Category Archives: Social Security

What Can We Learn from Cuba? Medicare-for-All Is a Beginning, Not the End Point

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All.  This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal.  However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing.  The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical “missions” and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Going Forward or Going Backward?

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it.  This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world.  This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment.  Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used “allopathic” medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools).  But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens.  It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine.  Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for.  It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security.  It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.  These are neoliberals who believe that Black-Lives-Do-Not-Really-Matter.  They hate all the gains won during the last century-and-a-half and want to overturn any form of environmental protection, any workers’ rights, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, and civil rights, including voting rights.

Destroying Health Care Advances of the Cuban Revolution

What does the Cuban health care have to do with Medicare-for-All in the US?  Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US while spending less than 10% per person annually on health care.  It has provided medical education to so many from other countries that in 1999 it opened the Latin American School of Medicine to bring students from impoverished countries to study and become doctors.  By 2020 it had trained over 30,000 doctors.  It had also trained huge numbers of other health professionals from beyond its shores.

Even before Cuba brought in students, it sent its own professionals on “missions” to help those in other countries.  Over the past six decades more than 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The US response to this incredible international medical revolution documents that it is not satisfied to stop medical care from improving but has an irresistable urge to reverse gains across the globe.  The US government glommed onto complaints from physicians in multipe countries who whined because Cuban doctors would go to jungles and other dangerous areas where the rich urban doctors refused to venture.  Of course, the US had its own reasons to despise Cuban medical assistance.

Cuba has long done humanitarian work in education as well as medicine which puts its northerm behemoth to shame.  Its actions expose that health care can be done vastly cheaper with better outcomes than corportate medicine, which traumatizes financiers of the sickness industry.

Republicans and Democrats are firmly united with corporate media in hiding Cuban medical accomplishments from the US population.  They defnitely do not want other poor countries to replicate Cuba’s system.  Horrifed at the prospect that Cuban health care would shine as an example, the US went to work to undermine and destroy Cuban medical internationalism in any way it could.

In August 2006 the George W. Bush administration began the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program to encourage Cuban medical staff on international missions to desert and move to the US, with no questions asked. Only 2-3% did so; but their departure left those poor countries with less care.

This is in line with any corporate goals to destroy local health care and replace it with profit-based health care across the globe.  Driven by the same market factors that compel extraction, transportation and food production industries to go international, the US sickness industry likely feels the urge to create and control a global market of “health care providers.”  One of its main obstacles will be community health systems, which actually work much better for poor people.

As the knowledge of the success of Cuba’s medical information spread, its detractors flew into a frenzy and clutched onto wild hallucinations.  As accurately explained by Vijay Prashad, they fantasized that Cuba was engaging in “human trafficking” by forcing its doctors to work internationally.  The accusation is blatantly absurd since Cuban doctors always have the choice of whether to broaden their medical knowledge by going abroad and treating diseases that have been eradicated in Cuba or to stay at home.

It is true that its doctors have incredibly low wages (as do all working people in Cuba) due to the destructive effects of the US embargo.  In one of the great ironies of propaganda machines, the US seeks to criminalize Cuba in the eyes of the world by screeching that medical wages are low while itself being the cause of meager pay.

Results of this attacking Cuba during Covid-19 have been murderous.  After Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 he abruptly veered from what he promised and ordered Cuban doctors to leave.  At the same time Venezuela and Cuba had a total of 27 Covid-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.  Similarly, when the neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, he threw out Cuban doctors.  This left the country with rising infant mortality and so unprepared for Covid that even inviting them back was unable to undo the damage.  Following the 2019 anti-democratic coup in Bolivia, the ultra right-wing Jeanine Áñez had herself anointed as president and expelled Cuban doctors, which devastated that country’s health care system.  Although Bolivia is a physically isolated country with a population of only 8.7 million it had 2200 deaths by June 2020.

Who Coped with Covid-19?

The fact that Cuba had gone far, far beyond Medicare-for-All is what allowed it to have such spectacular control over Covid.  Its politicians unified behind the ministry of health which developed a national strategy.  That strategy was in effect before the island’s first victim had succumbed to the disease.  Social distancing, masks and contact tracing were universally accepted.  According to Susana Hurlich, medical students went door-to-door collecting data, distributing homeopathic medication (PrevengHo-Vir), and, most important, finding out what problems people needed help with.

Neighborhood doctors collected data to send to polyclinics and helped make certain that residents’ medical and other needs were met.  Clinic staff met needs that neighborhood doctors could not provide and sent patients they could not care for to hospitals.  Hospital doctors slept at hospitals for 14 day shifts before being quarantined for another 14 days so they would not infect their families or communities.

On July 18, deaths from Covid-19 numbered 140,300 in the US and 87 in Cuba.   Though its population is only 30 times that of Cuba, the US had 1,612 times as many deaths.

As US politicians conspired with corporations to see how much profit could be made from the pandemic, Cuban health care went international.  When northern Italy became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema. On March 26, 2020 Cuba sent 52 doctors and nurses. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power.

On March 12, 2020 nearly 50 crew members and passengers on the British cruise ship Braemar either had Covid-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. During the next five days, the US, the Bahamas, and several other Caribbean countries turned it away.  On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over 1000 crew members and passengers to dock.

The incidents of Crema and the Braemar were hardly without precedent.  They resulted from 60 years of medical internationalism by Cuba.  Just as Cuba’s actions during Covid-19 reflected its development, so the horrible expansion of the disease in the US, Brazil and India showed the lack of concern under reactionary rule.

Capitalism has exterminated hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in order to consolidate growth and power.  Whether enslaving Africans, or slaughtering native Americans to steal land, or experimenting with nuclear bombs during WWII, or destroying health systems that would prevent mass death during a pandemic, these are merely “costs of doing business” to capitalism.  Driving native peoples off of land is not unique to US in the past, but continues today throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Trump has terribly bungled coping with Covid-19, but the approach of Democrats is not essentially different.  Neither corporate party has any intention of providing Cuban-type care within the US. And they certainly do not even imagine putting protection of the world’s poor from Covid above profit potentials for US corporations.  They never had any intention of telling US public that 72 countries had requested Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B for treating Covid-19.  They wanted people to believe that only an American or European country could discover treatment.

Is Thinking Beyond Medicare-for-All Part of the Real World?

Is the idea of a radical health care transformation even worth talking about as right-wingers seem to be on the move across much of the world?  Let’s remember our past.  During the time the reactionary Richard Nixon was president (1969-1974), despite an overwhelming pro-war victory, the following were accomplished under his reign: declaration of an end to the Vietnam War, start of the Food Stamp program, decriminalization of abortion, recognition of China, creation of Environmental Protection Agency, passage of Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of FBI’s COINTEL program, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, formal ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.

We have never won as many gains since then, even when there was a Democratic House, Senate and president.  The essential difference between then and now was the existence of mass movements.  Perhaps it is the time for today’s movements to ask if a fair and just payment of reparations by the US and western Europe for the pain and suffering they have caused throughout the world should include providing medical care for those billions of people who Cuba cannot afford to help.  Health care is not genuine health care if it fails to be health-care-for-the-world.

WE Charity Scandal and NGOs’ Role in Imperialism

Once again the media focuses on salacious details rather than the big picture.

While TV and newspapers have focused on the whiff of corruption surrounding the government’s $900 million contract with the WE Charity, some broader points have been ignored. Whatever the Trudeau and Morneau families have pocketed from WE, the deleterious impact that NGO has had on social services and young Canadians’ understanding of global inequities is much more significant.

In a series of poignant tweets Simon Black highlighted how WE has directed young people towards ineffective political actions and a narrow understanding of doing good in the world. He noted, “teaching kids that ‘breaking the cycle of poverty’ (WE’s words) involves travelling to a ‘developing’ country to build a school and not marching on the IMF, World Bank, White House or Parliament Hill to demand the cancellation of global South debts. That’s the real #WEscam.” In fact, a little discussed reason the federal government funds NGOs is to co-opt internationalist minded young people into aligning with Canadian foreign policy.

In another tweet Black mocks WE’s educational program. “Thanks to the Keilburgers and WE,” he writes, “a generation of kids have learned about ‘international development’ but still don’t know what an IMF structural adjustment program is.” Imposed by the Washington-based international financial institution, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) pushed indebted African, Asian and Latin American countries to privatize state assets, weaken labour regulations and liberalize trade and investment rules. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s Canada channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in “aid” to support SAPs. Canadian mining companies greatly benefited from liberalized mining laws, but structural adjustment policies produced deep social and economic crises. Nutritional status, health, education and other social indicators declined in the wake of SAPs. For many African countries the structural adjustment period was worse than the Great Depression. International creditors argued that the flipside of this government downsizing would be increased aid, particularly to private sector NGOs. Ottawa asked the NGO sector to “undertake tasks previously performed by governments, such as the delivery of” health, sanitation and other services.

The NGO as replacement for government service is another side of the current WE scandal. On Facebook Matthew Behrens explained, “the real crime, which the media has utterly failed to mention, is that Trudeau was essentially privatizing a chunk of the Canada Summer Jobs program — which provides summer jobs at minimum wage — to a private corporation”, which then planned to pay them below the legal minimum. Charity as replacement for social services is what WE and Canadian-government-funded NGOs do all over the world. In a country like Haiti, for instance, social services are almost entirely privatized, run by “charities” often based in other countries who decide whether one qualifies for assistance. Foreign-funded NGOs have contributed to a process that has undermined Haitian governmental capacity.

