Peter Dreier

Overview

  • Professor of Politics at Occidental College
  • Helped establish the Campaign for America’s Future in 1996
  • Was a member of Progressives for Obama (in 2008)
  • Longtime supporter of the now-defunct community organization ACORN
  • Longtime member of the Democratic Socialists of America
  • Provided pro bono consulting services for the Industrial Areas Foundation founded by Saul Alinsky

Peter Dreier was born on July 12, 1948 and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey. He earned a BA from Syracuse University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1977. In 1975 Dreier worked on Tom Hayden’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and was a visiting professor at UC Santa Barbara. After teaching sociology at Tufts University from 1977-83, Dreier spent nine years (1984-93) as a senior policy adviser to Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, and as director of housing at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

In a February 1979 article titled “The Case for Transitional Reform,” which appeared in the journal Social Policy, Dreier called for government entitlement programs to expand and proliferate exponentially for the purpose of being used as vehicles for the destruction of American capitalism. Specifically, he: (a) argued in favor of establishing quasi socialist institutions designed to inject “unimaginable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis”; (b) advocated “a revolution of rising entitlements” that “cannot be abandoned without undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist class”; and (c) predicted that an “expansion of state activity and budgets” would create a “fiscal crisis in the public sector” that “in the longer run … may give socialist norms an opportunity for expansion or at least visibility.”

Dreier has been a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) since the early 1980s. In 1983 he spoke at a Socialist Scholars Conference in New York City, which was attended by a 22-year-old community organizer named Barack Obama. There, Dreier outlined a plan to bring down American capitalism by making demands for government-funded entitlement benefits on a scale so massive, that they could not possibly be met. “[T]he process leads to expansion of state activity and budgets,” he explained, “and … to fiscal crisis in the public sector. In the longer run, it may give socialist norms an opportunity for expansion[.]”

In 1993 as well, the Bill Clinton Administration appointed Dreier to the advisory board of the Resolution Trust Corporation.

That same year, Dreier joined the faculty of Occidental College, where he has taught courses in politics ever since. He also served a stint as chairman of the school’s Urban & Environmental Policy Department.

When Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey created the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) in 1996, Dreier helped them establish the organization. For a list of additional CAF co-founders, click here.

In 2008 Dreier served as a campaign adviser for presidential candidate Barack Obama. He was also a member of Progressives for Obama, later known as Progressive America Rising.

Dreier was a longtime supporter of the notoriously corrupt, now-defunct, community organization ACORN. In September 2009—after the media had exposed ACORN’s involvement in such crimes as tax fraud, voter-registration fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, and the promotion of underage prostitution rings —Dreier co-authored a 61-page report defending the organization. He claimed that criticisms aimed at ACORN were nothing more than unfounded smears concocted by “conservative business groups,” “the conservative echo chamber,” and “Republican officials” who were “upset with ACORN’s community organizing efforts to help poor Americans improve economic conditions and gain a stronger political voice.”

In a September 26, 2009 article published by the Huffington Post, Dreier likened conservative critics of ACORN to Nazis.

Also in 2009, Dreier was a member of the Liberty Hill Foundation‘s advisory board.

In 2010 Dreier served as a coordinator of the newly established Cry Wolf Project (CWP), which contends that the federal government’s voluminous regulations—created mostly by unelected bureaucrats rather than elected officials—neither harm the nation’s economy nor curtail individual freedom, but rather, serve to “save lives, clean our environment and make our families more secure.”

In 2011 Dreier lauded the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement as a “phenomenon” that “has inspired millions” to undertake “the slow, difficult work” of “rebuild[ing] the economy” and “restor[ing] our democracy” via “systemic change.”

In 2012, Dreier published The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, a book that, according to the author, is “about the radical ideas of the past have become the common sense of the modern era.”

Giving voice to his heartfelt conviction that only government can make a nation’s economy function efficiently, Dreier in 2014 said that “without government intervention” in the mortgage market, millions of Americans were “at risk of joining the almost 5 million households that have already suffered through foreclosure since the housing bubble burst in 2007.”

