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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries since June 2011

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Need a Quick and Thoughtless Response to Any Public Policy Issue in Arizona? Blame Immigrants.

June 20, 2011 ·

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, has spent the last three years championing regressive measures like his home state’s SB1070 “Papers Please” law and privately expressing anger and frustration over Latino support for Barack Obama at the polls three years ago.

Now, the man who championed the 2006 Senate bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants is blaming migrants for the fires that have devastated vast area of Arizona and New Mexico.

From CNN:

Sen. John McCain is blaming illegal immigrants for starting some of the wildfires that have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in Arizona.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain, R-Arizona, said Saturday at a press conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

McCain’s statements are troublesome in a number of ways. By claiming that a secure border would solve the nation's immigration problems, McCain furthers the view that a fenced-up southern border is an urgent necessity.

A shut border is an impossible goal, grounded in the nativist imagination and supported by private and military contractors eager to build a taxpayer-funded industrial complex out of immigrant surveillance and detention. A more militarized southern border does nothing to address the complex root causes of migration. The economic push factors that drive Mexicans and Central Americans to take the risk of crossing the border without inspection will remain, and human and drug traffickers will continue to operate underground migration services for these desolate populations.

Moreover, McCain's statements further the "us vs. them" mentality that has led to atrocious policies of restriction that damage the economy and social trust. It may very well be that an unattended campsite on a migrant trail was the result of the fires (made worse by a regional drought that may be affected by climate change). But McCain should lead like a statesman, letting the respective agencies investigate the cause of the fires and refraining from providing distractions that further divide people. After all, the establishment of desert crossings is directly related to the failures of politicians like McCain forcing our society into a futile and expensive quest for a close border, which began in urban crossings and has driven migrants to the desert.

The Lineup: Week of June 20-26, 2011

June 20, 2011 ·

The Lineup: Week of June 20-26, 2011

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, John Feffer says that Sen. Jim Webb would make a great Secretary of Defense, and Donald Kaul explains why Michele Bachmann isn't a serious presidential candidate. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.


  1. A Politician Who Distinguishes Fact from Fiction / John Feffer
  2. Paving the Road to a Hungrier, Unhealthier, and Less-Educated Nation / Deborah Weinstein
  3. Separate but Unequal Borrowers / Marc Morial
  4. McDiabetes: Top Docs Tell McDonald's To Stop Marketing Junk / Patti Lynn
  5. Sideshow Candidate / Donald Kaul
  6. Big Coal Buys Access to 4th Graders / Jim Hightower
  7. War Criminal? Not Me Boss! / William A. Collins
  8. Austerity Draft / Khalil Bendib

Austerity Draft

Republicans Find the Culprit

June 18, 2011 ·

Oh, so that's who the Republicans are complaining about, Mitt Romney! You know — the unemployed guy just goofin off, schleppin' around the mansion, flying around on his private jet, stubbornly pursuing only one job, when he's better suited to so many less-desirable jobs. That guy.

That's the lazy, too-good-for-your-minimum-wage-job unemployed guy the Republicans refer when trying to cut off unemployment benefits. I wondered who that guy was.

Turns out he showed up at an event for unemployed workers down at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa Florida, according to New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny. A bunch of folks were telling their hard-knock stories about trying to survive without a job. Tom Yarrenton, for one, told Romney his story of being unemployed. At age 55, after 31 years as an auditor in the manufacturing industry, Yarrenton lost his job a few months ago. "I should tell my story," Romney told Mr Yarrenton and the other unemployed folks in solidarity. "I am also unemployed." Must've made them feel better.

Mitt Romney 
Mitt Romney thinks his last five years of permanent campaigning are the same as being unemployed. Creative Commons photo by Dave Delay 

I wonder if he should reassure the folks whose stories the National Employment Law Project is collecting. It might help R.P., a father of three, from Pembroke, New Hampshire, who recently lost his job as an IT technician, to know he's in the same boat as multimillionaire Mitt Romney. "I have sent my resume to over 250 companies since June 2010 and have had 6 interviews all of which told me I was either overqualified or underqualified," R.P. reports. "At this point I have started applying at fast food chains and janitorial companies but still cannot get hired. I broke down crying during an interview yesterday because I cannot stop thinking about what will happen if I can't find a job that at least pays me $250 weekly."

It couldn't be R.P. and Tom Yarrenton that Republicans are trying to throw under the bus by yanking unemployment benefits, could it? And the other almost 14 million unemployed Americans struggling to find jobs that aren't there? A congressional panel recently approved a GOP bill along party-lines that would allow states to take $31 billion of federal money that benefits the long-term unemployed and use it instead to pay down state debt. I couldn't figure out why they would want to do this. I heard the complaints about the lazy, good-for-nuthins sucking off the guvmint's teat instead of looking for work. But I didn't actually know of someone like that until the other day when the former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate spoke out in Tampa. The only problem is that Mitt Romney doesn't collect unemployment insurance. His government subsidy comes in the form of the Bush tax cuts for multi-millionaires.

Now that that the Republicans have found their culprit, I am sure they will switch tacks and extend unemployment benefits for the millions of suffering out-of-work Americans and let the tax cuts for the lazy goofin' off unemployed rich guys expire.

Global Victory for Domestic Workers

June 16, 2011 ·

The ILO voted by a whopping 396 to 16 margin to adopt a "historic set of international standards" known as the Convention on Domestic Workers.

Domestic workers celebrate after ILO passes convention on domestic workers.This great news from Geneva was many years in the making, as domestic workers from all over the world have been organizing in their home countries and through the International Domestic Worker Network (IDWN) for rights and respect. It has been on the ILO's official agenda for two years — last year was spent on the work of drafting the convention, and this year was spent on finalizing and preparing for a vote. For the next few years, the ILO will work for widespread ratification and offer technical assistance on implementation to member countries.

In the United States, the organizing effort for domestic workers has been led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) a partner of Break The Chain Campaign, an Institute for Policy Studies project. The AFL-CIO, which has typically represented U.S. labor in the tripartite International Labor Organization system (labor, employers, and government), opened up seats on the delegation so that domestic workers could represent themselves in the meetings and even have an official vote.

I believe that this convention will open the doors to other "excluded workers" around the world (and in the United States) to use the ILO system to push for rights and recognition.

The nature of the domestic worker industry lends itself to abuse. In the United States, this workforce is comprised largely of immigrant women of color, doing work that has been regarded as "women's work" (thus not "real work" but something that women are expected to do as part of their natural role), and work which takes place in the private, unregulated household, where workers are typically alone. Adding to this stacked deck is the fact that many important U.S. labor laws simply don't cover domestic workers.

At the Break The Chain Campaign, which has fought migrant domestic worker exploitation and human trafficking since 1997, we hope that the ILO convention will have a significant impact on the severe abuse and trafficking of domestic workers. We have assisted more than 250 domestic workers in the DC/MD/VA metro area, a large number of whom arrived to the United States on legal work visas — particularly the A3 (for domestic workers employed by diplomats) and G5 (for domestic workers employed by staffers of the World Bank/IMF and other international organization).

This convention's widespread ratification will push both the countries that send migrant domestic workers and those that receive them to acknowledge that domestic workers are real workers, not powerless individuals who are expected to remain in quiet servitude and endure long hours without overtime pay, along with hazardous working conditions without access to health and safety protections.

It will also end the "cultural relativity" excuse that sleeping on a mattress in an unheated garage is "better than what she would get in her home country" or "the way that servants are treated according to tradition." Workers will be armed with the knowledge that there is an international standard that protects them.

I hope that the United States will be a leader and ratify this convention. The State Department has recently begun to implement provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2008) that specify protections for A3/G5 visa holders and other temporary non-immigrants (such as a "know your rights brochure" that is supposed to be given to domestic workers before they arrive in this country). We hope that the State Department will advocate for U.S. ratification, use its diplomacy missions to spread the word about the convention, and use it as a companion to its worldwide anti-trafficking work. In the meantime, our laws must match the international law proposed in order for the ILO convention to be ratified here.

Domestic workers have already won labor rights through legislation in New York State and a similar California law is in the works. Now we have the promise of this convention to guide our national work. This is truly a victory in itself.

For more information, please check out NDWA Director Ai-jen Poo's recent FPIF commentary.

A Small Tax on Finance, A Giant Leap Forward for the Climate Fund

June 16, 2011 ·

This week in the German city of Bonn, climate activists turned up the heat on government officials attending the UN climate talks, calling for a tiny tax on financial speculation to help pay for the fight against global warming.

The action in the streets outside the talks, in which youth sporting green Robin Hood caps asked negotiators on their way into the meeting to put money falling from the pockets of high-rolling financiers into the Green Climate Fund, mirrored demands being made inside the summit for a financial transaction tax (FTT), also called a financial speculation tax or Robin Hood Tax. These actions are part of a growing international campaign. In a press conference during the first week of climate talks, Bolivian ambassador Pablo Solon called on countries to adopt an FTT to “generate real funds immediately.” The money is desperately needed in developing countries to adapt to a warming world and for poor-but-growing nations to reduce their own carbon emissions by investing in clean energy.

The UN pegs the price tag for developing country adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation at around $500 to $600 billion each year in the coming decades. Failure to cut carbon pollution quickly will push costs even higher.

At a press conference in Bonn that brought together labor, youth, environment and development groups from around the world Tetteh Hormeku of the Africa Trade Network called for an FTT, a tax that economists estimate could raise up to $600 billion per annum for the just transition to sustainable economies. “In short,” Hormeku said, “we have to raise the scale of our ambition… of our finances to match the reality of the challenge that we face.”

“We are here today to urge the governments of the world to do the right thing; to impose a financial transactions tax and make the appropriate investments in a greener, cleaner economy,” added Bob Baugh, Chair of the AFL-CIO energy and environment task force and executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “It is time that the financial institutions, whose reckless actions brought the economic crisis that much of the world is in today, step up and do their part; and make a positive contribution to a cleaner planet and good jobs.”

Meanwhile, the French national assembly passed a resolution supporting a Europe-wide financial transaction tax by a margin of 477 to 2. Statements made by parliamentarians and French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for some of the revenue raised to go to climate change programs.

Sarkozy has promised to make FTTs a centerpiece of the G20 meeting in France in November. On June 15, the Brazilian parliament unanimously adopted a similar resolution calling for the Brazilian government to support a broad-based FTT. In the Bundestag, German lawmakers recently held a debate on the form and function of an FTT, and all of that country’s political parties expressed their support for the idea to the EU tax commissioner.

A global day of action has been called for June 22nd to demonstrate the breadth and depth of global public support for a tax on financial speculation and to build pressure on France, Germany and other European countries to move forward in implementing an FTT. In the United States, National Nurses United and other labor allies will descend on Wall Street demanding high-rolling financiers pay their fair share for the public goods and services that are on the chopping block due to budget short falls.

The Obama administration has not supported a tax on speculation (although several bills have been introduced in Congress), and could do severe damage to the momentum for an FTT in Europe if it sends discouraging signals. Already the U.S. has repeated several times in the Bonn round of climate negotiations that it doesn’t want to talk about innovative sources of climate finance like the FTT.

Climate activists have a message for Obama and his band of merry men at the State and Treasury Departments – If you can’t lead, at least stay out of the way!

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