A guide to your Thanksgiving political debate
Facts, data, trends, and mee
Welcome to a Wednesday evening edition of Progress Report.
It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve spent virtually every day mostly sleep-deprived and watching a tiny newborn grow into a gregarious one-year-old, but Thanksgiving totally snuck up on me this year. It’s hard to believe we’re once again here in late November, but at least I don’t have to scramble to figure out what I feel thankful for this year.
I’m obviously referring to our preternaturally funny and increasingly sweet 14-month-old son, but I am also deeply thankful to every single reader, commenter, and financial supporter of this newsletter. The ongoing support has allowed me to pursue journalism nobody else is doing, to expose corruption and bigotry while uplifting the work of activists, organizers, and progressive lawmakers. There is so much more work to be done, of course, and I’m thankful that we can continue to pursue it together.
I’m unclear on whether the “how to talk to your conservative relative on Thanksgiving” was a product of the Trump presidency or simply made more prominent by the slavish devotion and brainwashing of his base. Either way, I don’t think they’re particularly helpful at this point because Trump supporters don’t want to be convinced otherwise.
Instead, here’s something far more useful: Fact sheets and talking points for political conversations with rational family and friends.Hopefully this helps you feel confident and prepared, so that instead of scrambling for days and narratives while at the table, you can have them in the palm of your hand, ready for deployment.
Please consider a subscribing and/or donating to keep Progress Report afloat and sustainable. Far-right extremists are financed by billionaires and corporations, who invest in conservative outlets, think tanks, and law firms to advance their interests. We rely on forward-thinking readers like you. Please help us fight the good fight.
Everything’s so expensive!
The number one issue in poll after poll, there are few people not troubled in some way by the ongoing rise in the price of consumer goods, home rentals, and food.
The traditional Thanksgiving dinner, a popular barometer for inflation, is 25% more expensive this year than it was in 2019. That number doesn’t lie, even if it’s an imprecise, surface-level mathematical gauge.
On the bright side, thanks to the sinking cost of turkey, that dinner clocks in at an average 4.5% less expensive than last year’s feast, a modest relief that reflects the broader slowdown in inflation. Last month, the core Consumer Price Index experienced the lowest increase since fall of 2021, while the price of energy fell by 2.5%.
Still, it’s undeniable that many prices have skyrocketed and people have been hurting from the impact on their wallets. It’s worth pointing out that the pain has been compounded greatly by the end of the expanded Child Tax Credit and subsidies for things like childcare, which Republicans refuse to extend, but the real villains here are the corporate monopolies, trade associations, and activist investors who operate like pirates.
For all the talk of supply chains or federal spending, corporate profits have accounted for a vast majority of the rise in prices. In the food industry, giants like General Mills and Tyson have touted their record profits and noted their strategy of “getting smart on pricing,” and just yesterday, a jury found the nation’s top egg producers guilty of colluding to inflate prices.
Last year, corporations spent $922.7 billion on stock buybacks and $564.6 billion on dividends for investors, both of which were records. They focused on their stock prices to the exclusion of wellbeing of American families, an approach that they continue to pursue. Right now, they’re spending millions to stop the Biden administration’s executive orders eliminating junk fees, those opaque extra charges that turn a $500 flight into a $600 flight.
The 2024 Elections
Winning power may not be as easy as some conservative anticipate.
It’s true that the US Senate map is unfriendly to Democrats in 2024 and could prove to be downright disastrous in a year with terrible turnout, but for purely partisan Democrats, there are plenty of positive signs going into next year, too.
First, Democrats have been feasting in special elections all year, vastly outperforming Biden’s numbers in almost every district they’ve run in while winning 24 of 34 contests. All told, they’re running an average of six points ahead of Biden. Victories in formerly red districts have brought New Hampshire Democrats within one seat of flipping in the State House.
This year’s regularly scheduled elections were big for Democrats, too. Despite massive GOP spending and what was supposed to be significant momentum, Democrats flipped the Virginia House of Delegates back to blue and continue to turn out in huge numbers for ballot referenda.
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Congressional maps are likely to look a lot different in many places next year, as well. Even before politics enter the picture, here’s what that looks like:
The Supreme Court ordered Alabama to draw a new Black-majority district.
Louisiana Republicans have a firm deadline to do the same.
New York’s high court seems likely to call for new maps that aren’t so GOP-friendly
Wisconsin’s newly liberal Supreme Court just took up a case that will likely see it finally end the Republicans’ farcical gerrymander.
Georgia Republicans have been ordered to draw fairer maps, as well.
North Carolina Republicans are essentially guaranteed to pick up four seats in Congress through their new gerrymander, though with more than a dozen Biden-voting districts represented will be up for grabs next year.
It’s also worth pointing out that conservatives’ attempts to seize power at the local level through bigoted school board takeovers was a complete and utter failure.
After several years of actions and campaigns at high-profile corporations, this was the year that labor unions and battles over workers’ rights finally made a definitive return to the mainstream public consciousness.
