The anti-choice movement is up in arms over my play, MOM BABY GOD, and I have a simple message for them: Bring it on. We’re not backing down.
Based on two years of immersive undercover research on the anti-choice movement, MOM BABY GOD explores the resurgent attack on reproductive rights and, especially, the student arm of the anti-choice movement. As firm believers that live theater can be an important tool for social change, the MOM BABY GOD team (myself, director Emma Weinstein and designer and production manager Allison Smartt), decided to take the show on tour across the country this fall to engage audiences in urgent conversations about the escalating attack on reproductive freedoms.
Little did we know, while we were on tour performing for enthusiastic crowds, Students for Life of America was busy plotting a smear campaign against the show. In an article in National Review attacking the show, Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins admitted that she sent a male Students for Life representative undercover to our sold-out New York City premiere, wearing state-of-the-art spy glasses to illegally film the show. Hawkins now claims that Students for Life won’t release the footage because it is “too vulgar to release to the general public.”
The show follows Jessica Beth Giffords, a 15-year-old girl who is equal parts Justin Bieber superfan and aspiring pro-life celebrity, as she attends the Students for Life of America Conference. Throughout the hour-long solo performance, Jessica interacts with six other characters based on real-life pro-life activists, from crisis pregnancy center directors to ministers to self-described “pro-life feminists”. We follow her as she absorbs the misinformation in an abstinence-only “sexual purity” workshop and struggles to contain her crush on a popular and flirtatious Christian boy who sports a purity ring. This sexual struggle and the notion that girls and women can embody sexual desire outside of the context of heterosexual marriage is precisely what Students for Life finds so vulgar.
I would argue that the only “vulgarity” in MOM BABY GOD is the very right-wing politics that Students for Life champions. And far from being an embellished send-up of the right-wing, I found no need in MOM BABY GOD to exaggerate the tactics and rhetoric I encountered within the anti-choice movement.
Since the 2011 congressional attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, I have been immersing myself in the anti-choice movement. Inspired by the NARAL investigations of crisis pregnancy centers and by theater that puts real people’s voices and stories onstage, I began to craft a solo show that asked the questions, “How, forty years after Roe v. Wade, have we lost so much ground?” And, of perhaps more importance, “What are we going to do to fight back?”
Going undercover in the anti-choice movement was the acting challenge of a lifetime. While I never assumed a fake identity, I bit my tongue too many times to count. At the Students for Life of America Conference, I interviewed a group of teenage boys who told me how hard it is to remain “sexually pure,” especially with so many cute, like-minded pro-life girls around. I got beers with “pro-life feminists” who assured me that sex is “way better” when you wait for your hot Christian husband. And I listened patiently, if with difficulty, as a young man earnestly explained the “science” behind why, in his words, “sex between two women doesn’t work.”
At a crisis pregnancy center fundraiser, I participated in a painful rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the babies “saved” by the CPC. And I had to contain my rage when, at the Youth Rally for Life, a prominent anti-choice activist referred to the crowd as “survivors” of a “Holocaust against the unborn,” co-opting the language of anti-rape activists and equating abortion clinics with Nazi death camps in the same breath.
This may be why Kristan Hawkins and anti-choice activists like her seem so afraid of MOM BABY GOD: It holds a mirror up to the anti-choice movement and exposes the sexist and sexually repressive nature of their politics. Even more threatening, MOM BABY GOD inspires audiences to fight back.
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In every city, audience members—from young women to my partner’s 52-year-old dad—signed up to become clinic escorts at area clinics. In our post-show discussions, clinic staff spoke about the scare tactics anti-choice activists use to harass women and staff members alike. Young queer people talked about how homophobic abstinence-only education prevented them from coming out.
Most significantly, people wanted to know what we could do to build a movement to counter anti-choice politics and fight for reproductive justice. In every discussion, I’ve made the same point: the first lesson we can learn from the anti-choice movement is that they have gained so much ground because they are the ones in the streets shaping public opinion. Just like the abortion rights activists of the 1970s who held public speak-outs to break the silence around abortion, we need to be in the streets today, shaping the conversation and changing hearts and minds.
The day after the National Review article was published, MOM BABY GOD opened booking for our West Coast Spring 2014 tour. Come see what the right-wing is so afraid of. Bring us to your campus and community. And join us as we take the anti-choice movement head-on and fight for reproductive justice for all.
Jessica Valenti explains why some companies are refusing to include birth control coverage in their insurance plans.
When I was senior editor at Crawdaddy—for most of the 1970s—I convinced Gil Scott-Heron to become an occasional columnist. He was well-known, in certain circles, for his “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and for a later cult hit “The Bottle” and excellent album Winter in America, but he was hardly a commercial superstar. Crawdaddy never cared about that and was always eager to promote any kind of lefty musician. Gil’s antinuclear epic “We Almost Lost Detroit” remains relevant to this day (I linked to it here after the Fukushima disaster).
And who can forget “Whitey on the Moon”?
I only met Gil a couple of times, including once backstage at a Central Park concert where I picked up a column (it seemed the only way I’d ever get it). But we chatted on the phone a few times and corresponded. He was a bright and engaging guy, and about to go a little more mainstream with his semi-hit song “Johannesburg.” Before its release, he wrote about it for me at Crawdaddy. It was based on his mid-1970s trip there, with Nelson Mandela a long way from being freed, and gave us the lyrics before the single came out.
“Hey brother have you heard the word—Johannesburg!” Brothers were “defying the man” and Gil hated “when the blood starts flowing” but he was “glad to see resistance growing.” And hey, weren’t some aspects of US ciites, such as Detroit, “like Johannesburg”? One of the great songs of the 1970s. R.I.P. Mandela—and Gil.
Douglas Foster eulogizes Nelson Mandela.
—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“If mayors ruled the world: a conversation with Benjamin Barber,” by Jonathan Derbyshire. Prospect, November 22, 2013.
