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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding

Shame on the Democrats for including extended unemployment benefits and education for veterans along with funding programs for victims of flooding to further finance this dirty war in Iraq.

There is a real hypocritical irony to funding an extension of unemployment benefits to workers here in Minnesota as the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has joined with employers in depriving workers of unemployment benefits to start with, including Iraq war veterans.

Recently Mystic Lake Casino, owned by SMSC Gaming Enterprise, fired a casino worker because he advocated for clean air and water in his community by opposing the "Midtown Burner Project," in no way connected to his employment at Mystic Lake Casino.

An adjudicator with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development ruled the Iraq war veteran and casino worker was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he exercised his First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech.

People, outraged by the firing and the decision to deny unemployment benefits, are encouraging the organization of a boycott of Mystic Lake Casino and the Little Six Casino, owned by SMSC Gaming Enterprise a front for some of the biggest and most violent mobsters in the United States. SMSC Gaming Enterprise is among the ten largest employers in Minnesota.

The corrupt Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has been as shamefully silent on the attacks on veterans by employers and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development as its elected officials have been in acquiescing to Bush's war in Iraq

While the U.S. House voted to provide $162 billion in war funding... Minnesota politicians and the bureaucrats they appointed to oversee the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development are working to prevent Iraq war veterans from getting the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled in the first place after they are unjustly fired from their jobs.

Democrats and Republicans sure can work quickly when it comes to funding death and destruction but they haven't been able to provide socialized health care for the American people in over sixty years... now, this is something to think about.

House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding

Jun 19, 10:08 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - A much-delayed Iraq war funding bill sailed through the House on Thursday, along with a doubling of college aid for returning troops and help for the unemployed and Midwestern flood victims.

Republican allies of President Bush provided the winning margin in a 268-155 vote to provide $162 billion to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year.

Democrats opposed to the war, however, succeeded in using the Iraq funding bill as an engine to drive past White House resistance a sweeping revision to GI Bill college benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out.

Lawmakers separately approved those domestic add-ons by a 416-12 vote, sending the combined bill to the Senate for a vote next week. The White House issued a statement supporting the legislation.

The measure also provides a quick $2.7 billion infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, though more is expected to be needed to deal with the major losses in Iowa, Illinois and other states.

The bill would bring to more than $650 billion the amount provided by Congress for the war in Iraq since it started five years ago. Nearly $200 billion in additional funding has gone to operations in Afghanistan, according to congressional analysts.

It also would give Bush's successor several months to set Iraq policy after taking office in January - and spares lawmakers the need to cast more war funding votes closer to Election Day.

"The way it's been set up now, whoever ... is president will have a few months to think through how we are going to extricate ourselves," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., a key negotiator.

The relatively brief debate featured only glimpses of the bitterness that consumed Congress last year as the new Democratic majority tried - and failed - to force troop withdrawals and other limits on Bush's ability to conduct the war. Most war opponents expressed frustration and a sense of resignation at having to yield to the lame duck president.

"The president basically gets a blank check to dump this war on the next president," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "I was hoping George Bush would end his war while he's president."

Republicans cited progress in Iraq since Bush beefed up troop levels last year in an effort to create stability in the war-torn nation.

"Our troops have made tremendous gains, and forcing them to reverse course - as most in the Democratic majority want them to do - would be both irresponsible and reckless," said Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The new GI Bill essentially would guarantee a full scholarship at any in-state public university, along with a monthly housing stipend, for people who serve in the military for at least three years. It is aimed at replicating the benefits awarded veterans of World War II and more than doubles the value of the benefit - from $40,000 today to $90,000.

The GI Bill measure, authored by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., had such extraordinary support from both Democrats and Republicans that White House objections were easily overridden.

Administration representatives sought to curb its costs in closed-door talks, Obey said. Instead, the chief concession by Democrats was to add an administration-backed plan - costing $10 billion over 10 years - allowing veterans to transfer their benefits to their spouse or a child.

The White House tried much harder to kill the effort to extend unemployment benefits as part of the war funding bill. Just two weeks ago, it appeared the administration would probably prevail. But after the unemployment rate jumped a half-percentage point to a nationwide average of 5.5 percent, House Democrats engineered a veto-proof tally in support of the 13-week extension.

In late-stage talks with Boehner, a key figure in negotiating the overall agreement, Democrats dropped a plan to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states with particularly high unemployment rates. They also agreed to require people to have worked for 20 weeks in order to be eligible for the extended payments.

In another key concession, House Democrats dropped a provision to pay for the GI college benefits by imposing a half-percentage point income tax surcharge on incomes exceeding $500,000 for single taxpayers and incomes over $1 million earned by married couples.

The move was long expected, but nonetheless riled moderate and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats upset that rules requiring additions to federal benefit programs be paid for with additional revenues or offsetting cuts to other programs.

Democrats, many Republicans and governors across the country emerged the victors in a battle with the White House to block new Bush administration rules designed to cut spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

On war spending, the bill would prohibit U.S. money from being spent on Iraq reconstruction efforts unless Baghdad matches every dollar spent. But negotiators dropped a demand that Bush negotiate an agreement with Baghdad to subsidize the U.S. military's fuel costs so troops operating in Iraq aren't paying any more than Iraqi citizens are.

Last month, after a bitter debate, the House passed the unemployment benefits extension, the GI Bill improvements and a series of restrictions on Bush's ability to conduct the war. The war funding part of the legislation failed amid the partisanship.

The Senate restored the war funding and folded in more than $10 billion in additional non-war spending backed by Republicans and Democrats alike. Most of that money is now eliminated.

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

Pick up any newspaper in the United States today, and this is the story you will see with this headline blaring out at you:

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

Link: http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/congress/20496409.html?page=1&c=y

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

By ANDREW TAYLOR , Associated Press

Last update: June 19, 2008 - 5:24 AM

WASHINGTON - The Democratic-led Congress finally appears ready to give President Bush his request for $162 billion in long-overdue funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A deal worked out Wednesday between House Democrats and Republicans and the White House, if it passes as expected, would put to rest Bush's long-standing battles with the Democrats over war funding. At the same time, Democrats would win help for the unemployed and a remarkably generous increase in GI Bill education benefits for military service members.

The House was to vote on the compromise Thursday. (Note: This is TODAY… Alan Maki)

Progressives have some serious questioning to do here.

When I first learned of this being in the works a couple weeks ago, I called the offices of every single congressperson and the two senators from Minnesota asking to be kept informed as this legislation was progressing. I never received a single follow-up phone call, nor even an e-mail.

Obviously, elected public officials did not want citizen participation or input from working people and the unemployed concerning this legislation.

Now I take my morning walk with Fred, pick up a newspaper and read this headline…

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension.

Is this the way we want to see the working class “united for change?” In return for supporting funding this dirty war in Iraq, working people will get an extension of unemployment benefits. This does not sound like the kind of “unity for change” progressives would be seeking; of course, it isn’t. But, this is an example of what Barack Obama has in mind. This is a very clear and perfect example of the reactionary, ultra-right, neo-liberal agenda Obama supports.

Obviously, Democrats hope to buy the votes of working people and the unemployed with this disgraceful “package.”

This is the kind of bi-partisan “unity” we can look forward to from an Obama presidency.

Again, working people were intentionally kept out of the decision-making loop on this; by both the Democratic Party politicians and labor "leaders."

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations are shamefully supporting this “compromise” that will pump hundreds of millions of dollars more--- billions of our hard earned dollars--- into the death and destruction taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an outright disgrace, insult and slap in the face to every worker in this country, the overwhelming majority of whom were, have been and are opposed to these dirty wars.

Military spending destroys jobs. More unemployment results from military spending in spite of George Bush’s claim that “military spending creates a few jobs;” another big lie from Bush, just like the lies that he used to start this dirty war in Iraq.
Legislation for unemployment compensation should have been stand-alone legislation; certainly not tied to military spending… a package including for educational benefits for veterans would have been appropriate and this alone would have been enough to create “bi partisan unity.” There would not have been a single Democrat or Republican who would have dared vote against such legislation with a hotly contested approaching election.

Obama has called for “Unite for Change” meetings, discussions and forums to be held all over this country on Saturday, June 28.

These “Unite for Change” meetings should be turned into the beginning of grassroots educational and organizing efforts that will unite the working class in boldly challenging the neo-liberal agenda of increased military spending to support the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan and insist that the priorities of this country be reordered away from war and military spending to meet human needs, first and foremost--- no-fee, comprehensive, all-inclusive single-payer universal health care which is publicly funded and publicly administered.

The way to unite the working class is to bring forward a bold progressive agenda that drops funding for military spending, coupled with legislation for a minimum wage that is a real living wage which would tie Unemployment Compensation and Social Security to the same cost of living factors. In this way, we defend the “New Deal” reforms of the past by winning a “new” New Deal for today.

For anyone to suggest that we should give up our vote to support these kinds of worthless, sleazeball politicians who would be so unconscionable to attach the needs of working people for survival to funding an illegal, immoral war based upon lies and deceit is all the justification needed for working people to sit home on Election Day as far as I am concerned.

In fact, on the eve of an Election, working people could have gotten this very same package from a Republican controlled House, Senate and Presidency… so, why do we need Obama and the Democrats?

This shameful scenario seeing Democrats cower to the merchants of death and destruction and the military-financial-industrial complex of which they are an integral part, once again brings forward the need for working people to take up the question of re-establishing a labor party in this country along the lines of the old Farmer-Labor Party which served Minnesotans so well for a decade.

In my opinion, supporting and voting for Cynthia McKinney in this Election can help us work our way towards such independence from the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that neither Obama's nor McCain's comments were even sought for this article concerning this dirty deal that is every bit as dirty as this imperialist war for oil itself.

With the capitalist economy already on the skids to oblivion... this huge increase in military spending now being appropriated by the Democratic controlled Congress will speed up this process leaving untold human misery in its wake... unemployment will soar out of sight as industrial plants from small operations like Northern Engraving Corporation in Waukon, Iowa to the the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant close their doors, and the wrecking balls are brought in.

The time has come for working people to become full participants in the decision making process.

Corporate executives at the Northern Engraving Corporation tried to with hold the news of their decision to close the Waukon, Iowa plant which will cause economic hardship to hundreds of people in this small community without their participation in the decision-making process just like the huge Ford Motor Company did in the Twin Cities... in return, working people are supposed to jump for joy that their unemployment benefits are extended for a few more weeks as the bottomless pit of the merchants of death and destruction continues to be fed.

Working people can not survive under capitalism.

Cynthia McKinney is the only politician who has taken the time to meet with workers at the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to ask how she can help them...

Barack Obama came to the Twin Cities, addressed over 30,000 people, and he had the unmitigated gall, audacity and arrogance to ignore the plight of the two-thousand workers who will lose their jobs if the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is allowed to close according to the decisions made behind the closed doors of Ford Motor Company's corporate boardroom in Detroit without any input from workers or the community.

Something to think about, and discuss, around the dinner table this evening.