Friday, May 3, 2024

Labor Line

April 2024___________________________________ 

Labor line has job news and commentary with a one stop short cut for America’s job markets and job related data including the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

 This month's job and employment summary data are below. This month's inflation data is below

 The Establishment Job Report and Establishment Job Details for data released April 5, 2024. American Job Market The Chronicle 

 Current Job and Employment Data 


Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 303,000 to 158,133,000

Total Private Jobs up 232,000 to 134,863,000

Total Government Employment up 71,000 to 23,270,000 Note 

Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 173,000 to 267,884,000

Civilian Labor Force up 469,000 to 167,895,000

Employed up 498,000 to 161,466,000

Employed Men up 407,000 to 85,400,000

Employed Women up 1,000 to 75,976,000

Unemployed down 29,000 to 6,429,000

Not in the Labor Force down 296,000 to 99,989,000

Unemployment Rate went down .1% to 3.8% or 6,429/167,895

Labor Force Participation Rate went up .2% to 62.7%, or 167,895/267,884

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was up by a monthly average of 8.0 percent for 2022. 

The CPI report for April the 12 months ending with March shows the 

CPI for All Items was up 3.5% 

CPI for Food and Beverages was up 2.2% 

CPI for Housing was up 4.7% 

CPI for Apparel was up .4% 

CPI for Transportation including gasoline was up 4.0% 

CPI for Medical Care was up 2.2% 

CPI for Recreation was up 1.8% 

CPI for Education was up 2.4% 

CPI for Communication was down 1.2% 

This Month’s Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its April report for jobs in March. The civilian labor force jumped 469 thousand because 269 thousand reentered the labor force and normal population growth. The 469 thousand, plus a small decline of 29 thousand in the unemployed, increased the employed by 498 thousand; men totaled 497 thousand of the increase. The small decrease of the unemployed combined with the increase in the employed combined to decrease the unemployment rate by .1 percent to 3.8 percent.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment employment was up 303 thousand for March. The increase was 190 thousand more jobs in the private service sector combined with a(an) 42 thousand increase in jobs from goods production. The total of 232 thousand jobs gained in the private sector combined with a(n) increase of 71 thousand government service jobs accounts for the total increase.

Goods production had a net increase of 42 thousand jobs. Natural resources were up 3 thousand to 645 thousand; construction was up 39 thousand jobs with job increases in all sub sectors; specialty trade contractors added 25.2 thousand jobs, heavy and civil engineering construction and construction to buildings also added jobs. Manufacturing jobs for durable goods manufacturing were up 4 thousand but non-durable goods jobs, down 4 thousand for no change in manufacturing. Transportation equipment manufacturing was up 11.4 thousand jobs offset by other durable goods job losses. Nondurable goods did poorly with chemical manufacturing adding 4 thousand jobs offset with job losses in other sub sectors.

Government service employment increased 71 thousand jobs, more than the last two months. The federal government added 9 thousand jobs as it did last month, state government 13 thousand; local government 49 thousand new jobs. State and local jobs excluding education increased 33.9 thousand with 30.8 thousand of the jobs in local government. State government jobs in education were up 10.1 thousand while local government education jobs were up 17.9 thousand jobs. Education jobs in the private sector were up by 6.1 thousand jobs, which brings the education total to a gain of 34.1 thousand jobs.

Health care took first place for private service sector job gains again this month with 81 thousand new jobs, a little less than last month. All four of the health care subsectors had more jobs as has been true in recent months. Ambulatory care added 27.5 thousand jobs; hospitals added 27.1 thousand jobs; nursing and residential care added 17.7 thousand new jobs. Social assistance services had 9.0 thousand new jobs with individual and family services adding 9.2 thousand jobs offset by community service job losses. The growth rate for health care this month, down slightly from last month, came to 4.41 percent, well above the average of 2.03 percent per month of the last 15 years.

Professional and business services added 7 thousand jobs, another month for a small increases. The professional and technical services subsector added 8.5 thousand more jobs, less than last month. Management of companies dropped 4.7 thousand jobs offset with 3.7 thousand new jobs in administrative and support services including waste management.

Among professional and technical services, management, scientific and technical consulting services added another 5.1 thousand jobs; computing systems design and related services added a modest 4.1 thousand jobs. Legal services, architecture, engineering and related services and specialty design services all lost jobs. Among administrative and support services, services to buildings added 6.7 thousand jobs but no other administrative subsectors did well, and most lost jobs.

Leisure and hospitality had a net of 49 thousand more jobs, down from last month. Arts, entertainment and recreation added 17.5 thousand jobs and 9.6 thousand of those jobs in amusements, gambling and recreation. Accommodations and restaurants had a modest showing adding 31.5 thousand jobs, although 28.3 thousand at restaurants. Leisure and hospitality now have 16.905 million jobs, that leaves it only 10 thousand jobs less than its maximum employment which came in the pandemic month of February 2020.

