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About Liz Iacobucci

Liz Iacobucci is the former Public Information Officer for the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU Local 1984. Over the past three decades, she has served in government at the federal, state and municipal levels; and she has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians.

“Party for the Planet” this Wednesday at Redhook Brewery!

Party_for_Planet_BenStampStampede.org founder Ben Cohen will “Party for the Planet” with the Green Alliance at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth this Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The party follows an “Earth Day Clean Up” organized by the Green Alliance, which will be held earlier in the day.

The Green Alliance represents over 100 green-certified Business Partners and 4,000 community members, working to increase the profits of companies that have the least impact on the environment.

Redhook has been a green-certified Business Partner with the Green Alliance since 2011.

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is the founder and “Head Stamper” of the Stamp Stampede.  The Stampede is a grassroots movement now including more than 30,000 Americans who are legally rubber-stamping anti-corruption messages onto US currency.  The stamped bills become “miniature billboards” supporting a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  Each stamped dollar bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy.

More than 60 small businesses in the Granite State have joined the Stamp Stampede by hosting “Stamping Stations” where their customers can legally stamp anti-corruption messages on their money and learn more about the issue of #MoneyInPolitics.  Almost 1,000 people in New Hampshire have their own stamps to beautify their bucks with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.”  The Stamp Stampede plans to stamp 10% of the currency circulating in New Hampshire, to bring attention to the problem and make it an issue in the presidential campaign.

“This is where the collaboration really becomes powerful,” says Green Alliance Director Sarah Brown. “A business like Redhook is ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability and is thrilled to be hosting green business leaders, citizens and Ben Cohen. We want folks to connect the dots between responsible business practices and protecting the environment; all three of our organizations share these values.”

“In order to create a sustainable future, we need to put a stop to pay-to-play culture. Progressive green business leaders are part of that,” adds Cohen. “Too often, big oil and special interest groups use campaign contributions and lobbying muscle to block common-sense pro-sustainability legislation. I’m excited to work with the Green Alliance community to help stamp big money out of politics.”

US government policies on the environment, sustainability and energy are among the issues most affected by special interest spending.

At the grassroots level, there is broad bipartisan support for overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of special interests. Four out of five New Hampshire Republicans think Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.

So far, 68 of the state’s cities and towns have passed measures calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The New Hampshire Legislature is now considering two measures about Citizens United.  Last month, the House passed a bipartisan measure calling for a Constitutional Convention.  The Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for an amendment, and setting up a study committee to recommend which proposed amendment to support.  So far, 16 other states have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get special interest money out of politics.

Wednesday night’s “Party for the Planet” is open to the public and guests will enjoy live music and complimentary eats. The $5 entry donation and $2 from every beer purchased goes to the local environmental non-profit Hodgson Brook Association. There will also be free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, compliments of Cohen.

The Party tops off a drop-in Earth Day clean-up, which runs from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  Cleanup participants meet at Redhook to get their collection bags and location, and are urged to pick up as much trash as possible.  Clean-up participants get free raffle tickets for every bag of trash collected.  While Redhook and the Green Alliance encourage folks to participate in both the clean-up and the after-party, they are also separate events and visitors are welcome at either or both.

Redhook has an extensive facility-wide recycling and composting program, reuses water from the brewing process, and sends spent grains to local farmers. Early in 2015 they began purchasing wind energy credits and recently installed an electric car charging station, high-efficiency lights, motion sensors and EnergyStar appliances.

Tietjen Hynes is head of Redhook’s Sustainability Committee, and Operations Project Engineer and has coordinated a cleanup for Pease Tradeport, home to a growing number of environmentally-minded companies. Set up as a corporate participatory Earth Day activity, a number of companies on the Tradeport have already committed employees to the cleanup.

“Lots of Pease companies are participating; many of our neighbors are stepping to the plate. We also welcome individuals and have had some smaller green-minded businesses like Aucella commit to both the clean-up and the party,” says Hynes.

With the help of other Pease Tradeport businesses, Hynes organized the Earth Day cleanup to focus on the Tradeport grounds and nearby Hodgson Brook.  “Hodgson Brook not only runs along the Redhook property, but also throughout the Tradeport and is listed as an impaired waterway,” said Hynes. “Land use and urbanization have degraded the freshwater stream, altered the natural makeup of the brook, and created serious pollution problems. We hope to improve the condition of the brook by reducing the amount of litter.”

