RSS Contributor Archives: LaurieSchiller

Updates: The Impossiblility of Leslie Munger’s Economics

I keep getting these flyers from Munger and Rauner with lovely, but impossible promises. They promise to lower taxes, but accuse their Democratic opponents of bankrupting the state. OK, so if Illinois is bankrupt, and no question we have a serious pension and debt problem, caused, I might point out by both parties over the past three decades, precisely how do we cut the income of the state by billions (cut taxes), and expect to solve our fiscal problem? Answer? You can’t.

Munger and Rauner promise they won’t cut services and, in Rauner’s case, even INCREASE spending on schools. How do you cut the state’s income and do that? Answer? You can’t.

Munger’s latest flyer insists she will balance the budget. With the state debt and underfunded pensions in the billions, how do we do that? If you cut taxes the ONLY way you can balance the budget is to cut services and funding to schools, infrastructure, transportation, social services, police, fire, etc. There is no other way to do it. She is somewhere in Reagan Shangra-La land. GOP trickle down hasn’t worked yet and never will.

It never ceases to amaze me that people believe this voodoo economics. If you want services, you have to pay (tax) for them. Period. If you want job growth, you have to invest, not cut. This is simple economics 101, something Munger and Rauner seemed to have neglected to take in college. We have serious economic problems here in Illinois and Governor Quinn and courageous legislators such as Carole Sente have been the only ones to seriously try and do something about it. This is as obvious as the sun in the sky and Munger and Rauner are either naive, stupid, or simply don’t care about providing services to people. Their economic tea party policies would result in the economic disaster that has overtaken Kansas. We can’t let this happen to Illinois.

Updates: President Obama nails it at Northwestern

By Laurence D. Schiller

Today, President Obama came to Kellogg at Northwestern to deliver an address on the economy. Since I work at NU, I went down to see all the excitement, but wasn’t one of the invited guests, so I had to watch the speech on the White House web site ( The excitement amongst the student body was wonderful. If you didn’t see it, you should. It was a brilliant speech delivered at one of the best business schools in America. The President didn’t deliver a political speech (although it was nonetheless political as all speeches must be), but a speech clearly setting out what he and the Democrats have accomplished in resuscitating the American economy from the near collapse caused by the Robber Barons of Wall Street and their GOP obstructionist allies. Moreover, he delivered it at Kellogg and challenged our business leaders to tell him his facts were wrong. Indeed, Obama laid out the FACTS that America has gone from losing 800,000 jobs a month to gaining 200,000 a month. That unemployment has dropped from 10% to 6/1%. That 10 million jobs have been created under his watch and that health care costs have gone down, energy dependence on foreign oil down, the stock market doubled, and all in the face of the GOP who look at government as anathema to business. But, the TRUTH is that the deficit has been halved and that the ACA or Obamacare, is working. Horrors for Republicans who, like Bob Dold, have run from that TRUTH and can’t bear to admit that he was, and continues to be, completely wrong on his economic policies, and most especially on the Affordable Care Act.

To me the key to the speech was not just how the economic policies of the President have been working to create a boom in American manufacturing and job creation, but that the VISION of the Democratic Party is to continue to work for fairness in the economy. While the GOP pleads for more tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% who have already garnered the overwhelming percentage of gain in the economy, Democrats such as Brad Schneider echo the Presidents assertion that the economy must work for every single American. I’ll let you listen to the speech for the details, but this again points out what I said in the last blog, that the GOP fronts for the Robber Barons trying to tear down the New Deal, while the Democrats have fought to restore and protect it. The truth is that Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ economics do not and never have worked. The President challenged Kellogg to produce any study that would show that it does, knowing that there aren’t any. Bruce Rauner, who wants to do away with the minimum wage ought to read the studies showing how in states and cities that have raised the minimum wage have seen a boost in the economy, not the reverse. For me, ultimately, the speech absolutely defined the difference between the parties. The GOP doesn’t even have an economic plan. All they do is obstruct. When Bob Dold was in Washington, I asked him what his alternative to the ACA was, and his response was a pablum of thanks for writing but, to paraphrase, I really don’t have any ideas for health care except to keep the current system.

The President was electric today and absolutely destroyed his critics by just stating the facts. I’m just waiting for the GOP to offer any solution at all. That is the difference between the parties. They haven’t yet, so I guess I won’t hold my breath.

