‘RussiaGate’ Alone Isn’t Going to Put Progressives Back in Power


(Photo: motttive / Shutterstock)

Donald Trump’s approval ratings remain dismal, yet the Democrats are 0 for 4 in congressional elections in 2017.

Not only do a majority of Americans believe that the president has tried to obstruct investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections but, by a 2 to 1 margin, Americans believe former FBI chief James Comey’s account of his firing over Trump’s version. And yet, 64 percent of Americans think that the RussiaGate investigations are hurting the country, and a majority wants Congress to focus on other issues, like the economy.

These polls tell you what you already know: The country is deeply divided, the Democrats haven’t been able to come up with a convincing way of bridging the divide, and the RussiaGate investigations are no substitute for a political platform.

It’s a long way until the mid-term elections in November 2018 and the RussiaGate investigation is still in its infancy, but already the Democratic Party is in the midst of a second round of soul-searching about its strategy.

The first round took place after Donald Trump swept to a narrow Electoral College victory last November and largely hinged on whether Sanders’ focus on economic inequality would have done better at the polls against Trump than Hillary Clinton’s more cautious centrism. This second round continues the debate on this question, but also throws in the wild cards of Russia and Trump’s potential wrongdoing.

Shortly after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a close race in Georgia this month, Democrats began to speak up about the electoral implications of RussiaGate. Reports The Hill:

In the wake of a string of special-election defeats, an increasing number of Democrats are calling for an adjustment in party messaging, one that swings the focus from Russia to the economy. The outcome of the 2018 elections, they say, hinges on how well the Democrats manage that shift. 

“We can’t just talk about Russia because people back in Ohio aren’t really talking that much about Russia, about Putin, about Michael Flynn,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told MSNBC Thursday. “They’re trying to figure out how they’re going to make the mortgage payment, how they’re going to pay for their kids to go to college, what their energy bill looks like.”

At one level, this same debate recurs every election cycle — do people care more about foreign policy questions or pocketbook issues? The answer is almost always: the economy. At another level, the debate is about whether Trump’s unpopularity can be used against him. It’s another enduring debate: take advantage of the incumbent’s negatives or field a positive alternative? As the 2004 and 2012 election results suggest, the opposition has to offer something intrinsically appealing or risk defeat.

The four recent by-elections don’t provide much to go on in terms of any serious reevaluation of strategy. They all took place in Republican-friendly areas that have yet to feel any real impact from Trump administration policies. Ossoff, in particular, did much better than his district’s partisan preferences should have dictated (6 percent better, according to the Cook Political Report). Nor did Ossoff spend a lot of time focused on Russia. He was no Sanderista, but he didn’t make Donald Trump and his transgressions a central part of his campaign. It’s hard to come to any definitive conclusions from this race or the other three.

Still, the by-elections have stimulated an important discussion. Where one comes down on the Russia vs. jobs question depends in large part on on how one assesses the reasons for Trump’s victory and whether RussiaGate can or should function as a club to beat back the Republicans in future elections.

This debate is not just about electoral strategy. It’s also about how the United States should address the current global crisis of liberalism.

Interpreting Trump’s Victory

There are two ways of understanding how Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election: the triple backlash versus the triple hack.

According to the triple backlash argument, Trump benefited from a worldwide rejection of liberalism: economically, politically, and culturally. Large sections of the United States that didn’t benefit from economic globalization watched the disappearance of well-paying jobs from the Rust Belt, rural areas and small towns, and certain big cities.

These residents of America B blamed politicians from both parties for pushing economic reforms that shifted wealth upward and out of their communities. And they also blamed a range of “others” for what was wrong with the country: immigrants, people of color, social liberals. This economic-political-cultural backlash prepared the ground for a political outsider with an anti-immigrant agenda and a promise to revive America’s sunset industries.

The triple hack argument is much more focused. Trump “hacked” the system in three important ways, exploiting vulnerabilities to gain his narrow win.

The first hack was of the Electoral College. Trump didn’t care about the popular vote. He knew that he could write off large swathes of the American electorate and concentrate his forces in a few swing states. So, for instance, the campaign pulled resources out of Virginia, an otherwise important state for Republicans to win, to focus on the Midwest.

The second hack was the news media. The Trump campaign exploited the mainstream media’s fascination with the outrageous by constantly feeding it new outrages. It also generated a spate of “fake news” about Hillary Clinton that it distributed on the margins, in places like Breitbart News and through social media like Facebook and Trump’s own Twitter account. Here, Russian journalists and trolls played a role, though probably not a pivotal one.

Finally, the campaign hacked Facebook in two critical ways. It poured money into an advertising campaign tailored to the preferences of over 200 million Americans contained in three separate databases to which the campaign maintained access. And it created a “dark posts” campaign to dissuade three groups of potential Democratic voters — Sanders supporters, young women, and African Americans in urban areas — from going to the polls.

On top of the official voter suppression efforts run by the Republican Party — reducing early voting, implementing onerous voter ID laws — this “keep out the vote” campaign was remarkably effective. In Detroit, a Democratic stronghold, Clinton received 70,000 fewer votes than Obama got in his last outing. She lost the state of Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes.

If you believe in the triple backlash argument, you’re more inclined to push for a political program that focuses on economic inequality and job creation, particularly in depressed parts of the country. If you lean more toward the triple hack argument, you’re more likely to focus on counter-hack tactics — a better media strategy, a better way of getting out the vote, a better way of using oppositional research to undermine the opponent (even to the point of impeachment).

Because the debate over the triple backlash opens up rifts within the party, the Democrats will likely focus on technical “fixes” to recapture Congress in 2018 and regain the 80,000 votes that Clinton lost by in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in order to win the presidency in 2020. Such an approach would be wise tactically. But it would be disastrous in the long term.

Responding to RussiaGate

The investigation into Russian meddling in the American election has inevitably acquired a partisan taint. The Democrats have used it to question the legitimacy of the election and of the Trump administration more generally. Trump and the Republicans have accused their detractors of conducting a witch-hunt.

It may come out in the investigation that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. It may also come out that Trump, as president, obstructed justice by firing Comey and covering up elements of collaboration. RussiaGate might bring down Donald Trump and some of his advisers. Or it might turn out to be a series of murky, unprovable assertions.

