Transfer of wealth

…In recent decades, as Repub­li­cans have devoted them­selves with laser-like inten­sity to redis­trib­ut­ing America’s wealth and income upward …Many Democ­rats have been com­plicit in this calamity by their indif­fer­ence to the con­se­quences of dereg­u­la­tion and trade.… Redistributing wealth upward by Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, September 25, 2012

The Biggest “Takers” and Societal Parasites Are the Rich, Not the Working Class and Poor by Paul Buchheit, Buzzflash at Truthout, May 13, 2013

The Shocking Redistribution of Wealth in the Past Five Years by Paul Buchheit, Common Dreams, December 30, 2013

Climate change

The Earth is full Paul Gilding on The TED channel Feb 2012 — The earth is full…we have run out of……..nearly everything…growth is unsustainable.  And when we can no longer grow, civilization collapses. We need to act like we have only one planet. Because that is all we have. http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_gilding_the_earth_is_full.html

The Earth Is Full by Thomas L. Fried­man, New York Times, June 7, 2011 …we are cur­rently grow­ing at a rate that is using up the Earth’s resources far faster than they can be sus­tain­ably replen­ished, so we are eat­ing into the future. Right now, global growth is using about 1.5 Earths.…That is what hap­pens when one gen­er­a­tion in one coun­try lives at 150 per­cent of sus­tain­able capac­ity….…the consumer-driven growth model is bro­ken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on peo­ple work­ing less and own­ing less.

…climate change is actually the biggest thing that’s going on every single day. This is a full-on fight between information and disinformation, between the urge to witness and the urge to cover-up…The one institution in our society that isn’t likely to be much help in spreading the news is… the news..…If we’re going to tell this story — and it’s the most important story of our time — we’re going to have to tell it ourselves. A Warmer World and Weather Gone Wild: The Most Important Story of Our Lives by Bill McKibben, TomDispatch.com, May 3, 2012. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/03–4

How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial

Calling All Pagans: Your Mother Earth Needs You by Robert C. Koehler, by Common Dreams, April 10, 2014  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/10-1 Somewhere between these two quotes lies the future: “And I would like to emphasize that nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”…The Judeo-Christian worldview is that man is at the center of the universe; nature was therefore created for man. Nature has no intrinsic worth other than man’s appreciation and moral use of it.”… The contemptuous dismissal of nature as lacking intrinsic worth — an unworthy competitor with God for human allegiance — may no longer have mainstream credibility, but, like racism, it’s part of the mindset that has shaped Western civilization. – “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” … We’re all in it together. We’re part of nature, not its master. This concept is the missing foundation stone of contemporary civilization.

Most Extreme Weather ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Man-Made Warming by Jacob Chamberlain, Common DreamsMarch 24, 2014 http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/24-3

Humanity Wholly Unprepared for Abrupt Climate Impacts, Warns Report by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, December 4, 2013  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/04-1‘The pace of change is orders of magnitude higher than what species have experienced in the last tens of millions of years.’

Climate Change Is Real: Just Ask the World Bank Monday, 07 April 7, 2014 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22956-the-climate-change-wars-have-already-begun… the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, says that time is quickly running out…we only have 15 years to take the proper actions needed to safely reach that global warming limit….here in America, things are stalled. Despite the mountains of proof and scientific evidence, Republicans in Washington, and across the country, are continuing to push climate change denial policies and legislation at the behest of their Big Oil, Coal, and Gas “donors.”…Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, not only is climate change very real, but it’s also hitting us a lot harder, and a lot sooner, then we once thought…We need to mobilize our nation the way we did for World War II and jump headlong into the 21st century, thus solving the problem of the world’s largest polluter and providing an example for the rest of the world. And we need to start today. Time is running out.

Can Generation Hot Avoid Its Fate? By Mark Hertsgaard, U.S. News, April 5, 2014 – exerpt – …We can’t say they didn’t warn us….The report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week is only the latest and most dire in a string of scientific declarations leading back to 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen’s landmark testimony to the United States Senate put man-made global warming on the public agenda. As a journalist who has reported on climate change from dozens of countries since then, I can’t say I was surprised by the IPCC’s report… But the report did provoke other emotions, because I read it not only as a journalist, but also as a father. And as a father, I felt grief, fear, rage, frustration and, finally, a determination to resist. One emotion I never permit myself, however, is despair. For despair only paralyzes at a time when action is urgently needed…Nor is my hope mere wishful thinking; it rests on firm grounds…Will the impacts described above be the peak of the climate crisis, to be followed by a period of recovery and rejuvenation? Or will they be merely the dark prelude to an even darker future? That choice remains ours to make, and for Generation Hot, it could make a world of difference. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/05/generation-hot-deserves-cooler-times.html

Climate Signals, Growing Louder By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, MARCH 31, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/climate-signals-growing-louder.html?emc=edit_th_20140401&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=56693142 …global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations…[reports from] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…[and the]  American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific societydeclared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing…. the two reports could build public support for [government authority] to reduce emissions by circumventing an obstructionist Congress…Given everything we now know, public and congressional acceptance of these initiatives should be close to automatic. But, of course, it is not…The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

Humanity Wholly Unprepared for Abrupt Climate Impacts, Warns Report https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/04-1

Only 28 percent of Fox News climate segments are accurate By Chris Mooney, Grist, April 7, 2014 http://grist.org/climate-energy/only-28-percent-of-fox-news-climate-segments-are-accurate/

Do End-Time Believers Care About Climate Change? By Robin Globus Veldman, Religion Dispatches , posted on Alternet.org, July 12, 2013 – Research suggests a belief in the apocalypse, common in the GOP, reduces interest in the government taking action. http://www.alternet.org/belief/do-end-time-believers-care-about-climate-change

How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial, The Guardian By Katherine Stewart posted on Alternet, November 5, 2012 /how-the-religious-right-is-fueling-climate-change-denial/

The Only Way To Fight Accelerating Climate Change Is Resistance Against Those Destroying Earth by MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, April 7, 2014 …Against those who would leave our children and grandchildren a world of death, hardship and unfathomable disaster, there is only one course of action: resistance. Otherwise the gluttonous carpe-diem-minded oligarchy will delude the world – and human life – into oblivion. http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-only-way-to-fight-accelerating-climate-change-is-resistance-against-those-destroying-earth

