Trump-GOP Supported Corporate Tax Cuts Don’t Produce Jobs
Interview with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Global Economy Project, conducted by Scott Harris
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to pass the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan’s $200 billion tax reduction in 1981. While the administration hasn’t yet produced a detailed proposal, analysis of the broad outlines of the plan found that their tax cuts would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans and the billionaire and millionaire members of Trump’s own Cabinet. While Trump has refused to release his federal tax returns, it’s a safe bet that he himself – as well as his luxury real estate development company would be primary beneficiaries of the tax reform plan.

In line with long-standing Republican dogma, the rationale for cutting corporate taxes is to make more capital available to companies so they can invest, create more jobs and boost the economy for all Americans. The only trouble is that the standard GOP “trickle-down” philosophy has for many years been solidly debunked by economists who have researched the real world impact of tax cuts on job creation.

While Trump and Republicans denounce the current top U.S. tax rate of 35 percent as being the highest in the world, the Government Accountability Office found that between 2008 and 2012, profitable large corporations paid on average an effective tax rate of only 14 percent, due to built-in loopholes within the federal tax code. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Global Economy Project. Here, she talks about why corporate tax cuts don’t produce more jobs, as detailed in Anderson’s recent New York Times op-ed piece. [Rush transcript]
.
SARAH ANDERSON: Many people have looked at this question of whether slashing the corporate tax rate will be good for job creation. But our research is a little different in that we looked at specific companies that have already been paying next to nothing in federal income taxes. And AT&T jumped out as really an extreme example of a company that has been avoiding paying their fair share of taxes and using the tax savings not to create jobs – but putting a lot of it into executive compensation. We looked at companies that were profitable every year, over the period 2008-2015 and yet we’re paying an effective tax rate of less than 20 percent. The official rate is 35 percent, and AT&T was actually paying only an 8 percent effective federal tax rate during that period.

What did they do with the tax savings? Instead of creating jobs, they laid off nearly 80,000 people and their CEO Randall Stevenson has made quite a fortune during this period. And what amazed me is that he is out there very vocally promoting Trump’s tax cut plan and bemoaning how burdensome the current tax code is and how much competitive it could be if only they had to pay less taxes. And, they’re already paying next to nothing in taxes. So, I think with these specific examples, it will be even more clear to people that this is just a hoax, this idea that cutting the corporate tax rate will lead to more jobs.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Sarah, what do you make of the media coverage of this very narrow part of the debate where an advocate of cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations always tell us that the United States has the highest tax rate in the entire world? Which sounds, “Oh my god, how could we be doing such a horrible thing to our corporate brothers and sisters?” So how do you think that’s generally handled by the hosts of these talk shows, particularly on cable news, where a lot of people get their information?

SARAH ANDERSON: Yeah, they usually eat it right up, so I’m really appreciative of shows like yours, where we get to dispel some of these myths. The official corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent at the federal level. But the rate is meaningless because there are so many loopholes in the tax code that most big corporations don’t pay anywhere near that. So, even though the rate might be high relative to a lot of countries, the amount of revenue that our government gets from corporate taxes is lower than the average for industrialized countries.

So that is another huge myth you’re going to hear over and over again from President Trump, from House Speaker (Paul) Ryan. It’s another mantra of the Republican party that our corporations are just being strangled by these high taxes that are so much higher than anywhere else in the world.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And Sarah, I wanted to ask you, with the discussion we see now unfolding in Washington, about tax reform and the need to create a fairer system, what are some of the proposals that you would recommend for genuine tax reform that would benefit the majority and not just the wealthiest one percent and the most profitable corporations?

SARAH ANDERSON: The focus should really be on closing up the loopholes that are currently allowing these big, profitable corporations to get away with paying so little in taxes. And this whole game around hiding profits offshore is one that would raise tremendous amounts of revenue and also even the playing field between these big multinational corporations that have the ability to hide their money in tax havens and domestic-rooted companies and small businesses that don’t have that option.

