December 31, 2012
Before 'W' got in and made changes in taxes and military spending we were paying off the debt. Bush said the deficits that resulted from his changes were "extremely positive news." (Yes, that is in quotes, click the link.) Before that Reagan also caused deficits on purpose. He called it "starve the beast" -- as if democracy is a "beast" that needs to be killed. So don't fall for all this deficit hysteria, let's just fix what caused the deficits and move on.
This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough
From May, This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough,
Any time any DC elite complains about "the deficit" remind them that when Clinton left office we had a huge surplus, so big that at the rate it was being paid down the entire US debt was going to be paid off in 10 years. Bush demanded that we give back the people's money and Greenspan warned of the danger of paying off the debt. Etc. Etc. Etc. Then Bush doubled military spending -- and started two wars on top of that!
So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don't take my word for it, click the links.)
The Reagan people said it too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, "starve the beast," and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be "small enough to drown in a bathtub." They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was "cutting the government's allowance." The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink, to get out of the way of the 1%.
Now that government is very much out of the way of the 1% we are seeing how things work out when the 1% dominate everything.
It was the plan. They forced these deficits on us on purpose. Reagan called it "strategic deficits." It was a "shock doctrine" tactic, to get us to panic, and then move in with their "solutions." So we are arguing about how much to cut out of the things We, the People do for our benefit, which the wealthy and their corporations get vastly wealthier and more powerful.
Low taxes on the rich = less money to use to do things that benefit We, the People. Higher military budget = less money to use to do things that benefit We, the People.
The ONLY response to this "fiscal cliff" shock-doctrine nonsense is to repeat over and over that we were paying off the debt, then Bush made changes, so let's undo Bush's changes. If you are so bothered by the deficits, then fix the things that caused the deficits.
And then we can get back to the business of democracy: We, the People doing things for the benefit of We, the People.
December 29, 2012
There is a chance to reform the filibuster in January, with a proposal to "make them talk." Will the Charlie Browns in the Senate let Lucy pull away the football yet again? As George 'W' Bush said, "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
In recent years Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to block over 380 bills and nominations. There has been a terrible cost to the country as Republicans blocked bill after bill, solution after solution, nomination after nomination. (They even blocked the Disclose Act which would have let the public know just who is paying them to obstruct.)
Two years ago there was an attempt to reform the filibuster, using "the constitutional option" which involves changing the rules at the start of a new Congress, which happens the January after an election. According to The Brennan Center for Justice article, A Short History of the Constitutional Option
The Senate’s authority to change its rules by a majority vote stems directly from the Constitution, which authorizes the chamber to “determine the Rules for its Proceedings.” And unlike other legislative actions, such as expelling members or ratifying treaties, the Constitution does not require a supermajority to approve rules changes.
The 2011 effort to change Senate rules and make it more difficult for an obstructionist minority to block the will of We, th People was stymied by Senate leadership, with an agreement between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that "Republicans would make an effort to filibuster less."
Lucy pulled away the football Republicans went back on that agreement and filibustered ... everything.
Make Them Talk
Now another new Congress will convene in January, 2013, and another effort is underway to reform the filibuster. This new proposal in front of the Senate to reform the filibuster returns to the form of filibuster that the public understands, namely talking all night.
But now there is a "bipartisan" proposal to head this off,
offering to really, really hold the football still this time, offering an agreement to not filibuster as much. TPM has the story, Dueling Filibuster Proposals Leave Reformers Scrambling,
The McCain-Levin proposal, unveiled Friday after bipartisan negotiations, would make it easier for the majority leader to bypass motions to proceed and guarantee the minority two amendments on legislation regardless of relevancy, Steven S. Smith, an expert on Congress at Washington University in St. Louis, told TPM. It would also remove obstacles on motions to go to conference and approve minor presidential nominations.
Levin told reporters in the Capitol that the plan “will hopefully overcome the gridlock that has so permeated the U.S. Senate.” He added: “It is a bipartisan proposal.”
Will Senate Democrats once again whiff on doing something about Republican obstruction? Will they fall for yet another "agreement" that will be negated a few minutes after Democrats think an agreement with Republicans has fixed the problem? Will Charlie Brown fall for it again?
Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of over 50 national organizations, explains why Democrats should hold to the reform plan that "makes them talk" in, “Thanks, But No Thanks” – Reid & Senate Democrats Should Reject Weak Senate Rules Offering,
A handful of Senators today unveiled a U.S. Senate rules proposal that falls well short of the meaningful change needed to overcome the unprecedented Senate obstruction of recent years. Instead of a serious reform effort, today’s offering is little more than a status quo, business as usual, recipe for continued Senate gridlock.
They should make them talk. This is a pro-democracy move. First, it stops the obstruction. Second, it allows senators with serious and honest problems with a bill to bring this to the attention of the public by holding a real, honest-to-goodness talkathon. Third, this would engage the public and give We, the People a chance to weigh in and agree or disagree with the objection.
What You Can Do
Contact your senators and let them know how you feel about making them talk. This is so important.
December 27, 2012
Lee Camp, "What Makes You Do What You Do":
My thought: if you use the word "monetize" you have lost your soul.
December 24, 2012
Happy Holidays from the Johnsons:
The back of the card:
Published by Sudeep Johnson
Doggie Paw Cards, Inc.
Many thanks to Paddington the little white dog, without whom there would be no card.
Here is last year's: Holiday Card From The Johnsons
Not sure what is wrong with "spending." It is the things we do as a democracy to make ALL of our lives better, instead of just a few people hoarding all the money. As a country we can certainly afford to spend on health care, retirement, things like that. We coughed up to bail out the banks on a moment's notice, more than a trillion to invade Iraq. We doubled the defense dept budget under 'W.'