Can Generation Hot Avoid Its Fate? By Mark Hertsgaard, U.S. News, April 5, 2014As a journalist who has reported on climate change from dozens of countries since then, I can’t say I was surprised by the IPCC’s report… as a father, I felt grief, fear, rage, frustration and, finally, a determination to resist. One emotion I never permit myself, however, is despair. For despair only paralyzes at a time when action is urgently needed…Nor is my hope mere wishful thinking; it rests on firm grounds…Will the impacts described above be the peak of the climate crisis, to be followed by a period of recovery and rejuvenation? Or will they be merely the dark prelude to an even darker future? That choice remains ours to make, and for Generation Hot, it could make a world of difference. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/05/generation-hot-deserves-cooler-times.html

How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity By Joshua Holland, AlterNet

Climate Change Is Real: Just Ask the World Bank Monday, 07 April 7, 2014 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed … the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, says that time is quickly running out…we only have 15 years to take the proper actions needed to safely reach that global warming limit….here in America, things are stalled. Despite the mountains of proof and scientific evidence, Republicans in Washington, and across the country, are continuing to push climate change denial policies and legislation at the behest of their Big Oil, Coal, and Gas “donors.”…Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, not only is climate change very real, but it’s also hitting us a lot harder, and a lot sooner, then we once thought…We need to mobilize our nation the way we did for World War II and jump headlong into the 21st century, thus solving the problem of the world’s largest polluter and providing an example for the rest of the world. And we need to start today. Time is running out.

http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com/climate-change-recent-excerpt-with-links-to-articles/

Long Before McCutcheon, Conservatives Invested in Pushing Our Legal Culture Rightward

by Joshua Holland, Bill Moyers.com April 11, 2014

Steven Teles is an associate professor in the political science department at Johns Hopkins University

Forty years before the Roberts Supreme Court became a place where the Chamber of Commerce almost always wins, conservative donors made a significant, long-term investment in pushing the center of gravity in America’s legal culture toward the right.

In 2009, Steven Teles, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, literally wrote the book on that effort. In The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law, Teles charted the early stumbles and later successes of a project that ultimately has yielded hefty returns to its backers.

In the wake of the court’s latest decision on behalf of America’s donor class, McCutcheon v. FEC, BillMoyers.com spoke with Teles about this history. Below is a transcript of our discussion that’s been edited for clarity.

Joshua Holland: The story you tell in this book really begins in the 1970s. There’s a well-funded effort to shift the ideological center of gravity in law schools, legal conferences and journals, and ultimately, in the courts themselves. How successful has that effort been?

Steven Teles: I think they were very successful in helping to reorient the political conversation. In today’s legal culture, conservative arguments aren’t exotic. People have heard of them. Liberals show up to Federalist Society events. The Federalist Society has always had a kind of evangelical quality. They always wanted to try, if not to persuade people, then at least make them think that their views were within the range of legitimate conversation. And I think in that sense they have been successful.

Over long periods of time it has shifted the range of ideas about what  the courts can do. And I think in contrast, liberals have not been very good at that kind of investment. Liberals have been much more oriented towards short-term investments. They want metrics to show how things are paying off in two or three years. But if you really want to shift people’s ideas, that’s the work of decades, and that’s the kind of thing that a group of conservative foundations was willing to do.

When you see how aggressive this Supreme Court has often been, that’s partially because it’s staffed by clerks who’ve been to law schools like Harvard and Yale and Stanford, where they have strong Federalist Society chapters and they’ve gotten steeped in these ideas, and when they get onto the courts they provide these ideas to the justices. They’re helping write the decisions.

Liberals have not been good at that kind of work, and if they want to change some of these things, then they have to be willing to put their money into the same kind of really long-term investments.

Holland: What was it about our judiciary, or our judicial culture, that the right felt needed to be changed?

Teles: I think it’s important that we distinguish between the ‘judiciary’ and ‘judicial culture.’ In the book, I establish that conservatives were reacting as much to the law schools as to what was going on directly in the courts.

The story starts even earlier, back in the late ’50s and early ’60s when law school faculties became much more liberal, and started supporting legal rights of all kinds, and it’s that legal culture to which I think conservatives were reacting.

It’s also important to distinguish between what I think of as the elite reaction and the popular reaction. The popular reaction goes back to a series of church and state decisions that helped mobilize the Christian right. That’s an important part of the story.

And then what I write about in the book — things like the development of the Federalist Society, the law and economics movement and the rise of conservative public interest law — is really a reaction to this change in the elite legal culture. That’s an elite mobilization, and that’s what I write about in the book.

This mobilization didn’t come out of nowhere. The Ford Foundation and some other foundations had put enormous amounts of money into investing in legal clinics and public-interest law firms — a lot of the ones that we know and love today: the Environmental Defense Fund, National Resources Defense Council, the organizations of Hispanics and women in law.

So conservatives reacted by investing tens of millions of dollars to mobilize against these efforts. Lots of money was put into law and economics, which was an effort to try to get a foothold for free market economics in the law schools. The Federalist Society was created, which was an effort to create a kind of parallel curriculum in the law schools. Conservatives found it so hard to directly change the composition of the law schools, so their strategy was to bring their own faculty in to give talks and lectures to the students. And then there was an investment in public interest law firms on the right, like the Institute for Justice, Alliance for School Choice, and the Center for Individual Rights, which brought a lot of anti-affirmative action litigation. There was a broad attempt to mobilize against organized legal liberalism on all of these fronts.

Holland: Legal scholars and journalists covering the judiciary say that this Court is making decisions that would have been difficult to imagine not so long ago. There have also been a couple of studies that have found that conservative justices are more likely to overturn both acts of Congress and regulatory rules than their moderate and liberal counterparts.

That kind of judicial activism is in contrast to what a lot of people would think judicial conservatism means. One would think it would stress respect for past precedent and judicial restraint — conservatism. How do you reconcile that?

Teles: Well, first of all, conservatives were arguably very activist going back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries – that’s the Court we associate with the “Lochner Era.” And back then it was liberals who advocated judicial restraint. The whole New Deal was characterized by an argument for judicial restraint.

The era of conservatives preaching judicial restraint, starting in the ’60s and ’70s, began when they picked up liberal arguments at a time when liberals had started abandoning them. So it’s not surprising that in a period where liberals are starting to be activists, conservatives are arguing for judicial restraint. Then conservatives consolidate their power starting in the ’80s and ’90s, and they then start becoming activists in their use of the Courts.

