Bill Onasch

April 26 Week In Review

 Week In Review  Comments Off on April 26 Week In Review
Apr 262017
 

  by Bill Onasch

Avoiding the Road Paved With Neutrality

When the March for Science was called for Earth Day most climate activists welcomed the white coats, incorporating their event in to a week+ schedule of actions including the Peoples Climate March[es] this Saturday, and May Day strikes and demonstrations next Monday. Many viewed the MfS as a dress rehearsal for climate mobilization.

In the rain-dampened March in Washington, and most big cities and campus towns, that proved to be largely true. A few attracted tens of thousands. While some scientists took pains to deny they were acting politically, many speakers echoed the sentiment Kellan Baker, a public health researcher, expressed at the mother march in the capital,

“The poet Dante wrote that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis. We cannot pretend we are above the fray. Science is objective, but it is not neutral. As scientists, as human beings, our mandate is clear: it’s for each of us to stand up for what we know to be true. And to stand together when working to shape a future in which we can all thrive.”

But in the spirit of responsible reporting, I have to admit not everything was so up to date in Kansas City. The turnout, estimated by police at 5,000, was respectable. But the stage not so much.

The focus in my hometown was on medical science. Two of the physicians speaking are also members of the Missouri and Kansas state legislatures—one from each major party. They rightly oppose Trump’s proposed budget cuts for the National Institutes of Health—but not solely for altruistic reasons.

Both states are eagerly seeking both private capital and NIH grants in hope of becoming a new Silicon Valley of bio-medical—and veterinary medicine–R&D. Because they are fighting to bring these dollars to their respective states, Republican senators Roy Blunt and Jerry Moran—tenacious opponents of virtually all climate and other environmental measures—were hailed as staunch advocates for science.

I don’t expect that many of those speakers will be present at the same venue this Saturday for the climate action. I hope that most of those who politely listened to them will. But I can’t honestly say that I am impressed by the “broad” speakers list put together by the organizers.

The sole labor speaker is Terrence Wise, a local McDonald’s worker who has become a national leader of the Fight for 15 movement for low wage workers, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union. I’m sure he will give a good agitational speech—and will plug the local May Day action being pulled together by the Fight for 15, Stand Up KC, and the NAACP.

Unlike at the national level, and many other cities, where unions have been welcomed and integrated in to coalitions, the local KC-PCM leaders view labor as just another of the many “interest groups” that need to be acknowledged–and brother Wise has connections to more than one of them. There will be no mention of the working class program of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS). Representatives from unions like the Amalgamated Transit Union, or National Nurses United, who are working to both educate and mobilize their members for climate justice were not invited to be on the platform.

This approach is not unique to Kansas City. Those of us in such areas can’t afford to stay away in a huff. Flawed action is better than inaction. I share the view of the late Tony Mazzocchi: labor shouldn’t be part of the environmental movement—we should be leading it.

To accomplish that goal the working class wing needs to be visible builders of the climate justice movement in our communities as well as getting more unions on board. We must patiently and confidently explain our perspective to the young workers and students who recognize the urgency of the climate change crisis.

So whether I’m wearing my ATU jacket or my vintage union-made London Fog, I plan to be accompanying my spouse, and fellow retirees, in Washington Square Park at 1PM Saturday. Where ever you may be I urge you to attend your local action if you can’t make the main event in DC. And if you haven’t yet joined, I recommend you sign up with the LNS to advance the struggle for Class & Climate Justice.

Join the Labor Network for Sustainability for People’s Climate Movement Events, April 28th-30th, Washington, DC

Not a Laugher

Though he has made contradictory statements about the symbolic importance of his first 100 days on the job, the 45th President apparently didn’t want it marked by provoking a government shutdown. He has withdrawn his ultimatum that a short-term spending bill include a down payment on a border wall that may never be built. He hopes his party will be enthusiastic about a bullet-pointed placeholder outline on tax reform to be fleshed out and approved in September.

There is nothing original in this proposal. It is based on the infamous Laffer Curve, famously first sketched on a napkin by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer. It purported to show that targeted tax cuts would lead to economic growth without deficit spending.

