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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Over the last 37 years, the top 10 percent of all Americans saw their incomes rise by 115 percent and the top 1 percent saw an incredible rise of 198 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom half of all American earners not only failed to see any gain at all, their incomes actually declined by 1 percent from 1978 to 2015, according to research by Thomas Piketty and co-researchers.

Declining income brings with it a host of related social problems. As localities are starved for revenues, public safety and the sense of community deteriorate. The social fabric of decent living is imperiled.

Extreme inequality and related social deterioration fueled both the Sanders and the Trump revolts. While Sanders offered concrete plans to reverse it, Trump and the Republicans are sure to make it worse.

The Inevitability of Rising Inequality?

Politicians and pundits alike have convinced themselves that rising inequality is an economic act of God. They repeatedly point to new technology, automation, and competitive globalization as the root causes of rising inequality. They claim that these blind forces turn the well-educated into winners, while the less educated are left behind. These inevitable forces are so powerful in our free market economy, that it would be impossible, and therefore foolish to intervene directly.

Such a self-justifying story! So soothing for well-to-do! And oh so wrong.

The new Piketty study provides a clear-cut example that shows runaway inequality is not inevitable: France.

The French economy is as modern as ours. It is even more exposed to the global market place: Exports in France account for 30 percent of its GDP compared to only 12.6 percent for the U.S. Because it must compete even more rigorously, France must use the highest levels of technology and automation. So if competitive global markets, new technology, and automation cause rising inequality, then France should be its poster child.

It is not.

Inequality is far less extreme in France. The bottom 50 percent saw their incomes grow by 39 percent from 1978-2015. The incomes of the top 10 percent grew by 44 percent and the top 1 percent by 67 percent—unequal still, but nowhere near as lopsided as in the U.S.

Viva la Difference?

Social and economic policies, not blind market forces, determine the degree of inequality. Here are a few obvious differences:

  • France has universal health care—we don’t.

  • France has far stronger labor protections—U.S. workers are far more vulnerable to layoffs, with the Republicans now seeking to cripple unions still further.

  • France has more progressive income taxes—the Republicans want to lower them for the rich.

  • Higher education is virtually free in France—here we put students and families deeply into debt.

  • Financial institutions are more constrained in France—in America, Wall Street dominates the economy and politics.

The financialization of our economy—more aptly called financial strip-mining—is the most powerful driver of runaway inequality. This is the direct result of the failed neo-liberal policies that erroneously claim cutting regulations always makes the economy run better.

In the case of finance the picture is crystal-clear. When we had our foot on the neck of Wall Street (from the New Deal to the late 1970s) the economy became more egalitarian with real wage increases for working people of all kinds. But after deregulation of Wall Street activities—legalization of stock buybacks, end of Glass Steagall, prohibition of regulating derivatives, etc.—U.S. inequality soared.

As the Piketty study puts it, “We observe a complete collapse of the bottom 50% income share in the U.S. between 1978 and 2015, from 20% to 12% of total income, while the top 1% income share rose from 11% to 20%”

The Undoing of Trump?

Trump seized basic working-class issues away from Clinton and the Democrats—little wonder given their ties to Wall Street. But the Obama/Sanders voters who turned to Trump (and there are millions of them) expect Trump to improve working-class incomes. After several weeks of utter chaos, it is safe to say that Trump won’t do anything of the sort.

  • Rather than reduce the power of Wall Street, he has welcomed into his administration a large cohort of big-time financiers.

  • Their first collective move is to kill as many financial regulations as possible.

  • The Republicans want to shift more money to the rich with so-called “tax reforms” and through anti-union legislation.

  • The replacement of Obamacare, whatever that may turn out to be, is certain to harm lower-income people even more, unless the rest of us intervene in a big way.

From Resist to Reversing Runaway Inequality

The good news is that millions are taking to the streets, organizing meetings, challenging their congressional representatives, and in general raising hell. Except for a handful, however, most of these actions are aimed at protecting the status quo from an impetuous, childish autocrat. Without question the resistance must continue, especially to protect the most vulnerable—immigrants, low-income women in need of Planned Parenthood, Medicaid recipients, etc.

However, we are unlikely to win back Obama-to-Sanders-to-Trump voters until we rekindle the spirit of Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders campaign. The social democratic platform Sanders put forth attacked runaway inequality. That kind of agenda needs to become part of the work of Indivisible and the thousands of groups that are holding town meetings all over the country.

A New Movement

To reach the Obama-to-Sanders-to-Trump voters we need to organize a new set of protests and a clear set of pro-active demands. It’s not just about what we don’t want Trump to do, it’s about what we really want to see changed.

Would people show up for protests around this agenda: A Wall Street speculation tax, free higher education, Medicare for All, a $15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage, and tackling climate change?

We can’t get from resist to reversing runaway inequality until we launch an educational process to spread the word. We need thousands of educators to reach out to the Obama-to-Sanders-to-Trump voters who really are seeking to reverse runaway inequality.

Armed with facts—not alternate facts—we can build the foundation for a new movement to take back our country both from Trump and from the financial strip-miners.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure for a new anti-Wall Street movement.

IMAGE: mSeattle / Flickr

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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