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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: joe manchin

GOP Senators Appear At USO Photo Op, Then Vote Down Vets Health Care

Oh, this is perfect. Immediately before they voted against health care for veterans affected by toxic exposure during their service, several Senate Republicans tweeted about how excited they were to join the USO to assemble care packages for members of the military.

Sens. Rick Scott, Mitt Romney, and Cindy Hyde-Smith all made care packages for the military for at least long enough for a photo op, then tweeted about how grateful they were for the opportunity, and how much they support the troops. Then they went and voted against the PACT Act, a bill that had passed the Senate 84-14 just weeks ago before coming back this week for a minor tweak. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (or PACT) Act extends health coverage for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers potentially caused by burn pits where millions of veterans were exposed to those toxins.

Republicans shifted against the PACT Act because Democrats announced a plan for a completely unrelated bill: the reconciliation deal with Sen. Joe Manchin to invest in clean energy and health care while raising some corporate taxes. That’s what it took for them to go from being so grateful to the USO for the opportunity to assemble care packages for service members to voting to deny health care to veterans for conditions related to their time in the military.


Comedian Jon Stewart, who has become a dedicated advocate for veterans, skewered Scott at a Thursday press conference.

“It’s beautiful,” Stewart said, dripping with sarcasm. “Did you get the package? I think it has M&M’s in it, and some cookies and some moist towelettes.”

“None of them care—except to tweet,” he added. “Boy, they’ll tweet it. Can’t wait to see what they come up with on Veterans Day, on Memorial Day. Well, this is the reality of it.”

“We’ve seen partisanship and games within Congress for years,” Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was quoted by NBC News. “But what is shocking is that so many senators would literally be willing to play with veterans’ lives so openly like this.

“They’re manufacturing reasons to vote against legislation that they literally voted for just last month,” Butler continued. “And so it’s really a new level of low.”

After they blocked the bill, some Senate Republicans celebrated with fist bumps and handshakes:


The PACT Act, if Republicans ever allow it to pass, will extend coverage to 3.5 million veterans.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos


Budget Bill Revives Biden Vow To Tax Wealthy And Corporations

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Joe Biden's campaign promise to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy as part of a battle against glaring income inequality in the United States got an unexpected boost on Wednesday.

Early proposals to increase tax rates from Biden and his fellow Democrats hit a brick wall in Congress after Republicans -- and some Democrats -- opposed them. But a sudden reversal by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a swing vote in the divided Senate, has given Biden's tax agenda a new lease on life.

The amount U.S. companies contribute to tax revenue that funds roads and schools has plummeted since the 1940s.

Biden has often said in office that companies should instead pay a "fair share," a contrast to deference to private markets begun by Republicans with former President Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, and buoyed by rounds of tax cuts and deregulation, by both parties.

The new compromise bill includes $430 billion in new spending on energy, electric vehicle tax credits and health insurance investments. It more than pays for itself by raising minimum taxes for big companies and enforcing existing tax laws, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Biden said during a speech on Thursday that the deal would "for the first time in a long time begin to restore fairness to the tax code - begin to restore fairness by making the largest corporations in America pay their fair share without any new taxes on people making under $400,000 a year."

The bill would impose a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with profits over $1 billion, raising $313 billion over a decade, they wrote. Companies could claim net operating losses and tax credits against the 15 percent.

The U.S. corporate tax rate dropped to 21 percent from 35 percent after a 2017 tax cut pushed by then-President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans, but many companies pay much less than that, and some of the largest pay no federal taxes, research groups including the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy have found.

Biden proposed raising that rate to 28 percent last year as part of an infrastructure spending bill, but the tax component was struck from the bill.

The new Manchin-Schumer bill also aims to close the so-called carried interest loophole, long a goal of Democrats.

Carried interest refers to a longstanding Wall Street tax break that let many private equity and hedge fund financiers pay the lower capital gains tax rate on much of their income, instead of the higher income tax rate paid by wage earners.

Eliminating the loophole would raise $14 billion, the senators say.

Schumer said he expected the Senate to vote on the legislation next week, to "lower prescription drug prices, tackle the climate crisis with urgency and vigor, ensure the wealthiest corporations and individuals pay their fair share in taxes, and reduce the deficit."

The Manchin-Schumer measure is substantially smaller than the multi-trillion-dollar spending bill Democrats had envisioned last year.

