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GOP Turns Off Youth Vote

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So, the GOP must be in REAL trouble with the young vote if Politico says the report is scathing. As most know, Politico has a Republican bent to its editorials and reporting.

Report: How GOP lost young voters

Here’s my assessment. It’s a little long, but bear with me.

I’m a registered Democrat but consider myself fairly moderate. After California changed its primary rules to allow open primary voting, I considered changing my voting status to Independent. But no more. If anything, the modern, conservative movement GOP has caused me to become even more assuredly Democratic in my voting. As an older Boomer, I’ve witnessed the changes in both parties over many decades. But the change in the Republican Party has been so dramatic, and so negative that I no longer trust Republican candidates. And that’s a shame.

Throughout the 50s to early ’80s, Republicans could be counted upon to strong but sensible on defense and rationally conservative on spending. They believed in balanced budgets and taxing at required levels to pay for what was being spent. As a result, spending was controlled because no one really wants higher taxes. (The national credit card hadn’t been invented by latter GOP politicians.) And they had lots of ideas to strengthen the middle class as well as move lower income groups out of poverty.

Mind you, when I was growing up the majority of Republicans were either Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican who grew up during the Great Depression and fought with everyone else during WWII. Many of that era’s leaders had a wholly different take on economics: they saw America, albeit of diverse background and religions, as one people striving to achieve the fabled American dream of success via education and economic opportunities…which is one reason why they continued to control Wall St’s penchant for unbridled peculation that caused the Great Depression. In their minds, as a result of their experiences during WWII, they concluded that we are all in this together. Moreover, honor, honesty, dignity and integrity really meant something to them.

I remember watching the Watergate hearings during which the only senator that grabbed my attention…and my praise…was Republican Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee. He exhibited all the honorable values and integrity I had come to expect, from my civics education and my youth as a military brat, from members of the Senate. Partisanship seemed not to enter his mind; only seeking  the truth.

Following the Goldwater rout in ’64, an extremely conservative, religious, libertarian segment of the Republican Party made a concerted push to take over control of the Party. That segment, from Southern state conservative immigrants to Orange County, California, worked hard to execute an all out campaign to take over the GOP. Both Nixon and Reagan fostered that movement to increase their electoral opportunities until their Republican Party take over was complete.

What Nixon and Reagan began and fostered, as a politically advantageous counter to the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, unleashed a backlash against both government and large segments of the population. Prior to Reagan, most people did not hold the federal government in total distain. Except for a somewhat minor loss of presidential, executive prestige caused by Nixon’s paranoia, from which the federal government recovered nicely throughout Ford’s and Carter’s administrations, the federal government generally was held in high regard.

It took Reagan telling Americans that the federal government couldn’t be trusted…and all of his and Nixon’s old staff to convince conservative and Moral Majority religious Americans to hate the federal government as well as state, county, and city governments. In fact, they unknowingly advanced hatred any government whatsoever at all levels…and thus advanced the libertarian utopian idealism espoused by the Cato Institute.

The Republican Party used to be a party of middle class concerned ideas, i.e., protecting the middle class while helping lower classes enter the middle class, rather than a party that strictly protected the most wealthy in the nation. Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans, perhaps because of their WWII experiences, understood that a rising middle class was the secret to American economic success. They lived through the Great Depression and some even remembered via their parents TR’s era. As a result, their policies advanced long term capital investment (five plus years) while penalizing short-term investment gains; strict control of investment vehicles to prevent dangerous speculation; and corporate investment in product and business expansion as well as R&D over short-term stock yields.

For all the racial, religious, ethnic and gender discrimination, Republicans of ’50s through the early ’70s and even some into the early ’80s believed in the party of Lincoln. The party of opportunity even when it meant expanding federal welfare as well as the kind of fiscal responsibility that meant paying for what you spend. In truth, those older, fiscally responsible Republicans held down spending by simply making clear that increased spending meant higher taxes now…not somewhere down the road as our modern GOP chose to exhibit during the GW Bush Administration.

Regardless, the 1980s changed everything.