Remember, when he took office Bush said that it was important that we stop paying off the debt. He said that the return to deficits was "incredibly positive news." That is a quote.
Go see for yourself. Here is a news report, Aug 25, 2001: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/25/politics/25BUSH.html
President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government's fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create ''a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.'' He said that was ''incredibly positive news'' because it would halt the growth of the federal government.
Pushed by Drudge: THOUSANDS SIGN US PETITION TO DEPORT PIERS MORGAN,
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for British CNN host Piers Morgan to be deported from the U.S. over his gun control views.
December 21, 2012
Here is a surprise, the gun manufacturers called for a new national law requiring all schools to buy guns - from them.
National Rifle Assn. Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre on Friday forcefully rejected calls to clamp down on guns in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, arguing instead for a massive deployment of armed guards to every school.
LaPierre pledged that the NRA would spearhead such an endeavor, appointing former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson to lead an effort to develop a cutting-edge model school security plan and a program to train volunteers who would be dispatched to campuses around the country.
This is the same crowd that objects to Obamacare because it orders us to buy insurance from the giant insurance companies.
December 20, 2012
This is a good time to remind people that I had a great Virtually Speaking talk with Richard Eskow, about Social Security that you should listen to.
I joined Campaign for America's Future's Richard Eskow to talk about the "fiscal cliff" scare, austerity, Social Security, Medicare and how we WON the election so we really should be talking about jobs instead.
This was a GREAT hour, and hold the information you need to arm yourself to win holiday-dinner conversations with your right-wing brother-in-law.
The conversation refers to my post, Fiscal Cliff Scare Talk Follows Shock Doctrine Script as well as several posts by Richard Eskow including,
Wall Street Finds a ‘Third Way’ to Plunder Our Wealth,
The “Fiscal Cliff” Is a Hoax … and a Mel Brooks Routine,
The Grand Swindle – Veterans on a Cliff,
After the Election, a New Mandate – and New “Fiscal Cliff” Math
Click here to listen, or listen using the widget below:
December 19, 2012
We JUST had an election where the public (not to mention Every. Single. Poll.) overwhelmingly said no cuts to Social Security or Medicare, and raise taxes on income over $250K. That ought to mean something. But the "word" out of DC is that a deal is underway that cuts the Social Security COLA and increases the income level subject to a higher tax from $250K to $400K.
Senators and Representatives who are thinking of touching the "third rail:" How many constituents are calling your office today to say, "Yes, I want you to cut the Social Security COLA"?
Cutting Social Security makes no sense, and is bad politics because it hurts people. Old people depend on this meager benefit and by law Social Security can not contribute to deficits. But never mind the numbers, look at the social and political effects of a deal that cuts the Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) immediately after the public voted not to do this.
The social effect: Does our society care about people, or just about money? Cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security hurt PEOPLE. Raising tax rates on the wealthy is just money. What does it tell the public about our society if their government cuts Social Security benefits immediately after we have an election in which the public overwhelmingly votes against cuts in Social Security or Medicare, and to increase taxes on $250K and up? This reported deal raises that $250K to $400K, reduces military cuts, and ignores that the same amount of money could be raised in ways that actually help the country and economy, like a Financial Transaction Tax.
Bankers got huge bonuses with government bailout money, and now you are cutting the meager benefits old people get? What does this tell the public, to cut this when one after another Democratic leader, including Vice President Biden, has stepped up to insist that Social Security is off the table? It tells the public not to trust their leaders, because the big money will win every time.
Talk about undermining "certainty" and "confidence." Wow.
The political effect: Suicide. Seniors pay attention to the yearly COLA increase. Every single year from now on when the COLA is announced it is more than likely that seniors will believe they are getting a lower increase because President Obama and the Democrats betrayed them. This is human nature, they will think they would have gotten more (and Republicans will tell them they would have gotten more).
It will become folklore -- conventional wisdom -- that they would have received a much higher increase, except Obama and the Dems betrayed seniors.
Need to raise some money? Here are a few things you can offer instead of cutting the Social Security COLA:
- Financial Transaction Tax on speculative investments - a quarter of a penny per share.
- A BIG surtax on incomes over $10 million until the debt is paid off.
- Cut the military budget a lot more. Reagan doubled it and 'W' Bush doubled it again. The Soviet Union is gone.
- Get rid of oil company subsidies.
- Rebuild the nation's infrastructure (with American-made materials) thereby employing millions who will then be paying taxes and won't be getting assistance, and then our economy will be more efficient and competitive in the future.
- Retrofit (with American-made materials) our buildings and homes to be energy efficient, thereby employing millions (etc) plus our economy will have to spend less on energy from now on.
- Make companies bring home the money they are holding offshore, and pay the corporate tax on it.
- A thousand other ways to cut the deficit without hitting old people with the bill.
Now Please Read Richard Eskow's Post
It seems like everything I try to say Richard Eskow succeeds in saying, and does so better than I ever could. (Seriously, read what he wrote about the CT shootings.)
Richard explains why this COLA-cut offer is a bad idea, in This Is Not America’s Deal,
This deal would make voters very unhappy. It reflects neither their wishes, their needs, or their values. They’ve already said so – to pollsters like ours and in the voting booth on Election Day. Instead of responding, this looks like another “insider deal” – another agreement that suggests the public’s values and concerns vanish once you cross the Beltway.
... The Republicans lost the last election - by a landslide, in fact, in both the Presidential and Senate races. They even lost the House — by more than 1.6 million votes. Only their gerrymandering, vote suppression, and billionaire campaign cash allowed them to retain control of that body despite a popular-vote defeat.
