May 31, 2012
CWA President Larry Cohen speaks at the Center for National Policy. Photo courtesy of the Center for National Policy.
To fix America's jobs crisis, there first must be a mass political movement to restore democracy, CWA President Larry Cohen said last week.
During a roundtable discussion at the Center for National Policy, Cohen candidly laid out the "obscene attacks on the democracy" that have prevented the long-term, sustainable economic growth that would lift millions of job seekers out of unemployment.
First, the country must get the flood of corporate cash out of politics, overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, he said.
"Money in politics, no accountability, no real disclosure, absolutely will cloud once again the direction this country needs to go in," said Cohen, estimating that an open Senate seat costs a minimum of $25 million, while this year's presidential election is expected to reach $1 billion.
Next is reforming the Senate rules, so that hundreds of House-passed bills can make it to the Senate floor for debate. A number of important issues, from President Obama's jobs plan to the DREAM Act, have been buried under a series of filibusters and blocked votes. And the President's nominees for hundreds of vacant judgeships have all been gridlocked by the arcane legislative process.
"There's no democracy in the world today that functions anything like the U.S. Senate," he said. "It's the worst it's ever been."
Activists must also be vigilant about new state-level laws intended to limit the voting rights of young people, the elderly, poor people and people of color. "It's not about voter fraud, and everybody knows it," he said.
Cohen repeatedly stressed that to "create demand," America must tackle the "huge structural issues" that have flat-lined workers' wages for the past 40 years. Once upon a time, productivity and wages used to grow together, but weakened manufacturing and trade policies has stymied the American dream. Fixes, he said, include investing in infrastructure, lowering the U.S. trade deficit, restoring the power of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and doubling the country's manufacturing workforce.
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