Trade, transportation and utilities had an increase of 27 thousand jobs, a second month of job gains. Wholesale and retail trade added 26.1 thousand new jobs, and again mostly in department stores and warehouse clubs. Transportation jobs had a net of 1.2 thousand new jobs with 5.1 thousand in trucking offset with a loss of 5.5 thousand jobs in warehousing and storage.

Information services had no change in jobs but 4.5 thousand more publishing jobs offset by job losses in motion picture production and broadcasting. Financial Activities had a net gain of 3 thousand jobs with little change in the finance and insurance sub sectors combined with 4.7 thousand new jobs in real estate, the only finance sub sector to do well. The category, other, had a gain of 16 thousand jobs with all three subsectors adding jobs; personal and laundry services up 4.7 thousand jobs; repair and maintenance added 4.2 thousand jobs; and non-profit membership associations 7.8 thousand jobs.

The economy added 303 thousand jobs for March, continuing the monthly increases with a total establishment employment in March 2024 of 158.133 million and an annual growth rate of 2.3 percent, anything about 2 percent is good. The health care sector continues to be the major contributor to job growth. Over the last twelve months the economy has added 2.927 million jobs with 61 percent of those jobs in health care, education, and leisure-hospitality. This month’s job total is 2.927 million above March a year ago and 8.027 million jobs above March two years ago.


March Details 

Non Farm Total +303

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from February by 303 thousand jobs for a(n) March total of 158.133 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 303 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of +2.30% The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning March 2023 was +1.89%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning March 2019 was +1.02%; from 15 years ago beginning March 2009 it was +1.18%. America needs growth around 1.5 percent a year to keep itself employed.


Sector breakdown for 12 Sectors in 000’s of jobs 

1. Natural Resources +3

Natural Resources jobs including logging and mining were up 3 thousand from February with 645 thousand jobs in March. An increase of 3 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of 5.61 percent.  Natural resource jobs are up 10 thousand for the 12 months just ended. Jobs in 2000 averaged around 600 thousand with little prospect for growth.  This is the smallest of 12 major sectors of the economy with .4 percent of establishment jobs.

2. Construction +39

Construction jobs were up 39 thousand from February with 8.211 million jobs in March. An increase of 39 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +5.73 percent.  Construction jobs are up 270 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is 1.98%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 5.2 percent of non-farm employment.

3. Manufacturing +0

Manufacturing jobs stayed the same from February with 12.956 million jobs in March. A change of 0 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of 0.0 percent.  Manufacturing jobs were up for the last 12 months by 24 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +.20%; for the last 15 years by +.40%. Manufacturing ranks 6th among 12 major sectors in the economy with 8.2 percent of establishment jobs.

4. Trade, Transportation & Utility +27

Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment were up 27 thousand jobs from February with 28.947 million jobs in March. An increase of 27 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of 1.12 percent. Jobs are up by 128 thousand for last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +.44 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 18.3 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services +0

Information Services jobs stayed the same from February with 3.017 million jobs in March.  An increase of 0 thousand in jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +0.0 percent. (Note 2 below)  Jobs are down by 37 thousand for the last 12 months. Information jobs reached 3.7 million at the end of 2000, but started dropping, reaching 3 million by 2004 and has slowly come back to 3.0 million in the last decade. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 1.9 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +3

Financial Activities jobs were up 3 thousand from February at 9.226 million in March. An increase of 3 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of
+.39 percent. Jobs are up 76 thousand for the last 12 months.  (Note 3 below) This sector also includes real estate as well as real estate lending. The long term growth rates are now at a 5 year growth rate of +1.16 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +1.02 percent. Financial activities rank 8th of 12 with 5.9 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business and Professional Services +7

Business and Professional Service jobs went up 7 thousand from February to 22.954 million in March. An increase of 7 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.37 percent. Jobs are up 157 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was +1.63 percent. It ranks as 2nd among the 12 sectors now. It was 2nd in 1993, when manufacturing was bigger and second rank now with 14.5 percent of establishment employment. 

8. Education including public and private +34

Education jobs went up 34 thousand jobs from February at 14.611 million in March. An increase of 34 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.81 percent. These include public and private education. Jobs are up 337 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals +.51 percent. Education ranks 5th among 12 sectors with 9.2 percent of establishment jobs

9. Health Care +81

Health care jobs were up 81 thousand from February to 22.228 million in March. An increase of 81 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +4.41 percent. Jobs are up 992 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 6)  The health care long term 15 year growth rate has been +2.03 percent lately compared to +4.41 percent for this month’s jobs. Health care ranks 3rd of 12 with 14.0 percent of establishment jobs.