This foisting of “charitable” international social services delivery systems on poor countries shouldn’t surprise Canadians since the same corporate interests that promote privatizations over there push similar efforts at home. In fact there have been hundreds of battles over many decades in every corner of the country against right wing efforts to dismantle public social services. Most Canadians understand what’s going on when pro-corporate forces argue for cutting social services. Yet when the federal government pushes similar policies elsewhere there has been little protest, mostly because the dominant media simply does not report what’s happening.

If the media were interested in telling the real story it would broaden the discussion about #WEscam. Ottawa, WE and other NGOs’ role in undercutting social services and confusing young people about global inequities is a far bigger scandal than however much one charity paid the Trudeau family.

A Manifesto for the United States of America, Part I

The impunity of U.S. police in killing and brutalizing blacks, native Americans, other minorities and the poor is being tested. It has always been clear to its victims that it demands redress, but others are also waking up to this fact in large numbers, and they are beginning ask necessary questions if we are to effectively address the problems and begin the difficult task of making the changes to a very different society.

The problems go far beyond the police. The way our government and its police treat the marginalized members of our society mirrors way our industry treats its employees.  It mirrors the way our medical, pharmaceutical and HMO industry treats its patients. It’s how we treat the homeless.  It’s why we’re not investing in education or making it accessible to all.  It’s why industry wantonly pollutes our environment. It’s why our corrupt election has no room for any candidates except those selected by a clandestine power structure that makes a charade of the elections that are supposed to be the centerpiece of democracy. It’s why corporations have an iron grip on everything in our society, why they have turned the citizens of America into mere profit centers, to be exploited for the benefit of stockholders. It’s why speculators can make commissions of a billion dollars or more off trades that cause bankruptcy for millions of Americans. It’s why unions are atrophying and workers’ rights are crumbling. It’s why everything we see, hear and read is in the hands of a few giant corporations and oligarchs that make sure everything is properly censored so that the public will accept their suzerainty. It’s why the police exist to preserve the power structure through subjugation and brutality. It’s why the vast prison industrial complex exists to bring wealth to the private enterprises that service it and use its resources. Finally, it’s why the U.S. is the global policeman, imposing its will on the entire world, exploiting it for the gain of U.S. corporations and oligarchs, and crushing and destroying countries that are insufficiently compliant with U.S. “leadership”. “You must do what we say, or we will bring you democracy.”

These and many more factors go into determining the basis of the way the police function. They cannot be seen in isolation.  In order to bring any meaningful change to police brutality and racism, we have to realize that both are endemic in our society, and the only way to make meaningful change is to make that change systemic throughout the society.

The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic provides a prime example of the inadequacy and brutality of the U.S. system and its failure to address the needs of society. At the simplest level, the U.S. failed to care for millions of its people without homes or health insurance, who became the prime carriers of the disease. Other nations already had free national health plans, so that they could provide as much protection and treatment as their capacity could allow or mobilize, to all of their people, even when in some cases they needed help from other nations to add to their resources.

Not the United States.  The uninsured who went to hospitals and survived found invoices of tens of thousands of dollars or more waiting for them after their recovery.  Many never bothered to get treatment for that reason, and either recovered on their own or not at all.

The series of articles of which this is the first, will examine the deficiencies of the U.S. that led to these and many more systemic problems, and it will propose solutions. I have no doubt that I will fail to mention some problems and that the proposed solutions might deserve improvement, or that alternative solutions might be better. But let us start the discussion.

The dominant thread throughout the proposals is that the power structure in the U.S. must change in fundamental ways. The disempowered must become empowered and the powerful must accept to no longer dominate our society. As this change takes place, our society will be transformed.

But how will that happen? How do we get from here to there? I don’t have that answer or even a proposal, but isn’t that what the demonstrations and uprisings are all about? The anger and frustration must be channeled into creating a shift in the power structure. That is up to the people – all of us – and the way we organize ourselves.

This series of articles is intended to offer suggestions for the road that we must travel to bring about the changes that are required.

Part I: Income Redistribution

A just, optimally functional society is impossible when the vast majority of its wealth is in the hands of a privileged few, while poverty remains rampant in the nation. Differences in wealth – and especially large differences in wealth – are the basis for corruption, privilege and abuse. Empowerment of Blacks, Indigenous peoples, other minorities and the poor depends upon creating a financially secure population that can resist exploitation and repression. Income differences must be largely eliminated in order to have a society that is equitable not merely in name but in fact.

The basis of individual financial security is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). When every person has a dependable and secure income base that is an entitlement and cannot be taken away, the people will no longer be vulnerable to power elites and financial exploitation, and will be able to participate in a meaningful and powerful way in the decisions and design of our society.

The precedent for this entitlement already exists. It is not new. We call it Social Security, and it has been a part of America since 1935. It only needs expanding to provide coverage of every person in our society, from the day they are born. Currently, Social Security provides a base income for the elderly and disabled. For many it is their only income. That was the intention when it was first created in the FDR administration. It is an entitlement that does not depend upon an employer.

Despite its success, it needs several revisions in order to meet the demands of transforming our society. First, it needs to assure that no one falls below the poverty line. No one. Of course, infants and young children do not usually need the same income as adults. Theirs is a sum that is added onto that of the entire household to assure that none fall below the poverty line.  That’s usually a fraction of what is required for adults, but it will replace and offset the existing income tax credits for dependent children, thereby providing more tax income to the government, and partially covering the cost of the extension of Social Security payments to the entire population.

This Social Security income will never be taxable. No person in the U.S. should ever fall below the poverty line, so this income must not be compromised so as to potentially place them below that line.

Most or all of the remainder of the cost of Social Security payments will be covered by the existing 12.4% of contributions from income (half of which is covered by the employer, for those who are employed), which will apply to all income above Social Security income, but without a cap, so that the wealthy will pay that rate on all of their income, without limit except for Social Security income. We all agree that they can afford it, and their fellow citizens need and deserve it. Wealthier people are expected to contribute more.

Income tax will apply to all income other than Social Security, and without an exempt minimum, because that is covered by Social Security. It will, however, be far more graduated than at present, with greatly reduced tax deductions, which currently allow the wealthy and corporations to pay nominal amounts or even no taxes. The rates should return to levels similar to those of the 1950s, with the highest bracket at more than 90%. This measure will hopefully help to reduce the concentration of wealth and power among billionaires and other wealthy individuals, and empower a new and more widespread population of financially secure citizens, who will now have the means to refuse underpaid jobs and to resist coercion and subjugation.

There are some who will argue that we cannot afford to give away that much money to so many people in our society. After watching our government provide trillions of dollars in gifts during the COVID-19 crisis, mostly to Wall Street corporations, we should consider such pronouncements to be the height of absurdity.

I have already mentioned some of the sources of funding and their offsets in other areas, such as a reduction in tax credits. In subsequent installments of this series, I will discuss other sources of funding and offset, some much bigger. The concerns are totally unjustified and should not be used to dissuade us from a more just and more viable society.

There are also those who say that income should be dependent upon employment, that we have on justification for providing an income to someone who is not gainfully employed. But the relationship between employment and income is already weak in the case of Social Security. Social Security Income is not savings, and is not limited by how much one saves.  It is intended as a form of financial security, regardless of what one is earning or may have earned in the past. Nor is there any reason that the livelihood of Americans or anyone else should be tied to employment, often in an unpleasant and unfulfilling job.

The idea that we need full employment is outmoded and based on the notion that a prosperous society depends on working for a living. In the present age a tiny minority of the population is capable of providing all of the essential needs for the rest. Other jobs merely enhance our society, in a great variety of ways. Furthermore, if prosperity depends upon jobs, what happens when the jobs dry up, as often happens?

We do not need full employment in the traditional sense.  A UBI provides only enough income to avoid poverty. But its does allow enough for persons to have a wider choice of career, or to further one’s education, or to pursue a dream of becoming an artist, or to create new ideas of entrepreneurship. It creates a freer, more independent work force able to pursue both traditional and nontraditional types of work.  We all deserve the freedom to pursue fulfilling a fulfilling life of our choosing. Universal Social Security – a Universal Basic Income – is an important first step towards income freedom, independence and empowerment that will transform our society.

Upcoming installments will examine other elements that will remake our society.  These include:

·      Consideration of a national health plan through extension and revision of Medicare,

·      Meeting the housing needs of our population and especially the homeless,

·      Providing a clean, healthy living environment for us all, but especially for the most vulnerable among us,

·      Improving the quality and accessibility of our educational system, including high quality free higher education to all,

·      Empowerment of the people in government, freer and more accessible voting rights, an end to the Electoral College, elimination of power elites and protection of rights to all, including full sovereignty for native American nations and renegotiation of reparations,

·      Greater restrictions on the rights of corporations and financial institutions, and more democratic financial institutions, as well as a cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy, mortgage reform, an end to derivatives, and other reforms of investment and financial institutions and practices,

·      Support for and extension of labor unions to currently unorganized workers, and greater participation in international unionization, including prohibition of, or disincentives for, importation of nonunionized goods,

·      Greater access for noncitizens to legally enter the US for work purposes, protection and documentation of undocumented persons within the US, and greater liberalization of access to U.S. citizenship,

·      An end to concentration of the media into the hands of a small elite, greater access to wider media messages, an end to monopolistic practices and censorship, especially politically directed censorship and influence by social media,

·      A complete change in policing, with greater restraints upon the use of force, community control of police hiring, firing and discipline, and a rethinking in how police are recruited and trained, as well as a shift in police culture and how to accomplish it,

·      A reduction in incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex,

·      Closure of all U.S. military installations outside U.S. territory, an end to intervention and interference in the affairs of other countries, an end to economic sanctions against other nations. Closure of clandestine operations in the CIA, or transference of such capabilities to the Pentagon. Abolishment of the AUMF,

·      Respect for the sovereignty of, and an end to attempts to dominate other nations.