Modern generation Republicans have forgotten – or never learned – what their parents and grandparents learned. Even those skeptical of the federal government, Southern conservatives who immigrated to So. California during the Dust Bowl and those who stayed in their states eventually came around to asking the federal government for help, as Ken Burns’ documentary on the Depression and Dust Bowl illuminates. After many years of denying federal help, Southern and Midwestern farmers finally gave in, pleaing for federal help. It was the federal government that helped Southern state immigrant families in the West when they found themselves being exploited and Southern farmers who discovered modern federal farm policies could help them save their lands.

When WWII occurred, everyone, rich or poor alike, joined up and served together. Those vets learned about each other – from every sort of community and neighborhood, rich and poor alike – and out of that conflict arose Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans. Not unlike their Republican ancestors nearly 80 years before, they sought a better, fairer America in which anyone could succeed if given the opportunity.

Although racism continued, the barriers began to break down. First with Jews and then with Catholics. Finally, as a result of WWII, the barriers along color lines began to break down even as many Southerners refused to permit that breakdown. With Nixon’s Southern Strategy…and Reagan’s expansion of it…racist Democrats (Dixiecrats) shifted from the Democratic party to the Republican. But that wasn’t the only change that occurred.

Unlike 20th century generations, in which everyone, regardless of wealth or class, was expected to participate, we now have a military comprised mostly of poor or lower income people. Richer, upper income people refuse to serve. It’s not the first time in American history that the most-wealthy refused to serve, but that circumstance is new since the dawn of the 20th Century.

As the nation has grown, the separation of income status and communities has become even more stark, becoming a barrier to public unity. I see it all the time in my small, conservative rural community where community involvement and concern for the commons (local businesses, economic development, charities, and involvement in local activities) exists at nearly negligible levels. There is an attitude that says, “It’s not my problem, and I don’t care. Let someone else do it.” Yet, in communities of comparable size with a more liberal bent where I lived, community events volunteers were turned away as a result of the too many volunteers…and community events were packed with resident participation.

I grew up in a military household who voted Republican. I became a Democrat because of Civil Rights and the ERA. I believe in fairness and charity as practiced by government because of the lessons I was taught in Sunday School in Georgia as a small child. “God loves all the little children. All the children of the World. Black and White, Yellow and Red, all the children of the World.” Scripture is not much clearer than those words as I remember them.

There is a lot conservatives could do to put forth policies that seek better results than those proposed by old fashioned Democrats. But they don’t. They seek only to protect the plutocrats even if doing so destroys America’s ability to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.

The US is not Russia, ruled by a corrupt oligarchy whose only concern is their own wealth and power. The US is better than Russia. It always has been…and it always should be. The US should be the land of opportunity for everyone that Lincoln envisioned.

A few – very few – Republican reformers and pundits get it, but they’ve a very hard uphill climb against those Republicans who seek to return to the 1870s or 1890s or 1950s. As Austrian economist Hayek stated in Chicago, he was a classical liberal because liberals looked to the future while conservatives looked back at the past for answers.

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A New Progressive Movement: Making Unions Relevent Again

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As part of my New Year’s resolution, I plan to post a series of my thoughts on creating a new progressive movement. What is occurring in the US, regarding income and opportunity inequity is economically unsustainable and, in the long run, politically destabilizing…the realization of which is why the original progressive movement came into being just over a hundred years ago during the original Gilded Age. This post is my first towards stimulating thoughts, and discussion, of a new and completely different progressive movement.

Union strength logoMy previous post asked about the potential future of labor unions and could unions reinvent themselves to become more relevant in the future. Obviously, the answer to these two questions lies with unions themselves, in how they are organized and what their goals are. Jerry Tucker, whose speech in 2005 at the Sorbonne, was highlighted in that post, argued for unions to shift their focus by becoming more inclusive in ways that stand for middle class incomes and values across the entire spectrum of economic and educational issues.

But the world is changing as a result of globalization. Next year, NY City taxis will bear a “Made in Mexico” logo along with thousands of other products imported from south of the border. Right now, Mexico’s industrial output rivals, and potentially exceeds, the United States, according to all economic reports. If US workers are to have any chance of retaining their jobs and competing in a global marketplace without being forced to accept nearly slave wages, unions must change. Not just reform but fundamentally change how they operate.

Decades ago, unions were the one place workers received the training and education needed to become skilled workers. Unions, through their apprenticeship programs, trained future union members and workers. Collaborating with schools, local unions invested part of their dues in creating dedicated shops to train students. Skilled union members (journeymen and masters) taught the various classes. Upon graduation and certification, offered the students assistance in finding jobs when the students signed up to become members of the union.

In addition to initial training, unions provided on-going skills training, at minimal costs, to any member who signed up. In this way, workers continually developed their job skills and became even more loyal to the union.

Centuries ago, the forerunners of unions were craft guilds. Among the things craft guilds did, besides offering training to apprentices and continually training throughout the life of the members, they offered what we now consider benefits. Employers did not pay those benefits, rather members themselves, in their craft guild dues, contributed to those benefits. Modern unions would do well to return to that ancient model of the guild – or union – by providing health and retirement benefits. Instead of asking company management for greater benefits that depress salaries and increase product costs, unions can take those responsibilities on themselves which should provide unions with greater bargaining power not only with companies but also with health care providers (insurance companies) and greater control over retirement investments. As a result, this leaves union leadership only negotiating work conditions (safety and hours) and worker salaries, thus breaking the bond of workplace benefits in order to provide members with increased employment opportunities, from one company to another, and greater economic security in the long run.

Another obstacle that stands in the way of union rehabilitation is incompetence, at least in the public’s mind. Whether that notion is true or not, it has become part of the general belief system among the public. Thus, unions need to change that belief system by changing how they deal with incompetent workers. In the ‘30s and ‘40s, behavioral scientists and economists thought that if a worker no longer had to be concerned with being fired, those workers would do a better job simply because of the security they had. We now know that thesis was incorrect. All too often when workers no longer fear being fired, they simply slack off and become lazy. The potential of being fired for incompetence and laziness provides a powerful motivator towards doing a better job. Unions must become more proactive in this area by eliminating seniority in favor of competence and skill as well as remove failing workers more quickly. The failed workers can be retrained or simply told to retire. There is no reason why seniority or tenure should allow an incompetent or lazy worker to retain his job. Doing so hurts not only the image of the union but the skilled profession at large.

Something that works to great effect in Germany is having a worker as part of the company’s board. Unions could ask in their negotiations to have a union member become a member of the company’s board just as Germany’s companies have done. By doing so, workers will have a voice in how the company behaves, its compensation packages, expansion activities, and goals for the future. Thus, workers can become partners with management to achieve company success. But, in assuming this responsibility, the union must make sure that the representative truly represents the members/workers as true financial partners of the company, and not just representing union management or his own fortunes. For example, years ago GM had union representatives who supposedly worked with management to increase productivity, amongst a whole host of other problems. What occurred was those representatives received much greater pay and failed to produce the results for which they were challenged. It looked like graft and greed to those on the outside. Unions can and should do better at uphold the highest ethical and moral standards. Integrity counts.

Perhaps most controversial of all would be changing union contracts within Right to Work states. Why should employees who refuse to join the union receive the same negotiated benefits as union employees? Again, if union picks the tab for health care and retirement, companies no longer need to offer those benefits to workers which makes union membership more attractive. It would become a case of join the union or go without health and retirement benefits. As a final resort, unions could say that they will only negotiate salaries for their members. If a worker is not a member, then that worker is not covered by any wage negotiations. I’m not sure if this last idea is legal, but it is worth considering.

Lastly, unions must change how they currently think and operate. Every worker in the country should be within the scope of union thinking, not just in how to grow individual unions but in how to grow cross union membership. In other words, unions need to become more inclusive of all workers regardless of profession. Why not open up membership to people outside of particular union segmentation? Think about how Credit Unions changed to attract customers outside of specific union membership. Labor unions could do the same, thus attracting greater membership and growing their influence again.

I’m sure more ideas exist out there. These are just mine, based on ideas I’ve thought about for some time now. I’d like to hear from others and build conversations around some new innovative ways of doing things to solve our challenges. As I’ve been writing off and on for the last four years, America needs new ideas because the old ones no longer work in a highly competitive global environment.

A new progressive movement needs to be born with new ideas.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 3, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Can American Labor Unions Be Relevant Again?

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      “I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war today in our country — a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society.”

