Photo: ‘New Deal’ in Art History
Obama ‘Labor Walks,’
Beaver County Style,
& Kucinich’s ‘New Deal’
By Randy Shannon
4th CD Progressive Democrats of America
Nearly 100 blue-collar union workers rose early this Saturday morning, Oct. 4, 2008 and headed for the IBEW hall in Vanport, Beaver County. Their union jackets and T-Shirts told the story: they were steelworkers, electrical workers, hospital workers and other trades, and their buttons, signs and bumper stickers on their pickups all had a common message: Vote for Barack Obama, Defeat John McCain.
This was organized labor moving into action, and it was impressive. As soon as you walked in the door, a half-dozen teams were working assembling hundreds of yard signs for Obama-Biden. The young Obama campaigners, stressed with doing last-minute voter registration, had been out of them for weeks. Now the problem was solved.
Don Siegel, International Vice President of the IBEW took the floor and addressed these union activists from the AFL-CIO and CTW locals in Beaver County who had gathered at Local 712 for the ‘Saturday Labor Walk.’
His message was clear and educational. We heard that union members have to approach this election in a determined, no-nonsense manner, just like organizing on the job or fighting for a union contract. This is about our livelihood, wages, and healthcare benefits. We can’t make progress at the bargaining table if we don’t work to elect politicians that support us. This year’s election is more important than ever because of the economy and Labor is backing the Democratic Party candidates, starting with the Obama-Biden ticket.
Frank Snyder, National AFL-CIO State Director for PA, also took the floor. He said that last Saturday morning nearly 1,100 union volunteers were knocking on doors in Pennsylvania. The goal for today was to mobilize 2,000 union activists. Union door-knocking is now going on a 6 day schedule in October.
Union members in Pennsylvania are going to receive several pieces of mail including a letter from their local union, phones calls, contacts on the job, and home visits to discuss the economic importance of electing Obama President. Snyder pointed out that Beaver County was key to Obama winning in Pennsylvania. He also pointed out that electing a Democratic Legislature was important for the 2010 redistricting of Congressional seats in PA. He also showed poll results that indicate that labor will probably knock out Republican Congressman Phil English in the Erie 3rd CD.
Snyder was also forthright on what some see as a touchy subject: racism. ‘There’s no ignoring it,’ he said. We know it’s out there, and we wish it wasn’t. We’re not going to solve this problem in the next 30 days, that’s for sure. But we can meet it squarely, insisting that some of those holding prejudice think very hard, set it aside, and vote their interests. Just patiently and clearly explain, over and over, they need to vote their interests,” as he patted his wallet pocket.
Our door to door walk was in the mostly white College Hill neighborhood of Beaver Falls next to conservative Geneva College. Most of the people we talked to were quite certain they were going to vote straight Democrat this election. Some said they supported Obama and their voting age kids do too. The results today were encouraging. If this union campaign keeps up, McCain will have to abandon Pennsylvania as he did in Michigan, another state where organized labor has hit the bricks.
Some real momentum is building in the labor movement around this election. It appears that the national leadership of the AFL-CIO sees a disaster ahead for working people if McCain is elected and implements his slash and burn agenda. Today’s turnout shows that the AFL-CIO leadership is working the phones.
I’m actually feeling confident enough to think about where this train is going after the Democratic Party sweeps this election. Watching the criminal financial elite bully the Congress into giving them our tax money, one can’t help but wonder where the political leadership is going to come from to confront this new power grab by the banks.
Its not surprising that a former mayor who fearlessly stopped the Cleveland banks from taking over the local electric power company has stepped up to the plate. His plan is one that will actually change the way things are going, not just address the ongoing symptoms.
Cong. Dennis Kucinich’s recovery plan addresses the root causes of this financial and economic crisis. And it incorporates elements of important legislation currently pending in Congress. HR 676, Medicare for All, is the first point. The second point is HR 6800 which provides a fully paid prescription drug benefit under Medicare. This should be passed next week.
Progressive Democrats of America, founded by Kucinich, Conyers, Tom Hayden, and others should study and promote this plan as our agenda for the first four years of the Obama administration. On the 75th Anniversary of the first New Deal this program is today’s New Deal. Progressives should organize a New Deal campaign to put this agenda before the public and work with local unions and community organizations to publicize this program. We should support the efforts of Congressman Kucinich and other progressive Congresspersons to make this program our negotiating position in the coming struggle for influence in the new Obama administration. If some of the momentum being unleashed today can continue rolling into the New Year, the door to real change may not swing shut again.
The New Deal
Kucinich’s Main Street Recovery Plan
1. Health Care for All: Insurance companies make money not providing health care. As the co-author of HR 676, a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system, Medicare for All, I understand millions of Americans want health care that is accessible and affordable.