Comments and suggestions are welcome on my Facebook page.

The 5th Coronavirus Relief Package We Need

The coronavirus depression is fast becoming as deep as the Great Depression. The federal government’s response has been too little, too late.

While sickness and death spread, while unemployment and small business failures soar, while health care and essential workers lack personal protective equipment (PPE), Congress is in recess until May 4.

The childlike dummy, Donald Trump, spouts bad advice daily in his televised briefings. Thursday he said we could beat the coronavirus by injecting disinfectants or somehow shining ultraviolet radiation inside our bodies.

Meanwhile, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is MIA. Is he sitting on a park bench somewhere feeding bread crumbs to pigeons?

Since the lockdown started five weeks ago, 26 million people have applied for unemployment insurance. But many qualified people have yet to receive unemployment benefits, or even get their applications accepted through overwhelmed state unemployment insurance agencies.

Economists estimate that the real unemployment rate may have reached 23% in April, which is about as high as it ever got in the Great Depression. The economy had contracted nearly 50% four years into Great Depression, while economists predict a contraction of 25% to 50% over a few months now.

Many of these temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses as businesses fail, particularly the small business that provide half of the nation’s jobs. Half of small businesses went into the lockdown with less than a month of cash reserves to cover fixed expenses like rent or mortgage and utilities. When small businesses run out of cash, they are dead.

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was supposed to keep these small businesses going, but like the unemployment insurance program, the loans are not getting to most people and the money allocated is far from enough to meet the need. 60% of small businesses have applied, but only 5% small businesses have received PPP funding.

When the lockdown started, Obama’s Small Business Administration head, Karen Mills, predicted a small business failure rate of 20% in a “best case scenario” and 30% in a “good scenario.” With a nearly 100% failure rate by the federal government in responding to the coronavirus depression, the carnage among small businesses and their workers is looking like a worst case scenario.

Big businesses are getting bailed out. Much of the money designated for small businesses has been snatched up by big businesses before small business’s applications were even considered. The half a trillion allocated for big businesses is being doled out to Trump cronies without disclosure of the recipients and without restrictions against firing workers or bonuses for executives. The Federal Reserve has cut its overnight borrowing interest rate for banks to zero and is engaged in unlimited trillions of dollars of quantitative easing to backstop corporate debt.

Meanwhile, essential workers—in hospitals, grocery stores, public transit, sanitation, food processing, package handling, delivery—are working in most cases without adequate or any PPE. We have already lost 83 transit workers to COVID-19 in New York City. We must demand an OSHA Temporary Standard to provide enforceable PPE protection for workers.

Most of the elements of the 5th Relief Package we need have been introduced by various members of Congress, but they won’t be included if we don’t speak up and demand real emergency relief.

Here are measures the 5th Relief Package should include to protect our health and well-being during the crisis:

– Medicare to Pay for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment and All Emergency Health Care
– Defense Production Act to Rapidly Plan the Production and Distribution of Medical Supplies and a Universal Test, Contact Trace, and Quarantine – – Program to Safely Reopen the Economy
– An OSHA Temporary Standard to Provide Enforceable PPE Protection for Workers
– $2,000 a Month to All Over Age 16 and $500 per Child
– Loans to All Businesses and Hospitals for Payroll and Fixed Overhead To Be Forgiven If All Workers Are Kept on Payroll
– Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Utility Shutoffs
– Cancel Rent, Mortgage, and Utility Payments; Federal Government Pays Those Bills; High-income People Pay Taxes on this Relief
– Suspend Student Loan Payments with 0% Interest Accumulation
– Federal Universal Rent Control
– Aid to State and Local Governments Sufficient to Keep Essential Services Running
– Universal Mail-in Ballots for the 2020 General Election

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that over the last 600 years, the economic depression after pandemics persists for about 40 years, in contrast to much faster recoveries after wars. The difference is that capital is destroyed in wars that has to be rebuilt, but not in pandemics. Coming out of this pandemic, we should destroy the productive capital stock that has been heating up the planet and poisoning the environment and replace it with clean energy, zero waste production systems.

To rebuild our economy when it is safe to go back to work, we should invest public money on the scale needed to put everyone to back to doing what we should have been doing before the coronavirus crisis hit in order to protect our climate and our people. I have detailed a 10-Year, $42 Trillion budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal that would create 38 million new jobs rebuilding all of our production systems for zero-to-negative greenhouse gas emissions, zero-waste recycling, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 in order to reverse the climate crisis and other environmental problems.

This full-strength Green New Deal includes an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic despair. It provides for a job guarantee, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. We need the Green New Deal now for economic recovery as well as climate safety.

Even the Democrats Do Favors for the Rich

In 2017 a Republican-controlled Congress passed a tax cut hugely tilted to corporations and the wealthy. In the waning days of 2019, the Democratic-controlled House did a kind of me-too. It pushed through a retirement bill with a provision that gives billions to those in the upper tiers.

The House’s gift to the well-off was part of a deal finalizing federal spending for fiscal 2020. In a tweet summing up the agreement, tax expert Len Burman called it “the Zombie Extenders [aka tax breaks] and Fiscal Irresponsibility Act of 2019.”

In the case of retirement policy, nothing was as fiscally irresponsible as moving back the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70 1/2 to 72. An estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation put the price tag for that change at $8.9 billion over the next decade.

And the number will only keep growing, with all those billions going to people who don’t need a dime.

(By comparison, the Taxation committee estimated the next-highest cost in the retirement bill at $3.4 billion. That money though will go to a good cause: shoring up the pensions of over 10 million workers in underfunded multiemployer plans.)

Getting back to RMDs, they provide the payback that seniors owe America for decades of tax breaks. Contributions to all retirement plans except Roths are tax-deductible; capital gains in all plans, Roths included, accrue tax-free. On the back end, through voluntary withdrawals and RMDs, the Treasury finally recovers long-forgiven taxes.

Withdrawals from retirement accounts are taxed at ordinary income rates. They can begin at age 59 1/2, and for those who need the money they often do. Those who don’t need it have long enjoyed a huge tax break. They could hold off making any withdrawals and paying any taxes for another 11 years (while balances kept growing and compounding all that extra time).

Their late-starting RMDs have cost the Treasury in the tens of billions. Now, thanks to the longer wait time passed by Democrats, they’ll cost billions more. The rationale is that life expectancies have risen, so the RMD starting age should rise as well.

That may sound like a good reason, but there’s a better reason to do just the opposite. It would make far more sense (and cost the Treasury far less) to begin RMDs earlier rather than later. There’s actually a strong case for starting at age 65.

The first year of Medicare eligibility could also be the year when retirees begin paying back for those extended tax breaks. The revenue inflow could be earmarked to bolster both Medicare and Social Security, the two most important safety net programs for the elderly.

There never was a good argument for putting off RMDs. The Treasury loses out. Those who count on retirement accounts to help them get along don’t gain anything; they’re drawing down early and often. The only real beneficiaries are those affluent enough to avoid withdrawing until it’s mandatory.

The current withdrawal rates also help out the haves. The formula that usually applies calls for a starting RMD of less than 3.7 percent. Twenty-five years later, at age 95, it’s only 11.6 percent.

At these rates account growth can easily outstrip RMDs. Balances can keep getting larger well after mandatory distributions begin.

And those low rates are likely to go even lower. The Internal Revenue Service has proposed updating the life expectancy tables that determine RMD withdrawals. If the money has to last longer, the withdrawal percentages have to be lower.

It wouldn’t hurt anybody if required distributions began sooner rather than later. And no, that wouldn’t wipe out balances; it’s not RMDs that drain retirement accounts, it’s withdrawals well beyond the minimums.

Here’s one last reason why it’s wrongheaded to further delay minimum distributions. Since 1979, incomes for the middle class (the middle 60% of households) haven’t grown anywhere near as fast as incomes for the top 20%. Those in the Top Twenty hardly need another tax break. It fails the fairness test, and the aroma test as well.

Summing up, the 2017 tax cuts ran true to form. They demonstrated once again the GOP’s laser focus on making the rich richer.

This time around, though, it was the left side of the aisle doling out the billions.

• This article first appeared at www.nydailynews.com

A Wall Street Boost for Social Security

The aging of America is putting the squeeze on Social Security. About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and the number is heading even higher. Ready or not, our retirement system faces its first major overhaul in decades.

Lawmakers should listen to Warren Buffett before they settle on any new payroll tax or benefit schedules. “I’m a card-carrying capitalist,” Buffett says, “I believe we wouldn’t be sitting here except for the market system.”

Social Security should become a card-carrying capitalist too. It should invest part of its $2.8 trillion trust fund in the stock market, specifically in broad-based, low-cost index funds.