And only their outrageous abuse of Senate rules like the filibuster has allowed them to tie up that body and prevent it from doing its work.
Republicans lost because their ideas are unpopular. But this deal would turn those ideas into policy. This undemocratic ”Loser Take All” strategy will further alienate voters, while encouraging extremists in Congress to keep abusing the system.
... This deal would send the wrong message: that successful programs and policies – Social Security, Medicare, and progressive taxation – are problems to be fixed, not solutions to be implemented and strengthened. These programs reflect our finest values: fairness, self-sufficiency, and mutual support. And they work.
A deal like this would also distract the nation from the real sources of our economic difficulties – like wealth inequity, a shortage of good middle-class jobs, and the misdeeds of under-regulated banks and corporations.
No deal is acceptable that undermines our social contract — our common agreement to work together and help each other — as this one would. They’ve made us strong and prosperous and they must be protected.
PS If you really want to change the COLA formula, use a measurement that looks at the things old people actually spend their money on, like the cost of prescriptions or dental care. "Chained-CPI" doesn't look at these things, so it would lower the COLA. An honest look at how the cost of living changes for old people would mean a higher COLA than now, not a lower one.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley took to the white board to explain the talking filibuster and why we need to reform the Senate.
The filibuster used to be an important tool that gave the minority a real voice in the Senate. Not anymore.
For too long now, this tactic has been misused and abused. Congress has stopped legislating effectively, with Senators using ridiculous dodge tactics to block real progress. Right now there is an opportunity to restore the filibuster to its original purpose, but senators like Merkley need your help and backing to do it.
Call 1-866-937-5062 or text FIXTHESENATE to 69866 and tell your senators you support Senate rules reform, including returning to a talking filibuster, and they should, too.
IBEW has an action page that helps you "determine who your Senators are and then you can email or call them to express your support for the talking filibuster. For your convenience the Political-Legislative Affairs Department has already drafted an email regarding this issue for your Senator that you may choose to send as-is or edit as you see necessary."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving city contracts to private companies that promise to "save money" by replacing hundreds of good-paying union jobs with low-paying non-union jobs. More than 300 janitors and window washers at O'Hare International Airport are at risk of losing their jobs just days before Christmas this year because Mayor Emanuel is replacing their employer with United Maintenance.
As Republicans across the country continue their all-out assault on public employees, labor unions and the middle class, why is Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- President Obama's former White Hose Chief-of-Staff -- joining in by awarding contracts that eliminate good-paying union jobs for race-to-the bottom, low-paying, insider-connected, anti-middle-class non-union jobs?
To top it off, several news organizations are reporting that the companies involved may have "ties" to organized crime, including top employees convicted of racketeering in organized crime prosecutions, and partnerships with known organized crime figures.
Progress Illinois reports, O'Hare Janitors Set To Lose Jobs Before Holidays Hold Vigil At City Hall (VIDEO), (click through for the whole story)
Time is running out for more than 300 O’Hare janitors who stand to lose their jobs by the end of next week as a result of a new city contract.
Local clergy members and workers' rights advocates held a prayer vigil with airport workers at City Hall Tuesday afternoon in a last ditch effort to persuade city officials to reverse their decision to award a $99 million custodial contract to a company critics claim plans to replace union jobs with non-union, lower-paying positions.
More than 100 supporters filled the fifth floor hallway outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in protest over the city’s five-year agreement with United Maintenance Company Inc. to provide janitorial services for the airport beginning December 15.
Last week, the last of 54 union custodial jobs at Chicago public libraries were cut and replaced with workers from private firms as part of the city's contracts with Triad Consulting Services and Dayspring Professional Services. This past summer, as many as 50 union janitors were laid-off when a new company contracted to clean police stations, city senior centers and health clinics replaced them with non-union workers.
Organized Crime Connections?
Several news organizations are reporting that these city contracts are going to insiders who are possibly conencted with organized crime figures.
The mob-related questions keep coming in connection with the company awarded a $99 million custodial contract at O'Hare International Airport, and for the second day the mayor dodged potential Rahmfather implications.
Reports surfaced Wednesday that Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies, served time in 1987 after he was charged in the same corruption case as late mobster Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo, who was acquitted. A day earlier the Chicago Sun-Times reported the owner of United Service, Richard Simon, had partnered in the past with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr.
Emanuel skirted questions about both connections, twice pointing to the city's "competitive process" that he said resulted in work for the Service Employees International Union and the hiring of about 100 former employees.
Chicago Sun-Times: More mob ties to contractor in O’Hare cleaning deal,
A high-ranking employee of the contractor who recently won a $99.4 million janitorial contract with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration once served a prison sentence after he was charged in the same corruption case as late Chicago mob boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.
Paul A. Fosco was convicted on racketeering charges in 1987, sentenced to a 10-year prison term and left federal prison in 1993, public records show. He now is an executive vice president of United Service Companies, according to his profile posted on the LinkedIn networking website.
United Service is owned by Richard Simon, a former Chicago Police officer who led the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau from 2002 to 2005. On Oct. 31, Emanuel’s administration chose one of United’s many companies, United Maintenance Co. Inc., to clean O’Hare International Airport for five years starting Dec. 15.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that Simon had partnered in yet another firm with William Daddano Jr., who was accused of organized-crime ties by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Chicago Crime Commission.
Workers Take Action
CBS Chicago reports, in O’Hare Janitors Descend On Mayor’s House To Protest Looming Job Cuts,
Dozens of union airport workers were holding a prayer vigil outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house on Thursday, asking him to reconsider a decision to hand custodial work at O’Hare International Airport to a new company that doesn’t use union labor.
