Shaheen Celebrates Grand Opening Of Safran Aerospace Composite In Rochester

Shaheen-021109-18432- 0009

Company hopes to employ more than 400 people at new facility

(Rochester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined Safran Aerospace Composite officials to celebrate the grand opening of Safran’s new Rochester manufacturing facility which will create jobs and boost the local economy. Safran, the world’s oldest aircraft engineer manufacturer, builds aircraft propulsion systems, rocket engines, and other aircraft equipment; the new plant currently employs 130 people and expects to grow to between 400 and 500 employees by 2020.

“The high-tech jobs being created here in Rochester show how innovative companies like Safran can help drive economic growth and job creation,” Shaheen said. “Advanced manufacturing firms are creating high-paying jobs and helping us maintain our technological edge, but their success also depends on a highly skilled workforce. That’s why I’ve worked to promote investments in our education system so that more companies have access to a high skilled workforce right here in New Hampshire and can follow in Safran’s footsteps.”

Shaheen helped secure $20 million for the Community College System of New Hampshire through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act Community College and Career Training Program. The grant funded the creation of the statewide advanced manufacturing job training program that gives workers the skills to get jobs at high-tech companies and was critical in bringing Safran to New Hampshire.

Continuing her efforts to promote on-the-job training programs and New Hampshire’s Community Colleges, Shaheen, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, has supported efforts to amend the Workforce Investment Act in order to establish a grant program that would help create partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to help with job training efforts.  The bill would also authorize funds for state or local governments to train workers for companies or industries that are considering relocating their operations overseas to train workers to enable them to keep their operations local.

Senator Shaheen Says ‘Manufacturing Is Critical To New Hampshire Economy, and Jobs

Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing
Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing

Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing

At Globe Manufacturing Shaheen discusses New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector

(Pittsfield, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) visited Globe Manufacturing this morning to tour its Pittsfield facility and discuss the importance of manufacturing to New Hampshire’s economy. Globe Manufacturing has been producing equipment for firefighters since 1901 and employs 300 people in New Hampshire.

“It’s great to visit Globe Manufacturing and see the state-of-the-art equipment they produce to keep our first responders and firefighters safe on the job,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector employs more than 10 percent of our workforce and keeping our manufacturing sector strong is so important for the economy and jobs here and around the country. Companies like Globe Manufacturing create and sustain good-paying jobs that drive economic growth and I will continue my work to promote the nation’s manufacturing industry so we can continue to create jobs here at home.”

Shaheen has been vocal about the need to encourage growth in manufacturing throughout the country. Last year, she joined a campaign to refocus Washington on job creation and economic growth with a focus on manufacturing. Shaheen has introduced several bipartisan pieces of legislation including the On-the-Job Training Act and Small Business Export Growth Act, which would help create jobs and grow the economy. Shaheen was also a leader in the creation of the new Manchester Job Corps, which will train young people in New Hampshire for careers in the advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, homeland security, hospitality and information technology industries.

NH AFL-CIO Pres MacKenzie: Casino Bill Means Good Jobs And Serious Revenue


As president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to legislators and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

The New Hampshire House will soon have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, our legislators will be presented with a bill, HB 1633, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

HB 1633 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach HB 1633 takes.

HB 1633 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of our Legislature don’t personally approve of gambling, and that’s their prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downsides of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without HB 1633, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

HB 1633 was drafted by a bipartisan, multiagency independent panel known as the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with last year’s gaming bill. As such, HB 1633 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse HB 1633 because we are convinced this bill represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state.

We had questions about whether that was true of previous bills, but our concerns have been addressed in HB 1633.

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. HB 1633 is the only bill before the New Hampshire Legislature this year that would accomplish those goals, and I urge lawmakers to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

We Owe Our Veterans Economic Opportunity, And Good Paying Jobs

Via Twitter

At Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester Shaheen highlights efforts to promote veteran employment

(Manchester, NH) – Calling attention to the need to further promote economic opportunity for our veterans, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) toured Granite State Manufacturing (GSM) this morning to discuss her legislative efforts that will help create good paying jobs for those who have served our country. Shaheen also highlighted GSM’s leadership when it comes to hiring New Hampshire veterans; almost sixteen percent of Granite State Manufacturing’s employees are veterans which is double the seven percent –required by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs – for companies that receive federal contracts.

