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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Vote for Nader, Avenge the Dixiecrats!

Neo-Stalinist Alexander Cockburn, writing in the LA Times, makes the case for Nader, which turns out to be: vote for Nader as revenge for President Truman's infidelity to labor. I kid you not. Cockburn is partially making the point that Nader's challenge is just as justified as Henry Wallace's challenge against Truman in 1948, which is at least sane, but he's also pretty explicit about the revenge element:
The laws -- including the Taft-Hartley Act, supported by 106 Democrats in the House -- that led to the destruction of organized labor were passed by bipartisan vote, something you will never learn from the AFL-CIO or from a thousand hoarse throats at Democratic rallies when the candidate is whoring for the labor vote.
Of course you will never hear the AFL-CIO criticize the Democrat's role in passing Taft-Hartley: it happened over 50 years ago. As it happens, Cockburn is distorting history too. The anti-labor Taft-Hartley act passed over Truman's veto, and the sucessors of the southern Democrats that supported it are now the core of the Republican party.

Cockburn also criticizes Clinton for ignoring labor, writing, "during President Clinton's years in office, union membership as a percentage of the workforce dropped because he did nothing to try to change laws or to intervene in disputes." There is some truth to this charge, but overall, I think labor-blogger Nathan Newman has the right interpretation: it only takes 40 votes to block legislation in the Senate and Clinton didn't even have a majority in Congress for most of his term. His attempts to pass pro-union legislation were blocked by the Republicans, most notably the bill to ban permanent replacements during strikes. Clinton did make pro-labor appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. To take just one issue I happen to know something about, that's why Clinton's NLRB endorsed unionization efforts by graduate student teaching assistants, and Bush's NLRB has blocked them.

Apparently, Kerry isn't free of Truman's sins either:

And what does John Kerry propose to help workers? Raising the minimum wage to $7 an hour by 2007, which would bring a full-time worker up to two-thirds of the poverty level.

This is doubly false. First, Kerry has many proposals to help workers: the card-check system of organizing unions, expanding health care, a child tax care credit paid for by cutting corporate tax shelters, to name just a few. [BTW, Kerry has recently improved the issues pages of his web site. If you found the web site confusing and badly-organized before, it's worth another look.]

Second, $7 an hour or $14,000 a year would bring a married couple with two children (I assume that this is the family that Cockburn has in mind) up to 75% of the poverty line. It would bring a single person almost 50% over the poverty line. But these calculations ignore the Earned Income Tax Credit. A married couple with one minimum wage earner and two kids is eligible for a $4200 tax credit, bringing them within a few hundred dollars of the poverty line.

It is perhaps because Cockburn is not familiar with the EITC, greatly expanded under Clinton, that he charges that there is "tacit agreement" between the two parties on "economic redistribution."

Of course, Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy and Kerry has proposed the same, while Bush has pushed through massive tax cuts for the rich. Maybe Cockburn thinks he can get away with misrepresenting Truman's record, but does he really think his readers don't know the two party's positions on taxing the wealthy?


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