« November 2011 | Main | January 2012 »

December 31, 2011

Financial Sector Growth

Brad DeLong: America’s Financial Leviathan: Project Syndicate discusses ways the financial sector can help the economy, and mentions the sector's justification for its growth:

"not, by and large, been a bad thing....Deploying capital to the places where it can be best used helps the economy grow..."

But if the financial sector was helping the economy grow, then the sector's share of the economy would not be increasing so much, because the economy would be increasing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Mass Unemployment As Conservative Policy - To Keep Wages Down

In England under Margaret Thatcher:

The policy was to create mass unemployment IN ORDER to reduce the strength of the working class IN ORDER to bring wages down and profits up -- so that the few at the top benefit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 30, 2011

Verizon's Fee And Attacks On Workers Are Cut From Same Cloth Of Corporate Greed

You may have heard that Verizon is going to charge customers a $2 "convenience fee" to pay their bills online. You may not have heard that Verizon is asking its workers to take cuts in their pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. These examples of corporate greed are cut from the same cloth. This is about big corporations using their power to drain and ultimately destroy the middle class so the 1% can have even more.

NY Times, An Uproar on the Web Over $2 Fee by Verizon,

The $2 monthly fee, which takes effect Jan. 15, will apply to people who make one-time credit or debit card payments on the phone or online. ...

The outsize reaction in many ways reflects the year that is now concluding. The economy has not improved much, consumers are fresh off their victory in getting Bank of America to rescind its own move to levy a small new monthly fee and airlines and other companies continue to ask customers to pay à la carte for goods and services that were once part of the standard price.

Then there was Verizon, making the announcement in the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s and calling its new charge a “convenience” fee.

Not Just Squeezing Customers -- Squeezing Workers, Too!

In August I posted, Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!

The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits, the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

This giant company is extremely profitable, yet manages to pay not taxes: (click through for full story)

Paying No Taxes?

Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)

When you hear about Verizon putting the squeeze on its customers, keep the company's workers in mind.

Click here to sign CWA's petition: Stop Verizon Greed

Click here to learn about leafleting at a Verizon Wireless store

Click here for the latest information on the Verizon workers' efforts.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Another Washington Post Social Security Mistake

See if you can spot the big mistake (giving them the benefit of the doubt) in this Washington Post story: Payroll tax cut raises worries about Social Security’s future funding:

This year, the Social Security system projects that it will pay out $46 billion more in benefits than it will collect in cash. It made up for the shortfall by redeeming Treasury bonds bought in years when there were cash surpluses.

Here is the mistake, thanks to Dean Baker: Social Security Is NOT Selling Government Bonds,

This is not true. The Social Security trust fund is projected to earn $114.9 billion in interest on the bonds it holds. It will use a portion of these earnings to pay current benefits. It will not be redeeming its bonds.

Social Security has a huge trust fund -- if you think $2.6 trillion is huge. That trust fund is invested in US Treasury Bonds, and earns interest.

When you hear that Social Security is "in trouble' or "going broke" you are hearing from people who ignore this huge, huge trust fund and the interest it earns. This trust fund, along with the money people pay in, means that Social Security has enough to pay full benefits until 2037. Even then it will still be able to pay everyone more than they receive today. (Yes, more, because of cost-of-living adjustments.)

One of the problems with Social Security is that the "cap" -- the top income that is taxed to pay into the fund -- was calculated in the 80's, and they didn't foresee that all income gains after the 80s would only go to those at the top, where the income isn't taxed to pay into the fund. So, since the 80s, as more and more of the income gains went to the top few, the Social Security fund started to not have quite enough to go on forever. So now it it projected to only last until 2037. This is, of course, easily fixed -- as are so many of our country's problems -- by asking those at the top to pay in a little more.

So ... will I be attacked with pepper spray and batons for suggesting that the rich should pay back a bit more?

See also, Jan 2010, Washington Post Joins Wall Street Sneak Attack On Social Security.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 29, 2011

My Silicon Valley Experience

Dave Winer, in Scripting News: So you want to be an entrepreneur describes my own Silicon Valley experience, too,

I used to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Back in the day, you made a product, put it in a box, put the box through distribution, helped retailers sell it, got back a little money, paid your employees, and hoped there would be enough to make some more product, boxes, etc.

If you weren't one of the BigCo's the distributors would play games with your money. Eventually the games got so sophisticated, they had it worked out so you owed them more money than you made, so there was no way to get ahead. Unless you were one of the Big Ones. But even they hit the wall, and the software-in-a-box business went by the wayside.

A few people got rich from that. Yes, it was a bubble. What you got paid for was not your ability to make money. But, rather the ability of the VCs to sell Wall Street on whatever it is they sold them on back then. We were part of the whole system that eventually hit the wall with Credit Default Swaps and huge bailouts and unrepentant bankers. There was a trickle-down. The closer you were to someone who actually made something, the less you got paid. You read that right, the less you got paid. I'll repeat it. If you made something you got paid less.

Please go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Dave On Hartmann Talking About Wall Street Crimes

This is me on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture TV show Tuesday, talking about my AlterNet article, 7 of the Nastiest Scams, Rip-Offs and Tricks From Wall Street Crooks:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The 99% Act

1 infographic, 5 million jobs | Rebuild the Dream | A Hub for the American Dream Movement

99% Act

Click to see huge version.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 27, 2011

Newt Wants To Lose

A lot of people are missing that Newt was never in the primaries to actually win. He entered the primaries to raise his name recognition so he could make more with his various scams that he runs. Remember, he made more than $50 million just from health care lobbying in the last decade. And that was just one of his schemes.

So there he was, suddenly in the lead. Not the plan! He can't pull in that kind of cash if he is the actual nominee -- and he knows he can't win the election. So he needs to milk the lead but make sure he doesn't actually win the nomination. Did you notice that he slowed way down on campaigning in Iowa after taking the lead. That's the tip-off.

Newt running for President is just one more Republican con game.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 24, 2011

Holiday Card From The Johnsons

XCard_2011sm.jpg

Our little white dog Paddington does a "ballet" with his back legs, and this card shows him doing a holiday Nutcracker ballet.

Here is last year's.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What Next In The Fight Over Who Our Economy Is For?

Who is our economy for, anyway? In the United States We, the People are supposedly in charge and our country and economy are supposed to be managed for the public good. But that isn't how things have been working out, is it?

Let's take a quick look at America over the last few decades.

We used to have a social contract. We invested in top-notch infrastructure (like the interstate highway system) and education (the best universities and research), and then tax the resulting gains at very high rates, to recirculate those gains for the benefit of all of us.

Broken Social Contract

Then the contract was broken. Starting in the 1970s a cabal of wealthy businessmen and conservative ideologues organized and funded an attack on We, the People government, manipulating public opinion and our political system, gutting the regulations and trade rules that protected us and our way of life, privatizing -- selling off things We, the People own -- and killing the tax-and-invest cycle so they could keep the gains from all of that prior investment for themselves.