You Can Take Action
Click here to read about Good Jobs and Chicago Families at Risk: O’Hare Worker Stories.
Petition here: Mayor Rahm Emanuel: STOP CUTTING GOOD JOBS
December 18, 2012
We JUST had an election where the public said no cuts to SS or Medicare, and raise taxes on income over $250K. Didn't we?
The likely politics of changing the Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment formula is that every year when the COLA increase is announced, seniors will believe they were cheated. It won't matter if that year the difference is zero, or very, very small, or even somehow more than they would have received under the old system. It will become folklore that they would have received a much higher increase, except for Obama and the Dems selling them out.
Why do we even bother to have elections anymore?
December 16, 2012
I'll be on Virtually Speaking tonite 6p PT 9p ET with Avedon Carol -- @Avedon_Says
We will be talking about happenings of the week. Culture of Truth satirizes the Sunday Morning talk shows.
Listen live or after as a podcast at http://bit.ly/ZzjQn5
December 15, 2012
I the wild west movies the sign that a town is civilized is when they make you surrender your guns at the town border.
December 14, 2012
Senate Democrats were all about getting things done, and that kept them from getting anything done. They didn't take on the filibuster head-on, so now obstruction is the expected norm. There have been more than 380 filibusters and the public (and apparently the media) doesn't know there has been even one. It is time to MAKE THEM TALK if they want to filibuster a bill.
380 Filibusters - The Public Doesn't Know
Under Lyndon Johnson there was one filibuster, and the public knew about it because a Senator had to talk all night. In the last few years there have just a few been more than one and the public doesn't know about it at all. How many filibusters have there been? Harry Reid writes in Politico: "Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters."
If you talk to the public you will find people do not know about this. Most people do not believe there has been even a single filibuster because they haven't seen it happen. To the public a filibuster is a dramatic event, a big deal, involving Senators talking all night until they fall down from exhaustion.
Here's the thing. The public hates obstruction, and would apply the right amount of pressure if they knew about it. That is how democracy is supposed to work. But the public does not know that obstruction is occurring. The silent filibuster tactic has been successful because people don't see it. And that means that democracy isn't working the way it should.
The Senate Made A Mistake
In the 1970s the Senate changed rules that required a filibuster to be a spectacle and a talkathon. Instead they wanted to be able to move on and get things done so the "silent filibuster" was enabled. Nobodye could have predicted that a corporate/conservative minority would later use the new "silent filibuster" tactic more than 380 times to keep anything from getting done. The filibuster is now so abused that the media tells the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass any bill.
Senate Democrats have been irresponsible in allowing this to continue, because democracy wants the public to be alerted to obstruction. In their wish to get things done and get along with the other side they have been accomplices in the obstruction strategy. They have resisted making a big deal out of each and every obstruction, resisted using theater tactics like "bringing out the cots," resisted "making waves" by changing the rules, and tried to just keep the Senate moving along and getting along. But the result of accommodating the conservatives is they have enabled a take-no-prisoners minority to just block everything. Since the public is largely unaware of this minority obstruction they are not applying the pressure that a functioning democracy requires.
A Simple Fix - Make Them Talk
Make. Them. Talk.
There is a simple fix that will stop obstruction -- except when obstruction is appropriate. This simple fix is to change the rules back to what people think the rules already are: make them actually filibuster in the way the public understands. They should make them talk all night if they want to obstruct a bill.
Here is why making them talk all night is the best solution. While getting rid of the ability to silently and secretly obstruct action it retains the ability of the minority to make their point, and does it in a way that brings that point to the attention of the public. By killing the "silent filibuster" and making Senators engage in the public theater of a dramatic event, where they stand in the Senate chamber and talk and talk, Democrats can actually restore a functioning democracy and engage the public in our democracy.
But when something is happening that is truly egregious and the minority wants to bring the public's attention to this, they can alert the press and their supporters and get started in a dramatic talk-all-night theater event. They can launch an actual filibuster, just like the movie. It will be big news. The news channels will all make a big deal of this, and people can contact each other and organize a response.
Making them talk gives the public time to get involved. In fact it invites the public to get involved. Or not. It gives the public the choice, which is why we have those first three words in our Constitution.
The Cost Of Filibuster Abuse
The core principle of our government is that We, the People make the decisions. We are supposed to have self-government by majority rule. But in the last few years this has been turned on its head by this silent filibuster obstruction. Nothing gets done, and the public doesn't understand why not. The cost to We, the People has been staggering.
How many things that the people and our economy want and need have been blocked in the last few years? Well, aside from literally everything, I mean. This abuse of the rules even keep us from learning who or even what country (Disclose Act) is paying for the abuse of the rule.
Just a few examples: Here are just a few examples -- just a few out of 380+ filibusters -- from Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post, in 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster,
DREAM Act DISCLOSE Act Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) Public option Paycheck Fairness Act Permanent middle-class Bush tax cut extension Rescinding of the upper-income Bush tax cuts Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act American Jobs Act The Buffett rule Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011 Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act “Shared Sacrifice” Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011 Burmese import restrictions Appointments - [click through to see the whole list]
Again, those are just a few of the things that We, the People want and need, that were blocked by Republican filibusters. JOBS. The public option. Stopping tax breaks for outsourcing. Ending the huge tax breaks for the oil companies and the billionaires.
A big one: Labor: This week's anti-union vote in Michigan shows us that one cost to We, the People was that reforming labor law was blocked. Blocked by filibuster in 2007, Senate Democrats dropped this in 2009 because it could not get past a nother filibuster -- just one of 380.