So the political scientist in me thinks that this is a predictable feature of what ascendant political movements do – they generally are in favor of judicial activism as soon as they’ve consolidated their power over the Court.

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.

http://billmoyers.com/2014/04/11/long-before-mccutcheon-conservatives-invested-in-pushing-our-legal-culture-rightward/

Climate change – overview

Humanity Wholly Unprepared for Abrupt Climate Impacts, Warns Report by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, December 4, 2013  The pace of change is orders of magnitude higher than what species have experienced in the last tens of millions of years.’

Do End-Time Believers Care About Climate Change? By Robin Globus Veldman, Religion Dispatches , posted on Alternet.org, July 12, 2013 – Research suggests a belief in the apocalypse, common in the GOP, reduces interest in the government taking action.

How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial, The Guardian By Katherine Stewart posted on Alternet, November 5, 2012

How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity By Joshua Holland, AlterNet

A Warmer World and Weather Gone Wild: The Most Important Story of Our Lives by Bill McKibben, TomDispatch.com, May 3, 2012. 4…climate change is actually the biggest thing that’s going on every single day. This is a full-on fight between information and disinformation, between the urge to witness and the urge to cover-up…The one institution in our society that isn’t likely to be much help in spreading the news is… the news..…If we’re going to tell this story — and it’s the most important story of our time — we’re going to have to tell it ourselves.

Only 28 percent of Fox News climate segments are accurate By Chris Mooney, Grist, April 7, 2014 – excerpt – According to a Pew study released last year, 38 percent of U.S. adults watch cable news. So if you want to know why so many Americans deny or doubt the established science of climate change, the content they’re receiving on cable news may well point the way. According to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, misinformation about climate science on cable news channels is pretty common. The study found that last year, 30 percent of CNN’s climate-related segments were misleading, compared with 72 percent for Fox News and just 8 percent for MSNBC

Climate Change Is Real: Just Ask the World Bank Monday, 07 April 7, 2014 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed … the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, says that time is quickly running out…we only have 15 years to take the proper actions needed to safely reach that global warming limit….here in America, things are stalled. Despite the mountains of proof and scientific evidence, Republicans in Washington, and across the country, are continuing to push climate change denial policies and legislation at the behest of their Big Oil, Coal, and Gas “donors.”…Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, not only is climate change very real, but it’s also hitting us a lot harder, and a lot sooner, then we once thought…We need to mobilize our nation the way we did for World War II and jump headlong into the 21st century, thus solving the problem of the world’s largest polluter and providing an example for the rest of the world. And we need to start today. Time is running out.

The Only Way To Fight Accelerating Climate Change Is Resistance Against Those Destroying Earth by MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, April 7, 2014 …Against those who would leave our children and grandchildren a world of death, hardship and unfathomable disaster, there is only one course of action: resistance. Otherwise the gluttonous carpe-diem-minded oligarchy will delude the world – and human life – into oblivion. 

Can Generation Hot Avoid Its Fate? By Mark Hertsgaard, U.S. News, April 5, 2014 – exerpt – …We can’t say they didn’t warn us….The report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week is only the latest and most dire in a string of scientific declarations leading back to 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen’s landmark testimony to the United States Senate put man-made global warming on the public agenda. As a journalist who has reported on climate change from dozens of countries since then, I can’t say I was surprised by the IPCC’s report… But the report did provoke other emotions, because I read it not only as a journalist, but also as a father. And as a father, I felt grief, fear, rage, frustration and, finally, a determination to resist. One emotion I never permit myself, however, is despair. For despair only paralyzes at a time when action is urgently needed…Nor is my hope mere wishful thinking; it rests on firm grounds…Will the impacts described above be the peak of the climate crisis, to be followed by a period of recovery and rejuvenation? Or will they be merely the dark prelude to an even darker future? That choice remains ours to make, and for Generation Hot, it could make a world of difference.

Most Extreme Weather ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Man-Made Warming by Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams, March 24, 2014 http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/24-3

Climate Signals, Growing Louder By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, MARCH 31, 2014  global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations…[reports from] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…[and the]  American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society…declared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing…. the two reports could build public support for [government authority] to reduce emissions by circumventing an obstructionist Congress…Given everything we now know, public and congressional acceptance of these initiatives should be close to automatic. But, of course, it is not…The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

Calling All Pagans: Your Mother Earth Needs You by Robert C. Koehler, by Common Dreams, April 10, 2014  Somewhere between these two quotes lies the future: “And I would like to emphasize that nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”…The Judeo-Christian worldview is that man is at the center of the universe; nature was therefore created for man. Nature has no intrinsic worth other than man’s appreciation and moral use of it.”… The contemptuous dismissal of nature as lacking intrinsic worth — an unworthy competitor with God for human allegiance — may no longer have mainstream credibility, but, like racism, it’s part of the mindset that has shaped Western civilization. – “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” … We’re all in it together. We’re part of nature, not its master. This concept is the missing foundation stone of contemporary civilization.


 

 

Supreme Court ruling gives small number of wealthy donors new ways to drive campaigns

By Matea Gold, Washington Post, April 2, 2014

An elite class of wealthy donors who have gained mounting influence in campaigns now has the ability to exert even greater sway.

A Supreme Court decision Wednesday to do away with an overall limit on how much individuals can give candidates and political parties opens a new spigot for money to flow into campaigns already buffeted by huge spending from independent groups.

In this year’s midterm races, outside organizations financed by very rich donors, such as the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, have significantly shaped the campaign landscape with TV ads and other expenditures totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.

The ruling by a sharply split court opens the door even wider for a narrow universe of donors to expand their giving by writing single checks for as much as $3.6 million that could flow directly to candidate and party committees.

Just 591 donors reached the limit on giving to federal candidates in the 2012 election, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Even that small number of contributors has the potential to inject big sums into the system, now that they can give to as many candidates, party committees and PACs as they wish.

That could mean a financial infusion for the national parties, whose traditional dominance has been eclipsed in many areas by super PACs and politically active nonprofit groups that can collect unlimited sums.

The change could help candidates raise more money to fend off attacks by outside groups, focusing their fundraising on big-dollar givers whose full largess was off-limits until now — and making officeholders more indebted to those wealthy contributors.

And it could bring at least some additional transparency to the role of such big donors, whose contributions to many outside political groups are kept secret but whose checks to candidates and party committees must be reported to the Federal Election Commission and publicly disclosed.

