Progressive Calendar 05.04.10
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Tue, 4 May 2010 13:15:11 -0700 (PDT)
           P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   05.04.10

1. Vandana Shive/CTV 5.04 5pm
2. Talk for free     5.04 6:30pm
3. Amnesty Intl      5.04 7pm StCloud MN
4. Labor/Hormel      5.04 7pm
5. RNC8 hearings     5.04-06

6. Alliant vigil     5.05 7am
7. Press access      5.05 11am
8. Housing fund      5.05 3pm

9. Josh Silver       - Obama FCC expected to abandon net neutrality
10. Nikolas Kozloff  - From Bush to Obama: the political might of BP
11. Anthony DiMaggio - Sacrificing education; Hooverian economics returns
12. ed               - Bumpersticker

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Vandana Shive/CTV 5.04 5pm

Stylin' St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm,
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow!  Households
with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 5/4 @ 5pm & midnight + Wed, 5/5, 10am
Dr. Vandana Shiva: Women and Water

World renown Indian physicist, ecologist, feminist, author and activist
Vandana Shiva speaks at the University of Minnesota about the intersection
of women and water rights. (part 1, filmed 3/25/10).


--------2 of 12--------

From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Talk for free 5.04 6:30pm

Conversational Salon   (Open Conversation)

This Tuesday we will have open conversation so everyone can get into the
act.  I may bring this article on the internet by Kathy Kelly and Don
Pearson, "Atrocities in Afghanistan:  A Troubling Timetable"  and also all
the comments made by people at the end of the article.  We can read the
short article and people can each read one of the comments and lets see
what happens.

Next week, THE Dave Bicking, from Minneapolis and x-member of the
Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority will be our guest.  Topic,
Police Brutality in Mpls. esp. and other things.

Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.


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From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 5.04 7pm StCloud MN

Saint Cloud Area Amnesty International meets on Tuesday, May 4th, from
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W. St. Germain,
Saint Cloud. For more information contact Jerry Dirks, 320-251-6491 or
jerry.dirks [at] gmail.com.


--------4 of 12--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Labor/Hormel 5.04 7pm

LABOR'S UNTOLD STORIES
Tuesday, May 4, 7 pm
UFCW 789 Hall, 266 Hardman Ave., South St. Paul*

In August 1985, workers went on strike at the Hormel plant in Austin,
Minnesota. A quarter-century later, get a perspective from two
participants in the strike, Dale Chichester and Pete Winkels, as well as
historian Peter Rachleff, author of /Hard-Pressed in the Heartland./
/Co-sponsored by UFCW 789/


--------5 of 12--------

From: info [at] rnc8.org
Subject: RNC8 hearings 5.04

May 3-6, 13, 14: May Evidentiary Hearings in St. Paul

May 3rd-6th, 13th & 14th, 9am-?? each day
Ramsey County Courthouse, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul
Lunch provided every day! Sunshine and rain locations TBA. Vegan and
gluten-free options will be available.

The first week of May marks new growth outdoors and new developments in
the RNC 8's case inside the courthouse. During these days, the lawyers for
the 8 will argue motions such as ones to suppress evidence seized during
the preemptive raids prior to the RNC, and the probable cause motion as a
part of evidentiary hearings that will include testimony from
witnesses-including cops.

These could be long days in court, so we're providing lunch for all
supporters each day to help us all get through the day. Vegan and
gluten-free options will be available. If you think you'll be in court,
email rnc8foodcourt [at] gmail.com to let us know so we can prepare enough food
for everyone. Wanna help prepare food or serve? Email us and let us know!

Carpools will be leaving at 8am sharp each day from Walker Church, 3104
16th Ave S. in Minneapolis.


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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at] circlevision.org>
Subject: Alliant vigil 5.05 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info: alliantACTION.org


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From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at] driscollgroup.com>
Subject: Press access 5.05 11am

TTT May 5: PRESS and PUBLIC ACCESS: Whats a Legit News Organization?
Should Public Panels Ever Be Closed?