Blanket Of Propaganda

To provide cover for the operation these agents of the 1% spread a thick blanket of propaganda, using every technique in the modern marketing book. They divided us by race, religion, gender, sexual preference, even pitting people who like quiche and lattes against those who like beer and sausage. To cripple potential opposition they infiltrated and fractured key institutions, and turned the public against the news media. They developed a professional career-path system that rewards those who play along with the corruption and destruction and punishes those who do not. To cripple dissent they used ridicule, shame and intimidation.

Destructive Choices Come Home To Roost

Since then things have steadily fallen apart. The infrastructure is crumbling. Unemployment is extreme. The country has very high debt. The trade deficit is extreme. Half of us are poor or nearly poor. Inequality is at the highest levels.

Bailouts For The 1%, Sell-Outs For The 99%

When things hit the fan it became clear that our country is no longer run for the good of We, the People. When it came down to it, a few got special treatment, the rest of us got ... uh, less-than-special-treatment. (And weren't even kissed.)

When the financial crisis occurred Congress was told they literally had only hours to come up with hundreds of billions to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks, and they did - with almost no conditions. We know now that the Federal Reserve also stepped up, providing trillions to the big banks, even hundreds of millions to bankers' spouses! State and local governments, institutions and smaller businesses? The unemployed and millions facing foreclosure? Not so much.

Plutocracy Not Democracy

They provided assistance for the giant financial institutions of the 1%. Instead of providing assistance to the 99& -- We, the People -- our government instead cut the things We, the People do for each other. It was made clear that this country is now a plutocracy, not a democracy.

System Of Control Breaking Down

It is clear where we are. But it is also clear that the system of control is breaking down. The elections of 2006 and 2008 shook the foundations. Democracy tried to reassert control. The behind-the-scenes system of lobbyists writing legislation that passes under cover of "studies" from corporate-front think tanks, telling us this is for our own good, propelled by a flurry of corporate-funded op-eds, stopped working. After the bailouts for banks / sell out for the rest of us, people started figuring things out. In response the 5-4 Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, flooding the system with corporate money.

Instead of stealth takeover masked by propaganda we now see blatant grabs of wealth and raw power poorly disguised. Now the control is in our faces every day. Even constant filibusters of acts that might help We, the People were no longer enough to keep a lid on. So now it is shutdowns, hostage-taking, refusal to follow laws, refusal to prosecute, threats to take down the government and/or the economy. Now more visible methods of suppression are in use -- batons, tasers and pepper spray.

Waking Up

Everyone has been frustrated, discouraged, betrayed, scared and angry but without a focus for action. Then came the Occupy movement, people actually showing up and showing how! It resonated. People responded, and the conversation of the country was pulled out of the propaganda fog, at least for a while.

Stephen Lerner, interviewed by Sarah Jaffe for AlterNet, discusses where we go from here, saying, "[I]t's an exciting feeling to see something a lot of people spent a lifetime hoping for --this kind of dramatic increase in activity that targets financial capital, those who really control the country." On Occupy Wall Street, Lerner says,

Everybody knows they're getting zapped by banks, and what's so good about Occupy is that it's put that front and center. The fact that they were in Wall Street, I think everybody forgets. It was not Occupy a park somewhere, it was the fact that it was in the middle of the financial district. And I think on an intuitive level, people all over the political spectrum understand that those guys are at the center of how the economy is organized in a way that doesn't work for most people.

On Wall Street's position in our economy,

I don't think people are mad at somebody who invented a product or founded a company. It's that people see that Wall Street is not productive. Their wealth and their riches, they do not come through any normal means -- they come through cheating and gambling and ripping us off, which I think troubles us in a different kind of way.

On today,

I don't think anybody should view a sort of holiday or winter lull in activity as a sign of anything. As people have said, movements ebb and flow, and whenever we look back, spring is the time that things take off again. It's really important that people not say “Oh, everything was front page news and now it's not.” People instead should be stepping back, saying, “In three months we did more than anybody imagined we could do, now it's time to step back and figure out the next stage.”

What Next?

Now comes the long slog of organizing people into focused action to take back our country from the 1%. Van Jones has been laying the groundwork, joining with MoveOn.org and other organizations to organize the Rebuild the Dream movement, and its Contract for the American Dream. Please visit and get involved.

Here is Van Jones at Netroots Nation, talking about the American Dream movement:

Organized labor is fighting, too, with new tactics and getting more people involved. They are focusing on labor's role in creating a middle class in America. The recent Take Back the Capitol demonstrations are a case in point. In conjunction with many local and national organizations SEIU brought unemployed people to the DC to occupy the offices of 99 legislators, asking for jobs programs and extensions of unemployment benefits. They also marched on "K Street" - the symbolic center of lobbying activity.

Here is AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, Take Back the American Dream conference in October, calling for "a massive, militant movement":

Trumka told the audience that the right wing is “banking on an upside-down America for its path to political power.” Trumka said that now is the time for “a mighty movement for jobs and a just economy," adding, "We won't stop fighting, shoving and kicking until everyone is back at work."

Here is Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, talking about labor support for Occupy Wall street, and holding Wall Street accountable:

Here is Communication Workers of America President Larry Cohen discussing the fight for the middle class on The Ed Show.

See the pics in this post, showing labor's involvement at the November 2 Occupy Oakland actions:

Up To Us

What happens next is up to us. Don't be discouraged. "The people, united, will never be defeated."

THIS is what democracy looks like. Here are Wisconsin protesters chanting: "Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like!"




For those of us who can't get enough, here is 13 minutes of THIS is what democracy looks like!


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Homo for the Holidays - "Born this Way"

Just wow:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:19 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 21, 2011

For 2012 Let's Restore Our "Industrial Commons"

David Brancaccio's Marketplace story Tuesday, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business traced the decline of Kodak and the loss of Rochester, NY's good, middle-class jobs to Kodak's failure to tend its "industrial commons." This is a national problem. For 2012 let's resolve to restore our industrial commons and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

Kodak on Marketplace

Listen to Tuesday's Marketplace story, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business.

Click to listen.

Story summary: Kodak didn't tend its "industrial commons," the local concentration of expertise in making the things that go into a camera.

You make your money by selling cameras. And you now needed to make components. You needed to make lenses; you needed to make shutters -- all kinds of things that the skills for which no longer existed in Rochester.

This is what we have done in our country, too. We have been dismantling our "industrial commons." By sending manufacturing out of the country we have been taking apart the supply chains and abandoning the expertise and skills and culture that go with it.

Other Warnings

Last year former Intel CEO Andy Grove sounded a warning about this problem. In How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the "chain of experience" that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. He lays out a plan: "rebuild our industrial commons,"

The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.

We Gave It Away

Many American manufacturers made a deal with China to lower their manufacturing costs. Here is how it worked: Americans (used to) have a say in how this country was run, and said they want good wages, benefits, job safety, clean air, etc. These are the fruits of democracy, but to some they are an impediment to quick profits. So executives at the big multinational companies wanted a way around the borders of democracy and its demands, and pushed for "trade" deals that would let them move manufacturing to places where people had no say, in order to force American unions to make concessions. They got their deals and packed up our factories, moved them to places like China and then brought the manufactured goods back here to sell.