Call it a Wall Street boost for Social Security. It could make the coming overhaul less costly for workers and employers alike. It would effectively give tens of millions of low- to middle-income workers their first share ever in the market. Lastly, it’s the smart thing to do: research has shown the reward easily justifies the risk.

Trust fund dollars have always been invested in ultra-safe government securities. The idea of seeking higher returns by putting some of the money into stocks has been proposed before, but it’s never gone anywhere.

The coming reform (the first since 1983 and only the second ever) gives Congress a chance to begin making up for lost time.

And for lost opportunities too. By mid-March of 2019, the S&P 500 had risen by more than 300 percent from its financial-crisis low in March 2009. According to Goldman Sachs, the index’s annualized gain of over 15 percent represents one of its best decades ever.

The huge bull run didn’t add a penny to the Social Security trust fund. In fact, the fund’s return over the same decade was lower than usual: many of its holdings were paying (and still are) abnormally low interest rates.

All the more reason to make sure a stock market boost becomes part of the overhaul. Let’s give the trust fund its first chance for substantial gains. Let’s keep pushing back the year the fund runs dry. The program’s trustees now estimate it’ll happen in 2035. If Congress doesn’t act before then, benefits will have to be cut by roughly 25 percent.

Both parties are well aware of the crunch. As usual these days, they’re gridlocked on what to do.

Republicans think the problem can be solved with just two words: stingier and shorter. Their proposals would hit future recipients with the double whammy of lower benefits and a later retirement age (an idea Buffett has also floated).

Democrats have lined up solidly behind a bill that goes in the opposite direction. It increases payouts by two percent and sweetens the formula for cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). The money to pay for it would come from higher payroll taxes, especially on the biggest earners.

Payroll taxes are currently not collected on wages greater than $132,900. The Democratic bill would tax all earnings over $400,000. The rate itself (levied on both workers and employers) would rise 0.1 percent per year from 2020 to 2043, going from the current 6.2 percent to 7.4 percent. The system’s actuaries say these changes would keep the fund solvent into the 2090s.

All well and good, but adding a Wall Street boost could make the reform even better. The tax increase could be smaller. The trust fund’s solvency could be extended into the 22nd century. Millions of workers without workplace retirement plans could reap some of the same stock market gains as workers who have them.

Alicia H. Munnell lives and breathes retirement policy. It was her calling card for a top job in the Clinton Administration. Since then she’s been a professor at Boston College, where she founded and directs its Center for Retirement Research. In 2006 she co-authored the definitive book Social Security and the Stock Market.

It’s a probing, scholarly work. It doesn’t minimize the risks, including the political risks of putting the government in charge of investment decisions. It cites hundreds of facts, including these:

After all, stocks yield 7 percent after inflation and bonds only 3 percent.

Two types of government pensions in the United States already invest in equities with no apparent ill effects,” the Thrift Savings Program for federal employees and state and local pension funds.

Adding the Social Security trust fund to the list would make that three. As Warren Buffett knows, it’s really no more than a bet on the future of America. If that’s not a good bet, what is?

• This article first appeared at www.nydailynews.com

Our Counterfeit Social Security Crisis

The humorist Mark Twain once called reports of his death “an exaggeration.” The same goes for the endless fearmongering and scare stories about America’s most popular government program, Social Security.

On the contrary, the nation’s safety net for seniors is in remarkably good shape. The trust fund holds government securities worth nearly $2.9 trillion, just under its all-time high. In 2092, at the end of the latest 75-year projection, the inflow from payroll taxes would still be covering roughly three-quarters of scheduled worker benefits—without increasing the tax rate or raising the retirement age or making any other change. That’s the truth and nothing but the truth, according to the 2018 annual report of the Social Security board of trustees.

Never let the facts get in the way of false alarms. As recently as mid-October, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were the only way to lower the federal deficit. He urged legislators to “address the real drivers of the debt” and “adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

Just-retired House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent his entire Congressional career pushing the same notions. He doubled down in his farewell address, calling entitlement reform (the GOP camouflage for cuts) “our greatest unfinished business.”

An inconvenient truth: since McConnell became the Senate leader in 2015—with Ryan already leading the House—the deficit has risen by 77 percent. Judge for yourself whether they’re genuine fiscal hawks or the common faux variety. Putting it another way, ask them to choose between a slimmed-down deficit and fat tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. (Oh, right, they already did.)

Linking Social Security to the nation’s red ink is hugely misleading.  At the same time, it’s hugely true that demographic trends are continually pushing up total payouts. Sooner or later, Social Security will have to adjust to the new realities: longer life spans, more and more retirements (about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day), fewer workers per beneficiary.

In 2018, for the first time since 1982, the latest numbers forced the Treasury to begin dipping into the trust fund to help pay benefits. That dipping will exhaust the fund by 2034. Unless Congress acts before then, payouts would have to be trimmed by about one-fifth.

Replacing 20 percent of benefits (or even increasing them, as Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has proposed) presents a modest fiscal challenge with several potential solutions. Most promising and most obvious: raise the payroll tax, and raise or eliminate the cap on earnings subject to the tax ($132,900 for 2019, adjusted annually for inflation). Going in the opposite direction, the shortfall could also be addressed with benefit cuts; e.g., lower payouts or a later retirement age.

While the fiscal challenge is modest, the political challenge is monumental. Reaching common ground on the right fix is all but certain to touch off an epic battle. (Make that uber-epic. The epic battle came with the last Social Security reform in 1983, back in the days of functional government.)

The coming struggle also offers a golden opportunity to resurrect the common good as the government’s overriding goal. The name itself reminds us that we’re all in this together: it’s Social Security, not Individual Security. Few laws speak as directly to our oneness as the preamble to the Social Security Act of 1935: “An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare…”

In the spirit of ’35, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) should immediately begin negotiating Social Security’s second major overhaul. The trustees concluded their 2018 overview by urging “that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually.” It’s simple arithmetic: “Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits and could preserve more trust fund reserves to help finance future benefits.”

Time is money; for Social Security reform, time is humongous amounts of money.

The 1983 changes took root in 1981, when President Reagan created the National Commission on Social Security Reform (a.k.a. the Greenspan Commission). The urgency then was far greater than it is now; when Reagan finally signed the bill, the trust fund was only three months away from wipe-out. Starting 2019, we’ve got 15 years. Even today’s sharply-divided Congress should be able to do it.

Then comes the president’s signature. If Trump is still in office, a political irony would be coming around again—a Republican president signing off on the reform of an archetypal New Deal program.

Something else would be coming around again too: rumors of Social Security’s death would turn out to be greatly exaggerated.

Housing Crisis, Mental Health Collective Breakdown, 9 am to 5 am Work!

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.

― D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

— Brazilian poet Martha Medieros

I work at a homeless veterans (and their families, and some have their emotional support animals here) transitional housing facility in Oregon. We get our money from a huge non-profit religious organization and from the federal government in the form of VA per diem payouts.

The job is tough, rewarding, never with a dull moment, and a microcosm of the disaster that capitalism pushes into every fiber of the American fabric of false adoration of a class dividing and racially scaled society.

Mostly after two-and three-year hitches in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, these men and women are broken on many levels, but serve as emblematic examples of the masses of broken people this country’s top 19 or 20 percent make a killing on. The Point Zero Zero One Percent, the One Percenters and the 19 Percenters live off the 80 percent of us who have toiled for these masters of the capitalist universe and these Little Eichmanns and highly paid bureaucrats and middle managers and top brass in every industry possible (two-income earners making money in higher education, medicine, the law, pharmaceuticals, high tech, military industrial complex, judicial and criminal justice, and all the flimflam that is the retail and consumption class).

I have clients who never saw out-of-country battlefields, but these same veterans hands down have applied and sometimes have received service connected disability claims, from tinnitus to shin splits, bad discs in the back to Parkinson’s, from skin diseases to anxiety disorders, from PTSD to depression, and many, many more.

The problems abound, because these folk are virtually broken and spiritually disconnected, brainwashed by some mythological past, flooded with inertia, possibly never able to get their lives back. We can look at them in their section eight apartments, see them at the free meal joints for veterans, and we can listen to their complaints and then respond by throwing all our fury and recrimination onto them, admonishing them to get off their butts and work. Sounds good from a parasitic, penury capitalistic society of me-myself-and-I thinking, but in reality, these younger and older veterans are strafed with anxiety disorders, co-occurring mental health challenges, post-addiction disorders, and brains that have been calcified by many, many aspects of being in the military; then discharged, and then the entire landmine field of epigenetic realities anchored to what many of them call “broken and bloodied” family lives before hitching up.

Some of us know how to solve their homelessness problem, help with intensive healing, assist them in reintegrating into society: inter-generational communities, in micro-homes/tiny homes, with an intentional cooperative community housing set up with things to do . . . . Like growing food, working on construction projects, engaging in peer counseling, and coalescing around community engagement and co-op like business models.

How many plots of land exist in this PT Barnum Land? How many empty buildings are there in this Walmart Land? How many young and old would like to get off the hamster wheel and out of the machine to live a life worthy of spiritual and collective pacifism to grow a truly communitarian spirit.

Here we have this CryptoZionist VP Pence pledging to rebuild an Air Force base in Florida, Tyndall, for $1.5 billion and then spreading more hubris as we witness Pence and the Air Force brass (their felonious DNA locked into our corrupt military industrial complex) ask for more robbing of the tax till, when a hurricane we knew about weeks ahead of time, destroyed more than 17 Stealth aircraft worth (sic) $339 million each! No apologies, no public investigation, nothing!