This is an interview with Benjamin Barber, who imagines a world where “inefficient supra-national institutions” are displaced by a global system of networked urban centers. He argues that nation states are not only too massive to sustain “bottom-up citizenship, civil society and voluntary community,” but also too sovereign to competently address inter-dependent challenges like terrorism and climate change, and only a global cosmopolis led by a parliament of super mayors can lead us out of crisis. His explanation is a little muddled when he tries to explain whether there is an ideal size to which cities should grow, and his discussion of a “pragmatic, post-ideological” future induces horrible flashbacks to Obama’s first presidential campaign, but he is surely not the only thinker who feels our 17th century public institutions are too outdated to handle the challenges of the 21st.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
"STEM: Still No Shortage," by Freddie deBoer. Medium, November 27, 2013.
It's become a truism that the US needs to bulk up on STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—if we want to be the hale and vigorous superpower we once were. Freddie deBoer dispels the myth, showing that job prospects for STEM grads are actually quite slim, and that humanities majors have a better chance at employment. He points out the irony that the technologies lauded for employing STEM majors are in part responsible for the displacement of professional workers and increasing automation of production.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Girl trouble: we care about young women as symbols, not as people,” by Laurie Penny. New Statesman, November 30, 2013.
Every week I am inches away from picking Laurie Penny's column at the New Statesman as my article highlight. This time, the topic is young girls and self-esteem. A recent study by Girlguiding found that 87 percent of women ages 11-21 think they are judged more on their appearance than their ability. Penny argues that this should be expected in a society that is by-and-large addicted to treating women, young girls in particular, as symbols of sex, purity, ambition and so forth. "Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have," writes Penny.
In related news, Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny have been killing the female empowerment beat all week on Citizen Radio with their discussions of institutionalized sexism and men's rights activists. Jamie has his own uproarious rant on male privilege and how all men can and should be feminists.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Body Snatchers of Old New York,” by Bess Lovejoy. Lapham’s Quarterly, November 22, 2013.
The 1991 discovery of an African burial ground near Chambers Street provided crucial evidence of New York City’s role in the international slave trade. Yet the story goes much deeper: this unincorporated patch of land, where most of the city’s slaves were interred, was a favorite target of Columbia Medical students, who stole cadavers from local cemeteries under the cover of night to use in their anatomy classes. Bess Lovejoy recounts how this morally dubious practice provoked one of the city’s earliest race riots and led to the passage of the first US law banning grave-robbing. Her piece offers a fascinating portrait of post-Revolutionary New York.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
“On Why Struggles over Urban Space Matter: An Interview with David Harvey,” by Hiba Bou Akar and Nada Moumtaz. Jadaliyya, November 15, 2013.
Every urban dweller who pays rent or takes on credit card charges should read this interview with David Harvey in Jadaliyya. Though not an expert on every urban uprising in Cairo, Istanbul or Thailand, Harvey can paint in broader brushstrokes what the struggle to reclaim the right to the city may signal about social inequality and its manifestations in our city neighborhoods.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Two Gunshots On a Summer Night,” by Walt Bogdanich and Glenn Silber. The New York Times, November 23, 2013.
This is a classic piece of accountability journalism telling the story of what happened after two gunshots rang through the Florida night, leaving a police officer's girlfriend dead. The official verdict was that she had committed suicide with her boyfriend's gun, but the Times's investigation shows how the police bungled their inquiry and jumped to the conclusion that their colleague was innocent. They then stifled further investigation. Bogdanich and Silber go on to show how the problem of domestic violence in police departments is pervasive and all too often ignored as officers are unwilling to go after their own kind. This tale is a poignant reminder of how police departments must be submitted to the same scrutiny as other parts of society, as well as the pernicious role that domestic violence continues to play in the US today. it's also a reminder of how good journalism can bring these and other hidden abuses to light: Though they were stymied by a department whose officials refused to be interviewed, and by the sheer fact that most domestic violence is by its nature hard to identify, Bogdanich and Silber's thorough reporting, surveys and interviews all contribute something that could feel more academic than journalistic if it weren't such a pleasure to read.
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“US man marks 4 years in Cuban prison, writes Obama,” by Jessica Gresko. Associated Press, December 3, 2013.
Almost half a decade ago, American Alan Gross was subcontracted by the US government to establish a limited and—by local laws—illegal Internet network in Cuba. He was arrested as he tried to leave the country, and his network quickly rolled up. Over a decade ago several Cuban state security agents infiltrated Miami-based Cuban American organizations in response to the 1990s terrorist bombing campaign targeting hotels on the island that was done at the behest of extremist factions within the Cuban exile community. They too were arrested, as spies. Both Gross and the Cubans have admitted working as agents for their respective governments. As pressure in the US to find a solution to Alan Gross's imprisonment rises, a representative from the Cuban foreign ministry has proposed a quid pro quo: Gross for the remaining four Cubans in the US. Both Gross and the case of the "Cuban 5" have been major stumbling blocks for any possible détente under President Obama.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Mexican oil workers fear Pemex proposal,” by Stephanie McCrummen. The Washington Post, August 13, 2013.
Mexican President Peña Nieto is moving to pass legislation that will open the country’s oil sector to foreign investment for the first time since its nationalization in 1938. Since Pemex, the state’s oil company, lacks the capital to expand drilling operations and capture additional profit, Nieto’s energy reform is being billed as the only way forward. But foreign investment won’t address the problems that prevent Pemex from serving more than a small cadre of elites, and any form of privatization rightly remains deeply unpopular among those who labor on oil rigs and the Mexican people at large.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
"Land and Blood,” by Pankaj Mishra. The New Yorker, November 25, 2013.
This is a concise but nuanced account of Sino-Japanese relations and modern world history from the perspective and timeline of Asia, interlaced with a review of two books—two revisionist histories on the topic. In light of today's escalating disputes, Anglophone readers will find this piece informative.
My final Think Again column for a while is called “Is Obamacare the End of Liberalism? Not So Much.” I’ll be doing the column occasionally in the future but devoting myself primarily to larger projects in the future.