But I think we also need to look at additional ways to make sure that the wealthy and big corporations and Wall Street are paying their fair share. And the one that I decided to highlight in the New York Times op-ed is a small tax on Wall Street speculation, which, at a very, very low rate that would really just target the real high-flyers in the financial casino, the ones who are flipping stocks and making trades thousands of times a day – even a tax at very small rate on each one of those trades of derivatives and so forth, could really add up on these high-flying traders in the market, but have very little effect on ordinary folks and their pension funds or whatever investments they might have.

And that would just be one way that I think we could make our system more fair. It’s amazing to think that ordinary Americans pay their taxes every year, they pay taxes when they buy a gallon of gasoline and often if you buy basics like a new winter coat – but people who are trading millions of dollars and derivatives every minute don’t pay any kind of sales tax when they’re doing that kind of activity.

Democrats’ Progressive and Wall-Street Friendly Wings Battle Over Party’s Future

Interview with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online activist organization RootsAction.org, conducted by Scott Harris

In Hillary Clinton’s newly-published book titled, “What Happened,” she criticizes her Democratic primary opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as being an unrealistic over-promiser. She maintains that his attacks during the campaign caused “lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

Clinton’s complaints targeting progressive firebrand Sanders in her new book and in interviews, shines a spotlight on the ongoing battle within the Democratic Party. The Wall Street-friendly establishment, aligned with Clinton, is locked in a struggle with the progressive wing energized by Sanders, over the future direction of the Democratic party.

Underscoring that rift was a lawsuit filed in July 2016 against the Democratic National Committee and its former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which charged that leaked internal emails revealed how the DNC had worked to undermine Bernie Sanders and advance Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge on Aug. 25. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online organization RootsAction.org. Here, he assesses the lack of unity within the Democratic Party in this critical moment when the Trump administration is implementing regressive policies on the economy, education, labor, reproductive rights, LGBTQ and religious discrimination, environmental protection, climate change and immigration. [Rush transcript.]
.
NORMAN SOLOMON: We have really two huge challenges ahead. And one is to push back against and defeat the horrific right-wing agenda. And that is really imperative for us. And at the same time, we’ve got to advance and implement a genuinely progressive agenda. I think one of the main dynamics that we went through last year is that it is very difficult for a corporate, phony candidate who claims to be on the side of the working people to defeat a phony right-wing populist, in this case, Donald Trump. And so it was difficult for Hillary Clinton to make a convincing case that she was on the side of the – if you will – average person, because she was so clearly aligned with Wall Street. And to me, it really scrambles and refutes the idea that “Oh, you’re fighting the right-wing, so you’ve got to be taking a so-called centrist position.”

The people in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio who provided the swing votes to put this monstrous Trump presidency into the White House were really paying attention to their economic well-being. And since then, we’ve seen very grudging attention from a lot of unfortunately, the Democratic party establishment at the top, to the realities that there is a class economic war going on, and whether we want to face it or not, and I think we must – that war is being waged with more viciousness than ever from the top down.

And so, we can’t simply say as Democrats, for instance, oh, we really support the victims of inequality. That’s not enough. That’s part of what needs to be said. The other is that we are absolutely opposed to the victimizers. And we’re willing to name them. That was the great strength of the Bernie Sanders campaign. He didn’t just say, “I identify with people who are being victimized, he called out Wall Street. He called out the big banks. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was dedicated to advancing an agenda to challenge this kind of what he was willing to call “oligarchy.”

And it brings to mind Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who approximately 80 years ago, said in a Madison Square Garden speech that the rich, the wealthy, those who are greedy graspers of the corporate power of the day – he said, “They hate me, and I welcome their hatred.” And that’s quite a contrast to the sort of the unfortunately, Obama record and the Clinton record, which is in effect, “Well, they hate me sometimes, and I want them to like me.”

