Connect. Organize. Build a Movement. Bend the Arc of History Towards Justice.

As the Covid-19 pandemic rips through the United States, over 3.3 million workers immediately lost their jobs due to quarantine procedures, with millions more laid off or experiencing a severe decrease in hours. The Federal stimulus money won't arrive until next month, and Michigan's unemployment website routinely loses function and prevents all its applicants from being served. Governor Whitmer signed an executive order placing a stay on evictions until April 17th, but how will people who aren't able to make money manage that situation? Across the country, landlords are offering no sympathy or assistance to their tenants, threatening evictions as soon as legally possible regardless of employment status. In response, communities across the country are demanding rent suspensions to elected leadership and activists are calling for a nationwide rent strike on April 1st. With the very relationship of habitation being such a focal point, it begs the question: why do we have landlords at all?

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=11&dpx=1&t=1585497932From Dayton, Ohio. "If you can't get a job, move out," during a global pandemic.

A lot of times, the role of a landlord gets confused with property managers, maintenance personnel and construction workers. These are actually four different roles, but only three are needed for habitation. Despite being a minority of cases, there's still a large portion of people who are landlords but also some combination of the essential habitation roles as well, because society is structured in such a way that they can only be compensated as a landlord. This post won't be about them, as a revolution in property rights would leave them as full-time property managers/maintenance tech with good pay (provided they did not side with actual landlords).

Property managers (are supposed to) make sure their tenants are heard, coordinate repairs and handle the administrative housekeeping for a property such as overseeing utilities. Construction workers build the property, and maintenance personnel keep it habitable. All critical elements of residency, all not the exact role of a landlord.

All a landlord does is possess a deed indicating a piece of property is legally theirs and can extract virtually any amount they can get away with, and enforce that extraction. The second paragraph mentioned the hybrid roles that don't count and here's why: many of them are also tenants by virtue of a bank holding their mortgage, and extracting rent is their only consistent option to pay their landlord.

Why be in a rush to defend that exact relationship? There's nothing in it required for habitation, and as we've seen across that nation there is minimal, if not non-existent, value in retaining this role in society.  Even with clear, justifiable reasons for not having money, it won't matter because all a tenant is to a landlord is a means of wealth extraction, a relationship they are not legally compelled to present a return on. Landlords collectively believe they are entitled to all the benefits of investment, and none of the consequences. 

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=12&dpx=1&t=1585498226From Allentown, PA, a landlord threatening to disconnect cable service they don't even provide to their tenants.

Their extensive lobbying has ensured the law reflects it as well, or they're much more able to get away with not following it. Its much more reflective of a feudal lord and serf relationship, which is ironic as that's the exact form of government capitalism bills itself as being an improvement on. Further irony is landlords complaining that their inability to extract the value of their tenants labor for one month makes their current lifestyle unaffordable, to the point that they're expecting their bank to suspend the mortgage payment while extracting rent in the process.

What if landlords were abolished in May or June, how would property relations be handled? With a combination of construction companies, property management firms and tenant unions. In building a property from scratch, it would first require a group of people to decide they want a place. They can then negotiate with a construction company for either a lump sum payment (if they've saved up) or set up a payment plan to cover costs. A revolution would be needed against most other aspects of society to enact this in the first place, so this collection of future tenants would already have money earmarked for habitation in their Universal Basic Income.

Once its built, all the people living there would have a formal tenant union (for legal purposes) and if they have vacant apartments others can be invited to join the union. The cost to live (dues, basically) would be the split monthly payments to the construction workers, utility services and property managers (may also be tenant union members depending on skill-set, but independent contracting firms would still exist). The benefits of getting in on the ground floor is that person will have a principal voice in how its constructed, and will be able to live in that place longer than anyone else. However, people arriving later, after the construction workers are fully paid, would enjoy a cheaper residence at the cost of not having a voice in the construction. A steady rate of pay to the management entity is still required, because maintenance is forever, and votes in meetings between the management and tenant union (if separate at all) can adjust the price accordingly. It's a horizontal relationship all around, where its clear both in law and fact that everyone in that relationship needs each other. Plus, if managed well, costs stay low and that means more of one's UBI check can be saved.

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=14&dpx=1&t=1585499352San Francisco tenant union in 2018. Their successful organizing produced several million dollars from city government to help tenants stave off eviction.

Property tax? Why bother. Private property doesn't need to exist, the tax is a check on that because of the ridiculous amount of legal power private property owners have over their holdings. Instead, why not tax solely the income from labor performed and have that money power the nation? It would certainly be a hefty tax, but it would only be levied against actual things produced by people, instead of using the US tax system as a cudgel against society's vulnerable. The exchange is: everyone gets what they need, period, due to the nation's collective labor (this would need to pass a full popular vote by at least 60% to be enacted, otherwise people wouldn't be consenting to it). This benefits far more people than the feudal property system and with the right amount of education, the overwhelming majority of people residing in the United States would see an improvement to their current plight.

