Two Illinois Victories

Last month (in this post) I blogged about Doug Henwood’s great interview with Jane McAlevey and her comments about billionaire Illinois governor Bruce Rauner and his relentless campaign against labor.  Since then, Rauner has been handed some stinging defeats, which is great news.

First, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state’s 2013 pension overhaul (under the previous, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn) is unconstitutional. From the NYT piece (Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Lawmakers’ Pension Overhaul):

All seven members of the state’s highest court found that a pension overhaul lawmakers had agreed to almost a year and a half ago violated the Illinois Constitution. The changes would have curtailed future cost-of-living adjustments for workers, raised the age of retirement for some and put a cap on pensions for those with the highest salaries. But under the state Constitution, benefits promised as part of a pension system for public workers “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

“Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law,” Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier wrote in an opinion. “It is a summons to defend it.”

So even in our plutocracy, if the state constitution says, clear as day, that you can’t do something, then you can’t do it. Here’s the article on this from the Tribune: Illinois Supreme Court rules landmark pension law unconstitutional.

Our friends at the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) rightly view this as an opportunity to push for the “Lasalle Tax,” a Chicagoans call the transaction tax, aka Tobin tax, applied to Chicago trading. Here’s CPEG’s Ron Baiman (via the CPEG email list):

As many predicted, see: [posted at the D&S blog here –CS]

I don’t think there is any viable solution left that could raise the multi-billions needed to dig the state and city out of their financial holes other than a LaSalle Street tax  (see: ).  Again, the link above explains in great detail why an LST would not cause the traders or exchanges (or their switches) to move out of state and would be perfectly legal (New York State already has a local  FTT – though it unfortunately gets rebated back). The LST would be the least painful, most practical, most politically popular, and fairest and most beneficial in terms of economic justice and restructuring the overall economy, of any option that I think of.

The other great defeat for Rauner’s anti-labor agenda was that right-to-work, which Rauner was trying to impose on public workers at the county level, was rejected by the Illinois house.  From the Sun-Times:  Right-to-work goes down in flames in Illinois House with zero yes votes.




Climate March Links: Industrial Policy!


A few items in advance of this weekend’s Climate March in NYC:

(1) Ron Baiman of the Chicago Political Economy Group sent us this:

I’m sometimes asked: What is industrial policy?

This article (“Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind”) by Justin Gillis of the New York Times shows what industrial policy is. If Germany, a country with little sun, and little wind-swept land mass can do it, we all can! In fact as the article notes, German (and Chinese) industrial policies are bringing prices down and making these planetary saving technologies economically viable for all of us.

Instead of fighting for a mythological and nonsensical “free market” we should be doing the same. Industrial policy is necessary to move the massive “collective action” transformations necessary forward. Even Elan Moss’ battery factory in Nevada is going to be funded with a substantial share of (extorted) state subsidies. It’s unfortunate that this kind of “shake down” (or defense appropriations) is how its done in the U.S.–not a good method that often results in unwarranted subsidies to private business. I have not analyzed the battery deal, but it does appear to at least have the potential to create some good jobs and high tech manufacturing in the U.S. after decades of outsourcing. See CPEG long-time advocacy for “green technology” industrial policy here, here, and here.

(2)  Burlington, VT:  Via, originally from DailyKos:  Vermont’s Largest City Now Using 100% Renewable Energy Sources. Reported also in Business Insiderthe Boston Globe, and the Washington Post. The DailyKos piece also talks about Germany’s achievements for energy independence, as does…

(3) Christian Parenti on Behind the News.  The second hour of the most recent (posted) episode of Doug Henwood’s excellent radio show Behind the News (click here, click play, and scroll to the second hour, or listen to the whole thing!) has an interview with Christian Parenti about his article on the Jacobin website, Reading Hamilton from the Left. The discussion of Jefferson and Hamilton (Parenti is arguing that Hamilton was far more progressive) is good, but the (later) part on Hamilton as kind of the father of develomentalism–government intervention in the capitalist economy–and Parenti’s point that Hamilton-esque policies are needed to address climate change–are really great, and relates to Ron’s piece (above) about industrial policy. (Reminded me of Jim Cypher’s piece in our March/April 2013 issue about Brazil’s “neodevelopmentalism”–though there the industrial policy isn’t being marshalled to combat climate change, quite the contrary.)

One of the most interesting bits is his point that one key way the gov’t could spur alternative energy is as a major consumer–if in compliance with the Clean Air Act the government started running all those fleets of government vehicles and all those government buildings on alternative energy, that would create a market for such energy and spur development of clean-energy technology–which is what Germany (and Spain, and Portugal) are doing. (Add to this that the U.S. government, and the U.S. military, is the world’s biggest polluter, as we documented in Bob Feldman’s great piece War on the Earth more than ten years ago, and there is plenty the government could do.)

(4) National Jobs for All Coalition flyers again:  In my last post I gave a link to the NJfAC great Green Jobs for All flyer. which also proposes government intervention to address climate–via government-created green jobs (addressing the jobs crisis at the same time). Here’s more encouragement for people to print these up and distribute them at the march.

Ok, that’s it for now. Enjoy the march, for those of you who are going!

–Chris Sturr