Truthout Stories Sat, 23 Jul 2016 16:45:59 -0400 en-gb Donald Trump's Dark and Scary Night

The GOP's new big dog blew the whistle Thursday night for nearly an hour and a half and it was loud and shrill enough to reach the ears of every angry, resentful, disaffected white American. The tone was divisive, dark, dystopian and grim.

Here was the alpha dog of the von Trump family, baying at a blood-red moon that the hills are alive with the sounds of menace.

According to Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, this land is rapidly becoming as bleak and dangerous as one of those twisted, vicious kingdoms in Game of Thrones, a place filled with violent crime and despair, a smoldering ruin overrun with foreigners out to take our jobs and terrorists bent on destroying our villages.

It's mourning in America.

And only he can save us.

This has been his message all year: I alone can fix it. Remember his tweet on Easter morning?

He alone has the potion. He alone can call out the incantation. He alone can cast out the demons. It's a little bit Mussolini. A little bit Berlusconi. A little bit George Wallace. And a lot of Napoleon in a trucker's hat. "I am not an ordinary man," Bonaparte once said." I am an extraordinary man and ordinary rules do not apply to me."

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

So he will do it all alone, this Trump. Until he has the US military to carpet-bomb on his orders, and the nuclear codes at the ready beside his bed at 3 a.m., and the 101st Airborne at the southern border, ready to act -- as long as Mexico pays for it.

This was a convention pledged to serve and protect the little guy, but as Rachel Maddow pointed out on MSNBC, it was officially addressed by five -- count 'em, five -- billionaires, including Trump and one, Silicon Valley's Peter Thiel, who has said that woman's suffrage was a bad idea and wrote in 2009 that "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible." Boy, was he in the right place.

Thiel was one of the Thursday night speakers leading up to the official coronation of King Donald as the Republican Party's standard-bearer. Introduced by daughter Ivanka, who without a trace of irony lauded her dad's "kindness and compassion" (except of course for all those women he has verbally abused and minorities he has slandered and even the fellow candidates he mocked), Trump announced, "Here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth and nothing else… I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper."

But as Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee noted:

"The dark portrait of America that Donald J. Trump sketched… is a compendium of doomsday stats that fall apart upon close scrutiny. Numbers are taken out of context, data is manipulated, and sometimes the facts are wrong.

"When facts are inconveniently positive -- such as rising incomes and an unemployment rate under 5 percent -- Trump simply declines to mention them. He describes an exceedingly violent nation, flooded with murders, when in reality, the violent-crime rate has been cut in half since the crack cocaine epidemic hit its peak in 1991."

He said 58 percent of young African-Americans are unemployed -- and the dog whistle signals, you know what that means -- but the number's actually about half that. He insists we're one of the highest taxed nations in the world -- we're nowhere near -- and that we have "no way to screen" refugees, which is just not true.

The speech went on and on like that and the crowd inside the convention hall ate it up, their bitterness and frustration spurred on by Trump's own sputtering, red-faced outrage. The legacy of Hillary Clinton, he said, is "death, destruction and weakness." She proposes "mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness." As for Barack Obama, "The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment for everyone."

By the way, of the 2,472 delegates at the convention, only 18 of them were black, the lowest percentage in over a century, according to History News Network and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. With Trump at the helm, Republicans will soon have purged their party of any memory of its own past. "Lincoln" simply will have been the name of a town car.

As columnist Eugene Robinson said about Thursday's speech, "Frankly, this was a message, at least to my ears, to white America: Be afraid. I will protect you." It's not for nothing that as convention officials projected tweets from Trump supporters on the hall's video screens during his speech, one of them turned out to be from a notorious white supremacist account.

Can anyone imagine Donald Trump breaking into "Amazing Grace" at the service for black worshippers in Charleston, SC, gunned down in their church by a white supremacist? There certainly was not a grace note in his speech. And -- sorry, Ivanka -- not a single note of "kindness and compassion." No touch of humility.

Watching, we could only think of Augustus, during the first century B.C., in a time roiled by corruption and the wealth of empire, who terminated the government and installed himself as emperor, careful to preserve all the forms of the republic while dispensing with their meaning.

Or, as the less august, but funnier folks at The Onion tweeted while the smoke from Trump's cannonade lingered into the night, "Thanks for joining our live coverage of the RNC. This concludes democracy."

News Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
How Can This Be Happening in the US? International Journalists Reflect on Rise of Donald Trump

On Wednesday, Democracy Now!'s Deena Guzder and Hany Massoud spoke to members of the international press covering the Republican National Convention to find out how other countries view Donald Trump.

Please check back later for full transcript.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Build Bridges, Not Walls": Medea Benjamin on How She Disrupted Donald Trump's Speech

CodePink's Medea Benjamin disrupted Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention by holding up a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" Her protest diverted cameras away from Trump's speech. Benjamin was removed after the disruption and says she was later interviewed by the Secret Service. Democracy Now! spoke to her on the street afterwards.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to CodePink's Medea Benjamin, who disrupted Donald Trump's speech last night. By the way, the speech, the longest in presidential convention history at an hour and 15 minutes. Media Benjamin stood up, holding a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" Her protest diverted cameras away from Trump's speech. She was removed by security after the disruption. Medea Benjamin says she was later interviewed by the Secret Service. Democracy Now! caught up with her on the streets of Cleveland afterwards.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I got a pass inside. I went to a press area, which I thought was as good as I was going to get. I had a sign that said "Build bridges, not walls!" I had read the speech beforehand, so I knew exactly when I wanted to interrupt: when he said, "I am your voice." And I wanted to get up then and say, "You are not my voice. Your voice is one of hatred and anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia and misogyny. And we need someone who will build bridges, not walls."

And there was a lot of tussling going on with the people next to me, who were grabbing my sign and trying to pull me down. And there were all kinds of people around me doing various things. At one point, I know my legs were in the air. And I just kept speaking out that Donald Trump is dangerous for this country and dangerous for the world. I think it's so important CodePink has been in three out of the four nights in the convention center interrupting Donald Trump. And I think we speak for millions of people in this country and people all over the world who are horrified with the idea of Donald Trump for president.

AMY GOODMAN: Who were the people that were sitting next to you, and what did they say? And who ended up dragging you out?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: There were other journalists next to me from conservative papers. And I know that because I looked at some of their name tags. And they also were clapping so much during the speech. You know, if you're an objective journalist, you're not going to get up and clap when Donald Trump comes in and after every two sentences. So they were very enthusiastic press, and they were really upset when I got up, and immediately started trying to tackle me.

DELEGATES: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

AMY GOODMAN: You got an early transcript of the speech. Did anything surprise you in it?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I was -- I found it interesting that before Donald came on, there were -- there's a Republican gay businessman. There were people who talked about gay rights. And Ivanka was really focusing on women's rights and how great her husband -- her father was for women. And I think Donald Trump, in the beginning of the speech, tried to come across as somebody who would unite this country. And, of course, it's all about how he's a great builder, builder, builder. And then he got, at one point, very negative. And his talk about how we are besieged by immigrants who are coming across our border and then murdering people is such a horrible thing to be focusing on, when 99 percent of the immigrants are peaceful, hard-working people who have contributed so much to this society. I just got back from Latin America, and I've been to the Middle East a lot, and I know people are really terrified about Donald Trump, as well as our friends here who are Muslim and our friends here who are Latino.

DELEGATES: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!

MEDEA BENJAMIN: When he starts in his rhetoric and people start yelling "Build that wall! Build that wall!" that's a very scary thing. So, I think it was very appropriate to be there with the "Build bridges, not walls!"

AMY GOODMAN: That is Medea Benjamin, the founder of CodePink, the women's peace group. She disrupted Donald Trump's speech last night, holding a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We are "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," everyday two-hour expanded broadcast from the Cleveland Republican convention here in Ohio. Next week we'll be in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: "You Can't Always Get What You Want," The Rolling Stones. It was closing song last night after Donald Trump's speech, the longest in presidential convention history. Over 100,000 balloons were dropped as the song played and the family was on the stage.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Pastor on Tamir Rice Shooting: Ohio Is an Open-Carry State Except if You're an African-American Male

The Republican National Convention is underway just a few miles from the park where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by police in November of 2014 while he was playing with a toy pellet gun. We speak with Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, the pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, which is one of the largest African-American congregations in Cleveland, about how city officials and activists responded to the killing. He was recently profiled in a Politico report titled "The Preacher Who Took on the Police."


AMY GOODMAN: We're joined right now by Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, the pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, which is one of the largest African-American congregations in Cleveland. He was recently profiled in Politico in a piece titled "The Preacher Who Took on the Police."

Reverend Colvin, welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Took on the police how?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, when the incident took place with respect to the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, I and others within the activist community made a decision that we couldn't allow the death of this young boy to go without justice. I reached out to the Department of Justice. I began to reach out to my brothers and sisters in the activist community, many not in the church, but within a community of conscience built around academics, people in the nonprofit community. And we began to work together to figure out a way in which we could bring this issue to light. The family had done a great job in bringing national civil rights attorneys to their assistance. But we thought that if they did not have community support and they didn't have community activism to continue to bring this, not only for individual justice for their son, but to make sure that there was attention brought to the injustice related to the entire Cleveland Police Department.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain something to me? We went to Cudell Park, to the recreational center, where young Tamir, 12 years old -- it was what? November 22nd --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- 2014, has a toy gun, police move in within a few seconds, Officer Loehmann shoots Tamir Rice dead. Now, we're here at the convention. There have been protests around the issue of assault weapons. You have open carry in this state, so people carry guns all the time. Even if they thought he had a gun, within seconds shooting him? And it's been shown by studies that white police officers think kids, black kids, are older like by 10 years than they are. So here they're seeing -- they thought he was like 20, and he's got a gun. You're allowed to carry a gun in this state.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Except if you're an African-American male, particularly if you're an African-American male that's in a community that is perceived as hostile, if you're in a community in which young people are oftentimes viewed as much older than they particularly are. The challenge is that there were a number of forces that were working against Tamir that day. Being a young black male with historical challenges between police and community, Tamir found himself in a place and a position where, when Loehmann, who we know had a history of instability with respect to his unfitness to being in another department, but when he came to the city of Cleveland, he was allowed to not only have a badge but also allowed to carry a gun, and when Tamir found himself in the crosshairs, in less than two seconds, this young boy, who was playing with his toy gun, was only doing something that any young 12-year-old would do in a community center, place that he went to every day, obviously found himself in a circumstance and a situation which, unfortunately, was not in the best judgment of those police officers.

AMY GOODMAN: Neither of these officers, the one who shot him, Loehmann, who, what, was described as having low gun impulse control at the previous department he worked in Independence --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- and Garmback, who had another excessive force case around him, where they had -- the police department had to pay out, I think, a six-figure amount, have been indicted. What about the federal investigation?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, the federal investigation, at this point, we know that, in terms of civil rights, the civil rights bar is so high that oftentimes we can't -- we don't see any federal action taking place. I mean, that's why that I and seven of my colleagues went into municipal court, looking at the Ohio Revised Code and finding there was a statute that if citizens can come and find an affidavit -- and file an affidavit stating that there is evidence, reason to believe, that a crime has been committed, you can do that. We did that. That video indicated that there was probable cause. And the fact that while a municipal court judge, an African-American municipal court judge in a majority African-American city, found there was reasonable -- I mean, at least probable cause, which is a low bar. Ironically, when it went to the county, County Prosecutor Tim McGinty found that there was not enough evidence to even to have an indictment, which, in and of itself, is problematic. We've seen the article, which indicates that it was a sham from the beginning, that it was an orchestrated attempt, really, to try this case in secret, which I only thought we did in Eastern Bloc countries 50 years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: McGinty ultimately losing his race again for prosecutor.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: He did lose his race, but, unfortunately, justice still has not been served. And so, while justice was meted out for Mr. McGinty, unfortunately we still have -- we still have a case, and there is no statute of limitations on murder. And so, you know, it is up to the family whether they want to continue to pursue that, because many of us in the activist community are supporting the family in such a case. But what we do know is from both the law enforcement community to the Prosecutor's Office, there was clearly injustice that was done. And it is not simply to be found in Loehmann. It is systemic, it is institutional, and I'm not sure that changing one prosecutor is really going to change the process.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the Republican National Convention. On Monday night, the Milwaukee County sheriff, David Clarke, celebrated the acquittal of the Baltimore police officer Brian Rice, one of the officers on trial in the Freddie Gray case. Gray died from injuries sustained in police custody. We were on the floor when Sheriff Clarke took the stage of the convention.

SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE: There is some good news out of Baltimore, Maryland, as Lieutenant Brian Rice was acquitted on all charges. ... What we witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order. So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the Milwaukee County sheriff, David Clarke. Your response, Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: What's interesting is that what the sheriff is calling anarchy, we call, you know, our First Amendment rights -- the right to protest, the right to peaceful assembly. Black Lives Matter has utilized the best of the civil rights tradition: nonviolent direct action. The only thing and the only association that he can connect with the murders of those police officers and Black Lives Matter is the fact that they are, in fact, black. I mean, officers -- we talk about the challenge with respect to rebuilding the trust between officers, law enforcement and the community. Historically, there has never been trust between the law enforcement community and African-American community. And this only reinforces the same type of enmity, deeply embedded mistrust, that is clearly not simply on the perspective or the side of the African-American community. But also, this is reflective, clearly, of mistrust on the side of law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: The Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, appeared on CNN here in Cleveland, expressed support for an investigation, following Donald Trump's statement Monday night on Fox News that, if elected, he would instruct his attorney general to look into Black Lives Matter.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, thankfully, he's lieutenant governor, not president of the United States and not the head of the Department of Justice. You know, it's amazing that Black Lives Matter, which is a movement which has brought to the fore the issue of, you know, police misconduct, Black Lives Matter, which has finally put on the national platform and in the national conversation the issue of the excessive use of force and the unconstitutionality of the encounters with police and African Americans, are now themselves being criminalized. They are the ones being criminalized. It is an amazing phenomenon that now we have the law enforcement community, and those who support them, saying somehow that the blue shield is more important than citizenship and expressing constitutional rights.

AMY GOODMAN: The number of black delegates, 18, lowest number, believed, in more than half a -- in more than a century here at the Republican convention.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: And I would add to that, I saw the recent poll, that zero percent support for Donald Trump, and I know that is not within the margin of error. It's absolutely right. You know, Adam Clayton Powell said decades ago, the reason that black people -- most African Americans are not conservative, because they have nothing to conserve. There is nothing in the current state of the American economy, the current state of American social order, the current state of policing in America that African Americans would want to preserve. So I'm not surprised. I'm actually surprised that we have as -- the few that we do have, even in light of the fact of the vitriol that we have coming out of Donald Trump.

But I would say this, is that African Americans are not going to be -- even on the left, are not going to be intimidated to vote against Donald Trump. We're not going to be, in any way, shape or form, made to feel that he's the bogeyman or anything of that nature. The truth is, African Americans, over the course of 400 years, since 1619, have dealt with all kinds of blowhards, whether we're talking about Bull Connor, Orval Faubus, George Wallace. And so, we know how to deal with the Donald Trumps. So, when we go to the -- into the polls, it's not about who we're voting against or what we --

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN:  -- but rather, what we're voting for.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church here in Cleveland, Ohio.

That does it for our show. I'll be doing a report back from the conventions after our two weeks of coverage -- on Friday, July 29th at the Provincetown Town Hall in Massachusetts, and Saturday, July 30th, on Martha's Vineyard at Old Whaling Church. Check our website. Follow our team for the latest updates from the convention on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Abolish Long-Term Solitary Confinement: It's a Threat to the Public

2016.7.23.lead.mainSolitary confinement dehumanizes everyone involved and is, ultimately, a threat to society at large. (Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

Supermax prisons are the most widely abused "tool" in corrections departments across the country, says Joseph Dole, who knows firsthand the physical and mental health costs of long-term isolation after spending 10 years at the notorious Tamms supermax in Illinois.

2016.7.23.lead.mainSolitary confinement dehumanizes everyone involved and is, ultimately, a threat to society at large. (Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

Truthout is your go-to source for news about the most critical issues of our time. If you want to see more stories like this one, make a tax-deductible donation today!

I have a very intimate understanding of the effects of long-term isolation on a person's mental and physical health. An entire decade of my life was spent involuntarily entombed in isolation at the notorious Tamms supermax prison in southern Illinois.

While serving a sentence of life-without-parole, I was sent to Tamms for punching an assistant warden in another Illinois prison where humans are simply warehoused without any programs and with few jobs, and where we were constantly disrespected and dehumanized by staff and administrators alike. In retaliation for that incident, I was assaulted, while in handcuffs, by several staff members who broke my nose and did other damage, prior to shipping me off to Tamms.

Tamms was allegedly opened as a sort of "shock-treatment" for violent prisoners and gang leaders. If the prisoner behaved, he was supposed to be transferred out after a year. But the reality was that the Illinois Department of Corrections abused its power and used Tamms to mete out retaliation and not just against those who were violent. Jailhouse lawyers and many of the mentally ill prisoners, whom the administration wished to lock in a closet somewhere, were sent to Tamms.

In the 10 years I was there, I never received a single disciplinary infraction. Nonetheless, I was denied a transfer out of Tamms 39 times. For the first seven or eight years after my arrival at Tamms, I was repeatedly told that I would never be released from indeterminate disciplinary segregation and would, in fact, die alone of old age in that concrete box. I was 26 at the time.

For nearly the first three years, I was denied a television or radio. Thus, I spent every waking hour reading, writing, cleaning, or working out in order to try to maintain my sanity. Still, by year five, I was experiencing auditory hallucinations (thinking I heard someone calling my name), extreme anxiety, erratic heart palpitations, and severe bouts of depression. All of these conditions were a direct consequence of long-term solitary confinement, and would become worse as the years wore on.

Luckily, that was the extent of the mental and physical repercussions of being isolated for so long. (Well, that is, if you don't count the atrophy of my eyesight, hearing, social skills, and a number of my relationships with family members and friends.) I say "luckily" because it could have been much worse.

I went to Tamms bloody, but with no mental illness, so I was able to withstand its effects longer than others. Had I been living with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or had I been illiterate, who knows what would have happened? Imagine being trapped behind a steel door for years on end with no television or radio, unable to read or write, with no one to teach you, and absolutely nothing to do. For many, this is a daily reality.

I may have ended up cutting or biting off chunks of my skin, as many did while I was there. Or, I may have killed myself or attempted to, like so many others I know. Or, I might have cut off my penis and watched a guard carry it off. Who knows? None of that happened to me. I survived intact. Many others don't.

I know that many Americans may feel that I got what I deserved. We Americans have perfected the art of being both sanctimonious and deliberately indifferent to the plight of others. While I can agree that I deserved to be punished for my actions, at a certain point, the isolation ceased being about punishment, or even "institutional security," and became a sadistic abuse of power.

The public may not care for my well-being, or that of the nearly 100,000 Americans who are currently being held in long-term isolation -- but they should. Through their indifference, the public is directly responsible for the torture of their fellow citizens, the deterioration of their mental health, and all of the suicides that occur in isolation units (which account for nearly one half of all prison suicides). They are also responsible for the effects these facilities have on the people who work there, as well as the threat these places pose to society at large.

People who work in isolation units are severely affected by their work of brutalizing people on a daily basis. Their average life expectancy, according to one study, is 20 years less than that of the average citizen, and rates of alcoholism are significantly higher. They also have higher rates of spousal abuse. Becoming accustomed to being above the law and able to abuse people at will, they bring that attitude home to their families and communities.

Beyond the direct human impacts on prisoners and guards, control units and supermax prisons are also extremely expensive, siphoning limited resources away from things that actually protect society, like rehabilitation programs, police and fire departments and schools. Plus, there are the additional court costs of all the lawsuits isolation units generate.

These places make people so irrationally angry that it is the height of folly to continue operating them, and more so to then release people straight from solitary to the streets. No example is more demonstrative than that of Evan Ebel, a mentally ill man who was sentenced to eight years in prison in Colorado for carjacking, and ended up spending the entire eight years in solitary confinement. His mental health steadily deteriorated over time.

Prior to release, Ebel filed a grievance asking, "Do you have any obligation to the public to reacclimate me, the dangerous inmate, to being around other human beings prior to release, and, if not, why?"

The written response he received was that a grievance was not the appropriate place to discuss policy.

In 2013, within two months of being released, Ebel killed a pizza delivery man and wore the man's uniform to the home of the Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, whom he shot to death. He got into two shootouts with police before dying of gunshot wounds.

This did not surprise me at all when I read about it. I witnessed countless people grow angrier and angrier, year after year, due to being arbitrarily isolated and brutalized.

Solitary confinement units are incubators of hate, which is completely understandable. Treat people inhumanely long enough, and not only will they cease to view you as humane, but some may want to return the favor.

The good news is that many people are finally, belatedly, starting to realize all of this. In the past year alone, both New York and California settled lawsuits by promising to curb their use of long-term isolation, and President Obama ordered the Bureau of Prisons to limit its use of isolation.

Still, there is a long way to go. While all reforms are welcome, those currently underway will barely put a dent in the number of people being abused in solitary confinement around the country. Control units and supermax prisons are the most widely abused "tool" in corrections departments across the country.

Tamms wasn't closed quickly enough to save hundreds of us from years of torture and its ill effects. Nor did Colorado reform its use of solitary confinement in time to prevent the tragedy of Evan Ebel. For everyone's sake, let's hope more states choose to accelerate reforms instead of fighting them.

Opinion Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Feminism Slowly Gaining Support at United Nations

Achieving gender equality has long been one of the United Nations' top priorities yet the word feminism has only recently begun to find its way into speeches at UN headquarters.

Croatia's Vesna Pusic, one of 12 candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General, explained why she thought her feminism made her suitable for the UN's top job, during a globally televised debate, on 12 July.

"I happen to be a woman, I don't think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important)," Pusic said, to applause from the diplomats and UN staff filling the UN General Assembly hall.

Pusic joins other high profile feminists at the UN including British actor Emma Watson, whose September 2014 speech about her own feminism gained worldwide media attention.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told UN Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a UN meeting in March 2016 that there shouldn't be such a big reaction every time he uses the word feminist.

"For me, it's just really obvious. We should be standing up for women's rights and trying to create more equal societies," he said.

Perhaps more significant though than these speeches is Sweden's recent election to the UN Security Council on a feminist foreign policy platform.

Sweden will join the 15-member council for two years in January 2017, the same month that the new Secretary-General will take office. There are hopes that the UN's ninth Secretary-General, will be the first woman to lead the organisation, with women making up half of the 12 candidates currently under consideration.

"There could be a lot of elements coming together to finally create some momentum for progress," Jessica Neuwirth, one of the founders and Honorary President of Equality Now told IPS.

Even the number of female candidates running represents a change for the UN, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

"Not only has no woman ever held the UN's top job, but just three of 31 formal candidates in previous appointments have been female."

The push to select a female Secretary-General has seen all candidates, both male and female, eager to show their commitment to gender equality.

Whoever is selected will be continuing on work already started by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Neuwirth, who believes that Ban has shown a commitment to gender equality at the UN, even if he may not use the word feminist to describe himself.

"I'm not a person who really lives or dies on the words, I think what people do is really much more important than what they call themselves," said Neuwirth, who is the director of Donor Direct Action, founded to raise funds for frontline women's groups.

"I don't know that I've ever heard (Ban) use the word feminist, definitely not to describe himself," she added. "On the other hand as somebody who had the privilege of working at the UN during his tenure I did see first hand the efforts he made to increase the representation of women at the UN at the highest levels, he made a very conscious effort to increase those numbers."

"It's still not 50:50 and it's even slid backwards which is disappointing, but he showed that one person can make a big difference."

Samarasinghe also noted that even if the word feminist is not explicitly used at the UN, its meaning is reflected in the UN's many objectives for achieving gender equality.

"Feminism is about women and men having equal opportunities and rights – something reaffirmed countless times in UN documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights onwards."

However Samarasinghe noted that the word feminist remains controversial. The UN's 193 member states include many countries which lag far behind outliers such as Sweden and Canada on gender equality.

"Being a feminist is a complete no-brainer. It's like having to explain to people that you're not racist. But clearly the word is still controversial so we have to keep using it until people get it," she said.

Emma Watson noted in her high profile UN speech, that the word feminist is not as easy to use as it should be.

"I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists."

"Apparently, I'm among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even," said Watson.

In late 2015, some media reported that Watson had said she had been advised not to use the word feminist in her speech.

Neuwirth who was present when Watson made her speech told IPS that Watson's choice of words ultimately had a strong impact.

"That was an incredible event, I mean the level of emotion in that room was so high it was kind of shocking to me."

"There were so many diplomats there, which was a good thing, and it was just really a powerful speech that she made, and it moved them, you could just see visibly that it moved them," said Neuwirth.

However since Watson's speech, progress on gender equality at the UN has not always been easy.

Media organisation PassBlue, which monitors gender equality at the UN, has noted that the number of women appointed to senior UN positions has been slipping.

When Sweden takes up its position on the Security Council, it will have big strides to make on both improving women's representation in decision making positions at the UN and enacting policies which promote gender equality more broadly.

In fact, it is anticipated that all 15 permanent representatives on the UN Security Council in 2017 will be men, unless the United States chooses a woman to replace Samantha Power, who is expected to leave her post by the end of 2016.

Sweden hopes to use its seat on the Security Council to increase women's involvement in negotiating and mediating peace agreements, Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at a media briefing hosted by Donor Direct Action on 30 June.

Neuwirth welcomed Wallstrom's comments, noting that in Syria, for example, women continue to be shut out of peace negotiations.

Syrian women "are trying to play a meaningful role in the negotiations over Syria, which are totally a mess," she said, "yet these women really just are struggling so hard to get even inside a corridor let alone to the table."

"Why wouldn't they just give these women a little more of a chance to see if they could do better, because it would be hard to do worse?"

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Facing Down Trump's Demagoguery: Lessons From Weimar Germany

2016.7.22.Lead.mainDonald Trump points to his vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

To fight Donald Trump's dangerous messages, US progressives of all stripes -- the Democrats, Bernie Sanders supporters and all major social justice movements -- must take both right-wing populism and each other seriously and find ways to present a united front against fascism.

2016.7.22.Lead.mainDonald Trump points to his vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Donald Trump is not the first authoritarian demagogue who could take power and undermine constitutional government in the US or Europe. Right-wing authoritarian populists have often grabbed power during economic crises, particularly in Western societies suffering national decline and severe racial divisions or culture wars.

The classic example is Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Nazis were one of many far-right movements in Weimar -- and Hitler was only one of many hyper-nationalist demagogues stoking the flames of economic discontent and promising to restore Aryan racial supremacy and make Germany great again.

For progressives who want to (1) fight Trump's dangerous messages and (2) win the long-term struggle for justice and democracy, there are vital lessons to be learned from the failure of Weimar progressives.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

First, the German Left splintered and failed to create strong coalitions. The Social Democrats and the German Communist Party -- both large parties of Labor -- made little efforts to work together or to organize and coordinate closely with many of the remarkably progressive Weimar urban feminist, gay and civil rights movements. Much of the blame falls on the Communists, who decided to take their marching orders from Stalin, believing that the collapse of the German economy would lead to a Communist revolution. But the Social Democrats were also responsible, aligning themselves with conservative parties and aristocratic landed elites -- and supporting repression of Far Left movements while failing to reach out to and make concessions to either the Communists or the movements.

Had the Social Democrats and Communists formed a common bloc, working in a strong coalition with progressive urban cultural movements, they would have controlled the majority of Parliament and might have kept power. The lesson here is that we must wrestle with the potential ways in which the Democratic Party, the Sanders supporters and our major social justice movements might work together, building a coalitional front that can push back against the dangers posed by Trump, promote the aims of the Sanders "revolution," and help unite or "universalize" Left grassroots movements in a long-term effort to create a systemic transformation of militarized, racialized, patriarchal capitalism.

Second, to build a united front, all types of progressives must grapple with the real threat of a Trump victory and of a broader right-wing populist ascendancy, with or without a Trump victory. The German Left -- as well as the German corporate and landed gentry Establishment -- never took Hitler seriously, dismissing Far Right movements and believing Hitler had no large popular base. Likewise, many US progressives cannot imagine that Americans would embrace Far Right populism and elect an overtly racist demagogue such as Trump.

The Weimar Left and the German Establishment wildly underestimated the Far Right and Hitler's resonance during a massive economic crisis with a public with authoritarian tendencies. They lost touch with the working and lower middle class, especially the rural or small town population, who felt they were losing not just their jobs but their country and culture. They also never believed Hitler could gain so much support in his pursuit of genocide.

The US Left and the US Establishment may be making a similar mistake about Trump and today's Far Right populism. On the one hand, Trumpism resonates strongly with some economically disenfranchised white workers who, like the Weimar culturally conservative workers, fear loss of both their jobs and their honored racial status in their nation. Moreover, recent surveys and social-psychological studies show that the authoritarian cultural currents in Weimar are prevalent in large sectors of the US white working class and middle class conservative movement, creating fertile ground for an authoritarian bully like Trump.

Trump does not seem to be joking about the changes he proposes, nor could he be controlled easily if in power. Trump as president would heighten institutional racism throughout the country and sabotage many constitutional rights, even with congressional resistance, using executive power already being concentrated in the presidency.

The second Weimar lesson, then, is this: take right-wing populism and Trump's magnetic resonance with large sectors of the American public very seriously. This is a lesson reinforced not just by Weimar but by the Brexit vote in the UK. Progressives must understand how and why Trump connects with millions of Americans -- and then move to undercut resonating ties.

This leads to a third lesson: the need for a massive shift in the Democratic Party and a resurgence of progressive movements to solve the economic crisis and address the sense of national decline perpetrated by the Establishment itself. The Weimar Left, especially the Social Democratic Party, largely disconnected from grassroots urban progressive cultural movements, had no transformative vision or energy. It was an exhausted, reformist party offering no economic or social solutions. The Communists didn't even try, as they promoted collapse.

The Democratic Party in the age of Clintons, disconnected from social movements, has aligned with the corporate and military establishment. While Bernie Sanders resonated far and wide because of his urgent message of "political revolution" and democratic socialism, Hillary Clinton has only begun to -- at least in rhetoric -- embrace the importance of structural change. But to win, she has to take Sanders more seriously and respond not only to his demands but also to the demands of the civil rights, Black liberation, peace and environmental movements. One approach is to promote a massive green public investment agenda to begin solving the jobs and environmental crisis, while cutting the military budget and taxing the rich to meet educational, health and job-creation priorities, while also addressing the crises of racism, sexism, mass incarceration and civil liberties.

If she fails to campaign on this united front agenda, and our movements do not force her to do so, Clinton will suffer the fate of the German Social Democrats. Trump will ride the anti-Establishment anger and angst into the White House and right-wing populism will take over the nation.

We must universalize our activism from single-issue silos to a long-term coalition for liberation and universal rights

A careful look at Clinton's current proposals offers a glimpse of hope. She has begun to integrate some of Sanders' demands about free college education, more expansive funding of social needs, confronting institutionalized racism and mass incarceration, stronger anti-fracking and higher solar and wind production, a higher minimum wage, and reversing Citizens United. Sanders' supporters, now linking or "universalizing" with other social justice movements, must push her much further. The concern is not only about Trump; it is also necessary to mobilize sustainable democracy movements that can defeat new cycles of right-wing populism and create a real political revolution.

Clinton and the Left movements face considerable challenges in building a true popular united front. Clinton's proposals tend to be means-tested and polarize the working classes against professional and middle classes; her set-asides for particular groups in programs like her College Compact pit groups against each other.

Clinton must adopt a universalizing posture supporting universalizing programs and entitlements, such as expanded social security and health care for all. These bring the working and middle classes together, and reflect the agenda of universalizing movements seeking cross-class and cross-identity coalitions.

The movements must push Clinton to adopt these Left-oriented designs, which do not take working class, people of color or social movement support for granted and universalize resistance.  More broadly, movements must openly and forcefully criticize Clinton's penchant for intervention abroad (e.g., in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan), the stultifying incrementalism of her domestic reforms regarding inequality, corporate trade agreements, and union rights, and her failure to deliver solutions to institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, mass incarceration and denial of immigrant rights.

This connects with the fourth Weimar lesson: the need to address personal fear about national decline, racial conflict and national or terrorist enemies. Hitler and right-wing movements stoked all these fears. They saw the anxiety and anger and redirected it at the non-Aryan Enemy within and without. They were masters of the politcs and propaganda of emotion.

The Weimar Left collapsed not only because of its abject policy failures on the economy and in meeting social needs, but also because of its inability to speak to deep emotions of fear and anger, particularly those stirred up by right-wing populists.

The lesson here is to redirect fear to the real causes of public suffering and to identify clearly who are the enemies of the people. The united front must clearly indict the corporate and military Establishment that is battering both workers and the nation, showing how both Establishment and right-wing populists are using racism, immigrant-bashing and sexism to refocus anger on the most powerless people. Progressives must embrace the zeitgeist of anti-Establishment feeling on both Left and Right. It must make clear how big money, racism and militarism abroad and at home are dividing Americans and degrading their economic and social prospects.

Having been a leading figure of the Establishment for 25 years, it is virtually impossible for Clinton to embrace the anti-Establishment moment and lead a progressive populism. The united front must do the work that she cannot. Sanders speaks forcefully to anti-Establishment emotions and highlights anti-Establishment policies that can meet many universalized public needs. And social movements have deep roots in communities and have built the foundations for an emotional as well as universalizing policy response to Establishment power.

Our grassroots social movements are central to transformation. We are already seeing their resurgence, from Black Lives Matter to large-scale environmental and climate change movements ( and anti-fracking) to anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street movements (Occupy and its successors) seeking democratic socialism. Many are beginning to recognize the need to coalesce and universalize their resistance against the ruling order, in concert with a progressive political and electoral agenda symbolized by Bernie Sanders.

The lessons of Weimar are stark. Without universalizing resistance across a united progressive front, we could easily see the rise of Trump and the entrenchment of right-wing populism. We must meld together movements and progressive politics. And we must universalize our activism from single-issue silos to a long-term coalition for liberation and universal rights.

Truthout is one of the few remaining sources of stories like the one you just read -- and readers like you keep us alive. Click here to support independent news!

Opinion Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"I Alone": Trump's Megalomania on Cold Display

2016.7.22.Pitt.mainDonald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for president on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Truthout delivers trustworthy reporting and thought-provoking news analysis. If you share our passion for the truth, help strengthen independent media with a donation today!

The Republican National Convention is over now, and Friday's dawn sunrise is dappling the green of the trees. We watched last night's grim spectacle the way vultures who lurk at the end of dangerous runways watch incoming airplanes, waiting for the crash and the feast to follow. Is Donald going to run wild? Will flesh be torn from ligament and bone?

It did not play out that way. Donald Trump managed to get through an hour and 15 minutes of speaking without freaking out. In fact, he gave what many will unfortunately interpret as the speech of his life. It was a terrifying, blatantly racist, xenophobic, dystopian Emperor Palpatine imitation that described how we're all going to die screaming any minute now, but he stuck to the script and didn't spit acid like a bad car battery.

This was no small thing, mind you. Trump had just watched his wife get slagged in the public prints over a plagiarized portion of her speech. Then came Ted Cruz. Trump had dogged Cruz's wife over her looks, accused Cruz's father of having a hand in the Kennedy assassination, and called Cruz himself a liar time and time again. Cruz crouched in the tall grass like a puma, and when his chance for revenge came, he cut Trump's throat on prime-time TV with the flick of a claw by refusing to endorse him, smiling past his fangs all the while. This was a dead-bang sniper shot from 2,000 feet out. Pence who? Donald who? It was all Ted on the networks after that number, a masterfully turned dish served ice cold.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

How did Trump respond? He became Thor in the wasteland of an imagined apocalypse, vowing to wield his mighty hammer and smash anyone who did not eat at Arby's or protested police violence. "Law and Order" went the refrain, over and over in a lightning-bright flashback to authoritarian, racially coded Republican campaign tactics of old.

Somewhere in the ether, Lee Atwater was smiling. He wrote the book on that particular tactic -- Willie Horton, etc. -- and once again, its leaves were being thumbed through.

That we have reached a place where success is defined by a candidate's ability to restrain his inner Berserker and speak in complete sentences is truly remarkable. Instead of "Believe me folks it's going to be great when we build that wall and the Mexicans pay for it because they're all scary and I'm so rich you have no idea believe me because I just like to grab and grab which will make America great again," we got a stolid Teleprompter discourse on the end of everything (or the threat of the end of everything white) in these United States.

"I have joined the political arena," said Trump on Thursday night, "so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."

"I alone." There you have it. This speech was an ego trip -- much like the campaign itself -- bearing little substance aside from bigotry. The most frightening part is that Trump's campaign might actually win in November. A lit cigarette is healthier.

Next week come the Democrats, almost certainly more polished in their presentation. The 2016 RNC was a brawl at a frat party. The DNC will be calmer in every respect, despite the divisions between the Clinton and Sanders camps. Still, when we get the same stuff without all the shouting, what do we get? The same stuff without our teeth getting punched down our throat.

Cold comfort, that. We have entered strange space. Upton Sinclair wrote, "Fascism is capitalism plus murder." That sentiment was on vivid display this week, and will rear its head again on Monday.

Stay tuned.

Opinion Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
From Occupy Protests to the Platforms

2016.7.22.Occupy.MainOccupy Oakland general strike, November 2, 2011. Five years after the birth of Occupy, both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms now call for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. (Photo: timothy.actwell / Flickr)

At Truthout, we refuse to subject you to ads or "sponsored content" -- we believe in producing journalism with integrity. If you agree, please support us with a donation today!

At Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York's Zuccotti Park back in September 2011, Akshat Tewary noticed that many protesters were calling for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated investment and commercial banking. As an administrative lawyer, Tewary knew that financial regulators are required to consider input from the public. To make sure these regulators heard the views of Wall Street critics -- not just financial industry boosters -- he helped organize a loose group of protestors under the name "Occupy the SEC."

Since 2011, this group has generated a steady stream of letters to regulators, amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and petitions to Congress on Glass-Steagall and other aspects of Wall Street reform. Today, five years after the birth of Occupy, both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms now call for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. co-editor Sarah Anderson asked Tewary for his reaction.

Sarah Anderson: What do you think about both party platforms calling for a new Glass-Steagall? 

Akshat Tewary: It certainly comes as a surprise. The Republicans have stymied and rejected recent attempts by progressive legislators like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to reinstate Glass-Steagall. The Republican-led House Financial Services Committee is famously bank-friendly, and has recently championed the repeal of financial reform laws like the Dodd-Frank Act. So at some level, the inclusion of Glass-Steagall in the Republican platform seems utterly bizarre.

Even so, a closer analysis shows that maybe this is much ado about nothing. Party platforms are routinely ignored by incumbent Presidents: Bob Dole famously admitted that he never read the Republican convention's platform when he ran for President in 1996. The mere fact that the law is on the platform does not mean that the law will actually become a campaign priority in Congress later this year.

Banks hold inordinate sway with mainstream Republicans, and you can bet that they would never take a renewed Glass-Steagall bill lying down. Powerful bank lobbyists would inveigh against the bill to such an extent that it would never receive serious consideration among mainstream Republicans.

Even if the Republican Party lacks a real appetite to resurrect Glass-Steagall, there are a number of strategic reasons for the party to include the law in its platform. A certain segment of the Republican Party reflects populist angst against big-wig corporations that are seen as having bought the political system. A few early contenders for the Republican Presidential ticket (like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson) even advocated for Glass-Steagall, probably in an attempt to tap into that populist angst against Wall Street.

Similarly, in 2013 Republican Senator John McCain joined Senator Warren and others in championing a reboot of the law called "The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act." In my view, the inclusion of Glass-Steagall on the Republican platform is a classic bait and switch tactic -- the party is seeking to curry favor with the minority of Republican Party members who strongly oppose Wall Street's influence. Glass-Steagall will not get serious Republican consideration in Congress, but its mention on the platform will serve to attract a larger segment of Republicans and Independents who might otherwise vote for a centrist Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has been outspoken in her opposition to the Glass-Steagall Act. In an op-ed in the New York Times she claimed that shadow banking, not Glass-Steagall, should be our real concern. And it was her husband who presided over the law's repeal in 1999. So the Republicans may have included Glass-Steagall on their platform as an additional way to distinguish themselves from Clinton during campaign season.

The inclusion of the Glass-Steagall Act on the Democratic ticket is also somewhat surprising. As I mentioned, Hillary Clinton has been vocal in belittling the law. And Senator Warren's 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act has only received tepid support from Congressional Democrats thus far. Of course, Bernie Sanders was an ardent champion of bringing back Glass-Steagall, but he's no longer in the race. So here too this is most likely an attempt to garner support from more populist elements in the party, even if more centrist party leaders find it unpalatable in fact.

Why is this reform important? 

Glass-Stegall would force retail banks to disassociate themselves from their investment banking, insurance and broker-dealer affiliates. This is a vital reform that could help avert the next financial crisis.

The simple fact is that the half-century between the law's passage in 1933 and its repeal in 1999 saw the greatest economic progress in American (and possibly world) history. The passage of the Glass-Steagall Act was the denouement of Congress's attempts to understand the causes behind the Market Crash of 1929 and the consequent Great Depression.

The Congressionally appointed Pecora Commission found that rampant speculation on Wall Street created a financial bubble produced by excess liquidity in the market. Banks had utilized their special access to capital — access to depositors' funds and the Fed's discount window -- to churn the markets with speculative risk. This led to the worst economic crisis in modern history: the Great Depression.

Unfortunately, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, banks have once again moved away from "boring banking" services that benefit the public (i.e. taking deposits and making loans at reasonable rates), and have instead moved towards speculative trading and fee-generating services that enrich the few while putting the public at risk.

Just as the Pecora Commission found that Wall Street speculation caused the Great Depression, in 2011 the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission found that speculation on Wall Street helped cause the 2008 meltdown. A renewed Glass-Steagall Act would prevent yet another repeat of such a scenario.

Banks have ready access to financing that is simply not available to other businesses. For example, the Government Accountability Office reported that between 2008 and 2010, the Federal Reserve made available to banks nearly $16 trillion in essentially zero-percent loan facilities.

Main Street business have never been able to receive anywhere near that kind of capital. Historically, banks have been given access to this liquidity under the theory that they will spread that liquidity to the rest of the market. Unfortunately, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall banks have proven adept at making money for themselves, even as they draw liquidity away from Main Street businesses and people.

Instead of utilizing their size and funding advantages to make loans to businesses, banks have been focused more on creating mind-numbingly obscure derivatives and other "financial innovations" in an effort to enrich themselves through fees and spreads. A renewed Glass-Steagall Act would redress this wrong by forcing retail banks to divest themselves from their investment banking and trading affiliates. On the one hand, retails banks would be forbidden from speculating at all. And divested investment banking units could continue to do business as usual, but their global impact would be mitigated because they would be smaller in size.

A new Glass-Steagall Act would also help address our country's Too Big to Fail problem. If banks were Too Big to Fail in 2007, they are undoubtedly more so today. The country's biggest banks are now bigger than ever. The six biggest banks enjoy a combined $10 trillion in assets. By way of comparison, the U.S. GDP is $17 trillion. The crisis of 2008 taught us that when banks are gargantuan in size, they become ticking time bombs that threaten the global economy.

The Dodd-Frank Act contains various half-measures, like the Volcker Rule, living wills, and resolution authority, that seek to address the Too Big to Fail Problem. But the efficacy of these provisions is questionable. Virtually every aspect of Dodd-Frank has been challenged at the agency level, and much of the resultant regulation has been severely watered down and delayed through bank lobbying. To make matters worse, various parts of Dodd-Frank have come under the Congressional chopping block since 2010 (and will continue to do so in the future).

While Dodd-Frank contains many important financial reforms, it adopts a Whack-a-Mole approach that puts regulatory band-aids over old problems, while doing little to address new problems. Only bold, systemic reform like Glass-Steagall can truly mitigate the risks posed by Too-Big-to-Fail banks.

How would this reform affect ordinary Americans? 

Too Big to Fail banks helped cause the last financial crisis. As we all know, all Americans -- not just bank employees -- felt the impact of that crisis. Between 2007 and 2010, median U.S. family wealth dropped a jaw-dropping 40 percent. The size and interconnectedness of the nation's gargantuan banks all but ensured that a discrete banking crisis would translate into a world-wide, general economic crisis. A new Glass-Steagall Act would help avoid a repeat of this scenario.

That law would force our nation's behemoth banks to divest themselves into smaller, manageable units. In doing so, the Act would reduce the chances that the failure of one bank would cause the failure of other, unrelated businesses. As a consequence, ordinary Americans would be spared the burden of losing wealth and income simply because of the failure of one, or a handful of financial institutions.

How would it affect community banks? 

Community banks have much to gain from a new Glass-Steagall. At present, the financial services industry suffers from an oligopoly condition whereby a handful of institutions with inordinate market power are able to set prices and offer services in a manner that maximizes profit for the institution, but extracts value from the broader economy. Community banks simply cannot compete under these anti-competitive conditions, which is why we are seeing that smaller banks are merging into bigger ones at unprecedented rates.

Under Glass-Steagall, giants like Bank of America and Citigroup would have to spin out their retail services into smaller retail-only banks. Those smaller units would no longer control the market, thereby allowing community banks to become relatively more competitive. Classical economic theory tells us that efficient markets feature many small firms, rather than a handful of big ones. By cutting oversized banks down to size, Glass-Steagall would push the retail banking industry towards greater efficiency.

What are other Wall Street reforms that should be top priorities at the moment? 

Too Big to Fail remains a fundamental problem in the economic system, and a new Glass-Steagall would go a long way towards addressing that problem. That said, the need for financial reform is not limited to the banking industry.

For example, the so-called "shadow banking" sector is also in need of serious reform. Hedge funds, credit funds, and other small financial institutions can allocate or mis-allocate large amounts of capital that can have serious systemic effects. This can occur as the result of individual decisions or because of herding behavior across the industry.

Regulators need to expand the applicability of Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act to cover additional players with inordinate market impact. For instance, in 1998 a hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management nearly brought the financial sector to its knees. The 2016 version of LTCM would certainly not fall under the current version of Title II, and would likely escape regulatory scrutiny. While much has changed since 1998, what remains true is that single, small actors can continue to cause havoc in the industry. The "Flash Crash" and various "fat finger" market crises attest to that fact.

More generally, our policy platform seeks to bring about the following long-term reforms:

  • providing income support to workers and communities
  • creating conditions for workers' wealth and eliminating unnecessary private debt
  • democratizing the economy for the 99% through measures such as public banking
  • promoting social ownership of enterprises and housing to yield more economically efficient and equitable outcomes
  • transforming banking systems to avoid another financial crisis
  • eliminating the control of economic resources by the 1%.

What would you like the financial sector to look like in 20 years?

It's anybody's guess as to what the future holds, but what's clear is that the mistakes of the present yield the regrets of the future. The country must adopt bold financial reforms like a renewed Glass-Steagall Act if it wants to avoid another financial catastrophe like the Great Recession of 2008.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Economic Update: Convention Economics

This episode discusses platform contradictions, the Volkswagen scandal, CEO pay and the Italian banking crisis. We also examine the economics of lotteries, when profit decides who gets mortgages and why 21st century socialism makes worker cooperatives the primary institution of production.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

Economic Update is in partnership with

Your radio station needs Economic Update! If you are a radio station, check this out. If you want to hear Economic Update on your favorite local station, send them this.

Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project,

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400