It was more than twenty years ago, and it was late at night in the student center at my university.
There were two of us in the room, a small fluorescent-lit corner office with crappy tables and chairs.
I was working on Aldus Pagemaker trying to sort out the layout for an article on community activism. "Jim" was working on research for the master list of corporations doing business in South Africa that our collective was demanding our university divest from. Now.
But this isn't about that...
Hello, my handle is "kid oakland" and I began writing on dailyKos...a very long time ago.
The reason I bring that up is because when I started out here in 2003, I was 34 years old. That's old enough to have some experience under one's belt, but young enough to still be learning, uh, some significant ropes.
(Also arguably young enough to append "kid" to your handle, but that's another story.)
In 2003 we in the netroots were resisting Bush/Cheney's wars...and absolutely reeling from the 2002 elections. To our credit, over the following five years we played a small but vital role in helping to change the direction of politics in this nation. We deserve to be proud of that.
But looking back is not what I want to do tonight. Tonight, I'd like to ask you look ahead and join me in a conversation...
As of today, nearly two million Americans who are among the long-term unemployed have been without federal unemployment extension benefits for 46 days.
While that means hot water for some Republicans who have been filibustering passage of a bill extending benefits, it also means that millions of Americans who are already poor, are becoming more poor in a multitude of ways: spending down savings, accepting low-paying and irregular work, moving to Social Security at age 62 with reduced benefits, and dropping out of the labor force entirely.
Never in more than 65 years have so many workers been without a job and without a government lifeline. Congress cut off 1 million people en masse in December when it permitted a special emergency program for the long-term unemployed to lapse. Since then, their ranks have been growing by about 72,000 a week. -WaPo
To make things worse for those hurting in this economy, Congress also cut food stamps. This cut in nutritional assistance represents an austerity double-whammy
for many of America's poor...
This excellent article on "the eroding Middle Class" by Nelson Schwartz featured in the business pages of the New York Times yesterday.
Schwartz wasted no time painting a bleak picture. After describing middle-class department stores and restaurants closing up and down the East Coast only to be replaced by high-end clothiers and upscale eateries, he delivered this hard-hitting fact about our recent 'economic recovery': "about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income."
Whew. You read that right. Ninety percent of the growth from just the richest 20 percent of households. (What on earth could that statistic mean for the rest of us?)
Schwartz's article is based on an equally excellent paper by Barry Cynamon and Steven Fazzari entitled "Inequality, the Great Recession and Slow Recovery" which is very much worth your attention, as well.
Thing is, of course, as Cynamon and Fazzari's research points out, the middle class has been eroding for years...since the mid-1980's in fact...
Today, I'd like to ask you to do something unusual.
In involves a pen or pencil and one sheet of paper. There's nothing all that consequential about the particulars of what you do with that writing utensil and sheet of paper...it can be virtual, real, scrap, messy, neat, elaborate, exhaustive or, in point of fact, nonexistent.
The main thing I'm asking you to do is take a moment out of your busy schedule and reflect for a few minutes...
I'll never forget the first time I visited New York City.
It was the spring of 1987, and I had just been accepted to Columbia University with enough financial aid (basically all my tuition covered) to be able to afford it.
My dad put me on a red eye to Newark and I took a Kerry Cab to Port Authority at 6am. I called my cousin to ask him what I should do to take in some sights in New York City before I made my way up to campus.
He told me something to the effect of, "Just walk around Times Square, there's a lot to see right there."
So I set off up 8th Avenue...
My profile tells me that I've been here for 10 years as "kid oakland" as of, well, today.
I'd like to take the briefest of diaries to express my appreciation of this community, its readers, diarists, comment makers, activists and trouble makers.
Ten years ago I was a politically active 30something with a brand spankin' new iMac Graphite (600mhz under the hood, baby) and a dial up modem ready and eager to find like-minded folks on the internet.
My buddy awol told me to check out this website dailykos.com.
And so I did...
Last night President Obama spoke out in support of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and indexing it to inflation.
I'll provide the full text below, but anyone who read my diaries last month knows that I wholeheartedly support the President on this; moreover, I advocated for this position even when some were shushing that we had to embrace compromise because that was the best we could do.
And there's a lesson here that I'd like to keep short and simple.
Stand up for what you believe.
Now is not the time to triangulate, or try to "protect" our elected officials.
Now is the time to speak up, speak our minds, and build the America we know is possible.
Only when we lead from the bottom do we create the conditions whereby elected officials can take action from the top.
I want to say, having been repeatedly critical of a tax deal that favored the ultra rich and did too little to reverse economic inequality and provide for the adequate and sustained funding of our government (which I still think did too little and am still critical of...) that I liked the President's 2nd inaugural address.
I thought it was a good speech, a liberal speech and set a hopeful note for the next four years.
I would also like to add this thought. When I refer to "Hope 2.0", I am not referring to President Barack Obama, though I certainly hope that he fulfills the as yet unfulfilled promise that led so many of us to support and embrace his campaign.
I'm referring to us...
In my diary about the minimum wage last week, $7.25, one commenter offered the observation that critics of the tax deal were perhaps indulging in a "narcissism of small differences" in our criticism of the President.
(Primps in front of mirror.) Count me guilty as charged.
If we could pass George Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act, 28 million American wage earners, most of them women, would see a pay increase for every hour that they work. In three years, the minimum wage would increase to $9.80 per hour (For million of workers that would be an increase of $20 per day) and the wages of tipped workers would increase dramatically.
Small difference? Not so much. 28 million workers is 18% of the American workforce.
Given what's at stake for working families, should we stop talking about economic justice? No way.
On that note, here's a must-read opinion piece about income inequality, One Economic Pickle, from Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.
Harold Meyerson has a great op-ed in the Washington Post examining an under-reported aspect of the Biden-McConnell tax deal: its low tax rates for capital gains and dividends that effectively reward offshoring jobs.
Meyerson's op-ed is called A tax deal only the ultra-rich could love, and in it, Meyerson lays out how the Biden-McConnell tax deal increases economic inequality, rewards the offshoring of jobs, deprives the government of needed revenue, and reinforces the redistribution of wealth from wages to profits.
Bad news for workers making $7.25 an hour, but great news for America's ultra rich...
I'd like to offer a link for anyone who enjoyed Billmon's front page analysis of the current state of Democratic politics.
Mario Cuomo's 1984, San Francisco Convention Keynote (warning, site has pop-ups), also called his "Two Cities" speech is a must-read.
Second, I'd like to point out that disagreeing with someone or something, is not the same as "hating" someone or something. That should be obvious. But apparently, it's not. Both sides of any dispute are tempted to engage in this kind of talk, and it's foolish.
The notion, for example, that because I might disagree with Barack Obama and the tax deal, that I "hate" him or the tax deal, is absolute nonsense.
As is the notion that if we are working to build a more just society, that we're all going to agree all the time. I'm not aware of any movement that accomplished meaningful, lasting change that did not involve some disagreement and bruised egos along the way.
The point is, the above being a given, how will history judge us and our actions against what was possible? How effectively did we stand up for our core values?