BETWEEN THE LINES: Norman, I wanted to ask you to comment on Hillary Clinton’s point raised in some recent interviews talking about her new book. Hillary Clinton makes the point in her new book, and in interviews, that in-fighting with the Democratic party just weakens the Democrats and provides inroads for Republicans and conservatives to keep winning elections that the Democrats have infamously been losing quite a bit of lately. What do you make of that criticism?

NORMAN SOLOMON: It reminds me of a statement made by a military tactician. I believe it was (Carl) von Clausewitz, who said, “Every conqueror is a lover of peace.” When the forces that Hillary Clinton represents have won and they have dominance, then they want peace, then they want acquiescence. But when they are challenged, when it’s unclear who’s going to prevail, they fight like hell. And so, of course, she doesn’t think there should be in-fighting when her handpicked chair of the DNC Tom Perez is in power, where she is trying to quiet and suppress the grassroots upsurge which has continued since the election with the basic politics of Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

And so naturally, she just wants us to cool our jets and go along with her program. It ain’t going to happen.

For more information, visit www.normansolomon.com and Roots Action, A Kaine Mutiny at rootsaction.org/news-a-views/1246-a-kaine-mutiny

LGBTQ Prison Support Group Black and Pink Works to Empower their Incarcerated Members

Interview with Reed Miller, technology coordinator with the LGBTQ prisoner support group Black and Pink, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Black and Pink is a grassroots nationwide organization led by formerly incarcerated LGBTQ individuals who support 14,000 LGBTQ community members currently in prison. Their website states, “Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service and organizing.” Among other work, the group publishes and sends a monthly newsletter to its incarcerated members.

The Black and Pink name refers to the colors of the queer anarchist flag, though not all members identify as anarchist. In Nazi Germany, gays and lesbians were labeled with pink and black triangles.

The group held its second national conference in Chicago Aug. 4-6, where the theme was “Celebrate, Learn, Heal and Build. The focus was on strengthening the movement towards abolition and the needs of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Reed Miller, Technology Coordinator with Black and Pink, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Reed, who attended the Chicago conference, first explains the origins of Black and Pink, which located 14,000 LGBTQ prisoners that are currently active in the group’s penpal program. [Rush transcript.]
.
REED MILLER: So, yeah, Black and Pink started about 12 years ago. Our founder, Rev. Jason Lydon, who’s a UU (Unitarian Universalist) minister, was incarcerated doing civil disobedience at the School of the Americas Watch. And as a result of his incarceration, when he got out he wanted to stay in touch with the people who supported him while he was in prison’ he was put in what the Georgia prisons called a “homo bin.” Basically, he started with friends over a dinner table and they wrote to a couple dozen penpals.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How did they find the people to write to?

REED MILLER: I guess there’s three ways our address in Boston got around. One was some penpals would say to other folks in prison, “Hey these people are writing me and if you give them your address they’ll write you too.” So it just spread, friend to friend, word of mouth like that. We’re in some guides, like prisoner resource guides, so if a person has a law library you might be able to look us up and get the address. And then primarily, we send out this monthly newspaper and most of the content is submitted by our prisoner members. So they write in handwritten letters; we have several dozen volunteers every weekend processing the literally hundreds of letters we get every week, including submissions to our newspaper, so they get typed up and included in our newspaper, which is important, I should say, also because prisoners in general aren’t allowed to write to one another, and as a result of the traumatic and abusive experiences they’re having inside prison, feel very isolated and so the newspaper is a way for people to connect across prisons. And we hear often, “Oh, I was alone until I realized this person in Pennsylvania – here I am in Texas – is experiencing similar things.” OR, “WOw, here I am in Florida and that’s similar to my situation.” For every ten letters that we get in, we get four new people who have heard of our organization, so we’re growing at an almost exponential rate, sort of limited by how many volunteers we have to process all that mail and how many funds we have to send out more and more newspapers.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Wow, that’s amazing. So, your organization just had a national meeting in Chicago. So, what was the focus of that, or what came out of it?