You won’t hear on Democracy Now a strong case against building these jets in the first place, or a strong case for lopping off the heads of Generals and state senators, on down, for this Keystone Cop disaster. Up to $6 billion for these graft-ridden and spiritually empty examples (Stealth Baby and Old Man-Woman Killers) of America the Empire.

Daily, I struggle to get veterans accommodations for evictions or for property debts, as many have just failed to pay rents or mortgages because of the colluding forces of mental-physical-spiritual dysfunction created by what it is that makes broken people in general, but especially broken veterans who have some undeserved sense of entitlement. Daily, just attempting to get VA hospital treatment, or trying to have experts look at veterans’ amputated limbs and just getting appointments for prosthesis devices?

We are not in “new times” with a CryptoZionist brigade in office, or a filthy example of an individual as the leader of these follies. Nothing new in the New Gilded Age punishment caused by a small cabal of One Percenters who hold dominion over workers. Nothing new about the power of the media and entertainment game to brainwash compliant citizens. Nothing new about War Is a Racket principles (sic) driving our economy. Nothing new about white supremacy ruling Turtle Island. Nothing new about the Manifest Destiny Operating System ripping land, resources, people from indigenous homelands and other countries’ sovereignty. Nothing new in the great white hope tutoring other like-minded fellows in other countries on how to get one or two or a thousand “ups” on the powerless or disenfranchised peoples of their own countries.

Life for Third World (sic) peoples was bad under all the criminals we have voted into POTUS office for the past 250 years! Longer.

The big difference seems to be the passed on and learned helplessness, fear, bulwarking that has been seeded from generation to generation. The fact there are hyper Christians who support the hyper hedonistic, superficial, irreligious, criminally-minded, sexist, racist, loud mouth, intellectually challenged Trump may seem illogical. Oh, so much illogical braying in the world before the Trump seed spilled on this land. Imagine, Jews supporting white supremacists, anti-Semites. Imagine, Native Americans wrapping themselves in the US red-white-blue, and signing up for war-military in higher numbers than any other demographic group. No need to go apoplectic over women supporting Trump as if he is their daddy or Sugar Daddy. How many times in this country’s history have we had Women for Reagan, Women for Bush, Women for Clinton, Women for the Vietnam War?

Susan Sontag said it pretty clearly:

Of course, it’s hard to assess life on this planet from a genuinely world-historical perspective; the effort induces vertigo and seems like an invitation to suicide. But from a world-historical perspective, that local history that some young people are repudiating (with their fondness for dirty words, their peyote, their macrobiotic rice, their Dadaist art, etc.) looks a good deal less pleasing and less self-evidently worthy of perpetuation. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself. What the Mongol hordes threaten is far less frightening than the damage that western ‘Faustian’ man, with his idealism, his magnificent art, his sense of intellectual adventure, his world-devouring energies for conquest, has already done, and further threatens to do.

To be honest, the insanity of the white race is also what I am concerned with in Sontag’s (RIP) polemic. That pejorative “crazy” seems apropos for the white race, if one were to look at the way this country’s leaders and movers and shakers play the game and push their destructiveness on the rest of the world. They are all white!

Crazy watching the Kavanaugh hearings. Crazy reading the World Socialist Web Site hit after hit on any woman fighting the scourge of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape!

This David Walsh gets it all wrong, deploying simplistic “blame the victim” mentality, and then using “witch hunts” accusations to buttress his absurd essay’s thesis. This article is an example of low level white writer crazy:

The ostensible aim of this ongoing movement is to combat sexual harassment and assault, i.e., to bring about some measure of social progress. However, the repressive, regressive means resorted to—including unsubstantiated and often anonymous denunciations and sustained attacks on the presumption of innocence and due process—give the lie to the campaign’s “progressive” claims. Such methods are the hallmark of an anti-democratic, authoritarian movement, and one, moreover, that deliberately seeks to divert attention from social inequality, attacks on the working class, the threat of war and the other great social and political issues of the day.

Instead of bringing about an improvement in conditions, in fact, the #MeToo movement has helped undermine democratic rights, created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear and destroyed the reputations and careers of a significant number of artists and others. It has taken its appropriate place in the Democratic Party strategy of opposing the Trump administration and the Republicans on a right-wing footing.

The sexual hysteria has centered in Hollywood and the media, areas not coincidentally where subjectivism, intense self-absorption and the craving to be in the limelight abound.

Comments back at the author’s “hysteria” analysis are not worthy of recrimination, for sure, but if you scroll down in the WSWS comments section for this piece, have at it: the continued craziness of white thought, white attitudes and white actions. It’s a long essay, and this man’s conclusions are all over the place, indicting anyone who aligns himself or herself with the #MeToo movement. Blames #MeToo (using current polls) for aiding and abetting an upsurge in misogynistic thinking, where these vaunted white man’s polls say more Americans one year later after #MeToo are skeptical in larger numbers about allegations of sexual harassment coming from anyone. Blame #MeToo, so-called socialist David.  Polls, oh those pollsters, oh Mr. Walsh states that #MeToo activists should be involved in other things, like the plight of working class men and women, or stopping the apocalyptic brinkmanship played out by Trump with toy nuclear weapons. Etc., etc.

It makes sense that we have silos in the social justice, criminal injustice, environmental-economic-equity movements. So much easier to tackle one bad bill or vote or crazy politician in your neck of the woods than to grasp the totality of how broken, mean, murderous, monstrous this country’s policies are! And, reality check – the white race is crazy. You see it in Nazi German, in Europe today, in Israel, in the USA, in Canada, in Australia.

Yet the broken systems, the insanity of even considering a series of social nets being frayed, chopped and burned by the One Percent’s minions in political office and finance – how insane is it that social security is on the chopping block, that there is no single payer health plan, that there is no public transportation, that the commons are being razed, raped and contaminated? How insane is it to “let” lead flow in public water system pipes (Flint, Portland, et al); or that pesticides rule the micro-world of future generations, where brain stems are permanently damaged; or how insane is it to allow a good chunk of young people to come into the world with diabetes, or riddled with on-the-spectrum diseases . . . or full of ticks and physical ailments in the name of Big Ag/Big Energy/Big Chem/Big Med/Big Tech ruling the land?

Insanity is a race that hawks chemicals of death, that inculcates punishments and fines and levies and taxes and penalties and surcharges and charges and fees and tolls and taxes and tickets and defaults and foreclosures and balloon rates and eminent domain decisions and impoundments and confiscations and seizures on their own people?

Daily, Portland (three counties, and then just north, Clark County, WA) is an example of this white insanity — unchecked growth, unchecked rent hikes, unchecked cost of living busting more and more people, unchecked home costs rising, unchecked traffic and bureaucratic gridlock, constant punishment for the downtrodden, homeless, poor. How insane is it to have students of nursing programs living in their cars while attending classes (Portland Community College, et al)? How insane is it that the Portland police bureau can charge non-profits thousands of dollars for public records, our own records?

The system is rigged, and it’s a white system of lawsuit after lawsuit! Death by a thousand fines and spiritual-mental-physical cuts!

Until the system is so broken you have millions of social workers like myself attempting to figure out how to save one life at a time, all broken lives products of the insane white culture, their own insane (crazy) leaders, family members, bosses and communities?

Despite Caving on Superdelegate Votes, Democratic Leaders Stick With Old Wine in Old Bottles …

The challenge by progressives to Democratic party leaders for November’s midterms—and the 2020 presidential election—is to tone down the anti-Trump focus and play up domestic planks as did the Great Depression’s president Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) to solve the nation’s critical domestic needs. Campaigners do not want to waste time and energies in yet another party defeat because the party continues to abandon the interests of millions once under its “big tent” in catering to the interests of banks, big business, and the rich.

*****

So Democratic party’s leaders finally surrendered to its progressive wing’s demand to disallow the 716 superdelegates bloc to vote on the first ballot for a presidential nominee in 2020. That took two years at hard labor for progressive movements to wear down the Democratic National Committee (DNC) movers-shakers from using this Machiavellian tactic to stop a super-popular candidate from blocking its hand-picked pro-corporate nominee.

To move the party back to its base and prioritize today’s domestic needs that campaigners can offer voters will require fighting the DNC cabal’s long-practiced backroom tricks and threats. A few days before the Chicago annual meeting of members was the cabal’s 30-2 vote reversing the rules committee’s two-month-old ban on taking donations from union leaders in the fossil-fuel industry. That will keep the doors open to company contributions constantly influencing Congress.

DNC members apparently overlooked this deed in also passing a procedural-reform package including both same-day registration and party change, open primaries, toughening conflict-of-interest rules and financial oversight of DNC finances, and adding an Ombudsman committee for complaints.

For progressives, that means the next and greatest hurdle in both the November midterm elections for Congress and the 2020 presidential contest is to wear down the DNC’s resistance to planks still packing stadiums and halls for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ hugely popular platform planks: Medicare-for-All, $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, expanded Social Security, and a federal public-works jobs program. They are the same kind of vote-getting planks created and implemented by the famed Great Depression president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) for a mostly destitute and despairing nation.