There's still one wrinkle that isn't being addressed: terrible tenants. Plenty exist, and with the tenant union structure there would need to be a certain minimum percentage of votes before exiling a tenant (preferably a high number like 66% or 75%), but that tenant would have had a lot of chances because their destructive behavior would be coming up in the tenant union meetings (or if its false claims, an equal opportunity to defend themselves). Should they be exiled they'll be moved out, but will still have enough money to pay for moving costs to a new place due to UBI. Tenant unions would also have the ability to subsidize those moving costs and payment for the first month on a new place just to get them out of there.

Government housing will still exist, and will likely act as a last chance saloon for people repeatedly alienate and harm their fellow tenants. Not an ideal place to live, but all amenities would still be provided, it wouldn't affect their ability to get loans or purchase durable goods on payment plans.

Contrast that with the current system, where one person who only exists in the relationship to extract wealth from others can unilaterally revoke a person's right to shelter, rendering them homeless and deeply hampering their ability to get a loan or anything requiring a credit check in the future. There's also not many ways for the tenant to defend themselves in this situation, as they're likely not able to afford an attorney if they already can't afford rent.

If one owns an individual home, that's theirs. No property tax, no nothing, just pay the maintenance people. Product of labor is now the only taxable income in this example, which removes the government's ability to probe into people's lives determining how valuable it is for them to marry a certain gender, reproduce, or pick the "correct" zip code for their skin color. That's a net negative practice for all but the wealthiest and in a just world, they won't exist at their current level of wealth.

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=15&dpx=1&t=1585501524Rent strike poster from thestranger.com


19 Apr 20
100 Maryland Avenue Northeast, Washington, DC, United States

I am concerned that our local Frederick, Maryland charities may distribute the donated funds unfairly, during the emergency.

It is very common for our charities to help women with little children and entirely forget about the existence of working poor single men, many of whom are currently our of work and out of pay. This includes poor, working poor, homeless, disabled men of all ages who are struggling to survive in today's economy, often while trying to provide for their families and/or paying child support.

In the post-modern, highly automated world, having a stronger body is only a marginal advantage. The health of those men who struggle in poverty for many years usually declines, leaving them to no advantage at all.

Personally, I found no support from the local charities and county agencies in finding work that would accommodate my physical limitations (severe chronic pain) and very limited support in easing the financial burden of my illness, that falls on me and on my family. For this reason, I was unable to prepare for the disaster properly, and feel vulnerable during a disaster.

There is also the LGBT community, which constantly faces subtle hate and discrimination and to which, the old rulings, based on the stereotypical male and female roles, do not apply.

Thus, I advise that we review the old rules and policies that leave some members of our community very marginalized during the difficult times of the coronavirus outbreak.

-Vladimir Tolskiy


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The Pandemic is having a profound impact on our world.  Deep crisis presents an opportunity to re-imagine our society built on justice, equality, and peace.  


With all this talk about  and , what did  have to say?

"What I’m saying to you this is communism forgets that life is . Capitalism forgets that life is . And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher that combines the #truths of both. Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of #racism, the problem of #economicexploitation, and the problem of #war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated!"


Our Goals for the Year: for , the , the . #2020

President Obama this last week issued a rare and unusual public statement about the Presidential race, warning the Democratic field not to veer "too far left." While almost all of the candidates have made their obligatory pilgrimage to meet with the former President, such a public near rebuke of the progressive, majoritarian wing of the party seems out of place, happening at time where the buzz of backroom wealthy Democratic donors is encouraging the late entries of Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg into a race that wasn't lacking for centrists or billionaires in the field.

The New York Times reported Obama not mentioning any candidate by name, "but he took aim at the 'activist wing' of the Democratic Party and 'left-leaning Twitter feeds,' saying they were out of touch with the average voter.  'This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,' he told an audience of some of the party’s wealthiest donors on Friday evening." (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/16/us/obama-left-democrats-2020.html)

Well...of course he was talking to wealthy donors, because many of them are quite concerned that a Warren or Sanders Presidency will actually impact their financial lives in ways that that the previous Democratic presidencies of Obama and Clinton did not.  Indeed, the economic policies of third way centrism only made them preposterously more prosperous and did little to lift all economic ships.  The truth though is that if we are going to make a serious dent in the gross economic inequality, if we are truly going to educate every citizen well through post-secondary, if we are going solve the climate crisis, if we are going to ensure access to health care for every citizen, than we will need to rely on the wealth of those billionaires with a significantly more progressive tax scheme than we currently employ.

We also found out this week that for the first time in American history, the very wealthy are being taxed at a lower rate than working people.  (https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2019/10/10/trump-tax-cuts-helped-billionaires-pay-less-taxes-than-the-working-class-in-2018/#3249eb03128f - And yes, that's no left-wing socialist rag making this report, it is Forbes).  This inflection point of our economic history must become the very bottom of the historical tax curve.  We need to tax wealth and raise the marginal rates on incomes for millionaires and billionaires if we hope suspend our descent into plutocracy and maintain a functioning democratic republic.

And so, I wonder if Obama is missing the moment here.  Does he not realize how quickly the party that he led has moved ideologically to the left?  This is not the same party or country in the last time he ran in 2012 or even 2016.  The demographic shifts that we were all discussing in 2016 about a younger, more diverse electorate all still hold true despite Trump's last gasp of xenophobia and racism.  The Republicans, already headed towards minority status are cementing such a position for a generation in their embrace of white nationalism and topsy-turvey, mafia-style foreign policy.  A decade and a generation from now, we will all still be asking, what did you do to fight the racism, lies, and civic ugliness of Trump? 

I'm not saying the leftward shift is Trump-driven. though it has catalyzed activism in the country and crystalized many issues for folks.  For example, we now see that Democratic policies unjustly deported millions of immigrants, created cover for pre-emptive war and slaughter in Iraq, supported stop and frisk laws and other racist policing methods that encouraged a mass incarceration system, or more immediately in our discussion, didn't ask the rich to do their fair share out of fear of being deemed a class warrior or worse yet, because Larry Summers did not think it was a good idea.  

The fact is that most Americans and certainly most Democrats support almost all of what's on the policy table of the progressive Democrats in the race. This past summer, I warned against letting Republicans or Republican-leaning folks tell Democrats for whom to vote (https://www.civicaction.center/story/dont-let-republicans-tell-us-how-vote).  It is worth reiterating here the broad support that progressive policy has with Americans:

Single Payer Healthcare.  56% of Americans support single payer 38% oppose and support is trending upward over time. https://www.slideshare.net/KaiserFamilyFoundation/public-opinion-on-singlepayer-national-health-plans-and-expanding-access-to-medicare-coverage-150455379 

Green New Deal. The policy prescriptions have support of 80% of registered voters.  https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/421765-poll-majorities-of

Taxing the Rich. 76% of registered voters want to increase taxes on the rich. https://fortune.com/2019/02/04/support-for-tax-increase-on-wealthy-americans-poll/amp/

So frankly, I'm not even sure what President Obama is talking about when he warns about being .  These are mainstream issues.  Candidates who offer full-throated support for these issues like Warren and Sanders are polling well with their support growing rather than shrinking.  Obama is missing the moment and it is up for the voters to bring him along.  We need his voice moving forward, but as a catalyst, rather than impediment: not for the change we can believe in, but rather for the policies we know we need to bring about lasting systemic change.


Impeachment.  The process has finally begun.

We all thought that the Mueller investigation would make a clear case for impeachment, but there was too much reading between the lines in his long thesis. His presentation to Congress was uneven to the point of impotence, surprisingly for a man of such stature.  Or perhaps putting kids in cages and separating from their parents, violating fundamental human rights, would have been perceived by the political establishment as a high crime.  Bush blew past the Geneva Conventions on torture with no repercussions, so no dice on kids in cages as a rationale for impeachment.  Instead, Trump openly admitted to colluding with a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political opponent who was  engaged in the 2020 political campaign.  Trump forced the reluctant hand of Nancy Pelosi to act on impeachment of a despicable President.

Even for those who look at American institutions with a healthy skepticism given its uneven record on producing political outcomes that represent the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority, the impeachment is vitally important to the future of the republic.  There is a lot more at stake than getting rid of Donald Trump, a hollow man who fills the deep void of his being with the very worst human emotions that most of us try to avoid. His narcism requires anger, spite, and hatefulness as fuel and corruption and corrupting those around him to serve his ego and his financial interests comes as second nature.  His corruption has seeped into the institutions and basic norms that have allowed the United States to function, however imperfectly, as the longest standing Constitutional Republic in human history. 

Getting rid of Trump is thereby the first, and most immediately necessary, step in de-corrupting our system of government.  We need to do so not because we like or dislike Trump, but because we have some fealty to the rule of law and a deep appreciation of the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution. Any institutional healing process will need to further expunge lawless Trump appointees, reversal of norm-shattering policies, and the establishment of new constraints on the power of future Presidents to behave in such a manner.  

Before Trump, we took our institutions and the rule of law largely for granted. Yes, there were politics, often nasty in their attempts to sway public opinion, but much of what our civics classes taught us held true.  There was some sense of permanence to the notion of the United States and its 3 co-equal branches of government, competing institutions that balance power.  Trump's actions have shown thus far that this system is actually a good deal more fragile.  Bad actors who show little respect for others and the norms that history and good practice built.  Compromised players in the system will offer little resistance and find themselves complicity in destroying the institutions and relationships that they once held so dear.  

Of course, Trump is not purely an anomaly and is largely a creation of the times.  Money has so inundated the political system it has often drowned out the notions of representative democracy.  If corporate and big money donors can have their say with representatives who do their will and not the will of the people who voted for them, we have broken the system.  The twentieth century saw the rise of an Imperial President who has an incredible amount of power rapped up in the leadership of the Defense and Intelligence agencies.  The War Powers Act and other Congressional and Judicial decisions tried to maintain some balance, but it is clear that the Executive Branch has gotten out in front of the other 2 branches of government.  And let us not forget the Mitch McConnell as minority and majority leader of the GOP in the Senate has instituted a scorched earth politics that have undermined the basic norms of the "world's greatest deliberative body," going so far as to steal a seat on the US Supreme Court.  

These issues need to be corrected so that the system never produces a viable candidate for President with such autocratic proclivities. But it all starts first with upholding the rule of law and maintaining the basic integrity of our elections.  The Republicans will need to choose how they want history to be written about themselves, what legacy they want to impart to their children and grandchildren.  They need to be able to answer the basic question of every generation, did you leave it better than the way you found it?  There is little doubt that the Democrats will impeach because the case has already been made public by Trump himself.  The real question is will the system of checks and balances hold?  Will Republicans fulfill their obligations with history and future generations looking on?  

Impeachment.  The time has come.  Is this political generation up to the challenge or will they fail again?  


 Politics    


Civic Direct has been promoting the Climate Strike and the numerous events leading up and following the latest, and the largest of the global Climate Strikes.  It is still shocking that there are so many political leaders (including Democratic pols) who fail to see the fierce urgency of now in which life on the planet stands on the precipice and our very existence as a species is on the line.  However, young people from around the world, the generations who will bear the brunt of the decisions being made by their parents and grandparents today, organized themselves to raise the urgency felt around climate change of what is now an emergency.  

I attended the rally and march in Philadelphia and followed the reports about the Strikes around the globe.  I was pleased to see that while all generations represented, the younger folks took the lead as organizers, speakers, march marshals, etc.  This should give us great hope, that mass strikes and protests in the streets are now part of how these younger generations have formed their political identity.  If the political system continues to offer inadequate responses to the climate emergency and grotesque income inequality, we might expect the tactics to sharpen.  Indeed, groups like Extinction Rebellion have placed nonviolent direct action (civil disobedience) as core to their change strategy.  We might also expect other climate groups like Sunrise Movement and 350 to continue to use organizing, mass strikes, and intense lobbying to ramp up the pressure on the political system to act.  These organizations and young activists should give us hope and we all should be committing to actions that we can take, both policy advocacy and personal consumption, to head off the climate emergency.


comboverTrump reference at Climate March


It is clear that leaders like Trump and his ilk of fossil fuel industry enablers are much the problem and indeed he was targeted at the protests.  I believe though that we will look back on these years in dismay about how we allowed such a human being to become leader and allowed him to draw our attention away from the core issues of climate and gross inequality that must be the clear focus of our policy and system change work.  

In this regard, many Democrats are just as an important a target as what we hope will be a one-term President.  There are still many Dem leaders who fail to see the urgency to act in a comprehensive manner as suggest by the policy change included in the Green New Deal.  Indeed, Speaker Pelosi poo-poo'ed the Green New Deal and many of the Democratic Presidential candidates have failed to embrace the need for fundamental structural change.  The Democratic Party refused to have a debate dedicated to just this issue, despite the demands of young Democrats.  This unimaginative leadership based on incremental approaches and perceived (though not real) limitations is going to have change and climate activism is going to have to change these dynamics.

However, the battle is joined.  Hearts and minds are largely won over by the articulation of well grounded policies that speak to the collective fears that young people rightfully have about the future of the planet.  The existential threat of climate change has politicized young people who understand that power concedes nothing without an organized groups and networks demanding change.  The policies of the Green New Deal and more broadly those that confront climate change have the overwhelming support of Americans and citizens of the world.  The Climate Strike gives great hope that we are pressuring the political system to act with the urgency that the emergency and the young people demand.   

Onward!

fossilfuelsdino

 


 



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