MEMO TO PRAIRIEGREENS: LOCAL DEMOCRAT LEGISLATORS
JULY 13, 2015
PART 1 – RACISM
[1.1] Carol Ammons, state representative for this district, has asked to speak to a meeting of the Prairie Greens. Carol refused to vote against SB1761, a shameful measure supporting apartheid by US client Israel. She would not have voted in favor of South African apartheid.
[1.2] The Salaita affair at UIUC shows that Israeli apartheid has a more effective lobby in Illinois than South African apartheid did a generation ago, although both racist regimes were supported by the US government for its own foreign policy purposes.
[1.3] Both our local legislators, Democrat state senator Scott Bennett and Democratic state representative Carol Ammons, refused to vote against Senate Bill 1761. Both were recorded as “NV” – not voting on the measure. It should be clear that they refused to vote against racism.
[1.4] The bill, actively promoted by the government of Israel, directed that state monies (like university pension funds) be removed from companies that observed the boycott of business conducted in the territories illegally occupied by Israel.
[1.5] SB1761 is part of the attack by the government of Israel, repeated across the US, on the BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions) movement. While the BDS movement is not above criticism, it should lead to a discussion of Israeli apartheid – and its support by our government – and that is what the government of Israel wants to avoid, by the circuitous route of passing laws like SB1761 through US state legislatures. (Compare the resolution – HR35 – passed by the California state legislature, which condemns racism and anti-Semitism at schools in the State of California: it conflates anti-Semitism and protected speech critical of Israel; the University of Illinois is hardly unfamiliar with that stratagem <http://mondoweiss.net/…/california-state-assembly-passes-re…>.)
[1.6] “Within Israel, discrimination against non-Jews is severe; the land laws are just the most extreme example. But it is not South African–style apartheid. In the occupied territories, the situation is far worse than it was in South Africa, where the white nationalists needed the black population: it was the country’s workforce, and as grotesque as the bantustans were, the nationalist government devoted resources to sustaining and seeking international recognition for them. In sharp contrast, Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinian burden. The road ahead is not toward South Africa, as commonly alleged, but toward something much worse.” [Noam Chomsky]
[1.7] “The Israeli state has never been more violent, the blood toll of Palestinian civilians never so high. In 2014, the Israeli military and security forces killed more than 2,300 Palestinians and wounded another 17,000. That’s the worst carnage since 1967, when the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza intensified in the wake of the Six Day War. During the height of the last Israeli rampage in Gaza last summer, more than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes. And, according to a recent UN Report titled Fractured Lives, more than 100,000 of them remain homeless. Detentions of Palestinians inside Israeli prisons are also on the rise. As of the end of February of this year, more than 6,600 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons and IDF detention centers, the most in five years. So the gears of the killing machine grind on with impunity, each slaughter only serving to embolden more killing.” [J. St. Clair]
PART 2 – TAXES
[2.1] After 40 years of accelerating increase in inequality in the US – and the craven surrender of the Democratic party (see Walter Benn Michaels, “The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality,” 2007) – the solution is nevertheless clear enough: tax the possessors of wealth – “high net worth individuals” (HINWIS). In Illinois, the Democrats tried to do that in the last session, with their (limited) “millionaires tax,” but there’s some question how serious they were. But it is the right approach: we should simply distinguish for tax purposes the income people need to live and the income used to play the stock market – “investable assets.”
[2.2] We should resist any proposal to expand property taxes or the sales tax – or to start taxing retirement income. That confuses the two types of income. Illinois is fifth in the list of states with number of people with a net worth of $30 million or more – UHINWIs, “ultra-high net worth individuals” (after CA, NY, TX, and FL). These are the Illinoisans who should be taxed, not those with investable assets less than $1 million.
[2.3] Democratic state senator Scott Bennett and Democratic state representative Carol Ammons held a ‘Joint Town Hall’ rally last Thursday (7/9). They blamed the wretched Governor Rauner for the state’s budget impasse. In fact, it’s entirely in the Democrats’ hands. As Paul Mueth pointed out at the meeting, the Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both houses. They could pass a budget and the taxes – primarily a financial-transactions tax (HB 106) – necessary to fund it. Ammons replied that not all those Democrat votes can be counted on. Thus the Democrats can have it both ways – they can say that they’re in favor of the spending and the taxes, but then allow enough no votes so that they won’t pass. The same thing happened with Speaker Madigan’s ‘millionaires’ tax.’ In both cases the Democrats can tell the public they’re interested in solving the problem – and then quietly show their 1% donors that they won’t do it.
[2.4] “It is absolutely bizarre to live in Illinois and watch the hand wringing and the pitiful cries of the workers and the endless articles on the budget crisis and to NEVER hear a word about HB 106, the solution to the problem. A one dollar tax on each trade on the Chicago Board of Trade, which works out to about one thousandth of one percent tax. Meanwhile, average Illinoisans are paying 8.75% sales tax! But our legislators, our pundits, our union leaders, our media just can’t imagine bringing up HB 106, because rich people are immune to taxes. Screw you, teachers! Screw you, nurses! Screw you, social workers! The rich must be coddled. The Tax That Must Not Be Named – HB 106: Revenue – Financial Transactions” [Paula Densnow].
[2.5] “The Illinois Green Party has long proposed far better answers to our state’s fiscal problems … [They include a financial transactions tax], a sales tax on speculative trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Board Options Exchange and other trading houses – a measure that could dramatically raise billions of dollars in new revenue, simply by taxing the sale of options, futures and derivatives at an infinitesimally small rate. Proposals for creation of a public bank, and for implementation of a sales tax on speculation have been introduced by State Representative Mary Flowers, in H.B. 107 and H.B. 106, respectively. The Illinois Green Party urges support for these bills.”
PART 3 – ELECTIONS
[3.1] As the Obama administration drags on to its murderous conclusion, it’s clear that it’s even more neocon (secret war around the world) and more neolib (secret TPP, TTIP, etc.) than its predecessor was. (To be clear, neoliberalism means using the government to secure the profits of the 1%; neoconservatism means using the military to secure the profits of the 1%. Both major parties are of course neoliberal and neoconservative.)
[3.2] The state Democratic party is a continuation of the national party by local means: it is
~ pro-war (not opposing SB 1761 – support for Israeli apartheid = the way the Obama admin. supports its stationary aircraft carrier), and
~ pro-Wall St. (not approving HB 106 – the financial transaction tax = the way to end the state’s fiscal problems).
It’s time to reject pro-war/pro-Wall St. parties and their candidates. We’ve killed a lot of people at home and abroad by not doing so.
[3.3] SB1761 – like a similar measure in Congress – is a law with some teeth. The legislation requires pension funds to stop investing money in foreign companies that have boycotted Israel or businesses that operate in ‘territories under the control of Israel’ [i.e., the territories illegally occupied by Israel]. Illinois should not be shielding Israel from boycotts protesting human rights abuses and settlements that are illegal under international law. (See more at: “Congress and state legislatures are on the warpath against BDS” <http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/congress-legislatures-against>.)
[3.4] A boycott is a tactic (not a principle) and so must be efficaciously in the interest of the victims, in this case the victims of Israeli apartheid. But the effectiveness of this particular tactic is indicated by the lengths to which the Israeli government (and its US sympathizers) are willing to go to stop it. Even the South African government a generation ago didn’t go so far as to pressure US state legislators to stop boycotts of South African apartheid. Scott Bennett, Carol Ammons, and other Illinois legislators have timidly given in to bullying, aided Israeli oppression, and should be ashamed.
[3.5] Some of our colleagues and comrades in the PrairieGreens think the party should not run candidates in the local legislative elections in 2016, because Bennett [52nd district] and Ammons [103rd district] are liberals. SB 1761 – and the behavior of the Democrats in the legislature in regard to the budget and taxes – argue that not to do so would be a mistake. The Illinois state democrats are Syriza – the latter as tragedy, the former as farce…
[3.6] “The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is a green political party in the United States founded in 1984 as a federation of state green parties. With its founding, the Green Party of the United States became the primary national Green organization in that country, eclipsing the Greens/Green Party USA, which emphasized non-electoral movement building … The party promotes environmentalism and social justice with policy principles in nonviolence, grassroots democracy and participatory democracy, etc…”
–C. G. ESTABROOK
1 thought on “MEMO TO PRAIRIEGREENS: LOCAL DEMOCRAT LEGISLATORS”
State rep. Ammons’ presentation on SB1761 to the July 13 meeting of the Prairie Greens was evasive and self-serving, a fabric of fustian and fantasy.
She began by asserting that not many opponents of the bill had contacted her before the vote. It later emerged that she had been lobbied by a representative of the Israeli consulate in Chicago and consulted with retired UI professor Belden Fields, who apparently advised her not to vote against the bill.
She refused to answer directly the question, “If you had it to do over again, would you vote against SVB1761?” She said she would have to consult with staff and see how others were voting.
She refused to answer directly the question, “If the bill had defended South African apartheid rather than Israeli apartheid, would you have voted against it?” She asserted with some heat that she was not a racist…