But the DNC cabal’s opposition has been fiercely opposed to such plans, especially Medicare-for-All. DNC and Congressional minority leaders—Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer—reap thousands in annual donations from the health-care industry. Small wonder then that last year, Pelosi insisted that “Americans aren’t ready for Medicare-for-All.” In July, her hedge was that if the Democrats win the House in November, “Medicare-for-All” proposals “should be evaluated.”

The cabal’s stance is criminal, given that millions of uninsureds will die in that stall. By May, some 45,232,000 were uninsured because of cost, many because they could no longer afford Obamacare, thanks to Congressional Republicans killing its subsidized mandate and/or the insurance industry’s constant increases in premiums and deductibles.

Yet the Reuters-Ipsos June/July poll of nearly 3,000 respondents showed that 70% support Medicare-for-all (Democrats: 85%; Republicans: 52%). Current cost estimates for the program show health-care savings of $2 trillion dollars over a 10-year period over the present for-profit system because of significant low-overhead in federal administration of the program.

Increasingly disappointed in the last few years in the Democratic party’s choices of losing candidates for Congressional and president, campaign volunteers are going to be increasingly absent. Many veteran campaigners hoped the cabal would be almost totally focused on fixing the nation’s critical domestic needs, as was FDR rather than foreign adventuring.

We veteran canvassers have a greater sense of voters’ values and demands than the party’s indoor leaders and technocrats. And we have the slammed doors or welcoming greetings to prove it. Most householders on our walking lists are unlikely to vote for Congressional or presidential candidates serving Wall Street, the industrial complex, or super-conservative “centrism.” We know we’ll hear about Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors or the critical need to attack Russia, Iran, North Korea, or China before they attack us.

What we heard on the doorsteps even in the 2015-16 presidential election was Americans’ yearning for a new FDR to address most American’s vital domestic needs, not endless wars continually supported by the party on behalf of multinational corporations. Didn’t 139 House Democrats just vote to allocate $717 billion for military spending?

We expect to be braced now on doorsteps on why the party doesn’t support Bernie’s platform or his presidential candidacy when he’s still ranked as America’s most popular politician and attracts standing-room crowds because of those planks.

Some householders may be politically savvy enough to ask why Pelosi is still House minority leader and pouring the DNC’s old wine into old bottles, something even Democratic cohorts are discussing in weighing her replacement after the midterms.

But she still remains the powerful voice of the cabal—and is a top fundraiser. As such, she wrote a six paragraph letter to Congressional colleagues the day before the DNC’s general meeting with pointed orders for the midterms. Four paragraphs dealt with fighting the Trump regime. True, “working people” are mentioned five times in her demand that incumbents focus on delivering a “strong economic message for the people.” But she carefully avoided planks about Medicare-for-All, a $15 hourly wage, and ludicrously urged the impossibility of eradicating political corruption, and closed with:

As November rapidly approaches, we must also stay focused on delivering our strong economic message to hard-working families across America that we are fighting For The People: working to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, increasing workers’ pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding America, and cleaning up corruption to make Washington work.

She’s supported by the cabal’s latest tactic against progressives, the “New Democrats,” organized to preserve major donations from Wall Street, Big Pharma, big corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Its political-action committee (NewDemPAC) has raised $2.7 million. They counted on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to pick and fund its midterm candidates.

Support comes from neo-liberal groups and institutions, especially the Clintons’ Third Way Democrats, to carry the centrist dogma of super-caution in times when FDR-like bold actions are essential. The Third Way is touting 12 super-small planks to rebuild the economy: an American Investment Bank for small businesses and an Apprenticeship America plan to fund 100 apprenticeship programs.

The Third Way’s president defended these two top planks as the means “to stand up and launch a serious, compelling economic alternative to Sanderism.” Yet 40% of American families fret over paying for food, housing, increasing utility rates, and health care. An FDR assuredly would quickly expose Trump’s second-quarter boast that the GDP (gross domestic product) is at 4.1 percent, and his lies about a booming economy. Too many Americans are not experiencing it and echo the cry of “You can’t eat GDP. GDP doesn’t pay the bills.”

How are we volunteers to tell householders and renters that these ”New Democrat” programs are “serious, compelling economic solutions” to their basic problems?

Obviously, though this right-wing group has spent thousands on focus groups and “listening” tours around the country for those planks, their audiences must have been the well off. They’re deaf to the real needs attracting most voters in the Rust-Belt states to candidate Donald Trump and the millions flocking to Sanders’ rallies. It’s doubtful they care that 57% of Democrats and 51% of U.S. millennials view socialism positively, according to a July 30-August 5 Gallup poll. Or why such voters yearn for a new FDR to implement Sanders’ planks.

FDR was a powerful, experienced, and practical problem-solver as president. His leadership rescued the nation from its darkest hours of the Great Depression and grateful millions rewarded him with four terms in the White House.

Fresh from governing and working hard to rescue New York state, FDR was a jaunty 51 when he moved into the White House in 1933 with a pragmatic “brain-trust” staff experienced in relief work and practical economics. They hit the floor running.

In the first 100 days, they set up “New Deal” programs despite howling opposition from a terrified Democratic cabal and those in Congress, and the colossal power of big business, and the “banksters.” All of them learned no one could intimidate or deter Roosevelt in his near-impossible mission, not even Churchill, Stalin, or Hitler.

He and his team started by tackling the financial industry’s depredations with a bank “holiday,” followed by a tough law (Glass-Steagall) forbidding them to play the stock market. Another law refinanced home loans. A new agency (Securities & Exchange) finally policed Wall Street. Farmers got crop subsidies, preventing the nation from starving. Millions of unemployed got jobs fixing long-neglected and vast infrastructure needs (Works Progress Administration) so the nation got dozens of dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority for cheap power and flood control. Millions of idle youths got jobs doing environmental work (Civilian Conservation Corps).

FDR’s second term gave the elderly Social Security and brought unions protections for wages, hours, and collective bargaining (the National Labor Relations Board).

He primed the public pump both with temporary public debt and hiking taxes on the rich, actions petrifying today’s DNC cabal because of its heavy dependence on big donors bent on preserving the status quo of low taxes and few federal regulations.

The New Deal “investment” cost $500 billion in today’s dollars, but was repaid by jump-starting a dying economy into a miraculous recovery before WWII. Treasury revenues climbed because of federal paychecks spent on food, housing, goods and services. That fed business profits, increasing taxes and bank reserves for loans to those businesses and industries. Improved highways and ports moved commerce faster and farther which, in what’s called the “multiplier effect,” created jobs.

In short, led by FDR, the Democratic party was then in tune with the times and priorities of most Americans. As one old-timer recently remarked: “Roosevelt was so popular that the party wouldn’t have had to spend a dime campaigning.”

If he were in charge today, he would stump the country with specific plans crafted by a “brain-trust” and immediately implement them by Executive Order if a frightened Congress balked at fast-tracking such bills into law.

Every Congressional candidate for the November midterm elections would be “strongly urged” by an FDR to rescind the recent corporate tax-cut of 21% if it’s to be paid by cutting $2 trillion from Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and public schools. At the least, they would be told to either block making those cuts permanent after the 2025 sunset or face another Executive Order forcing 95% of those cuts be invested in factory startups and wage increases.

A new FDR team also would be creative enough to block tax havens and money moved to international banks. Those cunning and greedy current actions to stratify profits rob the Treasury of billions in federal revenue.

In addition, they would fight for a $15 per hour wage in 2018, not 2025 because most Americans’ wages are not just stagnant, but dropping while living costs are rising and layoffs are increasing. The July PayScale study reported a decrease in 80 percent of industries and overall by 0.9% from this year’s first quarter.

Indeed, workers are earning 1.4% less than a year ago when measured against today’s Cost of Living (COLA) rate? No state has a minimum wage yet of $15 per hour. In 15 states alone, it’s still $7.25. In Georgia and Wyoming, it’s $5.15. But, then, if none in the DNC’s elitist cabal has ever had to survive on $5.15 or $7.25 per hour, why would they consider advocating wage hikes or increases in Social Security cheques to match the COLA rate?

Additionally, an FDR would make short work on the campaign trail of Trump’s claim that June’s unemployment rate was 4%. Such a statistic involves 6,600,000 humans and the 359,000 who’ve given up looking for work in times when manufacturing has “suddenly leveled off.” If robots are expected to cut manufacturing jobs by a third in the next decade, it means a jobless rate of 39,021,210, a catastrophic number compared to the Great Depression’s highest year (1933) of 12,830,000 when FDR took office.

He and his team would counter such a disaster again by the “multiplier effect” by resurrecting both the WPA and CCC, along with a federal guaranteed annual paycheck, again paid for by temporarily increasing the federal debt and raising taxes for U.S. companies moving overseas or “going robotic.”

Despite these immense and highly visible domestic challenges, the cabal’s actions to ignore them depend heavily on planks chiefly demonizing Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t war hawks. Media critic Norman Solomon notes: “…polling shows that few Americans see Russia as a threat to their well-being. That they’re far more concerned about such kitchen-table issues as healthcare, education, housing and overall economic security.” A recent Hill/HarrisX poll also shows 54% of Americans favor a second Trump-Putin meeting and that 61% believe “better relations with Russia are in the best interest of the United States.”

Loss of special-interest contributions has been one major threat. But Bernie showed how to raise millions by “volume” of $27 contributions from individuals.

