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Resistance is not enough: an election-year pledge, with R.J. Eskow

To really reverse the Trump agenda, RJ Eskow argues, “resistance” is not enough. Instead, a program for making material changes in people’s lives is necessary for motivating people to come to the polls. In order to head off the politics of personalities and the inertia of Democratic leadership, a group of activists have come together to write a platform for change. RJ Eskow is one of the writers of that pledge, and he joins me to discuss it.

When we talk about the Democratic Party, I always feel we have to distinguish the rank and file members of the party from the people of influence who have power and the party leadership, because I think there are two very distinct populations. I have written a lot over the past year about the opinions of Democratic Party-registered Democrats. They want the party to move left. They want new leaders. Polling shows that they are strongly progressive economically.
Then, of course, it is no secret to you or most of the people reading this, that there is an entrenched resistance to that form of resistance within the Democratic Party. I think there will be a lot of people who are hoping that the party can make it to victory in November without committing to any specific transformative economic agenda. That is, enough to say, “Oh, that Trump. We hate him. He is awful. Don’t you hate him, too? Come on out and vote.” There are only two ways that can play out in my book.
…But, if the rank and file can pressure the party, can demand an agenda like this from the party, things will be different because more leaders will commit to it, more people who will prevail in the primaries who stand for this kind of an agenda, the party will really be something people can identify with, and I think that greatly improves its chances in November and its chances going forward.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Clipping the hedge funds that own Puerto Rico’s debt, with Jonathan Westin.

What are hedge funds for, anyway? That’s the question that the Hedge Clippers, a coalition of organizers and researchers targeting secretive financial institutions, has been asking for a while. They’ve had some success, notably in getting New York City’s pension funds out of hedge funds, and they’ve set their sights on Puerto Rico’s debt and the hedge funders that own it. Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change and Hedge Clippers joins me to discuss.

Essentially, they are glorified debt collectors. That is what the hedge fund managers are acting as. In many cases, they are the ones that hiked up all the spending and borrowing. They created the debt and frankly there is no reason Puerto Rico should pay it back. That is part of what Trump was talking about when he was talking about cancelling the debt. I actually think there are a lot of people in this country that can sympathize with the huge amounts of debt that are piling up and the question of “where is all of this money going in our country and in our economy, and frankly, globally?” It is a continuing push and consolidation of all of the wealth and capital in this country going to folks like these hedge fund managers, while every day Americans are struggling and having to rely on debt to live. This is everyday America. “I am able to pay my rent and water bills by living on credit cards. I am able to send my kid to college by borrowing tons and tons of money.” So much of how we live now is debt created by Wall Street. In this case, it is an entire island and country that they have impoverished. I think we are now seeing the tragic ramifications in a post-Hurricane Maria world. The only way they are going to get back on their feet is with heavy investments into the infrastructure of Puerto Rico and not putting that money into the pockets of hedge fund managers that are trying to collect immoral debts.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Tax policy matters, with Marshall Steinbaum

Trump’s tax plan has dropped and is a huge giveaway to the owners of capital. Despite many promises on the campaign trail to put people back to work and to pay attention to the needs of working people and the unemployed, Trump’s plan is, economist Marshall Steinbaum notes, Republican tax policy on steroids, larded with giveaways to the rich and those who live off their wealth. He joins us to explain how to fight it, and why the fight over tax policy is at the heart of the fight against inequality.

We have eliminated progressive taxation in this country or vastly reduced it and the effect of that has been to increase the incentives that rich people and powerful people have to dominate the economy to their own benefit. We used to have a statutory maximum individual income tax rate of 90% over a very high income and what that is is basically making it illegal to be rich. Not surprisingly, if you make it illegal to be rich, people don’t want to be as rich as they used to be. I was having this debate about the history of progressive taxation in the United States. There were no rich people by today’s standards in 1960. Like none. Now we have tons of them and they are richer than they ever were before and that is because we stopped taxing them so it became more worthwhile to earn more. If you are wondering why the owners of one gigantic profitable corporation would want to merge with another gigantic profitable corporation and cut tens of thousands of workers and chop off their supply chain and raise prices to consumers because you have no other place to go, that is exactly why. If their tax rates were still 90%, it would be illegal to increase their income from where it currently is, more or less, and there would be no incentive to do that.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.