Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Baltimore Activist Alert -- October 31 -- November 1, 2018

33] Ukraine and Russia Oct. 31
34] Hand out Sierra Club endorsements at the polls – Oct. 31 & Nov. 1
35] Early Voting for Robbie Leonard for Senate – Oct. 31 & Nov. 1
36] Early Voting for Ben Jealous -- Oct. 31 & Nov. 1
37] Redlining – through Dec. 31
38] American Hate Oct. 31
39] Democratization and Gender in Postcolonial South Korea Oct. 31
40] Fundraiser to Stop Displacement Oct. 31
41] Canvass Baltimore City – Oct. 31
42] Canvass for Question H – Oct. 31
43] Schmoozin' with Susan – Oct. 31
44] North Korea’s Overseas Workers – Nov. 1
45] Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments -– Nov. 1
46] Putting it All Together -– Nov. 1
47] Marriott Tax Subsidies – Nov. 1
48] Doing Research and Activism in the Streets of Wilmington.  – Nov. 1
49] Food Rescue – Nov. 1
50] Conversation with Washington Post Editor Marty Baron -- Nov. 1
51] Phone bank in Anne Arundel County – Nov. 1
52] Struggle for Voting Rights Nov. 1
53] Phone bank for Gun Sense Candidates – Nov. 1
33] – On Wed., Oct. 31 from 9 AM to 5 PM, hear about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict: The Religious Dimension,  hosted by the United States Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC 20037. Tickets are at The Russian government is increasingly seeking to use the Russian Orthodox Church to expand its influence in Ukraine, but the Kremlin is now meeting heightened resistance from many Ukrainian religious communities and particularly from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate. The crisis now threatens to split the Ukrainian Church from its historic ties with Moscow, potentially adding a dangerous religious dimension to the simmering war between Russia and Ukraine.

In an all-day conference, Ukrainian religious leaders, scholars and others will examine the religious aspect of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on religious freedom in the country. Speakers will also delve into the ecclesiastical history of the relationship between the Russian and Ukrainian churches.  Register at  The event is co-hosted by The Religious Freedom Institute and The George Washington University. See

34] – Offering the Sierra Club Green Ballot is a very rewarding experience, and you can be sure you're helping Sierra Club Endorsed Candidates get into office!  People are genuinely interested in seeing this information. You can also make phone calls from home! Early Voting continues through November 1st, and Election Day is on November 6th. Sign up and join your local Sierra Club Greater Baltimore Group members at the polls by going to Email  

35] – Early Voting for Robbie Leonard for Senate continues on Wed., Oct. 31 and Thurs., Nov. 1 from 10 AM to 8 PM at Towson University, 8000 York Rd., Towson 21252.  Why wait until November 6th to cast your vote for Robbie Leonard as our next state senator? Avoid the lines and uncertainty of Election Day by voting early.  Go to

36] – Early Voting for Ben Jealous continues on Wed., Oct. 31 and Thurs., Nov. 1 from 10 AM to 8 PM at Randallstown Community Center, 3505 Resource Drive, Randallstown 21133. Ben has plans to fully fund our schools, stop healthcare premiums and prescription drug costs from bankrupting our families and grow Maryland’s economy by investing in working families, raising wages, and reducing the sales tax. Republicans only win when we don’t show up so join Ben to cast your ballot during early vote! Get to

37] – At 10 AM through December 31, check out Undesign the Redline exhibit, hosted by Choose Civility, HCLS Central Branch. Look for tickets at  This interactive exhibit explores the history of structural racism and classism, how these designs compounded each other from redlining maps until today, and how we can come together to undesign these systems with intentionality.  Tours, reading lists, events, and more details are at See