10. Leisure and hospitality +98

Leisure and hospitality jobs were up 58 thousand from February to 16.905 million in March.  (note 7) An increase of 58 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +3.49 percent. Jobs are up 458 thousand for the last 12 months. More than 80 percent of leisure and hospitality are accommodations and restaurants assuring that most of the new jobs are in restaurants. Leisure and hospitality ranks 4th of 12 with 10.7 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up to 7th from 4th in the pandemic decline.

11. Other +16

Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went up 16 thousand from February to 5.901 million in March. An increase of 16 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of 3.26 percent. Jobs are up 106 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +.61 percent growth for the last 15 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 3.7 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education +43

Government service employment went up 43 thousand from February at 12.531 million jobs in March. An increase of 43 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +4.12 percent. Jobs are up 406 thousand for the last 12 months.  (note 9) Government jobs excluding education tend to increase slowly with a 15 year growth rate of +.23 percent. Government, excluding education, ranks 7th of 12 with 7.9 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.


Sector Notes__________________________

(1) The total cited above is non-farm establishment employment that counts jobs and not people. If one person has two jobs then two jobs are counted. It excludes agricultural employment and the self employed. Out of a total of people employed agricultural employment typically has about 1.5 percent, the self employed about 6.8 percent, the rest make up wage and salary employment. Jobs and people employed are close to the same, but not identical numbers because jobs are not the same as people employed: some hold two jobs. Remember all these totals are jobs. back

(2) Information Services is part of the new North American Industry Classification System(NAICS). It includes firms or establishments in publishing, motion picture & sound recording, broadcasting, Internet publishing and broadcasting, telecommunications, ISPs, web search portals, data processing, libraries, archives and a few others.back

(3) Financial Activities includes deposit and non-deposit credit firms, most of which are still known as banks, savings and loan and credit unions, but also real estate firms and general and commercial rental and leasing.back

(4) Business and Professional services includes the professional areas such as legal services, architecture, engineering, computing, advertising and supporting services including office services, facilities support, services to buildings, security services, employment agencies and so on.back

(5) Education includes private and public education. Therefore education job totals include public schools and colleges as well as private schools and colleges. back

(6) Health care includes ambulatory care, private hospitals, nursing and residential care, and social services including child care. back

(7) Leisure and hospitality has establishment with arts, entertainment and recreation which has performing arts, spectator sports, gambling, fitness centers and others, which are the leisure part. The hospitality part has accommodations, motels, hotels, RV parks, and full service and fast food restaurants. back

(8) Other is a smorgasbord of repair and maintenance services, especially car repair, personal services and non-profit services of organizations like foundations, social advocacy and civic groups, and business, professional, labor unions, political groups and political parties. back

(9) Government job totals include federal, state, and local government administrative work but without education jobs. back



Jobs are not the same as employment because jobs are counted once but one person could have two jobs adding one to employment but two to jobs. Also the employment numbers include agricultural workers, the self employed, unpaid family workers, household workers and those on unpaid leave. Jobs are establishment jobs and non-other. back


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

On the shortage of Labor, Especially Children

On April 1, 2024 Washington Post reporter Lauren Gurley wrote yet another story of politicians promoting child labor: “America is divided over major efforts to rewrite child labor laws.” The Post has previously published stories on child labor such as February 11, March 8, April 23, and April 30, 2023.

Corporate America’s relentless effort to exploit children goes back many decades. Congress passed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act back in 1916, an age when the courts would not do anything to impede corporate America in their eternal quest for cheap labor. Child welfare reformers tried to use the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the transportation of products through interstate commerce for products produced with child labor.

Use of the commerce clause was a legal strategy intended to satisfy the judicial review they were certain would come. In previous cases the Supreme Court repeatedly ruled that the commerce clause of the constitution provided Congress with the necessary power to regulate interstate commerce. Even though the court previously upheld a ban on the interstate transportation of adulterated drugs, and another banning the interstate sale of lottery tickets, and still another banning the interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes, the justices searched for previously unheard of excuses to undo child labor legislation.

In the Supreme Court case known as Hammer v. Dagenhart the court wrote that the interstate transportation of adulterated drugs, lottery tickets, and prostitutes created “harmful results” but the new law that restricted children under 14 from working more than 8 hours a day, or more than 6 days a week, or before 6 a.m. or after 7 p.m. in textile mills did not create “harmful results” and was therefore beyond the power of Congress to regulate. In the wrap up to their long and convoluted written opinion of June 3, 1918 the justices declared the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act “repugnant” to the constitution.

