Sunday Nov 29

Publisher's Note: Fall 2020

I wish we could start this issue with a rock-solid prediction on the outcome of the pending election, occurring within weeks of this issue being posted on our website and hitting the mailboxes of our readers. If we learned anything from the 2016 election, predictions might as well be fairy tales, because wishing and hoping doesn’t get it done. Trump looks like toast right now, as I write, but who knows how much butter and jam will be lathered on his abysmal performance as president between now and then? We’re so polarized now that some people will swallow anything it seems, and others will spit out everything. What a year 2020 has been, and there’s still much, much more to come!

Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon’s lead piece on veterans and labor does seem prescient given the blow the Trump campaign took recently as reports of his disregard and disrespect of the military once again was front page news. CWA’s role in the Sanders campaign and now in mobilizing veterans makes them unsung warriors on the labor front. As timely is Professor Ed Martin’s dissection of the issues that have dominated the summer over police brutality and calls for racial justice. Martin also addresses clearly the white supremacists and hard right militia threats, too often allied with the police, that are advocating and advancing violence in protests. A blurb in the daily paper noted that there have been fifty incidents of people driving vehicles into protestors around the country in the last four months – this is all out of control. Bruce Boccardy reminds us that once again, it’s the economy that is driving the vote, and now that we are in an economic depression how could we ignore it, we might ask, except that somehow polls indicate in this jobs’ collapse a slight majority somehow trust President Trump more than former Vice-President Biden to handle this crisis? Maybe it’s a case of, “you broke it, now you fix it,” but that’s no comfort right this minute.

The work goes on every day, and Moshe ben Asher, a frequent
contributor in recent years reminds those of us still working in the
vineyards of the critical ethical and moral demands of community
organizing. He cautions all of us in this work that the assumptions
that we are doing good are not the same as carefully and critically
evaluating the good we do and how we do it. There are no ends
that can be separated from the means.

Remember healthcare? Remember the Affordable Care Act? How is this not a huge issue during our Covid-19 crisis with almost 200,000 dead now? In a special section, we release the report produced by a small army of volunteers and a partnership of a union and several nonprofits, including the publisher of this magazine, “Nonprofit Hospitals Believe in Charity for Themselves, not their Patients.” The Grassley amendment to the ACA required nonprofit hospitals to step up their charity care in order to maintain their tax-exempt status. Our work indicates that the opposite has happened. Nonprofits are giving less thanks to the ACA, and the record in the three states studied, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, is disheartening, as is the lack of enforcement and clarity from the Internal Revenue Service that is supposedly in charge of this problem. The report is clear that it matters. Even a minimal five percent of revenues in this three-state area would mean more than a billion dollars more in charity care benefiting a million people. Extrapolated across the country, the benefits would be exponentially greater.

Commemorating our 50th anniversary, we were fortunate to be able to get two of our former editors, Colin Greer, now long-time head of the New World Foundation, and David Kallick, the deputy director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, to share some of their memories and observations of their time in this chair, and the importance of Social Policy in the ongoing debate and pursuit of social change. Speaking of change, we excerpt as part of the commemoration a critique by community organizers, Brian Johns and Ellen Ryan, a decade ago of the transition of philanthropy to transactional, rather than transformative, giving in supporting social change at the grassroots level.

Professor Juliet Schor has produced pathbreaking studies as an economist and sociologist for decades. The study that she and her collaborators have produced on the impact and interests of workers in the gig economy in her new book are what any seasoned reader of Schor would have expected. We share an excerpt where she unpacks the racial discrimination inherent in Airbnb and the employment phenomenon of the over-educated dominating gig work, especially where the income is supplemental, rather than dependent.

Richard Wise steps in with a book review on Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America. As Wise writes, the book, “contributes a holistic analysis which includes an explanation of how big business and its minions were able to subvert our legal and regulatory systems.” We see it every day now, so we might as well understand how it is happening so we can somehow prevent it in the future.

Our columnists are timely as always. Drummond Pike takes on “trickle-down” economics, Phil Mattera calls out the corporate scofflaws that cashed in on the Treasury Department’s no-look stimulus giveaway, and John Anderson discuss the surprises of organizing during the pandemic for ACORN which specializes in door to door visits with its members and had to come up with other ways to make change happen. In Backstory, I look at the broken promises of benefits for low-and-moderate income families and workers that are lost in the bureaucracy and politics to giving with one hand and the stealth takeaway with the other.

Rough times and hard truths are the themes that dominate this issue, making it hard to say, “enjoy,” so maybe it’s best for me to say, as I do regularly, that in this issue, I hope you find plenty of information and tools that you can take “from here to there.”


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