38] – On Wed., Oct. 31 from noon to 1:30 PM, catch American Hate: Survivors Speak Out [Book talk with Arjun Sethi], hosted by Georgetown University Mosaic at Georgetown University, Arrupe Hall, 3700 O St. NW, WDC 20057.  The Bridge Initiative is excited to host civil rights lawyer, community activist, and GU Law Professor Arjun Sethi for a book talk on “American Hate: Survivors Speak Out.  Lunch will be served. In the book Sethi chronicles the stories of individuals affected by hate. In a series of powerful, unfiltered testimonials, survivors tell their stories in their own words and describe how the bigoted rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration have intensified bullying, discrimination, and even violence toward them and their communities. We hear from the family of Khalid Jabara, who was murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in August 2016 by a man who had previously harassed and threatened them because they were Arab American. Sethi brings us the story of Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented mother of four who took sanctuary in a Denver church in February 2017 because she feared deportation under Trump’s cruel immigration enforcement regime. Arjun Singh Sethi is a community activist, civil rights lawyer, writer, and law professor based in Washington, DC. See

39] –  The George Washington Institute for Korean Studies, as part of its lecture series, is hosting a talk Democratization and Gender in Postcolonial South Korea from 1 to 2:30 PM on Wed., Oct. 31 at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, 1957 E St. NW, Room 505, WDC 20052. Register at Visit

South Korea has achieved rapid economic development and democratization. On the one hand, Korean democracy seems to have taken root and stabilized. On the other hand, hate speech and violence against women and sexual minorities are continuously increasing.  Dr. Kim questions what democratization means for women in contemporary South Korea.  She explores its historical trajectory focusing on the new civil code that has gender discriminatory characteristics in postcolonial South Korea.

40] – On Wed., Oct. 31 from 4 to 7:30 PM, attend a Halloween Party Happy Hour Fundraiser to Stop Displacement, hosted by Baltimore Housing Roundtable at Joe Squared, 33 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201.  This is part of the Charm City Land Trusts Crowdfunding Campaign! Fifteen percent of the bar will be donated to the fundraiser. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes and more!  Many parts of Baltimore are seeing prices rising and the threat of residents being pushed out. The Charm City Land Trusts in East Baltimore is fundraising to redevelop a vacant lot to be transformed into permanently affordable housing. The neighborhood has seen displacement of Black residents because of the Johns Hopkins decade-long development agenda, and now residents are seeing home prices jump by as much as 500%. Community Land Trusts are a model for community ownership and participation in development decisions as well as for keeping home ownership and rental housing affordable. The crowdfunding campaign has already raised over $5,000 with a goal of raising $20,000!  See

41] -- Come help Canvass for the general election with Progressive Maryland Baltimore. Mobilizing the vote in Baltimore City and Baltimore County is one of the most crucial steps to getting Ben Jealous elected in November. Support other local progressive candidates on Wed., Oct. 31 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. The location is to be announced. CONTACT Michael Feldman at 

42] – On Wed., Oct. 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, Canvass for Question H with Progressive Maryland & BmoreFairElex, hosted by Baltimore Fair Elections and Progressive Maryland Baltimore.  Meet at 36th and Roland Ave in Hampden, hosted by Baltimore Fair Elections and Join members of Progressive Maryland to canvass for Question H at the Hampden Halloweenfest! Clipboards and materials will be provided. Please do not wear any candidate or party apparel.  Email Check out

43] – On Wed., Oct. 31 from 7 to 9 PM, get with Schmoozin' with Susan, hosted by Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund in Pikesville. Tickets are at Jews around Maryland are hosting "Schmoozin' with Susan" programs to get to know Susie Turnbull, the endorsed candidate for Lieutenant Governor - and the running mate of Ben Jealous.  This event is being hosted at a private home in Pikesville - please register to get the address and learn about the plans that she and Jealous have to lead the state forward by investing in our teachers and fully funding our schools, investing in workers and small businesses to create an inclusive economy, defending the environment and fighting climate change, and moving money from mass incarceration towards affordable higher education and universal pre-K.  Go to

44] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 9 to 11 AM, hear from Greg Scarlatoiu, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and Jason Arterburn, C4ADS, who will talk about "North Korea’s Overseas Workers: Human Rights and Proliferation Concerns" at the National Press Club, Fourth Estate Room, 529 14th St. NW, WDC 20045 14th St. NW, WDC. RSVP at

45] –  On Thurs., Nov. 1 from noon to 1:15 PM, Moeed Yusuf, U.S. Institute of Peace, will tackle "Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia," at the University of Maryland, Room 1107, Van Munching Hall, 7699 Mowatt Lane, College Park, MD. See

