% of the 4000 food ads children view every year are products high in fat, sugar, and sodium. But that’s just half of why the “don’t get sick” model is so patently offensive. Aetna and even the U.S. government wants you to believe that the problem has been that an unexpected number of people got sick and, according to Aetna, the ACA did not have the risk-adjustment tools necessary to deal with that. It is a lie.
There have been two major and very similar policy platforms announced by the organization The Movement For Black Lives and the Green Party. While The Movement For Black Lives focuses on, well, Black lives, a lot of the policies it puts forth especially around economic justice are ones that would benefit all people (except those wealthy few currently controlling the economy and government). The Green Party has finally adopted a platform that is vocally in opposition to capitalism, a long time goal that many youth in the Party fought hard for. I highly recommend reading both platforms, sharing them with your colleagues, and supporting the efforts to get the policies passed and the Green Party (and other Left third parties) into power.
However, there is one component of both platforms I would like to caution enthusiasm and give some alternatives for. Community control, also called local control, is not an inherently problematic concept and I can certainly get behind community control of many things such as the internet. I will be focusing on two community control policies that could have some problems in implementation and result: The Movement For Black Lives policy to gain direct community control over local, state, and federal police and the Green Party policy of “return[ing] to the local, face-to-face relationships.”
Municipal broadband advocates in Washington state, including Socialist Alternative Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, have made me a very happy woman by properly executing a policy strategy on top of consumer protection litigation. Despite its enervatingly liberal name, consumer protection litigation provide an opportunity for Marxists to penetrate the expanding realm of consumerism in our personal lives.
Dr. Charles Murray, identified correctly by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist, published an article on right wing propaganda machine The Wall Street Journal making the Social Darwinian argument for what he calls a guaranteed income. He follows in the footstep of similarly dystopian libertarian “thinker” Milton Friedman in this respect and some progressive and liberal supporters of universal income believe this support shows that it could be achieved by a bipartisan effort. It is a similar neoliberal agenda as the bipartisan prison reform movement which Truthout did an excellent job exposing. Bipartisanship in general shows the utter haplessness of the Democratic Party, resigned or even enthusiastic about always making rightward shifts in order to placate their bigoted misanthropic Republican counterparts. Knowing however that well-meaning progressives and even some Leftists have been swept up in the temptation of a false pragmatism, I want to briefly outline the differences between the conservative version (which I’ll refer to as guaranteed income) versus the Leftist version (which I’ll refer to as universal income) to demonstrate that there is not even a pittance of some meeting of the minds necessary to form a coalition. Rather, in order to benefit the working class rather than harm it, universal income must be promoted singularly as a progressive goal rather than a conservative one. Apologia for the conservative aim to slaughter public investment in the working class should be classified as exactly what it is: Austrian school mythology with no purpose other than maintaining the socio-economic hierarchy.
With the death of bigot and child death penalty advocate Justice Scalia, President Obama set upon his constitutional obligation to appoint a new Justice to the Supreme Court. A number of people of color legal all-stars were discussed as likely candidates, and as late as early this morning a connection of mine in the White House said it looked like Sri Srinivasan was going to get it. That build up probably contributed considerably to how disappointed the Progressives of the Democratic Party are at the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. With the nomination of Merrick Garland, the Obama administration and Democratic establishment have doubled down on upholding neoliberalism as the core of the party’s politics. The legal punditry must break free of the misleading categories that have long dominated our analysis, especially of the Supreme Court. Pro or anti-government; progressive or textualist; and activist or conservative all are false binaries and obfuscate the truth. Judge Garland in particular reveals a truth that the marginalized people of this country have known for centuries: the law is construed to fit the politics of the powerful.