Moreover, the DNC’s choice of a presidential candidate cost them the 2016 election because some 35% of eligible Democrats failed to vote. They balked either because a plutocrat regarded them as “deplorables” of fled to third parties like the Greens or Trump as the lesser evil. Too many of the cabal’s recent actions show the same disregard for millions of ordinary voters, the definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results.

The battle lines between progressives and the “New” elitist Democrats have yet to be hardened. It’s never too late for campaigners and candidates to convince the DNC leaders to pour new wine into new bottles to bring back millions of voters they’ve ignored for the last three decades. That means seeking out new FDR types for Congress in the midterms and the White House in 2020.

As for the thousands of volunteers counted on to get-out-the-vote (GOTV), we’re tired of wasting time, creativity, “foot-power,” and money working for candidates continuing to ignore actions addressing the nation’s vast domestic needs. Give us another FDR and immediate action on Bernie’s planks or we’ll vote with our feet.

The History of the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill

At a time when the American population is radicalizing, when popular movements are coalescing around “radical” demands—Medicare for All, the abolition of ICE, tuition-free college, in general the demand to make society livable for everyone—it can be useful to draw collective inspiration from the past. Irruptions of the popular will have on innumerable occasions reshaped history, remade the terrain of class struggle such that the ruling class was, at least for a moment, thrown on the defensive and forced to retreat. Especially when pundits and politicians are insisting on the virtues of centrism and the essential conservatism of Americans, it is important to remember just how false these shibboleths are, particularly in a time of economic stagnation and acute social discontent.

One of the most remarkable demonstrations of the deep-seated radicalism of “ordinary people” has been all but forgotten, even by historians: namely, the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill (or Workers’ Bill) that was introduced in Congress in 1934, 1935, and 1936. Despite essentially no press coverage and extreme hostility from the business community and the Roosevelt administration, a mass movement developed behind this bill that had been written by the Communist Party. The tremendous popular pressure that was brought to bear on Congress secured a stunning victory in the spring of 1935, when the bill became the first unemployment insurance plan in U.S. history to be recommended by a congressional committee (the House Labor Committee). It was defeated in the House—by a vote of 204 to 52—but the widespread support for the bill was likely a factor in the easy passage later in 1935 of the relatively conservative Social Security Act, which laid the foundation for the American welfare state.

Aside from its direct legislative importance, the Workers’ Bill is of interest in that it shows just how left-wing vast swathes of the population were in the 1930s and can become when a political force emerges to articulate their grievances. This bill, which was far more radical than provisions in the Soviet Union for social insurance, was endorsed by over 3,500 local unions (and the regular conventions of several International unions and state bodies of the American Federation of Labor), practically every unemployed organization in the country, fraternal lodges, governmental bodies in over seventy cities and counties, and groups representing veterans, farmers, African-Americans, women, the youth, and churches. In the West, the South, the Midwest, and the East, millions of citizens signed petitions and postcards in support of it. And this was all despite the active hostility of every sector of society that had substantial resources.

It is puzzling, then, that historians have almost entirely overlooked the Workers’ Bill. For instance, in his book Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, Alan Brinkley doesn’t devote a single sentence to it. Neither does Robert McElvaine in his standard history, The Great Depression: America, 1929–1941. David Kennedy devotes half a sentence to it in volume one of his Oxford history of the Depression and World War II, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War. Instead, the less sophisticated and less radical Townsend Plan for old-age insurance, which was proposed around the same time and was widely publicized in the press, tends to monopolize historians’ attention (only to be ridiculed). The neglect of the Workers’ Bill lends credence to a still-dominant interpretation of the American citizenry during the Depression and throughout its history, viz. as being relatively centrist and conservative, especially as compared with the historically more “socialist” populations of Western Europe.

Brinkley sums up this strain of thinking derived from the postwar Liberal Consensus school of historiography, which still influences pundits, politicians, and academics:

The failure of more radical political movements to take root in the 1930s reflected, in part, the absence of a serious radical tradition in American political culture. The rhetoric of class conflict echoed only weakly among men and women steeped in the dominant themes of their nation’s history; and leaders relying upon that rhetoric faced grave, perhaps insuperable difficulties in attempting to create political coalitions…

This is a simplistic interpretation. For one thing, there is a serious radical tradition in American political culture, as embodied, for example, in the Populist movement of the 1890s and the Socialist Party and IWW of the early twentieth century. But even insofar as a case can be made that “the rhetoric of class conflict echoe[s]…weakly,” it’s plausible to understand this fact as simply a reflection of the violent and ruthless repression of class-based movements and parties in American history. When they have a chance to get their message out, they attract substantial support—precisely to the extent that they can get their message out. There is no need to invoke deep cultural traditions of individualism or a lack of popular understanding of class (which is a simple notion, after all: those who own and those who don’t are in conflict). One need only appeal to the skewed distribution of resources, which prevents leftists from being heard. When Earl Browder, head of the U.S. Communist Party, was given a chance by CBS to broadcast his message over the radio one night in 1936, his listeners around the country considered it “good common sense” and wanted to learn more about Communism. Maybe this is why Communists were almost never allowed on the radio.

In this article I’ll tell the story of the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill, both to fill a gap in our historical knowledge and because it resonates in our own time of troubles and struggles.

*****

As soon as the Communist Party had unveiled its proposed Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill in the summer of 1930, as the Depression was just beginning, it garnered extensive support among large numbers of the unemployed. The reason isn’t hard to fathom: it envisioned an incredibly generous system of insurance. In the form it would eventually assume, it provided for unemployment insurance for workers and farmers (regardless of age, sex, or race) that was to be equal to average local wages but no less than $10 per week plus $3 for each dependent; people compelled to work part-time (because of inability to find full-time jobs) were to receive the difference between their earnings and the average local full-time wages; commissions directly elected by members of workers’ and farmers’ organizations were to administer the system; social insurance would be given to the sick and elderly, and maternity benefits would be paid eight weeks before and eight weeks after birth; and the system would be financed by unappropriated funds in the Treasury and by taxes on inheritances, gifts, and individual and corporate incomes above $5,000 a year. Later iterations of the bill went into greater detail on how the system would be financed and managed.

Had the Workers’ Bill ever been enacted, it would have revolutionized the American political economy. It was a much more authentically socialist plan than existed in the Soviet Union at the time, where only 35 percent of the customary wage was paid to those not working, and that for a limited time (unlike with the Workers’ Bill). Nor was the Soviet insurance system administered democratically by workers’ representatives.

By 1934, when the plan had become widely enough known to be critically examined by economists and other intellectuals, it was frequently criticized for incentivizing malingering. Defenders of the bill—and by then it was advocated by many left-wing economists, teachers, social workers, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals—replied that this supposed flaw was, in fact, a strength. By withdrawing workers from the labor market, it would force wage rates to rise until they at least equaled unemployment benefits. “The benefits to the unemployed,” economist Paul Douglas noted, “could thus be used as a lever to compel industry to pay a living wage to those who were employed.” It was the abolition of poverty and economic insecurity that was envisioned—by a frontal attack on such fundamentals of capitalism as the private appropriation of wealth, determination of wages by the market, and maintenance of an insecure army of the unemployed.

The Unemployed Councils were at the forefront of agitation for the proposed bill, but it was also publicized through other auxiliary organizations of the Communist Party, in addition to activists in unions. As mass demonstrations for unemployment relief became more frequent—daily “hunger marches” in cities across the country, occupations of state legislative chambers, marches on city halls, “eviction riots”—the demand for unemployment insurance echoed louder and farther every month. From Alaska to Texas, requests for petitions flooded into the New York office of the National Campaign Committee for Unemployment Insurance. United front conferences of Socialist and Communist workers’ organizations took place from New York City to Gary, Indiana and beyond. In February, 1931 delegates presented the Workers’ Bill and its hundreds of thousands of signatures to Congress, which simply ignored them.

So activists continued drumming up support for the next few years. Hunger marchers in many states demanded that legislatures pass versions of the bill; two national hunger marches the Communist Party organized in December 1931 and 1932 gave the bill further publicity; delegates periodically presented more petitions to Congress, and campaigns were organized to mail postcards to legislators. Despite the fervent hostility and smear campaigns of the national AFL leadership, several thousand local unions eventually endorsed the bill, especially after it had been sponsored, in 1934, by Representative Ernest Lundeen of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party. Its newfound national prominence in that year gave the movement greater momentum, and a new organization was founded to lend the bill intellectual respectability: the Inter-Professional Association for Social Insurance (IPA). Within a year the IPA had dozens of chapters and organizing committees around the country, as distinguished academics like Mary Van Kleeck of the Russell Sage Foundation proselytized for the bill in the press and before Congress.

Meanwhile, conferences of unemployed groups grew ever larger and more ambitious. For instance, in Chicago in September 1934, hundreds of delegates from such groups as the National Unemployed Leagues, the Illinois Workers Alliance, the Eastern Federation of Unemployed and Emergency Workers Union, and the Wisconsin Federation of Unemployed Leagues—in the aggregate claiming a membership of 750,000—endorsed the Lundeen Bill (as it was now called) and made increasingly elaborate plans to pressure Congress for its passage.