46] -- On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 1 to 3:30 PM, attend the Workshop: Putting it All Together: Changing the System by Addressing Complex Problems through Collaboration at the Univ. of DE, Center for Community Research & Service, at Woodlawn Library, 2020 W. 9th St.,
Wilmington, DE. Register at

47] -- On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 2 to 4 PM, get over to the Marriott Tax Subsidies - Baltimore City Council Hearing, hosted by Unite Here Local 7 at Baltimore City Hall, 100 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202.  Baltimore City subsidized the development of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront by providing a loan of $5 million at 2 percent simple interest over 25 years and a $5 million grant, funded by general obligations bonds. In addition to loans, Baltimore City has subsidized the development of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront by signing a PILOT Agreement, under which the hotel is exempt from municipal real property taxes and instead pays the City $1 a year. Under this PILOT particular agreement, Baltimore City has foregone an estimated $47.6 million in tax revenue. City council is inviting the community to this informational hearing to discuss the subsidies that Baltimore has provided to the hospitality and tourism industry and best methods to ensure that any future subsidies to the industry are conditioned upon the recipients’ commitment to create quality jobs. The hearing is sponsored by City Council members Mary Pat Clarke, Bill Henry, President Young, Sharon Green Middleton, Brandon M. Scott, Kristerfer Burnett, Zeke Cohen, John T. Bullock, Shannon Sneed, Edward Reisinger, Ryan Dorsey, Leon F. Pinkett, III.  Workers at the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront are organizing for a fair process to decide on union representation. Marriott is the largest and richest hotel company on the planet, earning $22.9 Billion in revenue in 2017.  See

48] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 at 4 PM the Center for the Study of Diversity Colloquium is hosting Dr. Yasser Payne, Professor of Sociology & Criminal Justice, who will discuss Street Participatory Action Research: Doing Research and Activism in the Streets of Wilmington. Dr. Payne's work deals with violence in Northside and Westside neighborhoods, including Black men and women's experiences with violence, well-being, police, employment, work or employment and reentry in Wilmington. His presentation will also underscore the use of the arts for action or activism in the Ewing Room, Perkins Center, U. of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.

49] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 4 to 5 PM, hosted by Food Rescue Baltimore, every Thursday until Feb. 7, 2019 at the Dovecote CafĂ©, 2501 Madison Ave., Baltimore 21217.  Bring a bag, bring a friend, and take delicious, nutritious, free rescued food. Visit

50] –  On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 4:45 to 9 PM, hear A Conversation with Washington Post Editor Marty Baron, hosted by Philip Merrill College of Journalism - University of Maryland and The Diamondback in the Hoff Theater, 0110 Stamp Student Union, College Park 20742,.  Get tickets at  First, enjoy a free movie screening of the critically acclaimed "Spotlight," which details The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation — led by Marty Baron that exposed abuse by Catholic clergy and decades of cover-up by religious and government officials. At 7:15 PM, Baron will join a student-led Q&A. The conversation will cover a wide range of topics including the film, investigative journalism in an era of "fake news" and a president who refers to the media as the "enemy of the people." Tickets are free.  Focus on

51] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 phonebank from 6:30 to 8:30 PM for Progressive Maryland endorsed candidates in Anne Arundel County. Join Take Action AAC for an evening of phone banking at a private residence in Annapolis. Bring a charged cell phone, a tablet or laptop, and a smile! When you RSVP, you will be emailed the location. CONTACT Lynne Davis at

52] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 7 to 8:30 PM, catch up with The Struggle for Voting Rights: From the Founding to the Present, hosted by the School of International Service, AU and College of Arts and Sciences at American University in the Abramson Family Founders Room, School of International Service, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20016.  As citizens head to the polls for midterm elections on Nov. 6, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The right to vote is regarded as one of the most sacrosanct of U.S. liberties. But is there a right to vote? Join Distinguished Professor of History Allan J. Lichtman and Ibram X. Kendi, professor of history and international relations and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, for a conversation about America’s vote in the context of discrimination from the time of the country’s founding, the role of racism historically and today, and the modern-day suppression of voting by otherwise eligible American citizens. Lichtman is the author of many acclaimed books on U.S. political history. His most recent book is “The Embattled Vote in America” (Harvard University Press, 2018). Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and columnist for The Atlantic. His second book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” (Nation, 2016), won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction.  See