REED MILLER: Yeah, the focus of the meeting was, since the prison system with its over two million incarcerated and many more millions on probation or parole, has people scattered about the country. It’s an opportunity for us to get together in a centralized place to look toward our long-term goals. We are an explicitly abolitionist organization, which means that we don’t believe the prison industrial complex has the capacity to bring any sort of justice to our communities in the situation where harm is done. Of course, so much of the harm that happens in our society is rooted in the inequality driven by capitalism and the structures of power that are driven by the inequality and lack of access to resources. And that’s compounded, especially for our organization with LGBTQ folks and folks who are HIV-positive experiencing – when they’re not in prison – extreme levels of discrimination, lack of access to housing, to employment, to health care, and folks needing to resort to survival economies like trading sex or trading drugs in order to get by.

Other folks have caused other people harm and we do think that in a world where transformative justice is our means of restoring justice between people that people who cause harm to one another will have an opportunity to make amends if possible, and we don’t believe in throwing people away. We want people to remain part of our communities, and we don’t think that a person should be defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done. All of us have done bad things on some level or another and that shouldn’t define us entirely.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Does Black and Pink work with other prison abolition groups or with other LBGTQ groups to achieve your goals?

REED MILLER: Yeah, absolutely. With such a behemoth as the prison industrial complex, it’s completely necessary for us to work in coalition with other organizations. We work with LGBT groups on a national coalition that’s kind of got some mainstream folks in it and has some other more radical LGBT groups working on broad criminal justice reform as it pertains to LGBTQ folks and so that’s been an ongoing partnership for a number of years, and putting together some sort of policy proposals. Some groups might be more extreme, some groups might be more mainstream, but things that we can all get around. All of these groups we really respect the work they’re doing, because it’s really about working with individuals and building power toward our collective liberation. And it’s also important to recognize we’re not here as a charity for prisoners. We want to empower prisoners and we respect the ideas and actively try and solicit ideas from our members.

For more information on Black and Pink, visit.

ON Between the Lines | September 15, 2017 | 9:00 am

Corporate Tax Cuts, Battle for the Democratic Party, Black and Pink

Trump-GOP Supported Corporate Tax Cuts Don’t Produce Jobs
Interview with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Global Economy Project, conducted by Scott Harris
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to pass the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan’s $200 billion tax reduction in 1981. While the administration hasn’t yet produced a detailed proposal, analysis of the broad outlines of the plan found that their tax cuts would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans and the billionaire and millionaire members of Trump’s own Cabinet. While Trump has refused to release his federal tax returns, it’s a safe bet that he himself – as well as his luxury real estate development company would be primary beneficiaries of the tax reform plan.

In line with long-standing Republican dogma, the rationale for cutting corporate taxes is to make more capital available to companies so they can invest, create more jobs and boost the economy for all Americans. The only trouble is that the standard GOP “trickle-down” philosophy has for many years been solidly debunked by economists who have researched the real world impact of tax cuts on job creation.

While Trump and Republicans denounce the current top U.S. tax rate of 35 percent as being the highest in the world, the Government Accountability Office found that between 2008 and 2012, profitable large corporations paid on average an effective tax rate of only 14 percent, due to built-in loopholes within the federal tax code. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Global Economy Project. Here, she talks about why corporate tax cuts don’t produce more jobs, as detailed in Anderson’s recent New York Times op-ed piece. [Rush transcript]
.
SARAH ANDERSON: Many people have looked at this question of whether slashing the corporate tax rate will be good for job creation. But our research is a little different in that we looked at specific companies that have already been paying next to nothing in federal income taxes. And AT&T jumped out as really an extreme example of a company that has been avoiding paying their fair share of taxes and using the tax savings not to create jobs – but putting a lot of it into executive compensation. We looked at companies that were profitable every year, over the period 2008-2015 and yet we’re paying an effective tax rate of less than 20 percent. The official rate is 35 percent, and AT&T was actually paying only an 8 percent effective federal tax rate during that period.

