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Men's magazine Esquire has named AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka as one of 14 individuals or groups awarded as "Americans of the Year" for 2011. In a profile that is at times insulting ("A big beefy guy with a bristling mustache and Blagojevich hair...") and at times glowing ("He came in with a lifetime's worth of dreams for reviving labor and saving America."), author John H. Richardson explains why Trumka was chosen:
Although Trumka has been saying these things for decades, more and more economists are starting to agree with him. This year, the United Nations' annual Trade and Development report said that austerity policies are a "major risk for the global economy" because cutting deficits slows growth, reducing tax receipts and making the deficits bigger. In September, the International Monetary Fund argued that "equality appears to be an important ingredient in promoting and sustaining growth." The Congressional Budget Office has agreed with him on many things: that last year's health-care-reform law will reduce the deficit, that the Republican austerity budget put forward by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan would increase it, that Obama's proposed jobs bill would in fact create jobs. A recent survey of thirty-four leading economists by Bloomberg News showed that most of them agreed, reporting that Obama's plan would raise the GDP and "add or keep 275,000 workers on payroll" next year. And the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the crash of 2008 hit "right to work" states hardest — five of the ten states with the highest unemployment are in the South, while the more heavily unionized states in the East and Midwest are starting to come back.
His ideas are gaining traction with the public at large as well. "When you tell people you want a millionaire's tax, 80 percent of the people agree. When you say, 'I want a financial-transaction tax, a half a cent on each share that's sold,' more than 80 percent of the people agree. Seventy-eight percent of the American people disagree with our free-trade policy. Go ask them. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, rednecks, whoever, go ask them about the trade policy! They agree with us! That it hasn't worked and it hurts this country 'cause it's sucking jobs out of this country! So if 78 percent of the people agree, why do the other 22 percent dominate?
He sounds frustrated.
"Not frustrated," Trumka says. "Determined."
Of course, the list also includes Paul Ryan as one of the "Americans of the Year," so the compliment can't be that valid, what with Ryan being one of the people this year who did the most to tear down the American dream.
Others named to the list are: astronaut Mark Kelly, theator director Julie Taymor, South Park and Book of Mormon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, blogger and pundit Andrew Sullivan, consumer advocate and senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, investor Warren Buffett, "Patriots," referring to active military, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, farmer Todd Carmichael, anti-death penalty activist Rais Bhuiyan, Joplin, Missouri, tornado hero Ruben Carter, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.