“The best thing we can do for the men and women who have served our country is make sure they have a good paying job when they come home,” Shaheen said. “The work Granite State Manufacturing has done to promote the hiring of local veterans is a great example for the rest of the country. As they know, veterans have the training, skills and work ethic that help them excel in the workplace. Together we must expand opportunities for all our veterans.”

“I was disappointed the Senate failed to advance the comprehensive veterans bill this week but that doesn’t change a thing. I’m going to keep fighting on behalf of our veterans,” Shaheen added.

“Granite State Manufacturing (GSM) has a decades-long commitment to hiring those who have served our country,” said John Allard, Chairman and CEO of GSM, an Allard/Nazarian Group Company.  “We have taken many steps to reach out to returning veterans and have a great working relationship with the New Hampshire Employer Support of Guard and Reserve program.  GSM is proud to be considered a Vet Friendly Employer and we are actively looking to hire more Veterans as our business continues to grow”

Unemployment for veterans between 18-24 years old stands at nearly eighteen percent – more than double the general population. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shaheen has made creating opportunity for America’s veterans a top priority. This week, Shaheen introduced an amendment to the Senate comprehensive veterans bill that would have promoted veterans employment. Shaheen’s amendment would have reduced the employer payroll tax contribution for newly hired veterans and waived fees for veterans applying for Small Business Administration Express loans. That plan will soon be introduced as standalone legislation in the Senate. Shaheen is also a cosponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Extension Act.

NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie Is One Of Many Appointees To Economic Development Advisory Council

Maggie Hassan

CONCORD, NH – Continuing her efforts to help New Hampshire’s businesses grow and create good jobs that can support a thriving middle class, Governor Maggie Hassan today announced 26 appointees to the Economic Development Advisory Council.

“Through its work to assist and advise New Hampshire’s Division of Economic Development, the Economic Development Advisory Council is critical to our efforts to support innovative economic growth and help businesses create good jobs,” Governor Hassan said. “These appointees have a diverse track record of success in a variety of sectors across our economy, and I am confident that their service will help build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire.”

Established by a 2008 act of the Legislature sponsored by Governor Hassan during her time in the Senate, the council is charged with assisting the Division of Economic Development by providing advice on the trends and the needs across all sectors of industry and government to aid in the strategic planning efforts of the division.

The members of the council serve three-year terms and represent industries across the state, including manufacturing, education, tourism and retail, among others.

“With these appointments, the Economic Development Advisory Council will have broad representation of industries from every corner of the state,” said Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner Jeffery Rose. “This is very important as we seek their counsel in developing our economic strategy and I appreciate their time and commitment to serving on this board.”

The Governor’s appointees are:

  • Zenagui Brahim, director of the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership, representing manufacturing;
  • Kendall Buck, vice president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association, representing residential building;
  • Dean Christon, director of New Hampshire Finance Authority, representing state/local housing authority;
  • Patrick Clark, president/CEO of BurstPoint Networks, representing information technology/software;
  • Jaime Coughlin, director of New Ventures and incubator programs, member-at-large;
  • Eric Crainich, president of Design Standards Corp., representing biotechnology;
  • Katharine Eneguess, president of White Mountains Community College, representing higher education;
  • Phil Ferneau, founder/director of Borealis Ventures, representing venture capital formation;
  • Jeffrey Hayes, director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, member-at-large;
  • State Senator Jeanie Forrester;
  • Judy Gove, director of the New Hampshire Electric Coop, representing electric/energy;
  • Stephen Heavener, director of the Capitol Regional Development Council, representing regional/municipal development;
  • Gale Hennessy, director of Southern New Hampshire Services, representing workforce development;
  • Chris Hodgdon, director of government affairs for Comcast, representing telecommunications;
  • State Representative Naida Kaen;
  • Carmen Lorentz, director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development;
  • Daniel Lee, associate professor of economics at Plymouth State University;
  • Patrick McDermott, director of external affairs for Hinkley Allen & Snyder, member-at-large;
  • Mark McKenzie, president of New Hampshire AFL-CIO, representing organized labor;
  • David Mullen, director of Pease Development Authority, representing real estate/commercial real estate development;
  • Jayne O’Connor, president of White Mountains Attractions, representing travel and tourism;
  • Eric Proulx, general manager of Tanger Outlet Center, representing retail;
  • Kathleen Reardon, vice president of Citizens Bank, representing insurance/banking/financial services;
  • Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, representing chambers of commerce;
  • Sarah Smith, extension professor at the University of New Hampshire, representing forest-based products;
  • Philip Suter, director of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Keene State College.