Last year, it was the House of Representatives trying to block our own
Marty Owings and other online journalists, including The Uptake (a citizen
journalist video aggregator). This year, after leasing space in the
Capitol Press room area, The Uptake faced a competing news organization's
attempt to getting the Administration Department to cancel the lease. It
almost worked - and may yet.

This is all part of a nasty movement to excise news gatherers who fail to
fall in line with what must be called stodgy and cozy media relationships
with official sources. We and The Uptake and others defy that definition.

Moreover, new governmental attempts are under way to amend or circumvent
the Open Meeting Law, to close off public meetings to the public, this
time for meetings of ubiquitous task forces and advisory committees often
appointed to make recommendations to policymakers and administrators in
state and local governments. A few legislators are trying to turn it
around again - to be more, not less - open to you.  It's the cities and
counties, especially, who seem to think it's wise to keep public meetings
private.

Why does this phenomenon keep cropping up - the idea that meetings among
elected and appointed decision-makers and their advisers should be closed?
We want to know. We think you should know, too.  Transparency in
government - and every facet of it - is key to a well- run democracy.
Anything less becomes oligarchy.

TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN ask several of those who wish to
open up public processes - and some who want to close them - what it is
that drives this recurring need to keep scrutiny out of the boards and
commissions and advisory committees of Minnesota.

Can't Get Us Over the Air? Stream TTT LIVE HERE or LATER HERE

On-air guests:
 REP. MICHAEL PAYMAR (DFL-St. Paul) - Chair, House Public Safety Finance
Division; Author of Paymar Amendment to House File 2518 redefining public
body to include all advisory committees and task forces at all levels to
adhere to the Open Meeting Law.
 SEN. ANN REST (DFL-New Hope) - Chair, Senate State and Local Government
Operations and Oversight Committee; Sen. Rest authored the Senate
companion measure that passed the Senate with little fuss.
 MIKE MCINTEE - Editor/Reporter/President, The UPTAKE
 MARTY OWINGS - TTT/KFAI Capitol Correspondent; Editor, MN Capitol News
 INVITED: MARK ANFINSON - Attorney, Minnesota Newspaper Assn. ;plus City
and County association reps rushing to quash the Paymar Amendment when it
reaches the Senate.
AND YOU! Call us at 612-341-0980.


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From: Minnesota Housing Partnership <jjohnson [at] mhponline.org>
Subject: Housing fund 5.05 3pm

Give Lawmakers a Housing & Jobs Solution
During A Housing & Budget Crisis
Please Note the Changes in the Committee Hearings Below

It's been a tough session.

$10 million in bonds for public housing was line item vetoed. More than $4
million in funding for Minnesota Housing's budget is cut. Now there is a
proposal to penalize some residents of affordable housing with a $100
penalty. We are going backwards when the state is seeing unprecedented
numbers of foreclosures and homelessness. Faced with dire budget
circumstances, legislators are forced to make decisions they don't like.

A Housing Solution for Tough Times

We are offering legislators a creative solution to ensure that Minnesotans
have access to housing they can afford. The bill (HF 3725 - Marquart / SF
3304 - Cohen) increases funding for housing by $19-39 million annually
through an existing revenue source. If passed, this bill will anchor new
growth in revenues generated from mortgage registry and deed taxes
starting in 2012, when the market is projected to recover.

Let's Keep Winning

HF 3725 passed with bipartisan, unanimous support out of the House Housing
Policy and Finance and Public Health Finance two weeks ago. The bill,
originally scheduled to be heard in the House Capital Investment
Committee, has been canceled and is now scheduled for a hearing in the
Senate Economic Development and Housing Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Action Needed:
ATTEND Wednesday's 3:00 p.m. hearing to show legislators you support
funding for housing - funding which creates jobs, housing, and pays the
state back - during a time when we are seeing record numbers of
homelessness and foreclosures;

EMAIL legislators to support HF 3725 / SF 3304, a bill to increase funding
for housing programs through anchoring new growth in mortgage registry and
deed tax revenues starting in 2012.