Supporters of stricter campaign finance rules cast the decision in McCutcheon v. FEC as a sequel to Citizens United, a 2010 case that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts on independent political activity. That ruling paved the way for the creation of super PACs and led to the proliferation of nonprofit advocacy groups that engage in campaigns.

That development gave new influence to billionaires such as conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch and liberal former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars this year.

“The Supreme Court is turning our representative system of government into a sandbox for millionaires and billionaires,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group that advocates for reducing the role of big money in politics.

After Wednesday’s ruling, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), long a champion of curbing huge donations, pointed to the influx of money and predicted, “There will be scandal.”

Many conservatives, meanwhile, cast the case as a free-speech victory.

“This is a good day for candidates, both Republican and Democratic, liberal and conservative,” said Craig Engle, an expert on GOP election law who served as a legal adviser to the team that filed the case on behalf of Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee.

“This isn’t a threat to democracy – it is democracy,” Engle added. “One of the things that is anti-democratic is when people aren’t allowed to express themselves.”

Many Republicans rejected the notion that the new ruling would unleash a flood of new political giving by the rich.

“The immediate effect will be that some major donors that would like to max out to multiple committees will have the ability to do so,” said Charlie Spies, a GOP campaign finance lawyer and fundraiser. But, he added, “there is a limited universe of donors that want to give multiple hundreds of thousands of dollar contributions.”

Fundraisers for both parties were skeptical about how many donors would take advantage of the new freedom to give beyond the previously allowed maximum, which was set at $123,200 for the 2014 cycle.

“It doesn’t actually mean that much more money in the system,” said Wade Randlett, a major Democratic fundraiser in California. “The number of people who actually wanted to give more than that and were not using super PACs already is not a gigantic number of people.”

Those who do take advantage of their new freedom to give more, he added, are mostly likely to be donors “who have a particular legal or administrative result in mind.”

In its ruling Wednesday, the court declared unconstitutional a total limit on how much an individual can give federal candidates and parties in a two-year cycle. That limit had been set at $123,200 for this cycle. (The base limits on contributions — $5,200 to a candidate for the cycle — remain untouched.)

If the overall limits had been lifted for the 2012 campaign, about 1,200 wealthy donors who hit or came close to the limit on giving to candidates and party committees could have poured an additional $304 million into federal political committees, according to an analysis by the liberal groups Demos and U.S. PIRG.

That nearly equals the $313 million that 4 million small donors gave to the campaigns of President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney that cycle.

Election lawyers anticipate that both parties will quickly seek ways to take advantage of court’s decision by creating national joint fundraising committees that can singlehandedly raise major sums. A committee made up of the presidential candidate, all the organizations and congressional candidates of one party could solicit a single check for as much as $3.6 million, for example.

Some legal experts said the McCutcheon decision could actually redirect some of the money going to secretive outside groups to political committees that must disclose their donors.

“The decision should be celebrated by all of us who worry about the polarizing effect of money on politics,” Nathaniel Persily, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University, wrote in an analysis of the case. “A world in which individuals can give limited amounts of disclosed money to a lot of politicians is certainly preferable to one in which large chunks are only given to Super PACs and other unaccountable outside groups.”

But others were skeptical that the decision would fundamentally alter the dynamics and momentum of independent groups.

“It’s a good day for political parties in one sense, but do I believe, given the current pressures in the campaign finance system, that this significantly reverses the flow of money back to the parties? No, I don’t think so,” said Robert Bauer, a top Democratic campaign finance lawyer.

Although the ruling may amplify the influence of deep-pocketed donors, it was not welcome news for many of those who are asked to write the checks.

“It’s much more of a curse than a liberation,” said Randlett, who noted that this is the point in the election cycle when many major contributors have reached their limit. “The sound you heard was the collective groan of all cycle-maxed donors.”

No longer will donors be able to put off political solicitations by saying, “I can’t give, I am watching my aggregate limits,’ ” noted Engle, the GOP lawyer. “Now you don’t have a legal excuse.”

Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.

ww.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-ruling-gives-small-number-of-wealthy-donors-new-ways-to-drive-campaigns/2014/04/02/b1ab041a-ba8a-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

How capitalism enriches the few rather than the many

By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, April 2, 2014

Excerpt

Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,”…explains how the fastest-growing form of trading enriches the few at the expense of the many, the other book, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” provides a more fundamental and disquieting explanation: how capitalism itself enriches the few at the expense of the many.…[Piketty] has shown that the share of Americans’ income going to the wealthiest 1 percent has risen to the level last seen just before the 1929 crashwith heightened accumulations of wealth come heightened accumulations of political power — a shift toward plutocracy to which Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, permitting the wealthy to contribute to as many electoral campaigns as they wish, adds a helpful push…“No self-corrective mechanism exists” within capitalism to retard this descent into plutocracy, he writes. Rather, he concludes, its prevention requires political action…Lewis gives us a great read on today’s latest scam. Piketty gives us the most important work of economics since John Maynard Keynes’s “General Theory.”

Full text

Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,” his takedown of high-speed stock trading, may be making headlines this week, but it’s just one of two books on our economic dysfunctions that are flying off the shelves. While “Flash Boys” explains how the fastest-growing form of trading enriches the few at the expense of the many, the other book, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” provides a more fundamental and disquieting explanation: how capitalism itself enriches the few at the expense of the many.

Piketty, a Paris-based economics professor, is one of a small but growing number of economists who are scanning digitized tax records to discover the distribution of income and wealth in various nations, both today and in the past. Piketty’s work with Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, has shown that the share of Americans’ income going to the wealthiest 1 percent has risen to the level last seen just before the 1929 crash. In his new book, in which he looks at tax records that in Britain and France date all the way to the late 18th century, Piketty has unearthed the history of income distribution for at least the past hundred years in every major capitalist nation. It makes for fascinating, grim and alarming reading.

Piketty’s chief conclusion is that, in most nations in most times, the interest on capital — income from investments and ownership — accumulates at a higher rate than that at which the overall economy is growing. In the largely preindustrial economies that Jane Austen and Honore de Balzac chronicled in their novels, he notes, the road to riches came through inheritance rather than even professional labor. The interest rate on property of all kinds was roughly 4 to 5 percent a year, while the overall economies of Britain and France were growing at a rate of just 1 percent (a figure Piketty derives by adding the nations’ population growth to their economic growth). Over time, this meant that the value of those nations’ capital rose to six or seven times their gross domestic product, and capital’s major owners — the richest 1 percent — controlled the lion’s share of their nation’s income and wealth.

