Trump’s Budget is Socialism for the Rich

Slashing social safety nets, cutting people’s programs, shrinking life chances and everyone’s chance of enjoying clean water… My incoming emails have begun to read like a horror movie script, with non stop terror and round the clock slashing.

 

The reason: Democrats and their pals are up alarmed about the administration’s budget.  Sure enough it’s scary. The GOP White House wants to strip $54 billion from spending on all things human and ecological while they increase already massive military spending.

 

The president’s plan would boost spending on so-called defense to well over 60 cents of every discretionary dollar. It’s largest budget share in decades. That’s even as Donald Trump himself admits that years of multi trillion dollar spending have left the Middle East "far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago” and none of us any safer.


Let’s not forget, that when it comes right down to it, the US already spends more than the next eight countries combined. That’s China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, India, Germany and Japan - combined.  The US military is in 150 countries. Just how many countries are there?

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Cheat, Lie, and Steal: Michael Hudson on the Capitalist Way

We’re living in a time of economic babble, where politicians and economists throw out words like “reform,” “privatize,” and “austerity” to prop up corrupt capitalist opportunists. So says our guest this week, economist Michael Hudson, author of J is for Junk Economics.

Laura Flanders:Okay. We're going to start. The intro is about the book. The book is a wonderful thing. We're really glad to be here talking about it. I'm really excited to have you back on the program, Michael. It's great to see you.

Michael:It's good to be back.

Laura Flanders:This book was 10 years in the making. In that period, have you seen any new, exciting, or terrifying obfuscations, lies, and ways of talking about the economy?

Michael:Fortunately, things got worse and worse since 2008. As a result, I greatly expanded it, made it a completely different book. Also, it made the whole focus on the vocabulary because economics has turned into an Orwellian vocabulary where words mean exactly the opposite of what they used to mean.

Laura Flanders:Give us an example.

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The Roots of International Working Women’s Day

It’s exciting. At last, US women are getting in on the act. Celebrating International Working Women’s Day -- after all, it was an event in the US that helped give it its start.

It was 1909, in the crowded Great Hall at New York’s Cooper Union; a big union boss was talking about talks. Things were moving slowly when a 16-year-old girl shouted out from the back: “WALK OUT.”

More than 30,000 shirtwaist factory workers walked off their jobs after that. The biggest worker walk out in New YOrk history up to taht point. The leaders were mostly young, immigrant women like that 16-year-old -- Clara Lemlich. Seven hundred women were arrested, many more beaten and spat on for being “On strike against God.”

They struck for 11 weeks.  And inspired the European socialists who later resolved to mark International Working Women’s Day.

Appreciation’s nice. But it doesn’t in itself save lives. In 1911, two years later,  a fire broke out in New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory  - a fire of exactly the sort the 09 strikers had been fearing. It killed 146 workers, again women and girls, mostly immigrants, several of whom leapt from upper floor windows to escape .

All these years on, more people remember the fire, and name the the dead.

But what fewer people remember are the demands these women and girls made...not just for wage increases, but for the ability to have a say in the conditions of their workplace— workplaces that should not  kill them. Those are the rights that will be taken from American workers if the GOP Trump agenda goes ahead.

Imagine, a century ago, if the rest of New York had stood with the women of the factories. Imagine if instead of 20,000, it had been 2 million workers marching. Or if it were to be today.

Celebration’s nice. Listening is even better. And it’s never to too late to get to started.  

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What Intersectionality Really Means for Movements: Prof. Kimberlé W. Crenshaw

As the need for strong movement infrastructure goes, so does the urgency for us to understand -- in very clear terms -- the language we use to describe this moment, and our politics. Laura is joined this week by celebrated academic, organizer, and advocate Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, who is perhaps best known for coining the term intersectionality.

 

 

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Women's Solidarity Strikes Back

When feminism has come so far, how do modern day strikes, marches, and protest reflect the evolving and complex aspects of the movement, as well as its radical herstory?