My latest Nation column is called “When Success Is Failure: Why It’s Hard to Make Sense of US Foreign Policy.” (On Perry Anderson's essay in New Left Review)
And here is the final, I sincerely hope, time I will ever have to write the word “Blumenthal”: Exchange over Eric and ‘Goliath’
I’ve been looking at coffee table books this week and my favorite is Rock and Roll Stories a collection of photographs by Lynn Goldsmith. I have her earlier collection, which is quite good, but this one is just beautifully produced (by Abrams) on good strong paper with terrific reproductions of some incredible work. (The PR copy describes “Bruce Springsteen's passage to glory, the Rolling Stones' legendary stadium tours, Michael Jackson's staggering ascent, U2's arrival in New York, and the brooding force of Bob Marley.” But really, almost everyone is here and while occasionally posed, the photos are often remarkably personal and revealing—especially in the case of a certain ex-boyfriend. I can’t imagine anyone who likes the music of this period who would not love this book, and it’s awfully well priced for its size, quality and sturdiness. I own some of Lynn’s work and this made me wish I had more.
The record company is celebrating a big birthday with a lovely and solid coffee table book, “Verve: The Sound of America” published by Thames & Hudson and a four cd box set. The book has 1,200 illustrations and some decent essays. It has all the covers of the albums but is arranged according to a scheme I could not quite figure out. As for the box set, I’ve got the music on mp3s but not the box itself. It’s pretty great stuff, of course, but it shows up on Itunes without identifying who the artist is, so that’s a real pain. The book is $75 but would make a great gift for anyone who likes jazz.
The same company, Thames & Hudson, has also published David Thomson’s book Moments That Made the Movies. The idea here is to focus on a series of moments in seventy-two films of particular significance and accompany them with wonderful stills representing those moments.Thomson has some crazy ideas—especially when it comes to politics--but this is a nice, fun book and he is smart even when he is wrong (except about politics, where he is not so smart). The moments include Eadweard Muybridge̓s pioneering photographs to sequences in films from the classic—Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, The Red Shoes—to the unexpected—The Piano Teacher, Burn After Reading.
I also got a box set called “Beatles Solo: The Illustrated Chronicles of John, Paul, George, and Ringo after the Beatle.” It’s four books covering the period after they broke up with a book devoted to each one. It’s a nice package, but the text, by Mojo’s Mat Snow is geared toward people who know nothing about the Beatles: which makes this an odd mix, since those people would probably want a Beatles book, not a box set about their solo years, but there it is. It’s published by Race Point Publishing and it’s pretty cheap, given the handsome (and solid) packaging.
Oh and last night I caught a performance by a young pianist with his (young) trio at the Jazz Gallery that may give me bragging rights someday. New Orleans born and bred Nick Sanders has been compared to Keith Jarrett by his mentor, the great Fred Hersh. Last night he played a series of original tunes (and one by Ornette Colman) that demonstrated both imagination and virtuosity, as well as some bravery. His first album, Nameless Neighbors, (Sunnyside) captures this potential and more than rewards repeated listening. He’s moved to Brooklyn and I expect he’ll be around long after most of us are gone, perhaps discovering his own Nick Sanders in the future.
What Third Way Reveals About the Beltway
by Reed Richardson
No organization showcases the contrived, corroded mindset of the permanent Washington establishment quite like Third Way does. A relic of a generation ago, when the Clinton White House was keen on shamefully co-opting conservative policies, the group’s centrism-for centrism’s-sake pose has not worn well. Now confronted with a radical House Republican caucus unwilling to accept anything short of unconditional political surrender, Democrats in Congress and the White House have (perhaps, finally) begun to seen the futility of pre-emptively abdicating workable liberal policy solutions in exchange for token bipartisanship. But despite Third Way’s increasing irrelevance on Capitol Hill, there still exists one powerful constituency in D.C. willing to push its commission-loving, entitlement-cutting message—the Beltway media.
Thus, when Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, Third Way’s president and senior vice president for policy, respectively, authored this Wall Street Journal op-ed ridiculing a perceived Democratic turn toward “liberal populism,” the grand poobahs of the Beltway establishment were quick to applaud. Just as Republicans are notorious for prescribing lower taxes as the salvation for every problem, Third Way’s reliable public policy mantra involves cutting benefits for Social Security,Medicare, and Medicaid. National Journal’s Ron Fournier, whose predictable endorsement of painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare is downright Pavlovian, characterized the op-ed as a thorough takedown of the “professional Left’s magical thinking.” Steve Forbes, erstwhile GOP presidential candidate and editor-in-chief of Wall Street-favorite Forbes magazine, approvingly cited the pair’s warnings against “economic populism.” And Mike Allen of Politico, whose D.C. insider status is surpassed only by his willingness to shill, summed up the op-ed as no less than a “game change” moment in the discourse.
Funny thing is, Fournier, Forbes, and Allen didn’t seem to notice when Third Way wrote essentially the same op-ed for the Washington Post back in June. Or for Politico in May. Or, again, for Politico in February. Or when the group banged on the same entitlement-cutting drum in op-eds at Reuters, Huffington Post, and—nailing the superfecta—twice more for Politico last year. In fact, staffers from Third Way have been given nine separate op-ed platforms in various DC-centric publications during the past 16 months. If you’re really bored, you can find them all here. But don’t bother reading them all, because after you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much exhausted the depth of their analysis.
Of course, writing lots of opinion pieces is key tactic that think tanks use to impact the Washington policy debate and a consistency in messaging is an effective method to drive one’s point home. But Third Way’s incessant repetition of the same scare-mongering anecdotes is telling. And its catechism of the same handful of ponderous statistics has a vacuous, almost cult- like air about it.
For example, compare a paragraph from this week’s Journal op-ed…
“In the 1960s, the federal government spent $3 on such investments for every $1 on entitlements. Today, the ratio is flipped. In 10 years, we will spend $5 on the three major entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) for every $1 on public investments.”
