Obama to Bernie supporters: Don’t let disillusionment set in


Author: Greg Sargent

Emphasis Mine

Any day now, some very prominent Democrats will get down to the business of helping to unite the party behind likely nominee Hillary Clinton. One of them will be President Barack Obama, who is popular among young Democrats and thus well positioned to argue to Bernie Sanders supporters that it in their interests — and the interests of the larger Sanders movement — to support Clinton.

The President is set to give a speech at Rutgers University next week, at which (given the audience) he might begin to lay out this case. And in an interview with The Daily Targum, a student paper at Rutgers, he offered a long monologue that is perhaps a preview of the bigger argument he’ll make.

Notably, Obama called on people not to “oversimplify” how change is achieved, and argued that “incremental changes” via “consensus building” can add up to meaningful progress. Asked about the fact that many Americans who are worried about stagnant wages, the shrinking middle class, and rising inequality are turning to Bernie Sanders, the President answered:

“It is absolutely true that there are a lot of folks who still are struggling out there, and we can’t minimize that. There (are) trends that have been taking place over the last 20 (or) 30 years that have dampened wage growth, that have made it tougher for folks to save for retirement or for their kids’ college education…

“More needs to be done there. And some of the steps that we’ve taken are going to pay off over the course of the next 20 years. There are things like raising the federal minimum wage or rebuilding our infrastructure — that would put people back to work right away and that would accelerate growth….

“If we are changing just a few laws that make it easier, for example, for workers to organize, that close corporate tax loopholes or tax loopholes used by wealthy individuals so that they’re not paying their fair share — if we take that money and make sure that we’re investing in the kinds of things that make an economy grow, if we ensure that we’ve got a healthcare system that is affordable and accessible for all people, then I’m confident that America’s best days are still ahead….

“We have to make sure we also recognize this is a big country, and there’s very rarely a single set of silver bullets out there that would immediately solve all of these problems. We’re part of an interconnected global economy now, and there’s no going back from that. It’s important for us to not oversimplify how we’re going to bring about the kind of change we need.

“We’ve got to also recognize that, in a democracy like this, it’s not going to happen overnight. We have to make incremental changes where we can, and everyone once in a while you’ll get a breakthrough and make the kind of big changes that are necessary. That consensus building is important because that’s historically how change has happened in America. Those are the kinds of things that I’ll be talking about at the commencement.”

This is both a subtle rebuke to Sanders’s call for a revolution and a preview of the argument he’ll likely make in urging his supporters to get behind Clinton. Obama’s warning against oversimplification is an implicit criticism of Sanders’s suggestion that liberating lawmakers from the grip of plutocratic money and rallying millions to storm the ramparts of Congress would compel the sort of far reaching, transformative social democratic reforms that Sanders envisions — single payer, free public college, enormously ambitious action on to combat climate change.  

More to the point, though, Obama is previewing an argument he’ll likely make against allowing unrealistic assessments of what is possible to morph into political disillusionment. Here Obama makes the case that change has historically been won in a long, hard, incremental slog, and that the big breakthroughs are historically very rare. There is a lot to this: throughout the progressive era, gains in the areas of economic regulation, the minimum wage, and the graduated income tax proceeded fitfully and with great difficulty, suffering big setbacks in the courts. It took decades until a horrific depression and landslide electoral wins for Democrats helped lead to the big New Deal sea changes, which included the Supreme Court upholding (among other things) wage floors, unemployment insurance and social insurance for the elderly. Yet even Social Security had to be subsequently expanded many years later to cover millions who’d been excluded from it.

Likewise, Medicare was only achieved more than 15 years after President Harry Truman called for universal health care in 1949, and its core guarantee of government health care for the elderly actually represented a scaling back of reformers’ goals, disappointing many liberals who lamented that it only reached a segment of the population.

As the above remarks indicate, Obama will likely make the case against being dismissive of the incremental changes that Hillary Clinton has promised to pursue. He’ll argue for the value in achieving a $12 minimum wage (and $15 in certain localities); continuing to build on Obamacare (though Clinton should be pressed on how she’d do this); investing more in infrastructure (even if it isn’t as much as Sanders would invest); and tax reform that makes the system marginally more progressive. Also, Clinton would seek to implement the Paris climate deal, while a Republican president would pull the U.S. out of it.