The Post’s April 1 review reported a long list of child labor law violations with under age teens working long hours doing hazardous work that state and federal labor law prohibits for minors. Not to worry, just change the law as did Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. She signed a new law that allows minors in that state to work in industrial laundries, light manufacturing, demolition, roofing and excavation. Ms. Gurley also mentions the Florida-based lobbying group, the Foundation for Government Accountability, that fights to restrict access to anti-poverty programs as well as drafting legislation to end child labor protections. This groups fits perfectly into Florida where Governor DeSantis signed a new law that allows 16 and 17 year olds to work seven days in a row and removes all hours restrictions for teens in online school or home school, effectively permitting them to work overnight shifts.

Current Population Survey data proves a plentiful supply of labor. The Bureau of the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics report the civilian population since 1990 was up every year with an annual growth rate of 1.05 percent. A growing population allows an increase in the supply of labor, but the actual increase depends on the numbers who enter the labor force. In 2023, an adult civilian population of 266.9 million people supplied 167.1 million adults to the labor force, leaving 99.8 million adults not in the labor force (NLF); adults not children. Those not in the labor force can change their mind and enter the labor force to look for work and become part of the labor supply.

In the ten years from 2013 leading through 2023 the adult civilian population increased at .83 percent a year while the labor force increased at a rate of only .73 percent. In the same period the labor force increased at .73 percent the adults not in the labor increased at 1.01 percent.

In a labor shortage we would expect the opposite. In a shortage, the labor force grows faster than population as employers lure some of those 99.8 million adults back into the labor force by offering higher wages and maybe a few benefits as well. We can all conclude that wages and working conditions are substandard and do not generate enough people able or willing to return to the labor force. The United States does not have a shortage of labor; shortages are a myth offered by the cheapskates of corporate America, always trolling for people they can coerce to work for lower wages, including undocumented immigrants and underage children.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Freedom's Dominion - A Review

 Jefferson Cowie, Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power, (NY: Basic Books, 2022), 416 pages

Freedom means different things to different people, a matter Professor Cowie explores in his latest work of history. Our Constitution defines a government that wants us to obey the rules and accept the restrictions on freedom that democracy creates, but it does not define freedom. Freedom’s Dominion explores how some Americans have exploited the term freedom to justify their social and political views. 

Cowie’s introductory discussion applies freedom as it continues to be used and distorted in the American south to justify their racial views and their efforts to maintain an authoritarian social hierarchy. The introduction establishes the theme for the four episodes of southern history with the emphasis on how they played out in the town of Eufaula, Alabama. The first period follows five years after 1832 when the federal government signed the Treaty of Cusseta with the Creek Indians. The second period covers the years of reconstruction after the civil war while the third period covers the south after reconstruction ends, and the federal government withdrawals from the south. This third section continues into the 1950’s, but ends with the rise and career of George Wallace and the civil rights protests, the subject of section four.

Down in Alabama in 1832 southern whites would not accept the terms of the Treaty of Cusseta, which awarded the Creek Indians land in Alabama for a reservation. Southern whites invaded the reservation lands and settled them as their own. When the Federal Government attempted to fulfill their obligations and protect Indian land, southern whites decided an oppressive federal government denied them their freedom as they defined it.

In all four episodes southern whites declare states rights as justification for doing as they please and overrule federal government attempts to apply equal treatment before the law written into the U.S. Constitution. The white south came close to exterminating the Creek Indians, which the federal government resisted, but without matching southern violence with enough might to prevail. Instead, the remnants of the Creek nation were forcibly removed to Oklahoma territory.

The second episode covers reconstruction and the efforts of the federal government to protect the freed slaves from the determination of the white south to deny their rights and keep them as subordinate cheap labor. Again, the south claims freedom allows them to do as they please while the federal government has to resort to military occupation and be constantly ready to match southern violence in the name of constitutional government.  This second episode wears down the resistance of the north and sets the stage for the third episode and the failure of the federal government to protect the black community from 1877 until 1961. Chapters in this third section narrate the history of schemes to coerce and terrorize blacks into submission.

The schemes include arresting blacks on false claims to exploit them as prison labor. How to rig elections and destroy democracy is another chapter, followed by lynching blacks in the next chapter.  

On lynching, Cowie writes “Largely unexplored in the varying explanations of American lynching is something fundamental: the continuity of the underlying idea of freedom. Reframing the most heinous aspects of American violence as part of the most cherished set of principles in American life is neither obvious nor easy to accept.” Impossible to accept for most of us, but he reviews others who have puzzled over it and written books about it. In one, the author suggests lynching “arose precisely out of an ideology of the sense of what rights accrued to someone possessing democratic freedom.” Cowie reviews others writing on lynching: Ida B. Wells, Jacquelyn, Dowd Hall, and describes the tepid efforts of Presidents that worried too much about votes to take a principled stand.