      “I would rather sit with the rural poor, the desperate children of urban blight, the victims of racism, and working people seeking a better life than with those whose religion is the status quo, whose goal is profit and whose hearts are cold. We intend to reforge the links with those who believe in struggle: the kind of people who sat down in the factories in the 1930’s and who marched in Selma in the 1960’s.”

      – UAW President Douglas Fraser in 1978

Jerry Tucker Labor Leader and ActivistFor decades, American workers have progressively watched their incomes and working conditions decrease and their opportunities lowered. As a result, Americans continue to view the economy and their families’ prospects negatively. Every American knows why these reduced expectations are occurring, but no one seems to have a definitive answer.

On March 12, 2005 at the conference on “Work and Social Movements in the United States” at University of Paris – Sorbonne, the late Jerry Tucker, labor leader and activist, told the audience,

”America’s 21st century workers need a labor movement committed to fight alongside them against those ‘who would destroy us and ruin [their] lives’ and leaders who have the courage to launch a strategic counter-offensive against the aggression on all fronts. If there are such leaders, they can start by openly ‘speaking truth to power’ and denouncing corporate America’s war on workers and working class communities, naming the ideological nest the perpetrators swarm out of, and condemning the overwhelming government backing they receive.

Yes, today many American workers are cynical and, collectively, do have reduced expectations. They know all too well that their quality of life is under attack and, for many of them, that unionism has not held up its end in the struggle. That was also true in the early 1930s. But that does not mean now, as then, that the willingness to fight back, the urgency to resist injustice, and the desire for dignity have been driven from the consciousness of our sisters and brothers. They have it in them to engage in struggle when they perceive the struggle has immediacy in their lives, when the injustices are real, and when they know they will not be alone. There are among them good and even great leaders for the struggle to come. A program that reconnects with workers built around their needs at the base, not just the notions of distant bureaucrats, is the way to start rebuilding the labor movement.

With history as our guide, the revitalization of the labor movement also cannot occur without a revitalization of an independent left within labor. U. S. labor as we know it today, and as is demonstrated by the narrow limits of the AFL-CIO debate, lacks the credibility to form the multi-lateral and multi-racial relationships for a new, dynamic social movement. A revival of progressive, socially-conscious left thinking internally could alter that reality and open up many new options.

U. S. labor needs a counter-offensive. And, the centerpiece of labor’s counter-offensive, with or without all current labor leaders, should be derived from a new vision of America based on justice and the creation of a new social intersection for all of those abused by the nexus of corporation and state and today’s neoliberalism.

A true crisis-resolution strategy must re-introduce a culture, and shared vision, of struggle and of common defense, through worker-to-worker, union-to-union, and social-movement-to-social-movement solidarity. Under one broad social banner, we need to declare war on poverty, racism, sexism, imperialism, and the denial of the fundamental right to affordable health care for all, full employment, shorter work-time, and many others of the true values due all participants in a just society.

Crisis-bound, U.S. labor is at a crossroads. The direction it takes will impact, for better or worse, the lives of a majority of all Americans.” [my emphasis]

The Status Quo is Not Enough

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Throughout most of November I was sick so I neglected my regular posts. In addition, it seemed as though far too many American voters just don’t care enough about what was and is happening and who continues to influence Congressional members (for example, per Pew Poll results (pdf): 61% of those polled have never heard of Grover Norquist). It’s doubly hard to maintain a positive attitude and seek to change the national dialog when so many voters don’t have a clue as to what is going on and don’t seem to care. Nevertheless, I will continue to try because I do care about my country: the country my ancestors helped found and defend for nearly 300 years.

So, here’s my editorial of the day…and maybe the week.

House Speaker Boehner, President Obama, Minority Leader Senator McConnell

Regarding the upcoming debt ceiling fight that Senator Graham (R- SC) announced this week, I’m sure Republicans believe that Obama will give in again rather than risk the nation’s credit rating and default on the debt as he did last year. However, given Obama’s recent sharp rhetoric to the nation’s business leaders, he’s very likely to allow the GOP to shut the government down rather than give in to them. As a result, the interest on the debt and the military will be paid. Beyond that, who knows.