But it still represents a major advance for Biden's policy agenda ahead of midterm elections on Nov. 8 that could determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress.

It came just as Biden celebrated Senate passage of a bill aimed at boosting the U.S. semiconductor industry, another key priority of his administration, and as he struggles with low job approval ratings and ebbing support from his own party after a series of conservative Supreme Court rulings.

"This bill will reduce the deficit beyond the record-setting $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction we have already achieved this year, which will help fight inflation as well," Biden said in a statement.

"And we will pay for all of this by requiring big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, with no tax increases at all for families making under $400,000 a year," he said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Heather Timmons and Mark Porter)

Exclusive: Biden To Announce Executive Orders On Climate Crisis​​

By Jarrett Renshaw and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Joe Biden plans to announce new executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis on Wednesday during a trip to Somerset, Massachusetts, sources familiar with his plans told Reuters.

The announcement is unlikely to include the declaration of a climate emergency, which would enable the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of a wide range of renewable energy products and systems.

Senate Democrats and environmental groups have been calling for such a declaration in light of news that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was not ready to support key climate provisions in Congress.

A White House official said on Tuesday that Biden has made it clear that if the Senate did not act, he will. "We are considering all options and no decision has been made," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Biden campaigned on tough action on climate change in his presidential campaign and pledged in international climate negotiations to cut climate pollution by 50 percent by 2030 and reach 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.

But his climate agenda has been derailed by several major setbacks, including clinching enough congressional support to pass crucial climate and clean energy measures in a federal budget bill, record-setting gasoline prices and global energy market disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Supreme Court, in a decision issued earlier this month, also signaled that federal agencies cannot undertake major policy action on climate and other areas without express consent from Congress.

Democrats are discussing the path forward for major climate action on Capitol Hill today, said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Carper didn't answer a question about Biden declaring a climate emergency but said he thinks there are other issues the Senate could move forward on, including methane emission reduction and tax provisions for nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by David Morgan, Doina Chiacu and Nandita Bose; editing by Chris Gallagher, Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis)

The Coal Baron Killing Our Planet Is A United States Senator

President Joe Biden's goals to tackle climate change were shattered this week when Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic West Virginia coal baron, announced that he would not support Biden's proposed initiatives. Manchin's colleagues had hoped that he would agree to something – even modest policies that aimed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, lower greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable sources of energy, or enhance environmental protections.

Manchin's intimate ties to the declining coal industry – from which he personally rakes in millions of dollars per year – have long been a thorn in the side of the science-based progressive climate agenda. The Senate, being evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, has provided Manchin with the opportunity to seize and exploit rare swing vote power.

On Friday, after dragging Senate Democrats through lengthy negotiations that in hindsight appear to have not been in the best of faith, Manchin moved the goal posts, revealing to radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he wants to monitor inflation for another month (or more) before he reconsiders signing onto crucial climate legislation.

“I am where I have been — I would not put my staff through this, I would not put myself through this if I wasn’t sincere about trying to find a pathway forward to do something that’s good for our country,” Manchin said.

"Let’s wait until that comes out, so we know that we’re going down the path it won’t be inflammatory, to add more to inflation,” he continued, adding that “I want climate. I want an energy policy. I thought we were moving truly in the right direction.”

This coincided with search and rescue operations stemming from unusually severe storms that unleashed devastating floods and inundated wide swaths of Manchin's home state.

Nonetheless, numerous Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives blasted Manchin following his break from the party's priorities. Although there is a glimmer of hope that progress can be made when Congress returns from its summer recess in September, expectations are low.

“It’s been a really, really terrible day,” Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota told The New York Times. “If Senator Manchin wants a deal on climate and energy, he can have one in a heartbeat. This is Senator Manchin’s deal for the taking, and if it doesn’t happen, it is on him.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that Manchin “has shown that he doesn’t know how to close a deal — or he doesn’t want to close a deal — and that you can’t trust him.”

Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan remarked that “I can’t get blood from a stone" and that “I’m not in the Senate. They’re clearly having problems negotiating among themselves. And I will just — for my constituents — take what I can get.”

On Saturday, Doctor Leah Stokes, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, tore into Manchin in an editorial in The New York Times.

'With the fate of our planet hanging in the balance, his every utterance was of global significance. But his statements have been like a weather vane, blowing in every direction," Stokes wrote. "Manchin has wasted what little time this Congress had left to make real progress on the climate crisis."

This has put the president in a politically precarious position.

"Wary of upsetting the delicate negotiations, the Biden Administration has held back on using the full force of its executive authority on climate over the past 18 months, likely in hopes of securing legislation first," Stokes said.

"The stakes of delay could not be higher," she continued. "Last summer, while the climate negotiations dragged on, record-breaking heat waves killed hundreds of Americans. Hurricanes, wildfires and floods pummeled the country from coast to coast. Over the last 10 years, the largest climate and weather disasters have cost Americans more than a trillion dollars — far more than the Democrats had hoped to spend to stop the climate crisis. With each year we delay, the climate impacts keep growing. We do not have another month, let alone another year or decade, to wait."

Time, Stokes stressed, is rapidly running out.

"Democrats need to pass their reconciliation package this summer," she pointed out. While Manchin claims that “we’ve had good conversations, we’ve had good negotiations," Stokes noted that "this is doublespeak; he simply doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. He has consistently said one thing and done another."

In fact, Stokes explained, the Senate's "package would have built domestic manufacturing, supporting more than 750,000 climate jobs annually. It would have also fought inflation, helping to make energy bills more affordable for everyday Americans."

Manchin's intransigence, however, does not exist in a vacuum.

"Manchin has taken more money from the oil and gas industry than any other member of Congress — including every Republican — according to federal filings," Stokes highlighted.

The United States, meanwhile, is still the world's second-largest emitter of planet-warming gases. Its recommitment to the Paris Climate Accord – from which Donald Trump withdrew the country early in his presidency – means little if serious efforts are not undertaken to break away from oil.

Individual states – mostly led by Democrats – are pushing forward with their own approaches to greenifying their economies. But without a cohesive national plan, the outlook is grim, and one man – Joe Manchin – is hastening the descent into a very dark future.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its sixth report, which stated:

It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. Past and current development trends (past emissions, development and climate change) have not advanced global climate-resilient development (very high confidence). Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate-resilient development (high confidence). Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near-term (high confidence). These prospects are constrained by past development, emissions and climate change, and enabled by inclusive governance, adequate and appropriate human and technological resources, information, capacities and finance (high confidence).

Its conclusion was nothing short of apocalyptic and was unambiguous in its warnings about worsening destruction and ecological collapse:

The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. (very high confidence).

For now, though, the next steps are for the people to determine.

"Hold your children close tonight. Leave some water out for the birds. And make a plan to call your elected leaders to demand climate action, to rip out your fossil fuel furnace or to buy an e-bike. The climate crisis is getting worse, and Congress is one vote short of saving us," Stokes concluded. "We’re going to have to save ourselves."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Internet Slays Joe Manchin Over Dumb Comments That Fossil Fuels Can Produce Clean Energy

United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) on Wednesday claimed that oil can be used to generate clean power as the nation transitions to renewables sources of energy.

"For us to be strong, to be the superpower of the world, we should develop here in North America a North American energy alliance with Canada and basically Mexico and the United States as one continent basically that could be the energy hub," Manchin told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe.

"We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can make sure that we produce the cleanest resources basically from fossil but also be able to segue into a cleaner environment with the technology and investments that it'll take to transition," Manchin continued.

"I think we can do both, but we have to maintain. You can't do just one and not the other and think we're gonna be fine. And that's what we're running into – the conundrum here. We should be ramping up production," Manchin added. "We should be out there doing everything we can to maintain our independence but be able to backfill everywhere we can. And if we don't get Europe up and loaded for next winter, for the summer when they've depleted all their reserves, there's gonna be a big problem coming."

Manchin – a wealthy coal magnate who drives a Maserati and lives on a yacht while representing one of the poorest states in the country – is a lone voice among the Democratic Senate caucus when it comes to retrofitting the American energy grid to tackle climate change. He killed President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan in part because of its provisions that called for investments in renewables. Manchin also refuses to consider amending the filibuster, which Republicans used to obstruct the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Twitter blasted him for touting the very industry that is padding his pockets and poisoning our biosphere.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Press Predictions Of Biden's 'Doom' Are Just Clouds Of Donkey Dust

I’ve been bemused by what I’ve called the Cult of the Presidency since long before it became my job to write about it. To an awful lot of people, the President of the United States is held personally responsible for things he can’t do a blessed thing about, from the price of Cocoa Puffs to the mutation of viruses. And too rarely given credit for things he’s done right.

Given the onset of climate change, it won’t be long before we’re blaming the White House for the weather.

But hey, it comes with the territory. A person would have to be downright mad with ambition to want the job.

That said, I’ve always felt warmly toward Joe Biden, if for no other reason than his resemblance to my late father, another Irish guy with a great smile and a fondness for the word “malarkey.” He also favored the phrase “donkey dust,” basically “nonsense.”

Something else that comes with the presidency is the attention of the nation’s esteemed Washington press clique. To find a group more prone to insider gossip and groupthink, one would have to be transported back to a high school lunchroom.

By way of historical context, Eric Boehlert provides the following example of press clique conventional wisdom on his Press Run website: “A year into his presidency, President [Blank] faces a polarized nation and souring public assessments of his efforts to change Washington, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

The year was 2010, the president, Barack Obama. Pundits predicted that the Ebola virus would ravage the nation and Obamacare would enter a demographic death spiral. Neither happened. So, it’s best to keep things in perspective when CNN asks “Is Biden’s Presidency Doomed?”

Probably not.

That said, Covid continues to ravage the nation, affecting every aspect of American life from education to inflation—no thanks to red state Republicans’ conversion to a pro-virus death cult. Hospitals are overwhelmed with the sick and dying, and what are they upset about? Face masks, Dr. Fauci.

Then too, congressional Democrats and the White House wasted months pretending that a 51-50 advantage in the Senate would allow the passage of “Build Back Better”—sweeping legislation few voters understood.

Altogether elsewhere, Vladimir Putin appears determined to occupy Ukraine, driving a wedge between the US and our NATO allies.

Of the above crises, only the time and political capital wasted pursuing “progressive” daydreams can be laid at Biden’s feet. Not only was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVV) never going to give Bernie Sanders’s supporters what they wanted, his constituents don’t want him to. West Virginia voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 69 percent to 30 percent -- more than two to one.

“You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in politics,” the late Robert F. Kennedy told a friend of mine. “But you do need to be able to count.”

Biden wouldn’t be the first president to overrate his personal charm and persuasive skills. It’s been known to happen.

Left out of many negative assessments of Biden’s first year, however, was the extraordinary success of his economic policies. Thanks in large part to the fiscal stimulus plan he signed into law last March, unemployment has declined to 3.9 percent, almost where it was pre-Covid.

Since Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. economy has generated more than six million new jobs — an extraordinary achievement. Workers’ wages have risen as well. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about high gasoline prices and seven percent inflation, both outside the president’s control, and both likely to be brought under control after Covid recedes, the president’s economic record could hardly be stronger.

That said, yes Biden’s polling numbers fell considerably beginning in August 2021, in seeming reaction to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Not that anybody wants to go back.) But that hardly makes him an outlier, notes Tim Noah in The New Republic: “That also happened to Trump, Obama, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter.”

In short, the post-honeymoon phase of the presidency tends to be rough on everybody. Noah also notes that Washington media gossip has little bearing on a president’s political success: “Time famously pronounced Clinton ‘The Incredible Shrinking President’ on a June 1993 cover.”

Three years later, Clinton was re-elected easily despite the press clique’s obsession with the make-believe “Whitewater” scandal.

George W. Bush was saved from sinking polls during his first year by the surge in patriotism following the 9/11 terror attacks, only to plunge to historic lows after his disastrous Iraq invasion. In case you’ve forgotten, the Washington media led cheers, dressed up in fatigues, and followed the troops into battle.

Chances are Joe Biden hasn’t yet encountered whatever it is that will determine his administration’s place in history. But it’s clear that poll numbers won’t define it. Those fall under the heading of what my father would have called “donkey dust.”

'He's A Threat To The Globe': Coal-Loving Joe Manchin Faces Planet-Wide Backlash

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is facing global backlash for his repeated efforts to block legislation that would help combat the climate crisis.

While it's no secret that the centrist lawmaker has become an outcast within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, he is now facing international criticism from climate advocacy groups around the world, according to The Guardian. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, recently slammed the lawmaker describing him as "a threat to the globe."

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Huq. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. The level of knowledge of American politics here is absolutely amazing, we know about the filibuster and the Senate and so on.

“What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately," Huq added.

Tina Stege, who works as a climate representative for the Marshall Islands, a Pacific area that faces the danger of being destroyed in the event of a climate disaster, is urging the United States to take "immediate action."

“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Stege. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”

Some of the United States' closest allies have also expressed concern as Manchin continues to stall the passing of critical legislation. In Canada, Catherine McKenna, an environmental minister for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, explained how they have watched the political battle unfold from afar in hopes that lawmakers can strike a deal in the near future.

"Biden has done a fair bit in very challenging circumstances [but] in Canada we look on with bewilderment because it’s such a different political context. It’s very bizarre,” said McKenna, who served in Trudeau’s government when it introduced carbon pricing in 2019. “Politics is hard but I don’t think anyone has given up. We just really hope they are able to get a deal.”

Despite the calls for action, Manchin is still pushing back against proposed legislation to stave off the impacts of climate change.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

West Virginia Steelworkers Accuse Manchin Of 'Turning His Back' On Them

Ed Barnette long ago realized that affordable child care and paid sick leave, among other resources, would be essential to helping West Virginians build better lives and save what’s left of the middle class.

He just never expected that when America was finally on the cusp of providing these essentials, West Virginia’s Democratic senator would join pro-corporate Republicans in blocking the way.

But that’s exactly what happened. In thwarting the Build Back Better legislation, Senator Joe Manchin turned his back on the working families whose support catapulted him to power in the first place.

“It’s almost like he forgot where his roots are,” fumed Barnette, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 5668, which represents hundreds of workers at the Constellium plant in Ravenswood, West Virginia. “He comes from a blue-collar state. When you say ‘West Virginia,’ the first thing you picture is a worker with a hard hat.”

“Surely, he won’t do it,” Barnette recalled saying to himself in the days before Manchin decided to withhold his vote and block the bill. “He did, and I just thought, ‘Damn it! You’re supposed to be working for us.’”

Barnette rejoiced last fall when Congress passed a historic, $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Like other states, West Virginia urgently needs improvements to its roads and bridges, schools and airports, energy systems, locks and dams, and communications networks.

But Barnette understands that the infrastructure legislation will have the biggest impact—and create the greatest number of manufacturing and construction jobs—only in conjunction with the $2 trillion Build Back Better bill.

Build Back Better would provide access to affordable child care and pave the way for more parents, especially more single parents, to enter the workforce. It would ensure workers receive up to four weeks of paid family medical leave, so they could battle life’s challenges while continuing to support their families.

And it would provide universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, putting all of America’s children on the road to productive lives.

“It will do nothing but help the working people and middle class of West Virginia,” said Barnette, citing West Virginia’s high poverty rate and population loss.

Just as important, Build Back Better would boost funding at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), positioning the agency to better address safety risks workers face every day as well as crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other enhancements, the additional resources would enable the agency to hire more inspectors so the agency can investigate additional complaints, develop new safety standards and save lives.

Build Back Better also would increase the penalties that employers face for violations, making them more likely to address hazards proactively. The current low penalties merely encourage corporations to risk workers’ lives.

“I definitely think we need a stronger OSHA,” Barnette said. “It’s the difference between life and death with some employers.”

In addition, the legislation would incentivize the development of emerging industries, like clean energy and electric vehicle production, that would help to revitalize American manufacturing, create good-paying jobs and better position the nation to lead the world economy.

Whether it’s assembling electric vehicles, making batteries or manufacturing the components for solar panels, West Virginia has union workers with the work ethic and enthusiasm to get these industries up and running, noted Dallas Elswick, a former chemical worker and USW member from Nitro, West Virginia.

"The union workers made this country,” Elswick said. “Everybody knows that. And there’s a need for development here. There’s a big need.”

The House passed Build Back Better in November. The bill needed the support of all 48 Democrats and two Independents to pass the Senate, so President Joe Biden and congressional leaders worked tirelessly to get Manchin on board.

Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate majority leader, repeatedly spoke with him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked with him, too.

Biden spoke with Manchin by phone and had him over to the White House. Biden also went so far as to host Manchin at his Delaware home to talk through the transformative nature of the bill, even though the legislation’s potential to level the playing field for working Americans is clear for all to see.

He abandoned single parents, unable to afford child care, to poverty. He threw seniors, struggling to pay for prescriptions and health care, under the bus. He slammed the door on workers eager for new industries and jobs.

Barnette and Elswick are among millions in West Virginia and around the country calling on Manchin to do the right thing and embrace Build Back Better.

“We may not get an opportunity to do this ever again,” Elswick said of the sweeping changes offered by Build Back Better. “For him to do what he did is unbelievable.”

Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.T