Even after the Industrial Revolution, those ratios largely persisted until the outbreak of World War I. The combination of two world wars and the Great Depression destroyed many European fortunes, while the Depression wreaked havoc on American fortunes. The reforms of the New Deal in the United States and of social democracy in Europe then boosted workers’ incomes on both continents and gave rise to a sizable propertied middle class. The rate of return on the property of the wealthy remained high, but the value of their property had been so diminished by the cataclysms of the first half of the century that their wealth was diminished.

Since 1980, however, their fortunes have swelled again — at the expense of everyone else. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher slashed taxes on wealth, workers lost the ability to bargain for wages and, crucially, the population growth of many nations ground nearly to a halt. Capital, again, was accumulating faster than the overall economies were growing. In the United States, Piketty shows, the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown so high — chiefly due to the linkage of top executive pay to share value, a form of capital — that they soon will create the greatest level of income inequality in the recorded history of any nation.

Indeed, Piketty’s book provides a valuable explanatory context for America’s economic woes. Wages constitute the lowest share of U.S. GDP, and profits the highest, since the end of World War II. And with heightened accumulations of wealth come heightened accumulations of political power — a shift toward plutocracy to which Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, permitting the wealthy to contribute to as many electoral campaigns as they wish, adds a helpful push.

Piketty’s primary contention is that it is inherent to capitalism that the returns on capital generally exceed the growth of nations’ economies, save in times of epochal population growth or almost unimaginable technological breakthroughs, and that this leads to ever-rising concentrations of wealth and power. “No self-corrective mechanism exists” within capitalism to retard this descent into plutocracy, he writes. Rather, he concludes, its prevention requires political action: He suggests a global tax on capital, which, he acknowledges, is a utopian solution, though others — empowering workers again, increasing the social provision of goods and services — are more readily attainable.

Lewis gives us a great read on today’s latest scam. Piketty gives us the most important work of economics since John Maynard Keynes’s “General Theory.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harold-meyerson-how-capitalism-enriches-only-the-few/2014/04/02/f2295a5e-ba95-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

Is American democracy headed to extinction?

By Stein Ringen, March 28, 2014 washingtonpost.com/opinions

Excerpt

Behind dysfunctional government, is democracy itself in decay?…In the United States and Britain, democracy is disintegrating when it should be nurtured by leadership…In Athens, democracy disintegrated when the rich grew super-rich, refused to play by the rules and undermined the established system of government. That is the point that the United States and Britain have reached….It is not inequality as such that destroys democracy but the more recent combination of inequality and transgression….…Economic inequality has followed through to political inequality, and democratic government is bereft of power and capacity…

Democracy is not the default. It is a form of government that must be created with determination and that will disintegrate unless nurtured. In the United States and Britain, democracy is disintegrating when it should be nurtured by leadership…Power has been sucked out of the constitutional system [citizens] and usurped by actors such as PACs, think tanks, media and lobbying organizations…Rich supporters get two swings at influencing politics, one as voters and one as donors. Others have only the vote, a power that diminishes as political inflation deflates its value…

Full text

Behind dysfunctional government, is democracy itself in decay?

It took only 250 years for democracy to disintegrate in ancient Athens. A wholly new form of government was invented there in which the people ruled themselves. That constitution proved marvelously effective. Athens grew in wealth and capacity, saw off the Persian challenge, established itself as the leading power in the known world and produced treasures of architecture, philosophy and art that bedazzle to this day. But when privilege, corruption and mismanagement took hold, the lights went out.

It would be 2,000 years before democracy was reinvented in the U.S. Constitution, now as representative democracy. Again, government by popular consent proved ingenious. The United States grew into the world’s leading power — economically, culturally and militarily. In Europe, democracies overtook authoritarian monarchies and fascist and communist dictatorships. In recent decades, democracy’s spread has made the remaining autocracies a minority.

The second democratic experiment is approaching 250 years. It has been as successful as the first. But the lesson from Athens is that success does not breed success. Democracy is not the default. It is a form of government that must be created with determination and that will disintegrate unless nurtured. In the United States and Britain, democracy is disintegrating when it should be nurtured by leadership. If the lights go out in the model democracies, they will not stay on elsewhere.

It’s not enough for governments to simply be democratic; they must deliver or decay. In Britain, government is increasingly ineffectual. The constitutional scholar Anthony King has described it as declining from “order” to “mess” in less than 30 years. During 10 years of New Labor rule, that proposition was tested and confirmed. In 1997 a new government was voted in with a mandate and determination to turn the tide on Thatcherite inequality. It was given all the parliamentary power a democratic government could dream of and benefited from 10 years of steady economic growth. But a strong government was defeated by a weak system of governance. It delivered nothing of what it intended and left Britain more unequal than where the previous regime had left off.

The next government, a center-right coalition, has proved itself equally unable. It was supposed to repair damage from the economic crisis but has responded with inaction on the causes of crisis, in a monopolistic financial-services sector, and with a brand of austerity that protects the privileged at the expense of the poor. Again, what has transpired is inability rather than ill will. Both these governments came up against concentrations of economic power that have become politically unmanageable.

Meanwhile, the health of the U.S. system is even worse than it looks. The three branches of government are designed to deliver through checks and balances. But balance has become gridlock, and the United States is not getting the governance it needs. Here, the link between inequality and inability is on sharp display. Power has been sucked out of the constitutional system and usurped by actors such as PACs, think tanks, media and lobbying organizations.

In the age of mega-expensive politics, candidates depend on sponsors to fund permanent campaigns. When money is allowed to transgress from markets, where it belongs, to politics, where it has no business, those who control it gain power to decide who the successful candidates will be — those they wish to fund — and what they can decide once they are in office. Rich supporters get two swings at influencing politics, one as voters and one as donors. Others have only the vote, a power that diminishes as political inflation deflates its value. It is a misunderstanding to think that candidates chase money. It is money that chases candidates.

In Athens, democracy disintegrated when the rich grew super-rich, refused to play by the rules and undermined the established system of government. That is the point that the United States and Britain have reached.

Nearly a century ago, when capitalist democracy was in a crisis not unlike the present one, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Democracy weathered that storm for two reasons: It is not inequality as such that destroys democracy but the more recent combination of inequality and transgression. Furthermore, democracy was then able to learn from crisis. The New Deal tempered economic free-for-all, primarily through the 1933 Banking Act, and gave the smallfolk new social securities.

The lesson from Athens is that success breeds complacency. People, notably those in privilege, stopped caring and democracy was neglected. Six years after the global economic crisis, the signs from the model democracies are that those in privilege are unable to care and that our systems are unable to learn. The crisis started in out-of-control financial services industries in the United States and Britain, but control has not been reasserted. Economic inequality has followed through to political inequality, and democratic government is bereft of power and capacity. Brandeis was not wrong; he was ahead of his time.

Stein Ringen is an emeritus professor at Oxford University and the author of “Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience.”

Climate Signals, Growing Louder

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, MARCH 31, 2014

Excerpt

…global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations…[reports from] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…[and the]  American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific societydeclared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing…. the two reports could build public support for [government authority] to reduce emissions by circumventing an obstructionist Congress…Given everything we now know, public and congressional acceptance of these initiatives should be close to automatic. But, of course, it is not…The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

Perhaps now the deniers will cease their attacks on the science of climate change, and the American public will, at last, fully accept that global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations…[reports from] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…[and the]  American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific societydeclared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing…. the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases…one of several weapons in Mr. Obama’s broader Climate Action Plan, announced last year, that seeks to reduce emissions by circumventing an obstructionist Congress…Given everything we now know, public and congressional acceptance of these initiatives should be close to automatic. But, of course, it is not. Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, seeks to block the coal regulations. Industry groups are complaining in advance about methane regulations. Some of this may be attributable to public misunderstanding. A poll last year found that one-third of Americans believed that scientists disagreed on whether global warming was happening. These studies suggest virtually no disagreement. The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

Full text

Perhaps now the deniers will cease their attacks on the science of climate change, and the American public will, at last, fully accept that global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that since 1990 has been issuing increasingly grim warnings about the consequences of a warming planet, released its most powerful and sobering assessment so far. Even now, it said, ice caps are melting, droughts and floods are getting worse, coral reefs are dying. And without swift and decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources, the world will almost surely face centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The damage will be particularly acute in coastal communities and in low-lying poor countries — like Bangladesh — that are least able to protect themselves.

The report’s conclusions mirrored those of a much shorter but no less disturbing report issued two weeks ago by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society. Like the panel, the association declared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing.

The intergovernmental panel’s report (a companion report later this month will discuss what governments should do) could carry considerable weight with delegates to next year’s climate change summit meeting in Paris, at which the members of the United Nations will again try, after years of futility, to fashion a new global climate treaty. And together, the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases, most recently with a plan issued on Friday to reduce methane emissions from landfills, agricultural operations and oil and gas production and distribution.

The methane strategy is one of several weapons in Mr. Obama’s broader Climate Action Plan, announced last year, that seeks to reduce emissions by circumventing an obstructionist Congress by aggressively using his executive authority under the Clean Air Act and other statutes. The most important of these are two rules from the Environmental Protection Agency — one already proposed, another in the works — that would regulate emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants, the largest source of industrial carbon pollution. He has also promised to increase energy efficiency in appliances and buildings, and double renewable energy capacity on public lands by 2020.

The methane abatement plan is a welcome addition to that arsenal. Methane, a product of animal wastes and of decomposing material in landfills, and the main component in natural gas, contributes only about 9 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. And natural gas, as a fuel, is much cleaner than coal. But methane is a powerful atmospheric pollutant, 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and thus a major driver of global warming.

The burden for fulfilling the president’s promise will fall on the E.P.A., which is charged with developing regulations to plug methane leaks in pipelines and in oil and gas production systems. Given everything we now know, public and congressional acceptance of these initiatives should be close to automatic. But, of course, it is not. Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, seeks to block the coal regulations. Industry groups are complaining in advance about methane regulations.

Some of this may be attributable to public misunderstanding. A poll last year found that one-third of Americans believed that scientists disagreed on whether global warming was happening. These studies suggest virtually no disagreement. The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/climate-signals-growing-louder.html?emc=edit_th_20140401&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=56693142

The American Government Is Open for Corruption

By Charles Pierce, Esquire, posted on readersupportednews.org, 02 April 2014

he remarkable story of how we have come to privatize political corruption in this country reached another milestone today as the Supreme Court, John Roberts presiding, handed down its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, effectively demolishing the aggregate, two-year limit on contributions by individuals, and taking a big chunk out of Buckley v. Valeo, the misbegotten 1976 decision that got the ball rolling in the first place. It was a 5-4 vote, with the court split exactly as it had in the Citizens United case. In writing the opinion for the court, Roberts further emphasized the equation of money with speech, and also seemed to agree with Anthony Kennedy’s famous assertion in Citizens United that the ability of megadonors to shovel gobs of money into the election process,”We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Roberts writes:

Significant First Amendment interests are implicated here. Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political ex-pression and political association. A restriction on how many candi-dates and committees an individual may support is hardly a “modestrestraint” on those rights. The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tella newspaper how many candidates it may endorse. In its simplest terms, the aggregate limits prohibit an individual from fully contrib-uting to the primary and general election campaigns of ten or more candidates, even if all contributions fall within the base limits. And it is no response to say that the individual can simply contribute lessthan the base limits permit: To require one person to contribute atlower levels because he wants to support more candidates or causesis to penalize that individual for “robustly exercis[ing]” his FirstAmendment rights. (Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n, 554 U. S. 724, 739.) In assessing the First Amendment interests at stake, the proper fo-cus is on an individual’s right to engage in political speech, not a col-lective conception of the public good. The whole point of the FirstAmendment is to protect individual speech that the majority might prefer to restrict, or that legislators or judges might not view as use-ful to the democratic process. The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

What’s good for Koch Industries is good for Sheldon Adelson, I guess. Roberts goes on.

This Court has identified only one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. See Davis, supra, at 741. Moreover, the only type of corruption that Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elec-tions, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corrup-tion. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.

And John Roberts apparently resides on Neptune. And, in case you didn’t get the point.

Finally, disclosure of contributions minimizes the potential for abuse of the campaign finance system. Disclosure requirements are in part “justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending.” Citizens United, 558 U. S., at 367 (quoting Buckley, supra, at 66).They may also “deter actual corruption and avoid theappearance of corruption by exposing large contributionsand expenditures to the light of publicity.” Disclosure requirements burden speech, but, unlike the aggregate limits, they do not impose a ceiling on speech.