We lost 50,000 factories to China just in the 'W' Bush years, and our trade deficit soared, and now we as a country are paying the price. Making (and growing) things is how a country earns its living. It is how we bring in the income with which to buy things others make and grow. Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers said it clearly,

"You don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy."

We just gave it away, and justified the loss by saying that better things will replace it. The result has been ever-increasing trade deficits that brought us a huge debt that makes us poorer. Our debt is not because of government spending, it is because we have given away our ability to make a loving!

An Ideology To Justify

In the process the 1%'ers who did this to us developed an ideology around hating America and democracy. To justify outsourcing our jobs and factories they said Americans had grown lazy and wanted handouts. They said that the huge profits reaped by a few from selling off our manufacturing infrastructure meant they were "producers" and that democracy was "statism" and "collectivism" that enabled the "parasites" to "steal" from them. They declared that "taxes are theft" that "punish" the "successful" and the "job creators." They stopped funding infrastructure and education and law enforcement, denegrating these as "government spending," and declared that the wealthy few have a "right to rise" and saying the rest of us are "imbeciles."

They moved our "industrial commons" out of the country, closing the factories and thereby dismantling the supply chains and the "chain of experience" that enable us to innovate and compete. They let China capture the lead in emerging green manufacturing technologies that will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. They even let China extort proprietary technologies, in exchange for short-term profits.

They rode the tiger and now the tiger is coming back to bite us.

Riding The Tiger

Richard Eskow reminded me of an old Chinese saying, "He who rides the tiger cannot dismount." American manufacturers rode the Chinese tiger to short-term profits, and now they cannot dismount. They "partnered" with China to get around the borders of democracy and the good wages and benefits democracy demands. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Riding the tiger: Forbes: Currency Manipulation is NOT the Biggest Chinese Threat,

China’s hidden threats are a multi-headed info-tech “Hydra,” the parts of which are interrelated:
  • Intellectual property rights violations (or lack of enforcement in China) allowing open theft of proprietary designs, etc.
  • Theft of private-sector technology (which has been going on for years) accelerating Chinese development cycles
  • Growing number of cyber-attacks, accessing highly confidential US government information, costing the US private sector billions of dollars in IT disruption.
  • Growing military/technology stolen secrets (e.g., stealth fighter plane designs, acquisition of downed stealth-helicopter parts from the bin Laden attack, electronic technology & software from US companies in China, etc.)

Riding the tiger: NYT: Chinese Rules Said to Threaten Proprietary Information,

China is expected to issue regulations on Saturday requiring technology companies to disclose proprietary information like data-encryption keys and underlying software code to sell a range of security-related digital technology products to government agencies, American industry officials said on Friday.

Riding the tiger: Fiscal Times: Stealing America: China’s Busy Cyber-Spies,

Economic and industrial spying by China appears to be more pervasive and egregious than ever, costing America billions of dollars each year, according to a new report by a U.S. government agency. And the report raises an important question: If stolen trade and technology secrets help fuel China’s breakneck growth, then is more espionage required to feed the growing beast?

The Chamber of Commerce rides the tiger: WSJ today: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber: Attacks Breached Computer System of Business-Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,

A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America's top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers.

They rode the tiger. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Let's Resolve To Rebuild American Manufacturing

Let's resolve to rebuild American manufacturing, starting in 2012. Manufacturing is the backbone of a prosperous economy. Let's resolve to bring back good jobs that pay good wages and unpin a middle-class lifestyle. Let's resolve to balance trade with the rest of the world so we can fight our debt problems. Let's resolve to start fighting to win the lead in the Green manufacturing revolution.

Don't let the "free traders" exploit workers in countries where they do not have a say to force concessions from Americans in unions. Don't let the oil and coal companies create false "scandals" like Solyndra to block government from investing in green alternatives. Don't let the 1% make democracy a competitive disadvantage -- democracy is the only economics that works!

Last week President Obama appointed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to co-chair a new White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The new Office of Manufacturing Policy will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. It will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.

This is a positive step if there ever was one. Let's resolve to develop and execute a national manufacturing strategy. (please click through)

It is time to restore our national "industrial commons."

Frank Sobatka explains:


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 20, 2011

Politifact Kills Its Credibility

If you take a government program, change everything about it, destroy its core purpose, but keep the same name, is it the same program? Politifact.com says yes, and even goes so far as to say it is "The Lie Of The Year" to say it isn't -- because it still has the same name.

Early this year Republicans voted to privatize Medicare, ending it as a government insurance program, instead giving limited vouchers to people to use to purchase private insurance. Everything about the program would change, and because of the loss of economy-of-scale that government provides the costs to seniors would be much higher while the coverage would be lower. This would effectively end the program.

Americans were outraged by this. People love Medicare, and depend on it. And the cost-shifting these changes would bring mean that the cost to the larger economy would greatly increase. But since government wasn't paying those costs anymore, the pressure to raise taxes on the 1% would go down.

People took up arms that Republicans were trying to end Medicare. Newspaper editorials expressed shock and outrage. Bloggers were angry. Politicians pledged to run against Republicans who voted for this plan to end Medicare.

Enter Politifact.com

Politifact.com's About page says, "PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and its partners to help you find the truth in politics." The look at statements, research the facts, "then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False and False."

Politifact examined the statements that Republicans voted to "end Medicare" and decided this was a "lie" -- because the program would continue to have the same name. This week Politicat doubled down on this absurd conclusion, saying that claiming the program would end is the "Lie Of The Year."

That's right, they say it is "The Lie Of The Year" to say that a program ends, as long as there still exists a program with the same name.

The Kicker

HOW did Politifact decide that this is the lie of the year? Digby explains, in Paul Ryan Stuffed The PolitiFact Ballot Box, that Rep. Paul Ryan rigged this by sending people to vote at Politifact. She writes,
Unfortunately, the Villagers will be gleefully using this as proof that their dreamy young idol Paul Ryan is a good guy after all but it's probably a good idea to demand another source for anyone who cites Politifact on the veracity of any claim going forward. This will make it easier on the Republicans in the beginning, since they actually make a profit at their lying, but in the long run it will be for good. Clearly Politifact can't tell the difference between a lie and and a fact and is subject to obvious right wing manipulation.

Richard Eskow: PolitiFiction: A 'Lie Of The Year' Sends Alice Back To Wonderland, "If you thought that the "aspect of Medicare" that directly pays for hospital coverage was Medicare, then apparently you are a very silly person ..."

Others Weigh In

Paul Krugman: Politifact, R.I.P.: "This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare."

Steve Benen: PolitiFact ought to be ashamed of itself: "This is simply indefensible. Claims that are factually true shouldn’t be eligible for a Lie of the Year designation."

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post: Politifact Has Decided That A Totally True Thing Is The "Lie Of The Year," For Some Reason

Ben Adler at The Nation: Politifact Peddles Falsehood About Ryan Plan to Privatize Medicare

But Politifact, an independent organization associated with the St. Petersburg Times, chose instead a claim that placed third in their poll, thanks to an effort by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to stuff the ballots. The only problem? The big “lie” is true. "Republicans voted to end Medicare,” by the the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other Democrats, is the winner, despite the fact that Republicans did indeed vote to end Medicare when they voted for Ryan’s budget.

