Monday, February 21, 2011 1:01 PM
As demonstrators continue to protest Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to the state budget, questions arise as to just what exactly the fight is about. Is Walker trying to bust unions or simply balance the budget? Do public workers make more than their private counterparts? Who is and who is not paying their fair share? Sometimes it’s hard to get a grasp with all the conflicting voices, so we turn to some of the trusted sources in our library and elsewhere to point us in the right direction. Here’s what some of those sources are saying about Wisconsin.
Andy Kroll at Mother Jones is on the ground in Madison and is providing updates via his Twitter feed. Kroll also has a primer of sorts on the Mother Jones website, addressing the basic questions of who exactly Scott Walker is, what is being proposed, and how the protests in Wisconsin might spread to other states, such as Ohio, where similar bills are being proposed.
Meanwhile, Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson at The Nation call the Republican governor’s actions a betrayal of public workers, writing, “Let’s remember that the recession was caused by Wall Street hyper-speculation, not the pay scales of elementary school teachers or public hospital nurses.”
Sarah van Gelder writing for Yes! asks if the Wisconsin protests are the first stop on an American uprising, looking to a group out of England called UK Uncut. That group protests tax breaks for corporations, claiming that if those tax breaks were taken off the table cutbacks for other government services would be unnecessary. An American version called US Uncut has formed and is planning events to highlight corporate tax breaks in this country. (The issue of class warfare brought up in van Gelder’s article is one the Utne Reader focuses on in our March-April issue. See the cover stories here and here.) Van Gelder writes:
The tide may now be turning. Inspired by people-power movements around the world, people in the United States are beginning [to] push back. The poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the collapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being asked to sacrifice again.
Ezra Klein may put it most simply, though. In a column for the Washington Post titled simply “Unions Aren’t to Blame for Wisconsin’s Budget,” Klein, in reference to the “economic crisis unions didn’t cause, and a budget reversal that Walker himself helped create,” writes,
That’s how you keep a crisis from going to waste: You take a complicated problem that requires the apparent need for bold action and use it to achieve a longtime ideological objective. In this case, permanently weakening public-employee unions, a group much-loathed by Republicans in general and by the Republican legislators who have to battle them in elections in particular. And note that not all public-employee unions are covered by Walker’s proposal: the more conservative public-safety unions—notably police and firefighters, many of whom endorsed Walker—are exempt.
The fact that those public-safety unions are exempt from the proposals doesn’t mean that they’re sitting idly by, as Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, told Democracy Now! viewers and listeners this morning. Mitchell called the exemption a “favor” his union didn’t ask for and told Amy Goodman, “An assault on one is an assault on all. As firefighters and police officers, we do not sit idly by. We make things happen.”
Sources: Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, The Nation, Washington Post, Yes!
, licensed under
Tuesday, February 08, 2011 1:07 PM
You’ve probably heard of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor, but what about borrowing skills, talents, and support? In Yes! magazine, John McKnight and Peter Block convince us that utilizing the gifts of the people in our communities can help rebuild families and neighborhoods.
Although the term “dysfunctional” is often used to describe a unit that is not working, McKnight and Block say that the problem with today’s families and neighborhoods is not dysfunction, it’s non-function. The essential roles once played by kinfolk and neighbors—babysitters, caregivers, listeners, teachers—are frequently outsourced, leaving us isolated and disconnected. The benefits of reinstating community function are clear, say McKnight and Block:
Where there are “thick” community connections, there is positive child development. Health improves, the environment is sustained, and people are safer and have a better local economy. The social fabric of neighborhood and family is decisive.
But how, exactly, do we repair our non-functional communities? McKnight and Block point us toward a success story propelled by a group of six neighbors who named themselves the Matchmakers. The group was born after Naomi Alessio witnessed a simple act of kindness: A friendly, older neighbor named Mr. Thompson invited her son Theron into the metal-working shop in his garage and taught him how to fashion a few pieces. Naomi and the Matchmakers wanted to pair up other like-minded members of the community and began taking stock of their neighbors’ various talents.
It took three weeks to visit all the men on the block. When they were done, they were amazed at what they had found: men who knew juggling, barbecuing, bookkeeping, hunting, haircutting, bowling, investigating crimes, writing poems, fixing cars, weightlifting, choral singing, teaching dog tricks, mathematics, praying, and how to play trumpet, drums, and sax. They found enough talent for all the kids in the neighborhood to tap into.
The kids on the block had their own usefulness, too, teaching older folks how to use computers or listening to their stories and writing down the oral history of the neighborhood.
Beyond skills and talents, neighbors can share other resources, like food or yard space. What can result is a neighborhood that feels connected and capable—a new kind of functional family. So when you hear your next-door neighbor practicing “Slow Ride” on his Stratocaster for the twelve thousandth time with cheers from his toddler in the background, don’t think of ways to silence the offender; think instead, I wonder if I offered an hour of babysitting if he’d teach me that sweet lick?
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 29, 2010 5:20 PM
Two Tea Party leaders, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, have been jet-setting all over the country ginning up support for conservative politicians. Literally.
They’ve been flying around in a private jet like Wall Street CEOs, except they’re heading to “grassroots” rallies instead of merger talks. Meckler and Martin don’t say how outraged, ordinary citizens can find the money to support such extravagance, and they don’t have to. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in this year's Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, they can now accept unlimited funding without disclosing the identities of their donors.
No one would even know about the jets themselves, but Meckler and Martin never counted on Mother Jones, or a reporter named Stephanie Mencimer. Using public flight-tracking information, the Tea Party Patriots’ flight schedule, and some serious attention to details in the group’s own videos, Mencimer was able to figure out which jet the not-so-populist duo were using. She then traced the plane to Raymond F. Thomson, founder and CEO of a semiconductor company called Semitool, which he sold last year for a cool $364 million.
