Friday, June 01, 2007


Krugman on Immigration

Paul Krugman recently wrote one of the best primers on how progressives should approach the immigration issue. Here it is in all its glory. First published May 24, 2007


A piece of advice for progressives trying to figure out where they stand on immigration reform: it’s the political economy, stupid. Analyzing the direct economic gains and losses from proposed reform isn’t enough. You also have to think about how the reform would affect the future political environment.

To see what I mean — and why the proposed immigration bill, despite good intentions, could well make things worse — let’s take a look back at America’s last era of mass immigration.

My own grandparents came to this country during that era, which ended with the imposition of severe immigration restrictions in the 1920s. Needless to say, I’m very glad they made it in before Congress slammed the door. And today’s would-be immigrants are just as deserving as Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

Moreover, as supporters of immigrant rights rightly remind us, everything today’s immigrant-bashers say — that immigrants are insufficiently skilled, that they’re too culturally alien, and, implied though rarely stated explicitly, that they’re not white enough — was said a century ago about Italians, Poles and Jews.

Yet then as now there were some good reasons to be concerned about the effects of immigration.

There’s a highly technical controversy going on among economists about the effects of recent immigration on wages. However that dispute turns out, it’s clear that the earlier wave of immigration increased inequality and depressed the wages of the less skilled. For example, a recent study by Jeffrey Williamson, a Harvard economic historian, suggests that in 1913 the real wages of unskilled U.S. workers were around 10 percent lower than they would have been without mass immigration. But the straight economics was the least of it. Much more important was the way immigration diluted democracy.

In 1910, almost 14 percent of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn’t get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population — in general, the poorest and most in need of help — denied any political voice.

That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn’t have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal and sustaining its achievements, by creating a fully enfranchised working class.

But now we’re living in the second Gilded Age. And as before, one of the things making antiworker, unequalizing policies politically possible is the fact that millions of the worst-paid workers in this country can’t vote. What progressives should care about, above all, is that immigration reform stop our drift into a new system of de facto apartheid.

Now, the proposed immigration reform does the right thing in principle by creating a path to citizenship for those already here. We’re not going to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, so the only way to avoid having those immigrants be a permanent disenfranchised class is to bring them into the body politic.

And I can’t share the outrage of those who say that illegal immigrants broke the law by coming here. Is that any worse than what my grandfather did by staying in America, when he was supposed to return to Russia to serve in the czar’s army?

But the bill creates a path to citizenship so torturous that most immigrants probably won’t even try to legalize themselves. Meanwhile, the bill creates a guest worker program, which is exactly what we don’t want to do. Yes, it would raise the income of the guest workers themselves, and in narrow financial terms guest workers are a good deal for the host nation — because they don’t bring their families, they impose few costs on taxpayers. But it formally creates exactly the kind of apartheid system we want to avoid.

Progressive supporters of the proposed bill defend the guest worker program as a necessary evil, the price that must be paid for business support. Right now, however, the price looks too high and the reward too small: this bill could all too easily end up actually expanding the class of disenfranchised workers.

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US Presence Hindering Iraqi Fight Against Al-Qaeda

According to Bush and the Neo-Cons, continuing the US occupation of Iraq is necessary to prevent it from turning into a new Al-Qaeda safe space. Besides the fact that Iraq already is an Al-Qaeda safe space due to the total chaos the country has been thrown into there is another problem with this; according to one Sunni mayor of a west Baghdad neighborhood who is engaging in running battles with Al-Qaeda forces, our military presence is preventing Sunni groups from uniting against the foreign fighters who have crept into Iraq. From today's Washington Post:

The Baghdad battle is evidence of a deepening split between some Sunni insurgent groups and al-Qaeda in Iraq, which claims allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Although similar rebellions occurred in Diyala province earlier this year, the fighting this week appears to be the first time the conflict has reached the streets of Baghdad.

Abdul Khaliq said he hoped U.S. forces would stay out of the fight. "But if the Americans interfere, it will blow up, because they are the enemy of us both, and we will unite against them and stop fighting each other," he said.

In other words, if we keep it up by sending in more troops, we will end up bringing together Iraqis to fight us, versus fighting Al-Qaeda extremists whose welcome -- if they ever had one -- is wearing thin.

Once the Japanese left China, the Communists and Nationalists went back to fighting each other. If we ever announce we're going to leave, Al-Qaeda will likely wonder how they are going to take on the Shites and the Sunni's they have alienated through their terror tactics; not sitting in Baghdad comfortably planning how to cross the Atlantic

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Saturday, May 19, 2007


Carter Blasts Bush and Blair

There seem to be a lot of folks who wait until they're dead(Gerald Ford, Jeane Kirkpatrick) or totally irrelevant (George Tenent) to bust up the Bush Administration. Not Jimmy Carter. This time in an interview with BBC he gives Tony Blair a needed verbal tongue lash, calling his attitude toward Bush's foreign policy "abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient."


Tuesday, May 08, 2007



I know its been a while. Anyways, my LOA is job-related. I just started a new one so its kind of distracted me from the blog. I promise to be back soon though. Stay tuned. Seriously.