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog: Politifact wins own "lie of the year" after letting Paul Ryan rig the results

Joshua Holland at AlterNet: PolitiFact, Fearing a Right-Wing Backlash, Calls Democrats' 100% True Claim About the GOP Medicare Plan the "Lie of the Year",

Conservatives have long excelled at working the refs -- the corporate media. And this week they scored a resounding victory, as PolitiFact, the non-partisan fact-checker, dismissed the results of its readers' poll to declare the entirely truthful statement that House Republicans voted to “end Medicare” as we know it the “lie of the year.”


Politifact.com has ended its credibility.

Full disclosure: Politifact fact-checked the claim in a post of mine that 400 people have as much wealth as half our population, which was picked up by Michael Moore for use in a speech in Wisconsin. In their article they misidentified me, misstated and just got wrong what I sent them, linked to the wrong post, but concluded that the claim is true.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

NLRB Fight Shows How Far We've Fallen

Here is how far we have fallen: Republicans and big corporations are going to extremes, even threatening to shut down entire agencies of the government, just to keep people from knowing what their rights are. They are "investigating" the NLRB for enforcing the laws that cover employees and employers. They are pledging to block any appointees in order to prevent the agency from operating.

How far have we fallen, if the fight is over just letting people know what their rights are? How much power do the big corporations have now, if these wealthy giants of the 1% feel they can even challenge our right to know what the rules are, and an entire political party exists to help them do this?

The Latest Fight

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is trying to require big corporations to put up a poster informing their employees of their rights under the law. The big corporate, anti-union organizations are fighting this as hard as they can. They are suing in court to block the rule, while Republicans in the House and Senate are using every trick in the book to stop the NLRB requirement, right down to holding Congressional investigations of the agency, and threatening to defund it, and to shut it down by crippling its Board.

What The Poster Says

Here are the things that the Republicans and the big corporations that fund them are fighting to keep working people from knowing:

Under the law you have the right to:


  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Under the law it is illegal for your employer to:


  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

Under the law, it is illegal for a union or for the union that represents you in bargaining with your employer to:


  • Threaten or coerce you in order to gain your support for the union.
  • Refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union.
  • Use or maintain discriminatory standards or procedures in making job referrals from a hiring hall.
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against you because of your union-related activity.
  • Take adverse action against you because you have not joined or do not support the union.

Click here to see the poster.

This latest fight is because the NLRB is trying to require companies to put up posters that tell workers what their rights are. That's it. That's what the poster does. Companies are trying to block this and are fighting with everything they have.

The Lawsuit

Big corporate groups have sued to block the poster requirement, saying the NLRB doesn;'t have "the authority" to require them mto put up this poster, and claiming that it violates the "free speech rights" of big corporations if employees learn what their own rights are. Seriously, that's the claim.

How far have we fallen, when big corporations feel they can challenge government's right to even inform citizens of what the laws say? They have good reason to believe that conservative-dominated courts will rule that this violates the "free speech" of non-sentient entities called corporations, over the rights of citizens!

The Hill: Business group challenges NLRB over union poster rule,

Business groups continue to press the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its proposed rule to have employers post notices informing workers of their organizing rights.

On Monday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will present oral arguments in federal court for their lawsuit against the proposed regulation.

[. . .] Trauger said NAM filed the lawsuit because it believes only Congress has the authority to authorize the notice rule. Further, they believe it impinges on employers’ free speech rights.

“We believe the NLRB does not have the authority to require all employers to post the notice in their workplace,” [NAM VP] Trauger said.

Other groups are suing the NLRB over the rule, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Crippling The NLRB

At the end of this year the NLRB will not have enough board members to operate, effectively shutting down the agency. The Supreme Court, in another 5-4 decision (yes, the same 5 corporate-conservative-movement sponsored judges that always rule in favor of the big corporations), ruled in 2010 that the NLRB cannot operate without at least 3 members on the Board. This was part of an ongoing strategy to keep the Board from operating effectively, allowing illegal anti-union efforts to continue. Republicans in the Senate have since filibustered to block the Board from having enough members. Last year President Obama made two recess appointments to the Board to keep it operating, so Republicans have prevented the Senate from going into recess since then, vowing to to anything necessary to continue to block any new appointments that could keep the NLRB in operation and enforcing the law.

The Washington Post explains, in Obama nominates 2 for labor board, despite GOP threat to block any appointments to the agency,

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to nominate two Democrats to the National Labor Relations Board, despite a Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.

Once again: "A Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency." The Republicans in the Senate are blocking any appointments, in order to force the agency that enforces the rules to stop doing its job.

Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are engaged in a different tactic to fight the NLRB. The Center for American Progress Action Fund explains, in House Republican Attacks on the National Labor Relations Board Hurt All Workers,

House Republicans are using every tool available to them—including their budget, regulatory, and legislative-oversight powers—to wage a coordinated attack on workers’ rights by trying to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.

... Over the past year, Republicans in Congress voted to slash funding for the NLRB, attempted to block enforcement of existing worker-protection laws, and even threatened to shut down parts of the federal government in order to advance their goals.

The the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is "investigating" the NLRB, to see if the Board is helping employees who are in unions, demanding the Board turn over documents to the committee by Jan. 3.

The Stakes

A New York Times op-ed, Crippling the Right to Organize, explains the stakes,

UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union.

... Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

What You Can Do

Download and print the NLRB poster, and out it up at your workplace.

Download and print this "Unions 101" sheet, and leave copies at your workplace for people to find and read.

Send people to visit the AFL-CIO's A Quick Study of How Unions Help Workers Win a Voice on the Job online.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2011

American OccuPie (Video)

Really, really good:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Media Consolidation In One Chart

When was the last time you saw someone from organized labor in the news explaining why unions benefit the middle class? This chart explains why our "new" is the way it is: Media Consolidation: The Illusion of Choice | The Big Picture

Want to know why Occupy is mocked as "dirty hippies?" See this chart.

Want to know why CEOs are presented as heroes, like sports stars? See this chart.

Want to know why the wealthiest are presented as "job creators?" See this chart.

Want to know why there still has been no explanation or demand for answers for why we went to war in Iraq? See this chart.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2011

Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of people they employ, and for ways to reduce the pay and benefits for the ones they keep. One way they have been doing this is to send jobs out of the country to places where the people don't have the protections of democracy. Then they come back here and threaten the rest of us with losing our jobs, too, if we don't give in. We have to find ways to restore the protections of democracy.

We are all familiar with "offshoring." This is the process of packing up a factory or office, and moving what it does outside of the US to places where people are paid less -- usually because they don't have any say in how their country is run (a.k.a. democracy). Then the company brings the same products or services back to the US and calls that "trade." Allowing this to happen makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

One (more) job that has been offshored is call centers. We call to place an order or to get customer service, etc., and the person we talk to is in another country and we can't understand them. This is frustrating, but it is even more frustrating when you think that this is one more job that someone here used to do.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new bill called The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that would help bring call-center jobs back to the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I explained,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead.

