U.S. Deaths Highlight Need for Far-Reaching Change / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Demonstrators carry a coffin over Brooklyn Bridge during a march against gun violence, 06.02.18, in NY. | Mary Altaffer – AP

Under U.S. capitalism, industrial production and consumerism expand. Greenhouse gases increase, the climate changes, and people die. U.S. imperialism leads to wars and potentially nuclear war.

U.S. life expectancy has fallen. According to government statistics released in December, 2022, life expectancy at birth (LEB) for 2021 was 76.4 years. LEB was 77.0 years in 2020 and 78.8 years in 2019. Public health officials claimed this “was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

Mothers fare badly. In 2020,19.1 mothers in general and 55.3 Black mothers died per 100,000 live births. They died from illnesses related to childbearing, most of them preventable. In the Netherlands that year, the maternal mortality rate was 1.2 mothers per 100,000 live births. In 2018, 55 nations showed a rate more favorable than that of the United States. 

Americans, mostly working-age adults, die from “diseases of despair” – substance abuse, accidental drug overdose, alcoholism, and suicide. They also died of Covid 19 infection, the U.S. rate of 332.81 Covid deaths per 100,000 population being the 16th highest in the world.

During most of the pandemic, Black people died at two or more times the rate of infected white people. Now the cumulative death rates of each group are similar, with 355 deaths of whites and 369 deaths of Blacks per 100,000 population. Cumulative Covid deaths for American indigenous peoples register at 478 deaths per 100,000 population. Vaccine skepticism may account for increased vulnerability of whites. 

The pandemic aside, Blacks and American Indians live far shorter lives than white people do. As of October 2022, LEB for Hispanics was 77.7 years; white people, 76.6 years; Blacks, 70.8 years; and American Indians, 65.2 years. In 2020, 65 nations showed longer LEB than did the United States.

Healthcare failings may have contributed to the high U.S death rates. Proposals for reform, especially for universal healthcare, center on its financing. The United States is the top healthcare spender among all nations.

Paying  $12,914 per capita for healthcare in 2021, the United States outspent second-place spender Germany whose outlay was $7383 per capita. Total spending on health that year amounted to $4.3 trillion –18.3% of the U.S. GDP. The United States accounted for 42% of healthcare spending in the world in 2018.

Healthcare in the United States is a profit center. The pricing of drugs, medical equipment, medical insurance, and services provided by hospitals and outpatient facilities in general is exorbitant.  Executives of medical supply and pharmaceutical companies, specialty physicians, and administrators of hospitals and healthcare networks receive enormous salaries.

Profitmaking hospital chains, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies generate enough revenue to allow for stock buybacks and dividend payments. Over nine recent years 14 pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion on stock buybacks. Payments to private insurance companies and private hospital networks are large enough to cover astronomically high administrative costs and profit-taking.

Some healthcare and health-promotion activities produce no revenue, or very little. They tend to receive relatively little support and skimpy funding.

  • The U.S. public health sector, charged with health education and illness prevention, is a low-priority item. Inadequate preparation and preventative measures largely accounted for the U.S. Covid-19 debacle. 
  • Insurance companies dedicate effort to denying coverage for particular diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
  • Multi-hospital, multi-service conglomerates are cutting back on health services in rural and economical depressed areas because of decreased “productivity.” 
  • Many hospitals have recently dropped children’s hospital services as being less remunerative than care for hospitalized adults.
  • Small rural hospitals unable to pay bills have been closing down in droves throughout the nation, depriving area residents of care.
  • Specialty practitioners and hospitals often prioritize expensive medical procedures and high-technology diagnostic modes over care centering on provider – patient interaction and communication.
  • Many physicians during training opt for a specialty rather than a primary-care career, often because of income considerations. Primary care physicians now comprise only 20% of all U.S. physicians.
  • Diminished emphasis on a “medical home,” that hallmark of primary care, opens the door to inefficient, low-quality care.

Other capitalist countries have achieved long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy for 2021 in eight European countries plus Australia and Japan was 82.4 years. Their average per- capita health spending was $6,003. Japan spent $4,666 per capita on healthcare; LEB was 84.5 years.

Those countries protect healthcare as a public good, mainly because labor unions and social democratic or labor political parties apply pressure. Universal access to care is the norm. 

Universal care in the United States is but a dream. U.S. unions are weak and there is no working people’s political party. Some 25 million working age adults had no health insurance in 2021; insurance for 23% of them was inadequate. Too many have no care or fragmented care.

Reform efforts will continue in the United States, propelled perhaps by worsening life expectancy. But healthcare has its limitations. Steven Woolf, retired director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, told an interviewer recently that better healthcare is “only a partial answer” to extending life expectancy, accounting “for about 10 to 20 percent of health outcomes.”

He explained: “Our health is really shaped by our living conditions, jobs, the wages we earn, our wealth accumulation, the education that enables us to get those jobs … The country that we live in is the richest in the world, but we have the highest level of income inequality. So, much of the resources that we need for a healthy population are not available to most of the population.”

Woolf is saying, in effect, that people die early because of inequalities, oppression, and organized greed. The United States appears as different from other rich capitalist counties. Social guarantees are fragile. The wealthy have few restraints on satisfying their wants. A besieged working class lacks voice and agency.

The prospect that reforms, alone, will restore justice and decent lives for working people is nil. They confront a voracious, extreme kind of capitalism.  Its rulers tolerate, promote, and seek out collaborators for actions and policies leading to die-offs. Think climate catastrophe, wars, and nuclear war.

In response to impending disaster, Americans desiring better and more secure lives for everyone would adjust their forward vision. Working for reforms, they would aim at something new, which is top-to-bottom social and political change. New motivation, determination and hope would be a shot in the arm.

Revolutionary change is a worldwide project, and not to be left to one people – except in special circumstances. One such was pre-1917 Czarist Russia and another would be that anomaly among capitalist nations which is the death-dealing U.S. nation.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Bolivia’s socialist government confronts separatist, racist uprising / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

A banner reads ‘2023 census now!’ at a blockade on a Santa Cruz street. | via Twitter

With the exception of a coup-government interregnum in 2019-2021, the Movement Toward Socialism political party (MAS) has headed Bolivia’s government since the beginning of Evo Morales’s presidency in 2006.

The MAS government now led by President Luis Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca announced on July 12 that its every-ten-year Population and Housing Census would be moved from November 16, 2022, to sometime in 2024.

Spokespersons attributed the change to difficulties left over from the pandemic, a need for translations into indigenous languages, uncertain financial resources, and extra time required for “technical” changes.

Leaders of the Santa Cruz department in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, the nation’s largest, immediately demanded a census in 2023, not in 2024. Department governor Luis Camacho and Rómulo Calvo, president of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, warned that without a settlement on the census, they would initiate a strike aimed at undoing the department’s economy, and thereby the national economy.

In response, “over one million Bolivians mobilized” on Aug. 25 in support of the government and against a regional leadership group that is the vanguard of opposition to Bolivia’s socialist and indigenous-led government. Even so, the strike began on Oct. 22. Recent Bolivian history suggests another coup may be in the offing.

Why a seemingly routine piece of government business like staging a census might provoke momentous consequences is not obvious. A look at expectations attached to Bolivia’s census and at the nature of Santa Cruz politics may clarify.

Census results help to determine the national distribution of government-provided services and resources and are the basis for each department’s representation in the national Legislative Assembly. Opposition forces in Santa Cruz see operation of the national census, as presently constituted, as beneficial to their side, particularly for the national elections of 2025.

They see advantage in the increased numbers of indigenous peoples migrating recently from Bolivia’s poverty-stricken highlands to economically-resourced Santa Cruz. That advantage rests on indigenous peoples showing up on the census with an identity other than indigenous.

The national census in 2012 fueled controversy when it showed that many indigenous people identify themselves as mestizo and not as belonging to a particular indigenous nation. That was encouraging to the reactionary and racist Santa Cruz leaders, who have no enthusiasm for increased indigenous representation in the national legislative assembly.

The Arce government, by contrast, objects to an undercount of indigenous people and especially in the eastern lowland departments, where their numbers are increasing.

The category of mestizo did not appear in the census of 2012 and is not part of the census in dispute now. The Santa Cruz leaders are insisting that that mestizo identity be incorporated into the census. Expert advice was sought in 2012 and the Arce government is now proposing the same.

The peculiarities of Santa Cruz are central to this story. For one thing, Bolivia’s four easternmost departments, particularly Santa Cruz, produce most of Bolivia’s wealth. Santa Cruz is home to industrial-scale agricultural operations and to facilities for oil and natural gas production. This lowland region accounts for most of Bolivia’s export income.

The realities are these: Santa Cruz alone accounts for 76% of the country’s food production, for all of its sorghum and sunflower oil production, 99% of its soy products, 92% of its sugar cane, 75% of its wheat, 72% of its rice, and 66% of its corn. In 2021, farmers owned 4.6 million head of cattle, over a million pigs, and 130 million chickens.

Among departments, Santa Cruz consumes 39% of the country’s diesel fuel and contains the bulk of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, which rate as South America’s second largest. The Financial Times lauds the Santa Cruz economy’s explosive growth and large foreign investments. It mentions Santa Cruz city as one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas.