Whereas in 2021 and 2022, the biggest news involved grassroots organizing campaigns at Starbucks, Amazon, and other smaller companies, this year’s labor storylines came from massive, iconic unions with more universally recognized names. The UAW, Teamsters, and Hollywood unions leveraged the fact that their collective decisions had major direct implications for both their employer’s bottom line and the public at large.
Shawn Fain and Sean O’Brien, the fiery new reformer presidents of the UAW and Teamsters, respectively, used both the media and direct communications with members to ramp up public pressure during tense negotiations. The companies didn’t like it, but they weren’t willing to do the same thing.
🚛 The Teamsters won a huge new contract from UPS days before hitting the picket line in what would have been the largest single-employer strike in US history.
The terms are here. Highlights include:
An end to forced overtime,
Elimination of the two-tier classification worker classification system that kept full-time workers trapped with lower wages
A top average driver pay rate of $49/hour,
An immediate raise to $21/hour minimum for part-timers, reaching $25 in a few years.
🚗 The UAW spent six weeks on a unique “stand up” strike that staggered walkouts and kept the pressure on the Big Three automakers. Fain played Ford, GM, and Stellantis off one another and roused the public with populist trash talk, and the UAW ultimately won what is largely regarded as a contract far beyond Wall Street’s expectations.
The terms are here. Highlights include:
Elimination of the same two-tier system that the Teamsters banished with UPS.
A 25% increase in base wage over the course of the contract’s four and a half year deal, including an immediate 11% raise. The union’s lowest-paid worker will receive an up to 150% raise.
Extension of the new contract to many electric vehicle and battery factories.
🎬 Writers and actors together spent half of the year on strike as their unions, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA respectively, took a hardline stance that surprised Hollywood studios. Like the UAW and Teamsters, these unions — which are overwhelmingly made up of workaday middle and working-class members — had to make up for the flaws in their last contracts.
The entertainment industry has been transformed by streaming and will again be changed by AI, which made contracts that anticipated future shifts critical.Both unions were largely successful in securing them.
New residuals for content both made for streaming and content that gets licensed by one or more streaming network.
Deep limits on the use of AI in the creative process, with consent required from actors for manipulation or use of their likeness.
Higher base wages.
All told, between these and other wins such as the impressive new contracts that hospitality workers in Las Vegas scored this month, nearly one million unionized American workers scored double digit raises this year. Critically, these contracts also set industry standards that have already made a big difference for non-union workers.
Delivery drivers for FedEx and Amazon have started to organize after seeing the giant gains that the Teamsters pried out of UPS. An old glitch in federal labor law means that it’s difficult for FedEx workers to unionize, but the Teamsters’ effort to organize Amazon drivers and warehouse workers has spread to facilities across the country over the past few months and continues to grow — expect a fair number of walkouts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The NLRB’s new Joint Employer rule ought to make it easier to get elections for Amazon drivers on the books, which would be the start of a monumental shift in how America’s most exploitative behemoth does business.
Meanwhile, the UAW’s deal with the Big Three has not only spurred new organizing at non-union automakers, it’s scared those companies into preemptively giving their employees raises. Volkswagen and Honda are upping pay by 11%, Nissan is giving 10% raises, and Hyundai is ratcheting pay all the way up to 25%.
Trump is still nuts and so are the DC swamp things backing him
I do not recommend spending all that much time defending Joe Biden at the moment. The 81-year-old president has never been more unpopular, he’s lost a lot of trust among Democratic voters these last few months, and if you really want to defend him on policy grounds, you’ll be doing so implicitly when explaining the truth behind inflation, new government support for labor organizing, and other topics.
It would be a far more productive use of time to remind people that Donald Trump is a truly and uniquely malignant force who is now openly talking like a Nazi and promising to govern like one, too.
Trump’s violent and despotic rhetoric sometimes gets dismissed because the media decided to treat him as he talks so goddamn much and so little of it seems like anything more than sundowning bloviation. This fall, though, his rhetoric, in between all the complaints and insults and dips into senility, has gotten more violent and explicitly fascistic than ever, echoing the language of Mussolini and Hitler to the point of being impossible to ignore.
Part of the new seriousness around Trump’s rhetoric is driven by the fact that it reflects what was published in a guidebook for a far-right autocratic takeover that was prepared and circulated by a massive consortium of well-financed, far-right, utterly unhinged “non-profits” led by the Heritage Foundation.
Among the plans outlined in Project 2025 include:
Instituting conservative policies that inject Christianity into every aspect of public life. This entails everything from labor laws to defense to “maintaining a biblically based, social science–reinforced definition of marriage and family.”
Eliminating the federal Department of Education.
Gutting federal agencies of career staffers and replacing them with political appointees.
Ending any support for public broadcasting.
Dramatically reducing the power of the EPA
The guidebook touches on every aspect of the federal government, and for a document produced by self-appointed policy wonks, it’s all dreadfully rote and unimaginative stuff. They want to lay waste to democracy, end civil rights protections, and subject everyone to their Paleolithic whims.
“Democrats are too progressive”
If anyone seriously says this to you, ask them which super-progressive policy Biden has solved and whether it’s safe for them to drive while under such confusion.
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