Party for the Planet
Wednesday, April 22
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
REDHOOK BREWERY PORTSMOUTH

1 Redhook Way
Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 03801

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Stamp Your Money While You Eat Free Ice Cream!

2015-04-14 Free Cone DayToday, April 14th is “Free Cone Day” at Ben & Jerry’s nationwide.  At the 940 Elm Street location in Manchester, NH, ice cream lovers coming by for their free scoop between noon and 8:00 pm will also be able to Stamp their money and learn more about the Stamp Stampede.

StampStampede.org is tens of thousands of Americans supporting the movement to get money out of politics by legally stamping messages onto US currency.

Here in New Hampshire, more than 60 small businesses have already joined the Stampede and are hosting “stamping stations” where customers can stamp their currency and learn more about the issue.  Almost 1,000 Granite Staters are beautifying their bucks with messages like “Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians.”  Each stamped bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy.

At the grassroots level, there is broad bipartisan support for overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of special interests. Four out of five New Hampshire Republicans think Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.  So far, 68 of the state’s cities and towns have passed local resolutions asking for a Constitutional amendment.

The state Legislature is considering two measures about Citizens United.  The House passed a bipartisan measure calling for a Constitutional Convention.  The Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for an amendment and setting up a study committee to recommend which proposed amendment to support.  So far, 16 other states have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get special interest money out of politics.

The Stamp Stampede was founded by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Free Cone Day & Stamp Your Money!
Tuesday, April 14th 12noon to 8:00 pm
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
940 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101

For other Ben & Jerry’s locations celebrating Free Cone Day, click here.

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH House Considers Bill on Amending the US Constitution to Limit Political Spending

2015-04-07 Steve Rand

The NH House Committee on Legislative Administration today held its public hearing on a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  The legislation, SB 136, was passed unanimously by the state Senate last month.

The House has already passed a resolution, HCR 2, calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention to address Citizens United.

Steve Rand of Plymouth (pictured above) was one of those who testified.  “Everybody knows that we have a corrupt system, a legally corrupt system.  The question really is: if everybody knows this, why do 95% of us Americans think there isn’t anything we can do about it?” he asked.  “What we are trying to do is change people’s minds about the possibilities; and what you can do — as our elected representatives– is to help that process along.”

Corrine Dodge, one of the Stamp Stampede’s “Rebel Grammies” from Derry, also testified. “I feel so passionately that I could no longer sit by and watch what has been happening to our elections, as they became more corrupt, and as I watched Congress become more dysfunctional.”  Corrine worked with her Town Council to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment.  She also testified in favor of an earlier bill, and met with her state Senator about the bill now pending in the House.

“Now it’s your turn,” she told the Committee.  “What will you, the House Committee on Legislative Administration, decide?  Will you vote against your constituents’ will?  Or will you stand this time with We The People?”

Dan Weeks, of Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion, noted “There is specific language ensuring that the First Amendment is protected, in whatever constitutional proposals are supported by New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation.”

“We do believe there is a way to address the concerns raised by Citizens United, which are magnified, as you all know, by our election last fall, where $100 million was spent in New Hampshire, the majority of it outside money,” Dan said.  “You have heard so many times from citizens that something has to be done.”

The Committee is expected to make a recommendation on the bill within the next several weeks.

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Rallying for Democracy at the State House

2015-04-02 McCutcheon Rally 1

Democracy activists held dozens of rallies around the country today to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision.

Nationwide, the rallies focused on public disclosure of political contributions by federal contractors. Organizers urged President Obama to issue an executive order requiring any company that receives a federal contract to disclose its campaign contributions.

In New Hampshire, that issue was also raised last week by presumed presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul.  “I think special interests have too much influence in Washington,” he told the Conway Daily Sun.  “I think what makes people mad is, say you’re a contractor and you get a billion-dollar contract, the first million you take is to hire lobbyists to get you more.”

The Sunlight Foundation recently studied the 200 corporations which have been most politically active at the federal level.  The Foundation found that for every dollar spent influencing politics, the corporations received an average of $760 back from the government in contracts, tax breaks or other support.

Groups around the country organized rallies today to draw attention to the issue of political activity influencing federal contracts, and to pressure President Obama to take action on the issue.