Having earlier argued that there was a First Amendment issue to be found in the aggregate limits because they hindered an individual’s right to participate in the political process — It is here helpful to note the everlasting irony of Antonin Scalia’s view of Bush v. Gore. There is no individual right to vote, but an individual’s right to purchase a candidate must be untrammeled — but here, Roberts is saying it plain. To restrict money is to restrict speech. Period. And the only real legal restraint on the wholesale subletting of American democracy is John Roberts’s strange devotion to “disclosure” as some sort of shaming mechanism within the electorate. Good luck with that one.

Justice Stephen Breyer takes up a lot of these points in his dissent, most notably, the majority’s laughably narrow definition of what political corruption actually is — that political corruption exists only if you buy a specific result from a specific legislator. But it hardly matters. The five-vote majority in favor of virtually unlimited corporate and individual spending in our elections is a rock solid one. Four days after almost every Republican candidate danced the hootchie-koo in Vegas to try and gain the support of a single, skeevy casino gazillionnaire, the majority tells us that there is no “appearance of corruption” in this unless somebody gets caught putting a slot machine in the Lincoln Bedroom on behalf of Sheldon Adelson. Money talks. Big money repeats itself, over and over, age after age.

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/22904-focus-the-american-government-is-open-for-corruption

Milquetoast Liberal Religion Won’t Challenge Conservative Values: A History Lesson

By Sheila D. Collins, Religion Dispatches, March 24, 2014

Congress’s year-end slashing of food stamps and refusal to extend unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million people whose benefits were about to expire are just some of the latest examples of the heartless approach to poverty and unemployment that characterizes contemporary policy making. Not only have millions of the long-term unemployed started the New Year with no safety net, but many of those with full-time jobs earn less than the poverty level for a family of four (18 million people in 2012 or 17.5 percent of all full-time, year-round workers).

It was not always like this. There was a time in our history when the poor and unemployed experienced a more compassionate government. During the Great Depression the federal government not only provided safety nets in the form of relief, food aid, public housing, mortgage assistance, unemployment insurance, and farm aid, but more significantly, it undertook a series of job-creation programs that gave back to millions of unemployed workers and their families precisely what the Depression had taken from them—the opportunity to support themselves with dignity.

The jobs provided by the New Deal made it possible for them to put their broken lives back together again while they waited for the private economy to recover. Moreover, these jobs contributed invaluably to the building of the nation’s infrastructure, to the conservation and preservation of its natural resources, to its national culture and to the soul of its people.

So how is it that the 1930s approach to poverty and unemployment was such a far cry from the cruel indifference we see today? There are a number of reasons, among them the fact that when Roosevelt took office, conditions were far more desperate for a far larger segment of the population than they were when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. This was, ironically, thanks in part to the very reforms like unemployment and food stamps that the New Deal had established.

More importantly, however, the New Deal’s approach to economic distress was shaped by the kind of people Roosevelt appointed to deal with the crisis. These weren’t economic technocrats with Wall Street ties, like those appointed by contemporary presidents, but people who had come of age in the progressive era and who’d been imbued with the values of the Social Gospel. Many had direct experience working with the poor and unemployed in the urban settlement houses of the time.

Social Gospelers emphasized the ethical teachings of Jesus and sought the Kingdom of God through the transformation of the socioeconomic structures of society. Intensely critical of capitalism, they sought a more egalitarian and democratic society, some espousing one or another variant of socialism. By 1908 the Social Gospel movement had succeeded in penetrating the institutional structures of the churches with a “Social Creed” that was adopted by the mainline denominations.

Anticipating by three or four decades many of the reforms enacted in New Deal legislation, the Social Creed called for the alleviation of Sunday working hours, the abolition of child labor, a living wage, the negotiation and arbitration of labor disputes, social security for workers in old age, disability insurance, poverty reduction, and a fairer distribution of wealth. According to Gary Dorrien in Social Ethics in the Making (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), the Social Gospel movement, though often “sentimental, moralistic, idealistic and politically naïve,” nevertheless “produced a greater progressive religious legacy than any generation before or after it,” paving the way for everything else in social ethics.

Faced with mass unemployment, social workers-turned-government administrators like Harry Hopkins, head of Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and his assistant, Aubrey Williams, held the view that unemployment was caused by a lack of jobs, not by the failure of the unemployed to seek or accept work, which was the view (supported by the teaching of classical and neo-classical economists) on which the nation’s existing poor law system was based.

The belief that joblessness is the fault of the jobless has returned today in the assumption, shared by most Republicans, that the unemployed can be prodded into getting a job by the withdrawal of the “crutch” that extended unemployment insurance supposedly provides. Many liberal Democrats share a less pejorative variant of this belief, of course, attributing joblessness to a “skills mismatch,” lack of education and training, or the excessive demands of unions, all of which place the onus for unemployment on the victims instead of an economic system that fails to deliver enough jobs—in good times and bad.

Religious bodies follow suit. Instead of organizing their constituencies to reverse this assault on the poor and unemployed, they dole out charity. However well motivated, providing soup kitchens and homeless shelters can never meet all of the need; but more importantly, it doesn’t do anything to confront the psychological and moral devastation faced by those without the prospect of meaningful, self-supporting work.

Putting America to Work

The underlying logic of the New Deal was that society had an obligation to offer aid to persons denied the opportunity to be self-supporting. Hopkins, in particular, favored jobs programs over relief or “welfare,” although relief was to be available to those who couldn’t work. For New Dealers, the goal was to close the economy’s job gap, not to correct the supposed moral failings of jobless individuals or to put pressure on them to seek and accept work when there wasn’t any.

The most obvious strategy was to use public funds to create jobs, which the New Dealers did in two ways. The first was to increase federal funding for public works contracted with private companies. Over its seven-year life, the Public Works Administration (PWA) awarded contracts to build more than 70% of the nation’s new educational buildings, 65% of its courthouses, city halls, and sewage-disposal plants; 35% of its new public-health facilities; 10% of all of new roads, bridges, tunnels and subways, in addition to large dams, airports and recreational facilities. The first effort to provide affordable housing for the working poor was undertaken by the PWA.

The second approach was to establish public employment programs for needy workers in which the government itself acted as the employer. The creation of these new jobs then stimulated job creation in the private sector by increasing both consumer purchasing power and capital goods orders.