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

From the press release, CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information,

The Communications Workers of America today released a sobering report detailing the linkage between the off-shoring of call center jobs and a range of serious negative effects on U.S. consumers and job seekers, including placing consumers’ personal information at risk.

… Key findings of the report include:

  • When a U.S. customer’s financial information is sent overseas, it loses the protections of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As long as an individual’s data is not specifically “targeted,” the data can be collected and analyzed by U.S. federal agencies without a warrant.
  • The documented security hazards are in addition to the damage caused to individuals and communities in the United States by the movement of local call center jobs overseas, off-shoring that often comes after taxpayer-funded dollars and other incentives are heaped upon the corporation.
  • As of this year, the Philippines surpassed India as the top destination for U.S. companies off-shoring call center jobs. American companies also have opened call centers in countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Mexico.
  • Americans’ personal data also is at risk in foreign call centers in the relative difficulty in providing background checks on employees. Many foreign nations do not maintain central criminal databases and do not have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, with one estimate putting the cost at up to $1,000 per employee.
  • This is one more way that offshoring is hurting us. By sending call-center jobs out of the country we are sending the data we give to those call centers out of the country and outside of the protection of our laws. So this call-center bill, named The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3596) is important to us. It is bipartisan, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Call your own member of Congress and let them know that you support this.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Voting Machines

    I haven't written about voting machines for some time. Here is an article about evidence of remote tampering: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System "Remotely Accessed" on "Multiple Occasions" by Unknown Computer | Truthout

    ...perhaps most troubling, evidence that the system was repeatedly accessed by an unidentified remote computer, for lengthy periods of time, on "multiple occasions."

    Remember, if they do not have a "paper trail" that the voter looks at before finalizing the vote, there is NO WAY to know what the actual vote count was.

    And if there is no procedure for checking those paper trails against the reported vote. that is just as bad.

    There is just too much at stake to hand democracy over to machines and the companies that make them. PLEASE get involved in your own county and demand that they have paper backup and that they check the paper against the reported totals.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:13 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Remind Me Why We Invaded Iraq

    Because no one has ever explained, really.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    December 14, 2011

    Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again! Guess Who Benefits?

    Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People -- "the 99%" -- do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don't get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here's the thing, they say they want "cuts" but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.

    The current 112th Congress is the first Congress elected under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of corporate money in elections. Remember the flood of ads accusing Democrats of "half a trillion in cuts from Medicare" that got them elected -- paid for with corporate money? Those ads swung the electorate toward Republican candidates, and now we are seeing the results -- including cuts in Medicare and even plans to privatize it entirely.

    How Many Times?

    To get their way Republicans have already nearly shut down our government or just shut down parts of it several times. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown and hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Shutdown. Shutdown. Hostage. Hostage. And on and on...

    This Time

    Here are just some of the Republican demands this time if we want the hostage released:


    • Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
    • Block rules reducing air pollution from industrial burners.
    • Drug tests for people receiving unemployment benefits.
    • Reduce the duration of jobless aid from 99 to 59 weeks.
    • Allow states to cut benefits even more.

    Even Worse Than That

    The National Women's Law Center writes, in, House Bill Cuts Unemployment and Health Benefits, Domestic Programs, Child Tax Credit and More that there are many other reasons to be concerned:


    • Slashes federal emergency unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers by more than half—and hits the states with the highest unemployment rates the hardest.
    • Makes permanent, mean-spirited changes to the basic unemployment program, such as requiring claimants to have a high school diploma or GED and making unemployed workers pay for re-employment services offered by the government.
    • Reduces health benefits by reducing financial protections for low- and moderate-income families purchasing health insurance, cutting funds to providers serving low-income populations, and slashing prevention and public health funds.
    • Denies the refundable Child Tax Credit to low-income immigrant families by requiring a Social Security number to claim the credit.
    • Cuts funding for non-security discretionary programs by over $26 billion—on top of the cuts already imposed by the Budget Control Act.

    The European Lesson

    Republicans claim that cutting back government is good for the economy and creates jobs. (Note -- they always claim that anything for the 1% is good for the economy and creates jobs, whether or not it really is good for the economy and creates jobs or not.)

    But is it really good for the economy to cut back on the things government does for the people and the economy? Let's look to Europe, where they have been cutting back on government in a grand experiment to see if that helps the economy. (Hint: it has really, really, really hurt the economy.) Reuters: Analysis: Europe's austerity zeal risks killing the patient,

    Europe's "no pain no gain" attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc's problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.

    ... The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.

    "The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment," said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.

    "The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don't cut your way to growth."

    Shifting Not Cutting

    Do cuts in government spending actually cut spending? Consider what happens when you cut health care spending. The need for the health care certainly doesn't go away, but the cost of it is shifted away from government and on to individuals. Since iIndividuals do not have the economy-of-scale bargaining power and ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes that government does, their own individual cost is often much higher. So when these costs are shifted from government the cost to the larger economy is actually increased dramatically.

    The things government does are done because they need to be done. So if government doesn’t pay for them, does the need go away? No, when you cut government the need is still there. The costs are still there. But the power to bargain and to protect is gone. By cutting the 99%'s ability to protect themselves from scams and schemes, the 1% are better able to prey on them.

    So, no, cutting government does not cut the costs of the things government does, it just shifts those costs from government onto the larger economy -- the 99% -- and even increases them, to the benefit of the 1%.

    Who They Are Protecting And Who They Are Hurting

    Why else do the 1% push so hard for government budget cuts, even though they really just shift the same costs onto the larger economy? Because this cost-shifting takes the tax pressure off of the 1%. Government collects taxes to cover the things regular people need, the cost of maintaining and modernizing infrastructure, etc. Of course, these are all good for the economy, the country, and the people. But since the 1% make most of the money and hold almost all of the wealth these prime beneficiaries of the economy are the obvious people to collect taxes from. So by cutting back on government they cut back on government's need for taxes -- from them.

    And they get the added benefit of cutting back on government interference in their schemes and control.

    In the long game of cuts and consequences, a society cannot win. In the 1980s we cut taxes and started cutting government. As a result we now have crumbling infrastructure, bad schools, unaffordable universities, etc. This is because government cuts do not cut the need out of the larger economy, they shift the costs of needed things away from causing tax pressure on the wealthy.

    They don't care if the larger economy suffers as a result, they're already the 1%.

    What To Do

    Tell Republican leaders to stop sabotaging the economy. Renew the payroll tax cut and long-term aid for the jobless.
    Sign the petition.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 13, 2011

    Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans

    Last week Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, a bipartisan bill to both help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. This proposed legislation would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. The bill should also give us the right to get a person on the phone at all, within a few minutes, and not requiring a long phone tree of choices first, but I guess that's for another day...

    Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:


    • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
    • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
    • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
    • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
    • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

    At the Huffington Post, David Jamieson writes more about this bill, in, Overseas Call Centers Target Of Anti-Outsourcing Bill,

    Although some call-center jobs have trickled back into the U.S. in recent years, the long-term trend has shown thousands of American-based customer service positions being outsourced to India and the Philippines, where workers come considerably cheaper. The Philippines' call-center industry recently surpassed India's as the largest in the world, according to a report in USA Today.

    ... In addition to scuttling any grants or guaranteed loans for a period of five years, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would require that companies that are about to offshore call-center jobs notify the Labor Department 120 days before they do so. The companies would then be put on a public list. Bishop said the law would apply to businesses in all industries.

    Such a bill is unlikely to garner strong support from anti-protectionist, free-trade GOP members of Congress, but the inclusion of the call-center rules adds an interesting wrinkle. Given the widespread frustration of customers who end up on long calls with agents overseas, plenty of constituents, Republican and Democrat alike, would probably appreciate the option of dealing more regularly with customer service reps based in America.

    In a press release, the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents call-center employees, writes,

    The Communications Workers of America is strongly backing new, bi-partisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives today that would ban federal grants and loans to corporations who move U.S. call center jobs overseas. CWA represents 700,000 workers in telecommunications and other sectors; more than 150,000 are customer service professionals.

    .. “Americans are fed up with good-paying family supporting call center jobs here in the United States being shipped overseas so the one percent can make a little extra money,” said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins. This legislation does not prevent them from moving if they want, but it prevents them from gaining access to our tax dollars while they do so.”

    Collins, who began his career in a U.S.-based Verizon call center, said CWA members across the country will be mobilizing support for the legislation in individual states and Congressional Districts.

    “We will go door to door to reinforce to members of Congress that this is a bill their constituents want and need,” Collins said. “We appreciate Representatives Bishop, McKinley and all the members of Congress who are supporting this important legislation.”

    The full text of the bill is available here:

    H.R.3596 - To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:23 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    Take Back The Capitol -- Right Message, Right Time

    Last week's Take Back the Capitol action brought two or three thousand unemployed people to the capitol. These representatives of the 99% went to the offices of 99 Senators and Representatives who now represent the 1%, where they were ignored and doors were closed on them. Some members were filmed fleeing down stairwells or hiding in copy rooms. So the next day the representatives of the 99% went to the people who really make the decisions. They marched on K Street, the symbolic center of the lobbying industry. They went to political fundraisers, and even to the Chamber of Commerce.

    Here is a collection of videos of legislators fleeing their constituents who were there to represent the 99%, asking for JOBS and for extensions of unemployment benefits:


    Just The Right Time

    Take Back the Capitol seemed to happen at just the right time. "Occupy" camps across the country are being cleared, and newspapers were starting to talk about the movement as if it was over. Then this mass action descended in the nation's capitol making noise and drawing attention.

    The powers-that-be might have thought they had suppressed this movement, but the movement seems to be stronger than ever. As Lee Camp said, "Pepper spraying #occupiers is like throwing water on gremlins, you just get 10 times as many."

    Human Red Carpet

    One of the best creative actions was a protest at the Chamber of Commerce, where the Take Back the Capitol people formed a "human red carpet" so the 1% could literally walk on the 99% as they entered the Chamber's holiday party.

    Several dozen Occupy DC protesters rolled out the human red carpet for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's holiday party at their Washington, DC headquarters this evening. The Chamber is the nation's largest corporate lobby group. As guests entered, protesters shouted, "You walk on our rights, now walk on us!" encouraging attendees to trample on the activists laying underneath the red carpet painted with "99%." No one did, sadly, at least while ThinkProgress was in attendance.

    Press Reports

    Here is a sampling of the press reports:

    Washington Post: As Occupy faces setbacks around the country, focus shifts to D.C.,

    In Washington, hundreds of people, either from Occupy D.C. or bused in from around the country, participated in a "Day of Action: Occupiers Unite" to target K Street NW, where many of the capital's lobbyists are based.

    The protesters succeeded in crippling downtown traffic for much of the afternoon, blocking intersections as they chanted and formed human chains. More than 70 people were arrested, but many Occupiers will tell you that can be a good thing, because it means the world will keep watching.

    ... The K Street action came on the heels of a similar protest called "Take Back the Capitol," during which hundreds of demonstrators from around the country parked themselves on the Mall. The group is backed by the powerful Service Employees International Union and the progressive activist group MoveOn.org.

    AP: '99 percent' drop in on DC power players,

    It wasn't the slick suits, pricey heels and sense of purpose of the congressional staffers that Susan Wilkinson saw this week on Capitol Hill. What stung about crossing paths with them, she said, was this: "They wouldn't make eye contact with us," the unemployed Seattle activist recalled Thursday. "When did I get invisible?"

    Wilkinson was among hundreds of angry Americans who streamed through Washington and its corridors of power this week to command attention for the 99 percent of Americans that protesters claim are struggling to survive the recession. They were hard to miss.

    CNN: Occupiers take K street -- photos,

    Occupiers from all over the country marked the 3rd day of the 'Take Back the Capitol week', in Washington DC, with an event called 'Make Wall Street Pay' in which hundreds blocked several intersections on K street. Ultimately the protesters focused on 2 intersections: K street & 13th and 14th st nw, in which they decided to block the traffic flow by staging a sit-down and lying on the ground until arrested.

    LA Times: Protesters occupy Newt Gingrich's fundraiser,

    Newt Gingrich witnessed the Occupy movement up close and personal Wednesday night.

    Protesters crashed his presidential fundraiser at a restaurant next to the storied Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown D.C., about a baseball's throw from the White House.

    . . . Gingrich held the $1,000-a-plate fundraiser as his campaign is trying to become a national organization--and pay off all its debts.

    Our Reports From Last Week

    99% March On K Street To Take Back The Capitol From The 1%

    As Unemployed Seize K Street, Time To Amplify Pressure On Congress

    Unemployed Confront Congress At Take Back The Capitol

    It Keeps Going

    People have had enough and are finally realizing they can speak out against the abuses and insults that the 1% are heaping on the rest of us. Last week it was blocking unemployment benefit extensions, so 2 million more of us will lose all income at the end of the year. It was blocking the appointee to head the new consumer financial protection agency, so backs and credit cards and predatory lenders can keep running their scams. What will it be next week?

    It was predicted that the cold weather would stop the occupiers. It was predicted that clearing out the camps and using the intimidation that comes from masses of policy in military hardware using pepper spray and batons would suppress the movement. It didn't. Instead the movement moved on DC and into the offices of the legislators and then down to K Street and the Chamber from where the legislators get their orders and the fundraisers from which they get their corporate cash for use smearing the good people who try to fight them. Where next?


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Last week’s Take Back the Capitol action brought two or three thousand unemployed people to the capitol. These representatives of the 99% went to the offices of 99 Senators and Representatives who now represent the 1%, where they were ignored and doors were closed on them. Some members were filmed fleeing down stairwells or hiding in copy rooms. So the next day the representatives of the 99% went to the people who really make the decisions. They marched on K Street, the symbolic center of the lobbying industry. They went to political fundraisers, and even to the Chamber of Commerce.

    Here is a collection of videos of legislators fleeing their constituents who were there to represent the 99%, asking for JOBS and for extensions of unemployment benefits:


    Just The Right Time

    Take Back the Capitol seemed to happen at just the right time. "Occupy" camps across the country are being cleared, and newspapers were starting to talk about the movement as if it was over. Then this mass action descended in the nation's capitol making noise and drawing attention.

    The powers-that-be might have thought they had suppressed this movement, but the movement seems to be stronger than ever. As Lee Camp said, "Pepper spraying #occupiers is like throwing water on gremlins, you just get 10 times as many."

    Human Red Carpet

    One of the best creative actions was a protest at the Chamber of Commerce, where the Take Back the Capitol people formed a "human red carpet" so the 1% could literally walk on the 99% as they entered the Chamber's holiday party.

    Several dozen Occupy DC protesters rolled out the human red carpet for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s holiday party at their Washington, DC headquarters this evening. The Chamber is the nation’s largest corporate lobby group. As guests entered, protesters shouted, “You walk on our rights, now walk on us!” encouraging attendees to trample on the activists laying underneath the red carpet painted with “99%.” No one did, sadly, at least while ThinkProgress was in attendance.

    Press Reports

    Here is a sampling of the press reports:

    Washington Post: As Occupy faces setbacks around the country, focus shifts to D.C.,

    In Washington, hundreds of people, either from Occupy D.C. or bused in from around the country, participated in a “Day of Action: Occupiers Unite” to target K Street NW, where many of the capital’s lobbyists are based.

    The protesters succeeded in crippling downtown traffic for much of the afternoon, blocking intersections as they chanted and formed human chains. More than 70 people were arrested, but many Occupiers will tell you that can be a good thing, because it means the world will keep watching.

    ... The K Street action came on the heels of a similar protest called “Take Back the Capitol,” during which hundreds of demonstrators from around the country parked themselves on the Mall. The group is backed by the powerful Service Employees International Union and the progressive activist group MoveOn.org.

    AP: '99 percent' drop in on DC power players,

    It wasn't the slick suits, pricey heels and sense of purpose of the congressional staffers that Susan Wilkinson saw this week on Capitol Hill. What stung about crossing paths with them, she said, was this: "They wouldn't make eye contact with us," the unemployed Seattle activist recalled Thursday. "When did I get invisible?"

    Wilkinson was among hundreds of angry Americans who streamed through Washington and its corridors of power this week to command attention for the 99 percent of Americans that protesters claim are struggling to survive the recession. They were hard to miss.

    CNN: Occupiers take K street -- photos,

    Occupiers from all over the country marked the 3rd day of the 'Take Back the Capitol week', in Washington DC, with an event called 'Make Wall Street Pay' in which hundreds blocked several intersections on K street. Ultimately the protesters focused on 2 intersections: K street & 13th and 14th st nw, in which they decided to block the traffic flow by staging a sit-down and lying on the ground until arrested.

    LA Times: Protesters occupy Newt Gingrich’s fundraiser,

    Newt Gingrich witnessed the Occupy movement up close and personal Wednesday night.

    Protesters crashed his presidential fundraiser at a restaurant next to the storied Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown D.C., about a baseball’s throw from the White House.

    . . . Gingrich held the $1,000-a-plate fundraiser as his campaign is trying to become a national organization—and pay off all its debts.

    Our Reports From Last Week

    99% March On K Street To Take Back The Capitol From The 1%

    As Unemployed Seize K Street, Time To Amplify Pressure On Congress

    Unemployed Confront Congress At Take Back The Capitol

    It Keeps Going

    People have had enough and are finally realizing they can speak out against the abuses and insults that the 1% are heaping on the rest of us. Last week it was blocking unemployment benefit extensions, so 2 million more of us will lose all income at the end of the year. It was blocking the appointee to head the new consumer financial protection agency, so backs and credit cards and predatory lenders can keep running their scams. What will it be next week?

    It was predicted that the cold weather would stop the occupiers. It was predicted that clearing out the camps and using the intimidation that comes from masses of policy in military hardware using pepper spray and batons would suppress the movement. It didn't. Instead the movement moved on DC and into the offices of the legislators and then down to K Street and the Chamber from where the legislators get their orders and the fundraisers from which they get their corporate cash for use smearing the good people who try to fight them. Where next?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 8, 2011

    Verizon Fires 40 Workers From Strike

    Verizon has fired 40 workers who took part in the strike this summer, saying they engaged in misconduct. Union leaders say this is a "heavy-handed" negotiating tactic to push for concessions at the bargaining table.

    At the AFL-CIO Blog, Unions Fight Verizon’s Firings of Striking Workers,

    IBEW Local 2222 Legislative Director Paul Feeney told the Boston Globe:
    We think this is a heavy-handed technique that Verizon is using to pressure us at the negotiating table. The union is going to fight this through the court. The company couldn’t prove to us that they did anything wrong.

    Investment blog Seeking Alpha describes this as part of Verizon's revenue strategy, saying this is one example of phone companies that "act like monsters," and "Verizon is playing hardball with its workers, firing strike leaders in an attempt to weaken workers' positions in future negotiations" and "squeeze more from workers."

    Visit the CWA Stop Verizon Green page to learn how to help Verizon workers in their struggle to remain in the middle class.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    99% March On K Street To Take Back The Capitol From The 1%

    I am in DC covering the Take Back the Capitol "99 in DC" events. On Tuesday I wrote about the efforts of unemployed people and others to get in to talk to their senators and representatives. (Watch some of them tell their stories.) On Wednesday they marched to “K Street” – the symbolic ground zero of the corporate takeover of our democracy. But first…

    When I was waiting to get on the plane to come here the jetway was backed up. Now that the airlines are charging $25 just to check a bag, everyone brings their bags on and tries to cram them into the limited on-plane carry-on space. But of course, the airlines aren't paying the flight attendants more because of the extra work this causes. So this guy come pushing his way down the left side, shouting, “First class, out of the way, first class, let me through,” because he missed boarding first, and he was entitled to already be on the airplane and not have to wait in the line like the rest of us.

    The rest of us are supposed to walk past the already-seated, first class passengers, eyeing their large, comfortable seats, while they sip their champagne mimosas, and look important and ... rich. We're supposed to envy them, and hope to eventually be among them. But until then we are supposed to be grateful that they "create jobs" and allow us to serve them. This is America today.

    Why Occupy?

    Outrages like this been getting worse and worse, and have reached a breaking point, with many of us unemployed -- because actually, the rich don't "create jobs, WE do! So the rest of us -- the 99% -- have been getting mad about things like this for a long time, and are finally starting to show it, now that things have gotten so bad. Across the country people are "occupying" places and ideas that have been taken over by the 1%. They are letting themselves get angry about the things that have been happening, the change from democracy to plutocracy, the way the big corporations and Wall Street now make the rules while they don't themselves have to follow the rules.

    Not only has our Congress come under the control of the 1%, they have done very little to help the 99% through this crisis that was caused by the 1%. This Congress -- the first since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court -- has done nothing to create jobs while doing a lot to kill jobs, and worse, at the end of this year extended unemployment benefits run out and 2 million people will lose their entire income.