On March 8, thousands of women went on strike for a Day Without Women around the world, and in the United States, to demonstrate the collective power of trans, Brown, Black, cis, immigrant, Latinx, queer, and every kind of woman. Along with the rise of these immense shows of democratic and intersectional feminist power comes the advent of one-percenter, patriarchal, white supremacist rape culture. In this episode, Laura seeks varied perspectives from women working in intersectional feminist activism, on what contradictions, if any, exist in the way feminism moves forward.

In the first conversation, Jodeen Olguín-Tayler (Demos) and Sarah Leonard (Dissent Magazine) consider the global lessons learned from a history of women’s strike. Wages for house work, for example, is one of the most radical aspects of a women’s agenda, and continues to be a demand today, say our guests.

Then, a discussion with Cinzia Arruzza (New School) and Nelini Stamp (Working Families’ Family) on the tangles of socialism and feminism in Europe. In America and Europe alike, a rise of Islamophobic sentiment faces the new wave of feminist resistance that is embedded in worker, immigrant, and LGBTQ rights.

Jodeen Olguín-Tayler serves as the Vice President, Policy and Strategic Partnerships for Demos, a social justice based public policy organization. Sarah Leonard is a senior editor at The Nation and co-editor of The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for a New Century. Cinzia Arruzza is a national organizer for the International Women's Strike US and an associate professor of philosophy at the New School. Nelini Stamp is the National Membership Director at the Working Families Party.

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The F-Word: The Merit in Merit-Based Immigration Policy is Political

In his first speech to a joint session of congress Donald Trump announced a shift in his approach to immigration policy.  Switching away from what he called a system of “lower skilled immigration, he called for a policy based on merit and his supporters praised his new found compassion. But the merits of a so-called “merit based”immigration policy, have always had more to do with politics than compassion.

 

For one thing, US Immigration policy already favors those with wealth and skills. What Trump’s saying out loud is what Democrats have long hush-hushed, namely that the US immigration system is not only  chaotic and open to abuse, but also massively discretionary, which is to say, someone’s sorting “desirables” from others. 

 

It tends to work; not to help the economy, or refugees, or human rights, of course, but to solidify a new voting base for whichever party’s in power.

 

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Standing Up To Big Brother: Thenmozhi Soundarajan

 

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Trump has been critiqued, among other things, as the troll-in-chief. His presidential win can be credited to the rise of alt-right internet 'trolls,' complex bots, and the online harassment of his opponents. Our guest this week, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, a Dalit organizer, filmmaker, and activist, says the spread of online attacks comes with vast offline risks for communities in danger. When Steve Bannon, an avowed white nationalist, serves on the National Security Council, with access to the largest police and surveillance apparatus in world history, there's a problem we haven't even gauged yet, says Soundararajan.

Laura speaks with Thenmozhi about the history of surveillance as a tool for state control and violence. And why, to build an effective resistance against the threat represented by Breitbart and the NSA, resources need to go to counter measures. Although the language of cybersecurity can seem overwhelming, simple tools and training can reduce an average person's risk by 80%, says our guest. For undocumented immigrants, women, and people of color, these practices can make the difference between life and prison. She and her colleagues know first-hand, from their own experience of a hack attack sourced to the extremist Modi government in India.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan is the executive director of human rights and security startup Equality Labs, director of the film Dalit Women Fight!, and the first Dalit woman on Facebook. She is a transmedia storyteller, technologist, and journalist who has won countless awards for her versatile work. Find Equality Labs digital security one-sheets at https://www.equalitylabs.org/

#countersurveillance #digitalsecurity

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F-Word: Taking a Breath from the Political Moment

Take a breath. Are you breathing? I noticed the other day I hadn’t taken a real breath in weeks. There just doesn’t seem to be time, under the onslaught of executive orders. If the number one goal of the incoming administration was to stress civil society they need to dig out Bush’s banner and stand in front of it on an aircraft carrier somewhere: Mission Accomplished. And that, I suspect, is exactly the point.

If Naomi Klein was writing Shock Doctrine today I bet she’d call the Trump term so far one great big shock event. Shocks are intended throw society into chaos…

And that’s exactly what’s happened where I am: protests every evening, new panics every morning. President Trump is pushing every available panic button and seeing which ones work. Try it: Bald face lie to the press about factual events and see if they can stay focussed; ban immigrants from certain countries and faiths — just try it out; fire all the senior State Department staff the ones with relations with foreign leaders, fire the Attorney General, shakeup the National Security Council.

Create an executive team that’s packed with unaccountable political propagandists and almost no one with government experience. If the goal was to stress civil society: cities, the courts, the press, the diplomatic corps and the military? Check Check Check Check. Trump’s first weeks in office have done all that brilliantly.

So what next? As Historian Heather Richardson has pointed out shock events can work in two ways - Confederate leaders used shock to railroad early Southern States into leaving the union. Lincoln used the same shock to pull together a brand new coalition that rededicated itself to government, “a government of the People, by the people ad for the people.” IN fact… Which way are we going to go?

As Anna Julia Cooper told us over a century ago, a bridge is only as strong as its weakest link. The Trump Bannon mob know just where our weakest link is. It’s the one we feel to each other. That prophetically American, always bitterly contested definition of the People. As the Movement For Black Lives forced us to answer: Who’s in “We the People” and who’s out? If we can breath into that, and breath a little, we’ll make it through this.

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A Vision for the Progressive Left: Transcript

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Bhaskar Sunkara: Hi, I'm Bhaskar Sunkara. I'm the editor of Jacobin magazine. I'm here with Jonah Birch, who is a contributing editor at Jacobin and a graduate student in sociology at New York University. I'm also here with Kate Aronoff, who is the cohost of the Dissent podcast Hot and Bothered as well as a writing fellow at In These Times. I guess there's a lot of media narratives that are focusing on how Trump's a completely new phenomenon, where he just emerged out of a vacuum. It went straight from reality TV sets to the White House. To what extent is there continuity between Trump and the Tea Party, between Trump and just the conservative movement generally? How do you see it?

Kate Aronoff: There's a lot of bad narratives about how Trump came about. The one you mentioned is that he came out of nowhere and was just this reality TV star, and was preying on people's worst impulses. I think where he really came from is in the priming that the GOP has been doing for years and years and years, most acutely with the Tea Party. The base of the Tea Party looks very similar to Trump's base. It's a lot of middle-class white folks, and there was real organizing in the Tea Party in a way that I think gets a little bit ignored when we're talking about the narrative of Trump, which is that the Tea Party had grassroots organizers, had this real organic presence in many parts of the country, and this real genuine energy, which of course was bolstered by folks like the Koch brothers, by these big think tanks and organizations truly moved into place when the Tea Party momentum started taking off.

Of course, as we've seen in the last couple days, Donald Trump's cabinet, all of his policy agendas, have been taken out of these playbooks. He's not really ... There are things that are genuinely new about Trump, and maybe we can talk about that later, but a lot of it is very standard, even down to his economic plan. It's things that the Republican Party has been doing for a very long time.

Bhaskar Sunkara: There has been over the past two years this divide between the Tea Party-inspired wing as well as a traditional Chamber of Commerce-style business wing. I guess that's best represented by people like Paul Ryan in Congress that are already butting heads on certain issues with Donald Trump. How deep are these fissures in the Republican Party? Do you think these are just things that will be papered over? Will one wing win? Is there a possibility that the Steve Bannon wing of the Republican Party is really going to be in the driver's seat?

Jonah Birch:I think that the short answer to that is no. I don't think that there is a possibility that ... It's not just amongst the Republican Party. What we're asking is whether the American ruling class and political establishment is going to lose power, essentially, in this context. I don't think that's the case. Clearly, this is a moment of crisis, and the mainstream Republicans and really the entire American elite ... The election of Donald Trump that they were expecting or wanted to see happen. You definitely see these splits developing within the Republican Party between, on the one hand, the dominant business wing that really I think controls the party, and sections of its base, and what Kate was talking about in terms of small business owners, white suburban middle-class professionals. I think you saw in the government shutdown of was it the fall of 2013, that was something that business really did not want. In the course of the primary and this election, there was a degree of disorganization, obviously, that meant that even though Trump was not their preferred candidate, they didn't get what they wanted. Still nonetheless, I think that to the extent that he is empowering people who are beyond the pale of mainstream politics, there are going to be lots of constraints, structural constraints, institutional constraints, that are going to limit how far they're going to be able to diverge from the consensus in American politics.

Bhaskar Sunkara: We often talk about these fissures in the Republican Party, but it did seem at least in the last election that there wasn't the anticipated defections over from the Republican side to the Democratic side that Hillary Clinton and others were banking on. I think a lot of people thought that suburban women, especially, lots of other traditionally Republican constituencies, would swing in great enough numbers over to Clinton that the election would be a cakewalk. How do you explain Clinton's loss? Not among just these constituencies, but just in general.

Kate Aronoff: How long do you have?

Bhaskar Sunkara: We have lots of time. I think initially, right after the election, there was a lot of emphasis on okay, Clinton didn't campaign enough in the Rust Belt, and she was a pretty bad campaigner. She didn't go to those states, and the Democrats didn't have a narrative around class or around speaking to people's concerns. Lately, there's been all these other factors added in. There's been a lot of talk about Russian interference in the election and the hacking of the DNC and whatnot. How do you weight, in your mind, all these different factors, and which narrative is right? Is it contingent factors, like her campaigning ability and the Russians? Is there something deeper, more underlying?

Kate Aronoff: Definitely something deeper and more underlying. I think especially recently there's been this move by higher-ups in the Democratic Party to blame what happened in the election on these outside factors, on Russian interference, on these hacks. Did that have an effect? Probably. I don't know. I think we'll see as these investigations move forward how big an impact that actually had, but either way, whatever those investigations show, there are structural factors in the Democratic Party which made Hillary Clinton lose the election.

It's not just the fault of her campaign. It's that the Democratic Party's strategy for the last couple years, the way they run campaigns, is to target as few people as possible. Some of the most damning articles that came out in the days after the election, trying to make sense of this, are about these algorithms that the campaign to used to say, "We don't have to go to Pennsylvania because our algorithm says that we have that shored up." They lost Pennsylvania by 60,000 votes. That they shouldn't have gone there was just a clear oversight. That they didn't go to these places where Trump won so strongly was really just a flaw on the part of both the Clinton campaign and the operating logic of the Democratic Party establishment, which says, "You can go after these very strategic constituencies. You can go after a specific demographic, and really ignore everything else." I think we saw this in the campaign, which was that Trump was telling a pretty compelling story about what America should look like. As bigoted, as racist, as xenophobic as that was, he wove together this narrative about what America should look like that really spoke to a lot of people, and spoke to a lot of people not maybe because they're in their heart of hearts racist, though those people did vote for Trump, but because they're sick of the way politics has worked. People hate politics. Trump doesn't look like a politician, and so cast against Hillary Clinton, who's this embodiment of establishment politics on both sides of the aisle, it was really easy for him to just trounce her. I'm 24. Hillary Clinton has been on my TV screen for as long as I can remember. The fact that people wanted to vote against that is not surprising.

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A Vision for the Progressive Left: Bhaskar Sunkara, Kate Aronoff, Jonah Birch

Guest host Bhaskar Sunkara (editor of Jacobin Magazine) engages political voices Kate Aronoff and Jonah Birch in a conversation about the future of the Left; were the election results a testament to the decline of the Left, or is this a moment for a new left movement? When 13 million people in America cast a vote for a self described Democratic Socialist, is there hope to be found in a political movement propelled by the swamp in the White House? Our guests this week discuss how we got to Trump, and where we, as progressives, are going.

Kate Aronoff is a writing fellow at In These Times, and writes for Truthout, Dissent Magazine, and The Guardian, as well as hosting the Dissent podcast. Jonah Birch is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at New York University and a member of the International Socialist Organization, and also writes for Jacobin.

Short Documentary piece on the Women's March in NYC and DC provided by the Diverse Filmmakers Alliance.

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