Act Now


--------9 of 12--------

Obama FCC Expected to Abandon Net Neutrality, Universal Internet
by Josh Silver
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Huffington Post
Common Dreams

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the Federal Communications
Commission is expected to abandon its pledges to protect Net Neutrality
and to ensure universal, affordable broadband. The story cites anonymous
insiders confirming that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is "leaning
toward" siding with the most powerful phone and cable lobbyists on a
crucial decision: whether the FCC will have any authority to protect an
open Internet and make it available to all.

It is a testament to the phone and cable industry's overwhelming influence
that they seem to have convinced the nation's communications agency to
swear off authority to protect Americans' right to open communications.
But it is stunning that Genachowski would even contemplate allowing it to
stand, given President Obama's repeated pledge to ensure fast, affordable,
universal Internet broadband for every American.

So what's going on here?

In early April, a a federal appeals court ruled that, based on decisions
by the Bush-era FCC, the agency lacks the authority to regulate broadband
providers. In so doing, the court effectively handed control of the
Internet to companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon - allowing them to
slow down or block any website, any blog post, any tweet, any outreach by
a congressional campaign. The FCC no longer has the power to stop them.

Fortunately, the FCC does have the power to easily fix the problem by
"reclassifying" broadband under the law. All it would take is a vote by
its five commissioners - and Genachowski already has the votes. But so
far, he has done nothing, while proponents of Net Neutrality (the
principle that prevents providers from indiscriminately blocking or
slowing Internet content) have been watching and waiting with bated
breath.

If Genachowski gives up on restoring FCC authority, you can be sure he
will claim that Internet deployment remains the signature issue of his FCC
and that he can still accomplish the goals outlined in the FCC's recently
released National Broadband Plan.

But unless the FCC puts broadband under what's called "Title II" of the
Telecommunications Act, nearly every broadband-related decision the agency
makes from here forward will be aggressively challenged in court, and the
FCC will likely lose. The phone and cable companies know this, which is
why they're going all out to keep the FCC from fixing the problem.

The goals of the much-feted National Broadband Plan are to ensure all
Americans can get high-speed access to the open Internet - not a closed
version of the Internet that looks more like cable TV, where phone and
cable companies decide what moves fast or not at all.

Chairman Genachowski could stand up for the American people, and against
one of the biggest lobbying juggernauts in Washington, but it will take
courage. If he fails to stand with the public, it could mean the end of
the Internet as we know it. [And more yachts for the worthless bastards
who run America. -ed]

Before it's too late, we need to make sure the FCC knows the American
people are watching, and we will not sit quietly as the largest companies
destroy the open, democratic Internet.

 2010 Huffington Post
Josh Silver is the Executive Director of Free Press a national,
nonpartisan organization that he co-founded with Robert McChesney and John
Nichols in 2002 to engage citizens in media policy debates and create a
more democratic and diverse media system.

[One more part of the commons stolen by the "aristocracy". Why are they
rich? Because they STEAL. But with three-piece suits and Harvard accents.
In a parallel time, France in 1789, the people got tired ot it... -ed]


--------10 of 12--------

>From Bush to Obama
The Political Might of BP
By NIKOLAS KOZLOFF
CounterPunch
May 4, 2010

Judging from the oily history of the last ten years, reining in BP could
prove politically daunting.  A company with incredible economic might, BP
has enjoyed privileged access to the inner rungs of Washington power.
Only by ridding the political system of insider money can we hope to avert
future oil disasters like the devastating spill which hit the Gulf of
Mexico last week.

The perversion of U.S. democracy to serve oil interests like BP went into
high gear under former Vice President Dick Cheney.  Dallas-based
Halliburton, where Cheney worked prior to the 2000 election, made
equipment and chemicals used in oil drilling, and sold to producers
including BP even though Halliburton had no experience in the petroleum
industry.

Later during the 2000 election, BP exerted significant influence over
politics through its campaign contributions.  That is not too surprising
when you consider that in the late 1990s BP had acquired Amoco and
Atlantic Richfield, two companies which had been players on the U.S.
electoral scene and which had made political contributions.  According to
the Center for Responsive Politics, BP ranked fourth amongst oil and gas
company contributors in the 2000 elections, with donations totaling $1.1
million.  Two thirds of that amount went to the GOP.