To be clear, none of this is to denigrate Bernie Sanders’s ambitions. Indeed, I hope that Obama will make a genuine effort to acknowledge the force of Sanders’s big argument — his insistence that the constraints of our political system, however real the obstacles they pose, ultimately should not cause us to scale back our idealized vision of a far more fair economy and just society. I also hope he’ll make the case to Sanders’s supporters that they have an important role to play in trying to pull Clinton and the Democratic Party towards them on their issues and in trying to erect a bulwark in Congress against any caves to regressive centrist deal-making. If the goal is to prevent disillusionment from setting in, those might serve as two key pieces of the argument.


Bernie Sanders Campaign Should Be Seen as an Initial Step in a Process Leading to the Establishment of a Labor Party

Source: JANDB99

Author: JANDB99

Emphasis Mine

The Sanders campaign has won the support of tens of millions of people — especially college age men and women — behind the progressive domestic program he expounds to a national audience. His campaign brings to the forefront a combination of demands not presented to the general public in modern times: tuition-free education at public colleges and universities; Medicare for All/Single Payer; the imperative to boldly fight climate change; a $15an hour minimum wage;  opposition to trade deals such as the anti-worker/anti-democratic TPP and TTIP; the erosion of democracy due to corporate money’s stranglehold on policy and the effects of Citizens United; a strong emphasis on labor’s rights; breaking up the big banks; condemning the scandalously highly inflated prices for prescription drugs, and a host of other demands and arguments pointing out the decades’ growth of economic inequality.


Sanders unabashedly and squarely places the blame on Wall Street and the millionaire and billionaire class for the multiple crises they fostered, the policies that adversely affect the vast majority of working people and the poor. Sanders has revitalized the tarnished image of a social agenda, and even of the word socialism itself. And he has done all this against the backdrop of others who, at best, favor incremental changes only.


Throughout the singular and unexpected momentum Sanders has generated, he repeatedly emphasizes that electing a president alone will not bring about the sweeping changes he advocates. He calls for a revolution fostered by the engagement of millions of people to fight for the changes needed, economically and politically. We of the Labor Fightback Network emphatically agree.


That is why we believe that the Sanders campaign presents an opportunity not seen for

decades, and this moment should be seized and utilized as a potential step forward in the struggle to establish an independent mass workers’ party based and built on labor and its community allies.

Of course, we realize that this would be foundation-building in order to create a national party with enough representatives in Congress to get legislation passed. Absent this, and with control of Congress remaining in the hands of the two corporate parties, the result would be continued gridlock and more dysfunctional government.

More voters now call themselves independents due to many years’ disenchantment with, and disenfranchisement from, the policies of the “oligarchic” two-party system. They are disgusted with a system that no longer even pretends to hear their needs or their voice. Therefore, now is the moment to seriously build the sentiment for a third party — a mass Labor Party — answering the needs of the 99%.


Assume that Hillary Clinton locks down the nomination. In that case, Sanders will no doubt continue to campaign for his program leading up to the Democratic convention and at the convention itself. Since the Party will need the energy — and money — of those Sanders has won over and invigorated, he will, no doubt, be given a prominent role at the convention. He will then dutifully campaign for the Democratic Party’s candidates while urging his supporters to do the same. Many will follow his lead and vote for the “lesser evil” Clinton candidacy rather than risk a victory for the ultra-reactionary Republicans.

But what about the hundreds of trade union bodies and the huge numbers of trade union and community activists who will have had it with “establishment politics,” to quote Sanders’ term? Many will reject giving support to hawk Hillary Clinton as the head of the Democratic Party.

And they will be fully justified in refusing to support this “lesser-evil.”

Clinton is one of the main candidates, if not the main candidate, of Wall Street in the coming elections; her multi-million dollar corporate funding attests to this. She is also one of the main pro-war candidates on either ticket. But that’s not all: She is opposed to the Sanders’ domestic agenda on key points: She is in favor of pursuing the corporate-led assault on public education pursued by Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She claims to oppose TPP but then tells the Chamber of Commerce not to worry because once elected she will implement TPP (Truthout.org, Jan. 31, 2016). She strongly opposes Medicare For All/Single Payer. And the list goes on.

Adrift and unwilling to compromise their convictions, where will Sanders’ supporters go? With no clear alternative for a place to land, widespread demoralization and apathy will inevitably ensue, as it did with Obama’s policies. The simple truth is that the interests and aspirations of the millions of Sanders’ supporters cannot be attained through the Democratic Party — a party of, by and for the ruling 1%.

What About the Third Parties Currently on the Scene?

There will no doubt be other third party choices on the November ballot with progressive programs. Unfortunately, they will all have the same limitation: their appeal to a limited sliver of the population and an absence of a mass base. None can or will substitute for a mass party based upon the working class – upon its trade unions and its community allies. The pressing challenge will be to take immediate concrete steps to advance toward that objective that will find them a home, one that truly has their interests at heart.

What We Advocate


In the event that Sanders does not succeed in winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency, we urge those unions that have endorsed him to stick together and establish a network geared to advancing the cause of independent labor politics with serious outreach to community-based organizations on the forefront of struggle, to the goal of establishing a Labor Party in the future.

Plans should be made for a national meeting, with invitations to the broad forces in the struggle for economic justice, centered around the issues of race, class and peace, and built upon truly democratic principles. Simultaneously, such a network could enhance its visibility with periodic demonstrations in the streets, including against all attempts that are coming down the pike to attack collective bargaining rights of public employees, such as the Friedrichs case.

The network  could start off with a number of planks from the Sanders’ program and add others, especially a foreign policy that opposes occupations, interventions and unjust wars that serve the corporate class. Instead of spending trillions for “defense,” use the money saved for education and human service programs plus infrastructure here at home. It could begin running independent labor-community candidates for public office at a local and state level, as a bridge to a Labor Party.

Such a network would need to reach out to the youth and recruit them to play a leading role; and involve from day one communities of color — African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Muslims and other oppressed nationalities — on a program that reflects their needs.

Moreover, a network could promote discussion and dialogue on these issues, while at the same time encouraging joint and coordinated organizing campaigns.

We hope that you agree with this perspective and will seize the moment to help make real dynamic and systemic change. If so, please fill out the coupon below and send to the address indicated in the masthead by email or regular mail to begin this timely process. If you wish to make a comment, please go to the Labor Fightback Blog at http://laborfightback.wordpress.com. You may make a comment at the end of the text.


The Real Truth About ObamaCare

Source: RSN

Author:Robert Reich

“Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than two weeks remaining before the March 31 deadline for coverage this year, five million people have already signed up. After decades of rising percentages of Americans’ lacking health insurance, the uninsured rate has dropped to its lowest levels since 2008.

Meanwhile, the rise in health care costs has slowed drastically. No one knows exactly why, but the new law may well be contributing to this slowdown by reducing Medicare overpayments to medical providers and private insurers, and creating incentives for hospitals and doctors to improve quality of care.

But a lot about the Affordable Care Act needs fixing — especially the widespread misinformation that continues to surround it. For example, a majority of business owners with fewer than 50 workers still think they’re required to offer insurance or pay a penalty. In fact, the law applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees who work more than 30 hours a week. And many companies with fewer than 25 workers still don’t realize that if they offer plans they can qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Many individuals remain confused and frightened. Forty-one percent of Americans who are still uninsured say they plan to remain that way. They believe it will be cheaper to pay a penalty than buy insurance. Many of these people are unaware of the subsidies available to them. Sign-ups have been particularly disappointing among Hispanics.

Some of this confusion has been deliberately sown by outside groups that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, have been free to spend large amounts of money to undermine the law. For example, Gov. Rick Scott,  Republican of Florida, told Fox News that the Affordable Care Act was “the biggest job killer ever,” citing a Florida company with 20 employees that expected to go out of business because it couldn’t afford coverage.

None of this is beyond repair, though. As more Americans sign up and see the benefits, others will take note and do the same.

The biggest problem on the horizon that may be beyond repair — because it reflects a core feature of the law — is the public’s understandable reluctance to be forced to buy insurance from private, for-profit insurers that aren’t under enough competitive pressure to keep premiums low.

But even here, remedies could evolve. States might use their state-run exchanges to funnel so many applicants to a single, low-cost insurer that the insurer becomes, in effect, a single payer. Vermont is already moving in this direction. In this way, the Affordable Care Act could become a back door to a single-payer system — every conservative’s worst nightmare.

Emphasis Mine