Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chicago takes the lead on creating a better economy

Alderman Joe Moore and 34 of his colleagues on the Chicago City Council took a big step towards creating a middle class today by passing the big-box ordinance requiring the most profitable retail companies in the world to pay their workers a living wage.

It's important to remember the context: the federal government has dramatically shifted wealth to the wealthiest Americans and largely impoverished the rest of us, both by increasing the real tax burden on working people (counting state and local taxes, as well as tuition and fees that must rise due to a lack of federal resources to states and cities) and by ensuring wages do not rise by (a) making it harder to form unions and (b) not raising the minimum wage.

And don't forget some of the other big policies that make most of us poorer: eliminating trade barriers and outsourcing jobs to put massive downward pressure on wages. Why are manufacturing jobs disappearing? Because the federal government approved trade agreements where American manufacturers compete with workers who are paid less than a dollar per day.

That's why the Chicago City Council's move, backed by SEIU's vivid and muscular threat to challenge legislators who vote with big business instead of with workers, is so important.

The best retort I've heard to the argument that retailers will avoid Chicago because they just can't afford to buy health insurance for the workers is Eric Zorn's column in the Trib yesterday. Corporate America isn't afraid that their arguments about killing jobs will be proven right... they are petrified that the urban market with billions in purchasing power will lure retailers into the city anyway, and the retailers will pay a living wage, and they will still be enormously profitable!

Because then, the rest of the country will start following progressive cities like Chicago and raise the minimum wage.

Why not all of Cook County?

We should pass a county ordinance raising wages. That would be a boon for the Cook County economy, because you can't outsource retail! And the increase in income for Cook County workers will get spent in Cook County, not sucked up into the profits and distributed throughout the world to the shareholders.

Today makes me proud and happy to live in the Capital of Blue America where elected officials show that government raises our standard of living.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Biodiesel mandate for all public agencies in effect -- is your local government in compliance?

A few weeks ago, HB 112 (Feigenholtz, Cullerton) kicked in, requiring all diesel powered vehicles owned or operated by the State, any county or unit of local government, any school district, any community college or public college or university, or any mass transit agency when refueling at a bulk central fueling facility, to use a blend containing 2 percent biodiesel fuel.

This is a very good thing for the Illinois economy.

Here's where you come in, courtesy of the Illinois League of Conservation Voters. Check with all of the local governments that represent you: city, county, township, community college or mass transit agency. Ask to speak to the person in charge of procurement. Ask them if they are aware of the new state requirement to purchase 2% biodiesel, effective July 1st. And ask them if they are doing so.

Biodiesel is usually cheaper than petroleum-based diesel. It burns cleaner and it is made in Illinois (or at least the Midwest) and not some other country.

Lots of laws aren't followed because citizens don't spend any time to follow up and enforce the law.

Let's not let this law lay unused.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The meaning of freedom while celebrating Independence Day

This Sunday, I'll be on Bruce DuMont's Beyond the Beltway radio show and the topic is the meaning of freedom.

I found this graduation speech by Geoffrey Stone for the University of Chicago Law School and thought I would share it.

His main point is:

Throughout American history, the most intense pressure for the sacrifice of liberty has come in time of war. This is only natural, for in wartime the national security is directly threatened. In such circumstances, it is inevitable that grave questions will arise about whether we can afford our freedoms. The challenge is to decide how much sacrifice of freedom is warranted.

One of the lessons of history is that in time of war we not only compromise our liberties, but we do so excessively and to a degree we almost always come to regret. As Justice Robert Jackson once observed, "it is easy, by giving way to the passion, intolerance, and suspicions of wartime to reduce our liberties to a shadow, often in answer to exaggerated claims of security." If we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, we must understand why this happens.


It's worth reading, as he speaks to the meaning of freedom -- and the role of clear-eyed citizens to defend our freedoms against the reflexive suppression of dissent to policies of an invading President --eloquently and concisely.