In the meantime I'm almost finished with Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor. At over 500 ultra-dense pages that tackles everything from the Jewish life in the pre-Soviet Baltics to the role of the CIO in developing the New Deal order, its a lot to chew on, but well worth it. As I think we could be on the verge of a new labor "spurt" in the next decade, it's rather timely too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


McGovern Chews Out Cheney

Former Senator and 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern lets loose of one the least credible political figures in America today; Vice President Dick Cheney. In the midst of defending the total disaster that is the Bush Administration and their Iraq policy, Cheney had the tenacity to try to fling mud at McGovern while slandering Congressional Democrats for their Iraq policy. The former Senator isn't taking it sitting down.

"(Cheney) also said that the McGovern way is to surrender in Iraq and leave the U.S. exposed to new dangers. The truth is that I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush...

We, of course, already know that when Cheney endorses a war, he exempts himself from participation. On second thought, maybe it's wise to keep Cheney off the battlefield — he might end up shooting his comrades rather than the enemy."

I also hope DLC hacks like Peter Beinart, Will Marshall and others, whose slanders and deprecation of McGovern and his campaign led most of them to support this disastrous conflict get a good read too.

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Friday, April 20, 2007


10,000 Celebrates Iraqi Communist Party's Birthday

Another scene from the crowd, with a banner reading, “We support a comprehensive national campaign to defeat terror and terrorists.” Photo courtesy Iraqi Communist Party.

Nearly 10,000 people attended recent celebrations of the 73rd anniversary of the Iraqi Communist Party in Baghdad. Cold war hang-ups aside (the ICP is more Enrico Berlinguer than Che Guevara anyways as one can see from the violent denunciations of it by the ultra-left), the ICP is the leading political force in Iraq committed to a democratic, social, and secular Iraq. It is a leading force in the struggle to rebuild a strong and independent civil society -- it plays a leading role in many of the trade-unions and women's groups -- that US progressives should take a look at. Historically one of the most important political forces in 20th century Iraq that suffered tremendously under Saadam Hussein, the fact that the ICP can pull out 10,000 in the middle to Baghdad to a political rally shows it continuing importance. It is also inspirational to see Iraqis standing up against ethnic sectarianism, religious fundamentalism and murderous militias. As this account of the events shows, The ICP is one of the leading political force in the building of a democratic opposition to the forces of violence and authoritarianism.

"The response to the celebrations shows the “gradual rise of the democratic forces as a distinct political pole in the Iraqi political spectrum,” Ali said. Before the U.S. invasion, he said, Iraqi politics had three main trends, which he identified as democratic — left and liberal, Islamist, and nationalist Arab and Kurdish. Under Saddam Hussein, the Baathists dominated the nationalist camp, liquidating other pan-Arab nationalist groups. Both the democratic and nationalist trends were weakened by the U.S. occupation’s fanning of sectarian division. “Once the American presence is out or weakens, the old political map will come into play — these big political groups will gradually come back,” he said. “This is the real Iraqi political scene. All the nonsense of ‘Shia vs. Sunni’ doesn’t hold much ground.”

On April 9, the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, the Shiite Islamic organization led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mobilized tens or hundreds of thousands for a march in the holy city of Najaf protesting the U.S. occupation and calling for Iraqi sovereignty.

The mass march tapped the nearly unanimous Iraqi opposition to foreign occupation. Many commentators saw it as primarily a move by Sadr, whose forces have displayed fractures recently, to show rival Islamic groups that he is still a force to reckon with. Sadr was not present at the march and his whereabouts are unknown.

Sadr’s militias are reviled by many Iraqis for brutal sectarian killings and ethnic cleansing, seen as contributing to destabilizing the country and helping perpetuate the occupation.

The ICP sees national reconciliation and unity as necessary to ending foreign occupation and regaining political and economic sovereignty. Sadr draws support from among the poorest and most marginalized people of the countryside and Baghdad’s Sadr City. In the Iraqi Communists’ view, this underscores the fact that security and sovereignty require immediate economic and social measures to meet the needs of the people including the most downtrodden."

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Thursday, April 19, 2007


Mon Conseil : Voix Royal

In three days French voters will go to the polls in the first round of voting to pick what will be their first president in over a decade. I doubt there are many French readers of this blog, but for what it's worth, this blogger is pulling for a Segolene Royal victory. Ms. Royal, a former minsiter under Mitterand is the Socialist Party candidate, and is currently running behind Gaullist candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is the candidate of the right and his election could see a real conservative shift in French politics. Sarkozy is hardly a right-wing ogre like Le Pen and parts of his program as described in today's Washington Post are somewhat appealing and is someway a genuinely progressive break with with certain problematic French traditions.

"He supports affirmative action-style programs to give minorities equal opportunities -- a radical departure from the country's traditional stance that inequality does not exist within its borders...last month he invoked Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech at a Paris rally and urged French minority youths to look to the U.S. civil rights leader as a role model.

That dream of brotherhood and justice he spoke of changed America," Sarkozy told thousands of young supporters packed into a Paris auditorium on March 18. "If the dream could change America, why might it not change France?"