…with Cowan and Kessler’s op-ed in Politico back in May:
“In the mid-1960s, the federal government spent three dollars on investments — in education, research, and infrastructure — for every one dollar on entitlements. In 2023, it will spend one dollar on investments for every five dollars on entitlements. That means less money for teaching kids, curing diseases, and building roads.”
Peruse other Third Way op-eds and policy memos and you’ll soon see its obsession with this data point about entitlement and infrastructure ratios is endemic. What’s more, it’s deceptive.
What Third Way never points out is that entitlement spending in the mid-1960s would naturally be far lower than now because Medicare and Medicaid didn’t exist until 1965. Plus, cavalierly measuring spending between generations and across the budget in this way ignores the broad changes in the country’s social compact and how our national priorities have changed over time.
And the constant use of zero-sum framing strongly suggests a connection between the two, as if the only way to increase resources for one is at the expense of the other. (Hey, what’s this other exploding budget item here, something called “defense?”)
And lest you think, as most Americans do, that increasing the tax burden on the rich and corporations might be a fair way to strengthen entitlement funding, Third Way is here to disabuse you hippies of this “fantasy.” The group is especially not fond of the idea of lifting the cap on Social Security payroll taxes, even though doing so would make up 79% of Social Security’s projected shortfall in one fell swoop and almost exclusively impact the wealthiest Americans. No, Third Way warns that such a move would “break the Social Security contract” and require a drastic step like raising the top marginal tax rate to—Heaven forfend!—50%. What the group never seems to point out, however, is that in 1983, the last time Social Security was projected as fully solvent for the next 75 years, the top marginal tax rate was…50%.
Even the slight variations in Third Way’s rhetoric betray an intellectually narrow, one-size-fits-all approach. Usually these tweaks revolve around throwing elbows at liberals along the way. For example, in this week’s Journal op-ed, Cowan and Kessler almost effortlessly switch up their liberal boogeyman (and woman) from their Post version five months ago, to take aim a pair of unabashed liberal politicians. From the Journal:
“If you talk to leading progressives these days, you'll be sure to hear this message: The Democratic Party should embrace the economic populism of New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Such economic populism, they argue, should be the guiding star for Democrats heading into 2016. Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats.”
But five months ago, the trouble-makers who were sure to lead the country to ruin and the Democrats to electoral defeat came from another think tank:
“There is a rising chorus on the left, most recently articulated in an op-ed Monday by Neera Tanden and Michael Linden [“Deficits are not destiny”] of the Center for American Progress, that our fiscal conversation should be declared over and plans for meaningful entitlement reforms mothballed. These voices argue that we can have substantial new spending on public investments, a secure safety net, no middle-class tax increase — all without addressing entitlement spending.”
After awhile, the mushy sameness of Third Way op-eds begins to resemble an overripe compost heap—mostly just a big lump of stale talking points with a bit of new rhetoric peeled off and dropped in occasionally. Compare February’s op-ed in Politico:
“The median lifetime Medicare taxes paid by new retirees in 2030 will be $180,000; while the median paid benefit will be a staggering $664,000. Vastly more elderly, combined with steadily larger retiree benefits, and relatively fewer taxpayers to fund them create an untenable budget situation unless addressed.”
…to this week’s version, which merely adds a Warren twist and a throwaway demographic chaser:
“In 2030, a typical couple reaching the eligibility age of 65 will have paid $180,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes but will get back $664,000 in benefits. Given that this disparity will be completely unaffordable, Sen. Warren and her acolytes are irresponsibly pushing off budget decisions that will guarantee huge benefit cuts and further tax hikes for Gen Xers and Millennials in a few decades.”
Sometimes, different Third Way staffers don’t even bother to switch up the order of their hive-minded bullet points. For instance, Jim Kessler and Gabe Horwitz separately argued, in the days just before and after last year’s election, that Democrats should rush to cut entitlements now, because…Republicans will do it one day anyway, or something. From Politico last October…:
“Third, it is clear that something will need to be done at some point to fix entitlements and keep our spending levels within some reasonable limit. The only question is when. So we ask: Do we want to repair these programs under a president who cares deeply about the elderly, the sick and the vulnerable at a time when modest changes can achieve solvency? Or do we risk it by waiting for some future moment with a different president who may believe markets are sacrosanct, when solutions are necessarily draconian and& when Congress sees the best solution as privatization and vouchers?"
…and then from Reuters, two weeks later, also third on the list:
“Third, this is the best moment to deal with these pillars of the social safety net. Many on the left suggest we should wait to address Social Security and Medicare with a different president and Congress. Yet there’s nothing more risky for these two vital programs. Social Security and Medicare need fixing. The only question is whether it is done by a Democratic president and Senate who care deeply about these programs—or by future leaders who may envision privatization, vouchers or a pure benefits-cut solution to the problem.”
Don’t you see, dear voter, we Democrats care so deeply about your Social Security and Medicare benefits that we decided to cut them first. Nope, no way giving Republicans a talking point like that would ever backfire, no sirree. But in the chimerical, centrist world of the Beltway media, this kind of bone-headed thinking makes sense. Shared sacrifice, to the coddled DC press corps, means the poor, sick, and elderly need to give up more, even while Wall Street reaps record profits and its tax burden plunges to the lowest in decades.
But good luck hearing an honest assessment of how income inequality might impact entitlement policy from Third Way; its investment banker-packed board of trustees is almost a parody of Wall Street influence. To be fair, Third Way doesn’t pretend to offer much in the way of deeply-researched policy analysis. Right there on Third Way's “About Us” webpage it says:
“Unlike traditional think tanks, we do not house scholars who work in silos on academic research. Instead, we are built around policy teams that create high-impact written products and innovative trainings to influence today’s debates.”
I gather “trainings” is a euphemism for lobbying now. And while I can’t explain why a British magazine felt compelled to name Third Way its “2013 North American Think Tank of the Year,” I’d just note that its commendation cited Third Way as “making a real impact on debate in the center ground of American politics.” A dubious compliment that's akin to being named the top-rated arborist in the Sahara desert.
