The Bernie Sanders Effect

This column appears in the April 14 – 21 edition of the Hartford News…

Community Party Radio on So-Metro Radio
Commentary on urban issues from a grassroots perspective. First and third Tuesday of each month. 8:00 PM Eastern Time 7:00 PM Central 5:00 PM Pacific. Tune in! Replays the following Wednesday, same time. Next show: April 19. Co-host: Mary Sanders. Dan Durso, a retired Teamster now volunteering as the Outreach Coordinator with the grassroots Bernie Sanders Connecticut Team, will talk about the April 26 Connecticut Democratic presidential primary between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. My Connecticut Valley Hospital co-worker John Hollis will discuss the neoliberal attack on public sector employees, and workplace bullying. Howaste will join us from California to talk about the plight of Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Missouri police reform activist Toni Taylor will tell us about an upcoming event that will honor the memory of her son Cary Ball Jr., who was killed by St. Louis police.  Check out our No Sellout blog for info on the rest of our Community Party Media lineup, including False Choice: the Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color.
Community Party Radio Podcasts
Meagan Hockaday Act Update: We Don’t Support Weak Bills 
Meagan Hockaday was murdered by Oxnard, California police officer Roger Garcia in front of her children on March 28, 2015. Garcia has not been charged.  The Community Party’s Meagan Hockaday Act includes enhanced criminal penalties for excessive use of force by the police against mentally ill people and individuals in crisis, in addition to whenever children are present. Our legislation is based on a new international approach to policing, based on a successful model in the United Kingdom and Canada that emphasizes de-escalation and treatment.
Legislators have amended our bill to the point that it no longer resembles our original concept, so we will not support it going forward. The bill now moving through the Connecticut General Assembly is not the Meagan Hockaday Act: like the so-called police reform bill that lawmakers passed last year, it is weak legislation that actually protects the police. Police departments are not complying with the body camera provision in the legislation that was passed last year. We’re not interested in just passing bills, our goal is real reform. Check out CP’s legislative package at our No Sellout blog.
Policy Watch:  Bernie Sanders Movement Possible Foundation of New Politics
While Gov. Dan Malloy uses declining revenue and a budget deficit caused by neoliberal policies as a pretext to attack state employees (I’m a state worker), a new report by Nick Defiesta, associate fiscal policy fellow for Connecticut Voices for Children, found that the state loses $ 7.2 billion in revenue as a result of corporate tax breaks. We have clearly reached a tipping point in CT and nationwide, as the Democrats’ continuous move to the right has spawned the grassroots movement that is fueling Bernie Sanders’ momentum as a presidential candidate. Win or lose, a seismic shift in politics is clearly on the horizon, whether the Democrats realize it or not. Former Teamster Dan Durso, who works with the Sanders CT campaign team, told Mary Sanders and I during a recent Community Party Radio on So-Metro Radio interview that the movement isn’t about Sanders, it’s about his message and policy positions (free health care, free college, federal jobs program). Durso said that conversations are happening now about how to continue the movement on the city and state level after the presidential elections, regardless of the outcome. Mary has had conversations with some of the most active Sanders CT volunteers, who have made it clear they will not support Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination and may instead get behind Green Party candidate Jill Stein. They are unmoved by the specter of a Republican president, and are prepared to let the chips fall where they may. The domestic policy positions of Sanders and Stein are similar. Stein has been more definitive regarding foreign policy, as she has stated her intention to cut the U.S. military budget. Stein plans to combat terrorism through financial strategy (cutting off funding sources), rather than using the war machine.
Malloy will certainly create more disenfranchised voters as he moves ahead with his plan for layoffs of an estimated 1,000 or more state employees, with full support from Democratic leaders. As the November election for seats in the General Assembly approach, SEBAC can no longer justify rubber stamp support for the Democrats. This party has rewarded state workers for their votes with a relentless neoliberal attack for the past 5 years, while they protect the rich and corporations. Connecticut Voices for Children reported that 1600 state corporations pay a mere $250.00 in taxes every 2 years. It’s time to identify candidates who will represent the interests of the working class, the poor and communities of color. It will be interesting to see if the post-Sanders movement will pursue a connection with the urban community and movements led by people of color, and if they will be willing to modify their ‘99%’ message, which glosses over racial wage/wealth gaps. These steps will be necessary, in order to realistically challenge the Democratic Party establishment. Sanders’ blowout losses to Clinton in South Carolina (73% to 26%) and other southern states is a prime example.
The post-Sanders movement has a golden opportunity to differentiate themselves from the Democrats, who perpetuate structural racism through their neoliberal policies. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin launched a coordinated attack on the public sector, the largest employer of Black people and women. Bronin and city workers reached a concessions deal last week, but state employees agreed to concessions TWICE since 2009 and now face massive layoffs. My warning to city workers is this is only the beginning, you must be prepared for more neoliberal attacks in the future.
Bill Clinton’s condescending, finger wagging response to Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia, who heckled him over his racist 1994 crime bill and 1996 ‘welfare reform’ legislation, underscores Democratic Party racism. U.S. Uncut reporter Amanda Girard wrote about the response from one of the harshest critics of the Clintons’ exploitation of racialized politics.
“On Thursday, the former President of the United States was heckled by Black Lives Matter activists during a campaign rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The protesters were demonstrating against Clinton’s 1994 crime bill and his 1996 welfare cuts, which protesters said decimated the black community. Clinton responded by doubling down on his wife’s ‘super-predator’ comments, telling the protesters they were defending murderers and drug dealers.
The next day, Clinton said he would ‘almost want to’ apologize for his comments, stopping short of actually apologizing.
Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, took the former president to task in a scathing Facebook post on Friday, starting off by thanking Clinton for revealing his true colors.
‘Thank you, Bill, for giving the nation a ten-minute tutorial on everything that was wrong (and apparently remains wrong) with the ‘New Democrats’ and their approach to racial politics,’ Alexander wrote. 
She then went on to talk about how Clinton’s strategy to win the White House was based on a racist appeal to white independent voters by convincing them that he could take even more of a hardline approach to crime than his Republican predecessors — something Clinton and his surrogates in the media argue was supported by the black community.
‘It is a gross distortion to suggest that black people wanted billions of dollars slashed from child welfare, housing and other public benefits in order to fund an unprecedented prison building boom. It was Bill Clinton’s deliberate political strategy — one he championed along with the ‘New Democrats’ — to appeal to white swing voters by being tougher on struggling black communities than the Republicans had been, ramping up the drug war and gutting welfare.’
This week we’ll share an article by Andrea Sears of Public News Service on the colossal losses in state revenue, due to corporate welfare.  Visit the Public News Service website.
                                                     Report: To Help Close Budget Gaps, Look at Tax Breaks Public News Service – CT
April 5, 2016
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With the state facing massive public-employee layoffs and a $900 million budget deficit next year, one group is calling for a closer look at tax expenditures. The tax breaks and tax credits Connecticut allows now amount to more than $7 billion a year, a 71 percent increase since 2000. But according to Nick Defiesta, associate fiscal policy fellow for Connecticut Voices for Children, those those tax expenditures don’t get the same kind of scrutiny that’s given to spending on priorities like education and health care. “It’s really easy for these expenditures to just sort of sit there on the books, for years and years and years and years, without anyone taking a look at them,” says Defiesta. Connecticut Voices for Children has issued a report calling on the state to expand reporting on tax expenditures and to institute a legislative review process, including public hearings. Defiesta says right now, the only review of tax expenditures is a report from the Office of Fiscal Analysis, issued every other year. He says it simply lists the title of the expenditure, why it was enacted and how much it costs the state. “We would love to see OFA do a more robust evaluation of how each tax expenditure is doing and whether it’s meeting its policy goals,” says Defiesta. “And then, we’d like to see the Legislature have to act on that.” The report cites such examples as sales tax exemptions for non-commercial winter boat storage, worth $2.5 million a year. Defiesta notes there is currently no requirement to evaluate whether state tax breaks are doing what they were intended to do. “We should be looking at them just as closely as we’re looking at appropriations,” he says. “Just to be sure that, at a time when we’re all bucking up our belt straps, that we’re doing the same for this sort of spending.” He says requiring a closer look at tax expenditures would make the state budget process more fair, accountable and transparent.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary.   Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives and So-Metro Radio the first and third Tuesday of each month at 8:00 PM for commentary on urban issues  Check out our No Sellout blog ( for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns ( Contact us at 860-206-8879 or  



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