While conservatives frequently accused these programs of being useless “make-work,” a waste of taxpayers’ money, the reality is just the opposite. Useful work which would not otherwise have been done literally changed the face of the country and provided a lasting legacy. Workers built and repaired 1 million miles of roads and 200,000 public facilities—including schools, playgrounds, courthouses, parks and athletic fields, swimming pools, dams, bridges, and airports—drained malarial swamps, eradicated malaria, and exterminated rats in slums. They planted over 3 billion trees, essentially reforesting a country whose original forest cover had been decimated, taught farmers how to conserve soil after nearly one-sixth of the nation’s topsoil had blown away in the Dust Bowl, reseeded a large part of the Great Plains, restored wildlife and built a system of over 800 state and county parks.

They electrified an entire region of the country, bringing what had been America’s “Third World” up to 20th century standards. They created works of art, gave concerts, set up theaters throughout the country, ran nursery schools, served over 1.2 billion school lunches to needy children, gave immunizations, taught illiterate adults to read and write, conducted surveys of economic, social and geophysical conditions, collected forgotten pieces of the nation’s heritage like the slave narratives, and wrote state guidebooks—classics that are still in use, providing invaluable material for historians and writers. They sewed 383 million coats, overalls, dresses and other garments, and, using surplus cotton, made more than a million mattresses that were given to destitute families, as were the garments.

These work programs weren’t perfect. Enacted on an ad hoc basis they were temporary emergency measures—and the number of people they could employ was limited by political opposition and the fear of government deficits. Moreover, the racial and gender discrimination of the time, enforced by Southern Democratic control of key committee chairmanships, limited their capacity to reach everyone who needed work.

Nevertheless, beyond the material benefits to the nation, these programs brought hope, a sense of purpose and dignity, and a feeling of national unity and pride to millions of people who had been beaten down and deeply stressed. They were a manifestation, however limited, of the “Kingdom of God” the Social Gospelers had preached about, and they showed a nation steeped in an ideology of individualism that government could alleviate problems beyond the scope of the private sector.

Near the end of World War II, President Roosevelt, fresh from the experience of the Great Depression and having seen how economic desperation had led to fascism in Germany, called for an Economic Bill of Rights that began with the guarantee of what he subsequently referred to as the “paramount right”—the right to living-wage work that would “earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”

In addition, he called for the right to decent housing, adequate medical care, good education, adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, and freedom from unfair competition and monopoly power. Unfortunately, Roosevelt’s untimely death, the military industrial complex that emerged from the war, and the failure of organized liberals to place job creation at the top of the agenda doomed this proposal to failure.

The Rise of Timid Religion

By the end of the war, those who’d been inspired by the Social Gospel—those who’d seen poverty and unemployment up close—were no longer in charge of the government. In the liberal churches and seminaries the Social Gospel gave way to Christian realism and neo-orthodoxy with some liberals during the Cold War even turning to neoconservatism. With a private economy booming as a result of the new markets opened up by the Marshall Plan and deferred domestic demand, the specter of mass unemployment no longer loomed, though unemployment would continue to be a chronic problem.

Even in the boom years of the 1960s there were twice as many job-seekers as there were jobs. And despite the 1963 March on Washington which had called for “jobs and freedom” and Dr. King’s call for a “Poor Peoples’ Campaign,” with his death the moral traction for economic justice was aborted.

But did that moral traction have to die with King? Why, at this pivotal moment was there no prophetic religious movement to carry his banner forward? There may be several answers. Certainly, the assassinations, the political trials and the ongoing Vietnam War had a traumatizing effect on the nation. In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador, 2008) Naomi Klein wrote that when traumatizing events like these happen, capital rushes in to take advantage of the crisis to restructure the economy in favor of the radical free market. It was this period—the end of the 1960s and early 1970s—when the business community embarked on a war of ideas to take back the country from the “radicals” who had been undermining faith in the free market.

One of their targets for conversion was the country’s religious leadership. Using both the carrot (invitations to all-expenses paid weekend retreats where the values of laissez-faire were extolled) and the stick (the establishment of religious fronts like the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) among others that targeted liberals and progressives in the mainline denominations), they succeeded in both enabling the rise of a militantly political religious right and in weakening if not destroying whatever was left of the Social Gospel in the mainline denominations and their ecumenical bodies.

The liberal churches were ill-equipped to counter this assault on their values. Some time during the post-war dominance of the New Deal coalition they had given up the prophetic edge to a politics that sought accommodation within a liberal status quo. They would lobby the government on issues of “fairness,” seeking more funds for poverty alleviation or affordable housing, or, as they are doing today, for an extension of unemployment insurance or a raise in the minimum wage, but they dare not question the underlying structures that create poverty or homelessness or long-term unemployment. The more they were targeted by the Right for even these liberal aspirations, the more timid and uninspiring they became. In the liberal pews there is rarely a naming of the “principalities and powers” that now dominate our landscape. Is it any wonder that according to a recent Pew Research poll, millenials today have fewer attachments to traditional political or religious institutions than any other generation in the last quarter century?

With no movement like the Social Gospel to develop the ideas that could carry us into a new millennium and inspire young people with the idealism that the people, working through their government, could create a more humane social order, the stage was set for the triumph of the business counterrevolution with its ruthless privatizations, its wholesale destruction of democracy and the environment, and a return to the days of the Poor Law.

In the progressive era the banner for economic justice had been carried by the Social Gospel movement with its belief in the redemption of the sociopolitical order, a message inspiring enough to set the stage for some of the most significant reforms this nation has ever seen. We could use more of that alleged political naiveté today.

Sheila D. Collins is Professor of Political Science Emerita, William Paterson University and co-editor with Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg of When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal (Oxford University Press, 2013).  Her other books include Washington’s New Poor Law: Welfare Reform and the Roads Not Taken, 1935 to the Present (with Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, 2001); Let Them Eat Ketchup! The Politics of Poverty and Inequality (1996); Jobs for All: A Plan for the Revitalization of America (with Helen Lachs Ginsburg and Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, 1994); The Rainbow Challenge: The Jackson Campaign and the Future of U.S. Politics (1987); A Different Heaven and Earth: A Feminist Perspective on Religion (1974).

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/7486/milquetoast_liberal_religion_won_t_challenge_conservative_values__a_history_lesson