So if Third Way really doesn’t offer much besides run-of-the-mill Republican-lite boilerplate,why does it merit any media oxygen in the first place? The question, essentially, answers itself—Third Way’s corporate-heavy, economic austerity agenda dovetails with the likes of the Beltway media’s “pain caucus.” That an ineffectual advocacy outfit like Third Way can still command a healthy pick of establishment op-ed perches is no coincidence. In its 2012 tracking study of think-tank citations, media watchdog FAIR found centrist and conservative groups overwhelmingly dominated. Only two center-left—and no progressive groups—cracked the top 10. (And true to its word, the academically lightweight Third Way didn’t even make the list.)
In the end, the media establishment’s warm embrace of centrism austerity is symptomatic of a broader disconnect within our democracy. While the rest of the country struggles to achieve fairness and equality, inside Washington things seem just fine. But a Third Way-Beltway mindset means that our social compact is not just threatened by Republicans intent on fortifying the few at the expense of the many, but by a D.C. conventional wisdom more than willing to enable them.
Contact me directly at reedfrichardson (at) gmail dot com.
I’m on Twitter here—(at)reedfrich.
Editor's note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.
Read Eric Alterman's most recent column on foreign policy.
Correction: In the original version of this piece, I mistakenly attributed Omar Barghouti's words about academic freedom to Judith Butler. I came across the quote in Judith Butler's journal article "Israel/Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom." In the original, from Radical Philosophy, Barghouti's words are clearly set off to indicate that they are, in fact a quotation. In the version I read, at the European Graduation School website, that formatting is absent, making them seem as if Butler authored them. I regret the error and sincerely apologize to Butler. (Editor's Note: The text of this blog post has been changed to correct this error.)
Here is something confusing about the debate over the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel: its supporters, in general, have lesser expectations for its concrete impact than its opponents do. The people fighting for it also minimize it as largely symbolic.
On Wednesday, the ASA’s national council voted unanimously in favor of boycotting Israel. In an unusual move, the council then threw the question to the ASA’s approximately 5,000 members, who have until December 15 to vote. If it passes, the ASA will become the second significant American academic association to boycott Israel, after the Association for Asian American Studies, which joined the boycott in April. It will be a sign that the BDS movement, long far more influential in Europe than in the United States, is gaining a real foothold in American academia.
That’s likely to be alarming to many Israelis, even if they’re not particularly concerned with the opinions of radical American professors. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments in favor of BDS is the degree to which it seems to be shaking the Israeli establishment. As Haaretz editor in chief Aluf Benn wrote in June, “Netanyahu is worried about the growing international boycott against Israel….He hears warnings in the business community about the damage the diplomatic impasse is causing…. If he thought it was harmless noise, he would ignore or minimize the problem. But Netanyahu apparently fears being remembered as the leader during whose time Israel was distanced from the family of nations.”
Many in Israel were shocked earlier this year when Stephen Hawking, acceding to the boycotters, pulled out of Israel’s prestigious President’s Conference. Discussing the reaction of Israel’s leadership, former Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner wrote, “Behind closed doors they’re laughing at Kerry’s peace mission; they’re not laughing at Stephen Hawking or BDS, are they?”
So BDS appears to be working. But even if you believe, as I do, that the Israeli occupation is a great crime, the movement presents real ethical problems when it’s applied to academia. It’s repellant to contemplate Israeli professors being shut out of conferences or barred from journals for no reason other than their ethnicity, or forced to prove sufficient opposition to the occupation to be part of international intellectual life. Arguing against the resolution, New School History professor Claire Potter, who runs a blog called “Tenured Radical” at The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote, “Scholars of any nation ought to be free to travel, publish and collaborate across borders: I consider this to be a fundamental human right, and so does the United Nations. We in the American Studies Association cannot defend some of those human rights and disregard others.”
Some fervent backers of academic BDS reject this argument on the grounds Palestinians are denied their rights to travel and collaborate across borders; in this view, concern for the freedoms of Israeli scholars smacks of bourgeois privilege. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, has been blithely dismissive of academic freedom as a first principle: “The right to live, and freedom from subjugation and colonial rule, to name a few, must be of more import than academic freedom,” he wrote. “If the latter contributes in any way to suppression of the former, more fundamental rights, it must give way.”
This argument is alarming—who, one might ask, gets to decide when academic freedom must be jettisoned?—but it’s not the one that supporters of the ASA boycott are making. To be sure, they believe that they’re championing Palestinian academic freedom. But they also say that their boycott is narrowly drawn to apply only to collaboration with Israeli institutions, not individual professors, and so its impact on the academic freedom of Israeli intellectuals and the people who work with them will be negligible. “There is no limitation on Israeli scholars coming to give lectures or talks or engaging in any other kind of dialogue or project,” says national council member Sunaina Maira, a professor at UC Davis. “It is targeted at formal collaboration with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. Mere affiliation is not boycotted.”
What does that mean in practice? The boycott “bars the ASA as an organization from entering into partnerships with Israeli institutions,” says Matthew Frye Jacobson, a Yale professor and past president of the ASA, another national council member. “Not that there’s a whole lot of that that has ever gone on anyway, so in that sense it’s symbolic.” The boycott would also prohibit invitations to representatives of Israeli universities in their official capacity—in other words, deans and provosts speaking on their schools’ behalf—but, again, that’s not something that happened much, if at all, to begin with.
Still, there’s reason to think that, informally, the boycott will go further. On the ASA website, there’s a link to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which calls for institutional boycotts like the ASA’s to be broadly interpreted. Even if invitations or conversations with Israeli colleagues aren’t prohibited, it says, “[A]ll academic exchanges with Israeli academics do have the effect of normalizing Israel and its politics of occupation and apartheid. Academics could consider whether equally valuable contributions might not be made by non-Israeli colleagues; whether an invitation to a Palestinian intellectual might be preferable; whether the exchange is intellectually or pedagogically essential.”