What did they do with the tax savings? Instead of creating jobs, they laid off nearly 80,000 people and their CEO Randall Stevenson has made quite a fortune during this period. And what amazed me is that he is out there very vocally promoting Trump’s tax cut plan and bemoaning how burdensome the current tax code is and how much competitive it could be if only they had to pay less taxes. And, they’re already paying next to nothing in taxes. So, I think with these specific examples, it will be even more clear to people that this is just a hoax, this idea that cutting the corporate tax rate will lead to more jobs.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Sarah, what do you make of the media coverage of this very narrow part of the debate where an advocate of cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations always tell us that the United States has the highest tax rate in the entire world? Which sounds, “Oh my god, how could we be doing such a horrible thing to our corporate brothers and sisters?” So how do you think that’s generally handled by the hosts of these talk shows, particularly on cable news, where a lot of people get their information?

SARAH ANDERSON: Yeah, they usually eat it right up, so I’m really appreciative of shows like yours, where we get to dispel some of these myths. The official corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent at the federal level. But the rate is meaningless because there are so many loopholes in the tax code that most big corporations don’t pay anywhere near that. So, even though the rate might be high relative to a lot of countries, the amount of revenue that our government gets from corporate taxes is lower than the average for industrialized countries.

So that is another huge myth you’re going to hear over and over again from President Trump, from House Speaker (Paul) Ryan. It’s another mantra of the Republican party that our corporations are just being strangled by these high taxes that are so much higher than anywhere else in the world.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And Sarah, I wanted to ask you, with the discussion we see now unfolding in Washington, about tax reform and the need to create a fairer system, what are some of the proposals that you would recommend for genuine tax reform that would benefit the majority and not just the wealthiest one percent and the most profitable corporations?

SARAH ANDERSON: The focus should really be on closing up the loopholes that are currently allowing these big, profitable corporations to get away with paying so little in taxes. And this whole game around hiding profits offshore is one that would raise tremendous amounts of revenue and also even the playing field between these big multinational corporations that have the ability to hide their money in tax havens and domestic-rooted companies and small businesses that don’t have that option.

But I think we also need to look at additional ways to make sure that the wealthy and big corporations and Wall Street are paying their fair share. And the one that I decided to highlight in the New York Times op-ed is a small tax on Wall Street speculation, which, at a very, very low rate that would really just target the real high-flyers in the financial casino, the ones who are flipping stocks and making trades thousands of times a day – even a tax at very small rate on each one of those trades of derivatives and so forth, could really add up on these high-flying traders in the market, but have very little effect on ordinary folks and their pension funds or whatever investments they might have.

And that would just be one way that I think we could make our system more fair. It’s amazing to think that ordinary Americans pay their taxes every year, they pay taxes when they buy a gallon of gasoline and often if you buy basics like a new winter coat – but people who are trading millions of dollars and derivatives every minute don’t pay any kind of sales tax when they’re doing that kind of activity.

Democrats’ Progressive and Wall-Street Friendly Wings Battle Over Party’s Future

Interview with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online activist organization RootsAction.org, conducted by Scott Harris

In Hillary Clinton’s newly-published book titled, “What Happened,” she criticizes her Democratic primary opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as being an unrealistic over-promiser. She maintains that his attacks during the campaign caused “lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

Clinton’s complaints targeting progressive firebrand Sanders in her new book and in interviews, shines a spotlight on the ongoing battle within the Democratic Party. The Wall Street-friendly establishment, aligned with Clinton, is locked in a struggle with the progressive wing energized by Sanders, over the future direction of the Democratic party.

Underscoring that rift was a lawsuit filed in July 2016 against the Democratic National Committee and its former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which charged that leaked internal emails revealed how the DNC had worked to undermine Bernie Sanders and advance Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge on Aug. 25. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online organization RootsAction.org. Here, he assesses the lack of unity within the Democratic Party in this critical moment when the Trump administration is implementing regressive policies on the economy, education, labor, reproductive rights, LGBTQ and religious discrimination, environmental protection, climate change and immigration. [Rush transcript.]
.
NORMAN SOLOMON: We have really two huge challenges ahead. And one is to push back against and defeat the horrific right-wing agenda. And that is really imperative for us. And at the same time, we’ve got to advance and implement a genuinely progressive agenda. I think one of the main dynamics that we went through last year is that it is very difficult for a corporate, phony candidate who claims to be on the side of the working people to defeat a phony right-wing populist, in this case, Donald Trump. And so it was difficult for Hillary Clinton to make a convincing case that she was on the side of the – if you will – average person, because she was so clearly aligned with Wall Street. And to me, it really scrambles and refutes the idea that “Oh, you’re fighting the right-wing, so you’ve got to be taking a so-called centrist position.”

The people in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio who provided the swing votes to put this monstrous Trump presidency into the White House were really paying attention to their economic well-being. And since then, we’ve seen very grudging attention from a lot of unfortunately, the Democratic party establishment at the top, to the realities that there is a class economic war going on, and whether we want to face it or not, and I think we must – that war is being waged with more viciousness than ever from the top down.

And so, we can’t simply say as Democrats, for instance, oh, we really support the victims of inequality. That’s not enough. That’s part of what needs to be said. The other is that we are absolutely opposed to the victimizers. And we’re willing to name them. That was the great strength of the Bernie Sanders campaign. He didn’t just say, “I identify with people who are being victimized, he called out Wall Street. He called out the big banks. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was dedicated to advancing an agenda to challenge this kind of what he was willing to call “oligarchy.”

And it brings to mind Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who approximately 80 years ago, said in a Madison Square Garden speech that the rich, the wealthy, those who are greedy graspers of the corporate power of the day – he said, “They hate me, and I welcome their hatred.” And that’s quite a contrast to the sort of the unfortunately, Obama record and the Clinton record, which is in effect, “Well, they hate me sometimes, and I want them to like me.”

BETWEEN THE LINES: Norman, I wanted to ask you to comment on Hillary Clinton’s point raised in some recent interviews talking about her new book. Hillary Clinton makes the point in her new book, and in interviews, that in-fighting with the Democratic party just weakens the Democrats and provides inroads for Republicans and conservatives to keep winning elections that the Democrats have infamously been losing quite a bit of lately. What do you make of that criticism?

NORMAN SOLOMON: It reminds me of a statement made by a military tactician. I believe it was (Carl) von Clausewitz, who said, “Every conqueror is a lover of peace.” When the forces that Hillary Clinton represents have won and they have dominance, then they want peace, then they want acquiescence. But when they are challenged, when it’s unclear who’s going to prevail, they fight like hell. And so, of course, she doesn’t think there should be in-fighting when her handpicked chair of the DNC Tom Perez is in power, where she is trying to quiet and suppress the grassroots upsurge which has continued since the election with the basic politics of Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

And so naturally, she just wants us to cool our jets and go along with her program. It ain’t going to happen.

For more information, visit www.normansolomon.com and Roots Action, A Kaine Mutiny at rootsaction.org/news-a-views/1246-a-kaine-mutiny

LGBTQ Prison Support Group Black and Pink Works to Empower their Incarcerated Members

Interview with Reed Miller, technology coordinator with the LGBTQ prisoner support group Black and Pink, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Black and Pink is a grassroots nationwide organization led by formerly incarcerated LGBTQ individuals who support 14,000 LGBTQ community members currently in prison. Their website states, “Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service and organizing.” Among other work, the group publishes and sends a monthly newsletter to its incarcerated members.

The Black and Pink name refers to the colors of the queer anarchist flag, though not all members identify as anarchist. In Nazi Germany, gays and lesbians were labeled with pink and black triangles.

The group held its second national conference in Chicago Aug. 4-6, where the theme was “Celebrate, Learn, Heal and Build. The focus was on strengthening the movement towards abolition and the needs of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Reed Miller, Technology Coordinator with Black and Pink, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Reed, who attended the Chicago conference, first explains the origins of Black and Pink, which located 14,000 LGBTQ prisoners that are currently active in the group’s penpal program. [Rush transcript.]
.
REED MILLER: So, yeah, Black and Pink started about 12 years ago. Our founder, Rev. Jason Lydon, who’s a UU (Unitarian Universalist) minister, was incarcerated doing civil disobedience at the School of the Americas Watch. And as a result of his incarceration, when he got out he wanted to stay in touch with the people who supported him while he was in prison’ he was put in what the Georgia prisons called a “homo bin.” Basically, he started with friends over a dinner table and they wrote to a couple dozen penpals.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How did they find the people to write to?

REED MILLER: I guess there’s three ways our address in Boston got around. One was some penpals would say to other folks in prison, “Hey these people are writing me and if you give them your address they’ll write you too.” So it just spread, friend to friend, word of mouth like that. We’re in some guides, like prisoner resource guides, so if a person has a law library you might be able to look us up and get the address. And then primarily, we send out this monthly newspaper and most of the content is submitted by our prisoner members. So they write in handwritten letters; we have several dozen volunteers every weekend processing the literally hundreds of letters we get every week, including submissions to our newspaper, so they get typed up and included in our newspaper, which is important, I should say, also because prisoners in general aren’t allowed to write to one another, and as a result of the traumatic and abusive experiences they’re having inside prison, feel very isolated and so the newspaper is a way for people to connect across prisons. And we hear often, “Oh, I was alone until I realized this person in Pennsylvania – here I am in Texas – is experiencing similar things.” OR, “WOw, here I am in Florida and that’s similar to my situation.” For every ten letters that we get in, we get four new people who have heard of our organization, so we’re growing at an almost exponential rate, sort of limited by how many volunteers we have to process all that mail and how many funds we have to send out more and more newspapers.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Wow, that’s amazing. So, your organization just had a national meeting in Chicago. So, what was the focus of that, or what came out of it?

REED MILLER: Yeah, the focus of the meeting was, since the prison system with its over two million incarcerated and many more millions on probation or parole, has people scattered about the country. It’s an opportunity for us to get together in a centralized place to look toward our long-term goals. We are an explicitly abolitionist organization, which means that we don’t believe the prison industrial complex has the capacity to bring any sort of justice to our communities in the situation where harm is done. Of course, so much of the harm that happens in our society is rooted in the inequality driven by capitalism and the structures of power that are driven by the inequality and lack of access to resources. And that’s compounded, especially for our organization with LGBTQ folks and folks who are HIV-positive experiencing – when they’re not in prison – extreme levels of discrimination, lack of access to housing, to employment, to health care, and folks needing to resort to survival economies like trading sex or trading drugs in order to get by.

Other folks have caused other people harm and we do think that in a world where transformative justice is our means of restoring justice between people that people who cause harm to one another will have an opportunity to make amends if possible, and we don’t believe in throwing people away. We want people to remain part of our communities, and we don’t think that a person should be defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done. All of us have done bad things on some level or another and that shouldn’t define us entirely.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Does Black and Pink work with other prison abolition groups or with other LBGTQ groups to achieve your goals?

REED MILLER: Yeah, absolutely. With such a behemoth as the prison industrial complex, it’s completely necessary for us to work in coalition with other organizations. We work with LGBT groups on a national coalition that’s kind of got some mainstream folks in it and has some other more radical LGBT groups working on broad criminal justice reform as it pertains to LGBTQ folks and so that’s been an ongoing partnership for a number of years, and putting together some sort of policy proposals. Some groups might be more extreme, some groups might be more mainstream, but things that we can all get around. All of these groups we really respect the work they’re doing, because it’s really about working with individuals and building power toward our collective liberation. And it’s also important to recognize we’re not here as a charity for prisoners. We want to empower prisoners and we respect the ideas and actively try and solicit ideas from our members.

For more information on Black and Pink, visit.

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