Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


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...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Special Book Signing with Stewart Acuff and Dick Levins

Special Book Signing with Stewart Acuff and Dick Levins
Thursday · 6:00pm - 8:30pm

Location Duluth Labor Temple - Wellstone Hall, 2002 London Rd

Created By

America works, but only for the Financial Elite. In Getting America Back to Work, America’s best known and foremost union organizer and an award-winning University economist show how to put money and power back into the hands of working families. Dr. Richard Levins shows how “money talks” -- no, screams -- in Washington and on Wall Street. Stewart J. Acuff shows how organized people can get America back to working for ordinary Americans.

Stewart Acuff was the longtime AFL-CIO Director of Organizing and is now the chief of staff for Utility Workers President Mike Langford.

Richard Levins is an Economic Professor at the University of Minnesota and authored "Middle Class: Union Made."
A book review...
Getting America Back to Work
by Stewart Acuff and Richard A. Levins
Featuring the Editorial Cartoons of Steve Sack
Tasora Books, Minneapolis, 2010

The authors of Getting America Back to Work do more than explain how to create jobs. They also propose some basic reforms that would fundamentally alter how America works, greatly improve the standard of living of working families, and shift power and privilege from what they call the financial elite to the vast majority of working families.

Stewart Acuff is the former national organizing director for the AFL-CIO and currently works as chief of staff for the Utility Workers Union of America. Richard A. Levins is a professional economist. Their book is concise and readable. It explains the causes of the Great Recession that began in 2007 and provides a clear road map to a better working economy and a more democratic society. Though brief, it is an excellent guide to strategic thinking about practical solutions for the current economic crisis.

The authors show, step by step, how the financial elite and their corporate-funded political allies caused the Great Recession. First, beginning in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, there came the drive to weaken unions, push down wages, and roll back worker protections and benefits, all of which created serious financial and political problems for the working class. To boost profit margins, company executives fought to shift costs to workers, to make taxpayers bear the risks and costs of crisis and privatize profit and benefits.

Working families found themselves increasingly struggling to make ends meet. But now when they were forced to turn to the public sector in search of a safety net, they found that anti-government politicians were working to unravel that as well. Under the guise of relieving the "tax burden," right-wing politicians pushed for cuts in public education, health care funding, job-training and other basic necessities that have traditionally kept working families from hitting rock bottom in times of trouble.

In describing this course of events, Acuff and Levins effectively debunk the claim that reducing taxes for the richest Americans leads to greater investment in the economy. It simply doesn't happen. Tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy just give them more money to hoard or pay out in dividends to shareholders.

In addition, the financial elite pushed a so called "free trade" agenda that opened the flood gates for the flight of manufacturing jobs out of the country in pursuit of the cheapest labor markets. While supporters of the move insisted this plan was good for business and therefore good for America, they cannot provide a satisfactory defense for the devastating harm it has caused working families and the thousands of communities that depend for their survival on a strong manufacturing sector.

Meanwhile, corporate executives and the very wealthy have gotten even richer. Their incomes have grown, while their share of taxes has fallen and their influence over government has increased. Today, a veritable army of lobbyists swarms over Capitol Hill to protect their interests against the very different needs of working families. As a result, even though productivity and profits have soared in the decades following the Reagan years, wages and benefits have flat-lined. In fact, since 2000, most working families saw losses in their take-home pay.

Anti-government, pro-big-business politicians, almost exclusively Republicans, have fought to dismantle the regulatory power of government as well. Under the Bush administration the general rule was to put former corporate executives in charge of the very agencies that regulate their industries – and then look the other way. Financial deregulation has allowed the big banks and brokerage firms to swindle working Americans out of their homes and retirement savings for years. Environmental and safety deregulation facilitated the corporate crimes that caused the loss of life at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine and BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, followed by the unprecedented ecological and economic catastrophe that has struck the Gulf States. There are countless other examples of what deregulation has wrought in terms of food safety, clean water standards, and workplace accidents and deaths.

Only when the crash of 2007 hit, sounding the death knell for the Bush regime and Reaganomics, did the government finally move into action. Not for working families, of course, but to help prop up the banks and financial institutions that had caused the disaster in the first place. Meanwhile, the needs of the millions of workers who had lost their jobs in the previous seven years were ignored.

This underscores one of the biggest ironies – hypocrisies really – of the right-wing ideological machine. Its theorists demand that the federal government refrain from any interference in the economy and keep out of people's affairs. But when big banks or big oil companies are in trouble, they are the first to demand that taxpayers foot the bill for a big government role in solving the crisis. But when the crisis has abated (for the banks and big corporations, at least) they act as if neither they nor the American people have learned anything from their reckless and criminal practices, and quickly revert to demanding that the government stay out of their affairs.

Simply put, they want "government socialism" to protect them when they are in trouble, and unrestrained capitalism when times are good. As for working families, they're always on their own.

Acuff and Levins offer a realistic alternative to this schizophrenic system. Instead of "free trade" policies, they say, let's invest in manufacturing in the US, especially in the emerging "green economy," to build the products and create the jobs we desperately need here at home. Millions of jobs could be created and many communities revitalized by such a simple step. Instead of viewing taxes as a "burden," they add, we should view them as the best means to provide meaningful and useful public services – things like affordable health and educational systems, infrastructure repair, environmental defense, workplace safety, and police and fire protection. The rich, especially, have a responsibility to pay their fair share.

Above all, as Acuff and Levins point out, building a bigger and stronger labor movement is essential to improving the lives of working families. Laws that protect the right of workers to join or organize unions and win better wages and benefits need to be on the books and actively enforced. Congress therefore needs to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. When it becomes the law of the land, EFCA will give workers the power to decide which organizations they want to join and reduce the illegal interference and harassment employers use to block unionization.

As Acuff and Levins note, from the 1950s to the late 1970s, about one-in-three workers were unionized. This meant that working people held more power in the workplace, in their communities, and in the country at large. During this period the economy, for the most part, was robust, and American workers made the things we used – and there was no NAFTA to promote the shipping of American jobs to cheap-labor markets overseas. In those days, when economic crises occurred, most union working families had some savings, the prospect of returning to work, good pension plans, quality health benefits, and a strong social safety net to fall back on in tough times. Today, as 90 percent of workers lack union protections and the safety net has been gutted, when the latest crisis struck on Bush's watch in 2007, it quickly became the worst recession since the Great Depression.

We have a choice. We can continue to submit to the will of the financial elite and their political allies in a long and steady decline, or, as Acuff and Levins write, "we can bargain our way out of poverty, we can bargain the meanness out of work, we can bargain for wages that restore our buying power, and we can once again have an economy that works for ordinary Americans."

Such a change requires a major shift in values, so that "our values, not the values of greed and short-term profits, can once again guide our country."