Kuster to Host Second Career and Opportunities Fair Next Week in Concord

Ann kuster head shot LG

Jobs fair to feature financial, medical, manufacturing employers from across the Granite State

CONCORD, N.H. – As part of her commitment to helping create jobs and opportunity for middle class families, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today announced that she will host her second Career and Opportunities Fair next week to help connect local residents with jobs and employment opportunities throughout the Granite State. The fair, which will be held on Thursday, February 20, at the Holiday Inn in downtown Concord, will feature employers from the financial, medical, manufacturing and hospitality industries, among others.

More than 300 job seekers and nearly 30 employers and professional groups took part in Kuster’s first Career and Opportunities Fair, held November 22 in Nashua. Next week, more than two dozen employers and service agencies will be represented at the Concord fair, including Concord Hospital, Grappone Automotive Group, NHTI, N.H. Department of Transportation, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Southwest Airlines, and others.

Job seekers wishing to attend next week’s fair can register here. Employers looking to take part in the fair should contact Collin Lever at 603-595-2006 or, and members of the media wishing to attend should email Jake Berry at to RSVP.

WHO:                  Congresswoman Annie Kuster

WHAT:                Kuster to host second Career and Opportunities Fair

WHEN:                Thursday, February 20, 10:00am to 1:00pm

WHERE:              Holiday Inn, 172 N. Main St., Concord NH


Rep Annie Kuster Releases ‘Middle Class Jobs And Opportunity Agenda’

Ann kuster head shot LG

Blueprint reflects ideas and input Kuster heard from Granite Staters all across NH’s second district over the past year about how Congress can help create jobs and opportunity for hardworking families

Agenda focuses on common sense, bipartisan ideas to train a highly-skilled workforce; foster innovation; strengthen manufacturing; support small business; build a 21st Century infrastructure; protect the NH Advantage; and more

Ann kuster head shot LGKuster: Our top priority in 2014 must be helping create jobs and opportunity for middle class families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marking the start of her second year in office, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) this week released her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint that reflects ideas and input she has heard from Granite Staters all across New Hampshire’s second district over the past year. Since taking office, Kuster has traveled to every corner of the second district to hear from educators, entrepreneurs, workers, and families about how Congress can help create jobs and grow the economy. Their thoughts and ideas form the foundation of the Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, which outlines a series of common sense, bipartisan steps – ranging from doubling down on investments in innovation and job training, to streamlining government programs – that Congress can take to help small business owners and middle class families achieve their goals.

“From day one, my top priority in Congress has been helping create jobs and opportunity for middle class New Hampshire families,” Kuster said. “That’s what my Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda is all about. This plan takes ideas from all across New Hampshire’s second district and shapes them into a cohesive vision that can help to create jobs and grow the economy, both here in the Granite State and all across the country.”

From supporting small business to reducing the deficit in a balanced way, the Jobs and Opportunity Agenda touches on a wide range of issues. It includes proposals to increase investments in workforce development; protect access to affordable higher education; and provide tax credits to companies relocating to the United States, among many others.