Medicare for All will help businesses large and small, create jobs as well as save the jobs of thousands of people including those of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who are currently leaving medicine because it is run by the insurance companies. $1 in every 3 dollars of the $2.4 trillion spent annually in America for health care goes to the insurance companies. If we take that money ($800 billion in unproductive wasteful spending) and put it directly into care, we will have enough money to cover everyone. We are already paying for Medicare for all, but not receiving it. HR 676 changes that!
2. Prescription Drug Benefit for Seniors: HR 6800 is the MEDS Act, which provides a fully paid prescription drug benefit, under Medicare, for all seniors. I wrote this bill to help alleviate the economic pressure that comes from the high cost of prescription drugs. We can pay for it by letting the government negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies as well as by permitting re-importation.
3. Stop the Oil Companies’ Price Gouging: As you know, I was the first one to step up to challenge of the corrupt price gouging and market speculation of the oil companies by proposing a windfall profits tax, on oil and natural gas companies, with revenues put into tax credits for the purchase of fuel-efficient American-made cars. However, it may be that nationalization is the only way to put an end to the oil companies’ sharp practices.
4. Protecting the American Homestead: As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Oversight Subcommittee, I am working to protect your basic right to have a roof over your head, whether as an owner or renter. I have investigated and helped to expose the manipulation of mortgage markets, and I am crafting a new federal policy so that neighborhoods with the highest number of foreclosures get the most help.
5. Jobs for All: Congressman LaTourette and I have co-authored the bi-partisan New Deal-type jobs program, HR 3400, “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure.” It will create millions of good-paying new jobs rebuilding our roads, bridges, water systems and sewer systems.
6. American Manufacturing Policy: I am drafting the American Manufacturing Policy Act, which for the first time, will state that the maintenance of U.S. steel, automotive, and aerospace industries are vital to our national economic security and must be maintained through integrated public-private cooperation, new trade policies, and investment.
7. Works Green Administration: I am also drafting plans for a green New Deal jobs program, in which the government creates millions of jobs by incentivizing the design, engineering, manufacturing, distribution and maintenance of millions of wind and solar micro-technologies for millions of homes and businesses, dramatically lowering energy costs and reducing our dependence on oil.
8. Fair Trade: The U.S. has lost millions of good-paying jobs, and more jobs have been out-sourced. As you know, I have helped to lead the way in opposition to trade giveaways. I strongly urge repeal of NAFTA. We must include workers’ rights, human rights and environmental quality principles in all trade pacts. We must also protect the Great Lakes’ water resources from the reach of multi-national corporations.
9. Education for All: I know families need help with the rising cost of day care. That is why I introduced HR 4060, a universal pre-kindergarten program to ensure that all children ages 3-5 have access to full-day, quality day care.
10. Protecting Pensions: I am working to change bankruptcy laws so pensioners’ claims will be first, ahead of banks, and that corporate executives who misuse workers’ pension funds are subject to criminal penalties. I want to fully fund the Pension Benefit Guarantee Board.
11. Social Security: From my first moments in Congress, I have exposed Wall Street’s efforts to privatize Social Security and attacked it in the Democratic Caucus when it was being proposed. Can you imagine where seniors would be today if Social Security had been turned over to the stock market? Social Security is solid through 2032 without any changes.
12. Protect Bank Deposits: I will work to make sure the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has sufficient funds to provide for insurance of deposits up to $200,000 at all banks and savings and loans. This is an urgent matter since so many banks are said to be vulnerable.
13. Protect Investors: Bring back strong regulation to Wall Street. As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, I challenged the Wall Street hedge fund speculators as a threat to small investors. I intend to keep active watch over the machinations on Wall Street.
14. Strength through Peace: You’ll remember when I led the effort against the ill-conceived Iraq war, which has now cost more than 4,100 US soldiers’ lives, cost U.S. taxpayers between $3 trillion and $5 trillion, and resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. We must bring our troops home and end the war. We must engage in diplomacy. We must reduce the military budget, and we must stop outrageous cost overruns by the likes of Halliburton.
15. Safety in America: I am proud of my work for peace. In July 2001, I introduced a bill, which today is HR 808, that for the first time creates a comprehensive plan to deal with the issues of violence in American society, particularly domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, gang violence, gun violence, racial violence, and violence against gays by establishing a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and Restorative Justice. This proposal has sparked a national movement and when implemented will save tax payers millions of dollars.
16. Monetary Policy: It is long past the time that we looked at the implications of our debt based monetary system, the privatization of money created by the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, the banks fractional reserve system and our debt-based economic system. Unless we have dramatic reform of monetary policy, the entire economic system will continue to accelerate wealth upwards. I am currently working on drafting legislation for an ‘American Monetary Act’ to address these and other issues in order to protect the economic wellbeing of America.