This is ugly and stupid. One might just as easily make an argument for shunning Noam Chomsky on the ground that his employer, MIT, is a major defense contractor, making him in some ways a party to America’s manifold misdeeds in the Middle East.
So the boycott could turn into a de facto blacklist, though if it manages to contribute to a powerful movement against the Israeli occupation without discriminating against individual scholars, it could also be a force for good. One of the best arguments in favor of BDS in general comes from Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who wrote in July, “On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, [BDS] is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change…As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation, or at least don’t make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end.” But when it comes to the university, exacting that price has a price of its own.
Update, December 7, 2013, 5:30pm:After I posted this piece, I learned that Claire Potter had changed her position on the ASA resolution and voted yes. Reached by phone, she explained how the shift in her thinking came out. When she first expressed qualms about the academic boycott, she says, “The response was overwhelming. There were massive numbers of people, including a lot of people I know, just writing these nasty things on my blog about what a horrible person I was.”
As the debate about BDS and academic freedom has moved forward, she looked for a way to engage in it constructively, but increasingly felt like she couldn’t do so from outside. “The problem, when you hold to a position so rigidly, you yourself become part of the polarization,” she says. “I all of the sudden became a cause célèbre for all kinds of other people, when that is really not what I intended at all. I would like to have a conversation about academic freedom within this strategy.”
A couple of things convinced her that that was possible. First, the ASA National Council adapted the boycott resolution to make its commitment to academic freedom clearer. And then, rather than simply passing the resolution itself, it took the unusual step of putting it to a vote of the ASA membership, which struck her as an effort at compromise. “If there had been concessions on both sides and they had been able to come to a consensus around this vision, I felt like I should support them, because compromise is hard work.”
Essentially, she decided to give her colleagues the benefit of the doubt. “It has become clear to me that there is a shift in political concerns, that maybe I need to see how it works,” she says. “Everybody in BDS says this is not a restriction of academic freedom, that individuals will not be targeted. I’m going to take a leap of faith and say ok, lets see if this does in fact work out the way you say its going to work out.”
Elizabeth Segran writes about a recent groundswell of feminist sentiment throughout the Muslim world.
Nation national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about his film Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which was shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Oscar this week. Dirty Wars takes a critical look at the US targeted killing campaign in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia and beyond. Scahill also dismissed a plan announced by the Obama administration in July to narrow the scope of its killing program. “It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” Scahill said, arguing that Obama and his team have set a precedent of pre-emptive war for future presidents.
If Third Way is truly concerned about electing Democrats, they chose a strange fundraising firm to partner with.
When Third Way’s president and senior vice president of policy published a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week decrying the economic positions of Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren, namely, taxing the rich and expanding entitlement programs, their arguments rested on (weak) grounds that such ideas are bad for Democratic Party electoral prospects.
Earlier this week, TheNation.com obtained the latest disclosure forms for Third Way and reported that the think tank relies on a corporate lobbying firm called Peck, Madigan & Jones—a company featured by The Hill as among the “Top Lobbyists” of 2013—to raise more than half a million dollars a year. What makes Peck, Madigan & Jones such a top player on K Street?
Peck, Madigan & Jones’s largest client is the US Chamber of Commerce, a corporate trade group that represents large corporations like AIG, Bank of America and Dow Chemical. The Chamber, through its financial policy and legal affiliates, has paid Peck, Madigan & Jones $570,000 this year alone.
While the Third Way op-ed made a point of claiming that progressive economic policies wouldn’t play well with voters in Colorado, in 2008, their fundraisers’ client ran nasty attack ads against a Third Way leader in the state. When Third Way co-chair Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) first ran for the Senate, the US Chamber sponsored an advertisement against him on energy policy, declaring, “Every time he’s blocked American energy production, he’s made the tyrants and sheiks happy. But we’ve paid the price.”
Last year, Third Way co-chair Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) faced a barrage of attacks from the Chamber. One ad during the election last year instructed viewers, “Call Claire McCaskill. Tell her Missouri doesn’t need government-run health care. Support the repeal. We need jobs!” Watch it:
As The Huffington Post’s Luke Johnson reported, other Third Way co-chairs have commented on the growing controversy over the Wall Street Journal column. Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Ron Kind (D-WI)—all Third Way co-chairs—have distanced themselves from the arguments laid out in the piece.
We noted earlier this week that several Third Way trustees gave campaign money to Mitt Romney. But it might be even more problematic for the group that it has ties to the US Chamber, an organization that is dedicated to unseating Third Way leaders.
Peter Rothberg lists the top ten songs about Nelson Mandela.
On the same day that President Obama eloquently described his vision of an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps (SNAP), according to a source close to the negotiations.
“One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.”
Indeed it does, but the chairwoman consistently fails to get the memo.
There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72 percent are in families with children; and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line, and 55 percent to households below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 annually for a family of three).
Despite the fact that the Institute of Medicine demonstrated the inadequacy of the SNAP benefit allotment, and that a child’s access to food stamps has a positive impact on adult outcomes, the program was just cut by $5 billion on November 1. The average benefit dropped from $1.50 to $1.40 per meal. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s previous proposal to cut yet another $4 billion from SNAP would have led to 500,000 losing $90 per month in benefits, the equivalent of one week’s worth of meals.
“That was the first time in history that a Democratic-controlled Senate had even proposed cutting the SNAP program,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The willingness of some Senate Democrats to double new cuts to the program…is unthinkable.”
The president recognized in a very personal way the need for a SNAP program that protects families from severe hardship.
“When my father left and my mom hit hard times trying to raise my sister and me while she was going to school, this country helped make sure we didn’t go hungry,” he said.
In contrast, Berg tells of a mother he recently met who now sees this country turning away from her and her children.
“I recently met a mother of two, trying to advance herself and her family, by working her way through college,” said Berg. “After November 1st, she lost $46 worth of groceries a month, which equals at least thirty fewer meals for her family.”