Kuster will highlight the plan and continue the conversation with Granite Staters throughout 2014. She will start this week with the launch of her Jobs and Opportunity tour, which will include business visits and roundtables, among other events, in Hanover, Claremont and Plymouth, among other locations.

The full text of Kuster’s Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda is available here.

We Can’t Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials

Larry Cohen CWA

Washington, D.C. — In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on “Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Last week, legislation calling for “fast track” authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others,” Cohen said.

“Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations.  The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam’s is a record of non-existent workers’ rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor,” he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues that a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, fair trade advocates and others have joined to work for trade policies that benefit everyone.

“We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

“It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies.” Cohen said.

Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation, Cohen said.

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.

2. Document the net effect on employment, don’t look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers’ standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers’ weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers’ rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.


Read the full testimony here:

Read the executive summary here:

New Transportation Manufacturing Coalition Targets Job Creation for Veterans

Marine Veteran Saluting Flag

Transportation Trade Department LogoMarine Veteran Saluting FlagOn this Veterans Day, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) unites with its 32 member unions to honor those Americans who make sacrifices every day in service to the nation—the active duty military and veterans. Upon coming home or ending their service, these men and women face the challenge of finding good-paying jobs in uncertain economic times. TTD supports job-creating initiatives that seek to train and employ veterans.

As part of this effort, TTD has joined the Jobs to Move America Coalition to maximize U.S. manufacturing job creation as transportation agencies spend billions of dollars in the next few years replacing aging bus and rail car fleets. Led by Los Angeles-based LAANE, this ground-breaking initiative–designed to put transportation manufacturing dollars to work in our own economy–is being implemented around the country.

“One of the greatest ways we can thank our veterans, the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day, is to make sure they have jobs when they come home and have the training they need to compete for those jobs,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “This historic coalition brings together the labor movement and allied advocacy groups to connect veterans and other workers, such as those living in disadvantaged communities, with middle-class jobs.”

Under LAANE’s U.S. employment plan, created with input from leading economists, veterans groups, transit agencies, labor and community groups, U.S. companies bidding on major transit agency procurement projects are incentivized to focus their bids on U.S. job creation and expand opportunities for veterans and other workers suffering in an anemic job market.

“Let’s honor service to our country by creating good-paying, skilled manufacturing jobs for America’s veterans,” said Madeline Janis, the coalition’s campaign director. “The Jobs to Move America plan will maximize the value of taxpayer dollars spent today on buses and trains, to create good jobs and opportunities for veterans and other unemployed Americans, tomorrow.”

Who’s Behind The Collapse Of The American Middle Class? (InZane Times)

Hedrick ArnieAlpert

Author Hedrick Smith Tours New Hampshire with Answers and Proposals

That wages for typical U.S. workers have been stagnant since the mid-1970s is not breaking news to anyone who has paid attention, nor is the rise of wealth and income inequality that makes us the most unequal country in the so-called “developed world.” 

Forbes reported last month, “Five years after the financial crisis sent the fortunes of many in the U.S. and around the world tumbling, the wealthiest as a group have finally gained back all that they lost. The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth just over $2 trillion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Russia.”  Such reports have gained more attention since the Occupy movement drove the concept of the “1%” into the national consciousness. 

Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute says “A key to understanding this growth of income inequality—and the disappointing increases in workers’ wages and compensation and middle-class incomes—is understanding the divergence of pay and productivity.”  [see chart]  Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011

But what was it that detached productivity from wages in the 1970s?  What started a trend that has continued pretty much unabated through all the booms and busts of the past five decades?  That’s the major theme of Who Stole the American Dream?, a new book by Hedrick Smith, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who toured New Hampshire last week.  With a pace that might have made observers wonder if he’s running for president (he’s not), Smith spoke at three college campuses, one high school, 2013 10 24 NH AFL CIO 001the NH AFL-CIO, the office of the NH Democratic Party, and community groups in Exeter and Amherst.  He also appeared on NHPR’s “The Exchange,” recorded an interview with Manchester Community TV, and joined me for an interview on WNHN-FM.

Smith told an audience that packed the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church that he set out to write a book on “the American dream at risk.”  That was until he did his research and concluded that the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a wealthy elite was more extreme than he had realized. 

Smith attributes the beginning of the “bosses’ revolt” to an obscure memowritten by Lewis Powell in 1971.  At the time the future Supreme Court Justice was a well-connected corporate lawyer, worried that the “the American economic system is under broad attack.” 

“Powell’s intention was to spark a full-scale political rebellion by America’s corporate leaders … to change the political and policy mainstream in Washington and to put the nation on a new track, a track more favorable to business,”  Smith writes in the opening chapter. 

“The over-riding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival – survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people,”  Powell warned the US Chamber of Commerce, the body that commissioned his paper.  His prescription gave particular attention to the mood on college campuses and the need for business to take charge of the intellectual environment, but above all called for business leaders to “be far more aggressive than in the past.”

Business responded.  “After having kept government at arm’s length, the business community massively expanded its physical presence in the nation’s capital,” Smith writes.  “In a few short years, more than 2000 companies set up Washington offices.  The number leapt from 175 in 1971 to 2445 a decade later.”  Leaders of the biggest corporations formed The Business Roundtable, the heaviest of the heavyweight business lobbies.  New think tanks, notably Heritage and Cato, sprang to life, and the American Enterprise Institute ballooned in size and influence.  The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the most powerful advocate for small business groups, grew from 300 members in 1970 to 600,000 in 1979. 

“By the late 1970s,” writes Smith, “business interests had mustered such a hugeconcord 10-23-13 008force that they outnumbered Congress 130 to 1.  They had 130 lobbyists and advocates for each of the 535 members of Congress.”

Big business flexed its muscles big time during the 1977-78 Congressional session.  The business lobby took on Ralph Nader’s consumer movement and defeated the proposal to create a consumer safety agency.  They went head to head with organized labor and defeated plans for labor law reform.  They pushed for de-regulation of transportation, a new bankruptcy law that kept corporate leaders at the reigns of companies they had driven into debt, laid the groundwork for the decline of the defined benefit pension plan, and most important, won cuts in corporate and capital gains taxes.  The new tax law “gave the economic benefits of tax law primarily to the economic elites that were now exercising increased economic power,” says Smith. 

One aspect of this development is especially worth noting:  the revolt of the bosses began in part as a reaction to moves by President Richard Nixon, who Powell thought was overly sensitive to public pressure.  And the first big wins for the new business lobby came when Jimmy Carter was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.  Ronald Reagan carried the Powell prescription forward, but it was already gaining bi-partisan momentum when Reagan gained the White House. 

Hedrick Smith’s strongest chapters are in the sections called “Dismantling the Dream,” “Unequal Democracy,” and “Middle Class Squeeze.”  With a blend of stories from downwardly mobile middle class workers and solid descriptions of the specific policies promoted by the business lobby, Smith provides ample details to explain why the bosses are winning. 

For example, he describes how Dirk Van Dongen, President of the National Association of Wholesaler Distributors, led the backroom lobbying that enabled George W. Bush and Karl Rove to push through another round of massive tax cuts benefitting the rich.  Despite public opposition, Van Dongen and his Gang of Six – the US Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Association ofconcord 10-23-13 015Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business, National Restaurant Association, and Van Dongen’s Association of Wholesalers – organized thousands of CEOs, district by district, to lobby for the tax cut.  “With a full court press by the Gang of Six reinforcing the White House push, the Bush tax bill, offering $1.35 trillion in tax cuts over a decade, passed the House by 240 – 154 in May 2001.”  The bill then cleared the Senate 58 – 33. 

“When economists did the numbers,” Smith writes, “they found that 52.5 percent of the Bush tax cuts went to the richest 5 percent of U.S. households.”  When joined with the off-budget trillions for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tax cuts are the major contributor to the federal deficit that has right-wingers calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare.  

Who Stole the American Dream also gives great descriptions of the shift from defined benefit pensions to largely self-funded 401-k plans, and the resulting insecure retirement faced by the baby boom generation.  In addition, the book has a good chapter on the housing bubble and sub-prime banking crisis that touched off the 2007 financial meltdown.  It details Wal-Mart’s decision to outsource production to China and the ripples this has sent through the US job market.  Smith also describes the outsourcing of knowledge-sector jobs to China and India.  Given that these are the jobs we were told would replace blue collar manufacturing, the implications are stark. 

That NAFTA is not mentioned at all and the World Trade Organization is mentioned only as a body that might help the U.S. improve its trade relations with China leads me to wonder what Smith thinks of the approach to global commerce brought to us by the same corporate lobbyists.  Likewise, I wonder how he sizes up the impact of Paul Volcker’s tight money policies during the Carter years.   Attention to the link between race and poverty would have provided valuable depth to Smith’s analysis.  But those quibbles aside, Hedrick Smith has answered his own question; we can read who stole the American dream and how they did it.

Smith confessed at a couple of talks that as a journalist he was somewhat reluctant to offer a prescription for middle class resurgence.  “Changing America’s direction will not be easy,” he writes at the beginning of his concluding section.  “It will happen only if there is a populist, grassroots surge demanding it, like the mass movements of the 1960s and 1970s.”  That’s hard to argue with.

Instead of a bold plan to reverse the agenda foisted on the country by Lewis Powell, Dirk Van Dongen, and their legions of corporate lobbyists, Smith offers a conventional set of proposals to rebuild the infrastructure, rebuild American manufacturing, cut military spending, and protect the safety net.  Those are all admirable objectives, but Smith then states that progress is being held back by “partisan extremists,” as if the Left somehow shares responsibility with the Right for the rise of plutocracy. 

Instead of a resurgent Left, Smith calls for a resurgent “center.” Step 9 in his ten-2013 10 24 NH AFL CIO 005point plan is “to regenerate the centrist core of American politics both by rejecting extremist candidates in both parties and by opening up our political process in every state to give more influence to moderate and independent voters.” 

This left me confused.  Smith understands and states clearly that “Democrats have been dragged toward the right by the gravitational pull of the Republican Right.”  That means the “center,” a function of political geometry, has moved right as well.  That’s the wrong place to look for inspiration and answers.  Throngs chanting, “What do we want?  Moderation!  When do we want it?  Now!” won’t worry Dirk Van Dongen and his Gang of Six. 

Writing recently in The Nation, Gar Alperovitz starts an article on “Renovating the American Dream”

Everyone knows the United States faces enormous challenges: unemployment, poverty, global warming, environmental decay—to say nothing of whole cities that have essentially been thrown away. We know the economic system is dominated by powerful corporate institutions. And we know the political system is dominated by those same institutions. Elections occur and major fiscal debates ensue, but most of the problems are only marginally affected (and often in ways that increase the burdens).The issue is not simply that our situation is worrisome. It is that the nation’s most pressing problems are built into the structure of the system. They are not unique to the current economic slump or the result of partisan bickering, something passing in the night that will go away when we elect forward-looking leaders and pressure them to move in a different direction.

For Alperovitz, whose latest book is What Then Must We Do?, the answers come from building democratic economic institutions, such as worker-owned enterprises, state-owned banks, and a state-by-state transition to a single-payer health insurance system.   When combined with active resistance to plutocracy, that route is promising.

Alongside his plea for a resurgent “center,” Hedrick Smith also calls for a mass uprising against the plutocrats,

“an army of volunteers prepared to battle for the common cause of reclaiming the American Dream.  Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs in more than fifteen cities around the country began that process, focusing more of the national dialogue on the hyper-concentration of wealth and power in America – the costly divide of gross inequality between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent.  But for significant long-term impact, either Occupy will need to mature or some new movement will need to emerge with broader participation, better organization, more clearly articulated goals, and specific policy targets.”

Bring it on!


Originally posted on Arnie Alpert’s blog, InZane Times.