53] – On Thurs., Nov. 1 from 7 to 9 PM, Phone Bank for Courtney Watson & Katie Hester, hosted by Moms Demand Action - MD at 7050 Oakland Mills Rd., Suite 120, Columbia. Tickets are at  Join a phone bank for Gun Sense Candidates in District 9. Phone banking is great way to increase voter support and it's more fun when you do it as a group.  A light dinner will be provided. Look at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Time to End the Ruinous U.S. Alliance with Saudi Arabia

Time to End the Ruinous U.S. Alliance with Saudi Arabia

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Khashoggi murder and the likelihood of a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives offer an opportunity for distance
 Trump holds a chart of weapon sales as he welcomes Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office, 20 March, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

  The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi now seems very likely to prompt Congress to impose some sanctions on the Saudi government, and it may finally act to end the active US role in the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen.  

   Perhaps more significantly, some senior Democratic Party figures in Congress have called for the first serious reconsideration of the whole US-Saudi "special relationship", citing the need for fundamental changes in the relationship.   
A political cover

  Such a critical reappraisal is long overdue. For decades the United States has been providing political-diplomatic cover for Saudi policies that have caused far more disastrous consequences for the United States and for the entire Middle East than any of the countries that Washington has designated as "adversaries".

   More than any other American ally, the way Saudi Arabia operates is completely at odds with the values the US professes to champion and embody. The Saudi ruling elite is not only proudly anti-democratic but upholds an extreme interpretation of Islam that has made it the primary source of violence and instability in the Middle East over the past decade.

The US alliance with Saudi Arabia must be understood not in terms of normal geopolitical interest but in terms of the bureaucratic interests of the CIA and the Pentagon

  The main rationale for maintaining a "special relationship” with such an unsavoury regime has long been that the Saudis have assured “access” to oil at affordable prices. Many in the US political and national security elites have continued to embrace that argument, but fundamental changes in the global economics of oil – and especially the rise of the shale oil industry in the United States - have ended that former Saudi role in regulating the global oil market.

  The world's demand for oil has receded dramatically since 2014, creating a severe budget deficit problem for Saudi Arabia. As a result, the Saudis are afraid that any cut in production would cause the Kingdom to lose market share and benefit their competitors.  

   The new case for the US-Saudi alliance is that Saudi Arabia is the regional counterweight to Iranian expansion. But the recklessly aggressive Saudi behaviour in Syria and Yemen has done far more to benefit al-Qaeda, destabilise the region and harm US interests than to counter Iranian influence – real or imagined.  
Heavy costs

   The glaring contradiction between the supposed benefits of an alliance with the House of Saud and the actual heavy costs associated with it goes back to the US-Saudi collaboration between 1979 and 1988, supporting Afghan fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In 1979, a Saudi national, Osama bin Laden, moved to Afghanistan to join the fighters and support them logistically and financially. In 1988, he founded al-Qaeda.

The Saudi regime’s fear of bin Laden's popularity among its citizenry prompted it to cover up the reality of al-Qaeda terrorism, even after it struck inside Saudi Arabia itself. But more importantly, the US government tolerated that Saudi cover-up of terrorism.

  In November 1995, four veterans of the Saudi jihadist force in Afghanistan with ties to bin Laden bombed the office of the program manager of the Saudi National Guard, which the US military was training, killing six American servicemen and wounding 42. That should have signaled a crisis in the alliance, but nothing happened.

  Then came the bombing of Khobar Towers in June 1996, which killed 19 Americans and wounded 372. FBI Director Louis Freeh, the man in charge of the US investigation of the bombing, quickly accepted then Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s position that Iran was behind the bombing and ruled out any investigation of the bin Laden organisation. CIA Director George Tenet supported that decision.

The recklessly aggressive Saudi behaviour in Syria and Yemen has done far more to benefit al-Qaeda, destabilise the region and harm US interests than to counter Iranian influence – real or imagined

   A former FBI official involved in the investigation revealed to this writer that when the FBI arrived at the scene to investigate the bombing in Saudi Arabia, they found the Saudi government was bulldozing the crime scene. And US intelligence intercepted secret orders from the Saudi interior ministry to provincial officials to obstruct the investigation.

   Bin Laden actually confirmed his network’s responsibility for the bombing in two interviews he gave to the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in October and November 1996. The leadership of the FBI and CIA nevertheless supported the Saudi regime’s claim that it was an Iranian operation, thus effectively protecting the al-Qaeda network in the Kingdom. Two terror bombings that should have ended the “special relationship” thus gave al-Qaeda the opportunity to strike successfully on 9/11.  
Covert operations

   Even after the 9/11 attacks, Saudi Arabia remained the leading source of funding for al-Qaeda, as Hillary Clinton noted in a classified 2009 paper. And as the US treasury department concluded in 2008, the Saudi government was still not taking steps to halt such funding, despite the Americans urging them to.

   The Obama administration gave the alliance with the Kingdom new importance by responding to pressure from its Saudi allies - as well as Turkey and Qatar - with a CIA programme to support the supply of arms to opposition forces in Syria. It was a covert US operation managed by the CIA but funded by the Saudi government – an arrangement that revived a familiar pattern of past Saudi-CIA collaboration.

  For the CIA, the payoff was the freedom to carry out an operation that was “off the books” in terms of funding. 

   But the cost to the interest of US in halting terrorism and to the stability of the Middle East as a whole were enormous. Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and its closest allies got a large share of the weapons, because the supposedly "moderate" forces were militarily dependent on Nusra.

   And the new threat to the regime of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad eventually provoked both Iranian and Russian military intervention, which the Obama administration should have anticipated from the start but didn’t. The end result of the US-Saudi operation was to wreck Syrian society for the foreseeable future and to give an al-Qaeda affiliate a political-military foothold in Syria.
A rare opportunity

  Then in March 2015, the Obama administration signed on to another Saudi scheme – a Saudi-UAE air war to destroy the Iran-aligned Houthi forces in Yemen and restore a Saudi-backed government. The Obama administration not only gave its approval to the war in advance but then provided diplomatic cover for Saudi policies of preventing food and other humanitarian goods from reaching the civilian population.

  The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe. Yemen’s ability to function as a society will be compromised as long as the war continues.

  The US alliance with Saudi Arabia must be understood not in terms of normal geopolitical interest but in terms of the bureaucratic interests of the CIA and the Pentagon, which have dovetailed well with those of the House of Saud.

   Although US officials would not disclose the amount of the Saudi contribution to the CIA’s covert programme to arm and train Syrian opposition forces, the total effort cost “several billion dollars”, according to New York Times sources.

   For its part, the Pentagon and its arms contractor allies have already gotten contracts worth $14.5bn with the promise of $110 bn to come - depending on US compliance with Saudi interests. Equally important, it has gotten access to a naval facility in Bahrain (officially designated as "a major non-NATO ally" in 2002) over which the Saudis hold sway and which the Saudi regime will now certainly threaten to terminate if the US puts too much pressure on it. 

  Those interests have been sufficient to keep the two powerful national security institutions committed to the alliance. In the wake of the grisly Khashoggi murder and the likelihood of a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, however, a rare opportunity has arisen for Congress to act independently of those institutions and impose restrictions on ties with the Saudis that have wrought primarily terrorism and ruin in the Middle East.

© 2018 Middle East Eye
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Gareth Porter
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of five books, the latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in February 2014. He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Trump Is Running Scared of Socialism

Published on Portside (

Trump Is Running Scared of Socialism

Miles Kampf-Lassin
October 24, 2018

  If you want proof that the growing popularity of socialism poses a real threat to the Trump administration — and to the dominance of market fundamentalism over the US economy — just look at a panicky report released Tuesday by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).
Titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” the seventy-two-page document is a capitalist retort to rising calls for redistributive policies. Ostensibly (and bizarrely) released in recognition of “the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth,” the report acknowledges that “self-declared socialists are gaining support in Congress and among much of the electorate.”