Congress took essentially no action on the bill in 1934, so Lundeen reintroduced it in January 1935. This would become the year of the “Second New Deal,” when the Roosevelt administration turned left in response to massive discontent and disillusionment with its policies. Senator Huey Long had become a hero to millions by denouncing the wealthy and proposing his Share Our Wealth program, an implicit criticism of the New Deal’s conservatism. The “radio priest” Father Charles Coughlin had acquired heroic stature among yet more millions by constantly “talking about a living wage, about profits for the farmer, about government-protected labor unions,” as one journalist put it. “He insists that human rights be placed above property rights. He emphasizes the ‘wickedness’ of ‘private financialism and production for profit.’” His immensely popular organization — the National Union for Social Justice — was no mere politically anodyne instrument of his own ego. It enshrined such principles as nationalization of “public necessities” like banking, power, light, and natural gas; control of all private property for the public good; a “just and living annual wage which will enable [every citizen willing and able to work] to maintain and educate his family according to the standards of American decency”; abolition of the privately owned Federal Reserve and establishment of a government-owned central bank; and in general the principle that “the chief concern of government shall be for the poor.”

The tens of millions of people who flocked to the banners of Huey Long and Father Coughlin—not to mention the Communist Workers’ Bill (or Lundeen Bill)—put the lie to any interpretation of the American people as being irremediably conservative/centrist or wedded to capitalism. During the Great Depression, arguably a majority wanted the U.S. to become, in effect, a radical social democracy, or a socialist democracy.

The hearings in 1935 that were held before the Labor subcommittee on the Lundeen Bill are a remarkable historical document, “probably the most unique document ever to appear in the Congressional record,” at least according to the executive secretary of the IPA. Eighty witnesses testified: industrial workers, farmers, veterans, professional workers, African-Americans, women, the foreign-born, and youth. “Probably never in American history,” an editor of the Nation wrote, “have the underprivileged had a better opportunity to present their case before Congress.” The aggregate of the testimonies amounted to a systematic indictment of American capitalism and the New Deal, and an impassioned defense of the radical alternative under consideration.

From the representative of the American Youth Congress, which encompassed over two million people, to the representative of the United Council of Working-Class Women, which had 10,000 members, each testimony fleshed out the eminently class-conscious point of view of the people back home who had “gather[ed] up nickels and pennies which they [could] poorly spare” in order to send someone to plead their case before Congress. At the same time, the Social Security Act—known then as the Wagner-Lewis Bill, since it hadn’t been passed yet—was criticized as a cruel sham, as “a proposal to set up little privileged groups in the sea of misery who would be content to sit on their small islands and watch the others drown” (to quote a professor at Smith College). What most Americans wanted, witnesses insisted, was the more universal plan embodied in the Lundeen Bill.

Interestingly, most congressmen on the subcommittee were sympathetic to this point of view. For instance, at one point the chairman, Matthew Dunn, interrupted a witness who was observing that all the members of Congress he had talked to had received far fewer cards and letters in support of the famous Townsend Plan—which the press was continually publicizing—than in support of the more radical Lundeen Bill. “I want to substantiate the statement you just made about the Townsend bill and about this bill,” Dunn said. “May I say that I do not believe I have received over a half dozen letters to support the Townsend bill… [But] I have received many letters and cards from all over the country asking me to give my utmost support in behalf of the Lundeen bill, H.R. 2827.”

Most of the letters congressmen received were probably in the vein of this one that was sent to Lundeen in the spring of 1935, when Congress was considering the three competing bills that have already been mentioned (the Wagner-Lewis, the Townsend, and the Lundeen):

The reason I am writing you is, that we Farmers [and] Industrial workers feel that you are the only Congressman and Representative that is working for our interest. We have analyzed the Wagner-Lewis Bill [and] also [the] Townsend Bill. But the Lundeen H.R. (2827) is the only bill that means anything for our class… The people all over the country are [waking] up to the facts that the two old Political Parties are owned soul, mind [and] body by the Capitalist Class.

Even more revealingly, that spring the New York Post conducted a poll of its readers after printing the contents of the three bills. Out of 1,391 votes cast, 1,209 readers supported the Lundeen, 157 the Townsend, 14 the Wagner-Lewis, and 7 none of them. This was no scientific poll, but its results are at least suggestive.

As stated above, while the House Labor Committee recommended the Lundeen Bill, it was—inevitably—defeated in the House. Being opposed by all the dominant interests in the country, it never had a chance of passage. But as far as its advocates were concerned, the fight was not over. Throughout the spring and summer of 1935 the flood of endorsements did not let up. The first national convention of rank-and-file social workers endorsed it in February; the Progressive Miners of America followed, along with scores of local unions and such ethnic societies as the Italian-American Democratic Organization of New York (with 235,000 members) and the Slovak-American Political Federation of Youngstown, Ohio. Virtually identical state versions of H.R. 2827 were, or already had been, introduced in the legislatures of California, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and other states. Conferences of unions and fraternal organizations were called in a number of states to plan further campaigns for the Workers’ Bill.

In January 1936, Representative Lundeen introduced the bill yet again, this time joined by Republican Senator Lynn Frazier of North Dakota. The hearings before the Senate Labor Committee in April resembled the hearings on H.R. 2827, with academics, social workers, unionists, and farmers testifying as to the inadequacy of the recently passed Social Security Act and the necessity of the Frazier-Lundeen Bill. A representative of the National Committee on Rural Social Planning spoke for millions of agricultural workers, sharecroppers, tenants, and small owners when he opined that this bill was “the only one which is likely to check the fascist terror now riding the fields” in the South (directed largely against the Southern Tenant Farmers Union).

The fascist terror continued unchecked, however, for the bill did not even make it out of committee. After its dismal fate in 1936, it was never introduced again.

Despite its failure, the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill was a significant episode in the 1930s that certainly hasn’t deserved to be written out of history. Both substantively and in its popularity, a case can be made that it was more significant than the Social Security Act and the Townsend Plan, its two main competitors.

*****

Above I referred to a radio broadcast that Earl Browder gave in March 1936. This unusual but telling incident may serve as a coda to the story of the Workers’ Bill, reinforcing the lesson that most Americans were and are, beneath the surface layers of indoctrination, quite left-wing in their values and beliefs. It’s only a question of reaching them, of being heard by them, and of acquiring the resources to organize them.

In order to advertise its liberal position on freedom of speech, CBS invited Browder to speak for fifteen minutes (at 10:45 p.m.) on a national radio broadcast, with the understanding that he would be answered the following night by zealous anti-Communist Congressman Hamilton Fish. Browder seized the opportunity for a national spotlight and appealed to “the majority of the toiling people” to establish a national Farmer-Labor Party that would be affiliated with the Communist Party, though it “would not yet take up the full program of socialism, for which many are not yet prepared.” He even declared that Communists’ ultimate aim was to remake the U.S. “along the lines of the highly successful Soviet Union”: once they had the support of a majority of Americans, he said, “we will put that program into effect with the same firmness, the same determination, with which Washington and the founding fathers carried through the revolution that established our country, with the same thoroughness with which Lincoln abolished chattel slavery.”

According to both CBS and the Daily Worker, reactions to Browder’s talk were almost uniformly positive. CBS immediately received several hundred responses praising the speech, and the Daily Worker, whose New York address Browder had mentioned on the air, received thousands of letters. The following are representative:

Chattanooga, Tennessee: “If you could have listened to the people I know who listened to you, you would have learned that your speech did much to make them realize the importance of forming a Farmer-Labor Party. I am sure that the 15 minutes into which you put so much that is vitally important to the American people was time used to great advantage. Many people are thanking you, I know.”

Evanston, Illinois: “Just listened to your speech tonight and I think it was the truest talk I ever heard on the radio. Mr. Browder, would it not be a good thing if you would have an opportunity to talk to the people of the U.S.A. at least once a week, for 30 to 60 minutes? Let’s hear from you some more, Mr. Browder.”

Bricelyn, Minnesota: “Your speech came in fine and it was music to the ears of another unemployed for four years. Please send me full and complete data on your movement and send a few extra copies if you will, as I have some very interested friends—plenty of them eager to join up, as is yours truly.”

Sparkes, Nebraska: “Would you send me 50 copies of your speech over the radio last night? I would like to give them to some of my neighbors who are all farmers.”

Arena, New York: “Although I am a young Republican (but good American citizen) I enjoyed listening to your radio speech last evening. I believe you told the truth in a convincing manner and I failed to see where you said anything dangerous to the welfare of the American people.”

Julesburg, Colorado: “Heard your talk… It was great. Would like a copy of same, also other dope on your party. It is due time we take a hand in things or there will be no United States left in a few more years. Will be looking forward for this dope and also your address.”

In general, the main themes of the letters were questions like, “Where can I learn more about the Communist Party?”, “How can I join your Party?”, and “Where is your nearest headquarters?” Some people sent money in the hope that it would facilitate more broadcasts. The editors of the Daily Worker plaintively asked their readers, “Isn’t it time we overhauled our old horse-and-buggy methods of recruiting? While we are recruiting by ones and twos, aren’t we overlooking hundreds?” Again, one can only imagine how many millions of people in far-flung regions would have been quickly radicalized had Browder or other Communist leaders been permitted the national radio audience that Huey Long and Father Coughlin were.

But such is the history of workers and marginalized groups in the U.S.: elite efforts to suppress the political agenda and the voices of the downtrodden have all too often succeeded, thereby wiping out the memory of popular struggles. If we can resurrect such stories as that of the Workers’ Bill, they may prove of use in our own age of crisis, as new struggles against oppression are born.