June, 2007, GOP Senators Filibuster Employee Free Choice Act,
A majority of Senators voted in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) today, but the vote was nine votes short of the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster of the bill by a handful of obstructionist Senators.
Then in 2009, (again from 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster above), Democrats were trying to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed,
But at the time, well over Democratic Senators had indicated their support of the bill, which also got 51 votes and passed the House in 2007, when Democrats had fewer seats, meaning it was especially likely to pass in 2009.
And of course, never forget climate change. Action has been obstructed and obstructed and obstructed...
So many solutions to our country's problems have been obstructed by corporate&billionaire-funded minority filibusters!
Things You Can Do
Fist, be aware that the filibuster does exist and has been used 380 times, even though you haven't seen anyone talking all night.
Call the offices of both of your state's senators and tell them you want them to fix the filibuster and make them talk all night if they want to block a bill. You can use this number: 1-877-782-8274.
There is a Fix the Senate Now Facebook page. "In the US Senate, back room deals and filibuster rules allow a handful of senators to stop the rest from making any progress. Let's fix the Senate, now."
Follow @FixTheSenate on Twitter.
Start your own Fix the Senate online petition; Use an online petition tool like SignOn.org to start your own petition to ask your Senators to reform the Senate rules. You can get ideas for language to use at http://fixthesenatenow.org/page/s/signthepetition/.
New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has a special Senate Rules: Common Sense Reform website with a lot of resources and recent press coverage, as well as all of Senator Udall's past statements on rules reform.
Because it is time to Make. Them. Talk.
December 11, 2012
Pay attention to what is happening in Michigan, because it will add downward even more pressure to your wages and benefits, wherever you live and work. Republicans in the Michigan legislature have rammed through anti-union "right-to-work" laws making union dues voluntary even as unions a required by law to provide services to members and non-members. They say this will make Michigan more "business-friendly" by driving down wages and benefits, thereby stealing jobs from states where working people have rights. The actual intent is to get rid of the unions altogether, and their ability to fight for the 99% in the ongoing class war with the 1%.
What Are So-Called "Right-To-Work" Laws?
"Right-to-work" means the right to work in a unionized business thqt has a negotiated contract without paying dues to the union.
The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act allows states to prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-members or making union membership mandatory, and states that do this are called "right-to-work" states. So-called "right-to-work" laws prohibit labor contracts from requiring employees who are covered by the contract to pay dues to the union that won the contract. But the unions are still required to represent every worker who is covered by a contract -- even workers who are not members of the union and do not pay union dues. This costs money, so the union is drained of funds and power, thereby weakening their ability and incentive to fight for better wages and benefits.
Stealing From Other States, Lowering Wages And Tax Revenue
The appeal of these so-called "right-to-work" laws is that by weakening the ability of workers to band together and fight for better wages and conditions, they result in lower wages, benefits and safety standards. This is supposed to make these states more attractive to employers, which then brings jobs to the lower-wages states as employers leave states where worker have rights.
This affects wages across the larger economy. Any jobs that do move to these states come from other states. So in the larger economy of the country the effect of these laws is to shift wages, benefits and safety standards downward. This brings pressure that forces all wages for all employees down, which further lowers the country's tax base, reducing the entire country's ability to educate, maintain and modernize infrastructure, etc.
As jobs shift to lower-wage states, pressure to lower all wages increases, and the collection of income tax revenue decreases. The ability of consumers to make purchases decreases as well. Infrastructure investment declines. Education declines. Over time the country falls behind the rest of the world and it become more expensive and more difficult to catch up.
Or, in other words, exactly what we are seeing all around us now.
Studies Of The Effects
A May, 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that "right-to-work" states have lower wages (examples: 9.4% lower for all occupations, 11.4% lower for teachers) than states with union rights.
A January, 2012 study by American Rights at Work, New Research Counters Arguments for “Right-To-Work” Laws, examined a number of studies and found that "recent studies rebut claims of economic growth and instead find that laws suppress wages."
In Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization Henry Farber, Professor of Economics at Princeton University found that after Idaho passed a RTW law in 1985, there was a statistically-significant drop in nonunion wages relative to other states.
Feb, 2011, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Does ‘right-to-work’ create jobs? Answers from Oklahoma,
Despite ambitious claims by proponents, the evidence is overwhelming that:
• Right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.
• The case of Oklahoma – closest in time to the conditions facing those states now considering such legislation – is particularly discouraging regarding the law’s ability to spur job growth. Since the law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and relocations into the state reversed their climb and began to fall, precisely the opposite of what right-to-work advocates promised.
• For those states looking beyond traditional or low wage manufacturing jobs – whether to higher-tech manufacturing, to “knowledge” sector jobs, or to service industries dependent on consumer spending in the local economy – there is reason to believe that right-to-work laws may actually harm a state’s economic prospects.
Sept, 2011, EPI, ‘Right to work,’ The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy, findings included,
• Right-to-work laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
• Right-to-work laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
• By cutting wages, right-to-work laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy. With 85 percent of Michigan’s economy concentrated in health care, retail, education, and other non-manufacturing industries, widespread wage and benefit cuts could translate into significant negative spillover effects for the state’s economy.
On CNN this morning UAW President Bob King explained that this bill threatens worker rights. "It demonstrates to workers and really a broad spectrum of the populous that we have to work hard, we have to fight hard to protect our rights." Explaining that workers already have the choice to join a union, King said,
"You don't have to be a union member. But you have to pay your fair share. Just like if you live in a community, you pay for your fair share of the road cleaning, of the police, of the fire," King argued. People who benefit by [the union's] collective bargaining benefit by this procedure. They pay a fair share of the cost of representation."
Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard called on Michigan governor Snyder to veto the law, (click through for the entire statement)
“The USW active and retired members join other unions and allies in Michigan and across the nation to call on Gov. Snyder to support the proposal of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation. We ask the Governor to use his veto power to stop this unnecessary and divisive right-to-work bill.
“If the Governor feels this bill will move Michigan forward, he should delay the final legislative votes and allow an amendment that would put this issue before the public as a state ballot initiative. We urge Governor Snyder to delay his signing of the bill. Let the people of Michigan debate and vote on a consequential matter that will affect all working families.
“We know the newly-elected Michigan state legislature convening early next year has added Democrats that would reject a right-to-work-for-less bill. Right-to-work is only supported by millionaires and billionaires who profit by taking more money out of the workers’ pockets.
Demonstrations and Disruptions
In a sign of things to come, 12-15,000 people demonstrated today at Michigan's capitol building. There were confrontations, including mounted police charging into the crowd. Former Congressman Mark Schauer was pepper-sprayed.
Ned Resnikoff, writing in, Michigan passes ‘Right-to-Work’ but fight isn’t over at the Ed Schultz website,
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Michigan’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives gave its final approval to the state’s hotly contested “right-to-work” legislation, as thousands of the bill’s opponents rallied outside. But labor activists and their allies say that the fight isn’t over yet, and they’re already plotting their strategy for keeping Michigan a union stronghold.
“This fight is not over by a long shot, regardless of what happens today,” said Zack Pohl, the executive director of Progress Michigan.
Mary Bottari at PRWat: Michigan Passes "Right to Work" Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill
AFL-CIO 'Right to Work' for Less fact sheet.
Economic Policy Institute, Unions and Labor Standards, a collection of articles, posts and studies of the effects labor and anti-labor policies.
Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, Right-to-Work Laws, Explained
Josh Eidelson at Salon, Koch brothers, Tea Party cash drives Michigan right-to-work bill
Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post, Big 3 Automakers Reportedly Worried About Michigan Right To Work Legislation
Teamster Nation: RTW passes in #MI as thousands try to enter Capitol
OurFuture post on being "business-friendly, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”,
China is very, very “business-friendly.” Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more “business-friendly,” in order to “compete” with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay — even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be “business-friendly” enough to compete with China, and here is why.
December 6, 2012
I am sitting in for Patrick O'Heffernan's Fairness Radio show today at 2pm EST / 11am Pacific time.
You can tune in online at www.cyberstationusa.com or on www.blogtalkradio.com – just click on “Listen Live” (or on your local station in our coverage area.) Call in at 424-675-6806 or email questions live to fairnessradio@gmail to be read on the air.
The specific Blog Talk Radio link for today is:
December 5, 2012
What happened to jobs? The pubic wants government to do something about jobs and getting the economy moving, and in DC the only thing is this weird argument about ... anything but jobs and getting the economy moving! "Fiscal cliff?" What about jobs? Fixing the economy will fix the debt, not the other way around.
Economic Storm Clouds
The economy is slowing, with signs of trouble on the horizon. Recent economic indicators are not so good. Trade deficits are huge, a bad manufacturing number this week, Europe still stagnant and slipping (because of austerity), China slowing. NY Times says, "Recent economic data "surprisingly weak," and "recovery sputtering." From Republicans Balk at Short-Term Stimulus in Obama Plan,
“As the debate rages in Washington, data has shown the recovery once again sputtering, with the underlying rate of growth too slow to bring down the unemployment rate by much and some of the economic momentum gained in the fall dissipating in the winter.”
It's Demand Stupid
This slowing is not happening because people are "worried about the fiscal cliff." It is because there are not enough jobs, and the wages of the people who do have jobs are stagnant with all the gains in the economy going to a very few at the very top of the economic ladder. Europe is slowing because they attacked deficits instead of hiring people to do jobs. We are slowing because the government stopped stimulus and started cutting.
The slowdown is because the jobs are not coming back fast enough, wages are stagnant and falling, and the government is not doing anything about it. And that means that there is not enough "demand" in the economy to cause investment and hiring.
Businesses want customers, not tax cuts -- and certainly not cutbacks. In fact most of what DC is focused on -- austerity -- will make the situation worse, possibly even much worse, as it has done in Europe.
Small Stimulus In President's Proposal
To his credit the President's "fiscal cliff" proposal does contain a limited stimulus to help keep the economy moving, at least at its current slow pace. But we really need a massive investment in jobs. The President's offer of $50 billion in stimulus for one year is insufficient, but at least it is something. The Republicans offer less than nothing, they want government efforts cut.
Jobs Fix Problems: The DC elite, major media and lobbying apparatus is focused like a laser beam on how much to cut, so the wealthy can have even more. But the public isn't stupid, they get that there is a disconnect because they know that jobs fix problems, jobs fix deficits and lots of jobs fixes wage stagnation. Strong employment = wage growth. Strong wages = strong economic growth.
The People Spoke -- The Election Was Supposed To Have Decided This
The election made it obvious, the public wants jobs, wants government services like Medicare and Social Security protected and even expanded, and more than anything wants taxes raised on the ultra-wealthy.
The election made the public’s wishes clear. But Washington continues to simply ignore what the public wants, and is focused like a laser beam on what a few billionaires want.
It was like there was an intense focus on the election, the public spoke, and then the very next day all attention shifted back away from what the public wanted and onto this austerity agenda that helps the billionaires at the expense of the rest of us.
A Government Of, By and For We, the People
I recently watched the PBS series The Dust Bowl. One thing that stood out was how the government actually cared about what was going on with the people, was trying to solve the problems, and how the people got it that the government was on their side.
