Friday, May 29, 2015

Despite Attacks by Guards and Thugs, These Factory Workers in the Philippines Remain on Strike

The banner reads: “Regularize contractual workers!” Photo Credits: ST Exposure
Workers who produce popular alcoholic beverages owned by the Philippines’ second richest man are currently on strike, demanding regular jobs and better working conditions. Despite attacks by security guards and thugs reportedly hired by the employers, the strikers have continued their work stoppage for more than a week now.

The Tanduay Distillers Inc. plant (which is located in Cabuyao, Laguna, 44 kilometers or about 27 miles south of Manila) hires contractual labor through the agencies Global Skills Providers Multi-Purpose Cooperative and HD Manpower Service Cooperative.

Contractuals are temporary workers who are not given standard labor benefits. Many companies in the Philippines engage in contractualization to lower the cost of their operations.

According to the labor union Tanggulan Ugnayan Daluyong ng Lakas-Anakpawis sa Tanduay Distillers Inc (TUDLA), these two agencies engage in labor-only contracting or the hiring of contractuals to do work that is essential to production—an act prohibited by law.

For the past 5-11 years, 90 percent of the total workforce at Tanduay Distillers Inc. (a total of 397 workers) have been contractual workers.

Striking workers hold program at the picket line with their families and supporters. Photo Credits: Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Responding to the contractual-worker issue, Tanduay’s employees formed TUDLA on April 16 and filed a petition for regularization with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). However, the contractual workers were suddenly made to sign a one-year service contract when the company has not previously required them to sign any contract.

On May 16, Saturday, hundreds of workers were told that they would not be given any schedule for contract signing. In other words, they were already out of work. On May 18, Monday morning, workers decided on the spot to launch a strike. Daily updates about the work stoppage are available on Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Tagalog's Facebook page.

According to TUDLA, Tanduay workers create an estimated 15 million pesos ($336,000) worth of beverage products every day. Company owner Lucio Tan, the man listed as the country’s second richest by Forbes Magazine in 2014, has a net worth of 270 billion pesos ($6.1 billion).

Tanduay workers, meanwhile, earn a measly P315 ($7) a day, and government reforms are expected to lower that figure to P255 ($6) a day. The culprit is the Philippine government’s new Two-Tiered Wage System, a so-called productivity scheme that labor groups say is a legal mechanism to drive down the wages of workers outside of Manila.

Tanduay workers also complain that they cannot avail of paid time off (for sick leave or vacation), medical and other benefits, or even bonuses. Not infrequently, the union says, employees are suddenly and without explanation dismissed from their jobs.

The company reportedly hired local toughs and private security groups to disperse the striking workers and their supporters. The violent dispersal was caught on camera by multimedia group ST Exposure.

From day one of the strike, the company’s security personnel and other muscle reportedly working for cash have harassed and even harmed the striking workers and their supporters. Dozens have suffered injuries from beatings. And yet the extremely exploitative conditions have pushed the workers to persist with the strike and their fight for just wages, benefits, and job security.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Leaked Emails Reveal Details of China's Online “Youth Civilization Volunteers”

China's Communist Youth League sets the target of recruiting more than 10 million civilization volunteers to spread positive messages online.

On May 17, a hacker nicknamed XiaoLan leaked a package of emails revealing details of the recruitment of college students by the Shanghai League of Communist Youth, one of the most significant Chinese Communist Party organizations under the single party regime. The students serve as voluntary online commentators that spread positive energy and “purify” the internet.

The existence of the commentators is not a state secret: the latest round of massive recruitment was revealed in a document issued by the China Communist Youth League in February 2015. The League set out to recruit no less than 20 percent of its members to serve as “civilization volunteers” by spreading positive energy and acting as models for “good netizens”.

The League had more than 89 million members at the end of 2013, which means it must recruit around 18 million “civilization volunteers” to meet its target. The characters depicted in the sketch at the top of this post are two figurative examples of “civilization volunteers” posted by the Youth League in April on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

Pro-government Internet commentators are a constant target for criticism by China's netizens, who give them the sarcastic nickname of “wumaodang” or “50 Cent Party” in English, since it is said that they receive a typical payment of half a Chinese Yuan per post, equivalent to 8 cents in U.S. dollar terms.