Updates: The GOP War against The New Deal and Great Society

By Laurence D. Schiller

If you haven’t seen Ken Burns’ new series “The Roosevelts: An intimate portrait” which aired on PBS a few weeks ago, you need to get it on demand and see it. Burns’ deft touch reveals both the strengths and weaknesses of Teddy, Eleanor, and Franklin, three amazing Americans. Amazing not just because they did great things in their lives, but amazing because they were able to conquer their own frailties and look beyond their privileged position in society to see, empathize, and do something about the hardships of others. This is relevant to us because the programs they espoused, many of which came to fruition in the New Deal, and others under JFK and LBJ, are precisely those which the new Robber Barons, the GOP political bosses, and their soldiers in Congress are trying to tear down.

TR and FDR used their position as President to fundamentally change the relationship between the people and government. Before them, it was ‘dog eat dog’ capitalism, and the majority of industrial workers lived in unspeakable poverty, worked 12-16 hour days, had no safety regulations in the work place, no pensions, sick pay, even days off. The 7 day work week was common while women and small children working for virtually nothing slaved to make the Robber Barons of the day rich. Mine workers lived in company towns in conditions beyond description. Labor had no Federal right to organize and attempts to do so were met with hired goons and bought police. No mine owner ever went to jail for having strikers murdered. Before Teddy, mining and timber companies ravaged our land, air, and water, making obscene profits off of public assets. They formed monopolies and fixed prices for goods and freight on the railroads. TR went after the Trusts and worked to break them up to allow actual competition. He also used his power as President to create National parks and reserves to save the public land from the rapaciousness of the Barons.

When unregulated capitalism combined with the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1920’s caused the worst depression in American, nay, world, history, FDR was elected over a Republican Party whose cruel philosophy was to literally stand by and watch people starve to death. When the Mississippi and Ohio flooded thousands out of their farms, even Hoover was moved to send government help, and was flayed by the bosses of his party for doing so. FDR, with the approval of the PEOPLE moved ahead with the strange idea that government should secure the well being of the people, not be a spectator. The New Deal, as FDR called it, put into being the essence of Progressivism. Laws were passed not only to put people to work, and the legacy of the WPA, CCC, and other Acts are with us still in the dams, roads, national lodges, hiking trails, bridges, rural electrification, etc. that were built under those programs, but to ensure that a Depression such as that of the 1930s would not occur again by the unregulated exploitation of capitalism by the Barons. Workers were given the right to strike and bargain for decent wages, a minimum wage was created, Social Security went into effect, the work day shortened and child labor restricted, banks were regulated and not permitted to gamble with deposits and mortgage money, and so much more.

The Robber Barons and political bosses hated him and the New Deal and called him a Socialist/Communist and a violator of the Constitution. Interesting enough, as George Will pointed out in the Burns’ series, FDR recognized that Jefferson’s vision of prosperous yeoman farmers could not be realized in an industrial age (even Jefferson realized this before his death), and felt it absolutely reasonable and necessary to use Hamiltonian means in terms of a strong activist government, to achieve what FDR called his New Bill of Rights – that Americans should have the right not to suffer from hunger and want.

This is all history, you say – what does it have to do with 2014. In fact, by now, you should have noted the parallels of then and today. The Robber Barons didn’t disappear by any means. Overtaken by WW II and the Cold War, and Presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon who were moderates in social and economic policy, the Barons, and their sons, bided their time until a champion arose in the form of Ronald Reagan, whose delusional economics and continuation of the use of Nixon’s White Southern Strategy gave them new entry into the White House and leadership of Congress.

The new Robber Barons, led by the Koch Brothers, but ably assisted by the Bruce Rauners and Jim Oberweis’, are leading the charge to buy our national and state governments with the intent of rolling back the New Deal and Great Society. Beginning with calling President Obama a ‘Marxist’, which is beyond preposterous, consider briefly what they have attacked, and forget all the noise about abortion, gays, and immigrants. Those issues are designed to enlist ignorant, racist, and homophobic folks in their cause and actually don’t figure much in the plans of men like the Koch Brothers. First, they have attacked the right to organize. Scott Walker, for example, in Wisconsin stripped public employees of the right to bargain for fair pay and working conditions. Second, the Glass-Steagle Act was repealed, allowing banks to risk depositors money in reckless derivatives causing the crash of 2008. Third, George W Bush stripped away hundreds of environmental regulations affecting our national lands, while the EPA has been starved of funds preventing it from enforcing regulations against the Barons whose companies have happily dumped pollutants into our air and water. The SNAP program has been cut, depriving millions of basic substance, while most Red states have refused to extend the Medicare provisions under the Affordable Health Care Act to their citizens, depriving millions more of basic access to medical care. Bruce Rauner, amongst others, has actually proposed the total elimination of the minimum wage, which would force people working full time even deeper into poverty than now. Rand Paul in his ugly Libertarian philosophy has proposed that even the Civil Rights Act should be overridden by the ‘rights’ of private property while Paul Ryan, the most dangerous political hack of them all – bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers – proposes an end to Medicare and the ‘privatization’ of Social Security, turning it from a service for the PEOPLE to a PROFIT making enterprise for the financial Robber Barons. Note too, how pensions have moved from guaranteed income to  401 K vehicles. Now instead of income for life, your hard earned retirement income is dependent on the vicissitudes of the Stock Markets the Barons manipulate and profit from. Pensions are expensive. 401 K’s, not so much. Having weakened pensions for companies, now they are going after pensions for public employees, and then will come Social Security’s turn. This is so consistent with the ‘I’ve got mine, too bad for you’ philosophy of the GOP.

To sum up, the basic pillars of progressivism are being attacked by these cold hearted Barons of privilege and the politicians they have purchased with their campaign money. Rauner, Oberweis, Dold, Kirk – the whole lot of them are willing to stand by and watch the wealthy push the rest of us down and deny the PEOPLE a basic dignified existence. Make no mistake, this is a critical time in our history. For the past 34 years the real income of the middle and working classes have dropped while the 1% have increased their grip on the overwhelming wealth of this country. We must make people see these Barons for what they are. They have no interest or understanding of the rest of us and they don’t care about whether folks live or die. Rauner might be shocked at that statement, but the implications of eliminating the minimum wage are clear. People will die. Dold might be shocked at that statement, but his 2 dozen votes to repeal the ACA are clear. People who didn’t have to will die. The Barons are truly evil men and we must stop them. This defines the basic difference between the Democratic (not Democrat, please) and Republican Party of today, a Party Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt would never be a part of.

Updates: GOP Frankenomics

By Laurence D. Schiller

A few weeks ago, I received a ‘letter’ from Sidney Mathias, former Republican Mayor of Buffalo Grove and failed State Representative, supporting Republican Precinct Committeeman (Vernon Township) Leslie Munger for the State House seat currently held by Carol Sente (D-59). After citing her various business interests, the 2nd paragraph states better than I could the complete fallacy of GOP Frankenomics, a fantasy economic theory created by Ronald Reagan and based on the completely debunked Ayn Rynd. To quote, ‘If elected, she will take no pension while working to create jobs, lower taxes and reform Illinois massive pension debt.” HUH? Can someone please explain how you take a state with a massive pension debt, decrease its income by some 4 billion dollars by letting the income tax expire (plus, presumably pass more tax cuts), and not declare bankruptcy? How does this solve the pension crisis? How does this create jobs? This is so oxymoronic that the man at the top of the ticket, uber rich Bruce Rauner won’t even present a plan, which, we can only suppose, he doesn’t actually have, since it is impossible to pay off debt and cut taxes.  He knows it but can’t admit it because to do so would support Governor Quinn’s courageous attempts at pension reform. Yet this has been the mantra of the right wing for over three decades: cut taxes for the wealthy because the are the job creators. Then this stimulates the economy and creates more revenue for the state/fed, and magically we can cover all our debt and expenses. Why, remarkably, Rauner  has even stated he would INCREASE spending on schools. Really…? Reminds me of Phillip Henslowe, the owner of the “Rose” theater in Shakespeare in Love who notably stated in every disastrous situation, “Don’t worry, it will all work out.” When asked ‘how?’, his invariable response was, “I don’t know, its a mystery.” That sums up the GOP economic policy to a ‘T’.

There is so much wrong here that it is hard to know where to start. First, I wish I could ask Rauner what he would do if he found his business had massive debt. I’ll bet his response would NOT be to cut his income stream, yet that is EXACTLY what Munger, Rauner, and Dold propose. If you personally had vast debt, would you cut your salary? It makes absolutely no sense and is, to quote George H.  W. Bush, ‘voodoo economics’. It is nonsense, pure and simple and even Reagan’s economic advisors told him so. The continuing decline of the Middle Class is directly attributable to the policies of Reagan and his successors. Munger, a graduate of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management ought to know better since no professor there taught her such flawed economic theory.Well, the admissions process isn’t perfect.

Second, we have two wonderful Midwest examples of exactly what happens when GOP/Tea Party economics are rigorously applied – Kansas and Wisconsin. In both states, taxes were cut, state revenues dropped precipitously, services, such as school funding were severely slashed, and in just a couple of years, both states have fallen to the bottom of the heap in job creation. Kansas is in such trouble that Republicans will likely lose both the Governorship and a senate seat. Yes, we ARE talking about Kansas, a place where science has been replaced by religious zealotry.

Third, Republicans have developed a truly odd idea of government. Take Rauner’s idea of auctioning off licenses for medical marijuana. As the Sun Times so aptly editorialized, Rauner’s thinking can only seem to comprehend trying to get the cheapest deal as opposed to the quality of the service to be offered. The cheapest bid is rarely the best bid, but it sure can make a guy money. Just ask Rauner, whose companies have been charged and convicted of fraudulent business practices to make money. This is pure Ayn Rynd. Unfettered capitalism is good, government regulation bad, even if that regulation keeps our food, drugs, water, and air pure.

GOP freckenomics fails to take into account 3 things:

First, government is not, and cannot, be run as a business. Government has to provide certain services to its constituents. It is not in the business of making money, but providing services. The essential motive of business is to make money, the cheaper the better. If corners must be cut, services stopped, quality compromised, all that is OK as long as the bottom line is met. The American health care system before ACA is a perfect example as the neediest people were denied coverage, and sick people dropped. Why? Because those folks cut into the bottom line. Perfectly reasonable for an health insurance company but a disaster for those sick or in need. Government, on the other hand, must tax to raise the funds to provide services. It is so typical of the rich like Dold and Rauner that they can’t see government in those terms because THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN IN WANT. Dold should be constantly challenged every time he appears and have it be pointed out that he voted over two dozen times to deny people basic health care. There is no defense to this cruel position. Most of us need the services that government provides, but guys like Rauner and Dold don’t care because they can afford these services on their own. Poll after poll shows overwhelming public support for services such as health care, medicare, and social security, but Dold voted to eliminate or privatize them, and Rauner would end most social services for the needy were he governor with a GOP legislature.

Second, tax cuts have never been job creators because the GOP always cuts the taxes of the rich. It is simply bunk. Just the reverse is true. What creates jobs is consumer demand. Period. If no one wants it, no one will produce it. One of the arguments against raising the minimum wage is that jobs will be lost. Bunk. Do you think McDonald’s will close stores if the minimum wage goes up and more people can afford to patronize their products? Will Walmart suddenly go out of business if they actually have to pay their employees enough to live on instead of having to get food stamps? Of course they won’t and there has never been a study done that actually shows job loss when the minimum wage goes up.

Third, there is no such thing as a ‘free market’. Adam Smith’s free market was based on the idea that producers would simply shift to different products as market demand changed. Demand, and supply, would control price. This was naive to begin with because it costs to change from making straight pins to wagon wheels. Further, with the technicalization of the Industrial Revolution, it is extraordinarily difficult to shift production between very different types of products to meet market demand. In fact, rather than ‘demand’ controlling prices, mega corporations have, in fact, sought to control markets by merger and monopoly (trusts), driving prices up, and often, quality and service down. Consumer demand does create jobs, but price is rarely controlled by demand, but rather by the control of supply (such as gas or diamonds) by corporations to drive prices up. Sorry to oversimplify, but my point is that the GOP continues to, quite frankly, lie to us that government regulations and control over Capitalism is evil and everything will be wonderful if we just let the ‘free market’ work. Well, we saw the result of that in 2008 when Wall Street fried the economy.

As for Leslie Munger, well, I had never heard of her and so looked at her website. It was kind of scary as her wingnut rhetoric practically foamed at the mouth while accusing Rep. Carol Sente of all sorts of sins. Imagine voting for the environment and social services. As Sente says, Munger’s budget ideas would crush social services in this state and destroy, rather than fix, Illinois’ economy. As long as the GOP embraces this sort of freckenomics, we must fight them tooth and nail. They are truly bad people who simply don’t care about the suffering they would so glibly impose on the needy of this state.

Updates: Why we fight! Democrat, Progressive, and PROUD

By Laurence D. Schiller

As the election season bursts upon us, I have to admit there are times I despair of America. Fueled by GOP PAC dark money, the airwaves are filled with the distortions of the Corporatist wealthy in political ads designed to appeal to our basest instincts of ‘whats in it for me’ and ‘the other guy is getting something unfairly that I’m not’. The news is replete with images of ‘Open Carry Texas’, Tea Party rallies, and secret desert gatherings of GOP leaders kowtowing to the Koch brothers and their agenda to have the wealthy few rule America. But I can always lift myself from the slough of despond by remembering WHY we are Progressives and Democrats. When folks state, ‘why vote, there’s no difference between the parties, and all politicians are the same’, I point out that while there are certainly bad politicians in both parties, there is a fundamental difference between between Republicans and Democrats. A completely different view of what America is and should be.

The GOP is ruled absolutely by a very small group of very wealthy white men, whose agenda is very clear and has not changed much since the American Revolution except in so far as capital has adapted to the Industrial Revolution. There has always been a party of privilege, men of property and capital who see the role of government as being to defend our national borders (and their property) and to promote their ability to make wealth. Otherwise, as the Libertarians/Tea Party propose, the less government the better. They expound the myth of the free market while buying up competitors to create monopolies which can charge the public higher prices for less quality and service. Before the Depression, they used local police and hired goons to suppress labor unions because they dared demand a living wage and benefits. We too often forget the martyrs of those battles. Now they use Scott Walker to ban public employees from bargaining for better wages and, in Illinois, run ads attacking teachers and other public employees for the pension crisis that was caused by state politicians who didn’t pay into the pension fund. Rich men such as Bruce Rauner and Jim Oberweis want to do away with the minimum wage because they think only in terms of profits and not about the people who work for them. They oppose the entire safety net of the New Deal and Great Society because it costs them money and taxes. So they hide their money in the Cayman Islands (Rauner) and support the election of politicians such as Bob Dold who will do their bidding.

Their soldiers are the extreme right. Full of bigots, religious and racial,  the extremely ignorant, and the fearful, they spread the corporatist lies about the Affordable Health Care Act, the minimum wage, unions, and everything else. This group has always been a part of the Republican mix, beginning with the absorption of the No-Nothing American Party into the newly formed Republican Party in 1856.  At that time, though, the Party also contained the former Whigs, or pro-business party, and the Free Soilers, who were abolitionists and formed a progressive element. Unfortunately, that element dried up after Reconstruction and any strain of progressivism was suppressed after the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, who was given the Vice Presidency under McKinley to get him out of NYC and shut him up. It was bad luck for the Guilded Age magnates that an assassins bullet made TR President, allowing him to establish National Parks and much else. But, with the advent of Ronald Reagan, the moderate element in the GOP has been driven out and only the basest elements of the Party remain. The GOP today is the definition of cruelty and greed and can be summed up by “I got mine, sucks to be you”. Libertarianism is at heart a selfish and uncaring philosophy, about as far from what was preached by Jesus, whom they so often turn to, as can be.

But what of us, those contentious Democrats? There is no question we often disagree, which is rather healthy. But fundamentally we believe that every American has the right to have enough to eat, be sheltered, educated, and have the right to be paid a living wage for a full week’s work. We believe that government is there to protect the constitutional rights of EVERY American, to promote the opportunity for people to advance, and help provide for the weak and vulnerable. Too often these days, though, Democrats run away from what we stand for, which is why I really like Brad Schneider’s new ad campaign. He embraces what we are and I am proud of his courage.  We Democrats should be proud of what we stand for.

September reminded me of just that. September 1st was Labor Day, commemorating the long struggle of labor to force capital to pay a living wage. September 11, the 13th anniversary of the attacks in NY and DC and September 13th, the 200th anniversary of the penning of the Star Spangled Banner in our second War of Independence, remind us that Freedom is not free and requires constant diligence against enemies foreign and domestic, which includes those who would buy our government. And tomorrow, September 17th, is the 152nd anniversary of the battle of Antietam, where a Union victory allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation proclamation,  spelling the end of slavery and the beginning of the still continuing fight for full civil rights for African Americans, a fight embraced by us, Progressive Democrats. Lincoln was a Republican in 1863, but were he here today, I guarantee that great humanitarian’s affiliation would not be with his old party. He would be morally repulsed by today’s Republicans, as we are. Democrats need to embrace what we stand for. Its not scary, it is good.

So, when I feel down, I remember why we struggle and think of the Story of Joe Hill, the labor organizer, popularized in song by Joan Baez, Paul Robeson, and Bruce Springsteen amongst others:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.
“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
They shot you Joe” says I.

“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes.

Says Joe “What they can never kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize”
From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where working-men defend their rights,
It’s there you find Joe Hill,
It’s there you find Joe Hill!
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.

Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win,” Victor Lazlo to Rick (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca 1942.