When viewed in terms of job growth, the numbers since 1940, when most workers first began to pay income tax, show just the opposite. During the 4 years when the maximum tax rate was a whopping 90 percent the average job increase was 6.4 percent. The 15 years of the current range of top rates of 28-35 percent produced employment growth of 0.6 percent.

But the Curve sounded great to President Reagan and the astrologer consulted by the then First Lady. Taxes were slashed, military spending increased, “wasteful” programs were scrubbed—not unlike Trump’s proposed budget. And the deficit soared. Reagan’s successor, Bush I, who had to deal with a mess left behind by raising taxes, rechristened the Curve “Voodoo Economics.”

Well that was a long time ago and politicians are not noted for their grasp of history. But some are obviously also prepared to ignore the present. Pious Governor Sam Brownback of the scarlet state of Kansas would take offense at being associated with Voodoo but no one has been more ahead of the Curve. He not only cut rates for corporations and the wealthy; to help small business prosper in 2012 he exempted the little used LLC designation from virtually all income tax. The number of LLCs has swollen to more than 300,000 and include KU basketball coach Bill Self whose annual state tax-free compensation is around 3 million dollars.

There has been little job growth in the Sunflower State but the cumulative deficit amounts to more than a billion dollars. Not only is privatized Medicaid teetering on the brink of collapse but even draconian cuts in education and highway funds have failed to stop the hemorrhaging.

***

As I was preparing to post this WIR breaking news reported a more detailed than expected Trump tax proposal that would include reducing individual tax brackets to just three—10, 25 and 35 percent; eliminate most deductions; repeal estate and alternative minimum taxes; and exempt foreign profits of companies who maintain U.S. headquarters.

Trump did not appear at the announcement made by his Treasury Secretary. This is not a final offer and lengthy negotiations are expected.

While there were a few surprises none conflict with what I wrote above. Confirming the Curve ideology under the hood, the spokesman said–“This bill is about creating economic growth and jobs.”

***

It remains to be seen how the top echelons of the ruling class respond to Voodoo redux. Their instinctive class greed will be titillated but some of their smarter minions may advise caution about accepting promises made by the founder of Trump University. It’s interesting to note that Laffer, who describes himself as a libertarian, supported New Democrat Bill Clinton in both of his elections.

How are the opposition Democrats weighing in on Trump’s multi–fronted attacks on our class? The perceptive Cornell West summed it up well in the title of a recent opinion piece in the GuardianThe Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment. We’ll have some comments on the Tom and Bernie road show next time.

That’s all for this week.


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Week In Review April 20

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review April 20
Apr 202017
 

  by Bill Onasch

Popular Science Demonstrated

America has long been noted for our various issue-focused protest movements demonstrating their strength in the streets. But Saturday’s March for Science is a unique new entry in to such nonelectoral politics.

Of course, there have always been prominent individual scientists such as Barry Commoner, Linus Pauling, and James Hansen who have been social, even political activists. There are various scientific associations who sometimes issue peer-reviewed statements on politically controversial issues. But never before have thousands of scientists pledged to march in the streets—inviting us lay persons to join them—in defense of science itself.

It is to their further credit that they chose the too long neglected Earth Day to demonstrate. I wrote about the seminal impact of the first Earth Day in the April 29, 2015 WIR.

The March for Science is a response to the odious rise of the political and theocratic far-right who find science interfering with their reactionary agenda. Above all there are scurrilous attacks on climate scientists. Today these are spearheaded by the President of the United States who is getting rid of nearly all employed by the EPA.

There are also still Christian extremists, invigorated by a friend in the White House, who vilify–and try to ban from classrooms and textbooks–Darwin’s nineteenth century breakthrough contribution of Natural Selection because they see it conflicting with their literal interpretation of biblical texts.

Those threats alone are good reasons to back those defending scientific methods that are indispensable to human civilization. My wife Mary and I, along with friends and colleagues, are planning to join the Kansas City support event–even if it means getting soaked in a predicted cold rain–and I urge you to support your local effort if you can’t make the big one in DC.

But science has seldom been privileged to work in labs, or postulate in proverbial Ivory Towers, pursuing pure science. The basic tools they often need such as Super-computers, electron microscopes—not to mention orbiting satellites, particle accelerators, or deep space rocket journeys—require the deep pockets of big corporations and governments. Those institutions dominating capitalist society expect practical results enhancing profits in return for their underwriting of science.

Cliff Conner, an author whose perceptive views about science I’ve followed for decades, recently wrote an apropos article entitled The Tragedy of American Science. He accuses ruling class corruption of science as the source of this vicissitude,

“Science is presumed to be a reliable source of knowledge based on objective fact rather than subjective bias. By definition, that requires research to be conducted impartially by scientists with no conflicts of interest that could affect their judgment. But a science harnessed to the maximization of private profits cannot avoid material conflicts of interest that are anathema to objectivity….

“The science of the United States is the major component of world science—as American science goes, so goes science in general. The American federal R&D [Research and Development] budget is larger than those of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan combined. American science’s primary competition vanished in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 1998 science in Russia and the other Soviet spin-offs was on the edge of extinction, surviving only by means of charitable donations from abroad.”

While scientists today are no longer burned on the stake like Bruno, or confined to house arrest like Galileo, many are legally bound to remain silent about inconvenient truths they discover. Past editions of the WIR reported on how scientists working for the company now known as ExxonMobil were among the first to raise concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels–but their work was long kept top secret. Government scientists briefed President Johnson about global warming in 1965—and were warned by LBJ to keep their “theories” to themselves.

While medical science has enabled those who can afford it to live decades longer than their grandparents, a lot more money is poured in to military science developing stealth aircraft, submarines that can remain submerged for months, deadly drones that can be precisely guided by operators thousands of miles from their targets.

Science has enabled AgriBusiness to gain perpetual monopolies of GMO crops–also often dependent on herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers from the same companies–that are causing great long term environmental damage.

Sometimes corporations sponsor outright “junk science” as a propaganda antidote to genuine science that threatens bottom lines. A prime example is a so-called “Clean Coal” alternative to the palpably dirty stuff still used by many power plants—and exported to greenhouse polluters around the world. This magic clean carbon science fiction is as close to reality as the synthahohol dispensed from replicators on the Starship Enterprise that gives you a pleasing buzz without making you drunk.

The list of suppressed and perverted science is too lengthy for this missive. It poses many ethical dilemmas for scientists. But they are not the primary culprits–nor can they alone fix these problems. Conner writes,

“The campaign of Bernie Sanders brought the word socialism into the public discourse as something other than a swear word for the first time in most Americans’ living memory….The Bernie Sanders experience once again reveals that there is no ‘progressive wing’ of the Democratic Party that can offer a genuine challenge to the corporatization and militarization of American science…

“The hopeful note in all of this is that replacing the current science-for-profit system by a science-for-human-needs system is not an impossible, utopian dream. To make it a reality, however, requires a fundamental restructuring of our society. That is the great, daunting challenge facing today’s youth and the generations to come. It is by no means melodramatic to say that the survival of the human race depends on their success.”

Workers and farmers of this country, and around the world, should welcome the initial effort by scientists to join us in the streets to begin to address the overarching crises that threaten humanity’s future. Those can only be satisfactorily resolved by applying scientific methods in both our biosphere–and the struggle between classes.

All Out for the March for Science!

Other Upcoming Events

* April 29 Peoples Climate March

PCM Poster (English), Cesar Maxit

The main event of the March for Climate, Jobs, Justice will be in Washington DC, expected to draw hundreds of thousands. At least dozens of local support actions are being built by hundreds of Partner organizations–that I am proud to say includes Kansas City Labor Party Advocates. The Kansas City action will be at Washington Square Park, across Main Street from Union Station at 1PM.

* May 1 International Workers Day

There doesn’t appear to be any national clearing house for numerous May Day strikes and demonstrations around immigrant and women’s rights, Fight for 15, and other issues. In Kansas City, after a day of strikes by low wage workers there will be two rallies—connected by a march—downtown. Organized by Stand Up KC, Fight for 15, and the Missouri NAACP, demonstrators will assemble at Allis Plaza, 12 & Wyandotte at 6PM; march across 12th Street; rally on the steps of City Hall.

The next WIR will include any updated information.

That’s all for this week.


If you’re not already signed up you can get the Week In Review free of charge in one of the following ways.

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/sites/workdayminnesota.org/themes/workdayminnesota/images/social/large/rss.png Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Simply send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]kclabor.org

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

Powered By Blogger Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.