   Indeed, by the time the 2018 midterm elections come to a close, there will almost assuredly be three self-described socialists serving in the US Congress — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Bernie Sanders — along with dozens more in state and local offices throughout the United States. But it’s not just the historic growth in electoral power for socialists that has the current government worried. It’s the widespread embrace of socialism and social-democratic policies by the American public.

  Medicare for All, a policy cornerstone of the resurgent American socialist movement, is supported by 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans. Policies such as a $15 minimum wage, a federal jobs guaranteehigher taxes for the wealthy and corporations, free public college, and urgent action to tackle climate change all similarly boast majority support. And more and more candidates are running on these ideas, as current office holders push for legislation that would make them US law.

  Clearly the Right is losing the war of ideas. Apparently they hope an eye-glaze-inducing white paper will help pull the public back into their camp.

 The Ghost of Thatcher

 The report frames its critique of socialism by quoting former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s oft-cited claim that “Socialist governments … always run out of other people’s money,” and thus the way to prosperity is for the state to give “the people more choice to spend their own money in their own way.”

  It’s appropriate that the authors take the Iron Lady’s words as gospel, since she was similarly distressed by “creeping socialism” and used her time in power to push neoliberal economic policies of deregulation, privatization, and austerity coupled with attacks on voting rights and organized labor.
The ruthless ideology grounding Thatcher’s market-centric economic philosophy, “monetarism,” was revealed by Alan Budd, one of her economic advisers, in 1992 when he called monetarism
a very, very good way to raise unemployment and raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes. So what was engineered there, in Marxist terms, was a crisis of capitalism which recreated a reserve army of labor and has allowed the capitalist to make high profits ever since.

   Such high profits for the super rich are the type of benchmarks the CEA sets for judging economic success. Throughout the report, the authors consistently use “growth” as a marker for how capitalist economies are able to outperform socialist ones. (Never mind that a full 95 percent of income gains in the growth years following the Great Recession — from 2009 to 2013 — went to the top 1 percent.)

   Inequality levels in the United States continue to rival those of the Gilded Age, while the racial wealth gap grows ever larger and millions of Americans go without adequate access to housing, education, health care, and other basic needs.

  But these are not the concerns of the CEA analysts. Instead, they employ a series of absurd Friedmanite graphs, odd references to discarded Christmas sweaters as representations of mixed value (“the recipients of Christmas gifts sometimes value the gifts less than they cost the giver, as exemplified by Christmas sweaters that are never taken out of the closet to be worn”), and strange claims that “owning and operating a pickup truck costs the average worker in a Nordic country substantially more than it costs the average American worker” to prove that capitalism must be the only system capable of ushering in true “economic freedom.”

   At no point, however, does the report address the fact that the kind of “economic freedom” the report’s authors are championing is incompatible with a profit-driven order that systematically deprives large swaths of the population of the freedom to live in an affordable home, be taught in a fully funded school, and access lifesaving medical care without breaking the bank.

Whose Economic Freedom?

  In fact, what the CEA authors really mean when they talk about “economic freedom” is the freedom of the market to determine the functioning of the economy — freedom for the few to have no limits on how much wealth they can accumulate while the many are deprived of the freedoms that come from having their basic needs met.

  As Corey Robin explained, contesting the capitalist conception of freedom in the New York Times:
When my wellbeing depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

   Socialists present a break with the logic of capital not simply by elevating policies that would downwardly redistribute wealth, but also through redistributing power. Injecting more democracy into the economy, taking the distribution of basic services out of private hands, divesting from the military, and building rank-and-file power in the workplace would all fundamentally challenge current power relations. And that’s why the Trump administration is taking the threat posed by this new socialist upsurge so seriously.

The Truth About M4A

  It’s not just Tuesday’s report. Earlier this month, President Trump penned an op-ed in USA Today directly criticizing Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, claiming that it would somehow “eviscerate Medicare” and “threaten America’s seniors.” Of course, the plan would do no such thing, seeing as how it’s predicated on expanding the existing program — which functionally serves as a single-payer system — to all Americans. And as Sanders himself pointed out, Trump’s case is “full of lies.”

