One thing you can say-- the current debate on immigration is at last focusing attention on the pervasive violations of our labor laws in sweatshops and other parts of the low-wage economy. But instead of getting national legislation to shut down sweatshops around the country, we are getting policies to punish some of the victims -- while leaving the underground economy that breeds undocumented immigration largely in place.
The facts of illegal violations of our wage laws have been clear for years:
Republican Former Illinois Governor George Ryan was convicted this week on eighteen counts,
including racketeering, mail fraud, false statements, and tax
violations. His crime? Selling out the public for profit gain. While
the Governor awaits sentencing -- his crimes may earn him as much as
ten-twenty years in federal prison -- his case offers lessons for all
For the right wing in the Arizona state legislature, their only
response to sweatshop employers using low-wage undocumented immigrants
has been to try to make criminals of the undocumented workers
themselves, even as they've opposed raising minimum wage standards to
eliminate the sweatshops which financially benefit from exploited
immigrants in the first place.
There's a piece of rhetoric out there that smart growth policies
increase housing costs, therefore driving working families out of urban
areas to the exurban fringe. Daniel Goldberg of Smart Growth America responds with this post
emphasizing that the real problem is that the principles of smart
growth -- ensuring that "development makes efficient use of land and
the roads, sewers, schools and other infrastructure we all pay for" --
have still only had minimal impact on suburban sprawl.
Does it take two to tangle? Two New Jersey legislators are embarking on a six-month project to evaluate whether New Jersey can copy Massachusetts'
recently adopted plan. Before they start hustling around the state,
they ought to take a look at whether the Massachusetts plan is even
going to work in Massachusetts and also think hard about whether it
should be the starting point for negotiations.
Hawaii is the latest state moving in that direction with a proposed Hawaii Innovations Fund which could grow to $200 million in government funds over four years to invest in Hawaii's renewable energy, life science and technology companies.
What makes this change in policy most striking is the dismal policy
of corporate subsidies that it is (still too slowly) replacing. The
community organization, Good Jobs First,
has been the premiere chronicler of tax subsidy boondoggles handed out
to corporations by state and local governments, corporate handouts that
do little to spur healthy growth and that usually leave public
treasuries too empty to address other public needs:
While investments in high technology get a lot of attention, a
number of these new state government investment strategies are also
looking to revive areas devastated by deindustrialization and chronic
poverty. Around the world, "emerging markets" are hotspots for
investment, so many states are treating these poor domestic areas as
"domestic emerging markets" that just need a bit of patient capital to
Last week, the state of Marylandjoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of states -- now eight with Maryland's
membership -- that have committed to reduce emissions on four
pollutants and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 10 percent by 2019.
We've written before about the new 75-year lease of an Indiana
toll road to a Spanish-Australian partnership, and the bad deal for
taxpayers and democracy that it represents. The state's largest
consumer group filed a lawsuit yesterday saying that the deal was so bad that it violates the state constitution. The Citizens Action Coalition
argues that the state constitution requires lease proceeds to pay down
public debt, rather than diverting long-term returns from a lease to
immediate public spending. The lawsuit highlights the core problem with
this kind of privatization -- it's essentially a theft from future
taxpayers and consumers to help pay for government spending today.