He also opnely denounces knuckle headed anti-americanism, the French "Socialism of fools."

Still a Sarkozy victory could have bad reprecussion for US progressives as Jordan Stancil writes in the Nation:

"Nicolas Sarkozy is not a European Reagan, but some of his plans seem drawn from the Republican playbook. He proposes, for instance, a cut in the estate tax and the abolition of a surcharge on large fortunes. He also proposes other tax cuts, which he promises will put more money in the average person's pocket--paid for in part by not replacing half of all retiring civil service workers. You can almost hear him saying, "It's not the government's money--it's your money!" In addition, the at-will employment system the government tried to begin installing last year (but had to retract in the face of public protest) remains a centerpiece of Sarkozy's program. This is all part of his stated goal of bringing what he describes approvingly as Anglo-Saxon flexibility to France, a project that makes him the darling of the business associations even as his law-and-order image allows him simultaneously to cull votes from the populist far right...

If none of this seems to matter to the fate of progressive politics in the United States, consider this: If a kind of Reaganomics came to dominate Europe, there would no longer be any major Western economy to demonstrate the viability of the social market. An ever-growing list of health, pension and education "reforms"--all tending in the direction of greater inequality--would eviscerate Europe's societal model. The welfare-state Alamo would fall, and American progressives would lose a powerful, living argument that--for all its flaws--still gives the lie to the Bush/Norquist vision of the so-called "ownership society." Something to think about as French voters go to the polls."

Saying that, Royal and the Socialists have run a pretty lame campaign. At the moment when most Democrats are dumping DLC centrism in favor of neo-populism and talk of a "Third Way" has joined crystal Pepsi as just another 90's artifact, Royal openly talkes about her desire to turn the the SP into a Clinton-Blair like formation. She says nothing about growing income gaps or the problem of unfettered free trade except DLC style crap about training French workers to "compete in the global economy." Oh, and she studied closely the Hillary Clinton playbook and likes to talk a lot about family values and violent video games. Her response to Sarkozy's proposal for a Ministry of Immigration (a real if controversal response) was for every French citizen to stick a tricolor in front of their house. Not sure what that's supposed to do about integrating a very alienated and segregated immigrant population in French society. Its seems more like a stupid duck of a vital issue.

The Socialists are kind of like the Democrats were in the 80's. A lame shadow of its former self, torn between a grey technocratic and pro-neoliberal wing and the old dinosaurs still living off the memories of the party's last tenure in office.

Still, Royal is a candidate of the center-left. Despite her Third way centrism she still puts forward a progressive, if tepidly so, platform. To quote Stancil, Royal is calling for:

"proposals to give tax credits to companies that reinvest profits in France and to make companies reimburse the government for tax breaks if they turn around and send abroad the jobs the tax breaks were designed to subsidize. Royal's program also calls for raising the minimum wage and increasing pension benefits for the lowest-income retirees."

So my advice to French readers is this: Hold your nose like I did in 2004 and pull the lever for Ms. Royal. Yeah, you have 101 Trotskyist candidates and anti-globalization activist Jose Bove to choose from if you want to be purist. But a repeat of the 2002 election where National Front candidate Jean Marie Le Pen beat out the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin to make it to the second round of voting would be disastrous. Le Pen is already polling between 12 and 15 percent; better than he was in 02. The only left candidate who has a chance of making it to the second round is Royal.


Friday, April 13, 2007


Farm Labor Organizing Committee Organizer Murdered

From Labor Notes Magazine:

Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) based in Toledo, Ohio, was found murdered in the union's office in Monterrey, Mexico on the morning of April 9. He had been bound hand and foot and beaten to death. Circumstances suggest labor contractors may have had him killed.

Cruz, 29, had worked for FLOC in the United States for four years
organizing immigrant agricultural workers. For less than a month
working for the FLOC in the Monterrey office that was set up in 2005
to help process H2A visa workers whose employers were under FLOC

FLOC has asked the AFL-CIO and Rep. Marcy Kaptur's (D-Ohio) to
request that the U.S. State Department press the Mexican government
to conduct a thorough and speedy investigation to bring the killers to
justice. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, has called on the
Mexican and U.S. governments to ensure that there is a "thorough and
professional investigation" of the murder.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee asks that you send a letter to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting (not demanding)
that they take on the murder of Santiago Rafael Cruz as an official
case. In your letter you might express your awareness that FLOC's
contract was protecting workers and eliminating the extortion of
illegal fees from workers, your outrage at this political murder, and
your request that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights take
on the Cruz murder case.

It is important to send your fax today, Friday, April 13, 2007 to:

Executive Secretary
Dr. Santiago A. Canton
Inter-american Commission on Human Rights
1889 F. St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Phone 202-458-5062
FAX 202-458-6215

Please also write to the Mexican Ambassador expressing your outrage at
the murder of Santiago Rafael Cruz and demanding a rapid, thorough and
professional investigation of his murder.

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan
Mexican Embassy
1911 Pennsylvania AV, NW, Washington D.C. 20006
Tel: (202) 728 1600


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