   But one thing Trump did get right in his op-ed is that a full 64 percent of House Democrats, along with fifteen Democratic senators, have signed on to Sanders’s plan. And in nearly half of all the races that Democrats are contesting this fall, their candidates are backing Medicare for All. That’s a massive shift from just two years ago, when few national Democrats openly favored such a plan. Even Hillary Clinton said in 2016 that single-payer health care would “never, ever come to pass.”
Sensing the surging popularity of Medicare for All, the CEA authors devote over a dozen pages to criticizing the policy. Yet, as Sarah Kliff points out, the report “inadvertently makes a case for single-payer” by showing that Medicare recipients in the United States actually face shorter wait times than those who hold private insurance. Oops.

A Flawed Critique

  Accidental arguments for single-payer aside, the entire premise of the CEA critique of socialism misses the mark. After pointing to the failures of farming and food production under Stalin and Mao — models which, as far as I’m aware, no socialist politicians or Democratic Socialists of America organizers are advocating for — the authors claim that “the lessons from socialized agriculture carry over to government takeovers of oil, health insurance, and other modern industries: They produce less rather than more.”

   The implication is that socialist policies would result in scarcity — bread lines, famine, and rationed care. For socialists, however, the goal is not to eliminate production, but to shift it from boosting corporate profits to serving human needs. As Meagan Day explains, “Our goal is not to rein in the excesses of capitalism for a few decades at a time — we want to end our society’s subservience to the market.”

  Medicare for All would replace the current system of private health insurance, which would spell the end of the industry. But it would do so in service of making health care a human right that all people have access to regardless of their ability to pay, and base our care provision on that proposition. Current plans for instituting Medicare for All — including Sanders’s — also incorporate job training for health insurance workers to gain employment in other fields that would be more productive for society.

    When it comes to the oil industry, socialists are clear that avoiding the worst effects of climate change — spelled out in detail in the recent IPCC report — requires leaving current fossil fuel reserves in the ground and immediately transitioning to renewable energy. That would mean stunting the oil industry’s growth, but it would be in service of the continued existence of our civilization. And energy production would massively increase in solar, wind, and other renewable sources instead of fossil fuels.

   Another bizarre claim made in the report is that “Nordic taxation overall is surprisingly less progressive than US taxes.” That statement may come as a surprise to Amazon CEO and US resident Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth whose company paid zero in federal income taxes last year and has avoided $20.4 billion in state taxes since its founding in 1994. Also, because he lives in Washington State which has a notoriously regressive tax system, Bezos personally pays no state income taxes.

   This type of tax avoidance is commonplace among US-based corporate behemoths and the super rich — including President Trump himself who has boasted about it. If such a system is considered “progressive” by CEA standards, the bar has been set to a new low.
Naming the Class Enemy

  One point that the report largely gets right is the fact that, throughout history, socialists have been effective at directly identifying their political opponents: “The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren).” While Warren, who has clearly stated “I am a capitalist,” may disagree with being named in such a list, she and Sanders have been effective at contesting the obscene role of corporate power in influencing our political system.

  What has set Sanders apart, as Bhaskar Sunkara points out in the Guardian, is his insistence that a movement challenging the “billionaire class” and building working-class power is the only force that can truly transform the American political system, turning it away from oligarchy and toward democracy. And Sanders has set out to help bring about such a transformation under the label of democratic socialism.

 Why They’re Scared

   With growing support for socialist policies and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) now counting over fifty thousand members and running candidates in races across the country opposing the Trump administration’s policies on the economy, immigration, housing, health care, and more, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the White House is attempting to tamp down on this swelling movement.

   Yet while the Council of Economic Advisers expresses concern in droll, wonkish prose about the supposed evils of socialism, conservative activists are much more focused on instilling reactionary narratives and rolling back democratic rights throughout US society.

   Rather than trying to win over Americans by offering better policies, the Right is instead countering the Left’s success in the court of public opinion by disenfranchising voters, stoking racial animus, blanketing the airwaves with conservative propaganda, and bankrolling far-right candidates. Their strange pro-capitalist academic screed through official White House channels is just the intellectual side of that project.

   The Trump administration has every reason to be scared. Socialists are building a movement.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs