Monday June 26, 2017

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From people looking forward with education and reason.

Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation

Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation

Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.
Mike wants to hear from you.
Blue Jean Nation, P.O. Box 70788, Madison, WI 53707
Email: one4all@bluejeannation.com
Phone: 608-443-6086

Blue Jean Nation 'Upending the new Jim Crow'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 22 June 2017
in Wisconsin

black-hoodyMonopolized political speech, mass incarceration and voter suppression together pack an enormous discriminatory wallop. Overcoming the new Jim Crow starts with recognizing it and seeing through the false justifications.


ALTOONA, WI - There was a time when efforts to keep people in their place were easily recognizable. Bondage is hard to miss. Women were chattel and blacks were slaves. The nation’s royals eventually lost their moral and legal justification for employing such crude and brutal means to keep people down, but not their desire for race, class and gender superiority. So slavery was out, Jim Crow was in. Poll taxes and literacy tests and other such tactics were put to use. Give them rights, but make sure they are not equal rights.

The civil rights legislation of the 1960s and early 1970s ended the old Jim Crow but not the royals’ discriminatory impulses. The ink was barely dry on the series of laws addressing race and sex discrimination, and a new Jim Crow was promptly fashioned that makes discrimination more disguised than ever.

The new Jim Crow stands on three legs. First, longstanding restrictions on money in politics were legally challenged. The U.S. Supreme Court’s money-equals-speech ruling in 1976 gave the mightiest in America new ways to thwart the will of the masses even while allowing the exercise of largely equal rights. Campaign donations became the drone strikes of the race and class wars. The beauty of political donations as tools of social and economic control is that they don’t appear discriminatory because, in theory at least, anyone can make them. But the difference between theory and practice in campaign giving is as distinct as the divisions of race and class. Almost all of the money flowing to elected officials comes from an elite cadre of individuals who are wealthy and white. Control over the levers of power is preserved by making political expression and participation prohibitively expensive for all but a few.

Monopolizing political speech has been done in the name of protecting the First Amendment. The barely visible hand of organized money has robbed voters in most parts of the state of their ability to control their own political destiny. Long before voters ever cast a ballot, whoever is most successful in attracting money wins what amounts to a wealth primary that weeds out any meaningful competition, leaving the people with a vote but little if any choice. The wealth primary works hand in hand with the practice of gerrymandering political boundaries to strip elections of competitiveness and render them pale imitations of democratic contests.

Having secured the means to keep people down by allowing them to freely vote in elections whose results are preordained, America’s royalty nevertheless took no chances. Discriminatory drug policies and the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement authorities and the resulting mass incarceration of African American males became the second key feature of the new Jim Crow. This was largely done in the name of fighting the scourge of drug abuse in America. The War on Drugs has never put much of a dent in drug use, but it has been a remarkably efficient tool of discrimination.

The third leg the new Jim Crow stands on is voter suppression. Since the 2010 election, nearly half of the states made laws restricting the right to vote in one way or another. These laws have been sold as election integrity measures. The public has been repeatedly told such laws are needed to prevent rampant voter fraud. In reality, voter fraud in the U.S. is nearly non-existent. But in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country, new laws restricting voting in the name of preventing fraud have proven remarkably effective in preventing racial minorities, the poor and the young from casting ballots.

Monopolized political speech, mass incarceration and voter suppression together pack an enormous discriminatory wallop. Overcoming the new Jim Crow starts with recognizing it and calling it what it is, and seeing through the false justifications. Then its legs need to be taken out from under it.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation "The football game that never ends"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Friday, 16 June 2017
in Wisconsin

ProtestThe pro-life, pro-choice issue is a political football that both major party's use to whip up their base. What if we stopped taking the bait, and focused instead on solving this incredibly sensitive issue that the ruling elite clearly do not want to see resolved?


ALTOONA, WI - Here’s a truth about American politics that never seems to get acknowledged much less discussed: No major party in this country actually wants to outlaw abortion.

One says it does, but its actions tell a different story. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, so they could make a law banning abortion across the nation. The law surely would be challenged in court but the ideologically conservative Republican appointees who have made up the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1971 would have the final say. You’d expect them to uphold the law because Republican presidents have consistently considered an anti-abortion judicial record a key litmus test of the fitness of any judge to serve on the nation’s highest court.

For that matter, those Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices needn’t have waited for an act of Congress. At any time during the past four decades, the court could have taken up any number of abortion cases, overturned Roe v. Wade, and outlawed abortion. They have that power. Year after year, they have chosen not to use it.

In Wisconsin, Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature as well as the governor’s office. There’s nothing stopping them from making a law prohibiting abortion. A state Supreme Court controlled by Republican-backed justices would presumably bless such a law. Like their national counterparts, Wisconsin Republicans have had the power to outlaw abortion. They have repeatedly chosen not to do so.

It appears they realize that outlawing abortion won’t make the procedure disappear, it will only make it far more dangerous and even deadly. So they concentrate on obstructing and inconveniencing the women who seek abortions and the medical professionals who perform them. But most of all, they focus on using this deeply personal and intensely emotional issue as a political football, which they have kicked around for more than 40 years. They have used it to divide people and then harvest the votes these divisions produce. They have shown over an extended period of time that they have every intention of keeping this game going indefinitely.

There is glaring irony and hypocrisy here. The Republican Party has gone to the greatest lengths to market itself as the party of limited government and personal freedom. When it comes to the private lives of Americans, Republicans favor a very intrusive and meddlesome government. They don’t trust the choices Americans make in the bedroom and the bathroom and the doctor’s office. They want government to have a looming presence in those places.

More than anything, they want to keep people at each other’s throats. They want to keep us arguing about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. For 40-some years, we’ve kept kicking their football. We’ve screamed at each other, we’ve harassed and attacked each other. Sometimes it’s led to unspeakable acts of violence. All done to try to settle a matter that those in power have proven to be keenly interested in keeping unresolved.

Imagine where we would be on this issue if we had instead spent all this time looking for common ground on how to make abortion unnecessary. We would have talked so much more about how best to deal with sex education, how best to promote birth control and family planning, how best to combat poverty. We might have even hashed out some differences by now.

Think about what might be possible if we now chose to stop kicking the political football, and focused on starting a conversation on this incredibly sensitive topic that the ruling elite clearly do not want us to have.

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Blue Jean Nation 'Show the way on health care, Wisconsin'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 04 June 2017
in Wisconsin

badgercareThe U.S. has the least efficient health care system among 11 developed nations, and solutions to this problem are not being developed in Washington. Wisconsin used to blaze new trails as a model for the nation to copy. Time to return to our pioneering roots.


ALTOONA, WI - What passes for a debate on Capitol Hill over the future of health care in America shows how very far we have to travel to reach the destination of civilized medicine in this country.

Those currently in charge of Congress have a vision of the future that involves making health insurance far more expensive for those who need it most and leaving tens of millions more people uninsured. Their vision also would let states take away protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, meaning that more than 50 million Americans could be put in the dismal position of only being able to buy insurance that doesn’t cover the care they actually need.

President Trump and congressional Republicans desperately want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. That law erred on the side of getting more people insured and requiring insurance to cover the health conditions people have, but in doing so the goal of keeping insurance premiums affordable is made next to impossible to achieve over the long haul. What Trump pushed and House Republicans passed errs on the side of lowering premiums for most people in the long run, but does so by jacking up costs for the sickest among us and taking insurance coverage away from large numbers of people.

Neither approach does anything about the biggest single failing of the U.S. health care system. Health care administrative costs in America are twice as high as the global average. Compared to the rest of the world, more of our health care dollars pay for paperwork and less of the spending goes for patient care. That’s because we have a multi-payer system that forces health care providers to submit claims for payment to dozens and dozens of different insurance companies. That means dozens and dozens of different forms to fill out. And dozens and dozens of different systems to navigate and different procedures to follow to get medical treatment paid for.

This is why the U.S. has the least efficient health care system among 11 developed nations. Solutions to this problem are not being developed in Washington. The problem is not even being discussed on Capitol Hill. Neither party’s favored approach addresses it.

That being the case, answers need to come from outside of Washington. It’s been a while since Wisconsin blazed new trails and made itself a model for the nation to copy, but there’s no more urgent need than health care system innovation to inspire Wisconsin to return to its pioneering roots. We have a program in Wisconsin called BadgerCare that provides coverage to low-income people. It should be Wisconsin’s goal to make everyone in the state eligible to enroll in BadgerCare. No one would be required to enroll, but everyone should be eligible. BadgerCare should be there for all Badgers.

For starters, Wisconsin should put the single-payer BadgerCare plan on the state’s insurance exchange. Offer people looking for medical coverage a public option in this marketplace that now only offers private insurance plans. Let anyone and everyone buy into BadgerCare. Show the nation an alternative to the multi-payer monstrosity that produces administrative costs that are double what the rest of the world pays and leaves America with the stigma of having the least efficient and most costly health care system among developed countries.

Lead the way, Wisconsin.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation 'Work at the crossroads'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 20 May 2017
in Wisconsin

matc-studentsWe can steer clear of the social, political and economic turmoil and upheaval this new economy has the capacity to create. If heads are buried in the sand, chaos will reign.


ALTOONA, WI - Those in power in Wisconsin’s Capitol want everyone to notice that the state’s unemployment rate has come down some. They are equally eager to have everyone to look past other troubling facts, such as wage and job growth that is lagging behind the national average, a poverty rate that’s higher than it’s been in 30 years, and a middle class that’s disappearing faster than anywhere else in the country. They pay no attention to rising economic inequality and hope no one notices that the income gap is growing faster in Wisconsin than in other states.

As unwilling as they are to acknowledge much less do something about these politically inconvenient realities, they are even more reluctant to engage the public in any kind of discussion about even greater challenges that lie ahead.

There is a reason why most Americans believe our kids will be worse off than their parents. The U.S. is hurtling toward an increasingly jobless economy and everyone can see it coming. Even the politicians can see it but don’t want to deal with what is plainly visible on the horizon. Instead they look for scapegoats, telling frightened workers that immigrants are stealing their jobs. Or they offer empty promises that closed factories can be reopened and lost assembly line jobs will somehow magically reappear. This is the cruelest kind of hoax.

sherman-park-youthToday’s immigrants aren’t replacing yesterday’s factory workers on the assembly lines, robots are. Immigration is not the culprit, technology is. Even if new factories replace the old shuttered ones, how many people will work in those plants? Driverless vehicles are coming. When they arrive, what happens to the truck drivers and bus drivers and cab drivers?

Call this emerging American economy what you will. Some call it global, some call it high-tech. Others label it an information or knowledge economy. Still others see little left but a service economy. Probably the most accurate description is post-human. Workers have every reason to feel vulnerable, and those feelings are only going to intensify.

Fewer and fewer workers have union representation. There was a time when virtually every American household included at least one union member. Today, less than 11% of all Americans and only 6% of private sector workers belong to a union. Labor unions were an outgrowth of the industrial revolution. That revolution came and went. In what came after, unions struggled to adapt and steadily lost membership. Workers lost bargaining power.

In the short term, steps can be taken to empower working people, from affordable and debt-free education and job training to universal access to everything from health care to high-speed Internet. But in the longer term, if our society is going to hold together in an increasingly jobless economy, we are going to have to renegotiate the social contract. Totally new approaches to maintaining social cohesion are going to have to be considered. Maybe part of the answer is moving to the 30-hour workweek that Amazon and other companies are trying out. That would make work available to more people. Maybe the time will soon come for a universal basic income. That would require all of us to see the value in making sure no one is left behind. Maybe making union representation a civil right could be a piece to the puzzle. Perhaps some combination of these or other ideas will light the way.

If minds are open, we can steer clear of the social, political and economic turmoil and upheaval this new economy has the capacity to create. If heads are buried in the sand, chaos will reign.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation 'Wisconsin’s Economy: An about-face in 4 steps'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 09 May 2017
in Wisconsin

skilledworkersFor many, it’s hard to find work that enables you to make ends meet. Change is possible, but it will require us to understand growth and prosperity gush up, they do not trickle down.


ALTOONA, WI - When it comes to Wisconsin’s economy, those in power go to great lengths to direct everyone’s gaze at moderating unemployment in the state. They don’t want to acknowledge or discuss that while it’s possible to find work, for many it’s extremely hard to find work that enables you to make ends meet and stay in the middle class. Persistent stagnation and rising inequality are big parts of the full story of Wisconsin’s economy.

For years now, Wisconsin has depended on an economic development strategy devoted to empowering a few thousand of the wealthiest among us in hopes that some of what they have will trickle down to everyone else. Not much has trickled. At the heart of these feed-the-rich policies are tax breaks targeted to the wealthy and taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses with few strings attached.

Wisconsin needs to do an about-face. Instead of seeking to empower a few thousand people and then pray they work some magic for the rest of the population, the state should focus on empowering all of the more than 5 million people who live here. This turnabout can be accomplished in four steps.

The first step is to substantially boost wages. That means raising the wage floor and turning the minimum wage into a living wage. The federal minimum wage has been boosted more than 20 different times, and every increase was greeted by claims it would be a jobs killer. Jobs didn’t disappear. In fact, new ones materialized. The national economy grew steadily through every minimum wage increase. And states that increased their own minimum wages have seen faster job growth than those that didn’t. Makes perfect sense, actually. Put more money in workers’ pockets and they don’t pad their net worth with it or stash it in tax havens in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, they spend it. And that stimulates the economy.

Step two is to restructure Wisconsin’s tax system. When you add up all  the state and local taxes we pay, the wealthiest 1% pay the lowest overall tax rate. That’s gotta change. There’s no need for new taxes, but there is a pressing need to make sure everyone pays the ones we already have. Requiring those in the top 1% to pay their fair share is key to doing something about economic inequality and empowering 5 million people who currently pay a bigger portion of their incomes in taxes.

The third step is to make education and job training as affordable for our kids and grandkids as it was for their parents and grandparents. Debt-free education and training has to be the state’s goal. A high school diploma alone is no longer a sure pathway to the American Dream. Wisconsin needs to clear a path that does not leave young people buried under a mountain of debt.

Step four is equipping every last person living in Wisconsin with indispensable 21st Century tools such as high-speed Internet and access to mobile phone service. Fully participating in the global economy and 21st Century American life is not possible without these tools. Wisconsin is lagging badly in this regard, and failing to catch up is a recipe for further economic stagnation and greater inequality.

An about-face is possible, and it can be done in four steps. But it will require a fundamental change of economic philosophy. Sustainable growth and prosperity gush up, they do not trickle down.

— Mike McCabe

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