Though the nature of their work is similar, the “civilization volunteers” are political loyalists who do not receive payment at all. The hacker's revelation shows that the League mobilized its members for Internet-civilizing via its college sub-branches.

The leak is a zipped package of around 11.49 gigabytes in size, consisting of nearly 10,000 emails with a number of attachments. Most of the emails address the routine activities of the Youth League in local colleges and high schools, detailing statistics of League activities, how many league cadres are in each college, reports on student opinion about recent social events, and manuscripts from leaders’ speeches.

Within this vast archive, some emails with subject lines such as “Form of Establishing Youth League Online Civilization Volunteers Division in Shanghai’s Colleges” and “Registration Form of Online Civilization Volunteers’ Basic Information,” provide an interesting glimpse into the operation of youth civilization volunteers in higher education institutions.

Some of the attachments contain spreadsheets counting “civilization volunteers” in each college and listing personal information — job titles, QQ, WeChat and Weibo accounts, as well as mobile phone numbers.

Other files specifically recorded students’ publicity assignments on Weibo and WeChat. Their responsibilities involve posting enthusiastic comments on key events and themes. The volume of views, reposts and comments for each post are subsequently recorded in spreadsheets to monitor performance. Tasks vary from publicizing “Xi Jinping's speech” and “My China Dream” to “commemorate the Nanjing massacre.” The term “China Dream” is a political theme under Xi's leadership to unify the nation and the people.

A document “Notice of Establishing Youth League Online Propaganda Division in Shanghai’s Colleges” lists six responsibilities for the online propaganda team:
To establish youth league online propaganda division in Shanghai’s colleges, we should emphasize the function of team members, and make a contribution to building a clean Internet space and strengthening the mainstream of thoughts and sentiments. Responsibilities include the following:
  1. Following the unified deployment, actively participate in “Youth's Positive Voice” Internet Cultural Action and concentrate on publicizing “Youth's Positive Voice” and chorus theme guided by youth thought, to boost the positive energy of youth.
  2. Repost and comment on content as designated by the Central Youth League, Municipal Youth Leagues, the Youth League in Colleges, on personal WeChat, Weibo, QQ, Fetion, Renren and forums and websites popular among young students and other websites.
  3. Follow Youth League official Weibo and WeChat accounts at its central level, school, primary school and municipal levels. Also follow the college’s official Weibo and WeChat account. Repost and comment on content on these platforms.
  4. Repost and comment on positive content you received on various media platforms by personal social media tools (e.g. WeChat, Weibo, and etc.).
  5. Meet the demands of following posts, reposting them and commenting on them in online spaces. Speak out in a timely way and positively guide mistaken opinions and thoughts in order to grow mainstream thought and sentiment on the Internet.
  6. Everyone’s volume of reposting posts should be no less than five per week.

Yang Kangling, like many China's netizens, who despise pro-government Internet commentators, raged at the phenomenon of students blindly distributing propaganda:
现在的学生缺乏好奇心想象力和批判性思维,甚至有些大学还组织一批学生充当五毛“网评员”,以“稳定压倒一切”的口令去歌功颂德,对社会的黑暗一面给予漠 视,无形中是在维护社会丑陋,把批判社会黑暗面的人说成汉奸美分等等,甚至把这些情况说是负能量。导致这个社会基本的正义感基本沦陷。
Now students lack curiosity, imagination and critical thought. Some colleges even organise flocks of students to work as “Internet commentators.” In this way “stability crushes everything” to sing praises while remaining indifferent about the darker sides of society, unconsciously defending its ugliness. [They] insult people who criticize these dark sides as traitors of [China's] society – meifen [meaning “US cent” in English – a term used often groundlessly to suggest netizens who support democratic values are receiving money from the USA.] and take social criticism as negative energy. The basic sense of justice in society is collapsed as a result.
Twitter user Jian Alan Huang believes the civilization volunteers are “more harmful” than the 50 Cent Party, precisely because they fully believe in what they are doing:

— Jian Alan Huang (@hnjhj) May 18, 2015
Online civilization volunteers are just Red Guards from that f***ing era [the Cultural Revolution, 1966-76]. Although they have a new name, they are still the cannon fodder in the fight for the red regime. They are more harmful than the 50 Cent Party. A whole generation will lose the ability to think and learn and eventually become bullies and enemies of humankind.
The government mouthpiece People's Daily reported on April 16 that the recruitment of civilization volunteers was proceeding at pace in many provinces, including Jiangxi, Hunan, Henan, Guangdong, Hubei, Gansu, Xinjiang, Hebei and Anhui.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

'Paddle in Seattle' Protesters Welcome Shell Drilling Rig with Two Words: Go Away

Thursday's protest comes ahead of a larger sHell No! demonstration—including mass flotilla and direct action—planned for the weekend
Paddling activists met the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig as it arrived in the Port of Seattle. The Space Needle is visible behind the hulking yellow rig. (Photo: Reuters)
Paddling activists rolled out the un-welcome mat as Shell Oil's hulking 'Polar Pioneer' drilling rig—whose presence is opposed by many local citizens, environmentalists, and city officials—pulled into the Port of Seattle on Thursday afternoon.

About 20 kayakers met the 307-foot-tall, 400-foot-long rig in the waters of Elliott Bay, singing, chanting, linking arms, and bearing a banner that read, "Arctic Drilling = Climate Change." Among the group were members of the Duwamish Tribe, who paddled through the waves in a long wooden canoe and led the group in chanted songs, according to the Seattle Times.

The Times adds:

Law-enforcement officers were on the water and overhead to enforce a 500-yard safety zone while the Polar Pioneer was in motion. Coast Guard officials warned the activists beforehand that any disruption of safe navigation could result in arrests.
But the authorities allowed the activists relatively close to the rig when it briefly stopped, and there were no disturbances of note during the afternoon demonstration.
Thursday's protest came in advance of a larger sHell No! demonstration planned for the weekend, including a family-friendly #PaddleinSeattle flotilla on Saturday and a mass direct action on Monday. Zarna Joshi, an organizer with the sHell No! Action Coalition, told Democracy Now! that Monday will involve "land-based actions in order to show Shell that we can shut them down on the water and on the land. They cannot hide."

In a statement about the weekend of resistance, sHell No! organizers declared: "Shell's drilling rigs are a prime example of the root causes and injustice of the climate crisis. They will generate untold wealth for the few, while wrecking the climate for everyone, trampling on Indigenous rights, and causing millions of deaths in the global south."

The Obama administration on Monday granted conditional approval for Shell to resume its Arctic oil exploration. Shell is planning to use Seattle as a base to store and maintain the rigs and other equipment as it drills the Chukchi Sea off Alaska—an arrangement that faces mounting opposition in the city.

As Common Dreams reported this week, the Seattle Port Commission on Tuesday passed a resolution asking Shell to delay the arrival of its drilling rigs, following hours of outraged testimony over the Commission's unilateral decision to house the oil fleet. The Seattle City Council had previously voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging the Port to reconsider its lease agreement allowing Shell to park its equipment.
Shell, for its part, remains unmoved by the protests and regulatory questions. "Given the short windows in which we have to work in the Arctic, and our shared view that Shell's valid, we have made the decision to utilize Terminal 5 under the terms originally agreed upon by the parties involved — including the Port of Seattle," Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told the Associated Press in an email Tuesday. "Rig movement will commence in the days to come."

A second 30-story-high drilling rig, the 'Noble Discoverer,' is also headed to the city this week. That vessel, too, was met by a small fleet of paddling protesters.

AP journalist Phuong Le posits that the fight over Shell in Seattle marks a "pivotal moment for an environmental movement increasingly mobilized around climate change."

Le writes:

Environmental groups in the Pacific Northwest are sensing a shift in the politics that surround energy production and have mobilized against a series of projects that would transform the region into a gateway for crude oil and coal exports to Asia.
"These proposals have woken a sleeping giant in the Northwest," said Eric de Place, policy director for Sightline Institute, a liberal Seattle think tank. "It has unleashed this very robust opposition movement."
Follow the actions on Twitter:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More and More, LGBT Japanese Are Coming Out of the Closet

Caption: 1 in 13 identify as LGBT (“sexual minorities”). Screencap courtesy NHK
An online survey conducted by international PR and advertising giant Dentsu has found that one in 13 Japanese people (7.7%) between the ages of 20 and 59 identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The results of the original Japanese-language survey can be requested here.

This number is an increase from the results of a 2012 Dentsu survey, when 1 in 19 respondents identified as LGBT.

The April 2015 survey results come barely a month after several large cities in Japan recognized same-sex civil unions, and as the Japanese Ministry of Education is set to introduce new curriculum promoting diversity in Japanese society.

In another April 2015 news release, advertising agency Dentsu has also identified the LGBT community as an increasingly influential demographic of consumers in Japan with an annual spending power of 5.94 trillion yen (approximately US$50 billion).

To determine that 7.7% of Japanese people identify as LGBT, on April 7 and 8, 2015, Dentsu surveyed 70,000 people over the Internet. The results were reported by age:

自分が当事者かもしれないと気付いた時期については、「13歳から15歳」が最も多く18.6%、次いで6歳以下が17.2%、「10歳から12歳」が 16%、40歳を過ぎてからという人も9.8%いました。一方で、当事者であることを誰にも明らかにしていないと答えた人は56.8%に上っていました。
When asked at what age they first realized they identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, 18.6% (the most respondents) said between the ages of 13 and 15. After that, those who identified as LGBT by the age of 6 were the next most common group at 17.2%. 16% of respondents said they first identified as LGBT between the ages of 10 and 12. 9.8% of respondents first identified as LGBT after the age of 40. 56.8% of survey respondents did not reveal when they first identified as LGBT.
Around the same time, Fumino Sugiyama, a transgender man who was a former fencer on the women's national team, commented on news that Tokyo's Shibuya Ward would begin to issue certificates recognizing same-sex unions. Speaking at an April 23 press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Sugiyama said:

  I want people to know that there are people who identify as LGBT (“sexual minorities,” 性的少数者) who are our neighbors.
Sugiyama, born as a female, says he has known of his male identity since he was in kindergarten and used to cry as a child because he didn’t want to wear a skirt. Sugiyama has gone on to become a successful entrepreneur, fashion model, entertainer and spokesperson for Japan's LGBT community.

Here is the full FCCJ press conference featuring remarks by Sugiyama:

Monday, May 11, 2015

What climate change sounds like from the Amazon to the Arctic

Writer:Todd Reubold @treubold
Ensia director and founding editor

In 2013, the composition A Song of Our Warming Planet transformed 133 years of global temperature measurements into a haunting melody for the cello. Following its release, A Song of Our Warming Planet was featured by The New York Times, Slate, the Weather Channel, National Public Radio, io9, The Huffington Post and many others on its way to becoming a viral sensation and reaching audiences around the globe.

Now the co-creators, University of Minnesota undergraduate Daniel Crawford and geography professor Scott St. George, are back with a new composition that uses music to highlight the places where climate is changing most rapidly.

Based on surface temperature analysis from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the composition Planetary Bands, Warming World uses music to create a visceral encounter with more than a century’s worth of weather data collected across the northern half of the planet. (The specific dataset used as the foundation of the composition was the Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies Zonal annual means.)

Crawford composed the piece featuring performance by students Julian Maddox, Jason Shu, Alastair Witherspoon and Nygel Witherspoon from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music.

As Crawford explains in the video, “Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. The cello matches the temperature of the equatorial zone. The viola tracks the mid latitudes. The two violins separately follow temperatures in the high latitudes and in the arctic.” The pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature in each region, so low notes represent cold years and high notes represent warm years.

Crawford and St. George decided to focus on northern latitudes to highlight the exceptional rate of change in the Arctic. St. George says the duo plans to write music representing the southern half of the planet, too, but haven’t done so yet.

Through music, the composition bridges the divide between logic and emotion, St. George says. “We often think of the sciences and the arts as completely separate — almost like opposites, but using music to share these data is just as scientifically valid as plotting lines on a graph,” he says. “Listening to the violin climb almost the entire range of the instrument is incredibly effective at illustrating the magnitude of change — particularly in the Arctic which has warmed more than any other part of the planet.” 

View Ensia homepage
Planetary Bands, Warming World by Daniel Crawford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Download the sheet music (PDF) | Download the audio file (MP3) | Download photos of the musicians

Support for this video was provided by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and the College of Liberal Arts.
Video production by Mighteor.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Cherán Indigenous Community in Mexico Finds Its Voice in Homegrown Media

Mural in Cherán. Made by the collective DEXPIERTE – Colombia, on the third anniversary of the communal government. Photograph DEXPIERTE collective- Colombia. Published with permission.

Radio Campfire, one of the main media outlets in Cherán in western Mexico, was born only a few days after the indigenous community took up self-governance and self-defense in 2011 in the face of organized crime looking to exploit the area's resources.
In the words of young Angelica, who actively participates in the radio station:
Surgió a través del levantamiento que tuvimos nosotros como comunidad, defendiendo nuestros bosques. La radio surge porque llevamos la palabra acompañada con la música, pensando también en que es el arma más importante que nosotros como pueblos indígenas tenemos para defendernos y para dar a conocer nuestra lucha, nuestras problemáticas.
(It came out of the uprising that we had as a community, defending our forests. The radio came about because we set our words to music, thinking that this weapon is the most important thing we indigenous towns have to defend ourselves and let people know our fight and our problems.)
Kuri Morales, another young person involved in the project, says the radio station came to be thanks to the Jóvenes unidos por Cherán (United Young People for Cherán):

Era muy necesario este proyecto, ya que en nuestra comunidad contábamos con una radio que formaba parte de la CDI [Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas] del gobierno federal [que] nunca dio difusión a nuestro movimiento […] Para nosotros fue muy necesario crear nuestra propia radio para dar difusión a nuestro movimiento tal y como era, ya que tanto los medios de comunicación, radio y televisión, no daban la información […] Siempre se distorsionaba… [Por ello] decidimos crear nuestra propia radio.
This project was really necessary, since our community had a radio that's part of the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous People of the federal government that never spread the word about our movement. […] For us, it was really important to create our own radio station to spread information about our movement as it is and was, given that so many forms of media, radio and TV, didn't […] It always was distorted… [Because of that] we decided to create our own radio station.

Young radio announcer from Cherán Radio. Photograph Collective DEXPIERTE – Colombia. Published with permission.

Having started with a transmitter of only 15 watts, Radio Campfire now has improved equipment that allows nearby towns to listen, and is constantly working to broaden the station's transmission capacity. According the radio team, they plan to also expand to Internet radio.

Colectivo DEXPIERTE – Colombia, a cultural and artistic experiment out of Colombia, has also reported on the Cherán community. For the collective, this group is a symbol of autonomy and strength. They explain:

Radio Fogata se crea con un transmisor, un computador, dos micrófonos, una conexión a internet, una antena y unos cuantos chavos que sin saber nada de medios de comunicación se atrevieron a encender la llama de la palabra brindando su tiempo de manera voluntaria para aportar al proceso organización comunitaria.
Casas y negocios comerciales sintonizan el 101.7 FM para escuchar Radio Fogata […] Entre música P’urhépecha, ranchera, banda, rock, pop y otros géneros hay programas con contenido sobre las mujeres, las drogas, los derechos, lo que pasa en la comunidad y la lucha de otros pueblos hermanos.
 Campfire Radio is created with a transmitter, a computer, two microphones, an Internet connection, an antenna and a few guys who without knowing anything about media dared to light the fire of the community's words, giving their time voluntarily to contribute to the community organization process. Houses and commercial businesses tune into 101.7FM to listen to Campfire Radio […] Between P’urhépecha [indigenous Mexican music], ranchera, banda, rock, pop and other genres, there are programs with content about women, drugs, rights, what happens in the community and the struggle of other brother towns.

The Campfire Radio page on Facebook reports on numerous political and cultural demonstrations, such as the activities of other alternative media and communities in the region. For example, this month was the anniversary various events that led to the eventual political emancipation of Cherán. Similarly, Campfire Radio gives echo to the movements in solidarity with the missing Ayotzinapa students and calls attention to attacks on other community media in the country.

From radio to television

As part of its project to combat mainstream media's misinformation about and marginalization of indigenous communities, Jóvenes unidos por Cherán together with the group Los Tejemedios launched a new project in October: Cherán TV.
Entrance to the community cabin installations of Cherán Radio and Cherán TV. Photograph by DEXPIERTE collective [Colectivo DEXPIERTE]- Colombia. Published with permission.

After gathering all the necessary equipment and conducting editing, audio, and video workshops, Cherán TV had its first transmission on November 29, which included interviews, news, culture, dance, traditional music and political features. Some of the features are available on their YouTube channel.

A group of five young men read Cherán TV‘s main principles in one of their YouTube videos:
Esta TV comunitaria es para fortalecer nuestra autonomía y para apoyar nuestra organización. En esta TV comunitaria, no hay discriminación, cero religiones institucionales, sin comerciales, sin partidos políticos ni grupos de poder. ¡Hagamos la tele entre todos!

This community TV is strengthened by our autonomy and to support our organization. In this community TV, there is no discrimination, zero institutional religions, no commercials, no political parties, or power groups. We create TV together!¡

Their community blog is another example of how they create awareness of their indigenous p'urhépecha culture. There, they publish work completed by other media and also promote cultural community activities. The blog also includes a small forum though which visitors can leave messages that, for example, encourage and support the community.

Community media like the kind found in Cherán face many challenges, including technical limitations. Nevertheless, these community news outlets work every day to fulfill their mission of spreading the word about their community's independence and culture. Campground Radio and Cherán TV are part of a movement that seeks to offer an alternative to traditional media's narrative and defend the dignity of the population. Their efforts have certainly lit a fire, one that doesn't show any sign of being extinguished any time soon.

Translated by Jazz Dottin

Monday, May 4, 2015

Candidate Sanders Calls for 'Political Revolution' Against Billionaire Class

'I get very frightened about the future of American democracy when elections become a battle between billionaires,' candidate for Democratic nomination said in an interview Sunday
Surpassing many of his Republican rivals, the progressive presidential candidate raised $1.5 million online less than one day after announcing his bid. (Photo: Brookings Institution/cc/flickr) 
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is calling for revolution. The independent senator from Vermont who just this week announced his bid for Democratic nominee, minced no words when speaking on ABC's This Week on Sunday.

"I think I'm the only candidate who's prepared to take on the billionaire class which now controls our economy, and increasingly controls the political life of this country," Sanders told host George Stephanopoulos. "We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort."

Sanders contrasted his record with that of his primary opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, noting that the presumed nominee "has been part of the political establishment for many, many years."

"I respect her and I like her," the senator continued, "but I think what the American people are saying is that at a time when 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent, and when the top 0.1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, maybe it's time for a real political shakeup in this country and go beyond establishment politics."

Laying out what appeared to be a key pillar of his campaign, Sanders spoke decisively about the need for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations to "start paying their fair share of taxes." In addition, he championed "bold leadership" to tackle the climate crisis, which includes the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and voiced clear opposition to the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Further, Sanders called for an end to big-money politics and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling.

"This is, in a sense, what my campaign is about," Sanders continued. "Can somebody who is not a billionaire who stands for working families actually win an election in which billionaires are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the election?

"I get very frightened about the future of American democracy when [elections] become a battle between billionaires," he added.

Surpassing many of his Republican rivals, the progressive presidential candidate raised $1.5 million online less than one day after announcing his bid. According to the campaign, 35,000 donors contributed an average of $43.

The New York Times reports:  "Mr. Sanders has said that small donations will be his only chance of defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination, because he has no 'billionaire and millionaire' friends and does not intend to depend on the backing of a 'Super PAC.'"

And on the campaign website, the campaign specifies that it is paid for by Bernie 2016, "not the billionaires."

Trans Pacific Trickle-Down Economics

Have we learned nothing from thirty years of failed trickle-down economics?

By now we should know that when big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy get special goodies, the rest of us get shafted.

The Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts of 1981, 2001, and 2003, respectively, were sold to America as ways to boost the economy and create jobs.

They ended up boosting the take-home pay of those at the top. Most Americans saw no gains.

In fact, the long stagnation of American wages began with Reaganomics. Wages rose a bit under Bill Clinton, and then started plummeting again under George W. Bush.

Trickle-down economics proved a cruel hoax. The new jobs created under Reagan and George W. Bush paid lousy wages, the old jobs paid even less, and we ended up with whopping federal budget deficits.

Then came the bailout of Wall Street in 2008. It was sold as the means of preserving the economy.

It ended up preserving the jobs and exorbitant pay of bankers, but millions of Americans lost their shirts. Small savers were wiped out, and homeowners never got the refinancing they were promised.  

No conditions were put on the Wall Street banks for what they were supposed to do for the rest of us in return for our bailing them out. None of their top executives even went to jail for causing the crash in the first place.  

Here again, nothing trickled down.

Now comes the Trans Pacific Partnership.

It’s being sold as a way to boost the U.S. economy, expand exports, and contain China’s widening economic influence.

In fact, it’s just more trickle-down economics.

The biggest beneficiaries would be giant American-based global corporations, along with their executives and major shareholders.
Those giant corporations initiated the deal in the first place, their lobbyists helped craft it behind closed doors, and they’re the ones who have been pushing hard for it in Congress – dangling campaign contributions in front of congressional supporters and threatening to cut off funding to opponents.

These corporations made sure the deal contains provisions expanding and protecting their intellectual property around the world, but not protecting American jobs.

Supporters of the deal say it contains worker protections. I heard the same thing when, as secretary of labor, I was supposed to implement the worker protections in the North American Free Trade Act.

I discovered such provisions are unenforceable because of how difficult it is to discover if other nations are abiding by them. On the rare occasion when we found evidence of a breach we had no way to force the other nation to remedy it anyway. 

The Trans Pacific Partnership is far larger than NAFTA – covering 40 percent of America’s global trade.

If it’s enacted, American workers and consumers will be made even worse off because of another provision that allows global corporations to sue countries whose health, safety, labor, or environmental regulations crimp their corporate profits.

It establishes a tribunal outside any nation’s legal system that can force a nation to reimburse global corporations for any such “losses.”

Big tobacco is already using an identical provision to sue developing nations that are trying to get their populations off nicotine. The tobacco companies are demanding these nations compensate them for lost cigarette sales.  

This provision would mean less protection from corporate harms here in America. It would require that when the potential cost of a new health, safety, environment, or labor protection is weighed against its potential benefits, the cost of reimbursing corporations for lost profits is added in.

I’ve been through enough regulatory wars to know this added cost could easily tip the balance against protection.

The arguments in favor of the deal aren’t credible. The notion that the Trans Pacific Partnership will spark American exports doesn’t hold because the deal does nothing to prevent other nations from manipulating their currencies in order to boost their own exports.
The argument that the deal will help contain China makes even less sense.

Does anyone seriously believe American-based corporations will put the interest of the United States above the interests of their own shareholders when it comes to doing whatever China demands to gain access to that lucrative market?

Big American-based corporations have been cozying up to China for years – giving China whatever American technology China wants, letting China “partner” with them in designing new generations of technology, and allowing China to censor their software and digital platforms – all in exchange for a crack at Chinese consumers.

What we should have learned by now about trickle-down economics is that nothing trickles down.

If the Trans Pacific Partnership is enacted, big corporations, Wall Street, and their top executives and shareholders will make out like bandits. Who will the bandits be stealing from? The rest of us.

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