Also relevant to the strike story is the reactionary and racist nature of opposition leaders in Santa Cruz. They are utilizing the department’s “Civic Committee” to organize the strike and the Union of Santa Cruz Youth to carry out violent, paramilitary-style street actions. Gov. Luis Camacho formerly headed the Santa Cruz Civic Committee.

The civic committees of all departments originated decades ago in response to national-regional tensions. Members of formerly eastern European families, some of them big landowners, belong to the Santa Cruz civic committee. Many brought fascist ideology with them when they immigrated to Bolivia after World War II.

At the last of three big gatherings in Santa Cruz, Camacho on Sept. 30 announced the start on Oct. 22 of an anti-government strike of “indefinite” duration. In operation, the strike has led to barriers being placed across major highways to impede exports and in-country deliveries of commodities, mainly food. Strike leaders have forced key factories and commercial centers to shut down.

The Youth Union and other thugs have carried out anti-government demonstrations and fought in the streets against MAS party supporters and the national police. There have been injuries, human rights violations, and one death. The strike has had little impact in the other eastern departments.

With a presence at border crossings, the strikers have sharply reduced the transit of exported goods. Government authorities on Oct. 27, anticipating domestic food shortages, banned all exports from Santa Cruz of soy products, beef, sugar, and vegetable oil.

The government and MAS activists organized a rally and march by hundreds of thousands of people before the strike began, and another on the day after. In La Paz on Oct. 26, confrontation between government supporters and an opposition march left 20 persons wounded.

The government on Oct. 25 held a “Pluri-national Encuentro for a Census with Consensus.” Officials from throughout the country attended. A proposal emerged that would enable a technical commission to determine a date for the national census.

Camacho rejected it, but opposition leaders Rómulo Calvo and Vicente Cuellar accepted the proposal. In an interview, Camacho asserted that federalism remains the only solution to the “fissure” present since the “founding of the Republic.”

On Nov. 1, President Arce, referring to threats to “national integrity,” called upon military leaders “to guarantee and defend the independence, unity, and integrity of our territory.” A presidential spokesperson indicated that Arce favored new negotiations with no established date for the census and without conditions.

Events in Santa Cruz align with a grim history. President Evo Morales’s accession to power in 2006 was a culmination of old indigenous resistance against European colonialists and of recent pushback against neoliberal assaults inflicted by local enablers of U.S. and European ruling-class objectives.

Social gains achieved by the MAS-led government and its program of modest wealth distribution seemed to cement its place in history and certainly inflamed the animosities of reactionaries in Santa Cruz and nationally.

As a new constitution was being shaped—it was approved in 2009—Santa Cruz and its neighboring eastern departments staged a separatist revolt fueled by racism. A failed assassination plot against Morales in 2008 was part of it. During this period, the Morales government expelled a U.S. ambassador and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The U.S. government and the Organization of American States, serving the United States, facilitated the coup that removed the Morales government in 2019 after his election to a fourth term. Luis Camacho of Santa Cruz led the coup and reportedly delivered the U.S. moneys used in various payoffs. Bolivia’s military participated.

The president of the coup government, Jeanine Áñez, is now in prison, in part because of human rights abuses and killings by soldiers during her tenure.

The current MAS-led government came into existence in 2020 following the first-round electoral victory of Arce and Choquehuanca. Its approval rating currently is 51%. The present strike has set back governmental efforts to restore a national economy devastated by the coup government’s neoliberal reforms and by pandemic effects.

Arce, reporting to the Legislative Assembly on Nov. 8, indicated that “We have complete certainty that our people are fully behind us and that they recognize a national patriotic government that looks out for the national welfare, which stands above sectarian and regional interests.” He observed that “in times of crisis, it’s always the poor that end up losing more, or losing everything.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, November 10, 2022, https://peoplesworld.org/

U.S. eyes military intervention in Haiti, again / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Protesters calling for the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry run after police fired tear gas to disperse them in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

The news story begins: “The Council of Ministers [on October 8 in Haiti] authorized the prime minister to seek the presence in the country of a specialized military force in order to end the humanitarian crisis provoked by insecurity caused by gangs and their sponsors.”

The circumstances are these:

Masses of Haitians have been in the streets protesting intermittently since August. Their grievances are high costs—thanks to the International Monetary Fund—and shortages of food and fuel. Banks and stores are closed. Students are demonstrating. Labor unions have been on strike.

The pattern has continued intermittently for ten years. Pointing to corruption, demonstrators have called for the removal, in succession, of Presidents Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse, and now de facto prime minister Ariel Henry.

Recently, violence has aggravated the situation, and foreign powers, including the United States, have paid attention. That’s significant because U.S military interventions and other kinds of U.S. intrusions have worked to trash Haiti’s national sovereignty, and, with an assist from Haiti’s elite, deprive ordinary people of control of their lives.

Presently, 40% of Haitians are food insecure. Some 4.9 million of them (43%) need humanitarian assistance. Life expectancy at birth is 63.7 years. Haiti’s poverty rate is 58.5%, with 73.5% of adult Haitians living on less than $5.50 per day.

Electoral politics is fractured. It was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who arranged for Martelly to be a presidential candidate in 2011. Moïse in 2017 was the choice of 600,000 voters—out of six million eligible citizens. He illegally extended his presidential term by a year. As of now, there have been no presidential elections for six years, no elected mayors or legislators in office for over a year, and no scheduled elections ahead.

Washington’s man: De facto Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry holds power, even though he wasn’t elected. Some believe he may have been involved in the murder of the previous president and now he’s seeking U.S. troops to stem protests against his government. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

Gangs mushroomed in recent years, and violence has worsened. Moïse’s election in 2017 prompted turf wars, competing appeals to politicians, narcotrafficking, kidnappings, and deadly violence in most cities, predominately in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Violence escalated further after Moise’s murder in July 2021. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced, wounded, or kidnapped.

The U.S. Global Fragility Act of 2019 authorizes multi-agency intervention in “fragile” countries like Haiti, the U.S. military being one such agency designated to do the intervening. The influential Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) wants U.S. soldiers instructing Haitian police on handling gangs. Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States, calls for military occupation. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants international support for training Haitian police.

Former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote weighs in with a choice: Either “send a company of special forces trainers to teach the police and set up an anti-gang task force, or send 25,000 troops at some undetermined but imminent period in the future.” The Dominican Republic has stationed troops at its border with Haiti and calls for international military intervention.

Meanwhile, foreign actors intrude as Haitians try to reconstruct a government. Their tool is the Core Group, formed in 2004 following the U.S.-led coup against progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Core Group consists of the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, and representatives of the United Nations and Organization of American States.

Haiti’s government is now in the hands of Ariel Henry, whom the Core Group approved as acting prime minister, overruling Moïse’s choice made before he died. Some believe Henry, a U.S. government favorite, may even be complicit in Moïse’s murder.

Henry insists he will arrange for presidential elections at some point in the future. Prevailing opinion, however, holds that conditions don’t favor elections any time soon.

The Core Group backs an important agreement announced by the so-called Montana Group on Aug. 30, 2021. It provides for a National Transition Council that would prepare for national elections in two years and govern the country in the meantime. The Council in January 2022 chose banker Fritz Jean as transitional president and former senator Steven Benoit as prime minister. They have still not assumed those jobs.

The Montana Group consists of “civil society organizations and powerful political figures,” plus representatives of political parties in Haiti. One leader of the Group is Magali Comeau Denis, who allegedly participated in the U.S-organized coup that removed Aristide in 2004. Henry also has a connection to coup-plotting, having worked with the Democratic Convergence that in 2000 was already planning the overthrow of Aristide.

The CFR wants the U.S. government to persuade Henry to join the Montana Group’s transition process. U.S. Envoy Foote supports the Montana agreement because it shows off Haitians acting on their own. Recently, some member organizations have defected, among them the right-wing PHTK Party of Henry and of Presidents Martelly and Moïse.

The weakness of Haiti’s government in the face of dictates from abroad was on display during Moïse’s era. The perpetrators of his murder, who had been recruited by a Florida-based military contractor, were 26 Colombian paramilitaries and two Haitian-Americans. Their motives remain unclear, and there is no apparent movement toward a trial.

Moïse, the wealthy head of an industrial-scale agricultural operation, became president through fraudulent elections in 2017. He was the target of massive protests a year later. Prompting them were fuel and food shortages and revelations that the president and others had stolen billions of dollars from the fund created through the Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program of cheap oil for Caribbean nations.

Foreign governments, the United States in particular, may now be on the verge of intervening in Haiti. But the ostensible pretext—gang violence—turns out to be muddled. Progressive Haitian academic and economist Camille Chalmers makes the point. He claims that “gangsterism” in Haiti actually serves U.S. purposes.

Interviewed in May 2022, Chalmers explains that the “principal [U.S.] objective is to block the process of social mobilization, to impede all real political participation … through these antidemocratic methods, through force using the police … and above all these paramilitary bands.” Terror is useful for “breaking the social fabric, ties of trust, and any possible resistance process.”

By means of gang violence, the Haitian people “are removed from any political role, and the economic project of plundering resources from the country is facilitated.” Also, Haiti becomes “an appendage of the interests of the North Americans and Europeans.” Chalmers refers to gold deposits on Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic and big investments by multinational corporations.

He sees a bond between reactionary elements in Haiti and the gangs. The gangs “have financing and weapons that come from the United States. Many of their leaders are Haitians who have been repatriated by the United States.”

A U.S. Army soldier arrests a Haitian man during the U.S. military occupation following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 3, 1994. | John Gaps III / AP

Within this framework, Haiti’s police must be ready and able to fight the gangs in order to achieve maximum turmoil. The U.S. government provided Haiti’s police with $312 million in weapons and training between 2010 and 2020, and with $20 million in 2021. The State Department contributed $28 million for SWAT training in July. As of 2019, there were illegal arms in Haiti worth half-a-million dollars, mostly from the United States.

In view of U.S. tolerance or even support of the gangs, the zeal to suppress them now is a mystery. Perhaps some gangs have changed their colors and now really do pose danger to U.S. interests.

The so-called “G-9 Family and Allies,” an alliance of armed neighborhood groups led by former policeman Jimmy Cherizier, may qualify. Not only has it emerged as the Haitian gang most capable of destabilization, but the words “Revolutionary Forces” are a new part of its name.

Cherizier observed in 2021 that, “the country has been controlled by a small group of people who decide everything …They put guns into the poor neighborhoods for us to fight with one another for their benefit.” He noted that, “We have to overturn the whole system, where 12 families have taken the nation hostage.” That system “is not good, stinks, and is corrupt.”

Referring to a mural depicting Che Guevara, Cherizier declared, “we made that mural, and we intend to make murals of other figures like … Thomas Sankara and … Fidel Castro, to depict people who have engaged in struggle.”

These are words of social revolution suggestive of the kind of political turn that repeatedly has prompted serious U.S. reaction. Beyond that, the words of Haitian journalist Jean Waltès Bien-Aimé represent for Washington officials the worst kind of nightmare.

He told People’s Dispatch: “Activation of gangs is part of a strategy to prevent Haitian people from taking to the streets.” He scorns Ariel Henry “as a present from the U.S. embassy,” adding that the “Haitian people do not need a leader at the moment. Haitian people need a socialist state … We have a bourgeois state. What we need now is a people’s state.”

In the background are U.S. racist attitudes. They flourished initially as a consequence of the slavery system’s central role in developing the U.S. economy. They still show up, it seems, as discomfort with the ideas of formerly enslaved Haitians gaining autonomy and securing independence for their own nation.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Peoples World, October 12, 2022, https://peoplesworld.org/

Maine Opinion: LePage’s hateful plot to undermine public education in Maine

Top photo: Former Gov. Paul LePage | Beacon 

Originally published in the Beacon, https://mainebeacon.com/

It’s no secret that Paul LePage is no fan of public education. As governor he called Maine teachers “a dime a dozen” and told an audience of business people that “if you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck — you can go to the public school.” 

LePage has always been upfront about his obsession with privatizing and defunding public schools. He has called for vouchers that would allow for education funding to be diverted to subsidize private religious schools, home schooling and for-profit online education.

As governor, he ignored the 2004 voter-mandated law to fund the state’s share of education at 55% (Gov. Janet Mills has finally honored that commitment) and shifted millions of dollars in costs onto local school districts. The former governor also applauded a recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Maine’s law banning public funding for religious schools, stating that it was “time to let the parents decide their child’s future, not educational bureaucrats.”

The former governor’s fondness for private religious schools is rooted in his own experience attending parochial school in Lewiston, where he claims the combination of strict discipline and corporal punishment made him a better person.

“We don’t have that in public schools. So faith-based schools have a different way of teaching, and it worked for me,” he once said in a radio interview in 2012. 

“It wasn’t the religious part of it that was good; it was the brothers being stern and — look at my knuckles — they still show that they were hit a few times,” LePage added.

Rather than addressing the key factors that worsen academic performance — like social and economic conditions, poverty, unequal school funding and lack of early childhood education — LePage and his fellow school privatizers are more interested in putting all of the blame solely on teachers, school boards and administrators for low student achievement. Instead of improving public schools, LePage seeks to punish them by diverting public education money to private schools. This further reduces the amount of funding available for local public schools and disadvantages low-income students and children with disabilities and higher needs. As disability advocates point out, private and religious schools can legally reject students with special needs and voucher programs don’t cover expenses like transportation and other services those students need.

The racist roots of the school choice movement

Having more educational options sounds like a positive thing, but in reality studies show that this doesn’t improve student achievement overall. Instead, it further balkanizes and segregates the student body by allowing more elite schools to cherry pick the most privileged and highest achieving students who have more resources to supplement private school educations. This is no accident.

As Duke University historian Nancy MacLean has documented, the “school choice” movement was a direct reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools in 1954. School vouchers were developed by Southern states to avoid court-ordered racial integration and allow white parents to send their children to private schools known as “segregation academies” that could discriminate based on the color of one’s skin.

Based on extensive archival research, MacLean has exposed how the conservative economist Milton Friedman “taught white supremacists a more sophisticated…court-proof way to preserve Jim Crow” by providing a justification grounded in the free market ideology. Friedman argued that breaking the “government monopoly” over education would promote “competition.”

The school choice movement was later picked up by well-funded conservative think tanks and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded bill mill that creates “model legislation” for Republican state legislators. LePage, who was deeply involved with ALEC as governor, described himself as a fan of Friedman and even once declared July 31 to be “Milton Friedman Day” in Maine, citing the economist’s support for “school choice.”

Creative Commons via Allison Shelley, The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

But despite a decades-long corporate-funded effort to undermine public education, polls consistently show Americans broadly support it and overwhelmingly reject school privatization schemes. That’s why school privatizers have been diligently working to erode confidence in public education by demonizing teachers and stoking fear and paranoia about the teaching of LGBTQ content and “critical race theory,” or “CRT,” an academic concept addressing institutional racism that is generally not taught in K-12 schools.

This latest manufactured moral panic can be traced to a right-wing propagandist named Christopher Rufo of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who launched the war against CRT and supposed “grooming” of students by sexually predatory public school teachers. Rufo uses CRT as a catch-all term to describe any lessons that include studies of race relations and racial equity that make white people uncomfortable. In capitalizing on white racial anxiety in reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, Rufo says he purposely uses the term “critical race theory” because it’s the “perfect villain” and comes off as “hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist [and] anti-American” to average white middle-class Americans.

LePage and the bigoted anti-CRT mob

In his campaign appearances, LePage has made it clear that he will continue the war on public education by putting gag rules on teachers and censoring what students can read. As he told an audience last year, “I can’t wait to attack the school system, because man, this critical race theory. They’re taking down statues, burning down buildings, killing Americans.”

Earlier this month LePage echoed calls from the far-right when he said he wanted to remove “pornography” from school — a label anti-public school crusaders have used to describe books that contain LGBTQ subject matter — and hinted at pushing legislation to support efforts by parents to ban books.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve seen one here in Hampden and one down south in Bonny Eagle, where people were threatened to be arrested, thrown out of meetings. That is inappropriate,” he told an audience at Husson University. “So, the governor’s office’s role is to pass legislation that allows school boards to hear from the parents, and the parents and the school board should determine what goes into the libraries.”

LePage is apparently referring to the antics of a far-right agitator named Shawn McBreairty, who has been repeatedly banned from entering a number of schools across the state after spending the past two years harassing teachers and school boards over CRT and books containing LGBTQ subject matter. McBreairty first received national notoriety after receiving a criminal trespass order from SAD 51 schools — which encompasses schools in Cumberland and North Yarmouth — for repeatedly violating district rules. 

In 2020, McBreairty became convinced that the school was calling residents of Cumberland “white supremacists” and teaching “critical race theory” after it released a statement denouncing white supremacy and committing to racial equity in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In violation of school rules, McBreairty padlocked a sign to a school fence, disrupted numerous school board meetings and distributed flyers denouncing school officials to Greely High School students. At one point he even put a billboard-sized sign of a school board member’s face on his lawn that he claimed was surrounded by rat traps.

McBreairty cast himself as a free speech martyr in an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, implying, falsely, that he was prohibited from attending his daughter’s graduation for battling with the school for holding what he described as “anti-white training.”

After that appearance, McBreairty rocketed to right-wing stardom and became a chapter leader of the “No Left Turn Education,” one of the largest organizations fear mongering about racial equity in schools. The group and its founder have compared educators to Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler and claimed that “black bigotry towards whites” is a “very real problem.” But McBreairty was too much of a loose cannon even for that group. No Left Turn later fired him in 2021 after he pled guilty to improperly influencing a Cumberland school official by threatening to release a recording of the deceased father of a school board member if they didn’t resign.

McBreairty on Fox News | Image via video

Since then, McBreairty has been working as the special projects director for former state Rep. Larry Lockman’s white supremacist organization, known as the Maine First Project. Lockman has spent the past 40 years attacking LGBTQ rights and people of color. Lockman, who once wrote a homophobic book titled “The Aids Epidemic: A Citizens’ Guide To Protecting Your Family And Community From The Gay Plague,” regularly promotes white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theories and accuses pro-immigrant lawmakers of waging a “war on whites.” LePage has long supported Lockman and his hateful agenda, having endorsed him for state senate and stood beside him during his campaign roll out in 2019.

Most disturbingly, McBreairty and Lockman frequently name individual teachers in their defamatory accusations on conservative radio shows, podcasts, newsletters and on social media. One of McBreairty’s favorite targets is 2022 “Maine Teacher of the Year” Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. Students have described Stoyanova as passionate about instilling a love of learning and making all students feel valued and accepted. 

“In Ms. Stoyanova’s classroom, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel loved,” former student Roz O’Reilly told the Bangor Daily News. 

However, McBreairty, who doesn’t have any children in Hampden schools (or in any K-12 schools), has accused Stoyanova of “hyper-sexualizing” students and promoting CRT because she released a reading list for students that included Black and LGBTQ authors.

Ironically, McBreairty and Maine First Project actually promoted a child sex offender whose  transphobic positions they agreed with. Last spring, Maine First Project platformed a self-described “ex-transgender woman” who is a convicted child sex offender and a life time registrant on the sex offender registry.

Fighting back against the anti-teacher witch hunt

Fortunately, McBreairty and Lockman have been generally unsuccessful in taking over school boards, as right-wing cranks who oppose diversity, equity and inclusion have fared poorly in Maine. As one recent poll shows, most parents like their public schools and teachers and support them by wide margins.

However, the fury and fearmongering of a vocal right-wing minority is having a meaningful impact with conservative voters. One recent poll found that while Democratic support for public schools has increased during the pandemic, Republican confidence in public schools has plummeted to an all-time low. Last spring, Maine Republican Party convention delegates even passed McBreairty’s “Don’t Say Gay” resolution to ban CRT and sex education in schools and limit what school staff can say about gender and sexuality. 

Free public education is one of our most valuable institutions and a cornerstone of our democracy. Its mission is to provide every young person in the nation with an equitable, inclusive and quality education that fosters a life-long love of learning and gives students the knowledge they need to be active, informed participants in the democratic process. While public education may not completely live up to its ideals, we need to continue working to strengthen and improve it for future generations of young learners.

Our educators pursue teaching not to get rich but because they have a passion to shape young minds. It’s not an easy job, though. It involves providing differentiated instruction for diverse learners, endless paperwork, early mornings and late nights preparing lessons, disciplining students, dealing with bullying and problems at home, and spending money out of one’s own pocket for classroom materials due to lack of funding.

The stress of working through the pandemic along with the constant smears, personal attacks and demonization of their profession is driving good teachers out, with more than a half-million leaving the profession since the beginning of 2020. Although these far-right activists are small in number, they have become very influential in our politics and it’s clear that if LePage is elected governor, he will continue to empower them and legitimize their bigoted grievances. 

If you value public education, racial justice, LGBTQ rights and the separation of church and state, sitting back and rolling your eyes at these antics is no longer an option. We need to organize and fight back against this elitist, hateful agenda and send LePage back to Florida in November.

Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

The legacy of scientific racism / by Prabir Purkayasthaaug

Originally published: LA Progressive on August 10, 2022; produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

In July, the world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Gregor Mendel, who is widely accepted as the “father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His experiments with peas, published in 1866 under the title “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” identified dominant and recessive traits and how recessive traits would reappear in future generations and in what proportion. His work would largely remain unacknowledged and ignored until three other biologists replicated his work in 1900.

While Mendel’s work is central to modern genetics, and his use of experimental methods and observation is a model for science, it also set off the dark side with which genetics has been inextricably linked: eugenics and racism. But eugenics was much more than race “science.” It was also used to argue the superiority of the elite and dominant races, and in countries like India, it was used as a “scientific” justification for the caste system as well.

People who believe that eugenics was a temporary aberration in science and that it died with Nazi Germany would be shocked to find out that even the major institutions and journals that included the word eugenics as part of their names have continued to operate by just changing their titles. The Annals of Eugenics became the Annals of Human Genetics; the Eugenics Review changed its name to the Journal of Biosocial Science; Eugenics Quarterly changed to Biodemography and Social Biology; and the Eugenics Society was renamed the Galton Institute. Several departments in major universities, which were earlier called the department of eugenics, either became the department of human genetics or the department of social biology.

All of them have apparently shed their eugenics past, but the reoccurrence of the race and IQ debate, sociobiology, the white replacement theory and the rise of white nationalism are all markers that theories of eugenics are very much alive. In India, the race theory takes the form of the belief that Aryans are “superior” and fair skin is seen as a marker of Aryan ancestry.

While Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers and Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews and Roma communities have made it difficult to talk about the racial superiority of certain races, scientific racism persists within science. It is a part of the justification that the elite seek, justifying their superior position based on their genes, and not on the fact that they inherited or stole this wealth. It is a way to airbrush the history of the loot, slavery and genocide that accompanied the colonization of the world by a handful of countries in Western Europe.

Why is it that when we talk about genetics and history, the only story that is repeated is that about biologist Trofim Lysenko and how the Soviet Communist Party placed ideology above science? Why is it that the mention of eugenics in popular literature is only with respect to Nazi Germany and not about how Germany’s eugenic laws were inspired directly by the U.S.? Or how eugenics in Germany and the U.S. were deeply intertwined? Or how Mendel’s legacy of genetics become a tool in the hands of racist states, which included the U.S. and Great Britain? Why is it that genetics is used repeatedly to support theories of superiority of the white race?

Mendel showed that there were traits that were inherited, and therefore we had genes that carried certain markers that could be measured, such as the color of the flower and the height of the plant. Biology then had no idea of how many genes we had, which traits could be inherited, how genetically mixed the human population is, etc. Mendel himself had no idea about genes as carriers of inheritance, and this knowledge became known much later.

From genetics to society, the application of these principles was a huge leap that was not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. All attempts to show the superiority of certain races started with a priori assuming that certain races were superior and then trying to find what evidence to choose from that would help support this thesis. Much of the IQ debate and sociobiology came from this approach to science. In his review of The Bell Curve, Bob Herbert wrote that the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, had written a piece of “racial pornography,” “…to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”

A little bit of the history of science is important here. Eugenics was very much mainstream in the early 20th century and had the support of major parties and political figures in the UK and the U.S. Not surprisingly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a noted supporter of race science, although eugenics had some supporters among progressives as well.

The founder of eugenics in Great Britain was Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton pioneered statistical methods like regression and normal distribution, as did his close collaborators and successors in the Eugenics Society, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher. On the connection of race and science, Aubrey Clayton, in an essay in Nautilus, writes, “What we now understand as statistics comes largely from the work of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, whose names appear in bread-and-butter terms like ‘Pearson correlation coefficient’ and ‘Fisher information.’ In particular, the beleaguered concept of ‘statistical significance,’ for decades the measure of whether empirical research is publication-worthy, can be traced directly to the trio.”

It was Galton who, based supposedly on scientific evidence, argued for the superiority of the British over Africans and other natives, and that superior races should replace inferior races by way of selective breeding. Pearson gave his justification for genocide: “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race.”

The eugenics program had two sides: one was that the state should try to encourage selective breeding to improve the stock of the population. The other was for the state should take active steps to “weed out” undesirable populations. The sterilization of “undesirables” was as much a part of the eugenics societies as encouraging people toward selective breeding.

In the U.S., eugenics was centered on Cold Spring Harbor’s Eugenics Record Office. While Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its research publications still hold an important place in contemporary life sciences, its original significance came from the Eugenics Record Office, which operated as the intellectual center of eugenics and race science. It was supported by philanthropic money from the Rockefeller family, the Carnegie Institution and many others. Charles Davenport, a Harvard biologist, and his associate Harry Laughlin became the key figures in passing a set of state laws in the U.S. that led to forced sterilization of the “unfit” population. They also actively contributed to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for races. The Nordic races had priority, while East Europeans (Slavic races), East Asians, Arabs, Africans and Jews were virtually barred from entering the country.

Sterilization laws in the U.S. at the time were controlled by the states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the doyen of liberal jurisprudence in the U.S., gave his infamous judgment in Virginia on justifying compulsory sterilization, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he ruled in Buck v. Bell. Carrie Buck and her daughter were not imbeciles; they paid for their “sins” of being poor and perceived as threats to society (a society that failed them in turn). Again, Eugenics Research Office and Laughlin played an important role in providing “scientific evidence” for the sterilization of the “unfit.”

While Nazi Germany’s race laws are widely condemned as being the basis for Hitler’s gas chambers, Hitler himself stated that his inspiration for Germany’s race laws was the U.S. laws on sterilization and immigration. The close links between the U.S. eugenicists and Nazi Germany are widely known and recorded. Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race described how “Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by the work of American eugenicists,” according to an article in the Guardian in 2004. The University of Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave Laughlin an honorary degree for his work in the “science of racial cleansing.”

With the fall of Nazi Germany, eugenics became discredited. This resulted in institutions, departments and journals that had any affiliation to eugenics by name being renamed, but they continued to do the same work. Human genetics and social biology became the new names for eugenics. The Bell Curve was published in the 1990s justifying racism, and a recent bestseller by Nicholas Wade, a former science correspondent of the New York Times, also trot out theories that have long been scientifically discarded. Fifty years back, Richard Lewontin had shown that only about 6 to 7 percent of human genetic variation exists between so-called racial groups. At that time, genetics was still at a nascent stage. Later, data has only strengthened Lewontin’s research.

Why is it that while criticizing the Soviet Union’s scientific research and the sins of Lysenko 80 years back, we forget about race science and its use of genetics?

The answer is simple: Attacking the scientific principles and theories developed by the Soviet Union as an example of ideology trumping science is easy. It makes Lysenko the norm for Soviet science of ideology trumping pure science. But why is eugenics, with its destructive past and its continuing presence in Europe and the U.S., not recognized as an ideology—one that has persisted for more than 100 years and that continues to thrive under the modern garb of an IQ debate or sociobiology?

The reason is that it allows racism a place within science: changing the name from eugenics to sociobiology makes it appear as a respectable science. The power of ideology is not in the ideas but in the structure of our society, where the rich and the powerful need justification for their position. That is why race science as an ideology is a natural corollary of capitalism and groups like the G7, the club of the rich countries who want to create a “rule-based international order.” Race science as sociobiology is a more genteel justification than eugenics for the rule of capital at home and ex-colonial and settler-colonial states abroad. The fight for science in genetics has to be fought both within and outside science as the two are closely connected.

Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the Free Software movement.

Opinion: Remembering Operation Bagration: When the Red Army Decapitated the Nazi Front / by Adolph Reed Jr.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army entered Bucharest, Romania to cheering crowds on August 31, 1944. (Photo: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Not only did the Soviet Union bear the most extreme brunt of the horrors of World War II; it also was without question the most central force in the Nazis’ defeat.

Eighty-one years ago, in the early summer of 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, attacking the Soviet Union along a massive front at the height of World War II. 

Drunk on barely contested victories sweeping eastward through Poland and Czechoslovakia and then westward through France, which seemed to reinforce convictions of Aryan racial superiority, the Nazi war machine rushed toward Moscow, feeding Hitler’s hopes to capture the Kremlin by Christmas and rid the world of “the Judaeo-Bolshevik threat” and subordinate or liquidate racially inferior Slavs on the way to replicating—in a radically telescoped way—the U.S. government’s “pacification” and re-peopling of the North American continent in the centuries previous. 

Nazi occupation—consistent with the regime’s exterminist ideology and program—murdered and brutalized staggering numbers of Soviet citizens, on a barely imaginable scale of calculated atrocity. The Soviet Red Army, taken by surprise and in disarray in the face of the scale and speed of the assault, also sustained staggering losses of both personnel and equipment as well as territory. 

Within two and a half months, the Wehrmacht was encroaching on Moscow. As the end of 1941 approached, however, Red Army resistance stiffened and repulsed the Germans, dealing them their first defeats of the war. After an intense, nearly six-month pitched battle, the Red Army routed the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad and began to turn the tide of the war. Victory in the massive tank battle at Kursk and liberation of Leningrad from a siege of more than two years that took an incredible toll on the civilian population set the stage for a massive Soviet offensive.

So this date also marks the initiation, seventy-eight years ago, of Operation Bagration, the massive Red Army offensive that swept the Germans out of Soviet territory, drove them back across eastern Europe, and culminated in the final destruction of fascism, as illustrated dramatically when the Soviet flag was raised above the Reichstag building in May of 1945. 

There are two takeaways from this history I want to stress. One is a nearly aesthetic appreciation of how the world moves by contradiction. Destruction of Bolshevism internationally and of aggressive working-class opposition domestically was a fundamental objective of the Nazis and other fascist movements and of the elements that financed and cultivated them on both sides of the Atlantic. 

For the Nazis in particular destruction of the Soviet Union was pivotal to their twisted racialist politics. And, not unlike on a much smaller scale, at least so far, the MAGA fantasy of “the pedophile Democratic elite” today provides a scapegoat no one might reasonably defend and thus facilitates the misdirection that is always central to a politics of scapegoating, construction of the fantasy of the “Jew/Jew-Bolshevik-Jew banker” and cosmopolite/Jew and Jew/Slav subhuman did the same for Hitler’s National Socialism. 

Once upper-class German reactionaries helped the Nazis come to power, the exterminism of the Final Solution and an invasion of the Soviet Union were as close to foreordained as actual history can be. And the practical reasons that made the Soviet Union such a threat to both fascists and the capitalist classes they served are precisely what would enable the collective organization that sealed the Germans’ fate after their initial months of success in 1941. (This brings to mind the similar irony, also pleasing in a sort of aesthetic way, that antebellum Democrats’ great victory in engineering and winning the Mexican War in 1848, which largely reflected concern to expand slavery, became the basis for slavery’s destruction less than twenty years later.)

The second takeaway is more prosaic. Not only did the Soviet Union bear the most extreme brunt of the war’s horrors; it also was without question the most central force in the Nazis’ defeat. That’s why, for example, my father—who was in the Normandy invasion and detested the D-Day anniversary in addition to all that “greatest generation” crap—always said that if his generation should get props for something, it should be Social Security and the CIO. He would comment acerbically that if it hadn’t been for the Red Army, the war may have had a very different outcome. He also never stopped remarking, practically even on his deathbed, on the hypocrisy that he was sent to fight the racist Nazis in a racially segregated U.S. Army.

Anyway, in the spirit of celebrating holidays, feel free to take a moment to commemorate Operation Bagration and its outcome. 

Adolph Reed Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and an Organizer for Medicare for All-South Carolina.

Common Dreams, June 22, 2022, https://www.commondreams.org/

Juneteenth 2022: Demanding a Third Radical Reconstruction of U.S. capitalism / by John Bachtell

The Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis at the head of a march led by the Poor People’s Campaign. | Poor People’s Campaign

Tens of thousands are descending on Washington, D.C. for the historic, multiracial “Moral March on Washington and to the Polls.” The march occurs during the Juneteenth Holiday weekend and the growing battle to preserve and extend U.S. constitutional democracy.

The march, called by the Poor People’s Campaign, aims to mobilize the nation’s 140 million Black, Brown, and white poor and low-wage workers, and to unite, organize, and activate this potentially powerful force in coalition with others to remake U.S. society, the economy, and democracy from top to bottom.

Such a force could be decisive for the upcoming midterm elections. At stake is the people’s ability to shape the nation’s future for the benefit of all, our Constitutional democracy, the lives and rights of our people, and the existence of planet Earth.

Juneteenth celebrates the Emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1863. This tradition of observance and celebration dates back to 1866 and is deeply rooted in African American culture and history.

The adoption of Juneteenth as a federal holiday by a Democratic majority Congress and president reflected the victory of a broad pro-democratic, multiracial, anti-racist coalition of forces that ousted the most openly racist administration in 100 years. It demonstrates the strength and level of African American equality and anti-racist movements to advance a multiracial democracy and is a dramatic validation of the premise that elections have consequences.

But the Moral March and Juneteenth celebration also occur against the backdrop of the ongoing attempted coup by Trump, his billionaire allies, the insurrectionist Republican Party, and the far-right and fascist movements so vividly captured during the nationally televised hearing of the January 6 Select Committee.

These forces are determined to achieve in 2022 and 2024 what they failed to accomplish in 2020. Their ascension to power would open the door to the complete rollback and likely violent repression of all democratic rights. They aim to restore unchallenged white supremacist minority rule, eliminate the peaceful transfer of power, and impose permanent governance by the fascist Republican Party.

The fight to mobilize the majority of Americans to isolate and defeat these forces to preserve and expand democracy is growing.

The Rev. William Barber III and Rev. Liz Theoharris, co-leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign and the June 18 march, are among those who view the current drive to defend and expand democratic rights as part of what is referred to as a Third Reconstruction in the U.S. They view it as a radical remaking of U.S. society, politics, and economy to benefit all.

Emancipation and the First Reconstruction

The First Radical Reconstruction era followed Emancipation, the second great American Revolution, and lasted from 1867 to 1876. Together, these two events marked the most significant advance for democracy in U.S. history. It was a recognition that the U.S. could never be fully democratic if African Americans were not entirely equal in every respect.

A multiracial coalition exercising federal political power, with the newly emancipated playing a leading role, drove the revolutionary social and economic reforms that ensued. The goal was to radically remake or reconstruct the nation from the grassroots to reflect its founding ideals, proclaimed on paper but not yet in practice.

During Reconstruction, Black political representation radically expanded. Over 600 African Americans were elected to state legislatures and Congress. New state constitutions were adopted in the former Confederate states proclaiming equality. The new state governments extended public education and distributed land and other economic resources to the emancipated. It was also an era of a general expansion of worker’s rights, and these advances favorably impacted the lives of white workers and their families, too.

With the passage of the 15th Amendment, droves of Black men went to the polls to exercise their newly recognized right to vote. In this ‘Harper’s Weekly’ print, Black men of various occupations wait patiently for their turn as the first voter submits his ballot. | Alfred R. Waud, “The First Vote,” November 1867 / Library of Congress

Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution accompanied legislative advances and were a codification of the expansion of democratic rights. The revolutionary 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments abolished slavery and involuntary servitude (except in cases of incarceration), guaranteed citizenship, equal protection under the law, and voting rights (but only to men).

No sooner were these laws passed than the ruling forces comprising the old slavocracy began to mobilize to regain their power and reverse the revolutionary democratic gains. After only a decade, the old slavocracy defeated Reconstruction and the multiracial fusion coalition that won it.

From its beginnings, U.S. capitalism thrived on the exploitation of humanity, most brutally represented by the system of slavery. Despite the gains of Reconstruction, the systemic racism that was rooted in the capitalist system reasserted its power.

Employing open racial terror and racial division and allying with ruling elites nationally, the old slavocracy overthrew the Reconstruction governments. African Americans were disenfranchised and removed from political office, their newly accumulated wealth stolen or destroyed. The new state governments adopted Black codes to suppress African American rights and impose segregation and a brutal racial hierarchy.

The open racial terror and violent repression of African American rights, including lynch terror and imposition of Jim Crow segregation, lasted some 70 years and drove over six million African Americans to escape the sweltering oppression of the South during the Great Migration. Capitalism’s systemic racism ensured the existence and continuation of systemic poverty throughout the country in the decades that followed and right up through the present day.

Civil Rights Revolution and the Second Reconstruction

The mass Civil Rights movement crushed this fascist terror and broke the back of Jim Crow segregation. The Civil Rights Revolution, which many call the Second Reconstruction, resulted in landmark legal and legislative victories from Brown v. Board to civil, voting, and housing rights.

But the movement, rooted in the African American freedom struggle, came to reflect a broad multiracial movement for democracy. It helped spur historic democratic uprisings for the rights of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and disabled persons and for peace and the environment.

But the forces of white supremacy, the corporate ruling class, and reactionary elements never accepted this remaking of America and expansion of democratic rights, as incomplete as it was. Like the First Reconstruction, the Second Reconstruction also sparked a racist ruling class backlash. The result was a suppression of the movement, particularly the African American freedom movement, including the assassination of its leaders.

Central to this reactionary backlash was the rise of the new American extreme-right coalition backed by the most reactionary sectors of corporate America, which aims to dismantle the newly gained rights for equality. But its more significant aim is to impose white minority corporate rule and undo all social gains. These include worker and social rights won during the New Deal era, including union rights, Social Security, and other social progress. Just like the old slavocracy, they aim to destroy U.S. Constitutional democracy.

It took a Second Reconstruction, led by the Civil Rights Movement, to break the back of Jim Crow segregation and realize voting rights and greater democracy. But those gains have been under intense threat for more than 40 years. | Library of Congress

March for the Third Reconstruction

Our country’s multiracial working class and people have been in an epic battle with these reactionary forces since the 1980s. While the far-right and fascist movements and institutions, including right-wing mass media, have grown, so too have the mass movements for political and economic democracy.

Among the many gains recorded was the election of the nation’s first African American president, Barack Obama, whose campaign was based on fusion multiracial coalition politics. “Obama’s election represents the possibility of a Third Reconstruction,” Rev. Barber has said.

The new multiracial electorate that elected Obama, growing demographic changes, advances for racial, women’s, LGBTQ, and disability equality, and its growing unity and power scares corporate ruling forces and those influenced by white male supremacy and fear of societal change.

The backlash to these recent gains has been fierce and relentless, beginning with Republican passage of voter suppression legislation across the South but now extending to the denial of abortion rights, attacks on union rights, and creating a public health crisis from the flood of guns in our streets.

Efforts to break up the multiracial electorate and roll back the rights of African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color and slow down and reverse the demographic shifts immediately followed Obama’s election victory. The far-right also mobilized against the rights labor, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

The backlash gave rise to the MAGA fascist movement and ultimately the election of Trump, the imposition of an extreme-right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the passage of further voter suppression and election subversion laws to permanently institutionalize Republican rule.

But the mobilization of the forces to defeat Trump and defend U.S. Constitutional democracy has expanded the possibilities to expand democratic rights for a Third Radical Reconstruction. If mobilized, a democratic majority of Americans can exercise political power to address poverty and income disparity from the bottom up, address racial and gender inequality, avert the ecological and climate crises, and demilitarize the economy and society. “A Third Reconstruction to revive our moral and political commitment to democracy” is what must happen, says Rep. Barbara Lee.

U.S. capitalism, particularly its most reactionary sectors, is responsible for the massive economic, racial, and gender disparities that plague U.S. society and for the gun violence, militarization, and environmental threats that threaten life on this planet. As Rev. Barber noted, “Forty-three percent of people—over 140 million—live in poverty or are low income. 52% of our children live in poverty. And the Federal budget is just as immoral—$700 billion for defense and $700 billion for everything else. During COVID, billionaires made $2 trillion more and eight million more people fell into poverty. That’s ridiculous!”

The fight to end poverty, save the environment, demilitarize the economy, and defend and radically reform U.S. Constitutional democracy are all intertwined. A Third Reconstruction fulfills the hope of Juneteenth, the spirit of “Sí, se puede,” and the vision of “This land is your land, This land is our land.”

So wherever you are this Juneteenth weekend—whether it’s Washington, D.C., with the thousands of people mobilized by the Poor People’s Campaign, or in your own hometown—march for equality, justice, and democracy. And on Election Day, march again to the polls to cast your vote. March for the Third Reconstruction that our nation needs.

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People’s World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

People’s World, June 18, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Today’s Poor People’s Campaign carries on MLK’s fight for economic justice / by Cameron Orr

Participants in the southern leg of the original Poor People’s Campaign march through Atlanta, May 10, 1968. The group was on its way to Washington, D.C. On June 18th this year, today’s Poor People’s Campaign will again bring a message of economic justice, voting rights, and anti-racism to the nation’s capital. | AP

Co-chaired by Rev. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis, the Poor People’s Campaign began in May 2018 with 40 days of coordinated action at statehouses across the U.S. to confront systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the war economy.

Now mobilizing for a massive June 18th “Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly,” today’s Poor People’s Campaign is reviving the work of the original Poor People’s Campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Billed as a “moral march on Washington and to the polls” for the November elections, the event next weekend will target lawmakers and push them to address what the Poor People’s Campaign calls the “moral, economic, and political crisis” facing the nation.

From the west coast to the east and at all points in between, people are signing up for spots on buses and joining in the organizing. And they’re bringing co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors with them to the nation’s capital. The massive march will occur, appropriately, on Juneteenth weekend, which celebrates the democratic revolution that ended slavery and established Black Reconstruction in the South.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., displays the poster that was to be used during the Poor People’s Campaign, March 4, 1968. | Horace Cort / AP

The original Poor People’s Campaign was the last big effort led by King before his assassination, the capstone to all his work on behalf of the racially and economically oppressed. King was instrumental in bringing together the labor and civil rights coalition that defeated key planks of the Jim Crow counterrevolution after Reconstruction. Then, as now, the forces of democracy and the extreme right were in sharp confrontation.

When King declared, “I have a dream!” to more than a quarter-million people in D.C. in August 1963, KKK and police terror in Alabama was still a fresh wound. As many as 1,000 children in Birmingham had walked out of school the previous May to protest segregation, only to be greeted with fire hoses, police dogs, batons, and arrests. But that action forced the Birmingham Truce Agreement, a set of anti-segregationist measures, followed by white supremacist bombings, civil unrest, and heavy repression.

“We have…come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” King declared then. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

The current Poor People’s Campaign says it’s that time again. Today’s demands have echoes of the past.

By the time of King’s 1963 speech, President John F. Kennedy had already been pushed to propose the Civil Rights Act. But it was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. By November—three months after the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), NAACP, United Auto Workers (UAW), Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and other civil rights and labor organizations had gathered along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pools—Kennedy had been assassinated.

Nonetheless, one year later, the movement behind King won the Civil Rights Act and anti-poverty “Great Society” legislation. In August 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. But ten days before pen was put to paper launching the War on Poverty, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, escalating the U.S.’ war on Vietnam. That’s when King increasingly began to highlight the connection between racism, poverty, and militarism.

“It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both Black and white, through the poverty program,” he said in 1967. “Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated.”

In November 1967, King announced the Poor People’s Campaign, with a plan to descend on Washington the following May. The campaign demanded $30 billion for a program of full employment, guaranteed income, and more low-income housing.

Four weeks before the scheduled mobilization, King was assassinated in Memphis. He was there for a march with mainly Black sanitation workers, striking against unequal wages and working conditions after a horrific incident in which two sanitation workers were crushed to death.

The movement mourned, but it pushed forward. The Poor People’s Campaign carried on under the leadership of King’s successor at the SCLC, Rev. Ralph Abernathy.

The leaders of today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. | Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP

Corretta Scott King led a Mother’s Day protest in D.C., beginning two weeks of demonstrations for an Economic Bill of Rights. A six-week tent encampment named “Resurrection City” was built on the national mall. The UAW brought 80 busloads out for the 50,000-strong protests on “Solidarity Day,” held on June 19th—Juneteenth.

On June 4th, as thousands occupied the national mall, Robert Kennedy, the candidate most aligned with the civil rights movement, won the California Democratic Party primary. Later that night, he was shot and killed. Twenty days later, over one thousand police came to the national mall to evict Resurrection City, arresting hundreds of people. Six months later, the ultra-right forces behind Nixon, who railed in his campaign against “rioters” and promised more policing and to protect segregated schooling, would come to power following the November elections.

Four decades later, organized labor and civil rights organizations across the country united to elect the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama. What followed was both the racist Tea Party reaction that gridlocked Congress in 2010 and brought Trump to power six years later.

But a broad labor and left-wing struggle also arose to push a democratic agenda forward—from Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and the #Fightfor15 and a Union to Black Lives Matter, the 2017 Women’s March, and more recent fights to defend abortion rights. LGBTQ equality struggles have escalated, especially in defense of trans people, and a new rising militancy in the labor movement, increasingly led by young workers, is pushing forward union drives across the ountry. The small-d democratic and socialist-oriented electoral struggles that supported Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Stacey Abrams are a part of that mass democratic movement, too.

That’s the context for today’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Its leaders come by their activism naturally. Barber was born two days after the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His parents moved to North Carolina when he was in kindergarten to participate with the school desegregation movement, and he’s been a fighter ever since. The church he pastors, Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples of Christ, is a “123-year-old congregation founded by former slaves.”

“If you follow the James River from this city down to the sea, you will find the place where my African American ancestors first set foot on these shores,” Barber told marchers in Richmond, Va., in 2016 for the Fight for $15 convention. They were in “the capital of the former Confederacy,” he reminded the crowd.

Behind him loomed a statue of Robert E. Lee statue, since removed and cut up in pieces after the enormous 2021 Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “My African American ancestors were brought here to work the land, to build this nation, but they were paid nothing for their labor.”

He spoke of the reversal of the democratic gains of Black Reconstruction after the Civil War: “When African Americans served in the Southern legislatures for the first time, they built a movement with poor whites. … They rewrote the constitutions of every southern state,” and “banned work without pay, demanded equal protection under the law … This wasn’t in the 1960s, this was in the 1860s!” Barber noted that they wrote into those constitutions the right “to the enjoyment of the fruit of your labor.”

“They knew that labor without living wages was nothing but a pseudo form of slavery.”

Theoharis began her activism in college fighting homelessness in Philadelphia after moving there from her hometown of Milwaukee. As a student she became involved in a group called Empty the Shelters, a local affiliate of the National Union of the Homeless. After leading the establishment of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, together with Barber she became a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign in 2017.

“We cannot return to normal,” Theoharis wrote in a statement to President Trump and Congress amid the early days of the COVID-19 emergency. “This is not the time for trickle-down solutions. We know that when you lift from the bottom, everybody rises. There are concrete solutions to this immediate crisis and the longer term illnesses we have been battling for months, years, and decades before,” she said.

“We will continue to organize and build power until you meet these demands. Many millions of us have been hurting for far too long. We will not be silent anymore.”

The massive mobilization in Washington, D.C., on June 18th will be proof of that refusal to remain silent.

Cameron Orr is a musician and writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

People’s World, June 13, 2022,

Buses filling up nationwide for June 18 Poor People’s Campaign D.C. march / by Cameron Orr

A bus filled with marchers by the original Poor People’s Campaign bus in 1968. Today’s modern Poor People’s Campaign is again bringing people from around the country to march on the nation’s capital on June 18. | Robert Houston / Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Across the country, spots on buses are filling up as thousands of people prepare to head to Washington, D.C., for the June 18th “Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly” organized by the Poor People’s Campaign. Billed as a “moral march on Washington and to the polls” for the November elections, the event will target lawmakers and push them to address what the Poor People’s Campaign calls the “moral, economic, and political crisis” facing the nation.

As the organization points out in its call to the march, even before the coronavirus pandemic, 140 million people in the U.S. were just one emergency away from economic ruin. Since March 2020, hundreds of thousands have died and millions more were pushed to the edge of hunger and eviction. Too many still lack health care and are not paid a living wage, even as billionaire wealth soared by over $2 million during the COVID crisis.

Poor People’s Campaign Street Rally, June 4, in Lancaster, Penn. | via Poor People’s Campaign

From the west coast to the east and at all points in between, issues like those are pushing people to sign up and join in the organizing. And they’re bringing co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors with them to the nation’s capital. The massive march will occur, appropriately, on Juneteenth weekend, which celebrates the democratic revolution that ended slavery and established Black Reconstruction in the South.

“Over 1,000 people from Los Angeles joined the Poor People’s Campaign for a launch event we had downtown on May 16,” Rossana Cambron, a national co-chair of the Communist Party, told People’s World. “I belong to the Policy and Education Collective, which provides study sessions for the campaign’s Jubilee Platform.”

Co-chaired by Rev. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis, the Poor People’s Campaign began in May 2018 with 40 days of coordinated action at statehouses across the U.S. to confront systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the war economy.

“After the L.A. action, we had a fundraiser, and raised over $9,000 to send people from Southern California that wanted to go to D.C. but were impacted by poverty,” Cambron said. She described readings of MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech at universities and other community actions up and down the state. “There’s been actions for tenant rights and immigrant rights. Unions have been involved, including UFCW, SEIU and the #Fightfor15, the car wash workers, and clergy from different denominations.”

Steve Noffke, a member of the Michigan campaign’s Coordinating Committee, said there are 120 people signed up in his area for the 15-hour bus ride to D.C. The Michigan campaign has connections with the People’s Water Board and the General Baker Institute, “named after a very pro-left-wing auto worker,” Noffke adds.

“The Poor People’s Campaign is active on issues, especially around clean water for Flint, and we’re starting to see some of the housing groups are organizing.” For the People’s Water Board, the drinking water crisis in Flint was a big catalyst. “The former governor opened up the floodgates for lead to be going into people’s homes. Rather than buying clean water for the people to drink, they went with the cheaper, dirtier water from the Flint River.”

For more than a century, the major capitalist industries in Flint used the river as a toxic dumping site—leaving the mostly Black working families in the area with nothing to drink. “General Motors won’t even use their water,” Noffke said.

“From my point of view, another big issue is voter suppression,” he argued. The Michigan campaign conducted a letter-writing effort against 39 voter suppression bills put forward by the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature.

The bus from Michigan is just one of at least 250 planned across the U.S., and hundreds of union, faith, peace, and environmental justice groups are partners in the D.C. effort, including the AFL-CIO.

The Communist Party USA and Young Communist League Organizing Collectives around the nation are also building what they hope to be a big contingent for the national mobilization. Party members from North Carolina to Texas, California to Maine, and from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit have all committed to being in the nation’s capital.

The Communist Party USA is organizing a large contingent for the June 18 march, with colorful banners and slogans planned. | via CPUSA

“Through this time of so much catastrophe, it’s been very hopeful to be able to bring people together to say, ‘Here’s this positive thing that we can do,’” Ohio CPUSA activist Molly Nagin says. “Whether around racism or housing, low-wage workers, healthcare, or the shootings and the way they want to arm teachers, what the Republicans and extreme right are doing right now to this country and have been doing is at a boiling point.”

Nagin has been helping mobilize for the action with local church congregations, a re-entry organization working with people coming out of prison, and a disability rights organization called Breaking Silences.

“I’ve seen it a few times now, that as soon as I mention the march on Washington, the whole collective can get back to work, and there’s less of that depression, overwhelmed, exhaustion mode. It becomes more of ‘Okay, we’ve got something to do.’”

The Poor People’s Campaign is working to continue and build on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was instrumental in bringing together the labor and civil rights coalition that defeated key planks of the Jim Crow counterrevolution. Then, as now, the forces of democracy and of the extreme right were in sharp confrontation.

“We have … come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” King declared at the 1963 March on Washington. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

The Poor People’s Campaign says it’s that time again.

To that end, two buses from New Haven, Conn., are booked to leave for D.C. The New Haven People’s Center is partnering with Unite Here Local 34 and SEIU 1199NE to represent the struggles unfolding there, issuing an invitation to young people and everyone to participate. During the COVID crisis, many unions and community and faith groups have organized for pandemic pay, better work schedules, measures to improve conditions for low-wage workers, to legally restrict anti-union “captive audience” meetings, and to tax the rich and move funds from military to human needs.

The battle between militarism and people’s needs also characterized the demands of King’s original Poor People’s Campaign. Even though gains like the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and anti-poverty “Great Society” legislation were won, almost immediately the U.S. war against Vietnam was escalated, sucking up public money. That’s when King increasingly began to highlight the connection between racism, poverty, and militarism.

“It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both Black and white, through the poverty program,” he said in 1967. “Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated.”

“That’s what will happen to Build Back Better as a result of the billions being spent sending weapons to Ukraine,” warns Matthew Weinstein of Brooklyn for Peace (BFP). His organization has dedicated two Saturday mornings this month to leaflet in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza for June 18.

“We’ve been working hand in glove with the Poor People’s Campaign. It appealed to us because they don’t skirt around the issue of militarism and war.” As part of the Move The Money coalition, BFP is pushing for a city council resolution that would put New York on record opposing the bloated military budget.

In April, the anti-war coalition participated alongside SEIU 1199, Citizen Action, the United University Professions, the Islamic Center of North America, Physicians for a National Health Program, and others in a march through Wall Street culminating in a community meeting at Trinity Church. There, NYCHA resident Brenda Temple, an activist with the Committee for Independent Community Action, spoke about the need to invest in public housing.

However, “actions are one piece of what we do,” Kelly Smith told People’s World. Smith is one of three New York State campaign chairs and organizes in the NYC region with a big focus on faith communities. The other chairs organize in different parts of the state, including Buffalo, where Poor People’s Campaign activists supported vigils held in the wake of the racist massacre there. “A lot of our work is organizing and working with other groups, learning, doing political education, and canvassing.”

The New York Poor People’s Campaign supports the housing movement and efforts to pass the N.Y. Health Act, a bill for statewide universal healthcare. “At the same time, we’re looking at mass incarceration issues, cash bails, and ecological devastation,” Smith adds. “When we say militarism, we mean that from a national and war framework, and also [the militarization] of our communities, especially Black and brown communities.”

Legislation to help working-class and poor people has faced formidable enemies over the past several years. The racist Tea Party reaction gridlocked Congress during most of Barack Obama’s presidency, and then helped bring Trump to power.

Mobilizing in Newark, N.J., June 4. | via Poor People’s Campaign

But there’s also been a broad democratic and left-wing struggle that has formed to push a democratic agenda forward—from Occupy Wall Street in 2011, to the #Fightfor15 and a Union, to Black Lives Matter, the 2017 Women’s March, and more recent fights to defend abortion rights, LGBTQ equality struggles, and a new rising militancy in the labor movement, increasingly led by young workers.

The small-d democratic and socialist-oriented electoral struggles that supported Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Stacey Abrams are a part of that mass democratic movement, too.

The Poor People’s Campaign is working to bring many of these strands together in the nation’s capital on June 18, while pointing toward the November elections.

“I’ve been really excited about how many people are cross-pollinating,” Zillah Wesley told People’s World. Wesley is co-chair of the local Poor Peoples’ Campaign in D.C. “One lady came canvassing, coming through WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) and was surprised by the outpouring of support. You can tell people are really feeling this.”

“[The campaign] really highlights D.C. statehood, that’s why I really vibe with it. We can’t afford to live here, you have to make $31 an hour to survive. The mayor keeps closing off the parks, and the unhoused are getting kicked out.”

Wesley listed off some of the grassroots support. “Homeworkers, healthcare workers, some of the people who work in local restaurants.” Servers and barbacks involved with One Fair Wage are part of the D.C. campaign. Various churches and synagogues are in the mix, as is the Brooklyn Manor Tenants’ Association. “It’s really warming my heart,” Wesley says.

To build support, the D.C. Poor People’s Campaign has been utilizing everything from canvassing and flyering to putting up yard signs to happy hours, even having a float in the Pride parade. A memorial service was held at the Lincoln Memorial “for all the people we lost during COVID because of this jacked-up healthcare system,” Wesley said. “I lost about 40 people, either close friends or family.”

The D.C. campaign is also playing a big role as hosts for the thousands descending on the city, serving dinners and breakfasts, and helping to arrange for accommodations. “All roads lead to here, so we’re trying to give an extravagant welcome.”

“We’re all impacted by the decisions that are made legislatively,” CPUSA co-chair Rossana Cambron explained, regarding the importance of taking these fights to Washington.

“The struggle to end poverty, cut the military budget, end institutionalized racism, the struggle for the environment, and resisting the moral narrative of the evangelicals—all of those things affect people. That’s why it’s key to join forces from the different areas around the country to bring the necessary change that we’re looking for.”

Join the CPUSA’s “500-Strong” Delegation in D.C. on June 18th. Sign up here.

Cameron Orr is a musician and writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

People’s World, June 8, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Maine News: Tribal sovereignty, housing, environmental bills among big votes taken in Augusta this week / by Evan Popp

The Maine Legislature voted on a number of important issues this week, ranging from high-profile tribal sovereignty measures to bills related to economic justice, health care, housing and the environment. Here’s a rundown of some of the recent decisions made in Augusta. 

Tribal sovereignty

The legislature this week took up multiple measures designed to reinforce the inherent sovereignty of the Wabanaki in what has been a multi-year campaign by Indigenous nations in Maine to be treated like all other tribes around the country. 

On Thursday, the House approved a bill that would alter the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. The bill, LD 1626, would change the Settlement Act to create “an enhanced process for tribal-state collaboration and consultation as well as a process for alternative dispute resolution.” Other aspects of the legislation include strengthening tribal communities’ criminal jurisdiction, recognizing the rights of tribes to regulate hunting and fishing on their lands, and affirming the Wabanaki’s right to regulate natural resources and land use on their territory. The vote was 81-55 in favor of the bill. 

Also this week, the legislature approved another tribal sovereignty bill, LD 906. That bill would address the unsafe and deteriorating water system at the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation, known as Sipayik, where dangerous levels of toxic chemicals have been found. Along with LD 1626, Gov. Janet Mills has expressed skepticism about the water legislation. But given the bipartisan support LD 906 received in both the House and the Senate, advocates have a chance to overcome a potential veto from the governor. The bill now goes to Mills for consideration. 

Juniper Ridge 

Lawmakers this week sent a bill to Mills designed to close a loophole in Maine law that has allowed Juniper Ridge landfill to become a dumping ground for waste from surrounding states.

As Beacon previously reported, about 90% of the waste sent to a processing facility in Lewiston that ends up in Juniper Ridge is from out of state. The amount of waste going into Juniper Ridge is increasing every year, the coalition noted earlier this year, filling 32% faster than anticipated. A continuation of that would mean additional expansions of the landfill, which environmental advocates have argued would lead to increased pollution.

The bill to address the issue, LD 1639, was approved with strong bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate. 


The legislature took action on several housing bills this week. On Thursday, the House passed on a 78-51 vote a bill aimed at reforming zoning laws and cutting red tape to allow for development of affordable units. The Senate then approved the bill April 15 on a 20-13 vote. 

That bill, LD 2003, sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), was originally larger in scope. However, it was scaled back last month amid opposition from some groups. While advocates still support the bill and view it as a step forward, they argued the changes made to the measure represent a missed opportunity for a more ambitious effort to address the affordable housing crisis. 

It was a similar story with LD 1673, another affordable housing bill that was scaled back in the face of opposition. That bill cleared final votes in both the House and the Senate this week and was placed on the Appropriations Table for funding consideration. Originally designed to set affordable housing goals in each municipality, the measure was significantly amended to include non-binding goals and reduce the scope of communities covered by such goals. 


The House gave its final approval this week for a bill, LD 2019, that would prohibit a person from distributing a pesticide contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, which have been linked to a wide variety of harmful health impacts. The bill also bans the distribution of pesticides that contain intentionally added PFAS beginning in 2030. 

The measure also adds “any substance or mixture of substances intended to be used as a spray adjuvant” to the definition of pesticide.

The Senate also gave initial approval to the bill this week. The measure still faces a final vote in the chamber. 

In addition, the House this week approved another PFAS-related bill. LD 1911 would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to “require a person licensed to discharge wastewater to sample the effluent discharged for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and to report the sample data to the department,” among other provisions. The bill was then approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote. 

Criminal justice 

The Senate this week officially killed a bill that would have established certain motor vehicle-related violations as secondary offenses. The measure, LD 1479, sponsored by Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland), sought to make such offenses enforceable only if an officer had detained a driver for the suspected violation of another law.  

Offenses that would have been classified as secondary by the bill include operating a vehicle after suspension for not paying a fine, not registering a vehicle if the registration has been expired for less than 150 days, and hanging an object from the rearview mirror, among other similar violations. 

Supporters of the legislation added that the measure was meant to address discrimination in who is stopped, with myriad lawmakers in the House saying drivers of color are often pulled over more than white drivers. Still, the Senate voted the bill down 27-3, with only Cumberland County Democratic Sens. Ben Chipman, Anne Carney and Heather Sanborn voting for the measure. That result came after the House voted against the bill last week. 

The Senate also took action this week on a bill dealing with the issue of solitary confinement in Maine. The bill, which the House passed to define the practice as confinement in a cell for over 22 hours in a day, was then amended in the Senate this week to simply remove the term solitary confinement from statute in a move that advocates said would obscure how the practice is used in Maine prisons and jails. 

On Thursday, however, the House voted to reject the Senate’s amendment and instead passed its own amendment to the bill, sponsored by Rep. Grayson Lookner (D-Portland), that would require prisons and jails to send a report to the Maine Department of Corrections if a person is held in isolation for more than 22 hours in a day. 

Economic justice

The House and Senate this week passed a bill to direct the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to study the impact on the state of adopting “a corporate income tax system that requires worldwide combined reporting for income tax purposes.” The report on the issue would be due by February 1. 

The measure, LD 428, is an effort to start the process of eventually closing a loophole used by multinational corporations to avoid paying taxes in Maine. It will now go to Mills for consideration. 

The House this week also gave initial approval to a bill designed to improve labor standards on renewable energy projects. The bill, LD 1969, sets standards for pre-apprenticeship training programs by the Maine Apprenticeship Program, including the payment of “meaningful stipends” to participants.

The measure also requires that renewable energy projects of a certain size pay construction workers “the prevailing rate for wages and benefits,” among other stipulations. The bill was passed Wednesday by the House 81-57 and now moves to the Senate. 

Health care 

The Senate gave final approval Monday on a bill to close a loophole that has let insurance companies deny no-copay coverage of birth control. The measure, LD 1954, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), mandates insurance coverage of all birth control methods approved by the FDA. 

The legislation was passed unanimously in the Senate, sending the bill to Mills for consideration. 

In another unanimous vote in the Senate on Monday, the chamber sent to Mills a bill that would require the Maine Health Data Organization to document the 100 most expensive prescription drugs and the 100 most frequently prescribed drugs each year. LD 1636 also mandates the organization to determine the potential savings from subjecting such prescription drugs to a “referenced rate,” defining that rate as “the lowest cost from official publications of certain Canadian provincial government agencies and the wholesale acquisition cost.”


The House gave approval this week to a bill, LD 2018, that would ensure the incorporation of “equity considerations in decision making” at the Department of Environmental Protection, the Public Utilities Commission and other state agencies. 

The measure also requires the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules so that “environmental justice populations and frontline communities are provided with fair and equitable access to the department’s decision-making processes.” 

The bill was then passed by the Senate and given final approval by the House. It now returns to the Senate. 

This story was updated April 15 to reflect the Senate vote on LD 2003. 

Photo: The Maine State House | Beacon

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Beacon, April 15, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/