Part III continues into the great depression and the New Deal that finds southern whites working in the textile mills for a pittance while blacks remain impoverished as tenant farmers. White supremacy reigns but only the white elite have political and economic power, which they use to assure political dominance and cheap labor. WWII finds racial discrimination in war productions jobs and a weak response by the Roosevelt administration to bring equal rights for blacks.

The book’s fourth part covers the rise of George Wallace as a resident of Eufaula, a state legislator, state judge, governor of Alabama and presidential candidate. Readers get a sense for Wallace from some of his aphorisms: “Moderation [is] political suicide,” [Voters]’d rather be against something than for something.” And “[A] certain amount of pain must be expected and tolerated; opponents must be dispatched without mercy; and fighters must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to win.”

Winning for Wallace meant appealing to the racial bigotry of southern whites, slightly disguised as freedom from “oppressive” federal government efforts to guarantee the civil and political rights in the U.S. Constitution. Cowie tracts the political career of George Wallace narrating his opposition to voting rights, civil rights, racial equality, integrated schools, and his campaigns platforms for the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections.

A twelve-page conclusion ends the book, where the last paragraph calls for a commitment for the federal government to defend civil and political rights at the local, state and federal levels. Good history has a theme to go with the narrative and Cowie does this extremely well in Freedom’s Dominion. He comes back to freedom as practiced in the south from 1832 to the present. Since neither blacks nor anyone else give up civil rights through deception, southern politics requires violence, or the threat of violence, for whites to sustain their prerogatives. All four eras define freedom that includes white violence used in defiance of a consistently timid federal government.

The book is well organized, reads easily and provides useable documentation to pursue selected topics. It connects directly to current Republicans that define freedom and patriotism as it suits their authoritarian aims. Those who believe in equality and freedom may react with incredulous disbelief at the southern notions of freedom, but unfortunately it qualifies as current events.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Debt Ceiling Hoax


The Debt Ceiling Hoax

The Federal government has the sovereign power for the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank to control the money supply and so it can always pay its bills without borrowing from the public. Federal debt has no characteristics of what people think of as debt. For starters it will never be paid off and it would be extremely destructive to do so. The amount of this so-called debt is irrelevant except for managing the economy. It is the duty of the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank to have the right amount of money in the economy to generate the production and income that maintains full employment. Increasing the money supply to pay a federal budget deficit can generate inflation and so the government will borrow from the public to reduce their spending power to control spending and prevent inflation. The accumulated debt is nothing but the legacy of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve attempting to manage the economy. Since the federal government has the sovereign power to create money, a debt ceiling is a complete hoax. Total up the billions and billions of federal debt generated during the Bush and Trump administrations and you will understand their politics.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Wilmington's Lie - A Review


David Zucchino, Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, (NY: Grove Atlantic Press, 2020)

In Wilmington’s Lie readers get a historical account of race relations and the overthrow of Democracy by white supremacists in 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina. Zucchino has a brief prologue introducing the violent day of November 10, 1898 and a brief epilogue at the end of a 352 page narrative divided into three chronological parts. Part I has 62 pages in eight chapters that narrate Wilmington from the end of the Civil War to March 1898. Part II has 120 pages and 17 chapters that narrates the period from March 1898, until election day November 8, 1898. Part III has 163 pages in 12 chapters that returns to the post-election day of November 10, 1898, and onward into a narrative account of the violent aftermath of election day and the end of voting for black people in the south.

Part I gives a view of Wilmington life when former slaves had jobs and some freedom, liberty and civil rights as a legacy of reconstruction. Readers meet some of the white and black people that will be part of the narrative in Part II and III. These are especially Alfred Moore Waddell, known as Colonel Waddell, a white supremacist, Josephus Daniels, a white supremacist newspaper owner-publisher and later a cabinet member for President Woodrow Wilson, and Alexander Lightfoot Manly, a black journalist.

Part II moves along covering key events in the campaign to overthrow democracy and end black voting in Wilmington. Readers learn the depression of 1893 left rural whites so impoverished they voted with the freed slaves and progressive whites to elect Republican candidates and defeat the white Supremacist democratic party in some local and state offices like Wilmington. Blacks outnumber whites in Wilmington: 11,324 black, 8,731 white.

To the white supremacist’s black participation was “negro domination” that could not be tolerated. These Part II chapters gives dates and details of events in the campaign to suppress black voting in the months leading up to the November 8, 1898 election. It gives details of organizing white racist men into a para-military force of Red Shirts.

On August 18, 1898 multiple North Carolina newspapers published remarks of Rebecca Latimer Felton who demanded “The black fiend who lays unholy and lustful hands on a white woman in the state of Georgia shall surely die!” She wanted black man seen with a white women to be lynched. Alexander Manly published a reply to Felton in his newspaper the Daily Record. His reply included “Tell your men that it is no worse for a black man to be intimate with a white woman, than for a white man to be intimate with a colored woman.” Manly’s reply turned into an excuse to rally white supremacists.

