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Blog of the Week

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

Dec. 11, 2008
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Blog of the Week:
John Nichols, “State of Change,” The Nation www.thenation.com

Obama Encourages Workers Protesting Shutdown

President-elect Barack Obama gave encouragement Sunday to the members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110 who have occupied the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago to demand fair treatment from a company that shut down operations after Bank of America denied the firm operating credit.

The 260 union members have received support from members of Congress, labor leaders and the religious community in Chicago. All have argued that Bank of America—the beneficiary of a $25 billion federal bailout—needs to do more to help factories remain open and to [ensure] that workers are not victimized.

But the message from Obama, a Chicagoan with deep roots in the community’s labor and activist communities, was the most remarkable signal that this protest is becoming a symbol of a broader struggle for economic fairness.

For the first time in the better part of 70 years, workers who are taking direct action to defend their economic rights are getting a measure of encouragement from a president who might actually “get it.”

Hero of the Week: Neil Willenson

You really can’t keep a good man down. Lifelong activist Neil Willenson, of Grafton, lost a 1988 bid for a seat in the state Assembly as a senior at Homestead High School. Shrugging off the defeat, Willenson, already an advocate for the homeless and hungry, went on to found Camp Heartland, a refuge for children living with HIV. The parent organization One Heartland has raised more than $40 million to support sick children, and has inspired similar groups worldwide. Willenson, recognized in the December 2008 GQ “Men of the Year” issue, is also co-founder (with Grafton’s Jim Kacmarcik) of “Hometown Heroes,” which recently came to the aid of a local family dealing with illness and is staging a drive to collect 10,000 toys for needy children. Those wishing to help should call 272-1118 or visit www.oneheartland.org.

Jerk of the Week:  Congressman Paul Ryan

We are currently in the worst economic downturn since perhaps the Great Depression, and Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, doesn’t seem to get it. What virtually every economist in the world understands is that it was massive government spending—our entry into World War II—that finally got us out of the Great Depression. If the United States and the world’s other major economies move swiftly and dramatically with large deficit spending, we can avoid anything even close to a depression. In order to stave off an even more serious economic decline, we need large, direct governmental expenditures, such as the proposed massive rebuilding of our infrastructure. Unfortunately, Paul Ryan would rather cling to a discredited, simplistic economic ideology than practical solutions to reverse this downturn. He opposes direct governmental expenditures in favor of indirect tax cuts and less federal involvement. Even the conservative economist Alan Greenspan has admitted that this unfettered free-market approach has failed. When will Congressman Ryan put aside his failed ideology and do what is right for the economy?


Remember to Shop Locally

Members of Our Milwaukee, a local business alliance, have donated generous prizes to Shepherd Express readers who promise to spend at least $100 at local businesses this holiday season. Sign up at www.expressmilwaukee.com and you’ll be eligible to win prizes through Dec. 24. A computer program will randomly select winners.

Photo of the Week:  "Terribly Attractive" by Scott Lucey

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