In October 2016, Dreier wrote an article for the Jewish Journal, titled “Donald Trump Is a Serial Anti-Semite.” Some notable excerpts:

  • “Trump’s anti-Semitism comes in different shapes and sizes. He verbalizes it, encourages it, enables it, tolerates it, and makes excuses for it. What he doesn’t do is condemn it.”
  • “Trump’s most recent anti-Semitic remarks were in a speech, and a tweet, last week that included this line: ‘Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.’ He didn’t need to use the word ‘Jew.’ […] These are well-known anti-Semitic code words … designed to fire up Trump’s white nationalist, anti-Semitic base.”
  • “Trump’s frequent references at his rallies and during the debates to Sidney Blumenthal, George Soros, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz — Jewish supporters of Hillary Clinton — is no accident. This is not random name-dropping. These are dog whistles aimed at his racist and anti-Semitic supporters.”

In a lengthy July 2018 article which he published in The American Prospect, Dreier began by celebrating the political ascent of young Democrat congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He then proceeded to sing the praises of many socialist activists and movements of yesteryear. Some excerpts:

  • “In the early 1900s, socialists led the movements for women’s suffrage, child labor laws, consumer protection laws, and the progressive income tax.”
  • “Much of FDR’s … New Deal legislation—the minimum wage, workers’ right to form unions, and public works programs to create jobs for the unemployed—was first espoused by American socialists.”
  • “Socialists were in the forefront of the civil rights movement from the founding of the NAACP in 1909 through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
  • “Socialists have long pushed for a universal health insurance plan, which helped create the momentum for stepping-stone measures such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s and Obamacare today.”
  • “Martin Luther King Jr. believed that America needed a ‘radical redistribution of economic and political power.’ In [December 1964] … he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian ‘democratic socialism.’ In fact, he told his staff, ‘There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.'”
  • “Democratic socialism is about democracy—giving ordinary people a greater voice in both politics and the workplace.”
  • “Democratic socialism is akin to what most people around the world call ‘social democracy,’ which seeks to make capitalism more humane.”

In 2018 as well, Dreier lauded the “new wave of activism” spearheaded by “efforts like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers’ immigrant-rights movement, the battles against the Keystone [oil] pipeline and for marriage equality, the Fight for 15 [$15 hourly minimum wage], Justice for Janitors among low-wage workers, and the burgeoning #MeToo movement.”

Over the years, Dreier has provided pro bono consulting services for such organizations as the California AFL-CIO, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (the reconstituted California chapter of ACORN), and the Industrial Areas Foundation founded by Saul Alinsky. In addition, he has been a consultant for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, VISTA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the MacArthur Foundation, the Boston Foundation, ACORN, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

Dreier also has served as: (a) a directors’ board or advisory board member of entities like the National Housing Institute, the Southern California Association for Non-Profit Housing, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, United for a Fair Economy, the Campaign for America’s Future, the Boston Foundation, the Liberty Hill Foundation, Neighborhood Housing Services, and other organizations; (b) an editorial board member of Urban Affairs Quarterly, Housing Studies, and Shelterforce; (c) chairman of an American Sociological Association advisory committee; and (d) a member of the elected council of the American Sociological Association’s “Community and Urban Sociology Section.”

Today, in addition to his professorial duties, Dreier is a member of Social Policy magazine’s Editorial Advisory Group. Among his colleagues in that Group have been such notables as Heather Booth, Noam Chomsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Maya Wiley.

One of the classes that Dreier has taught at Occidental College is titled “Movements in Social Justice,” featuring as a required text A People’s History of the United States, authored by the late Marxist historian Howard Zinn.[1]

For additional information on Peter Dreier, click here.

Footnotes

  1. In December 2007 a former student of Dreier’s, Jason Rantz, penned an article about his experiences in Dreier’s class. Rantz reported: “Dreier … romanticizes Socialism and Communism, often ignoring the brutal truth about those economic systems, in order to indoctrinate his students…. The professor doesn’t use his course just to brainwash his students into the thrills of Socialism and Communism. [H]e uses his course to routinely demean conservatives.”

Additional Resources

Further Reading: “Peter Dreier” (KeyWiki.org, PeterDreier.comOxy.edu, Humanities and Social Sciences Online).

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