However, at the New Hampshire State House today, the McCutcheon anniversary rally took a more rebellious tone.

Speaker Jim Reubens, a Republican candidate for US Senate in 2014, spoke about the campaign for a Constitutional Convention which could revise our form of government and reduce the influence of Big Money.

Speaker Arnie Alpert, NH Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee, led rally attendees in a reading of Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution:

[Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.  June 2, 1784

As the Stamp Stampede mobile billboard circled the State House, some attendees reflected on “Head Stamper” Ben Cohen’s observation to the Portsmouth Herald last month. “It’s becoming the rule of the corporations and the ultra wealthy elite instead of the rule of the people,” he said. “The whole history of this country has been people revolting against elitism.”

The two dozen activists returned to the State House today less than a day after a massive rally protesting decisions by the House of Representatives to cut needed government programs rather than raise tax revenues. “These are the types of decisions that cause voters to question the loyalty of our elected officials,” said Paul Brochu, StampStampede Lead Organizer-NH.  “Budgets are, above all else, choices about priorities.  In a more-perfect world, our elected officials would make these sort of decisions based on the best interests of their constituents. But we live in a world where political donations speak louder than votes.”  Read more here and here.

Today’s rally was organized by the New Hampshire Rebellion, in partnership with the Stamp Stampede, AFSC-Governing Under the Influence project, People for the American Way and NH Citizens Alliance.

2015-04-02 McCutcheon Rally 2

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The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

NH Senate Unanimously Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 3The New Hampshire Senate just passed a bill supporting the amendment of the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United. The voice vote was apparently unanimous. The bill, SB 136, establishes a study committee to review the various proposed constitutional amendments, and issue a report by November 1st regarding which approach should be supported by the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

“Fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and the consequences of the Citizens United ruling on our elections must be addressed,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.​ “The issue of such large amounts of money influencing our elections is not a partisan one; it affects all of us. That’s why 67 of our municipalities have passed warrant articles calling for action on this very serious issue which threatens our democracy.”

“In 2014 alone, over $49 million was spent on NH Congressional races from outside groups, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens,” she said. “I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues have finally agreed that it is time to do something about the corrupting influence of such large amounts of out-of-state money on our elections. I urge the House to agree as well.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136“The Senate’s action today is a huge step forward in the grassroots effort to make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said Paul Brochu, the Stamp Stampede’s Lead Organizer in New Hampshire.

“We’re very hopeful that the House will also pass this bill.  The House called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in 2013 and 2014; and earlier this year the House passed a resolution seeking an Article V Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United,” he said. “I think we’re all tired of out-of-state special interests trying to buy our elections.  It’s time for some common-sense limits – and that common sense starts by telling the Supreme Court that no, corporations are not ‘people.’ ”

“Today, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Russell Prescott (R-23) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-21), the Senate at last voted to pass a version of SB 136 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign.  “This reflects what the people of New Hampshire have been urging their elected officials to do in response to the surge of outside money being spent on state and federal elections.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 2 (2)“The pressing question before the nation today is whether it is ‘we the people’ or ‘we the corporations and big money interests.’ This not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a deeply American issue. Whatever our political differences may be, we all share the common vision of government of, by, and for the people,” said John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech for People.

“This victory also demonstrates that a sustained people-powered movement can win,” he added. “New Hampshire citizens from throughout the state have repeatedly called on their legislators to take this action. They have rallied. They have marched. They have traveled to their state capitol to stand up and be heard. And, today, the people were heard. When the history of the 28th Amendment is written, it will include the story of New Hampshire citizens demanding their democracy back.”

“All across New Hampshire, people from both parties are saying they’ve had enough of Big Money in politics,” Brochu said.  “In town after town, Town Meeting after Town Meeting, Granite State voters have said ‘no more!’  It’s been amazing to watch all these people – many of whom have never been politically active before in their lives – suddenly step forward and lead their hometowns to take a stand and say the Constitution should be amended.”

“Many of the people who have stepped forward on this issue had never before called or written to or met with their elected officials.  They’re acting as ‘citizen lobbyists’ for the very first time, trying to take back their government from the special interests and Big Money donors,” Brochu added.  “This is what democracy is supposed to be about – and it is beautiful to see.”

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Stamp_StampedeThe Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

At the State House: Trying to get Money Out of Politics

2015-03-18 Senate Rules CommitteeEarlier this week, while the House Finance Committee was proposing cuts to state programs and services, the Senate Rules Committee was discussing a bill to help get Big Money out of politics.

The Senate amended SB 136 and then unanimously recommended that the bill Ought To Pass.  A full Senate vote on the bill is expected next week — and it is possible that the bill will be amended again on the floor, before the Senate votes.

SB 136 was one of a pair of bills filed this year regarding Citizens United and the effect of Big Money on our electoral system.  The House version called for a statewide “Listening Tour” — but last month, the House voted that bill down, largely along party lines.

Since then, 11 New Hampshire towns have passed local resolutions endorsing a Constitutional amendment to get Big Money out of politics.  During their 2015 Town Meetings, voters in Bedford, Canterbury, Gilmanton, Greenville, Madbury, Mason, Plainfield, Rye, Sandown, Walpole, and Westmoreland all approved warrant articles to overturn Citizens United.  So far, 68 Granite State municipalities have passed resolutions asking for a Constitutional amendment.

As the grassroots level, there is bipartisan agreement on getting money out of politics: 61% of New Hampshire Republicans support a Constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions; 80% believe that Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.

2012_NH_State_LegMoney in politics isn’t just a federal-level issue. Corporations, lobbyists, professional associations and other groups pour hundreds of millions of dollars into state-level legislative races every two years.

Money in politics is influencing every level of our government.   The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been so successful that now they’re drilling even deeper.  The American City County Exchange (ACCE) is bringing ALEC-style political influence to our local governments, too.

That’s why The Stamp Stampede has been following SB 136 so closely.  We are working to #GetMoneyOut of politics and #TakeBackOurGovernment.

  • Read “Is the NH Legislature Listening to Voters’ Anger when it comes to Money In Politics?” here.
  • Read “NH House Votes Down ‘Listening Tour’ on Citizens Unitedhere.
  • Read “Another Public Hearing on Citizens United in NH – Will it be the Last One this Year?” here.
  • Read “Senator Lou D’Allesandro: We Must Pass SB 136 To Overturn Citizens Unitedhere.

Stamp_StampedeThe Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org.  Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Get involved in New Hampshire’s movement to #StampMoneyOut of politics.  Join our Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/NHStampede or Follow us at @NHStampede.

Billboard_State_House

US is STILL Redistributing Wealth to the Rich

35BillionFriday’s Motley Fool had an eye-opening article about $35.5 billion of stock buybacks recently announced by Big Banks.

That’s $35.5 billion of profits being “returned to stockholders” rather than being used to pay bank employees a living wage. Yes, these days almost one-third of bank tellers receive public assistance (including food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, EITC).

Yes, that’s our tax money at work: “State and federal governments pay nearly $900 million each year to support bank tellers on these programs.”  At the same time Big Banks are “returning” billions upon billions to “stockholders” – including the very same corporate insiders who decide how much money will be spent on buybacks, and how much on wages. (Wondering how many shares these “insiders” own? Click on these links, then scroll down: Citigroup; Bank of America; JP Morgan.)

That’s $35.5 billion going up the economic ladder, rather than being used to pay workers a living wage.

And that’s just from nine banks. Goldman Sachs has predicted that – this year alone – US corporations will spend $707 billion buying back their own stocks.

That’s money that could be used to create jobs. Or pay employees a living wage. Or restore the health insurance and pension benefits that have been stripped away during the past 20 years. Or invest in new factories, or research and development.

Or, gosh. It could wipe out the entire federal deficit. If only corporations were still paying taxes at the same rates they paid in the 1950s, 60s and 70s… rather than “returning” all those billions to investors.

Read more about stock buybacks here.

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Note to readers: you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged here at NH Labor News… and that’s because I’m now working for StampStampede.org. The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

Stamp_StampedeYou can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Need motivation to stamp?  Just think about Citigroup, which spends millions of dollars each year on lobbying, and millions more on political contributions (to both parties)… and, oh, wait! There are also 27 members of Congress who themselves own stock in Citigroup. Now, think about last December’s Cromnibus legislation, which included a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists leaving taxpayers on the hook for another Wall Street bailout.

And now… they’re “returning” $7.8 billion of profits to shareholders (rather than, say, rehiring some of those 50,000 workers who were laid off during the last Wall Street meltdown).

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Are You Tired Of Congress Manufacturing A Budget Crisis To Force Through Terrible Legislation?

Budget details: you couldn’t make this stuff up, if you tried

It’s not like Congress didn’t know they had to pass a federal budget.

It’s not like they didn’t have lots and lots of time to put an appropriations bill together, either before or after the elections.

It’s not like they didn’t know what happens when the money runs out. (Hint: not all that much, actually. Except that 800,000 federal workers are required to work without being paid.)

No, this Congress knew all too well what would happen. Since President Obama was elected, Congress has:

  1. had a budget crisis in March 2009
  2. had a budget crisis in September 2009
  3. had a budget crisis in September 2010
  4. had THREE budget crises in December 2010
  5. had TWO budget crises in March 2011
  6. had a budget crisis in April 2011
  7. had a budget crisis in August 2012
  8. had a budget crisis in September 2012
  9. had a budget crisis in March 2013
  10. had a budget crisis – and a government shutdown – in October 2013
  11. had a budget crisis in January 2014
  12. and had a budget crisis just three months ago.

(That’s a rough list. No guarantees of accuracy, I may have missed some. And it doesn’t include the debt-limit crises.)

And yet once again, this weekend, right now… Congress finds itself in a budget emergency.

And from listening to some of the politicians, you’d almost think no-one could have predicted this.

And with all their angst (“Emergency!” “Emergency!” “Can’t let the government shutdown again!”)…

… it would be really easy to overlook some of the so-called “details” of this spending bill. Details like:

  1. The so-called “Citibank” provision that would undo part of Dodd-Frank financial regulation, and allow big banks to rely on the FDIC to backstop risky derivative trades. (Read NHLN coverage here and here.)
  2. The Kline-Miller amendment, which would allow cuts to the earned retirement benefits of millions of retirees. AARP calls it a “secret attack by Congress” and a “last minute backroom deal.”   (Read the AARP alert here.)
  3. The (ahem) provision to help the GOP afford its next convention. According to the New York Times, “The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? It ended with a bipartisan agreement … that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.” (Wow. 2016 is going to be a record-breaking presidential campaign season.)
  4. The “Collins rider,” which would increase truck driver hours of service, and other provisions that would increase truck weight limits in Kentucky, Mississippi and Wisconsin. “None of these special interest [provisions] has been subject to any committee hearings, adequate safety review or cost/benefit analysis. However, all of them will have a profound impact on highway safety, deaths and injuries.” The bill will “eliminate the two nights off-duty for truck drivers to rest, while significantly increasing working and driving hours for truck drivers up to 82 hours a week when fatigue is already a well-known and well-documented highway killer.” (Read the Truck Safety Coalition alert here.)
  5. Provisions prohibiting the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. This one was apparently added “at the behest of grazing, mining, and oil and gas interests.” (Read more here.)

According to the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the GOP added “nearly 100” special interest riders to the bill.

The five, above, are just the ones that have already attracted public attention.

Can’t help but wonder what ELSE is in that bill.

 

Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class

Happy Hour

So, late last night… Congress decided that it was just fine to bailout Wall Street bankers again, if they should happen to get into trouble again. Gotta make sure the ol’ FDIC is there in times of trouble.

BUT… gosh… that old PBGC?

Oh… Congress doesn’t want to risk the possibility that taxpayers might have to bailout Middle Class pension funds. At last estimate, “the fund that backs multi-employer plans is about $42.4 billion short of the money needed to cover benefits” for pension plans that are expected to fail.

And what have private employers been doing, to keep those pension plans financially sound? Well… Hostess declared bankruptcy. Peabody Energy declared bankruptcy. Verizon “de-risked” itself of pension obligations. And that’s just what immediately comes to mind.  But I’m digressing.

So last night… LATE last night… Congress included in the “must-pass” budget bill something called the Kline amendment. The measure will allow multi-employer pension plans that are underfunded to significantly cut benefits to retirees under age 75.

Because… why would Congress want to risk having to have the PBGC bailout those middle-class pension funds? … when cutting benefits to retirees under 75 will accomplish the same thing.

Yep, what’s good for Wall Street… isn’t even a possibility for Main Street.

Want to know what I noticed?

One Federal Reserve economist put a number on how much that FDIC guarantee is worth to the Big Banks. He estimated it was worth $450 to $900 billion a year to the financial services industry.

OK, so this “government insurance policy” is coming to Wall Street through the efforts of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

And yes, those are the same Republicans who are such firm believers in the “free market economy” and “privatization” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  

And now they’re… giving a government benefit to the banks.

What happened to “the free market will take care of it”? Why can’t these banks buy their own insurance on the open market? From a private insurance company?

But I’m digressing again.

Here’s what I noticed: it looks to me like the annual “value” of what Congress gave away last night is about the same amount as what Congress spent on the infamous TARP program.

TARP, of course, was a one-time thing. (Or at least… hopefully… not a very frequent thing.)

The FDIC insurance is ongoing. Every year, the big banks are going to get that government-subsidized insurance policy. Underwriting their risky investments.

It’s like a TARP program, year after year after year.

While all those retirees… get their benefits cut.

ANOTHER Taxpayer handout for the Big Banks?

What’s going on in Washington, DC this afternoon?  According to media reports, the House of Representatives is about to use the latest Congress-created crisis to give Big Banks a free insurance policy.

One Federal Reserve economist estimated that these types of guarantees are worth between $450 and $900 billion (yes, “billion” with a B) a year (yes, each year) to the financial industry.

Yes, I’m repeating myself again.  Here’s my #dejavu post from January 13, 2014:

Fat Chance - Banks Take Responsibility for the Financial Crisis by Michael Smith via Flikr

$53 trillion.

More than THREE TIMES the entire federal debt.

According to Saturday’s New York Times, that’s the amount of money currently held by US-based “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions.

“Too-big-to-fail” has been around for a while. It dates back to the Reagan administration’s takeover of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company, which was then the seventh-largest US bank.

And it’s been a growing problem ever since.

Here’s why: “TBTF” distorts the economy. In theory, in a capitalist economy, there should be a relationship between risk and reward. In theory, people who can’t afford to lose their money will chose “safe” investments, even though they have a lower rate of return; and even those people who can afford to lose money will take fewer risks.

But that’s only in theory. In reality, TBTF has separated “risk” from “reward”. The financial industry is now operating on the belief that if the loss is big enough, the government will step in.

It’s sort of like insurance… only, the financial industry doesn’t have to pay for it.

A year and a half ago, one Federal Reserve Bank economist estimated the TBTF effect is worth between $450 and $900 billion a year.

“The existence of the implicit subsidy enabled these companies to become larger and more complex than otherwise would have been the case. TBTF institutions respond to the subsidy by increasing their risk through either engaging in riskier activities or increasing their leverage. While these actions may be privately optimal, the response to the TBTF subsidy is not socially optimal, as it can pose huge risks to the financial system.”

(Gotta love that economist-speak…“Not socially optimal,” indeed.)

Even since the 2007 Wall Street meltdown, financial institutions have continued to take advantage of their TBTF status. TBTF institutions are still getting bigger and taking more risks. Here’s how Forbes described the situation last year: “Banks today are bigger and more opaque than ever, and they continue to trade in derivatives in many of the same ways they did before the crash, but on a larger scale and with precisely the same unknown risks.”

And now, a half-decade after the bailout, the TBTF institutions are worth $53 trillion.

So why am I comparing the size of the financial industry with the size of the federal debt?

I was trying to figure out the current level of taxpayer exposure, in this “not socially optimal” arrangement. In other words: if the financial industry implodes again, how much government money is it going to cost us? And I figured the best way to figure that out was to look at what happened in the most-recent TBTF bailout.

As near as I could figure, from what’s easily available on the Internet: back before the 2007 meltdown, TBTF institutions were worth a total of about $2 trillion. The 2008 bailout bill appropriated $700 billion to deal with the crisis — or, roughly one-third of the total value of TBTF institutions, before they started to fail.

The federal budget was already running a deficit. That means: in order to fund the bailout, Congress had to borrow an amount equal to one-third of the pre-crisis value of those TBTF institutions (using my “as near as I can figure” estimate).

But those TBTF institutions are bigger now; and that means if they fail, any federal government bailout would need to be bigger, too.

TBTF are now worth $53 trillion. Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…

Well…one-third of $53 trillion is…almost exactly the current amount of the federal debt.

In other words, the next financial meltdown could double the national debt.

Are you scared yet?

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