So Jeb Bush thinks Americans just aren’t working hard enough. In a recent newspaper interview, the GOP presidential candidate, former Florida governor, and silver-spoon holder, criticized President Obama’s proposal to expand overtime protection to 5 million American workers, saying that “People are going to have to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.” Seriously, Jeb?
To the contrary, Americans work plenty. According to the Organization (OECD), Americans worked an average of 1,789 hours last year, higher than the OECD average of all countries surveyed. And still, our wages have been stagnant for the past 40 years even though our productivity has actually increased. Speaking of wages, Donald Trump, noted trust fund recipient and current (for the time-being) GOP front-runner, believes that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is just fine at that level and “not a bad thing for this country.” So says a guy who has never had to, and likely never will have to, survive on $7.25.
And then, there’s Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who gets handsomely rewarded with campaign cash as chief lackey to the billionaire Koch Brothers, all the while bashing unions as “special interests” and comparing them to ISIS. I could probably go on - there are more than a dozen Republicans vying for the White House at this point - but it would take more room than I have in our newsletter to outline all the ways these candidates disrespect the value of most people who have to work for a living (and downright disparage people who can’t find jobs).
The sad thing is that these people even have an audience for their retrograde attitudes toward the working class. A lot of that audience includes members of the working class. Some are even in unions. America’s confused relationship with laborers and the idea of whose work is valued goes a long way toward explaining why our nation’s workers are so ill-treated compared with the rest of the developed world. America was built on the exploited labor of African people. Then, came the exploited labor of the poor - black and white - and of immigrants. Post- New Deal and post-World War II, the value of workers rose and they gained new rights that resulted in the middle class boom that lasted until the 1980s.
Today, we are in a new era of exploitation: of unpaid internships that look a lot like full-time jobs; of uncompensated overtime; of contract workers and temps; of outright wage theft. We’re a society where workers are expected to be on- call during what little vacation time they get, and a society where many don’t get vacation at all. We stand out as the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t mandate paid vacation or maternity leave. At the same time, Americans identify themselves through their work; the first question one is always asked at a social gathering is not “What are your favorite hobbies,” but “What do you do?” And the idea of “working hard” as much as one can to achieve success, is seen as a badge of honor - no matter the consequences to one’s health and family life. The idea of working in our country is valued, but the act of laboring - outside that of the corporate executive - isn’t so much valued. So every September, we mark Labor Day with barbecues and shopping and beach-going, while the original reason for the holiday - a celebration of the achievements of the labor movement - lies mostly forgotten.
Approved by the Culver City Democratic Club:
RESOLUTION CALLING FOR THE RELEASE OF COUNTY INCARCERATION DIVERSION FUNDS
Whereas, California is reducing its prison and jail populations as a result of the implementation of AB 109 and Proposition 47. This has increased the need for services for those returning home from incarceration;
Whereas, in March 2015 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved a $30 million program to divert the mentally ill from incarceration and into community based treatment programs. This amount has recently been increased to $30 million;
Whereas, the diversion funding allocation has been tied to the release of the DA Jackie Lacey Crime Justice Mental Health Task Force report on mental health diversion from incarceration, which has no funding timetable;
Therefore be it resolved that the Culver City Democratic Club urges the LA County Democratic Party lobby the BOS to expedite the process for releasing these funds to community and faith based organizations that deliver services to the formerly incarcerated;
Be it further resolved that the Culver City Democratic Club urges the LA County Democratic Party lobby city, county, state and federal officials to develop an interagency approach in partnership with community and faith based organizations to streamline the service delivery process for incarceration diversion.
The Culver City Democratic Club supports SCA 5, Reforming Inequities in Commercial Property Tax Annual Reassessment of Commercial Properties sponsored by State Senators Holly Mitchell and Loni Hancock, and its efforts to eliminate inequalities, loopholes and negative economic impacts of the current acquisition-value assessment system for commercial and industrial properties. Known as the Property Tax Fairness amendment, it would finally make California’s property tax code fair by assessing commercial and industrial properties at their market value, after a phase-in period. It would also provide significant tax relief for businesses, protect homeowners and renters from any changes to their property tax status, and create strict new accountability measures for new revenues.
SCA 5 would assess commercial properties at their fair market value, provide tax relief for businesses and protect homeowners and renters
“This legislation will address structural flaws in the commercial property side of Prop. 13 that have allowed a minority group of wealthy corporations and commercial property owners to dramatically lower their tax bills and shift that responsibility onto homeowners and renters,” said Senator Hancock. “Our homeowners are now being asked to pay the vast majority – 72% – of property taxes, while the commercial side pays only 28%. In 1978 when Prop. 13 passed, each paid about 50%. That’s not fair, and it has strained the community services our residents rely on.”
A few months ago, I got into an argument on Twitter with a right winger over voting and taxes. I was watching MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s show and one segment was about felon disfranchisement. I posed this question to my Twitter followers: "Should people who have paid their debt to society still be taxed if they aren’t allowed to vote?" This question immediately attracted said right winger, who answered, "Yes." We got into a short back-and-forth, which I won’t elaborate here, but the crux of his belief was that if a person didn’t want their rights taken away, they shouldn’t commit a crime. Never mind that many people, black Americans especially, have been railroaded by our criminal justice system. Whatever happened to "no taxation without representation?"
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but the celebrations are tempered by the United States Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the landmark legislation. Despite what the majority of the justices in that case would have us believe, racism in the electoral process is still alive and well in America. Felon disfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Americans of color, is one problem that is at the forefront of the current movement for voting rights. States have different laws regarding incarcerated people and voting, with the most draconian disfranchising for life people convicted of felonies, to the most lenient that allow people in prison to vote in all elections. California is in the middle, restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated after they have completed their sentence and parole.
Voting rights advocates tend to frame disfranchisement in moral terms: that it’s undemocratic to exclude people from participating in our democracy. But, getting back to my Twitter argument with the right winger, I wanted to frame the issue in terms I thought conservatives would understand: would they sympathize with an apparent anti-tax argument when it came to the formerly incarcerated? At least that right winger didn’t, and I can’t say I’m surprised. Because I posed the question to expose what, I think, was a big reason behind felon disfranchisement laws: to ensure that black Americans have little to no say in how our country’s resources - through taxes - are distributed. The right winger didn’t say anything about race, but he didn’t have to.
Ultimately, voting is about deciding if, when and how much to tax ourselves, where and on whom those dollars are spent. Racism is about animosity toward other groups, but it's also about economics — keeping disfavored groups at an economic disadvantage relative to one’s own group. What better way to take resources away from blacks and the poor, and redistribute them to whites and the affluent, by making certain behaviors criminal felonies, disproportionately targeting and arresting members of marginalized groups for those behaviors, and passing laws taking away those groups’ voting rights after conviction? Now, this may sound to some like tin-foil hat conspiracy theory, but it's no coincidence that the era of the Drug War, mass incarceration, and the right-wing anti-tax revolt began not long after President Lyndon Johnson signed the set of civil rights laws guaranteeing black Americans’ equal participation in U.S. democracy.