On October 24, 1898 Colonel Waddell spoke at Thalian Hall in Wilmington, N.C. where he claimed whites endured “intolerable conditions” imposed on whites by the “ragged rabble of negroes.” . . .  “We are resolved to change them, if we have to choke the current of the Cape Fear with carcasses.” These two episodes illustrate a small part of the campaign of various white men and their varied plots to promote fear through speeches and newspaper stories that included false claims that blacks were planning a violent uprising with intention to kill whites.

Zucchino includes efforts by blacks and some white Republicans to contact President McKinley and North Carolina governor Daniel Russell to intervene, but to no avail. The white supremacy campaign succeeded. Few blacks were able to vote and the white supremacist Democrats were swept into office.

Part II ends with the November 8 election and Part III narrates the violent aftermath. Prevailing in the elections did not remove all blacks from elected office or appointed jobs, or put them in their place. Stealing the election without outside opposition only emboldened the white supremacists to further violence against blacks. Beginning November 10, a white mob of Red Shirts encouraged by Colonel Waddell burned the Manly newspaper offices. From that Red Shirts invaded black neighborhoods shooting and killing black men hopelessly outgunned. Zucchino takes three chapters and 39 pages narrating the day’s violence and slaughter of blacks.

After the killing stopped armed white supremacist groups patrolled the streets while people like Colonel Waddell removed the elected government, some white and some black, and targeted other blacks and whites to banish from Wilmington under threat of death. The Red Shirts roamed about and much of the terrified black community fled to the surrounding forests and swamps. Zucchino narrates the stories of these events and the narrow escape of Manly and others.

The white ministers and others celebrated the return of white supremacist rule. Five days after the killings Josephus Daniels staged a celebration attended by thousands he titled a “Victory, White Supremacy and Good Government Jubilee” at Raleigh. Visitors arrived on reduced fare trains greeted with flaming tar barrels and bonfires. Fireworks lit up darkening skies on a crisp autumn evening. “Every man had a torchlight which gleamed and blinked like the eye of some mighty cyclops,” Daniels newspaper reported.

Zucchino goes on to explain the timid and failed effort of President McKinley and his administration and Governor Daniel Russell to make any response to the killings and end of Democracy and to explain the long term method to end black voting for seventy years. The U.S. Constitution demands the federal government guarantee a Republican form of government in the states. Instead it would be Jim Crow, the poll tax and the literacy test where the white supremacists devised a crude method to have illiterate whites vote by allowing a literacy test exception for those who had parents or grandparents that voted before 1867.

Zucchino writes a thirty-three page epilogue that allows comparing the present attitudes and voter ID laws in the context of the past, and recounts events from a hundred anniversary observance in 1998. In 2000 the North Carolina legislature sponsored a state commission to investigate the cause and effect of the 1898 coup that is available on the Internet. The report concluded the coup was a documented conspiracy. There was also student protest in 2015 at the University of North Carolina objecting to buildings named after white supremacists. All of the principal figures are dead by 2020 but Zucchino ended the book reviewing some post-coup d'état history and interviewing some remaining family members, especially of Josephus Daniels and Alex Manly, in an apparent search for regret, but regret implies change of heart which never comes easily.

The Book Wilmington’s Lie starts with a good title. It happens often that people of influence with the opportunity to do the right thing, who then choose the wrong thing, want to cover it up with excuses and delete it from history as happened with Wilmington. It took a hundred years before an accounting and Wilmington’s Lie should be considered a thorough and orderly accounting of it, although not the only one, it is the latest one.

The book reads easily in well organized short chapters that maintain a readable narrative style. The writing avoids academic excess. Chapter titles often identify an event or subject in the chapter to come. Zucchino avoids moralizing and leaves the reader to judge the evidence, which he documents carefully. The book includes a lengthy bibliography.

As the story moves along I would say the narrative has embedded in it the chronology of steps needed for a coup d'état. A coup d'état requires one or a few completely unscrupulous authoritarian leaders-demagogues to unify a group by embellishing their grievances, perverting the facts, and encouraging their hatred toward a definable target. Targets are usually racial minorities although it could be elite’s, religious groups, immigrants and others. Democracy needs persuasion and a majority, but a coup d’etat needs the unifying power of hatred and it needs violence and assassination to generate fear in the majority. A coup d’etat brings minority rule where fear subdues the majority into passive acceptance. Just talking and speeches do not succeed in that the victims can not be easily deceived with the lies and misconduct going on around them. Patience will be necessary because it takes time to convince authoritarian followers they can murder their hated targets without consequence, and for the majority to convince themselves to do nothing about it. It is worth noting that Wilmington and the atrocities there preceded Adolf Hitler and deserve comparison to Trump. The book received recognition with a Pulitzer Prize, which it deserved, but even so it is a sobering account for a country claiming to be a democracy.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Kill Switch - A Review