Cheney was grateful and never forgot the favor: in early 2001 the Vice
President set up an Energy Task Force seeking to design a national energy
policy.  In a slap in the face to democracy, the Task Force was never open
to official public comment and kept all its deliberations secret from the
public.  At the time, the White House claimed that turning over its
records from the Task Force would impede its ability to get candid advice.

For years, Bush and Cheney successfully stonewalled attempts to shed light
on the inner workings of the Energy Task Force.  Indeed, the
administration won a Supreme Court ruling stipulating that the White House
would not have to reveal the records of industry executives who had met
with administration officials.  Finally, however, after four long years
the Washington Post obtained a list showing that oil company officials,
including BP, had met with Cheney aides at the White House.

The revelations caused a public furor on Capitol Hill and made BP look
derelict at best and deceitful at work.  During testimony at a November,
2005 hearing of the Senate's Energy and Commerce Committee, BP CEO Ross
Pillari told members that he didn't know if company representatives had
met with Task Force officials.

With BP now in the hot seat as a result of the Washington Post's
bombshell, New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg asked the
Justice Department to investigate whether CEOs had misled Congress.
Meanwhile, the Senate's Energy Committee Chairman, Republican Pete
Domenici of New Mexico, and Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico,
asked executives to clarify their responses.

Now feeling the heat, Pillari backtracked somewhat, remarking that he had
"looked into the matter and can advise you that BP representatives did
meet with staff members of the National Energy Policy Development Group
(Task Force) and provided them with comments on a range of energy policy
matters" including natural gas, liquefied natural gas, transportation
fuels and renewable energy.  Then, in a rhetorical flourish worthy of a
truly slick oil man, Pillari added that his response at the November
hearing "was and is a truthful answer as I was not personally involved in
energy policy issues at the time".

BP's discussions with the White House had real life consequences.  When
the Bush/Cheney White House finally came out with its National Energy
Policy, environmentalists were appalled.  Specifics of the plan included
expanded oil exploration in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, an expansion of
oil refinery sites and oil pipelines, and additional subsidies for the
fossil fuel industry funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Needless to say, there was no representation on the Task Force of
renewable energy or energy efficiency experts.  Brazenly, Bush defended
the Energy Task Force as simply business as usual.  "We listened to energy
companies, which seems to make sense," he said.  "If you're developing an
energy plan, one place to start is to listen to people who know something
about the business".

The culture of permissiveness in the White House fostered an incestuous
relationship between Cheney officials and BP.  Take, for example, the case
of native Alaskan Andrew Lundquist, a man who worked for both his state's
senators on Capitol Hill.  The Executive Director no less of Cheney's
Energy Task Force, Lundquist later oversaw efforts to spearhead energy
policy at the White House.

Then however Lundquist left government and opened a consulting business.
Nine months later, he became a lobbyist for companies that served to
benefit from the very same energy policy that he had helped to craft.
Lundquist's clients, which paid him more than $300,000 in 2003, included
BP.

Hoping to capitalize on public dissatisfaction with Cheney's energy
policy, Obama ran TV ads during campaign '08 claiming that Republican
rival John McCain was "in the pocket" of Big Oil.  At the time, Obama
commanded some moral authority on the issue of oil development.  As a
Senator, he had urged the EPA to mount a "comprehensive" review of
proposed air and construction permits for a BP refinery in Indiana.  In a
letter, Obama expressed concern that the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management had "set an aggressive timeline to issue a final
permit" for the refinery located about 20 miles southeast of Chicago.

As campaign '08 heated up, Obama made much political hay over the fact
that the McCain camp benefited from a flood of contributions from oil
executives after the Arizona Senator reversed his position on offshore
drilling.  Yet, peer beneath the rhetoric and Obama does not emerge as any
less oily.  Indeed, just prior to the election the Center for Responsive
Politics reported that BP had donated more money to Obama than McCain.

Then, when gas prices rose above $4 a gallon and calls for "drill, baby,
drill," increased, Obama vacillated.  Conservation and renewable energy
would be emphasized in an Obama White House, the candidate declared, but
he would also support some expansion of offshore oil drilling.

To be sure, once ensconced in office Obama crafted an energy policy which
sought to move away from the Bush era's emphasis on fossil fuels.  To his
credit, early on in his presidency Obama overturned a draft plan to allow
drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  At one point, Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar even remarked that the Bush administration "had
torpedoed" offshore renewable energy in favor of oil and natural gas.

There were ominous signs along the way, however.  Obama tapped Steven
Koonin, a former Chief Scientist for BP, to be Undersecretary of Science
at the U.S. Department of Energy.  Then, on April 1st, a mere few weeks
prior to the Gulf oil spill, Obama said he would open millions of acres
off the Southeastern and Alaskan coastlines to offshore oil exploration.
The announcement ended a decades-long moratorium on drilling off the East
Coast.  Included were 167 million acres from the northern tip of Delaware
to central Florida, millions more in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and about
130 million acres north of Alaska.  "Thousands of environmental activists
who supported Barack Obama for president are waking up this morning to
what must seem like a very big and not very funny April Fools' joke,"
remarked the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

During the Bush years, BP enjoyed an enormous degree of economic and
political power in Washington.  Though it appeared at first as if Obama
might change this fundamental equation, the young president failed to act
sufficiently.  Now, in the wake of the Gulf disaster, we shall see whether
Obama has the political courage to finally take on BP and the oil
companies while significantly ramping up alternative energy.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of the upcoming No Rain In the Amazon: How
South America.s Climate Change Affects The Entire Planet (Palgrave
Macmillan, April 2010). Visit his web site, http://www.nikolaskozloff.com/


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Sacrificing Education
The Return of Hooverian Economics
By ANTHONY DiMAGGIO
May 3, 2010
CP

Those celebrating the end of the recession may be in for a rude awakening,
as a deeper crisis may be right around the corner. While the economy grew
nationally by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2010, looming and quite
massive budget cuts being discussed at the state level threaten to derail
what limited recovery has taken place. The national unemployment rate is
at its highest point since the 1982-1983 recession; it represents the
second highest unemployment spell since the end of the Great Depression
more than 70 years ago. As of March 2010, unemployment stood at 9.7
percent, just .3 percent lower than the 10 percent high in October 2009,
and more than three percent higher than the unemployment level in October
2008, which stood at 6.6 percent. To make matters worse, national home
prices have dropped by nearly 4 percent during early 2010, while interest
and foreclosure rates are on the rise again.

Although long cast into the dustbin of history, Hooverian economics
appears to be making a major comeback in state and national politics. The
return of this long maligned model is disturbing, but not unexpected in a
country which has a collective memory of no longer than a few years. For
those who are unfamiliar, Hooverian economics refers to the do-nothing
approach to dealing with economic crises. It assumes that government is
always "part of the problem" when it comes to promoting the public good.
This most recent strain of Hooverian economics is accompanied by a
hypocritical promotion of massive corporate subsidies and bailouts, in
which a majority of Republicans (along with the former Bush
administration) endorse. As the theory goes, the best way to ensure
economic recovery is to get the government "out of the way" of the private
sector when it comes to "excessive" and "unneeded" regulations and
interference. But how is this approach related to the modern day electoral
politics of the Republican Party? One need do little more than look at the
rhetoric of national and state Republicans to find out.

As of last month, Illinois Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady
attacked current Democratic Governor Pat Quinn for his plan to increase
the income tax from three to four percent, lamenting: "the citizens of
Illinois are sick and tired of politicians who continue to dip into their
pockets". Brady railed against "out of control borrowing and spending" and
instead supported a plan to "make meaningful cuts to government
overspending" in light of the state's $13 billion deficit. Brady's
opposition to a tax increase has been nudged along by the reactionary
Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), which is calling for as much as $3.5
billion in cuts to the 2011 budget ($1.5 billion more than Quinn has
called for if he is unsuccessful in pushing a tax hike). IPI Chairman John
Tillman dismissed concerns about the soon to be unemployed, working poor,
and middle class who will inevitably be hurt by this plan, explaining that
"You've gotta' make tough choices". Such callous and elitist rhetoric is
eerily similar to and conceptually indistinguishable from Hoover's own
words, expressed more than 80 years ago, that "economic depression cannot
be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement" and that
"prosperity cannot be restored by raids upon the public treasury".

Hooverian dogmas are also evident at the national level, where
Congressional Republicans attack the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus
as an unwarranted government intrusion into the wondrous efficiency of the
"free market". John McCain lamented the Obama stimulus, instead supporting
a plan to further starve the states by "make[ing the Bush] tax cuts
permanent" and "reduce[ing] spending to get our budget in balance". House
Minority Leader John Boehner lambasted Obama for dooming future
generations with today's deficit spending: "at the end of the day, how
much debt are we going to pile on future generations?"

I hoped that we were beyond Hoover's brain dead economic philosophy, which
assumes that only "the market" can solve our problems at a time when the
nation's banks and major investment firms are still on the brink of
extinction, home foreclosures are again on the rise, and states are facing
crippling budget deficits due to rabid opposition to tax increases from
Republican and Democratic officials alike. The Hooverian experiment was
undertaken long ago and it was an abysmal failure. Sadly, few in the
corporate press have the courage to call out Hooverians for their
arrogance and incompetence today.

Keynesian spending has long been understood by most economists as the
primary means of pulling economies away from the precipice of total
collapse. For those unfamiliar with John Maynard Keynes' work, I'll
briefly summarize his major argument: during times of economic crisis,
national and state governments are forced to manufacture demand for
products and services since the private sector is either unable or
unwilling to do so (as we have so painfully seen over the last year and a
half). Stimulating public demand for products and services is financed
through short term borrowing and deficit increases - in order to keep the
economy running at a time when banks refuse to loan out cash and private
corporations are shedding workers in the millions so as to reduce
operating expenses and cut their losses. In such dire situations,
individual consumers are unwilling to increase their spending, as they
seek to conserve their cash in the case of a greater emergency. The
government, then, becomes the only actor able to provide a stimulus of
last resort.

While the virtues of Keynesian economics have been understood for decades,
right-wing government officials (along with centrist Democrats) have
undertaken a radical campaign to sell the public on cutting social
services as a solution to "balancing the budget". The Obama stimulus is
lambasted by high profile Republicans like John Boehner, who complains
that "taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth out of the
trillion-dollar 'stimulus' and struggling families and small businesses
are rightly asking 'where are the jobs?'" A simple answer to this question
is available for those who bother to read newspapers (Boehner and other
stimulus critics apparently don't). Jobs haven't been created despite
federal stimulus spending in the hundreds of billions of dollars, in large
part because states are using stimulus money to make up for their budget
shortfalls, rather than raising taxes to compensate for those shortfalls.
In short, stimulus money is being used to replace declining budget
revenues; by elementary logic, then, there can be no stimulus if federal
funds are simply filling in the holes that were already present in state
deficits.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), the $787
billion federal stimulus had the effect of subsidizing states that were in
the process of cutting their budgets and social services. As CEPR
estimates "state and local budget deficits to the tune of $100 billion a
year will offset the stimulative effect of the president's American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Stimulus dollars used to cover deficits
will have no stimulative effect". In at least 16 states, the General
Accounting Office (GAO) found that federal stimulus money (that went to
states for education spending) was being used to retain teachers who would
otherwise have been laid off: "overall, states reported using Recovery Act
funds to stabilize state budgets and to cope with fiscal stresses - the
funds helped them maintain staffing for existing programs and minimize or
avoid tax increases as well as reductions in services".

Without stimulus money, the economic decline in 2009 to 2010 would surely
have been far worse. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPR)
explains: "Because states also face legal requirements to balance their
budgets, they must enact program cuts [or] tax increases to close their
budget gaps". Budget cuts, CBPR concludes, "reduce demand for goods and
services, making a weak economy even weaker. Without federal funds, states
would have to take even more dramatic measures that, by reducing demand,
would cost jobs and make the recession even more severe". This last
sentence should be kept in mind when we discuss the future effects of
further state budget cuts. States are likely to worsen the recession if
they pass draconian budget reductions. While Democratic and Republican
officials promise that cutting spending will help balance the budget, the
effects will likely be the opposite, with budget revenues declining even
further due to large numbers of state and local employees being fired from
their jobs and contributions to state tax revenues declining further
because of the mass firings. This has already happened, with massive cuts
in the private sector leading to huge reductions in state budgets. Such
job losses will put additional strains on the public sector, and justify
additional pressures for another round of budget cuts and job losses. Such
practices create a cyclical process whereby budget cuts and further
economic deterioration become mutually reinforcing and contribute to a
greater downward spiral in reducing tax pools and increasing budget
deficits.

Noted economist Joseph Stiglitz is right to criticize officials in states
like Illinois, New York, and California (among the largest state economies
in the country) as "very foolish" for refusing to raise taxes, preferring
instead to downsize government services in a time of crisis. Stiglitz
estimates that state budget cuts will have "a negative stimulus of half
the magnitude of the positive stimulus that is coming out of Washington"
if they are left in place. Stiglitz should know - he spent years as the
chief economist of the International Monetary Fund - which specializes in
promoting neoliberal economic reforms that terminate government spending
in countries suffering during economic crisis. Such reforms have had
disastrous consequences, contributing to the crumbling of entire national
economies over night at a time when Keynesian spending would have greatly
helped those in need and stimulated economic stabilization and recovery.
One wouldn't know any of this, however, by listening to the rhetoric of
Republicans and Democrats today who celebrate the virtues of
non-government interference, while millions suffer under the economic
crisis.

Current suffering parallels that suffered by the unemployed, poor, and
homeless during the Great Depression. By 1932, and in light of years of
do-nothing Hooverian economics, U.S. unemployment had officially reached
nearly 25 percent, up from only a few percent prior to the stock market
crash. Thousands of Americans - homeless as a result of the depression and
the refusal of Hoover to intervene in favor of the working class and poor
- increasingly congregated in "Hoovervilles" - the label given to the
shanty towns that began to spring up around the country. While Hoover did
eventually implement a very limited public works program and increases tax
to try and help pay for it, the damage had already been done to a country
that suffered for three years under a government that consistently refused
to intervene to promote economic stability, recovery, and assistance to
the poor.

Many conservatives today criticize Obama's massive public works programs
(itself a classic manifestation of Keynesian spending) for failing to
bring the country out of crisis. Such attacks are highly deceptive and
propagandistic, and display a stupefying ignorance of historical facts.
Those who've studied the New Deal period (and its public works program)
are well aware of the fact that FDR's deficit spending contributed to a
major decline in unemployment from a high of nearly 25 percent in 1932 to
less than 15 percent by 1937. Of course, unemployment again rose to nearly
20 percent by 1938, primarily due FDR's own unfounded fears about the
dangers of deficit spending - which caused him to scale back on public
works spending and throw workers out of their jobs in mass. Upon seeing
the disastrous effects of efforts to "balance the budget" during a
depression, FDR promptly reversed course, reinstituting massive public
works spending, which eventually contributed to a decline in unemployment
to approximately 10 percent by 1941. In short, Keynesian deficit spending
helped reduce U.S. unemployment from a high of nearly 25 percent to about
10 percent over less than a decade. All this took place prior to the mass
economic mobilization resulting from wartime spending, which succeeded in
further reducing unemployment to negligible numbers by the end of the
Second World War.

Think tank policy wonks and affluent politicians naturally find it easy to
make the "tough choice" to support budget cuts when the costs are paid by
the less fortunate. And there are certainly tough times ahead of the
American public. As of March 2010, Illinois is already the 9th highest
state for unemployment in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Governor Quinn's own proposed cuts in the Illinois budget
(should his tax increase fail) will lead to an estimated 17,000 layoffs
for public school teachers and as many as 400 layoffs for state troopers.
Medicaid recipients' benefits will also be cut, as will be the
beneficiaries of the widely popular Kidcare program that provides health
care for needy children.

Higher education is already being lacerated across the country. In
Colorado, public colleges are bracing for a 10 percent cut in their
budgets - the equivalent of losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
In Illinois, universities and community colleges are owed more than $750
million by the state. Budget shortfalls are leading to talk of as much as
an 18 percent tuition hike in one year for students of some state
institutions, followed by increases in campus housing costs. At the
University of Illinois, Chicago, where I completed my Ph.D. course work,
there has been serious talk of firing virtually all the administrative
staff in the social science departments, while at Illinois State
University, where I've taught for years, departments are planning on
eliminating virtually all of their non-tenure track faculty, decreasing
course offerings, increasing tuition costs, and increasing class sizes.
Sacrificing a decent education, the IPI and state officials tell us, is
the price that must be paid for achieving "progress" under the "free
market" system.

A majority of economists supported some sort of government stimulus
package in 2009, and many felt the Obama stimulus should have been much
larger. According to USA Today, most economists feel that the federal
government should do more than it's already done to stimulate job growth.
The majority of Americans also supported the stimulus, with 53 percent in
favor and 36 percent opposed according to a January 2009 Gallup poll.
Contrary to the dogmas now spread by both the Democratic and Republican
parties, most Americans feel the amount of taxes they currently pay are
"fair". When asked about their policy priorities, 57 percent of Americans
favor the government "stimulating economic recovery" rather than "reducing
the deficit (CNN poll, December 2009)" - in blatant opposition to the
reactionary policies pursued by state Republicans and Democrats.
Similarly, large majorities of the public (more than 80 percent) favor
using federal funds to provide "unemployment insurance and health
insurance to people who have lost their jobs," "increased spending on
construction on federal roads and bridges," and "increased spending on
trains, buses and other forms of mass transit" despite official fear
mongering over deficit spending during a recession.

Unfortunately, state officials remain recalcitrant in their refusal to
consider tax hikes. They prefer to rely on propagandistic claims that the
public will not support tax increases - despite the obvious fact that the
public strongly supports Keynesian spending to stabilize a weak economy.
The public is not fueling the campaign to downsize government and social
welfare; rather, the current round of budget cuts are the product of a
bi-partisan neoliberal ideology that is contemptuous of social welfare
spending and opposed to increased taxation of the affluent in the name of
helping the poor. Democrats - although the legislative majority in the
state of Illinois - refused to consider a tax increase last year, and are
likely to do so again this year. Their contempt for Keynesian welfare
spending exceeds even that of Hoover himself, who eventually conceded that
some sort of tax increase would be necessary to promote economic recovery.

Conservatives complain that deficit spending is the equivalent of
"mortgaging away our children's futures". But what good is it to speak of
the future of our children when we're already flushing away their present?
What good is it to talk of "balanced budgets" in the future when families
today can't pay for their mortgages, utilities, car payments, or basic
necessities such as food, health care, or clothing? Republican and
Democratic concerns with "our children'.s futures" begin to look extremely
disingenuous in light of the desperation and suffering that are already
occurring - a misery in which they have literally no interest in
addressing. The notorious conservative Grover Norquist screams at the
government to "leave us alone" - presumably referring to the tiny segment
of the American public that still believes in libertarian "free market"
capitalism and opposes taxation by the national government. We can send a
message to Norquist and other neoliberal reactionaries in office by
pressuring our state leaders to abandon their support for mass budget
cuts. It's time for us to send out our own message: leave public education
alone, leave our health care programs in place, and stop throwing public
employees out of their jobs when they're at their most vulnerable. In
short, it's time for the neoliberal corporatists to "leave us alone!"

Anthony DiMaggio teaches American and Global Politics at Illinois State
University.  He is the author of Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008) and
the forthcoming When Media Goes to War (2010).  He can be reached at
adimagg [at] ilstu.edu


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