Today it is a very different story, with the government isolated and largely under the control of wealthy and powerful interests. The current "fiscal cliff" absorption being only the most recent example.
The public doesn't get what is going on in DC. They want JOBS first, they want the meager government services they do get preserved and even expanded. And they want a fix to the problem of the last few decades of wage stagnation, corporate domination, outsourcing manufacturing, deferring infrastructure maintenance, unionbusting, age discrimination, and cancelling TV shows everyone likes. (Just seeing if you are still reading.)
Economy Has Lots Of Jobs That Need Doing
Jobs solve problems. Right now the country has lots of problems, so the country needs lots of jobs, which solve problems. And by great coincidence right now the country needs lots of things done. The country needs to repair and modernize its infrastructure. The country needs to update its electrical grid. The country needs to make its buildings and homes more energy efficient. All of these are things that improve the economy in the long run. And the remarkable thing is that all of these are things that will have to get done sooner or later.
So the country could just hire people to do those jobs that need doing -- like FDR did. How hard is it to understand that?
1) Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and make buildings and homes energy efficient.
2) All those people are participating in the economy again: paying taxes, buying things, not getting food stamps and unemployment.
3) The economy is much more efficient because of the work that got done on the infrastructure and energy efficiency.
4) The newly efficient economy is more than able to pay off the cost of all the work that was done -- that had to be done eventually.
Republicans Obstructing Everything
The current Republican view is that government itself hurts the economy, is "in the way," and that taxes and government spending "take money out of the economy." So they continue to block all efforts to revive the economy through jobs programs, investment in infrastructure, even helping the unemployed.
They say that providing unemployment benefits keeps people from being forced to take the lowest-paying, nastiest, most demeaning job that comes along. But progressives believe in democracy and say that's the point of helping each other -- that we are a country where we are in this together to build mutual prosperity -- unemployment benefits prevent a death spiral of continually falling demand.
Republicans talk about “pro-growth” policies, always meaning tax cuts for the rich. They say that only rich people "create jobs" so giving more and more money to these "job creators" will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. But all actual evidence shows that this policy does nothing to promote growth, only inequality. In fact the times of highest taxes on the wealthy have been the times of more jobs and more economic growth shared by more of us.
Business Gets It
I recently came across this Comstock Partners, Market Commentary: The Deficit Did Not Cause The Recession; The Recession Caused The Deficit,
Both Wall Street and Washington have lost sight of the major cause of the deep recession and exceedingly slow economic recovery. To hear all the talk, the major concern is about the impending fiscal cliff and the federal budget deficit. Fix the fiscal cliff and make major reductions in the deficit, they say, and all will be ok. We think they've got it wrong.
Go read why...
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants members of Congress to sign what is known as a "discharge petition" to force a vote on keeping taxes at current levels for people making under $250,000. Call your member of Congress to let them know you support this. The more noise and publicity this gets, the more it puts pressure on hostage-takers to stop taking hostages.
Here is what is going on. At the end of the month the "Bush tax cuts" expire. While most of the cuts go to people at the high end of the income ladder, there are some cuts for people making less than $250K that will also expire. The President and Democrats as asking Republicans to go ahead and approve this, since they say they agree. But Republicans are trying to keep the Bush tax cuts for their wealthy backers and and willing to prevent extending these tax cuts for middle in order to do it. In other words, they are holding the middle class hostage. A "discharge petition" can force this bill to come up for a public vote.
The Hill sums it up succinctly, in House Dems try to force vote on extending middle-class tax rates,
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday announced Democrats would circulate a discharge petition to force a House vote to extend current tax rates only on annual household income below $250,000.
The Senate has already approved the extension, but Republicans are objecting because they want all of the Bush-era rates to be extended, including on income above $250,000.
Sabrina Siddiqui at the Huffington Post reports, Nancy Pelosi Threatens Discharge Petition To Break Fiscal Cliff Stalemate,
Pelosi called on House Republican leadership to bring that legislation to the floor next week and threatened that if they do not schedule a vote on the Senate bill, Democrats will file what's known as a discharge petition on Tuesday to force a vote on the measure in her chamber. If Democrats successfully obtain 218 signatures on the discharge petition, it would automatically force the middle income tax cut bill to the floor for a vote.
"We believe that not [bringing the Senate bill to the floor] would be holding middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich," Pelosi said. "Tax cuts for the rich which do not create jobs, just increase the deficit, heaping mountains of debt onto future generations."
There is a little-discussed proposal that was introduced into the "fiscal cliff" discussions by the CEOs of the "Fix the Debt" campaign. This is for a “Territorial Tax System" idea that lets multinational companies off the hook for taxes on offshore profits. This plan is particularly dangerous to American wages and jobs -- YOUR wages and job -- as well as any American companies that don't export their profit centers. This threat is not limited to the blue-collar jobs that have been disappearing, it also threatens the professionals, "knowledge workers," designers, innovators and others who contribute to corporate profits here in the US.
The Territorial Tax proposal asks for no taxes on foreign profits of American corporations. This system would encourage and practically force companies to move profit generation (innovation, intellectual property, etc.) out of the US. This gives corporations an incentive to move everything that makes them money out of the country — every profit center, every job, every factory, every designer, inventor, etc.
This plan only benefits the giant multinational corporations — and helps them kill off even more American jobs and smaller businesses. And without those wages and taxes our infrastructure, schools, police and fire protections, and everything else here will decline even more.
If executives brought these American-company profits back to America now, disbursed it to shareholders or reinvested it in their companies -- and paid the taxes due -- this would be at least a $1.2 trillion boost to our economy. The taxes owed to We, the People wold help pay for our schools, etc., or help pay down our debt. But instead of just doing the right thing, this Territorial Tax
Dodge System will add another layer of corporate game-playing, encouraging them to report even more of their profits as being made out of the US. It also lets the ones who have dodged taxes by holding cash offshore -- and away from their own shareholders -- get away with it. See this Citizens for Tax Justice report on companies that have been holding cash offshore -- away from our ability to tax them as well as from their own shareholders, Which Fortune 500 Companies Are Sheltering Income in Overseas Tax Havens?
A new CTJ analysis of the financial reports of the Fortune 500 companies shows that 285 of these corporations had accumulated more than $1.5 trillion in overseas profits by the end of 2011, and there is evidence that a significant portion of these profits are located in tax havens.
In particular, our analysis shows that ten corporations, representing over a sixth of the $1.5 trillion in unrepatriated profits, reveal sufficient information to show that they have paid little or no tax on their offshore profit hoards to any government. That implies that these profits have been artificially shifted out of the United States and other countries where the companies actually do business, and into foreign tax havens.
A March Bloomberg report, Cash Hoard Grows by $187 Billion in Untaxed Overseas Profits also looked into specific companies that hide profits offshore (and away from shareholders) to avoid their corporate taxes.
The Institute for Policy Studies warns about the Territorial Tax in a report, The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt, A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks,
The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
The full report continues,
A territorial system would give companies additional incentives to disguise U.S. profits as income earned in tax havens in order to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
[. . .] S&P 500 companies as a whole have nearly $1.5 trillion parked offshore, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. While some of these profits are offshore because a U.S. multinational corporation produced a product offshore and sold it to a foreign consumer, a significant share is there for the purpose of avoiding taxes.
Here’s how it works. The U.S. corporate tax code requires U.S.-headquartered corporations to pay a tax rate of 35 percent on their profits regardless of where in the world those profits are earned. But there are two important exceptions. First, U.S. corporations are granted credits for any taxes paid to foreign governments. Second, any profits deemed permanently reinvested offshore are exempted from U.S. taxes until and unless they are returned to the United States.
The report details ways that corporations shift profits out of the country.
David Cay Johnston talked about this idea on the Ed Show in May,
Well, what it would encourage companies to do is to take all their intellectual property that they haven`t moved and anything else they can out of country, so that they earn a dollar here in the U.S. and they show it to their shareholders, and then they may magically send it to the Cayman Islands and it disappears to the IRS.
So even if they are making things here in the U.S., they`ll be able to move profits out of the country by having their intellectual property out of the country. Secondly, if they find a place that has similar rules, then you move the jobs offshore and you can still earn tax free profits.
2004 - Been There, Done That, CUT Jobs
In 2004 corporate lobbyists got the American Jobs Creation Act passed, letting multinationals bring their foreign cash back at a special low rate. We allowed corporations to bring profits back to the U.S. at a tax rate of 5.25 percent, instead of the top corporate rate of 35 percent.
After bringing the profits back from the tax havens where they had been parked, the companies involved actually cut jobs. Alain Sherter, in Sure, a “Tax Holiday” on Overseas Profits Is a Great Idea — If You Hate America, looked into what happened and wrote,
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the companies that got the biggest tax breaks following the 2004 rate cut went on to eliminate jobs over the next two years. Instead of hiring, they mostly used the repatriated funds to repurchase stock or pay dividends — and to expand outside the U.S. But it did provide a huge incentive to do even more offshoring of profits and jobs, because this scheme worked and the money came back in a tax holiday. So of course they are proposing to do it all over again.
Sherter points out this really does benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us, including other companies,
Repatriation holidays also favor a handful of huge corporations at the expense of other companies, especially businesses without operations around the globe. In 2004, a total of five companies reaped more than one-quarter of the benefits from the tax holiday, while 15 firms got more than 50 percent. To pay for such a cut without raising the deficit, meanwhile, the U.S. would have to increase taxes on other U.S. businesses or make even deeper cuts in already tight federal spending.
Be aware of this Territorial Tax proposal. It is offered by the Fix the Debt CEOs, and it is entirely about reaping even more billions for the billionaires, at the expense of all of the rest of us and the country.
Give rich people more money or they'll kill the economy:
"Think of the economy of a car, and a rich man as the driver. If you don’t give the driver all the money, he’ll drive you over the cliff. It is just common sense."
December 1, 2012
The AT&T iPhone "personal hotspot" just doesn't work with our iPhones.
The other day I wrote about my new Nexus 7 pad. It's wonderful.
For travel with the pad I need wireless. So I switched my iPhone's AT&T plan over to the one that lets you use it as a "personal hotspot." This makes the phone into a device that receives cellular data and acts as a wireless router to which you can connect your computer and other devices.
It worked for about a day. Then it stopped working. I went to the Apple Store, they couldn't figure it out and gave me a new phone -- which also wouldn't work. At the store we called AT&T to get things started on their end. So the next day I spend about 4 hours on the phone trying everything, and they gave up and "escalated" it.
(My wife's iPhone 4s worked, mine is an iPhone 5 -- she hasn't updated the OS to the one with the terrible maps.)
About a week later AT&T said they had it fixed. And it appeared to work -- for a while. Now it only works once in a while, maybe 20% of the time. And the thing is, now hers only works about 20% of the time as well.
SOMEtimes I can trigger the hotspot to work by plugging my iPhone into my computer with the cable, which makes it work over USB and for some reason some of the time that turns on the wireless hotspot so the Nexus 7 sees it... But only sometimes.
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
One of the disadvantages of having a British wife is she rememnbers things like this.