Adam Jentleson, Kill Switch: the Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, (NY: Liveright Publishing Corp, 2021) 254 pages

In his new book, Kill Switch, Adam Jentleson writes a history of the filibuster as it evolved and continues to evolve for use by a Senate minority to stall and defeat a majority. Jentleson worked as a staff member for Senator Harry Reid from 2010 until Reid retired in 2017. The book has nine chapters between an introduction and conclusion. Part I, the Rise of the Filibuster, has four chapters with the history of filibustering from its early 19th century use until 1964. Part II, Tyranny of the Minority, has five chapters explaining the use and abuse of the filibuster between 1964 and the present.

The rules that govern Senate operation have varied over the years, but Jentleson documents the filibuster rules and how their use has damaged democracy and majority rule from one era to another.  The Part I chapters begin with a selection of quotations from the Federalist Papers to develop the arguments of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and others from the 1787 Philadelphia convention. Their arguments supported majority rule by elected representatives; there was no filibuster in 1787. Readers learn how a “previous question” rule in the initial Senate rules worked to end debate and proceed to a vote.

Next we meet Senator John C. Calhoun and his idea that Senators are entitled to hold the floor for unlimited debate. Jentleson devotes more than twenty pages for discussing the 19th century Senate contest over majority rule between Senator Calhoun and his allies and Senator Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and their more numerous allies. Their inconclusive contest continued into the 20th Century when readers meet Rule 22 and its 1913 origins in the Wilson administration.

Rule 22 allows senators to call for a vote to end a filibuster; a vote they defined as “Cloture.” While the previous question rule wrapped up debate Rule 22 required a vote by a 2/3’s super majority to end debate. The committee that devised the rule called it a tool to “terminate successful filibustering” except that it turned into a powerful method for the south to block legislation intended to provide constitutional rights to the black community. Here Jentleson develops 1922, 1937, and 1940 efforts to pass an anti-lynching bill and 1942, 1944, and 1946 efforts to end the poll tax. All were defeated by southern filibusters.

We meet Senator Richard Russell of Georgia in these contests and his determination to use the filibuster to get his minority way over civil rights. Jentleson reviews the history of failed attempts by Senator Paul Douglas, Hubert Humphrey and others to get rid of Rule 22. Discussion shifts to Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas and his successful efforts to cozy up to Russell. Johnson realizes he cannot be elected president as a southern racist and Jentleson takes his readers through the Johnson transformation to civil rights advocate. The Master of the Senate ended a southern filibuster for the first time ever and steered the 1964 Civil Rights Bill in law.

The Part II chapters explain what happens “when the filibuster was streamlined so that it could be used against any issue, by leaders wielding unprecedented top-down control.” After describing Senator Harry Reid’s successful 2013 scheme to end the filibuster for presidential nominations, which the press dubbed “going nuclear,” Jentleson identifies those in the super-minority that obstruct the Senate. They are WWAC – White, Wealthy, Anti-Choice, and Conservative. Discussion includes their connection to racial prejudice.

We meet the Tea Party of 2009 and some examples of their obstructionist tactics, which Jentleson argues resulted from using the polarizing innovations of Jesse Helms. Readers learn of Helms direct mail fundraising, filibustering methods and polarizing views. Discussion includes his help electing Ronald Reagan and his choice to attack abortion as a source of political power.

In Chapter 7, the Means of Control, Jentleson returns to Senate history with a brief narrative of Senate leadership through the years until getting to Lyndon Johnson’s innovations of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Johnson turned the Senate majority leader into a position with legislative power by doling out committee assignments, but there would be more changes after 1980.

Between 1980 and 2018 the Senate changed parties nine times, giving Republicans a chance to apply the Johnson methods for their own purposes. However, the “insecure majorities” turned the Senate into a continuous campaign of political attacks and aggressive fund raising. Harry Reid took over as Senate majority leader for the 110th Congress in 2007 and Jentleson narratives his strategies and methods in the Senate, described as the greatest consolidation of congressional power since Newt Gingrich ruled the House.”

Readers meet Mitch McConnell during this discussion - lawyer, former state judge, and Senator from Kentucky since 1985 – and learn of his flip-flopping views for and against campaign finance and the filibuster. After using the filibuster against Senator McCain’s campaign reform and losing he decided to support an end to the filibuster to prevent Democrats from blocking Republican judicial appointments. The Democrats, always playing defense, would not go along. Jentleson documents all the judges the Democrats opposed were confirmed anyway.

Harry Reid continued as Senate majority leader through the 113th Congress of 2015-2017. Jentleson narrates these years where Harry Reid struggles to get President Obama’s agenda and nominations through the Senate. These were the years of unprecedented Republican obstruction. The narrative has the details of the Harry Reid versus Mitch McConnell battle over health care, nominations including the Merrick Garland nomination and others.

These later chapters explain the new filibuster and how it empowered people like McConnell to block everything, anytime. After 1964 the filibuster lost its southern, civil rights identity after rules changes allowed the Senate to move to other business without ending a filibuster. More changes allow the Senate majority leader to set the floor schedule for the Senate by unanimous consent. The filibuster lost its name entirely as a single objector could have a bill taken off the schedule by placing “a Hold.” An email “hotline” allows any Senator to place a hold as an unaccountable and unpublicized secret.

In addition to the filibuster Jentleson fills in the obstructionist details of the Obama years. The details include McConnell’s efforts to unite the Republican establishment with the Tea Party extremists and his efforts to pacify Trump with everyone. McConnell succeeded by comes off as a competitor without a conscience. In conclusion there are a few suggestions to save the Senate. Getting rid of the filibuster heads the list, which could be done easily. He sees the filibusters as the prime cause of minority rule, although not the only one. The majority leader’s absolute power over the Senate schedule is another.

The book does a good job documenting the history and destructive effect of the filibuster. It reads easily and sources are cited in notes, allowing further reading. The political history of the Congress over the last thirty years proves the Democrats have failed miserably while defending the filibuster, a conclusion I had before reading this book. I benefited from previously reading Martin B Gold & Dimple Gupta’s 2005 piece cited in discussion: “The Constitutional Option to Change Senate Rules and Procedures: A Majoritarian Means to Overcome the Filibuster”. Even so there was lots of filibuster material new to me and I especially like having my conclusions confirmed with the documented account and evidence here.

The filibuster can only be defensive but a poor defense at that, even accepting defense as a good strategy, which I do not believe it is in 2022 if ever. The Democrats need to be deciding and defending what they think is right. While Jentleson worked for Senator Reid and clearly admires him, Reid’s nuclear option feels defensive and timid. Democrats need to move over to offense. Kill Switch will help convince you of that.












Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Labor History and the Supreme Court Abortion Ruling


Labor History and the Supreme Court Abortion Ruling

I would like to suggest a connection between labor history and the recent Supreme Court decision concerning abortion rights; this being a labor blog. Labor history has a long record of vigilante violence and authoritarian misconduct going back into the 19th century. Throughout labor history mob violence directed at strikers and picketers seldom occurred as spontaneous response to the events of a strike. Corporate interests with the economic power to assert authority took repeated steps to organize and arm vigilante forces to break strikes, and their recruits recognized their recruiters had the political power to protect them from criminal prosecution. Corporate officials acted with confidence and impunity to assert the authoritarian power of a police state while avoiding any compromise that democracy might generate.

For at least fifty years abortion opponents have demanded, without a hint of compromise, that a fertilized egg at the time of conception will be the same thing as an eight or nine month fetus about to be born. Such a view can only prevail in a police state or a country like the United States with a paralyzed Senate, a “we do as we please” majority on a Supreme Court and a Republican Party determined to corrupt free elections.

It was true in 1973 as it is true in 2022 that the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, but the Senate and the Congress, then as now, can be blocked and paralyzed by minority rule. The few who have bothered to read the Roe v. Wade opinion know that Justice Blackmun wrote a long historical discussion of the pros and cons of abortion before coming to a compromise ruling in between the extremes of fanatics. Justice Blackmun did what democracy should be able to do, and the Senate and the American Constitution cannot do: compromise. The U.S. Constitution is obsolete and desperately needs to be amended or replaced. The current episode should make clear it has defects capable of bringing down constitutional government, not just majority rule.

On January 6, 2021, Trump supplied the authority for his base to attack the capital and extensive video footage establishes they acted with confidence and impunity as a violent band of hooligans expecting to be protected by Trump as part of their devotion to his authoritarian ways. The Supreme Court intends and expects their rulings on guns and military assault weapons, such as the recent move against gun safety in New York, will be used by armed vigilantes as an aid to enforce their decision on abortion, and other decisions to come, the same as labor history records.

The Supreme Court majority in the 1857 Dred Scott decision expected to resolve the polarized politics of slavery, but all they did was debase themselves, the Court and push the country to a violent civil war. Now, another Court majority expects to end the abortion fight with an authoritarian political ruling. There is a difference though. Then Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney discussed their upcoming ruling with President James Buchanan. They were both foolish enough to believe the Supreme Court had the prestige to resolve what political compromise could not do.  

Not now. Now they have eliminated the Roe v. Wage compromise of 1973 and made the political decision to encourage and promote civil warfare as leverage to get their way. In 2022, these police state justices know exactly what they’re doing, they just don’t care.