    Take Back The Capitol

    So this week Take Back the Capitol brought unemployed people and others to Washington to confront their members of Congress and the lobbyists on "K Street" that they work for, to demand a change. Today they marched on K Street, the center of lobbying activity. CAF intern Sean McMartin was observing and writes,

    On December 7, 2011, a date 70 years after Pearl Harbor, another piece of history was made. Supporters of the American Dream Movement and several other organizations from all over the country marched from the National Mall up to K Street in Washington. They came to protest their outrage with the rich, corporations, and the special interests, many of which have lobbyists with offices on "K Street." They shouted they were the 99% of the country, who have not fared well over past few years with high unemployment and stagnated wages.

    Just before noon the people from the Take Back the Capitol came to the intersection of 16th and K Street, which became the epicenter of the protest. Occupy DC, which happened to be camped only a block away, saw what was happening and came out of their tents to join the protest. Then a group came marching from the west, too, as Occupy DC came from the east. The coordination was something to see in real time and represented several groups coming together from all over the place.

    The police had to use their cars to block off a perimeter for the protest that involved 14th Street to 17th Street and I Street to L Street. Even policemen on horses,not seen often in Washington, were used as a show of force. There was no violence from what I could see, but a good old protest where people come together to show their outrage with the status quo.

    Pedestrians going to lunch stepped out of their offices to witness history in the making. They took out their cameras and smartphones to record history as it happened and some even shouted their support for the movement.

    After 1 pm city workers and police ordered the protestors onto the sidewalks and of the streets. The protestors slowly but surely followed and cleared the streets as were told.

    Politico reported:

    Wednesday morning, protesters organized by the ADM swarmed the headquarters of major corporations and financial institutions including Verizon, General Electric, Capitol Tax Partners, the American Bankers Association and the financial lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford.

    A labor organizer said the protesters targeted corporations and lobbying groups representing companies that have paid more in executive compensation and lobbying in recent years than they’ve paid in taxes, citing a recent study by Public Campaign.

    Hundreds of protesters from around the country converged on Verizon’s headquarters, chanting slogans like, “whose street — our street” and “shame on Verizon, pay your fair share.” Verizon employees and building staff looked on from the building lobby as protesters swarmed by.

    Protesters also marched around the front of the American Bankers Association, where extra security had been put in place to prevent outsiders from getting into the building.

    About 20 protesters were in the lobby of the Capitol Tax Partners’ building for a brief time, according to a source in the building.

    Also on Wednesday, activists aligned with the Occupy D.C. movement based in McPherson Square marched to protest the Podesta Group, one of the city’s most powerful lobby shops, which has close ties to the Obama administration.

    Here is a collection of photos and videos from the action at K Street (click through for videos)::

    Click here to tell House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: Stop sabotaging the economy. Quit obstructing extensions of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment insurance.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 6, 2011

    Unemployed Confront Congress At Take Back The Capitol

    Today thousands of unemployed people and others came to D.C. to tell Congress and "K Street" that they need jobs not cuts; that we should tax the rich, and that unemployment benefits must be extended before they run out at the end of the year.

    I am in Washington to join them at the Take Back the Capitol "99 In DC" event. This is not the OccupyDC group, but it is supportive and very much like the Occupy group, with "Mic Check" and "We are the 99%" and "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out" chants going on everywhere. (Special note: There are no drum circles!)

    The center for the activities is a series of large tents on the Mall in front of the old Smithsonian building. There is a stage for entertainment in the evening, a food tent with GREAT food, a New Media tent, a Peacekeepers tent, and other facilities. The event is organized by a number of groups, including the Service Employees International Union, along with local groups around the country. I talked to several people who came out from Idaho last night who organize food distribution and other services for poor and unemployed people, and they had stories about the terrible way unemployment is affecting people there.

    Today people gathered in the morning in groups to prepare to visit members of Congress. There were three tents where groups gathered. There was the A-G tent, the H-O tent and the P-Z tent. I was joining the group that was heading over to Rep. Darrell Issa's office, and thought it was appropriate that we would meet in the H-O tent because he is such a big corporate ... well, you know.

    Anyone Can Visit

    A lot of people don't realize it, but anyone can visit the office of any member of Congress. You can come to D.C. and locate your member of Congress's office and go in and say you live in that district and want to say, "Hi." Or say other things. They work for you. Everyone in our delegation was from California, which is why Rep. Issa was chosen for a visit.

    The group walked in the rain down the mall to the Capitol and turned right to the Rayburn building where some of the members of Congress and various committees are located. We had to pass through security which involved putting any bags and computers through an X-ray machine, and walking through a metal detector. We didn't have to take off our shoes.

    Rep. Issa's Office

    The group collected and went to Issa's office, walked right in, and asked to see the Congressman. He was over at the Capitol, an aide said she would speak with the people there, but the people wanted to see Rep. Issa himself. She asked if the group could please move to the hall, and they said they would wait right there, thank you. After some back and forth, please clear a path for visitors, please move to the hall, I'll meet with you instead, etc., she called the Capitol Police who said that the office had requested them to please leave. So they left the office and waited in the hall.

    After a while the group decided to leave a few people at Issa's office and head over the another California Congressman's office, Rep. Dan Lungren. They arrived at Lungren's office, same story, we want to meet with the Representative, the aid said she would talk with them, no thanks we want to talk to the Congressman himself, etc. But this office did not call the Capitol Police, and they were especially nice, even bringing water and coffee. (Pretty good coffee.)

    Meanwhile Rep. Issa showed up at his office, demanded that the people there show ID to prove they are from his district. One of them was, but she pointed out that Issa gets campaign money from donors and corporate PACS from all over the country, and that his committees represent the entire country, so why wouldn't he talk to citizens. He said no, booted them from his office, and took off.

    This is going on in offices of dozens of members of Congress today, demanding that the 99% and the unemployed be heard, just as much as the corporate donors and billionaires be heard. They are asking for unemployment benefits to be extended, and for infrastructure projects that will employ millions and improve the economy, providing jobs for the long term. They are asking Congress for legislation to allow judges to "cram down" mortgage amounts so people do not lose their homes. They are asking for tax increases on the rich and new taxes on Wall Street speculation to pay for essential services so those services do not have to be cut.

    Tomorrow they are going after K Street.

    This is a slide show of pictures so far:

    I also have videos with stories told by people about their situations, and will be posting those in their own posts later. Stay tuned.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 4, 2011

    When They Come For You

    Here is what Occupy Melbourne did when the police came to clear out the tents: (hysterically funny)

    VIDEO- Mock and awe: #OccupyMelbourne’s attack of the Tent Monsters! | The Political Carnival

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 2, 2011

    DeLong: Top Tax Rate Should Be 70%

    Brad DeLong says the "right" top tax rate is 70%. I think it should be much higher, at 70% someone making a billion still ends up with $300 million so the incentive to bad action is still too high. The 70% Solution - J. Bradford DeLong - Project Syndicate

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos