Real Populists Protect Workers

The editorial in the 5/1/06 TPP ("Immigrants Come Home") was a great disappointment to me, because it was so out of character with real Populism. True Populists would never advocate or defend policies that resulted in depressing the wages of working men and women in the United States, as the invasion of millions of illegal immigrants has done. The thrust of the editorial was entirely favorable to the illegals with scarcely a word about the importance of border security. I should add here that any Populist should beware of any immigration policy supported by Ted Kennedy, as he has never seen a pro-immigrant or illegal-immigrant policy that he did not like.

Workers realize that, since the 1970s, their purchasing power has been declining. In the same issue of the paper, Holly Sklar presented figures to show the downward trend of wages of about 11% since 1973, despite rising worker productivity. But Sklar added that there had been better days for working men and women. That was between 1947 and 1973. There are several reasons for the contrasting trends, but one of the main reasons is that before 1965 we had an immigration policy that protected workers and their standard of living. By the mid-1970s, as a result of the 1965 law, immigration began to rise sharply.

By the 1980s several million illegals had entered the country. In 1986 Congress passed an amnesty law that included border controls that lawmakers had no intention of enforcing. In effect, Congress and the Clinton and Bush administrations turned immigration policy over to the Corporations and other special interests who benefited most from nearly open borders. With another 12 million illegals, or perhaps more, the vast majority of Americans are demanding that our borders be made secure. They do not want border security lost in some larger and more comprehensive bill as was the case in 1986. We should learn something from history.

But why should Congress be interested in raising the minimum wage or doing anything else to help lower-income working Americans when doing nothing to curb illegal immigration achieves their supporters' goal of cheap labor. Let's secure the borders first and make sure that sufficient enforcement personnel, equipment and technology are doing the job. Then there will be plenty of time to deal with the 12 million illegals already here with a fair and sensible policy. If we secured our borders we would remove part of the strong pressures to keep wages low. Then if we could correct our dumb and giveaway trade policies, we might slow or even stop the drift toward becoming a third-world country with the masses poor and the minority rich.

Gilbert C. Fite
Fort Myers, Fla.


Help Immigrants Help Us

President Bush plans to spend billions of our dollars to turn the Mexican border into a war zone, using paramilitary troops and high-tech equipment. It's a horrible idea that Congress should quash immediately. Immigration is a result of social and economic forces that the US has a major part in creating, such as poverty and joblessness in South America. The great wealth that undocumented workers create in the US is unacknowledged, while the government illegally declares war on border communities in the US and Mexico. Who can doubt that Chicanos, Mexicans, and other brown-skinned people will be abused and killed by trigger-happy, privatized soldiers whose bosses care only for the money they make. The dismal record of privatized prisons shows what poor and workingclass people of color can expect.

Millions of immigrants and their supporters in the streets on May Day displayed a powerful force for change that can also help US citizens who are feeling the contempt of our government for their jobs, wages, pensions, and freedom of speech. It's time that unions, women, the elderly, and all people of color join undocumented workers and stop the destruction of their rights and ours.

Adrienne Weller
Seattle, Wash.


Blame 'Free Trade,' Not Migrants

Amen to Jesse Jackson's "Wage War on Poverty, Not Immigrants" [5/1/06 TPP]. Amnesty to Mexicans here because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will allow them to become upwardly mobile, and their Social Security payments will help pay for the pensions of our retiring Baby Boomers. Allowing their families to come in and become citizens will do more of the same. Once that is accomplished, NAFTA and the other FTAs should be repealed. Except for FTAs with nations with weapons of mass destruction, they have secret tribunals that render stiff judgments against nations that pass environmental protection or safety law that might decrease expected profit by private investors. This violates these nations' sovereignty and self-determination.

Without FTAs, the nations may restore their protective tariffs that let them provide for the general welfare of their own citizens. ...

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St Louis Mo


No Mining, No Trolling

President Bush was almost too quick to respond to the "phone records" fiasco, by denying any trolling or data-mining activities, but there are still many questions in need of answers. When it's reported that AT&T/SBC, Verizon and BellSouth "turned over records of their customer's phone calls to NSA," what does it really mean? Did they do it only one time shortly after 9/11, but never again? Did they do it voluntarily, or for a fee? Did they continue to do long after 9/11/01? Are they still doing it? Reportedly, Qwest Communications declined to turn over records due to "privacy and legal concerns." Did AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have that same option? What about Cingular, Sprint, Nextel, etc.? Were they asked to provide records?

All of this Bush paranoia, in the context of the CIA's firing of Mary McCarthy, the investigation of Dusty Foggo and the surprise resignation of Porter Goss, only heightens the intrigue surrounding this incident. This "iceberg" has a "Nixonian" stench! Sniff it out! This smells like -- Watergate II.

Tom Austin
Cleveland, Ohio


Oil Addiction

Of course Bush has jumped on the "oil addiction" bandwagon. High gas prices are manna from heaven as far as he's concerned. If he paints a black enough picture, people will agree to drilling in the Arctic and rolling back all sorts of environmental protections. It's a technique he's successfully used before. (See Iraq and the War on Terrorism.)

After all it's his and Cheney's cronies in the energy business who are making big bucks and stand to make even more if they can rape the environment with impunity.

Judy R. Reis
Bisbee, Ariz.


Different Line-Item Veto

When Attorney General Meese moved from the White House to the Department of Justice [during the Reagan administration], the signing statement was transformed into what it has become.

When the Reagan administration came to office, its leaders intended nothing less than a revolution in government and in the nation.

The administration would establish a systematic process of signing statements designed to defend executive branch authority. It would present the president's views as a legitimate and authoritative part of the legislative history of new statutes.

Meese accomplished this in 1986 through an agreement with the West Publishing Company to include the signing statements in the US Code Congressional and Administrative News legislative history.

This gives the president a type of line-item veto. He can louse up any bill that comes before him.

Recently, Bush signed a bill outlawing torture. In his signing statement he added "except in certain cases".

This bill-signing statement gives the president way too much power. It changes the balance between Congress and the executive branch. This presidential signing statement has to be changed or eliminated. Tomorrow is not too soon.

Mr. Clare J. Crowley
Milwaukee, Wis.


Anybody We Know?

Here are some of the characteristics of a third-world country:

• Wealth of the nation concentrated in the top 5% to 10% through changes in income tax

• Declining middle class through declining manufacturing base

• Bottom 90% perform all service industries at low wages with little benefits

• Skyrocketing national debt

• Increased militarism and military leadership

• Dictatorship at the helm through rubber-stamp, one-party control and resulting loss of personal liberties

• Government spying on its own citizens

• People (citizens and otherwise) held in prisons ("detained") indefinitely with no charges ever brought and no access to the law

Do we recognize ourselves?

Evelyn Krueger
Forest Park, Ill.


Grizzly Choices

I suppose you could harness up a couple grizzlies to plow your land, but factoring in all the safety measures and maintenance costs, not to mention they might break the harness and get loose once in a while, you could probably grow spuds for a couple hundred dollars a pound. Of course, the other thing you would need is the government to subsidize you to the point where you could sell spuds for a buck a pound. And I'm sure you could carry if off for quite a while. That's pretty much where nuclear power is and always will be. Not that coal and oil will ever be a cost-effective bargain, either.

We will never have a sane energy policy as long as for-profit, multinational energy corporations dictate the policy. But with a hedonistic, fundamentalist, conservative electorate terrified of any form of socialism, the situation seems pretty hopeless.

Earl F. Miller
Hayfork, Calif.


Protect the Vote

I've been walking my neighborhood asking people to sign a petition to have a candidate put on the primary ballot. This is not the kind of activity I usually do, but things are in a mess and I can't wait for others to rescue us. This led me to question whether the coming election will be fair. What are our chances if the voting machines are rigged purposely or by bad programming? A paper trail is not enough. I programmed for years and I know it is possible to put out a printed version different from an internal count. Can we persuade someone like George Soros to buy or start a voting machine company that is willing to make the programs available for independent debugging and testing? Maybe we need the same people who write programs for the slots. We need help before the 2008 elections.

Paula Brinton
Wethersfield, Conn.

Editor Notes: Computer experts have demonstrated that electronic voting machines can be hacked and/or malfunction with no verifiable backup count. The best solution, we believe, is Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J)'s Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550), which would require a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in a federal election. Among other things, it also would require random, unannounced hand counts of actual election results from sample precincts in every state and each county to compare paper ballot counts with the electronic count. The paper ballot would be the vote of record in case of inconsistency with electronic records. Some e-vote critics are holding out for even tougher legislation, but we believe Holt's is the most practical and effective bill. Republican congressional leaders have not allowed a committee hearing since Holt originally filed the bill in May 2003.


Repair Democracy

Thank you for the recommendation to read 10 Steps to Repair American Democracy, by Steven Hill. It's an amazingly fact-filled book that would give you material for many columns in future issues of TPP.

The Democratic Party is almost about to give us an agenda of what they might stand for if they win the House in this next election. Many recommended items in this book would be an excellent starting point for their list of remedies for the sad state of affairs we are presently suffering from. Let's hear more from Steven Hill.

Bob Cassidy
Eugene, OR 97403
Email bcassidy@efn.org


Help Farmers Feed Us

As someone old enough to remember (reading about) the farming crises of the 1930s and to have applauded FDR's (my hero) bureaucratic solutions, I can only urge great caution on those who would resolve today's agricultural mess. We should be less solicitous of exporters and more concerned about our small farmers and the nation's ability to nourish ourselves.

Robert C. Sommer
New York, N.Y.


From the Editor

Thanks to Mr. Johanson

William Johanson, a retired electrician and longtime subscriber from Burlington, Wash., who passed away on April 20, provided a substantial bequest for The Progressive Populist. We appreciate his support over the years and his confidence that we will continue to speak truth to power.

In its 10th year of publication, this twice-monthly newspaper is in relatively good financial shape for a progressive periodical, but, even with Mr. Johanson's gift, we still lack the resources to aggressively expand our circulation. That is our challenge, and you can help.

Please consider a donation to The Progressive Populist. If you can't afford a contribution at this time, please consider a bequest in your will. If you already have too many kin and/or worthy causes ahead of us, please renew your subscription, sponsor a subscription for your public library and tell your friends about our Journal from the Heartland. Thanks!

Jim Cullen, Editor
Manchaca, Texas

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2006

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