Regardless of the Trump team’s actual involvement in the scandal, Russia tampered with the U.S. political system. Russian hackers acquired information from both major parties but decided only to weaponize the material from the Democrats to compromise its chances in the election. Hackers tried to break into 21 state electoral systems, stole nearly 90,000 voter records, and even altered voter information in at least one case. And a Russian disinformation campaign spread rumors, fake stories, and outrageous claims through a variety of media.

There is no concrete evidence that any of this interference tipped the election in favor of Trump. But it is a strange irony that American interest in RussiaGate is declining just as Congress and the media are providing revelations on a weekly basis.

For those who still don’t acknowledge Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints on this electoral intrusion, consider that the United States has not been the only country targeted in this fashion. The same pattern was evident in France, where Russian hackers and disinformation specialists attempted to discredit Emmanuel Macron in an effort to boost the chances of pro-Kremlin candidate Marine Le Pen. The Washington Post reports:

In Lithuania, 100 citizen cyber-sleuths dubbed “elves” link up digitally to identify and beat back the people employed on social media to spread Russian disinformation. They call the daily skirmishes “Elves vs. Trolls.”

In Brussels, the European Union’s East Stratcom Task Force has 14 staffers and hundreds of volunteer academics, researchers and journalists who have researched and published 2,000 examples of false or twisted ­stories in 18 languages in a weekly digest that began two years ago.

There is a peculiar tendency by some on the left to dismiss Russian activities because some of the media coverage has been inaccurate or over-hyped or because of a supposed effort to “demonize” Vladimir Putin as part of a campaign to revive Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Sure, some coverage has relied unwisely on single sources, but there’s plenty of evidence of Russian malfeasance that can’t be so easily dismissed, from Ukraine to Europe to the United States.

Moreover, Russian interference in the political process in the West has nothing to do with old Cold War dynamics. Vladimir Putin wants to build an alliance of far-right forces — from white power activists in the United States and the National Front in France to Viktor Orban in Hungary and Euroskeptics throughout the continent — with the Kremlin as the beacon of a new post-Western right-wing nationalist order.

This is no secret plan. Putin has been very open about his worldview.

Russia poses a challenge that goes far beyond the U.S. electoral system. RussiaGate isn’t just a threat to the Democratic Party. It’s a threat to democratic politics — everywhere. And it requires not just a bipartisan response. It requires a transatlantic response.

Responding to the Crisis of Liberalism

Donald Trump has an answer for the crisis of liberalism and the triple backlash that produced his electoral victory.

He’s challenged the existing global economy by pulling the United States out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and has promised to tear up — or significantly renegotiate — a number of other trade deals. He’s challenged the liberal administrative state by attempting to gut social welfare and the government regulatory apparatus across the board. He’s challenged liberal norms of inclusion with his travel ban, an anti-immigrant crusade, and other policies that will adversely affect women, people of color, and the LGBT community.

Vladimir Putin also has an answer for the crisis of liberalism that brought Russia to its knees in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse. He believes — at least instrumentally — in the three Cs: Christianity, conservativism, and Caucasians. He wants to create a reactionary, religious, and racist axis that unifies the Global North. But this is not about international cooperation. Putin thinks only in terms of Russian interests, which actually boil down to the economic interests of the oligarchs aligned with his regime.

Employing “elves” to battle Russian trolls isn’t enough. Creating commissions to track and neutralize cyberattacks is not enough. Piling revelation upon revelation about RussiaGate is not enough. These tactics are necessary but not sufficient.

Instead of talking back to the TV, we should change the channel. Progressives need to come up with our own answer to the crisis of liberalism. We can borrow from progressive economic ideas of the past (government work programs, for example, to create jobs). We can borrow from populist political tactics (which worked so well for Bernie Sanders, for example). We can even borrow from liberalism itself (the notion of an open, inclusive society). But we must also come up with bold new programs around renewable energy, the revival of community, and international cooperation.

Russia versus jobs is in some ways a false dichotomy. Progressives have to devise a comprehensive alternative that responds to both the challenge of Russia and the failures of liberalism. If we don’t, we’ll not only lose the mid-terms and the next presidential election in the United States. We’ll lose the planet.


How Obama Took Foreign Policy Forward — And Back


(Photo: WIkipedia)

For Obama supporters, the last eight years have been a victory of wise leadership over the forces of darkness in Congress and the world at large. For critics of the outgoing president, Obama could do no right as he plunged the United States into the worst crisis in its 200-plus years of history.

Between the high notes of Obama’s farewell address and the low rumble of Donald Trump’s tweets, it can be hard to find a middle ground.

The Washington Post has attempted just such an even-tempered appraisal of the Obama era. In a stand-alone section from January 11 entitled Obama’s Legacy, also issued as an e-book, the Post asked more than a dozen journalists and pundits to weigh in on the different facets of the president’s tenure in office, from his efforts to pull the economy out of financial crisis to his more recent foreign policy accomplishments.

Each of the contributions is structured, appropriately, around a call and response: The president achieved this but failed to achieve that.

Obama brought the country back from the brink of economic disaster, but he could have pumped more money into the recovery and implemented more thoroughgoing financial reform. He pushed through universal health care, but the plan had too little support from Congress and too much buy-in from the insurance industry. He addressed climate change, but it wasn’t enough to stop the planet from heating up. He promised peace but he continued wars.

Obama himself encouraged such a measured evaluation, for he was always trying to present more complex pictures to the American public.

The Post section begins with several essays on Obama as the first black president. That remarkable precedent became less and less important as Obama tackled a succession of urgent problems in his first year. Yet for a significant portion of the American electorate, Obama’s racial identity never ceased to be relevant.

The African American community rooted for him — “Black America has held its collective breath during every second” of his presidency, writes Michael Eric Dyson — as strenuously as racists hoped that he would fail. The notion that Obama was born in Africa, that he was a secret Muslim, that he was an angry anti-colonialist in disguise — these arguments achieved a measure of traction only because of the intractable racism of American society. For much of the United States, President Obama remained incorrigibly “other.”

After Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November, Obama told David Remnick of The New Yorker something quite interesting: “I probably showed up 20 years sooner than the demographics would have anticipated.” By 2028, Obama was implying, a swelling non-white electorate would finally have the power to elevate a non-white candidate to the White House. Obama’s youth, his outsider status, his eloquence: All of these qualities allowed him to jump the queue. So much of the resistance to his presidency — and the ultimate victory of Donald Trump — can be explained as well by this kink in the fabric of time.

A president from the future arrived to govern with preternatural calm — and we just weren’t ready for it. Half the country couldn’t wait to elect an old man peddling an imaginary past.

The President and the World

After Obama won his second term, I cautioned that the president would have a hard time achieving any of his foreign policy goals:

The record so far suggests that the president likes to make important game-changing speeches — on re-engaging the Muslim world, on nuclear abolition — but is not willing to put in the monumental effort to implement these visions. For instance, he rhetorically distanced his counter-terrorism policies from his predecessor’s. But he then went on to expand drone warfare both in scale (in Pakistan) and scope (Yemen and Somalia). Despite his much-vaunted willingness to negotiate with America’s adversaries should they show a willingness of their own, the president demonstrated considerable skittishness once in office. Early opportunities to engage with North Korea, Iran, and the Taliban were squandered.

Four years later, the president can point to several victories that he snatched from the jaws of congressional defeat: the Iran nuclear deal, the détente with Cuba, the Paris climate accord. In his farewell address, Obama referenced all of these victories — as well as his having “taken out tens of thousands of terrorists — including bin Laden” — but he didn’t dwell much on foreign policy. He focused instead on values, principles, “the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change.” He sounded more like the philosopher-in-chief than the commander-in-chief.

Obama might have slighted international relations in his last major address because of the widespread perception that the world is a scarier place today than it was when he took office.

“My position is that the United States is much worse off today than it was in 2009, when Obama became the president,” opines political scientist John Mearsheimer. He points to the Middle East where “except for the Iran nuclear deal, under President Obama we have helped create a zone of disaster.” It’s certainly true that Syria was more-or-less stable in 2009 when Obama took office. Libya, once similarly frozen in autocracy, is no great shakes today either. The rise of the Islamic State, the refugee crisis, the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, the disintegration of Yemen, the expansion of drone attacks: all of these took place on Obama’s watch.

Not that Obama must shoulder all the responsibility for this mess. The Middle East had already been destabilized by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When Obama took office in 2009, anger was rising throughout the region at the dictators that the United States was supporting: Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, the Al Khalifa family in Bahrain, the al-Saud family in Saudi Arabia. Benjamin Netanyahu was just coming to power in Israel, making peace with Palestine a long shot at best.

What could Obama have done that was different? Double down on the Iraq occupation? That would have been wildly unpopular and broken one of his main campaign pledges. Withdraw immediately from Iraq? That would have thrown the country into a civil war not unlike what overtook Syria. When the Arab Spring protests broke out, Obama tried to have it both ways — support Mubarak in Egypt until his rule was obviously untenable, lead from behind in Libya to avoid what might have been a large-scale atrocity, provide some support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria while avoiding a full-scale commitment.

He was condemned to these half measures because, frankly, the developments in the region were beyond U.S. control. Complaints of Obama’s fecklessness were in fact veiled acknowledgments of the declining power of the United States.

Sure, Obama should have demilitarized the U.S. relationship with the Middle East. He could have provided a significant Marshall Plan-sized assistance program to all of the countries in the region exiting authoritarian regimes. He could have fundamentally transformed the U.S. role in the world. But Obama was not a bold actor — and he didn’t have support in Congress for such bold actions even if he’d been predisposed to offer them.

Where Obama did take initiative, he acted with public opinion behind him — on Iran, on Cuba, on climate change. He was a canny politician in this sense, always cognizant that he was ahead of the demographic curve. He was always dancing between innovation and tradition. Schooled in the social work tradition, he started where the client was.

Obama was an internationalist, in the best and worst senses of the term. He supported diplomacy, the UN, multilateral cooperation. But he was also committed to free trade, the institutions of economic globalization, and U.S. military force in the service of these and other goals. For all his intelligence and agility, he was a prisoner of this tradition, dependent on the cooperation of allies and subservient to the most powerful actors in the global economy like banks and corporations.

Nothing exemplified that approach more than his attempt at a Pacific pivot.

Pacific Pivot

The Middle East is the past. It’s full of conflict. The leadership in the region is largely autocratic. The major resource is oil and cheap labor, a very 19th-century combination. It’s no surprise that the forward-looking Obama was devoted to redirecting the focus of U.S. foreign policy away from a region so thoroughly disrupted by his predecessors and toward the lands of opportunity in the East.

The Pacific Pivot consisted of two main aspects — a rearrangement of U.S. force posture in the region and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new free-trade agreement — designed primarily to contain China militarily and economically. The administration failed at both.

The TPP was a casualty of the presidential election as Donald Trump blasted the agreement and Hillary Clinton disavowed her earlier support. Even before the campaign got underway, the military realignment didn’t really take place either, except for some largely symbolic weapons transfers, an upgrade in missile defense, and the redistribution of some Marines from a base in Okinawa to other spots in the region. Not only was China not particularly constrained by these actions but it achieved a major recent victory by cultivating a new relationship with the Philippines and its new leader Rodrigo Duterte.

For some realists, like Mearsheimer, Obama’s failure to pull the United States away from the Middle East rendered the United States incapable of addressing China more forcefully.

Because China is a potential peer competitor, it is the most serious threat facing the United States at this point in time, and therefore we should be focusing much more attention on China than on the Islamic State [ISIS or IS], which is hardly a mortal threat to the United States. I might also add that by staying deeply involved in the Greater Middle East and using military force in all sorts of places, what we end up doing is making the terrorism problem worse, not better. What we ought to do is reduce our footprint in the Middle East, which will go a long way toward ameliorating the terrorism problem and also allow us to pivot to Asia.

Pivot to Asia to do what exactly? Make a mess of things there as well? Further encourage a right-wing government in Japan to reestablish military power in the region? Twist North Korea’s arm a little more? Confront China in its front yard of the South China Sea? Penetrate into markets of the region more forcefully than Chinese capitalists?

Pivoting to Asia, given its concentration of wealth and technological prowess, is a fine idea. But Obama’s version was flawed.

In any case, Trump seems about to pick up the fumble and run with it. As Josh Rogin wrote recently in The Washington Post:

Behind the scenes, however, the Trump transition is preparing its own pivot to Asia. As the team that will implement that policy takes shape, what’s emerging is an approach that harkens back to past Republican administrations — but also seeks to actualize the Obama administration’s ambition of enhancing the U.S. presence in the region. Transition officials say the Trump administration will take a hawkish view of China, focus on bolstering regional alliances, have a renewed interest in Taiwan, be skeptical of engagement with North Korea, and bolster the U.S. Navy’s fleet presence in the Pacific.

So might the Trump transition team look at Asia, but it’s unlikely that these best-laid plans will survive the first months of the new administration. Trump will learn, once in office, the realities of the U.S.-China relationship and how difficult it is to push too hard against a country that has so much economic leverage over the United States.

And if Trump follows through on his promise to focus on the Islamic State, he will likely become as thoroughly enmeshed in the Middle East imbroglio as his predecessor. It is one thing for Trump to destroy what Obama built — the Iran deal, Obamacare — but it’s quite another for him to build something durable. Much of what Trump has touched in the past, after all, has gone bankrupt.

When it came to race relations or climate change or building a cooperative relationship with former adversaries, Barack Obama was indeed a visitor from the future. Just as often, however, he appeared to be a visitor from the past, reminding Americans of the virtues of containment, of balancing great powers, of trying to use brute force to subdue enemies. Governing alternately in these two tenses, Obama was both ahead of his time and behind it. He now gives way to a man with no vision, no sense of history, someone caught in the eternal now of Twitter.

Obama’s legacy and our well-being are now, for the time being, in Trump’s hands. No doubt many people would like to get a hold of Obama’s time machine to skip over the next four years as quickly as possible.

The post How Obama Took Foreign Policy Forward — And Back appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Why Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Might Back Down From the Job


(Photo: blue cheddar / flickr)

Amid speculation that Donald Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, may have lost his appetite for the job, the fast food CEO’s personal financial disclosure documents are being kept from public view.

When — and if — the Office of Government Ethics releases these documents, we’ll get a clearer picture of the grand fortune Puzder has built up in his 16 years as the chief of CKE, the company behind the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains. But even the incomplete data CKE has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission make clear that Puzder has received massive rewards for exploiting his low-wage labor force.

In just the four-year period of 2009-2012, SEC filings show Puzder made $ 27.5 million in total compensation, with a peak haul in 2011 of $ 10.1 million. (After 2012, CKE no longer had to report executive compensation data because it had become privately held.) Special executive “perks” made up just a small portion of his pay, and yet these rewards dramatically illustrate the hypocrisy of Puzder’s positions on labor issues.

For example, Puzder opposes mandatory sick leave policies for workers and wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, he himself has enjoyed huge reimbursement checks from his company for medical and dental costs — above and beyond his regular employer-provided health insurance benefits. In just one year, 2009, these reimbursements totaled an astounding $ 61,000. In contrast, only 9 percent of CKE non-managerial staff have access to any health care benefits at all through their employer.

puzder png

As CKE CEO, Puzder has been so hostile to his employees that he famously once said he’d like to replace all of them with robots who “never take a vacation.” Meanwhile, he has pocketed as much as $ 11,000 per year from the company to cover the cost of his personal leisure trips. CKE has also reimbursed him for personal income taxes related to those trips.

To make sure Puzder travels in style, the company has forked over as much as $ 60,000 per year for his transportation via company car or jet. For leisure time closer to home, the company covers the tab for private social and recreational club dues, which ran more than $ 3,000 one year.

In California, where the firm has been headquartered for most of its history, Puzder bristled at state worker protections, including regulations that require a 30-minute meal break for a worker putting in a shift of five or more hours and a 10-minute break for a shift of more than four hours. Puzder has made clear he will work to strip workers of the right to even these small windows for rest or perhaps a personal phone call. By contrast, his own personal cell phone is covered by the company, at a rate that must be one of the highest in the world — as much as $ 4,424 per year.

CNN has quoted an unnamed Republican source saying that Puzder “may be bailing” from the cabinet competition because he’s “not into the pounding he is taking” from those critical of his labor practices at CKE. Some of that pounding took place at an emotional public forum on Capitol Hill on January 10, where three individuals with experience working for Carl’s Jr. restaurants told U.S. senators about routine incidents of wage theft and other abuses. Two days later, the Fight for $ 15 campaign helped organize protests against Puzder in more than a dozen cities.

It’s not hard to believe that the rumors about Puzder having second thoughts might be true. Given the level of imperial coddling he’s grown accustomed to at CKE, such public scrutiny would no doubt be a bit unsettling.

The post Why Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Might Back Down From the Job appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson is the director of the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Trump Can’t Hold Back the Tide of Climate Action


(Photo: Garry Knight / Flickr)

One of the sad ironies of Donald Trump’s victory is that climate change has risen up the political agenda only after the campaign, when both candidates and debate moderators largely ignored it. Trump’s denial in the face of an urgent, planetary threat provides some potent imagery for how the devastation caused by his presidency might look.

Climate scientists have been quick to condemn Trump’s election as a “disaster,” and it’s not hard to see why.

The last three years have broken temperature records, with 2016 set to become the hottest yet. The UN Environment Program just warned that we need to do far more and far faster, while a new study of pledges from G20 countries found that even under Obama, the U.S. remained a long way off meeting its share of the global effort to tackle climate change. Yet we’ve just elected a man who promises to drill more oil, burn more coal, and scrap our national climate plan.

The Trump disaster could hit communities on the front line of climate justice struggles the hardest. Scenes like the militarized response to the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline could be the new normal under Trump if the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure is matched with increasingly repressive policing.

It’s little wonder, then, that Trump’s election has left climate advocates reeling. But as mourning turns to anger and resistance, it’s worth recalling that there are significant limits on what Trump can do to hold back action on climate change.

The transition to cleaner energy will carry on regardless, as coal will remain uncompetitive. States and cities could ramp up their own climate efforts irrespective of the federal government. And international climate action has a momentum that’s not solely dependent on who occupies the White House.

Rogue State

Some of the loudest noises coming from the Trump camp suggest that his administration will withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

Since this process takes four years, it’s rumored that Trump is considering the shortcut of leaving the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which George Bush Sr. signed in 1992 and the Senate ratified. That would set the U.S. apart from every other nation on earth (except the Vatican, which is strongly in favor of climate action all the same). There would be no clearer way to signal that Trump is making the U.S. a rogue state.

Unilateralism on this scale could throw up legal, political, and diplomatic hurdles that Trump’s team might not easily overcome. The Senate might demand a say on leaving the UNFCCC — and it’s not a given that a majority would favor the path of global isolation.

Alternatively, the Trump administration might choose to ignore Washington’s commitments without formally abandoning the international climate process. One of the first victims could be the global Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries with their climate transitions — and is now unlikely to see at least $ 2 billion of the $ 3 billion originally promised to it by the United States.

But the Trump wrecking ball won’t be able to destroy everything in its path. There are strong signs that U.S. isolation won’t wreck the Paris Agreement. Many other countries (including Saudi Arabia) have suggested that they will stick to their international climate commitments with or without the United States. There’s precedent here, too: When George W. Bush withdrew from the last global climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the rest of the world continued with it anyway.

Faced with failed harvests, floods, droughts, and ever more extreme weather, most countries now realize that taking on climate change is in their own self-interest. Ultimately, the countries that lead the way in renewable energy, efficient buildings, and improved public transport (among other climate measures) will be best placed to cope with changes in the global economy.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

If Trump follows the path of isolation, as he and his acolytes currently brag about doing, the big loser will be the United States itself. Other countries (notably, Canada and Mexico) might retaliate with border taxes for American goods if Trump welches on Washington’s climate commitments, and going it alone would considerably damage U.S. “soft power” — the ability to broker favorable international deals in other areas, ranging from defense to trade — as well as threatening jobs in clean energy, which already outnumber those in fossil fuel extraction.

Closer to home, the promised bonfire of environmental regulations could leave U.S. citizens choking on smog for years to come. With cities like Beijing regularly under a haze of toxic air, the Chinese know only too well that controlling climate change goes hand in hand with reducing pollution from power stations, factories, and cars. And while Trump has been peddling conspiracy theories about climate change being a Chinese hoax, the world’s most populous country has been shuttering coal plants and factories, alongside a host of other measures intended to help China transition to a greener economy.

Trump promises to take the U.S. in the opposite direction: scrapping the Clean Power Plan and gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), starting with the appointment of climate denier Myron Ebell to lead its transition team. But scrapping the Clean Power Plan could lead to a long legal battle, as would attempts to ditch long-standing regulations like fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

Even if Trump succeeds, almost half of the U.S. population lives in states that have already planned for its implementation. Those efforts may continue regardless of the federal government. For example, California legislators have already made clear they will not repeal a recently approved target of 40 percent emissions reductions by 2030. And from Boston to Boulder, a growing list of U.S. cities have pledged to cut 80 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and have developed plans to make that a reality.

Trump’s plans for a return to coal power won’t get far without large new subsidies or a sustained attack on the fracking industry. Otherwise the numbers simply don’t add up. Meanwhile the economics of renewable energy are getting better all the time. Residential solar power is expected to out-compete fossil fuels in over 40 states by 2020, while huge advances are also being made in energy storage and the development of electric vehicles.

The Seeds of a New Economy

While advances in technology and the changing economics of energy could very well dampen the impacts of the climate skepticism emanating from the White House, they obviously won’t come anywhere close to what the U.S. needs to do to actually pull its weight on climate change.

Climate justice activists, on the other hand, are already digging in for a long fight. Thousands of activists joined hundreds of protests around the country in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American activists opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, while international climate justice groups have promised to stand with their U.S. allies in resisting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.

Alongside resistance, efforts to build a new economy could, and should, continue from the ground up. The energy transition requires new forms of ownership and a more collaborative economy. That may sound like a tall ask in such a hostile political climate, but there is historic evidence that the Scandinavian model of cooperative ownership grew in response to political polarization and the repression of organized labor, while deeper changes in the way markets work could spur the rise of collaborative production.

In short, while Trump’s election is a disaster for the climate, there remains plenty of fertile ground for an energy transition, and many spaces to sow the seeds of a new economy.

The post Trump Can’t Hold Back the Tide of Climate Action appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Oscar Reyes is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Wells Fargo CEO Should Pay Back All Scam-Inflated Pay


(Photo: raymondclarkeimages / Flickr)

After being raked over the coals for one of the biggest scams in Wall Street history, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has agreed to forfeit $ 41 million in compensation.

Astoundingly, this is the first time a Wall Street banker has had to disgorge any of his ill-gotten pay.

But don’t get out the Kleenex box quite yet. In the past three years, Stumpf pocketed nearly $ 200 million in compensation. And of this, $ 165 million was in stock-based pay that was artificially inflated by illegal conduct.

Since at least 2011, Wells Fargo employees who were under extreme pressure to meet sales quotas created accounts without customers’ consent, making these customers vulnerable to overdraft and other fees. A new Public Citizen report suggests this behavior might’ve started even earlier, since Wells Fargo’s push to boost the number of accounts per customer, called “cross-selling,” began as early as the late 1990s.

After a federal agency exposed the scam this past August, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 lower-level employees while leaving Stumpf and other top brass unscathed.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pointed out in a blistering attack during a September 20 hearing that Stumpf regularly touted the bank’s aggressive sales practices in earnings calls with shareholders. His rosy, but completely false reports of increased accounts per customer boosted the Wells Fargo stock price, which increased by about $ 30 per share over the past four years.

This, in turn, inflated the value of Stumpf’s stock-based pay. Just over the past three years, he pocketed $ 165 million in stock options and stock grants — all of it artificially bloated by the scam.

What’s even more outrageous is that most of this scam-inflated stock-based pay was subsidized by taxpayers. Under a loophole in the tax code, companies can deduct unlimited amounts of executive pay from their federal income taxes, as long as it is so-called “performance-based” pay. As we documented in our annual Institute for Policy Studies “Executive Excess“ report, $ 154 million of Stumpf’s pay qualified for this write-off between 2012 and 2015.

Read the full article on Huffington  Post’s website.

The post Wells Fargo CEO Should Pay Back All Scam-Inflated Pay appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Under Armour Wants to Use Baltimore Tax Revenue Without Giving Back to the City

The entire city of Baltimore seemed to be cheering on Michael Phelps as he won his latest set of Olympic medals, continuing his reign as the most decorated Olympian of all time. No one can mistake Baltimore’s pride in our hometown hero. At the entrance to the city on Interstate 95, a giant billboard image of Phelps welcomes one and all.

That image is an advertisement for Under Armour, a brand almost as synonymous with Baltimore as our star swimmer. The major difference between the two? These days, Under Armour and its founder Kevin Plank are getting jeers from once loyal fans.

Why are Under Armour and Plank in such hot water? Sagamore Development Corporation, a company owned by Plank, is planning to revitalize a 260-acre stretch of former industrial land along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor into an exclusive “city within a city” that would house an expanded Under Armour campus. Plank’s one request to the city of Baltimore: To complete this massive Port Covington project, he’s asking for $ 535 million in “tax increment financing.”

If Plank gets these “TIFs” — a combination of upfront city bond payments and deferred property tax liability — his master plan wouldn’t add any new revenues to Baltimore’s tax base for another 40 years. On top of that, the Sagamore Development Corporation would be eligible for another $ 200 million in outright tax breaks.

Plank’s proposal comes with no binding commitment that the Port Covington project would create any affordable housing, hire locally, or promote local business development. What’s worse, his “city within a city,” local critics point out, would also put extra stress on Baltimore’s already underfunded schools, likely be inaccessible to current residents, and further segregate a Baltimore already deeply divided racially and economically.

Over recent years, Baltimore’s City Council has been greenlighting larger and larger TIF agreements and developer subsidies that have provided little if any public benefit. Observers expect the Council to approve the Port Covington plan early this fall, less than five months after its public unveiling.

Cities across the country have turned to similar TIF agreements and tax subsidies to attract big businesses and revitalize their urban cores. But studies and past experience have shown that these agreements do not serve the public interest. Plans like Plank’s have elsewhere generated few if any living-wage jobs for current residents and failed to create any appreciable wealth that trickles back into local communities.

Under Armour has built a compelling national identity around its Baltimore roots. Yet today the company operates just like any other multinational corporation. Baltimore has a skilled, experienced, and jobless industrial labor force. Yet all of Under Armour’s plants are located overseas, and no one at the company plans to move any of those jobs to its new Port Covington headquarters.

In his public outreach, Kevin Plank continues to claim that Under Armour remains committed long-term to Baltimore and the Port Covington project. His handshake agreements, vague promises, and hollow slogan, “We will build it together,” have enticed a few city residents.

But at a recent public hearing, Sagamore Development Corporation vice president, Caroline Paff, revealed Under Armour’s true colors on their future expansion.

“Development will happen here,” she not-so-subtly threatened, “or it will happen elsewhere.”

This sort of corporate strong-arming has become all too familiar in our modern age. Our contemporary urban development pits cities against one another, all to the benefit of a private corporate elite.

Instead of throwing our support behind large corporations that hold our cities hostage for subsidies and pledge allegiance only to shareholder bottom lines, we need to be investing in new sorts of participatory, community-driven development that circulates wealth back more widely throughout the local economy. And, in fact, Baltimore could learn some useful lessons from cities doing just that.

Cities elsewhere in the United States are now successfully building prosperity and a healthy tax base by encouraging cooperatively owned businesses and community-controlled housing. These cooperative enterprises are providing job opportunities in blighted communities often deemed too risky by traditional developers. Once up and running, they circulate money back into the local economy.

New York City has created a revolving loan fund that helps support new local businesses and gives them the tools they need to incorporate as worker-owned cooperatives. This fledgling new program has been so successful that the New York City Council has renewed and raised its funding.

Cleveland has developed what’s called an “anchor-institution strategy” that’s particularly relevant to Baltimore, a city with strong higher ed institutions — like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland — committed to making an impact in their communities. Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative took root when local hospitals and universities agreed to help catalyze new industry and purchase — on an ongoing basis — products and services from local cooperative enterprises in their surrounding neighborhoods.

This commitment by Cleveland’s anchor institutions has won national acclaim and created stable, living-wage jobs in green industries for residents of deeply poor communities.

In Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative has transformed one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods into a vibrant, stable, and active community with permanent affordable housing and services. The Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s 20/20 Vision is already working with communities throughout the city to adapt Dudley Street’s community land trust model.

Our cities are facing a crisis. We can continue business as usual and allow development to drive out current residents and make our cities accessible only to the most affluent. Or we can chart a new path of inclusive development that creates vibrant and sustainable urban spaces.

Are you listening, Baltimore City Council?

The post Under Armour Wants to Use Baltimore Tax Revenue Without Giving Back to the City appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Allie Busching is a New Economy Maryland Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies.


Would Americans Ever Back a U.S. Military Coup?


(Photo: deepspace / Shutterstock.com)

News of the military coup in Turkey was dribbling in on Saturday afternoon when I was having lunch with a group of six friends in West Virginia. Suddenly, one person looked up from her salad and said, “If Trump gets elected, I’d support a military coup in this country.” At least one other person at the table seconded her opinion.

I was astonished. Since when had the “military option” become a viable political strategy in the United States? Maybe it was the ghost of John Brown or something in the drinking water out there near Harpers Ferry. Or perhaps the peculiar conjunction of Turkey and Trump had elicited what must surely be an unpopular sentiment in America.

Then I did some research. It turns out that the views around the table matched those of average Americans. According to a September 2015 poll by YouGov, nearly one-third of respondents (29 percent) “could imagine a situation in which they would support the military seizing control of the federal government.” That number went up to 43 percent in a hypothetical situation in which the government was beginning to violate the U.S. constitution.

Back in September, Republicans were more than twice as likely as Democrats to back the coup scenario. It would be interesting to redo the poll today, as voters begin to contemplate a Trump presidency. Consider, for instance, journalist and Bernie Sanders supporter Shaun King, who recently created a firestorm on the right when he tweeted, “If Donald Trump becomes President, you are fooling yourself if you think we’re far from having a coup our own selves. I’m dead serious.”

Trump’s rhetorical flouting of international and national laws has prompted many an unexpected speculation. In an interview with Bill Maher back in February, ex-CIA head Michael Hayden talked about Trump’s pledge to kill the family members of terrorists. Hayden said:

“If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”

“That’s quite a statement, sir,” Maher said.

“You are required not to follow an unlawful order,” Hayden added. “That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”

“You’ve given us a great reason not to support Trump. There would be a coup in this country,” Maher joked.

Hayden said he didn’t mean to imply that the military would provoke “a coup.”

Indeed, many members of the military brass would likely resign rather than openly defy their commander in chief. As for the rank and file, they support Trump over Clinton two to one. But that doesn’t mean they’re particularly enthusiastic about the choice. According to a Military Times poll, “More than 61 percent indicated they are ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with Trump as the Republican nominee, including 28 percent of those who intend to vote for him.” It’s hard to predict from these statistics how the military would respond if a Trump administration began to shred the constitution.

But it’s not hard to predict how Americans feel about the military overall. Americans have long trusted the military more than any other institution in society. In 2016, according to Gallup, Congress achieved a 9 percent trust rating, the Supreme Court and the presidency 36 percent, organized religion 41 percent, the police 56 percent, and at the top of the list, the military at 73 percent. Only small business has ever approached the same level of trust as the military, according to the averages Gallup has collected over 43 years.

So, it’s no real surprise that, when given a choice, Americans would lean toward the military to safeguard their laws and their liberty. But before you start weighing the relative merits of accepting either Trump or the U.S. military going rogue – the former upending the constitution and the latter sticking up for it – let’s take a closer look at what just transpired in Turkey.

Keystone Kops Craft Kemalist Coup

When it comes to coups, the Turkish military should be the experts. After all, they’ve successfully executed 3.5 of them over the last half-century: in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 (the last being a half-coup since the military, rather than intervening directly, pressured the government to resign).

It’s been nearly 20 years since this last half-coup, and obviously the Turkish military has gotten rusty after deviating from its once-a-decade routine. Last weekend, the coup leaders looked more like rank amateurs than seasoned pros. They failed to take out or otherwise neutralize President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was vacationing on the Mediterranean coast at the time. They seized control of the least important state TV channel. They didn’t secure important government buildings. They told their supporters to go home and then fired on the civilians who did come out onto the streets. They seemed to have forgotten about the existence of social media. They weren’t even able to forge a pro-coup consensus within the military itself.

The attempt was so botched that it generated numerous conspiracy theories – that Erdogan had engineered the whole thing, that the president had heard rumblings and deliberately ignored them, that the Americans were somehow behind it all.

The truth is much more mundane. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have been weakening the military for more than a decade, systematically working to remove the military’s influence on government. They’ve used earlier coup rumors to go after military officers – as well as journalists and officials – supposedly involved in a “deep state” controlling Turkish politics behind the scenes. As a result, the Turkish military is a far cry from the all-powerful institution of the 1970s and 1980s.

I was convinced, after visiting Istanbul in 2013, that the military had become a spent force. At the time I wrote:

The AKP has effectively contained the Turkish military through judicial and constitutional means. The threat of a coup, so prevalent in modern Turkish history, has largely disappeared. Not only have constitutional changes and court cases reduced the power of the army, the Erdogan government has also come close to resolving the decades-long civil war with the Kurdish PKK. The end of this conflict would go a long way toward removing the military from public affairs.

But then the Erdogan government decided to initiate two wars: against the Gulen movement and against the Kurds. The Gulen movement, named for its leader Fethullah Gulen who currently lives in the United States, preaches a liberal variety of Islam and runs a number of schools worldwide. It was also a major supporter of Erdogan and the AKP. But Erdogan began to worry about the spreading influence of Gulen supporters in the police, the judiciary, and the government itself. They began to resemble the “deep state” that Erdogan wanted to extirpate. In late 2013, he turned against the Gulen movement. The Erdogan government subsequently accused Gulen of orchestrating the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite him.

Meanwhile, Erdogan was concerned that domestically the Kurdish minority stood in the way of greater centralized power in Ankara and that Kurds in Syria stood in the way of greater Turkish influence over the outcome of the war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But taking on the Kurds meant ushering the military back into public life in Turkey. As Erdogan pushed for a new constitution to grant the presidency more powers and cracked down on any segments of society that might stymie his ambitions, he had to ensure that at least part of the military was on his side.

Some in the military were not happy with the bargain, whether because they disapproved of Erdogan’s power grab, the campaign against Gulen or the renewed conflict with the Kurds, or the AKP’s challenge to the Kemalist tradition, which respects a strict division between religion and state. According to the statement they released to the press, the coupsters offered to restore precisely what many in Turkey believe Erdogan has taken away from them: “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged.”

If they couldn’t count on the military closing ranks behind them, the coup leaders at least needed the support of the Turkish population. This wasn’t going to be easy, given that Erdogan’s party won around 50 percent of the vote in the last election. Even Turks who vehemently oppose Erdogan and would agree with the content of the coup statement did not believe that the military was the agent of their salvation. “The worst democracy is better than the best coup,” one Turkish liberal told The New York Times.

Having quashed the coup, Erdogan is moving quickly to consolidate his advantage by purging the military and the courts. The Turkish government has detained more than 7,500 people, including 2,800 officers and soldiers and more than 100 generals and admirals, and dismissed 2,700 judges and 9,000 civil servants. Most recently, the government suspended more than 15,000 educators and asked 1,500 university deans to resign. Call it a counter-coup, but it’s just an industrial-strength version of what Erdogan has been up to now for several years. In fact, for the government to act so quickly, it must have had lists of its targets drawn up well in advance.

That doesn’t mean that Erdogan planned the coup. It just means that sometimes your adversaries help clear your path to power.

Which brings us back to the Donald.

A Man, A Plan, A Coup

According to the aforementioned YouGov poll, 43 percent of Republicans could imagine the necessity of a military coup in the United States, rising to 55 percent in the event of constitutional violations. Those numbers look a lot like the kind of support Donald Trump enjoyed during the Republican primaries when a plurality, but not a majority, voted for him. Only when the primary season was coming to an end did his numbers rise above 50 percent among Republican voters.

It’s tempting to conclude that the same folks who approve of a military intervention into politics support Donald Trump’s intervention into politics. Trump is, in a way, a one-man coup. He is an outsider. He has contempt for the normal workings of democracy. As he has amply demonstrated in his dealings in the business world, he rules by fiat and by twisting arms.

But the mechanism by which Trump seizes power will not be a coup. For the moment at least, the ballot box still rules. If he manages to attain the White House in November, it will not because of the brilliant organizing of the Republican Party, which is divided, feckless, and craven. It will be because his adversaries hand him the opportunity on a platter.

I know Recep Tayyip Erdogan – well, not really – and Donald Trump is no Erdogan. But the Donald’s will to power is comparable. It’s up to Trump’s adversaries to prevent him from crowning himself president – or else there will be many more conversations next fall about the plusses and minuses of military coups.