It seems she and her kids are about to absorb another hit.
“These SNAP cuts will be devastating to families across the nation,” said Dr. Mariana Chilton, co-principal investigator of Children’s HealthWatch, a research organization analyzing the effects of economic conditions and public policy on children in emergency rooms and clinics around the country. “Not only will families lose significant SNAP dollars—which will make it harder for them to feed their kids and also reduce their children’s nutrient intakes—but it will also cause major health problems for children, increased hospitalizations for very young kids, and greater need for psychosocial and mental health services for school aged kids.”
President Obama perfectly captured what it means for this country to turn its back on children.
“The idea that a child may never be able to escape poverty because she lacks a decent education or healthcare, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action,” said President Obama.
We are the community, and it is offensive. Now is the time to tell the president: if these cuts land on his desk, he must veto the bill.
Update, December 7, 3:39pm: Senator Stabenow's office did not initially respond to a request for comment, but have replied to this post. Their statement:
Senator Stabenow strongly opposes any changes to food assistance that make cuts in benefits for people who need help putting food on the table for their families. She has been the number one defender against the House Republican proposal to cut food assistance by $40 billion, including rule changes that would throw four million people off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) altogether.
Unlike the House proposal, the Senate Farm Bill protects critical food assistance for the over 47 million Americans who need help. The Senate bill saves $4 billion solely through ending program misuse—like stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance, cracking down on retailer benefit trafficking, and curbing the misuse of a LIHEAP paper work policy by a small number of states. It is very important that we continue to maintain the integrity of these critical food assistance programs so that opponents cannot use rare examples of misuse as arguments for gutting assistance to children, families, seniors and disabled Americans.
While no final agreement has been reached, Senator Stabenow will not support any policies that arbitrarily remove people in need from SNAP or make across-the-board cuts to benefits. She will only support savings focused on program misuse.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Greg Kaufmann:
I think many anti-hunger advocates would disagree with the notion that the Chairwoman has been “the number one defender” against the draconian SNAP cuts proposed by House Republicans. Representatives Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, John Conyers, and Marcia Fudge come to mind, as does Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. They not only defend against Republican cuts, but also try to strengthen benefits at a time when nearly 50 million Americans aren’t necessarily sure where their next meal is coming from.
It is true that Senator Stabenow has spoken clearly in her opposition to the extreme cuts and rule changes in the House Republican proposal. But that’s hardly a reason to claim bragging rights—it would be like a WNBA player boasting that she can whup any Junior High School player in a game of one-on-one.
The statement that $4 billion (of the more than $8 billion in SNAP cuts agreed to in current negotiations) is found through cracking down on lottery winners, retailer benefit trafficking, and addressing “misuse” of the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) seems misleading. The amount of SNAP benefits misspent due to fraud by lottery winners and retailers is negligible, and of course everyone supports vigilance to protect the integrity of the program.
But the bulk of the $4 billion in cuts alluded to here—and the other $4 billion-plus agreed to in negotiations—is found through a change to the rule that currently allows families receiving SNAP assistance to qualify for additional benefits if they receive LIHEAP assistance to help with their utility bills. (If a state’s governor opts in to what is called the “heat and eat” program.) The heat and eat program—which boosts SNAP benefits for families receiving utility assistance—is based on the recognition that too many Americans are choosing between paying for food or paying for energy. Some states sign families up for $1 in heating assistance so that they then qualify for the additional food stamp benefits, decreasing the likelihood that they will face the “heat or eat” dilemma. According to Politico, the agreement between Senator Stabenow and Republican leaders would require $20 in LIHEAP assistance in order to receive additional SNAP benefits. That change would result in up to $8 billion in SNAP cuts. Currently, roughly 20 percent of eligible households receive LIHEAP, so there is little reason to believe that most states would step up to meet the $20 threshold for people who need it.
While Senator Stabenow might not be in a position to defend the $1 work around that helps get families the assistance they need, she surely is in a position to explain why both Democratic and Republican Governors alike are looking to obtain additional benefits for families that qualify for food stamps, and why we need to be increasing, not decreasing, those benefits.
The Chairwoman might remind the country that the average benefit is $1.40 per meal for an individual. She might point to the report by the Institute of Medicine that clearly describes the inadequacy of food stamp benefits: from the way a family’s net monthly income is calculated by using a standard shelter deduction capped at $478; to the assumption that low-wage workers with erratic schedules will have time to cook unprocessed ingredients from scratch, as well as access supermarkets that offer a variety of healthy foods at lower costs in urban and rural areas. The Chairwoman might tell America that the SNAP program assumes food prices are consistent no matter where one lives in the nation. She might point to the millions of families that include children with special health care needs—families not permitted to deduct their out-of-pocket health care costs to calculate their net income. She might draw attention to USDA testimony—all the way back in 1933—that the theoretical “Thrifty Food Plan” currently used in the SNAP program to determine a nutritious diet at minimal cost is for “restricted diets for emergency use,” and that “a reasonable measure of basic needs for a good diet… should be as high as the cost of the low-cost food plan” which would result in more generous food stamp benefit levels.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the staff asserts that the Senator “strongly opposes any changes to food assistance that make cuts in benefits for people who need help putting food on the table for their families.” But the fact is that the proposed changes would indeed cut benefits for people who need help putting food on the table. As the Food Research and Action Center writes, “Bottom line, elimination of ‘Heat and Eat’ means lost meals for elderly and disabled households.”
The Chairwoman is in a position to educate the country about how the SNAP program really works, and how it could and should be made better. If raising benefits through LIHEAP isn’t the right avenue, then she and her fellow-Democrats should suggest the myriad of reforms that would more accurately measure the existing need of hungry families in this country and would consequently raise their benefit levels.