It’s both sad and hilarious to see the secret financial arrangements of the super-rich masquerading as grassroots activism. But it also shows the lengths to which reporters must go to actually report on political spending in the wake of Citizens United. There is no documentation to follow, just the contrails of private jets.
Social groups target state races
And while secret political spending has been dominated by big corporations this cycle, the legal maneuvering that liberated corporate coffers was actually performed by fringe right-wing groups targeting social issues. As Jesse Zwick emphasizes for The Washington Independent:
Groups advocating against abortion and gay marriage have waged a low-grade war on laws restricting their ability to spend money freely in elections since the early 1980s, and their victory in the recent Citizens United ruling has hardly caused them to rest on their laurels.
Our democracy is now more beholden to corporate greed than ever, but at least gays won’t be allowed to visit each other in the hospital.
This is just the beginning of corporate rights
But the implications of Citizens United extend far beyond the (critically important) realm of campaign finance itself, as Jeff Clements and John Bonifaz of the organization Free Speech for People emphasize in an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now! As Bonifaz notes:
Citizens United was not just a campaign finance case, it was a corporate rights case. In fact, it was an extreme extension of a corporate rights doctrine that has eroded the First Amendment for thirty years.
At its core, Citizens United grants First Amendment rights to corporations on the grounds that corporations are people, just like ordinary citizens. Sound crazy? It is.
The bill of rights for corporations?
As AlterNet’s Joshua Holland emphasizes in an interview with historian Thom Hartmann, the implications of the view that corporations are people are simply absurd. Now corporations have been granted First Amendment rights, but what happens when they start arguing for Second Amendment rights? And what would it even mean for a corporation to have Second Amendment rights?
A visual map of Campaign Cash
What are the most common themes and issues surrounding the untold amounts of cash flowing into this election cycle? To create that visual, the Media Consortium piped 10 articles by our members through Wordle. While all the articles were generally focused on this topic, they were picked at random and published between October 25-29.
For clarity's sake, we made "Tea Party" "TeaParty," "Supreme Court" became "SupremeCourt," and we also merged the first and last names of key players such as Karl Rove and Jim DeMint. Finally, we removed any extraneous words such as "the," "and," and "even." We did not combine the words corporate/corporation/corporations or Republican/Republicans (but examine the frequency as much as the size). To get the latest reporting on the funds feeding into the mid-term elections, go to www.themediaconsortium.org or follow the search term #campaigncash on Twitter. Wordle research by Amanda Anderson.
But wait, there's more!
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit The Media Consortium for more articles on these issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:06 PM
For years, Roberto Vargas avoided white people altogether—he’d had too many collisions with racism and prejudice. In the new issue of Yes!, he urges the opposite path. “My invitation to you, as a reader who desires to increase fairness and respect among all people,” Vargas writes, “is to be a facilitator of courageous conversations about race and culture.” Check out his simple tips for starting your own dialogue.
Congratulations to Yes!, which was nominated for a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for health/wellness coverage.
Friday, February 26, 2010 8:56 AM
As the Federal Reserve’s new credit card rules take effect, many financial advisers are telling people to keep an eye on accounts—just to make sure big companies don’t try to get squirmy with the new regulations.
Writing for Yes!, Chuck Collins has an additional suggestion: Break up with your credit card. “Do you feel a warm fuzzy attachment to your credit card?” writes Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and the Common Good. “No? You feel abused? Legalistic fine print? Hidden fees? Interest rate hikes? . . . So why do you keep going back?”
Collins cites Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the New Rules Project, who writes that the majority of community banks and credit unions offer credit cards. “Unlike big banks, these smaller institutions generally do not view their credit cards as major profit centers . . . but rather as a service for customers,” writes Mitchell, whose article “Localwashing” was in a recent Utne Reader.
Not all financial institutions are created equal of course: The Move Your Money website, a hub for the national movement, has some resources to help people find a new community bank or credit union. The New Rules Project’s Community Banking Initiative is also full of great information, including new data that shows bigger banks charge higher fees on savings and checking accounts than smaller institutions do, while paying less interest on savings.
Sources: Yes!, New Rules Project, Move Your Money, Community Banking Initiative
Friday, October 09, 2009 5:53 PM
One of Yes! magazine’s 13 Radical Acts of Education will appeal to folks with an inner botanist. Heather Purser reports that citizen scientists across the country are being encouraged to gather data on their local plants. In order to track changes brought on by global warming, scientists need some extra help in the field to “record the dates when local plants open their leaves, flower, bear fruit, and go dormant or die.” The observations are for Project BudBurst, which hopes the data-mining will help educate the public on the importance of collecting (and analyzing) climate change information. The site offers a start-up booklet, reporting forms, and downloadable plant identification and field guides for those interested in helping out.
Monday, August 24, 2009 7:50 AM
Here’s a refreshing change of pace: Wealthy people stepping forward and volunteering to pay higher taxes. Wealth for the Common Good is a new network of high-income people who say paying higher taxes is only fair, network coordinator Chuck Collins writes in Yes! The organization went public at the end of July with a petition to revoke Bush-era tax cuts for households making over $235,000.
In addition to changing public policy, Wealth for the Common Good also wants to change the national conversation—and bust some myths of about how people accumulate wealth in America. The story of the hardworking, self-reliant American omits the cost of public benefits (such as public education), as well as overlooks the ways that policies and social circumstances favor some people while hampering others.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!