All other payments will depend upon how much existing and incoming cash exists for any other payments. Further, it’s possible interest rates on the debt will increase which will exacerbate the debt situation, and defaulting on the debt – or even putting the debt in jeopardy of default – will put our national ability to retain the dollar as the world’s reserve currency at risk. Being the world’s reserve currency gives the US enormous latitude in cheap borrowing costs (safe haven for investments) that other nations simply do not have. China has been lobbying the BRICs for the last couple of years to end the dollar as the reserve currency in favor of another currency, presumably theirs. Just think how much more leverage a debt default will give China in its arguments against the dollar…and the US.

Nevertheless, once the GOP begins feeling the heat from their various constituents and donors as well as from the nation’s CEOs, they’ll back off and raise the debt ceiling. But by then the damage will already have been done to the nation’s credit rating as well a having put another knife in the heart of the GOP.

For those of you who believe that ending the GOP control of the House in the next election is eminent as a result of their intransigence and, frankly, economic stupidity, let me remind you of Republican gerrymandering in 2010. That gerrymandering will enable the House to remain in GOP hands until at least the next census in 2020 unless many of those GOP controlled districts suddenly turn blue. The only way to turn those gerrymandered GOP districts will become blue is for the Dems to have better policies and policy arguments that address the needs of ordinary middle income voters (jobs, income security, opportunity, economic growth, etc.) while at the same time putting our fiscal house in order.

Right now, the Dems need to focus on creating a new progressive movement to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Globalization is not going to go away, nor should it. Globalization has caused billions around the world to rise out of poverty. That’s a really good thing that Dems should applaud. Besides, unless the US wants a global trade war, it just ain’t gonna happen.

However, the Dems can create policies that address the immediate and long term challenges of globalization via better education (see Finland and Singapore, for example); a tax code that is fair both vertically and horizontally including eliminating much of needless spending on legacy industries; an improved patent system that enables/fosters innovation rather than suppresses innovation (see Ford vs owners of the Selden Patent); a reduction in the financialization of the US economy through better, more effective regulations and rules that puts (as in rewards) capital to work in the real economy rather than in speculation and short term investments/trading; and rebuilds/renews our national infrastructure to compete in the 21st century, and a host of other policies that encourages higher wages which make income subsidies unnecessary and irrelevant.

Meanwhile, Dems should push to reform the federal government to streamline it and make it more efficient. For example, think about the DHS for a moment. Has the DHS made the nation’s security branches more effective or efficient? Have the many national security branches worked together better and more effectively? Has the monies allocated to DHS over the last 10 years been effectively and efficiently spent – or has Congress doled out the cash in its usual inefficient, vote getting, pork laden manner?

Our federal government is based on an early 20th Century model that has grown exponentially while not becoming more efficient or effective. Obama spoke a couple of years ago during his State of the Union message about this problem and asked Congress to help/authorize him collapse departments and consolidate similar programs. Congress did nothing in response. Nothing! Because doing so means loss of generous donors (“Mr. CEO, we’re thinking about changing the law…”) as well as loss of individual, personal power via chairmanships and other important committee positions. Yet, the GOP felt perfectly comfortable in the last election attacking Obama for not making the federal government more efficient by consolidating similar programs (i.e., employment programs); yet, only Congress has the power to do so since Congress took the power to collapse department and consolidate programs away from the President many decades ago.

Beyond these suggestions, Dems need to better communicate their ideas and policies. Essentially, they need a wordsmith like Frank Luntz on their side of the political spectrum. It’s not enough to have better policy ideas if they cannot communicate how those ideas will make lives better for the broader populace. Superior communications ability is what caused FDR to win all but about 7 electoral votes in his second election.

Moreover, Dems need an antidote to the Tea Party. It’s not appropriate to winning elections to deride the Tea Party as no-nothings or radicals or whatever. You don’t win elections by deriding and denigrating nearly half the voters.

Dems, across the board, and their supporters must understand the motives of the Tea Party and their supporters and build communications scripts that speak to their needs and fears as well as their hopes and longings. Deriding them does nothing but create more antagonism and stubborn hatred. Instead, answer their fears with understanding and assurances that we all, from whatever party allegiances, seek the same goal of a sustainable and prosperous country where everyone can find or achieve his/her dreams. In addition, Dems need to form a broad coalition of activists, akin to the Tea Party, to influence not only the national conversation as the Tea Party has but to influence primaries, even in Red State gerrymandered districts.

Finally, Dems need to work diligently to remove money from politics. As long as both sides of aisle depend upon corporate and special interest funding via lobbying dollars and PACs and hugely funded outside organizations (501(c)4s) like American Crossroads or Americans for Prosperity, nothing will ever change for the good of the American people at large. Right now, both sides of aisle award the highest fundraisers with chairmanships and other committee perks. Not on expertise or knowledge of the subject matter. (Thanks, Newt! We, the American people, really needed your putting fundraising dollars, in the mid 90s, ahead of subject matter knowledge and expertise.) But rather on their ability to fund raise.

The current scenario is not that much different than the early 1900s “Millionaires Congress” in which Congressional candidates and members were openly bought by millionaires. Even McKinley’s presidency was purchased by our Gilded Age millionaires. Our founders expected Congress to reflect the will of the people – their voting constituents – rather than those who through large donations buy and write legislation and seats. Yet, it’s not enough in this era of partisan politics to denounce via hyperbole our modern days millionaires (Koch Bros, Addelson, etc.), Dems must explain – clearly, succinctly and simply – why the ideas of those groups and people are wrong for America at large…and how their policy ideas will harm/hurt average American families – in which Dems very much believe – in our global economy and in our local and state communities.

Lastly, Dems must communicate a better understanding of the rising libertarian movement within the GOP. Even though Friedman’s neo-liberal financial movement gained wide support throughout the country, it’s fallacious underpinnings have begun to crumble worldwide, especially in the BRIC countries.

Moreover, classical libertarianism, as espoused by Heyak, is not opposed to many Dems policies, such as retirement security (i.e. social security) and national health care. Hayek, in a published paper (pdf) for a Chicago audience, stated that he was not a conservative but a classical liberal, meaning he did not look back at the past but towards the future and all it might hold. In addition, he stated that many of the changes which the future might hold would necessitate the state providing income security (i.e, unemployment benefits and retirement) and national health care to the masses. He saw these benefits as not evils but as beneficial and appropriate for social stability.

Dems should be proclaiming what Hayek said as akin to their philosophy along with libertarian ideology against perpetual war and loss of individual freedoms per the NDAA and Patriot Act. True libertarians, not the Ayn Rand Koch Bros version, are natural allies of Dems, if only Dems would wake up to that fact. Where Hayek and Dems differ is on regulation. Hayek lived during the rise of Communism and feared Stalinism, with good reason. But Stalin’s – and even Mao’s – Communism was defeated; the modern state is not going to now or ever control the means and ownership of production. The new free market state must fear, instead, the ownership of production and innovation by the few powerful. And this is where Friedman’s policies appear to break down because he did not address, in the larger public economic context, the rise of economic and political powerhouses to buy and shape policy that control the societal benefits of the larger political audience – the average voters. Hayek, while he was ultimately wrong, and yet right in his fear regarding the issue of Communism and Socialism, given the world’s turn towards free market capitalism, was an important voice of that era and, thus, his support for income security and health care should also provide mutually important points of discussion among Dems and true libertarians.

Moreover, an alliance with those young anti war-forever libertarians just might break the back of neo-con Republicans at the ballot box. Dems are not the party of forever wars or American imperialism. That ideology is a Cheney, et al, belief. It is not traditionally American nor does it reflect traditional American values. As a result, Dems could, if they used their powers of persuasion and understanding, move those young anti-imperialistic libertarians from the GOP into the Dem column, especially if Dems, as a policy platform, also openly promoted fair, open and honest financial industry dealings.

As I said, Dems need to create a new Progressive Era with entirely new policies that meet the challenges of a globalized 21st Century while reassuring average middle and working income voters that their voices are being heard and that the nation is becoming fiscally sound and secure. But as long as Dems keep fighting old wars and allowing the GOP – and the monied class – to set the agenda and dominate the national conversation, a new progressive movement cannot take place. A new TR cannot rise to the top until the nation is ready for a new progressive era. Thus, the job of every Dem should be to promote and discuss new, progressive ideas.

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Five People Politico Should Have Called for Its Terrible Article on Fixing the Economy

Written by Valerie Curl

December 12, 2012 at 9:55 AM

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