The point isn’t that Republicans would never go for those reforms. The point is to speak the truth to the American people, shatter the myths and end the misinformation, and make the Republicans defend policies that are indefensible.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Joel Berg, executive director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger:
In the year 2000, as a private citizen on vacation time, I volunteered for a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan to help elect Debbie Stabenow to the United States Senate. That is why it is particularly painful to me that not only is she playing a key role in cutting nutrition assistance for struggling families, but she also is not being straightforward with the public about the impact of the policies she is promoting.
Virtually all advocates—myself included—agree with her efforts to stop lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance and to crack down on retailer benefit trafficking. But given how rare lottery winners and retailer fraud are, those changes are mostly cosmetic and have nothing to do with the more than $8 billion in nutrition cuts that she is proposing.
The third provision she is proposing—the one that would cut all the money—would eliminate a current feature of the SNAP program that now allows governors in 14 different states, of both political parties, to better combine home energy assistance with SNAP benefits in order to boost food aid to some of the hardest-hit families. Every single penny Senator Stabenow is proposing to take out of SNAP would come directly out of the grocery baskets of families that are very low-income and are currently eligible for the benefits.
It is important to again note that the $5 billion in SNAP cuts which went into effect on November 1 were also enabled by Senate Democrats. Senator Stabenow’s contention that she must advance massive additional cuts of more than $8 billion—as the only possible way to forestall even more massive cuts proposed by the GOP—is misleading as well. As Chair of the Agriculture Committee, she has it well within her power to propose a Farm Bill with no additional SNAP cuts whatsoever. The House Republicans have no legal ability to pass additional cuts unless the Senate Democrats and President Obama consent to such cuts. The Democrats should join together in scrapping this horrible bill that slashes food for struggling families while boosting corporate welfare, and instead start from scratch with a brand new farm bill that aids small to mid-sized family farmers, slashes hunger, and boosts rural economic development.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Dr. Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, Director, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Drexel University School of Public Health:
When Senate Ag leadership likens the cuts to SNAP as “savings” that curb “misuse of a LIHEAP paperwork policy,” we can see that they do not fully grasp the way that American families experience hunger and food insecurity.
Families don’t go hungry in a vacuum. Families make terrible tradeoffs- between paying for heat or paying to eat. The women of Witnesses to Hunger—who use their photography and stories to describe their experiences with hunger and poverty—can tell you that first hand. Jill Shaw, a Member of Witnesses to Hunger from Central Pennsylvania shows a picture of her stove, and writes: “I am a witnesses to hunger everyday. I am a witness to the disappointment in my children’s eyes when they tell me they are hungry and I tell them there’s no food. My stove is a source of heat more than it is a source for cooking food.” To learn more about housing and utilities and how they relate to hunger, just take a brief tour here of America’s reality in Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Camden NJ. If you want this in cold hard numbers instead of pictures and experiences, see our Children’s HealthWatch research.
Those of us on the ground: pediatricians, public health researchers, social services providers, and the true experts—those who know hunger and poverty first hand—recognize that the forward thinking states have attempted to prevent the worst of hunger and the worst of frigid mornings. The states that utilize the heat and eat provision, are actually improving our current income support systems, because they are calculating the amount of SNAP benefits needed when one considers the true cost of shelter. To learn more about this, check out the Congressional Research Service explanation.
This LIHEAP provision is a protection for families based in a cold hard reality: food insecurity is a form of hardship based on trading off costs of basic needs. It’s a smart work around that ought to be scaled up across the country, not slashed as a technical expediency. If there were really forward thinking change coming out of the Senate and House, the SNAP benefit calculation would be based on the true cost of shelter regardlessof whether or not a family receives LIHEAP. It’s a frigid wake-up indeed, to see these proposed cuts. Some have said that the House GOP is out of touch with low-income America, but sometimes it seems as if all of our leaders are out of touch.
Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this headline suggested that Stabenow was pushing for the cuts to food stamps.
Last week, Greg Kaufmann wrote about the need for a shared agenda to combat poverty.
Few, if any, of the towering figures of the twentieth century inspired as many people, or as many songs, as Nelson Mandela. Artists of all genres and stripes found different ways to pay tribute to Mandela, the architect of the ANC’s resistance strategy, as he served twenty-seven years in prison before emerging to lead his country into a peaceful transition to majority rule. As the world mourns the loss of Mandela, 95, here are ten of my favorites presented in tribute. Please use the comments field below to let me know what I missed. RIP.
1. Free Nelson Mandela, The Specials
2. Mandela (Bring Him Back Home), Hugh Masekela
3. Asimbonanga, Johnny Clegg
4. When You Come Back, Vusi Mahlasela
5. Nelson Mandela Song, Nomfusi & The Lucky Charms
6. Give Me Hope Joanna, Eddy Grant
7. Black President, Brenda Fassie
8. House of Exile, Lucky Dube
9. Sooner Than Later, Kent O’Shea
10. Number 46664, Bono, Joe Strummer and Dave Stewart
Fox Business, an affiliate of Fox News, has responded to the rise of worker protests across the country by inviting on a finance industry trader to trash them.
The network aired several segments this week designed to criticize efforts to raise the minimum wage. In one, guest Jonathan Hoenig made a range of strange and misinformed comments, including a declaration that “every prominent economist over many, many decades has agreed [that] the minimum wage is discrimination.”
In reality, more than 100 economists have called for raising the minimum wage to benefit workers. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz signed onto a letter last year arguing that “a minimum wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”
Hoenig then argued, “Only about 4 percent of people making the minimum wage are actually supporting a family full-time.” The Economic Policy Institute notes that over a quarter of those who would be affected by increasing the minimum wage are parents, and a third are married. Also, one in every five children in the United States has a parent who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase.
Finally, Hoenig said his opposition to increasing the minimum wage stems from his belief that doing so would prevent workers from becoming the CEO of McDonald’s and other fast-food chains. One has to wonder if Hoenig, a financial investment advisor based in Chicago, has ever bothered to meet with the McDonald’s workers in his city who are gainfully employed, yet, homeless.
Gabriel Thompson goes on NPR to discuss how Walmart is exploiting its warehouse workers.