The post Would Americans Ever Back a U.S. Military Coup? appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs Foreign Policy in Focus, a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Putting Class Back in Class Warfare

Kayaktivists who opposed Royal Dutch Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean at the "Paddle in Seattle" protest. May 16, 2015. (Photo: Flickr / Backbone Campaign)

Kayaktivists who opposed Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean at the “Paddle in Seattle” protest. May 16, 2015. (Photo: Flickr / Backbone Campaign)

You have probably seen the work of the Other 98%, but you may not have known who was behind it.  Flash mobs at the Target store, guerrilla projections at Koch brothers meetings, marching against the Tea Party. Their social media posts and info-graphics, video animations, and creative direct actions abound our internet feeds.

One of the sparks behind this movement is veteran organizer John Sellers. Sellers got his start working with Greenpeace climbing buildings, hanging banners, and sailing the high seas.  Later he co-founded the Ruckus Society, teaching creative direct action skills to campaigners from around the world. Lately, he’s been organizing the “Kayaktivist” protests in the Pacific Northwest against Shell Oil’s arctic drilling. He is co-founder of the Other 98%, a social media and creative action powerhouse with the goal of “Kicking Greedy Corporate Asses for the Harder Working Classes.”

Other98’s Facebook page has over 2.4 million “likes” and levels of engagement that rival Fox News’s social media stats.  Other98’s platform reaches 4-8 million people a day, sometimes surging to 10-15 million.  Not connected? Check them out at www.Other98.com and on Facebook.

How would you describe the Other98?

Sellers: We aim to put the class back into class warfare.  We are pushing back, recognizing we have been in a class war for decades and are getting our asses kicked.  We deploy creativity and humor to fight back in ways that are fun and make people laugh.

What are we up against?

Sellers: A combination of hyper-capitalism, white supremacy, and environmental degradation that globally we call climate change and locally we call gentrification.

What fires you up?

Sellers: We need to change the fact that corporations can cross borders, Pepsi can cross borders, internet porn can cross borders – but flesh and blood people are arrested, deported, incarcerated, and sometimes killed for trying to find a safe home for themselves and their families.

What is your role in the movement to reverse inequality?

Our role at Other98 is to animate, educate, and mobilize sustained outrage around corporate power, economic injustice and climate change. There are three corporate sectors that Other98 targets to create fundamental change –the Big Banks, Big Oil, and Big Pharma.  Each of those sectors has created a breed of pathological super-corporations incapable of doing anything good.

How did Other98 start?

We were a pushback response to the Tea Party.  In April 2010, the Tea Party was having their first big rally on the Washington Mall on Tax Day.  They were protesting the Obama tax plan, but their pro-rich and pro-corporate colors were showing.  So we showed up as “the Other 95%” to point out the fact that Obama’s program reduced taxes for 95 percent of the population and only raised taxes on the richest 5 percent. Later we changed our name to the Other 98 percent.

So you preceded the “99 to 1” Occupy movement?

Yes, by more than a year and a half.  When Occupy started, we asked our members if they wanted to change our name to the “Other 99%.” They were split so we didn’t change.

What is the most fun and effective thing you’ve ever done?

When I worked for Greenpeace in 1992, I scaled the Sears Tower in Chicago on the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago.  We hung a banner that said “End the 50 Year Nuclear Nightmare.” The entire nuclear industry was in Chicago for a celebration.  Our protest rippled through the world, with coverage in Japan and China.  It was an “aha” moment for me, the power of creative direct action, of audacious political jiu-jitsu to steal the show and create a teachable moment.  These actions are what communications theorist Marshall McLuhan called “mind bombs.”

What about creative actions with Other 98?

Right after the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, Target was one of the first corporations to dump unregulated money into the Minnesota governor’s race.  We did a flash mob in a Target Department store to embarrass them and promote a boycott of Target.  Our musical dance video went viral, with over 4 million views and we were the lead story on Yahoo for days.  It was like filming “Glee” in a department store with one take.  We won: Target backed down, contributing money to the other side and rethinking their political giving. See the video.

We’ve done a bunch of major demonstrations against the Koch Brothers with thousands of people.  We blew the cover at one of their secret meetings in Palm Springs, California.  And when David Koch was being honored at the Lincoln Center, we did a “Guerilla Drive-In” using a powerful projector to project our own creative anti-Koch video on the side of the David Koch Theater.  Over a thousand people came to the viewing and we provided the popcorn and entertainment. See the video.

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

Go out and do some gardening.  Pull weeds and mulch those garden beds.

If you could do anything, what would it be?

Travel full-time with my family.  My twins are 11 and they are “unschoolers.” They were born the day George W. Bush was elected to his second term, so we’ve been very busy.

What do you wish people knew about Other 98%?

That we were around before the “99 percent.” That we have a scrappy team and do amazing things with little resources.  That we act from a strategic theory of change in our campaigns to fix the world.  We have seen zeitgeist moments when social media can move the needle and win stuff.  Look at Bernie Sanders and the power of social media.  Showing up and yelling on the internet can be effective.  And it can also inspire people to deeper and sustained action — to turn off their computers and storm a bank lobby or paddle their kayak out in front of a giant oil tanker.

What’s your message to our broader movements?

We need a culture shift to break up the banks, save the climate, reduce inequality. It’s not going to come through traditional policy advocacy. The wealthy and powerful corporations that run our economy want you to think economics is complicated.  But it’s not that complicated to see the injustice around us.  Our job is to change hearts and minds about the reality of the economic system we are living in.  We use the power of advertising and creative communications to make these issues sticky and sexy and fun to take part in.

The post Putting Class Back in Class Warfare appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Inequality.org is a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


BENIN : President patrice Talon back in cotton business – Africa Intelligence (subscription)

BENIN : President patrice Talon back in cotton business
Africa Intelligence (subscription)
No time after his inauguration as Benin's leader, Patrice Talon is getting back into the country's economically-strategic cotton industry. Beninese President Patrice Talon certainly brought focus to the first three council of ministers meetings on


Why it would be tough for Trump to bring jobs back from China – WSBT-TV

Why it would be tough for Trump to bring jobs back from China
While employment in the sector may grow somewhat, the nation won't regain its status as a manufacturing center, said David Autor, an MIT economics professor who co-authored the study with Hanson. Many of the jobs lost were in factories that made toys, …

and more »